Thursday, 13 January 2011

How to Discuss a Serious Subject 'Nicely'

Following the issue raised in my last post re. discussing serious subjects, here are my suggestions:-

1. Don't pontificate; put your view forward but make it clear that you are always open-minded. You only seek the truth. You are not claiming that you are completely correct.

2. Listen carefully to your companion; avoid interrupting; let her/him finish; think about her/his point.

3. Stay pleasant.

4. Pick out any aspect of your companion's position with which you agree and say so.

5. If your companion's point appears to be ambiguous or unclear, calmly seek clarification.

6. Present the evidence for your position as objectively as you can.

7. If you can think of evidence or an argument that supports your companion's position, state it.

8. If you can think of evidence or an argument that challenges your companion's position, state it neutrally and without triumph.

9. Only address the issue. Never, never refer to the any perceived negative characteristics of your companion. This would be called an ad hominem and is strictly a 'no, no'.

10. Remember that any particular point of view is rarely universally true without qualification.

11. If appropriate, build on your companion's position or use her/his points to build on or modify your own position.

12. At the end of the conversation try to state a position on which you are both agreed. As part of this, you may well need to agree to disagree on particular points

I think that children should be taught to follow these philosophical principles - or something similar - as soon as they are old enough to understand them. I regard them as an essential part of a well-rounded education. They are an excellent foundation for an understanding of the 'Scientific Method' that is foundational to all the progress we have made in science and technology. I would also claim that these principles are a useful personal methodology for thinking about many received opinions; social, political, medical, scientific, religious or existential.

1 comment:

  1. I am delighted to discover that 'Theory of Knowledge' is a compulsory core element of the International Baccalaureate (IB), an international qualification for students aged 16 to 19. The IB Diploma is currently available in more than 100 schools and colleges in the UK and it is being cheered on by Michael Gove, The Education Minister.

    The 'Directgov' description of this compulsory module says that "You'll learn about the bases of knowledge and how to analyse evidence and express yourself in rational argument ---". Sounds good to me.