Listening to “both sides” – A critique of oversimplification

I’m a big fan of critical thinking: Of being happy to be proven wrong or of trying to imagine yourself arguing your opponents case (hopefully, so well that you can argue it better than they can). This idea is called the ideological turning test, and was introduced to me by the philosopher-statistician blogger Leah Libresco (whose blog has sadly been rather inactive recently). Her focus with the idea was on Theology, but of course it can be applied anywhere.


Complexity… ?

However, I think it’s important not to imagine the world in one of two camps. This is something I’ve began to realise more and more, especially in light of recent world events (I imagine you know exactly what I’m talking about). There are people who  one half agrees with, there are people who one almost completely agrees with, and there are people one completely disagrees with (but one might very much enjoy a discussion with them).

Yes, with a given assertion, it can either be true or false (I still like that system as a solid form of debate). But there are many many assertions that can be and are made, and one can agree with some, whilst completely disagreeing with others that are typically associated with the first.

But this leaves one with a problem when trying to always listen to “both sides of the argument” (in an attempt to be “open minded”). Because the thing is, there aren’t just two points of view. There aren’t just two opinion columns. More recently, with the rise of the internet, we come in contact with an extreme variety of nuanced views, to which we can’t all listen to.

What is the solution? I think perhaps the solution is not to care as much about the generalised viewpoints, but rather individual people you actually know, with nuanced opinions you can interact with. Keeping up with what everybody keeps up with is perhaps not as important as keeping up with everybody full stop. That may seem like a jump: It is. Is it too much of a jump…? What do you think?



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