How to Humbly Disagree

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What is it

People like to argue, especially Philosophy Talk listeners! But no matter how hard we try to resolve disputes through rational discourse, sometimes we may still disagree about important issues. One response to this predicament is simply to agree to disagree. But should the mere fact of disagreement lower our confidence in our views? Should we change how we judge our own beliefs when we realize that other people disagree? Or do we only have reason to doubt our beliefs when we learn that experts disagree with us? The Philosophy Talk hosts humbly welcome Nathan Ballantyne from Fordham University, author of Knowing Our Limits (forthcoming).

Part of a six-part series on Intellectual Humility.

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Comments (1)


Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, March 9, 2018 -- 8:58 AM

Disagreement, and other modes of discourse...

I'll begin this short comment with answers to the three questions posed: 1. If we are well-experienced and our views reasonably sound, then no. Our confidence level, if based in knowledge and experience, should not be assailed by ourselves. 2. Maybe so. If we feel humbled enough by what is superior knowledge and/or experience, then deference is eminently honorable. But only if there evolves either a zero-sum outcome for us or a positive-sum effect for us and our adversary. We need not be so humble as to feel humiliated. 3. This one is tricky, but I'm not inclined to honor an expert's opinion in virtue of the fact that she IS an expert. Transactional analysis entails respectful treatment from all parties, but the expert/layman dichotomy does not require unquestioned deference, based upon some inherent hierarchy. Puffery is ineffable and inexcusable in professional discourse. Professionalism is not the sole prerogative of anyone, achievement or the lack thereof, notwithstanding. (If in doubt about this question and response, see #'s 1 and 2.)

My outlook and recalcitrant stance has confounded many in my lifetime experience, and I certainly do not always win arguments. For my part, winning the argument is not the point. Those who always strive to win, even when they are patently wrong, are functionally insecure. Some current examples, in positions of trust, shall remain unnamed. Happy St. Patty's day, to all...

Nathan Ballantyne, Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University

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