The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason


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Józef Tischner’s epistemology of “political reason” and the “ethics of truth” | SpringerLink

RRP: We're sorry, but this item is temporarily out of stock. When certain parties are disqualified in advance, it becomes impossible to build bridges, there is no longer a common framework for what counts as the truth and it is impossible to solve major problems of the future. A properly functioning democratic process should aim to prevent serious forms of polarization and social disruption.

That is why we have an interest in a culture of debating in which we can disagree, but continue to involve each other and keep listening to one another. Why is something that is completely logical in normal social interactions so complicated in politics? Smooth resolution of a political disagreement is in essence not much different from smooth resolution of a disagreement between two people.

For example: I am happily married. My wife and I share a house and a child and we really care for each other … And yet we do not always want the same thing. What would happen if we were both to use erestic techniques? If I stubbornly stick to my position and she would do the same thing, everyone who has ever had a relationship will agree: we will pay a price later on.

You do not have to be a therapist to see that our marriage would then be short-lived. So what you do is be a little bit considerate with each other. As we all know, it is about giving and taking. Likewise in our society! We need a debate culture that allows us to debate sharply and substantively without creating unnecessary polarization.

A debate culture with integrity is essential for a well-functioning democracy. Now the question is: how do we get there? It starts with the question: who do politicians really represent and do they really act in their interest? You could say that there is a broad and narrow interpretation of politics.

How the Search for Truth Led Me from Atheism to Catholicism

The narrow interpretation is simply standing up for the people who voted for you. But if everyone only defends their own groups, it reinforces mistrust in politics. The principle of the Tragedy of the Commons shows very beautifully how the collective will lose when everyone only stands up for their own interests. There is also a broad interpretation that allows politicians to debate from a broad vision that for society. One way to do that is through the Veil of Ignorance by John Rawls:. Rawls asks the question: if you do not yet know who you will be in a society, how would you organize that society?

You have to take into account every group in society. After all, you do not know whether you will be born with good health in a beautiful villa or if you would end up in a wheelchair. The first principle for a good debate is: never argue for a target group, but for a society-wide vision.

Such visions can be liberal, conservative, socialist, green or based on any other principles, but it takes the wellbeing of all members of society into account. A few years ago I walked across a market where on a stage a car was placed full of ping pong balls. If I guessed how many ping-pong balls were in the car, the car was mine. Unfortunately, my guess was far off.

But if you let many people guess, the average of those guesses is usually very close to the actual number of ping pong balls. This is the effect of the Wisdom of the Crowds: together we approach the correct answer. The big question is, could we also use the Wisdom of the Crowds in politics? Everyone could make a decent guess about ping pong balls.

But what about complex issues?


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What if you must first really understand something in order to be able to say something meaningful about it? It turns out that for such matters the Wisdom of the Crowds method does not work well. Political decision-making is often complex and many political controversies cannot be so simplified. What about a discussion about migrants, climate change or Brexit? Yet there is a way to also utilize the Wisdom of the Crowds in political decisionmaking. For complex problems, a large group of people can still use the Wisdom of the Crowds and find optimal solutions when they are allowed to exchange their guesses and adapt their guesses based on what they hear.

See this video for a fascinating explanation of this principle:. It turns out that exchanging ideas is key. Dominant votes bend the average away from the best outcome. In short, Wisdom of the Crowds works when exchanges take place on the basis of equality. You must continuously try to involve everyone in order to arrive at sensible results.

Now think about our current media landscape where certain politicians and media figures dominate the debate. That is a problem. With complex issues such as the Brexit, it is very important that we discuss the content, so that there will be a well-considered choice.

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Taking all perspectives into account is essential. One is focused on positions, the other on underlying concerns. Their starting point is that a position is truly different from the underlying concern. Imagine the following true story: two people want to go on holiday together, but one wants to go to Iceland and the other to Spain.

This is a positional debate. The relevant question to ask is: why do you take this position? What importance is behind it? The point of Getting to Yes is that positions are often incompatible, but underlying interests are certainly not! The two friends therefore decided to choose a destination where it is nice and warm and where you can take beautiful pictures: the Grand Canyon.

Another example of this principle is this:. Politicians are expected to take a position; at least then you have something to choose! But what concern do they try to address with their position? And are there other ways to meet that concern? When a debate is only positional, few alternatives are explored and a narrow interpretation of democracy is inevitable.

God, Natural Knowledge of

The majority takes the loot and the minority remains defeated. By being honest about the real concern behind your position opens a door to possibilities that overcome traditional contradictions. This means that disagreement does not necessarily has to lead to conflict and polarisation. You may start to see that on a fundamental level we actually share a lot of concerns. It is precisely an eristical debating culture that stands in the way of this possibility and the media also plays a major role. When you as a politician only have 30 seconds to make a point, you kind of have to be positional.

The more you know, the more you know that you do not know anything; according to Aristotle. How much do you really understand about our society? How many of your opinions are really thoroughly substantiated? Take a look at this great Dilbert cartoon for example:. We often have strong opinions about complex issues such as foreign policy, health care or macroeconomics. In a fascinating study , Philip Fernbach asked participants to score themselves on how well they understood a particular subject about which they had an opinion eg sanctions against Iran.

He then asked them to explain in detail how their opinion would work out in practice. Then they had to score themselves again on how well they thought they understood the subject. What happened? Not only did the participants score themselves lower when they realized that they understood much less about the subject than they thought, more importantly their opinion also became more nuanced! Daniel Kahneman Nobel Prize-winning psychologist who has done a lot of research on cognitive biases calls this the Illusion of explanatory depth. When you are forced to reason with precision, you will become more nuanced.

But the problem is we often debate issues in very general terms, which renders much of the debate meaningless. It would be good to narrow topics of discussions down and be specific in what we address. What and who does he mean specifically? Baudet, what do you mean specifically? Who do you mean by malicious, aggressive elements? What are those consequences you talk about specifically?

The Path To Knowledge and Truth

And how exactly are they obscured from us? By forcing Mr. To argue sharply, one should not draw conclusions too quickly, but ask questions with precision. A debate should be an ode to doubt; allowing yourself to postpone your judgement; to research and be curious. Honest debating asks for something terribly difficult: the courage to question your own opinion. A good debate always revolves around arguments. With the help of arguments one can make an assessment of concerns at play, test ideas and create transparency for the voter and find solutions to problems.

The goal is to deal with disagreements in an honest way. The enemy of a good debate is not your opponent; the enemy of a good debate is the fallacy. There are many fallacies, but they have in common that they are used to distract from good arguments. The question was aimed at sensation, it was a fallacy.


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At first it seems that Newt Gingrich did a good job responding to this question, but it turns out he all too happily liked to defend himself against the allegations. He then fails to address the real political issues. As a result the real losers are people watching this debate. They learn nothing new. Fallacies work especially well if the other party cannot deal with it. But dealing with fallacies requires advanced debating skills that are often even beyond the most experienced politicians. The art of good debating is that you do not let yourself be tempted to join the other persons foul play.

But that is exactly what happened in the case of Trump. Marco Rubio tried to get back at Trump in a rather painful episode by insulting Trump with his small hands:. As a result, Rubio lost in the polls and Donald Trump benefited. For an honest debating culture, you need to devevelop yourself in the art of the debating. You should learn to recognize fallacies and learn how to bring a debate back to the relevant issues.

A fallacy is best exposed by explaining to the public what is happening and why that is irrelevant to the discussion. And then of course you do not linger in meta-analysis, but return to the content, to the core of your message. In this video you will find a nice textbook example of how dealing with fallacies should be done starting at 4.

When well refuted, a fallacy turns out to be a huge show of weakness. If you remain sharp and focus on the content, the other person will expose himself. Do not fight fire with fire. Eristics of course only work when politicians can get away with it. When we understand the perverse incentives that lead to poor debating and do not accept a lack of thorough analysis and depth, our debating culture will change for the better.

However, this requires detoxification from our addiction to sensation. It requires being disciplined and focusing on the long term. Whether you work as a politician, journalist, trainer or moderator. With these seven recommendations you can contribute to a more honest debate with less sensation and more content:.

The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason
The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason
The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason
The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason
The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason
The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason

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