The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay, Tribune News Service
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard famously observed that if everyone is a Lutheran then no one is a Lutheran. What he meant is that if you’re born into a culture in which everybody has a similar worldview, you don’t have an opportunity to develop genuine belief because your convictions are not subject to scrutiny.
Put another way, if you don’t talk to people who hold different views, you will not know what they believe, and you won’t even know what you believe. Having conversations with people who hold beliefs different from yours affords you the opportunity to reflect — and only then can you evaluate whether your beliefs hold true.
Immigration. Abortion. Gun control. The seemingly impossible issue du jour is irrelevant. What is relevant: To justify your confidence you must sincerely engage people who have solid arguments against your position.
Over the last few years, Americans seem to have convinced themselves that not speaking to people who hold different moral and political beliefs makes us better people — even on college campuses where intellectual sparring has historically been part of the curricula. It does not. However, it does make us less likely to revise our beliefs and more likely to convince ourselves that others should believe as we do.
Over time, failure to have conversations across divides cultivates a belief myopia that strengthens our views and deepens our divisions.
Forget about healing political divides, overcoming polarisation or the dangers of mischaracterising people who hold different beliefs. Reaching out and speaking with someone who has different ideas is beneficial, not for utopian social reasons, but for your own good — for your “belief hygiene.” You engage in dental hygiene not to bring insurance costs down for the masses, but because you don’t want cavities, pain and gum disease.
You should engage in belief hygiene for similarly selfish reasons: It’s an opportunity to reflect upon what you believe and why you believe it. If other social goods happen to occur as a byproduct — friendships, increased understanding, changed minds — that’s great.
Having conversations across divides isn’t particularly complicated.
Figure out why someone believes what they believe. The best way to do this is simply to ask, “Why do you believe that?” and then listen. Don’t tell them why they’re wrong or “parallel talk” and explain what you believe. Figure out their reasons for their belief by asking questions. Then ask yourself if their conclusions are justified by the rationale they provided.
Call out extremists on your side. Identify the authoritarians and fundamentalists who claim to represent your views and speak bluntly about how they take things too far. This is a way to build trust and signal that you’re not an extremist. (If you can’t figure out how your side goes too far, that may be a sign that you are part of the problem and need to moderate your beliefs.)
Let people be wrong. It’s OK if someone doesn’t believe what you believe. Far more often than not, their beliefs don’t present an existential threat — they’re just one person — and you’ll be just fine. Don’t even bother to push back or point out holes in their arguments. Listen, learn and let them be wrong. Conclude by thanking them for the conversation. (As a good rule of thumb, the more strongly you disagree with someone’s position, the more important it is to thank them for the discussion and end on a high note.)
In our highly polarised environment, talking to those who hold different beliefs isn’t easy, but it’s easier than you think. Fewer people talking across divides creates a hunger for honest, sincere conversation. But what there should really be is a hunger for truth. And the best way to achieve that is to subject your beliefs to scrutiny.
The Pew analysis indicates that the 22 per cent of American adults use Twitter — far less than the 69 per cent using the leading social network Facebook.
The column by James Dyke says lots of new things about climate change, a deviation from what all reports have been saying so far. But of course the ‘new things’ are far from good. If anything he lends an irreversible twist in the climate change saga, and if the current situation isn’t hell enough, it will surely be in the
The “manifesto” purportedly posted by the shooter accused of last weekend’s mass murder in El Paso, Texas, is in many respects typical of the genre – a dim mix of self-pity, self-aggrandizement and sub-sophomoric musings making a stab in the direction of philosophy. The first section is aptly titled “About Me.”
I’m an undocumented teacher who came to the United States with my family from Guadalajara, Mexico. I arrived at 9 months old and have since resided in Los Angeles. I grew up watching my parents give back to our community, cultivate relationships and work tirelessly as street vendors. I attended public schools
An old detail kept elbowing me, tugging at my sleeve like an annoying little kid, when President Donald Trump said he thought it might be a good idea to buy Greenland. Then I went back to check on the map of the world as depicted by the classic board game “Risk”: Greenland is one of the golden-yellow territories
It’s hard for Americans to understand why so many Chinese students attending school in Western countries have turned out in recent days to express support for the Chinese government in its current conflict with Hong Kong protesters. The Chinese students have tried to shout down demonstrators at
There’s a strange piece in your newspaper today about how just one slow walk a day could reduce the risk of early death. Now this article would have been normal perhaps five or 10 years ago. Back then climate change wasn’t knocking at our doors neither was the Amazon under dire threat. Five years ago,