This comment is by wellokaythen on the post “When Angry Commenters Find Common Ground” by Joanna Schroeder and David Byron.
I tend to think that the best way to arrive at the truth is to be as objective as possible. To be as objective as possible, I have to recognize that I could be wrong. I have to be willing to put my assertions to some kind of test, and the test has to have the theoretical possibility of having a “yes” or “no” or “maybe” outcome. I believe that’s called “falsifiability” – if I refuse to accept anything that would disprove my assertion, then I am not being rational or objective or seeking the truth collaboratively. If I say “nothing you can say will ever convince me otherwise,” then I am not really interested in a constructive conversation.
This doesn’t mean I can’t have confidence in my point of view or defend it vigorously, but, realistically, I admit I could be wrong. (I was wrong one time in when I was seven years old. It’s possible I’ll be wrong again someday. Highly unlikely, but hey it could happen….)
To be objective, I also have to recognize that I may have some assumptions that are not borne out by reality. I have to recognize that my individual experience may not be easily generalized to many other people. I have to have some intellectual caution about using words like always, never, none, all, etc. That’s just being realistic about inductive thinking, going from the particulars to the general. I have to be clear with myself and others about what my operating definitions are: “to me, equality means ___,” or “by ‘feminism,’ I mean ____.”
For example, I often post commentary with the assumption that I am having a rational conversation with someone who is looking to find some sort of truth. When, in fact, the other person is really there for some other compelling reason which transcends questions of objectivity, truth, or rational exchange of viewpoints. Silly me, bringing a bundt cake to a gunfight.
photo by gammaman /flickr