We should have more arguments. And now isn’t to say, necessarily, that we should argue more (a few minutes on Twitter will nip that notion in the bud). It would simply be refreshing to have a bit more consistency when we do, inevitably, disagree about things.
Remember an argument is separable from a position. You may cling to a position religiously, in the face of all evidence to the contrary. You may defend the indefensible with impassioned anecdote and logical fallacy because you truly do believe it, whatever it is. Your earnestness is commendable, quaint, Lincolnesque. But can we have a day when we simply discuss the facts? And build arguments through reason, without circumspect? Just for a day?
Just for a day can we acknowledge our hypocrisy and pretend to care about truths when they refute our position? Can we skip the stories and the anecdotes and the back-in-my-days and embrace, for the start of a discussion, a set of premises on which we can each then build an argument? And then we could all just have at it? Wouldn’t that be great?
It just feels like there’s a lot of feelings out there, and a kind of proud stubbornness behind a Man And His Convictions. This notion that sticking to your guns in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is somehow admirable. Butch Cassidy stuck to his guns. And Davy Crockett. Gary Cooper, and John Wayne. Real Americans who stood for what was right, like train robbery and the genocide of indigenous peoples.
Just for a day wouldn’t it be nice to ignore (just for a day, remember) what’s “right,” and think instead about what’s correct? Rightness is subjective. It’s a function of our values and we’ve made it pretty clear over the last several elections that our values, nationally, are on a divergent track. Instead we could all just get together one day and embrace a single group of facts. A dataset. A statistic. Hell, a method, or a language of conversation.
Can we agree, just for a day, that if A=B, and B=C, then A=C? Is that too much to ask? And tomorrow we can fill A, B, and C with whatever slanted partisan position we like, but for today can we agree that aside from rightness and beliefs, that a thing called truth exists?
Of course it’s possible that this is not productive. Strict logic is helpful for answering questions like “what is a number?” and “did OJ do it?”, but outside of esoteric thought experiments it seems possible that the truth, in life, is irrelevant. Because values are derived from our experiences, which in turn tend to affirm our values. Experience and opinion have a positive feedback relationship – if we don’t value truth then it’s a short trip to seeing falsehood in fact. And while mathematics is the language of the natural world, we exist apart from that, in a latticework of self-made echo chambers and voluntary umwelt.
Instead we reside, perhaps, in a space where reality, or the notion of truth, has ceased to exist at the insistence of a preponderance of individuals who simply willed it into obsolescence. Where moral relativism was just a beginning, and that we live, now, in a place where things are not true until dis-proven, or false until demonstrated to be correct, but in which multiple contradictory truths exist in parallel, as confirmed by different sets of experiences titrating through different sets of values to generate and confirm contradictory but fervently held beliefs across swaths of otherwise intelligent people. Where two people can be shown one video of, say, a police shooting, and knowing nothing else about the incident see two completely different truths – a murder or an act of self-defense – based on no information beyond what they shared. Where, further, the shooting itself could actually have been both a murder and a justified shooting, all at once, in the parallel realities that make up American life in the 21st century. Where objective truth really is a fiction.
But then again shit what do I know maybe there’s just a bunch of liars out there.