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Is disagreement impolite?

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James Radcliffe
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Is disagreement impolite?

Post by James Radcliffe » July 5th, 2019, 6:46 pm

THE QUESTION:
When you're having a philosophical conversation, how directly or indirectly do you give voice to disagreement, and how hard do you try to convince the person you disagree with that they're wrong?

WHY I'M ASKING:
I've been a big fan of the socratic method since I first started reading Plato ~12 years ago. However, I've really started questioning it, in part due to the following quote I recently came across:


"XLIII Think with the Few and speak with the Many.

By swimming against the stream it is impossible to remove error, easy to fall into danger; only a Socrates can undertake it. To dissent from others' views is regarded as an insult, because it is their condemnation. Disgust is doubled on account of the thing blamed and of the person who praised it. Truth is for the few, error is both common and vulgar. The wise man is not known by what he says on the house-tops, for there he speaks not with his own voice but with that of common folly, however much his inmost thoughts may gainsay it. The prudent avoid being contradicted as much as contradicting: though they have their censure ready they are not ready to publish it. Thought is free, force cannot and should not be used to it. The wise man therefore retires into silence, and if he allows himself to come out of it, he does so in the shade and before few and fit persons."

(-Balthasar Gracian, "The Art of Worldly Wisdom")

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Consul
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Re: Is disagreement impolite?

Post by Consul » July 5th, 2019, 7:15 pm

No, disagreement as such is never impolite in discussions/debates. Of course, for instance, when an atheist starts a debate with a theist saying "Theism is f#cking bull$hit and only idiots believe in it!", then that is impolite indeed.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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James Radcliffe
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Re: Is disagreement impolite?

Post by James Radcliffe » July 5th, 2019, 9:09 pm

A couple more quotes:

"289 Contradiction and flattery make, both of them, bad conversation."

(-Goethe, "Aphorisms")

"Yet it is necessary to listen to those who talk, we should give them the time they want, and let them say even senseless things; never contradict or interrupt them; on the contrary, we should enter into their mind and taste, illustrate their meaning, praise anything they say that deserves praise, and let them see we praise more from our choice than from agreement with them. To please others we should talk on subjects they like and that interest them, avoid disputes upon indifferent matters, seldom ask questions, and never let them see that we pretend to be better informed than they are."

(-La Rochefoucauld, "Maxims")

"It is dangerous to seek to be always the leader of the conversation, and to push a good argument too hard, when we have found one. Civility often hides half its understanding, and when it meets with an opinionated man who defends the bad side, spares him the disgrace of giving way. We are sure to displease when we speak too long and too often of one subject, and when we try to turn the conversation upon subjects that we think more instructive than others, we should enter indifferently upon every subject that is agreeable to others, stopping where they wish, and avoiding all they do not agree with."

(ibid.)

"There is an eloquent silence which serves to approve or to condemn, there is a silence of discretion and of respect. In a word, there is a tone, an air, a manner, which renders everything in conversation agreeable or disagreeable, refined or vulgar."

(ibid.)

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James Radcliffe
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Re: Is disagreement impolite?

Post by James Radcliffe » July 5th, 2019, 9:16 pm

Consul wrote:
July 5th, 2019, 7:15 pm
No, disagreement as such is never impolite in discussions/debates. Of course, for instance, when an atheist starts a debate with a theist saying "Theism is f#cking bull$hit and only idiots believe in it!", then that is impolite indeed.
Do you always say what you think?

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Re: Is disagreement impolite?

Post by Thomyum2 » July 6th, 2019, 10:58 am

James Radcliffe wrote:
July 5th, 2019, 6:46 pm
THE QUESTION:
When you're having a philosophical conversation, how directly or indirectly do you give voice to disagreement, and how hard do you try to convince the person you disagree with that they're wrong?
I think perhaps your question contains the seeds of its own answer. It's one thing to 'give voice to disagreement' but quite another to 'try to convince the person...that they're wrong.' The former, done respectfully, is not impolite, and the exchange of ideas between persons with different perspectives is a useful exercise that is profitable to both, and such is the Socratic method. But in the latter, one person has already concluded that the other's perspective is wrong, and that will necessarily prejudice the exchange. So yes, entering into a dialogue with another person with a preordained judgment that they are wrong, and without first taking the time to know their thoughts, would certainly be impolite.
James Radcliffe wrote:
July 5th, 2019, 6:46 pm

"XLIII Think with the Few and speak with the Many.

By swimming against the stream it is impossible to remove error, easy to fall into danger; only a Socrates can undertake it. To dissent from others' views is regarded as an insult, because it is their condemnation. Disgust is doubled on account of the thing blamed and of the person who praised it. Truth is for the few, error is both common and vulgar. The wise man is not known by what he says on the house-tops, for there he speaks not with his own voice but with that of common folly, however much his inmost thoughts may gainsay it. The prudent avoid being contradicted as much as contradicting: though they have their censure ready they are not ready to publish it. Thought is free, force cannot and should not be used to it. The wise man therefore retires into silence, and if he allows himself to come out of it, he does so in the shade and before few and fit persons."

(-Balthasar Gracian, "The Art of Worldly Wisdom")
I think the beautiful quote you've cited says basically this in a very poetic and elegant way. It brings to mind for me the way that Socrates himself lived, that he never wrote or published a doctrine of his thoughts, that he confined his activity to interactions with 'few and fit persons', and that through such a simple and humble life he became one of the most influential thinkers of all time. How many have accomplished such a thing?

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Re: Is disagreement impolite?

Post by h_k_s » July 6th, 2019, 1:48 pm

James Radcliffe wrote:
July 5th, 2019, 6:46 pm
THE QUESTION:
When you're having a philosophical conversation, how directly or indirectly do you give voice to disagreement, and how hard do you try to convince the person you disagree with that they're wrong?

WHY I'M ASKING:
I've been a big fan of the socratic method since I first started reading Plato ~12 years ago. However, I've really started questioning it, in part due to the following quote I recently came across:


"XLIII Think with the Few and speak with the Many.

By swimming against the stream it is impossible to remove error, easy to fall into danger; only a Socrates can undertake it. To dissent from others' views is regarded as an insult, because it is their condemnation. Disgust is doubled on account of the thing blamed and of the person who praised it. Truth is for the few, error is both common and vulgar. The wise man is not known by what he says on the house-tops, for there he speaks not with his own voice but with that of common folly, however much his inmost thoughts may gainsay it. The prudent avoid being contradicted as much as contradicting: though they have their censure ready they are not ready to publish it. Thought is free, force cannot and should not be used to it. The wise man therefore retires into silence, and if he allows himself to come out of it, he does so in the shade and before few and fit persons."

(-Balthasar Gracian, "The Art of Worldly Wisdom")
Regarding the "Socratic method," Socrates was merely "leading the witness." This is not allowed in U.S. courts today.

Regarding disagreeing, I normally try to get at someone's thinking process. If they have a favorite philosopher at the root of it, then we get into that philosopher and his own school of thought.

If they don't know of any philosophers, then they are just making it up as they go along. Either way ultimately you just need to learn to agree to disagree. This notion of agreeing to disagree comes from Native American philosophy -- "no man can tell another what to do."

I tend to favor Aristotle's thinking and methods, particularly logic, identification of fallacies, ethics, the Magnanimous Man, and so forth.

I also like Leibniz and Aquinas on God topics.

Be careful about Plato. This is simply where most new philosophy students are introduced to the subject. Plato has many flaws. Aristotle pointed many of them out. Don't marry yourself to Plato until you have discovered all of Aristotle. And even then you might want to wait to marry anyone until you have studied most all of them, especially Descartes.

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Re: Is disagreement impolite?

Post by Felix » July 6th, 2019, 5:56 pm

Well, you have to remember that back then, being convicted of chronic impoliteness in public could earn you an involuntary draught of hemlock, although I think they referred to it as "corrupting the youth."

Now-a-days that's a prime requisite for a successful IPO. In fact, it's one of the first questions a venture capitalist will ask the aspiring entrepreneur: VC: "Let's cut to the chase here, will your product corrupt the youth?" E: "Absolutely, very slowly too." VC: "Fantastic!, sounds like a real moneymaker, you've got your start-up capital."
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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James Radcliffe
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Re: Is disagreement impolite?

Post by James Radcliffe » July 6th, 2019, 10:06 pm

I think perhaps your question contains the seeds of its own answer. It's one thing to 'give voice to disagreement' but quite another to 'try to convince the person...that they're wrong.' The former, done respectfully, is not impolite, and the exchange of ideas between persons with different perspectives is a useful exercise that is profitable to both, and such is the Socratic method. But in the latter, one person has already concluded that the other's perspective is wrong, and that will necessarily prejudice the exchange. So yes, entering into a dialogue with another person with a preordained judgment that they are wrong, and without first taking the time to know their thoughts, would certainly be impolite.
My bad. Replace: "how hard did you try to convince the person that you disagree with that they're wrong?" with: "how hard did you try to resolve your difference of opinion?"
I think the beautiful quote you've cited says basically this in a very poetic and elegant way. It brings to mind for me the way that Socrates himself lived, that he never wrote or published a doctrine of his thoughts, that he confined his activity to interactions with 'few and fit persons', and that through such a simple and humble life he became one of the most influential thinkers of all time. How many have accomplished such a thing?
I don't think this quote is setting up Socrates's life as something to emulate. I think it's setting it up as an example to avoid.

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Re: Is disagreement impolite?

Post by Thomyum2 » July 8th, 2019, 11:44 am

James Radcliffe wrote:
July 6th, 2019, 10:06 pm
My bad. Replace: "how hard did you try to convince the person that you disagree with that they're wrong?" with: "how hard did you try to resolve your difference of opinion?"
I guess that how hard I would try would depend how urgent I judge the matter to be and how much time I have available to dedicate to the task. So for extreme examples on opposite ends, if someone I cared about believed their life was worthless or was contemplating suicide, I would try very hard indeed to change their mind, but if we just disagreed on whether or not a particular movie was deserving of an award, then I certainly wouldn't think it worth investing a lot of effort into changing their mind.
James Radcliffe wrote:
July 6th, 2019, 10:06 pm

I don't think this quote is setting up Socrates's life as something to emulate. I think it's setting it up as an example to avoid.
I'm not sure I'd agree with that. I think the passage clearly shows the writer's high regard for Socrates, so I interpret it to be saying not to avoid emulating him, but rather that you shouldn't attempt to follow a path such as his unless you are as well-prepared and as able as he was to navigate the difficulties and to accept the consequences that may accompany it.

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Re: Is disagreement impolite?

Post by detail » July 14th, 2019, 10:19 am

Disagreement is impolite as long as the other person is somehow more powerful than you. If this is not the case it is the way normal dialetics leads us since aristotle to come to new insights. At least for the philosopher Hegel a disagreement was the premise for the existence of it.

Within Hegelianism, the word dialectic has the specialised meaning of a contradiction between ideas that serves as the determining factor in their relationship. Dialectic comprises three stages of development: first, a thesis or statement of an idea, which gives rise to a second step, a reaction or antithesis that contradicts or negates the thesis, and third, the synthesis, a statement through which the differences between the two points are resolved. Dialectical materialism, a theory or set of theories produced mainly by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, adapted the Hegelian dialectic into arguments regarding traditional materialism.


So seeing disagrement as impolite would abolish whole disciplines of philosophy.

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