Friday Thread: A reminder that robust political dispute is [much] better than war – Slugger O’Toole

Posted: March 1, 2020 at 4:48 am

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We havent had one of these for a while, but Professor Jordan Peterson articulates (I think) one of the reasons Slugger remains a live and lively community of unlike-minded folk who arent afraid to disagree with one another over almost everything.

This piece, recorded at the Oxford Union a couple of years ago, is worth watching the whole way through, but this section (where I hope the video link will start below, is the key passage that relates to the role which dispute plays in any democracy.

One key phrase is how he describes respect for the manifestation of the logos as the core value of free speech. In this important regard, Sluggers famous play the ball and not the man is merely an aid to the promulgation of such respect.

As my good friend and colleague John Kellden likes to say, in a network, the best place to store knowledge is in other people. Preferably folk who dont see the world in the same ways that you do

Theres dangers on both sides. One is the danger of pathological order and the other is the danger of pathological chaos and the problem with the questioning tendency is that it knows no limits and thats actually hard on people.

Its actually very difficult to orient yourself in life if you happen to be very high in openness very low in conscientiousness and very high in neuroticism because you question everything and youre not stable.

You might be wildly creative like thats a pretty good recipe for wild creativity but that doesnt mean that its tenable or sustainable because most creative ideas are not only wrong theyre actually deadly.

But some of them arent. Some of them are absolutely vitally important right and so part of the reason we have political discussion or discussion at all is to separate the wheat from the chaff.

So the endless proclivity of the questioning tendency of the liberal left is that every axiom is open for infinite questioning well that leaves you bereft.

But the problem on the right is if you tighten things up too much well then you have no adaptive flexibility left and you are in a sterile tyranny of stone and then the environment shifts around you and youre not prepared and then everyones done.

So the reason that free speech is so important, well I dont think about it as free speech but as respect for the manifestation of the logos thats the proper way of conceptualizing it is that it keeps the balance between those two tendencies right.

You need the questioning and you need the order. And so you think well how much of each and the answer is the recipe changes day to day? And so you think well if it changes day to day how are we going to keep up?

And the answer is by keeping up. Right where we are. But we do that by thinking and we think by talking and we think and talk by disagreeing and were better disagree conceptually because then we dont have to act out stupid ideas that will kill us.

The abstract territory of conceptual dispute is the substitute for war and death. It can be a brutal substitute because conceptual disagreement can be very intense but compared to war and death its hardly intense at all.

You keep the landscape open for serious dispute including dispute thats offensive, obviously, because if youre ever going to talk about anything thats difficult (and why talk otherwise) then youre going to talk about things that are offensive to people.

And youre going to do it badly, youre going to stumble around when youre formulating your thoughts and thats horrible, it makes people anxious, it alienates them but its better than pain and death. And thats the alternative.

This is why eclectic mixers like Sluggermatter. As Fast Company notedpeople are much more likely to share something that accords with something they already think. They also prefer stories that come from someone within their peer group.

Photo by Pixabay is licensed under CC0

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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Friday Thread: A reminder that robust political dispute is [much] better than war - Slugger O'Toole

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March 1st, 2020 at 4:48 am

Posted in Jordan Peterson