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Disagreement as a philosophical ritual


The more useful an idea, the more necessary it becomes to protect that idea from blind faith and hard-nosed dogmatism.

The real potential of a concept can only be realized when its antithesis is reflected back through the mirror of dissent

Disagreeing with ideas, as a kind of philosophical ritual, is akin to holding up a mirror before one’s mind.

By engaging our reflection, we not only gain insight into those things that would benefit from correction, but we also acquire a conscious awareness and appreciation of things that are quite beautiful and well-formed.

The kind of disagreement I advocate here is light-years away from the cynical posture of refusing to be impressed by anything that anyone says. However fashionable it may seem, it demands nothing of one’s mind to merely remain in a state of being unmoved.

I also exclude manipulative mind-games from my concept of disagreement as well. That is, critiquing another person’s position for the purpose of antagonizing them, putting on a show, getting attention, or making oneself appear to be the smartest person in the room are tantamount to what Randy Pausch refers to as “pissing contests.”

I define disagreement as the fine art of identifying counterexamples to a proposition, exposing shortcomings in an idea, and/or challenging the premises upon which a belief is based for one or more of the following purposes:

1) inviting its proponents to educate us on aspects of the idea about which we may be uninformed.

2) Testing it’s level of strength against standard objections and common concerns.

2) Improving the sense of clarity we have about our own ideas by measuring it against contrasting perspectives.

3) Constructing new and improved theories.

4) Engaging in challenging conversation for intellectual exercise and personal development.

Disagreeing with ideas, even if we actually believe them, can be one of the most effective ways of broadening our intellectual horizons and stimulating our creative intelligence.

Whatever our highest state of consciousness is, as a species, I believe we are most likely to attain it via a Hegelian dialectic in which higher understandings are achieved through the engagement of opposites.

The more room we make for disagreement, the more spacious our collective sense of identity becomes.

Do you agree with that?

I hope not.

This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. Absolutely loved how you ended this. I was startled for a moment, and then smiled. How true, though. Many a tragedy has occurred because people hesitated to disagree and stir healthy debate because those who needed another viewpoint were too thin-skined or dictatorial to allow opposing ideas.

  2. Sounds like the tried and true devil’s advocate approach which is recommended…
    with great latitude and within reason. There are, indeed, multitudes of ideas that
    require our critical thinking—a “philosophical ritual.”

    Since knowledge consists of ideas, and their integrative interaction, how far do we go before we develop a hierarchical structure of knowledge upon which certain axioms are the foundation? So that we can build our knowledge structurally?

    Otherwise, it can seem like one is in a continuous state of flux. When do we settle an idea/s and move on? After purposes 1 – 4 (above) are exhausted?

    So that we don’t see ideas as some academic abstract exercise but rather as a
    luminous guide to our lives.

    There is an odd polarization going on today whereby many do hold their ideas
    through blind faith and/or hard-nosed dogmatism. While others swim in a sea
    of continual skepticism and uncertainty.

    Although you do sound intellectually healthy. An underlying (and refreshing)
    thrum of self-assurance and quiet certainty does seem to thread its way through
    your posts. (Seems un-Hume and un-Hegel.)

    Hope the link below works. You might find it relevant and humorous.

    1. I watched this video and I loved it. I have great affinity for spoken word performances. It’s one of my loves. I’ll be entering the fray soon.

      That was a great poem and it was both funny and thought-provoking. He was dead on. I shared it on FB.

      I’ve never been describe before as “un-Hume” and un-Hegel.” That made be laugh, smilem and think all at once.

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