There is something further to be said on the issue of disagreement.
August 3, 2001 11:28 AM   Subscribe

There is something further to be said on the issue of disagreement. If two people find that there are arguments on both sides that are both very compelling, maybe that renders the answer to the question what is right and wrong indeterminate. Maybe there isn’t a clear answer. [via SciTech Daily]
posted by rushmc (10 comments total)

It can be profoundly unsatisfying to abandon the quest for truth and understanding without resolution, but is it sometimes better to do so than to embrace a simplistic, black-or-white answer simply for the purpose of closure, and the sense that we do indeed "know our own minds"? Does fence-sitting always represent moral cowardice, or can it show a dedication to objectivity and an openness to the revelation of new data?

The link also discusses other interesting ideas.
posted by rushmc at 11:32 AM on August 3, 2001

MetaFilter: you're wrong. no you're wrong!
posted by msacheson at 11:57 AM on August 3, 2001

Although two arguments may be equally compelling, a good leader is one who can add the element of urgency and relevancy to it. Okay, there may be equally good abstract arguments -- but which one is more important in the oontext of my life, or within the organization I belong to. Which one contributes to my/our goals, and which one doesn't.

For the example, there are equally compelling arguments to our legal system's necessity to "prove beyond a reasonable doubt" for criminal cases. Abstractly, one could also argue that this allows a lot guilty people to go free, as DA's and cops can't always build the wall of evidence needed to make this high standard. However, our forefathers made the decision based on the fact that the goal of the group (America) not to have a tyranny and not to jail innocent individuals was more important than the need to punish.
posted by brucec at 12:04 PM on August 3, 2001

Msacheson -Why, that's Calvinism!
posted by
lawtalkinguy at 12:19 PM on August 3, 2001

"Let us suppose that you are dealing with people in a very bad situation, with low self-esteem, and you are [not] treating them in ways you believe they could [not] reasonably reject. However, their self-esteem is so low that they do not demand much of you, and are in fact quite happy that you are not treating them worse. So you might have very warm relations with them, but you know, in fact, that you are not treating them correctly. I think there is something very undesirable about being related to people in this way.

Most difficult question have difficult answers, for example, when it comes to Globalization, I think people who protest aren't against globalization itself, but rather want to see it occur at the pace of people in a democratic way instead of at the pace of business no matter what the cost. So it's not black or white, never has been, but it somehow gets translated that way. But this is a political question, and politics breeds tactical answers. In the article he is careful to qualify arguers as people moitvated to come to an agreement, when you don't always have that in the real world (opponents of universal health care in the U.S.).
posted by chrismc at 12:28 PM on August 3, 2001

Sounds a lot like agnostic uncertainty, which plays a big part in my life. Go team!
posted by skallas at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2001

Looking for clear answers in arguments about morality is fruitless because it invariably isn't grounded in experience, but in the belief structures of the participants, which are usually born out of culture. When you look at different cultures, you see widely varying moral strictures. Some other questions are so abstract or complex that most minds struggle with mere comprehension, let alone mastery. Answers tend to emerge slowly over centuries.

But when it comes to more empirical questions -- which are decideable on the basis of experiment, upon which both parties can agree -- then if "there are arguments on both sides that are both very compelling", it's possible that the question has been badly framed. It's also possible that not enough is known about the question to decide it one way or the other (for example, the role of the so-called 'red shift' in answering questions about the universe, which has been applied dogmatically in the past but which, further experience has shown, has problems).
posted by Twang at 2:24 PM on August 3, 2001

great link...i'm still reading other articles on that site.
posted by th3ph17 at 4:38 PM on August 3, 2001

It's an interesting take on Hegelian dialectic: Scanlon's basically picking up Kant's ethics at the same point at which Hegel starts talking about thesis-antithesis-synthesis, and suggests that instead of working towards unsatisfying syntheses, there's a moral imperative to step back and re-present the question.
posted by holgate at 4:52 PM on August 3, 2001

"Sh'in, the ancient kings had a perfect virtue and all embracing rule of conduct, through which they were in accord with all under heaven. by practice of it the people were brought to live in peace and harmony and there was no ill will between superiors and inferiors."
-Hsiao King
posted by clavdivs at 5:47 PM on August 3, 2001

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