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I disagree with “I disagree”

“I disagree”, when offered as the final statement in response to any idea, strikes me as the  least productive stance that could be taken if one’s purpose for engaging alternative perspectives involves learning and personal growth.

“I disagree”, in the sense I have described above, seems to lead to nothing more than a triumphant sense of one’s own rightness.

For those who wish to philosophize for reasons other than dismissing the other party as “wrong”, here are a few alternative options for how one can respond to an idea he dislikes:

What are some non-condescending reasons for why anyone would be drawn to this idea? How can I make sense out of the people who see the world in this way without assuming they are stupid?

What are some aspects of this idea, or the concerns that motivated its development, I can genuinely appreciate?

How can I practically aapply some facets of this idea to my advantage without compromising my epistemic objections to the idea’s actual truth-value?

Have I asked any questions about this idea prior to expressing my disagreement? How many questions have I asked about this idea prior to expressing my disagreement? Would I be satisfied with this same quality of research if it were adopted by those who disagree with what I believe?

And last, but not least, why do I disagree?

Exploring ideas is my passion. No matter how much I may disagree with a concept, I always strive to get something useful out of my interaction with other perspectives. I encourage others to do the same.

If you can think of some other constructive responses people can adopt towards controversial or seemingly contradictory ideas, feel free to share them in the comments.

In the meantime, I wish you a never-ending, eternally expanding adventure in learning.


T.K. Coleman

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Reflective listening to clarify the idea itself: repeating back exactly or in own words and asking if that was what was intended. Questioning terms used for common definition. I’m with you…questions, why, being neutral and open.

  2. The points that you and “runthegauntlet” make
    are valid and important for all of us to observe
    in the exchange of ideas.

    I think there are occasions (not often) when
    “I disagree” is an appropriate response. Not
    as a clipped dismissal, but as open-ended.

    For example conspiracy theorists. More than
    elevating any working hypothesis into a ruling
    theory too prematurely, the basic premise is
    fundamentally divorced from reality. They can
    sound ‘logical’ but maintain a gridlock on internal
    circular reasoning. What used to be considered
    lunatic fringe is now becoming mainstream.

    Their claims of the World Trade Centre destruction
    being an “inside” attack by American factions, or that
    the moon landing was staged and never happened,
    or that Kennedy was shot by multiple factions within
    the U.S. gov’t, CIA, FBI, etc.. ETC. That deplorable
    JFK movie where Oliver Stone blends in documentary
    footage with his ponderous paranoid presumptions.
    This is an extremely well done movie that cheats on a
    profound level. It seems convincing until you step outside
    of the circular reasoning and look at the actual facts,
    anchored in reality.

    In real life Jim Garrison was a bully and nothing like the
    persona portrayed by Kevin Costner. And the impact
    on the Secret Service men there to protect Kennedy
    in Dallas in 1963 was enduring. They were treated as
    part of the “conspiracy” and lived under a cloud of
    suspicion for the rest of their lives.

    There are important issues to address in the growing
    statism of big government, but conspiracy theories
    are not the issue. In fact they cloud the issue. And
    deflect us from defining what is the legitimate role of
    government in our society.

    Not all theories are ideas. Some are just bundles of
    floating abstractions, disconnected and disjointed.
    And when actual facts get in the way, there is a
    significant problem. We have to take care that we
    don’t give some people the pedigree and credibility
    they haven’t earned intellectually. If we pursue a
    ‘subject’ beyond all boundaries of belief, we concede
    a basic premise and give weight to the ridiculous.

    Sometimes silence is golden.

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