The primary inspiration for this post, which I’ve been meaning to write since I started this blog, is a 1995 webpage titled The Art of Conversation. In fact, as I’ve done with this post, it could be called The Art of Debate, since debate over a topic — a dialectic — is what drives these (in fact ancient) ideas about discourse and rhetoric.
The page’s authors (Dean & Marshall VanDruff) give it other names: Conversational Cheap Shots! (on the site’s main page link) and Conversational Terrorism (on the page itself). The graphic, which I’ve shamelessly recreated here, calls it How Not To Talk.
Regardless, it’s about how to have an honest effective debate that actually goes somewhere. (Be that concordance or disagreement.)
Our next VP? I sure hope so!
I thought Kamala Harris did very well last night and that the debate was a welcome return to almost normal politics (to the extent politics can ever be said to be “normal”).
In particular, she showed more signs of life than Joe Biden did, and she showed some appropriate emotions towards her opponent.
Maybe it’s seasonal — I really hate the darkness of winter — but I find myself sufficiently discouraged by the debate side of blogging to “hit the mute button” for a while. It isn’t the first time I’ve felt like withdrawing from what too often amounts to a tug-of-war. I didn’t blog at all in 2017, in part, because of that.
For months now I’ve been thinking of ending this blog (or taking another break), but I like having the outlet to express myself. I don’t do Twitter or Facebook or Instagram; I like to write about stuff. Whatever stuff strikes my fancy (which apparently breaks a Blogging Rule about focusing on a single topic).
My problem is that I’m tired of debates that go nowhere.
It was a number of years ago that the book you see pictured here on the right caught my eye. I was wandering around a bookstore, as book-lovers do, seeing what there was to see (and possibly buy). This may surprise you, but I’ve always enjoyed a good debate, so the book’s topic seemed attractive and a nice change of pace from baseball and science books or SF novels.
Plus: Aristotle, Lincoln and Homer Simpson! Who could resist that? A glance at a few of the pages showed an easy and breezy open writing style that went down nicely, and the bits I read were quite intriguing. I snagged it thinking it would be right up my alley, and that I’d enjoy it thoroughly.
I never got more than a third of the way through it!
I think, I think.
A bit more than three years ago I began this blog intending to write about matters of existence and consciousness (and science and computing). Since then I’ve tried on other hats, stories from my past and present, opinions and views about society, even the occasional post above movies or TV. But those meatier topics — the ones the blog is named for — still attract me.
There are three problems, though. Firstly, other sites specialize in that sort of thing and do it very well. Secondly, they aren’t topics that attract visitors — my meaty posts get even fewer reads than my less weighty posts. And thirdly, I may not be as good as explaining things as I would like to be.
That said, sometimes I just can’t help myself, so here we go again.
Last time I talked about opposing pairs: Yin and Yang, light and dark, north and south. I mentioned that some pairs are true opposites of each other (for example, north and south), whereas other pairs are actually a thing and the lack of that thing (for example, light and dark). Such pairs are only opposites in the sense that an empty cup is the opposite of a full cup.
However in both cases, the opposites stand for opposing ideas; two poles of polarity, and it is polarization that I address today. Specifically I want to discuss a way of thinking that helps avoid it.
It’s easy to divide the world into sides. Many sayings begin with, “There’s two kinds of…” It seems easier to break things down into opposing points of view than to consider a variety of views. It seems easier to compare features between two things than twenty. Our court system has two sides and so does our political system (despite many attempts to create a viable third party).