Writing on social media, one should be prepared for disagreeing with their expressed views and ideas. Some people simply cannot tolerate disagreement.
After publishing my latest article, How Much Time Is Left for Homo Sapiens?, in which I wrote about the so-called Doomsday argument, the term argument came to my mind as a topic due to its different meanings. Having discussions on the article on several social media, and seeing how people give voice to disagreement, also gave me an idea for this article.
Etymology suggests that the term argument itself originated in Latin from the word argumentum, which means proof, evidence, reason.
Yet, it is not used in the same sense as the term proof. Namely, ‘proof’ is a fact that proves something is true or exists, whereas ‘argument’ is a logical construction that has no property of truthfulness but logical correctness (as in the Doomsday argument).
One definition of argument implies dispute or quarrel, a verbal fight, arises from a disagreement between two or more persons holding differing views where each side defends his or her point of view against others. Mostly is seen on topics concerning national politics and religion.
I do not see an argument as a dispute or quarrel. Quite the opposite, it is the opportunity for healthy and constructive conversation, exchanging ideas, and sharing views with reasonable people.
Making an argument actually means to take a position on a particular issue providing statements, reasons to justify or refute that position. You should always expect disagreement with your point of view, regardless of how clearly and consistently reasoned. Even when statements are true and proven, people will find reasons to disagree with your argument.
However, in evaluating another person’s argument, human reasoning is biased. We do not see our own mistakes in reasoning but being vigilant in finding errors in the reasoning of others, especially if we disagree with them. We are all guilty of it! I found myself many times in the trap of my own biases, despite my critical thinking ability.
Being biased is in human nature. Understanding the importance of being open to different perspectives and willing to discuss topics that may contradict our beliefs and values make us less biased.
Disagreement is inevitable. We are all different because of different backgrounds, levels of knowledge, and experiences that shape our biased perceptions and affect the development of our belief system.
Diversity in ideas and views is beautiful, but handling diversity requires dialogue. People who have trouble separating their opinions from their identity are not able to have a conversation that respects diversity.
While reading comments on social media, I wonder again and again why so many people cannot civilly discuss disagreement, explain their view, and ask questions to understand the other person’s perspective. Many avoid further engagement with those who “dare” to disagree with their point of view.
Discussing disagreement is not only about changing each other positions on a particular issue. It is about understanding each other’s views, agreeing to disagree, and possibly learning from diversity.
When someone wrongly believes that Earth is flat, I still want to know how he or she came to that conclusion and what arguments support such beliefs. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even wrong and misguided one. It is up to us to decide is something worth disagreement.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could give voice to disagreement without the risk of ruining relationships?
Because of the toxicity of social media in general, I refrained from making any comments on posts with weak arguments and assertions without adequate reasons due to the possibility of being involved in the discourse after expressing a different point of view. Although my comments were always responsive and not reactive, I experienced a few times that even a polite disagreement can ruin fragile online friendships.
Despite my negative experience, I still believe that without asking questions, discussing thoughts and ideas with goodwill, and respectful disagreement, there is no genuine engagement, neither on social media nor in real life. A big lesson in life is learning to deal with situations and views with which we disagree.
While writing this article, one of the maxims by Balthasar Gracián came to my mind. Although published in the 17th century, his pithy statements are still relevant.
The prudent avoid being contradicted as much as contradicting: though they have their censure ready, they are not ready to publish it. […] The wise man, therefore, retires into silence, and if he allows himself to come out of it, he does so in the shade and before few and fit persons.
Would you rather be the wise man Gracián wrote about, who retires into silence and, like Socrates, interact only with few and fit persons, or would you give voice to disagreement?
Silence is not always golden.