Texas Tech University

We Need Discourse, Not Discord

by José Umaña Campos

If we avoid talking to people with different points of view, how will we refine our thinking?

Knowledge is one of the pillars of society. As humans, we have the ability to reason and develop complex thoughts, something that differentiates us from animals. Through knowledge, we were able to broaden our understanding of the world surrounding us, and of ourselves. Everything we intellectually discovered, we strove to share and preserve. As long as it is properly documented and of assured quality, knowledge is a timeless and invaluable resource, our most important commodity as a species.

However, with knowledge also comes conflict. In our pursuit of truth and understanding, we have encountered disagreements. With disagreement came the responsibility to prove that our views are based on credible information, whether to further share these views with others or simply demonstrate that we do not believe a lie. But our attitudes towards this process have produced unfounded and even profound resentment toward those who disagree with us. Assisted by social media algorithms that recommend content in our feeds, we now have the chance to inoculate ourselves against any idea that is different from our own. Don't think this is the case for you? Reflecting critically, how many times have you actively engaged an opposing idea regarding a topic you have strong opinions about? Maybe a couple times this year? Now think about the times you interacted with people whom you do agree with, regarding that same topic.

You might say, “Sure, what's the big deal? What if I don't waste my time arguing with people who don't understand the problem?” Well, right here is the catch.

discussion between two people

We should learn to talk to people we disagree with in a way that promotes open discussion.

We live in a society where information is available to most of the public; it is not gatekept for a select few. But availability does not equate to guaranteed quality. Whether it is by referring to untrustworthy sources or falling victim to echo chambers, people are unknowingly endangering the quality of shared knowledge. It is through argumentation that we test the veracity of our views, especially in a time where information found in a random internet post can be taken at face value by many. If we abandon discussion and discourse, how can we know we are believing something true? And even if what we believe happens to be true, how do we expect to persuade others to reconsider their perspectives? It does not take special insight to see that avoiding opposing ideas does not make sense ethically or logically.

To be clear, actively making an effort to engage ideas we do not agree with does not equate to having an argument every time. Doing so would be taxing, mentally and physically. Simple actions, such as trying to comprehend different thought processes and contrasting those ideas with ours, are valid initiatives to better educate ourselves and assure our views are informed.

In recent years people have been vocal about problems they consider to be of immense importance, acting against what they believe to be unjust or unfounded, effectively taking the steps necessary to shape our future as a society. It is vital that we know with certainty that what we are advocating for is, indeed, what is right. Otherwise, instead of assuring a better future, we are creating an ominous landscape for posterity and ourselves. For our efforts to accomplish their noble cause, our ideas must be as spotless as our convictions. Being humble and accepting what others have to say is a part of the process we should embrace.

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