Discussion and Argumentation


Discussion and Argumentation

Sometimes I wonder what people think the purpose of discussion and argumentation is. Some seem to think that the sole purpose is to win someone to a point, or perhaps to make points by showing up someone's errors. If that is the case. such a person will love talking to me because I'm just a walking mass of errors ready to spill out for all to see. My thinking isn't so much sloppy as it isn't particularly linear. I've described it elsewhere as recursive--think the surf at the beach. One wave of thought rolls in, breaks on the shore, recedes. A subsequent wave of thought follows in, sometimes rising further up on the shore, sometimes not making it so far as the first. It isn't neat, but it gets the job done eventually. I think it is why I like blogdom so well--I have a chance to rethink and clarify all sorts of muddy, sediment-filled half-thoughts. And that is how I see argumentation or discussion. I'm not interested in "winning" an argument--there is no purpose to that if by winning I have failed to arrive at the truth.

As I see it, the purpose of any discussion is to come to the truth of the matter. This is why I find it admirable when people in public life can admit that they have changed their minds. (Unfortunately, too often, the change is away from the truth, persuaded by causes other than sheer argumentation.) But it would seem a natural progression that at some point someone's mind might change about matters. Thus when I hear the Strom Thurmond was a segregationist Dixiecrat (or whatever one calls them) and now he is not, I think that someone has considered the issues--possibly politically, but in such a case also possibly morally and arrived at a different conclusion because of the persuasiveness of reasoned argumentation. Sometimes I become too involved in argumentation or discussion and take offense at was not meant to give offense--I'll recover, and I'll probably apologize.

There is no point to continued discussion if, for whatever reason, one is not willing to change one's mind in the face of the evidence. There are a great many reasons why this may be so. Perhaps the value challenged performs a present "protective" service. Perhaps the notion has become a habit of thought and will require a great many years of reflection and slow microscopic change to finally arrive at the truth. Whatever the case, once one has reached a point at which it is clear the discussion has devolved to the sophisticated equivalent of "No it isn't"/"Yes it is"--it is time to desist.

All discussion should be directed to the truth so one shouldn't be shocked to read from me some idiotic opinion or reason-challenging assertion today, to discover that tomorrow it has been modified. It's what I count on the generous members of the blogworld for. In many ways I have been brought much closer to the truth by courageous members of blogdom who risk my wrath to challenge my assertions. Here are some examples of how blogdom has changed my opinions:

*I now have a better comprehension of the place of St. Thomas Aquinas (although I must say it will be a while before I feel any warm fuzzies for him--I'm not so suspicious of him as once I was)

*I have a more profound understanding for St. Francis of Assisi--though I'm still put off by SOME of his followers. (Don't worry--I love St. Thérèse and am put off by the vast majority of her admirers.)

*I have clarified notions about prayer and its purposes--and such notions have much improved my prayer life.

*I have a greater love for the diversity of opinion--even opinions that I consider suspect or countermanded by the magisterium.

*I have learned the value of not judging.

*I have learned that the rumor and scandal too often promulgated by the media and bandied about is not the fullness of the truth. A specific instance is that one brave blogger challenged directly my opinion of a certain Bishop based largely on ignorance and hearsay and informed me that while he may have had some notions contrary to my own, he served well as a pastoral leader.

*I've learned that Orthodoxy isn't necessarily everything I believe. By that I mean that I used to judge people's opinions by the standard of rigid orthodoxy I felt I maintained. Well, my "orthodoxy" was neither complete, nor probably completely orthodox. Talking with Catholic people has shown me the wideness of opinion possible among those who are striving to be faithful to the magisterium.

So, only a few things I have gained from listening to others. I have changed countless opinions, modified countless statements, in some cases completely contradicted myself. Like the sea and the shore my island of opinion and idea is constantly changing and reforming. I hold fast to the central truths of the faith--the skeleton and structure of the entire island--and the rest can wash where it will--it little matters and it provides a refreshing change of vista--a salubrious change of air.

So bring on the discussion, the argumentation, the notions, and the ideas--so long as you seek after the truth and don't merely wish to make points (come on--it's like shooting fish in a barrel) you are welcome. Even if you only wish to make points I may well benefit from the challenge.

Thank you all for all that you have done for me. God bless you.

Bookmark and Share



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 25, 2003 7:58 AM.

Gratitude was the previous entry in this blog.

Intriguing Questions is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll