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Philosophy

Arguing is Necessary

The media, tv shows, newspapers, school and people we meet on the street all have different opinions than we do on a lot of issues. Some issues are unimportant. Some are extremely important. For example, should Canada speak out against asbestos or not? Are newspapers trustworthy? Should Canada send troops to Afghanistan? Is global warming real or not? These are other questions will affect us in practical ways. But how should we solve such questions?

Perhaps we should simply ignore all such questions and let other people solve them. Many of the questions that exist out in the world are not important to us. But other questions are important to us. It may not matter to us whether global warming is real or not, but gas prices do matter. It might not matter whether or not Canada sends troops to Afghanistan, but dead neighbors do matter. Ignoring such questions is the same as saying that I don’t care about dead neighbors and high gas prices. So ignoring such questions will not work.

Perhaps we could just accept whatever we are told. We are told that global warming is real, that high gas prices exist because of greedy companies and that newspapers each have their own angle on the story. Unfortunately, we are also told that global warming is not real, high gas prices exist because of high taxes and that newspapers are trying to tell the truth. These sort of issues are the ones that everyone does not agree on. So whose opinion are we going to accept? Also, what will we tell the person who disagrees with us? Will we just say: I have my opinion, you have yours, lets get along? No one likes dead neighbors and high gas prices. If you are right and global warming causes high gas prices, then maybe we should pressure the government to control carbon emissions. If you are wrong and high taxes cause high gas prices, then we should pressure the government to lower gas taxes. If we really care about low gas prices, then we really care about the right way to lower them. If the person we talk to cares also, then he would want to know if he was wrong. So we cannot simply accept what we are told.

The only option left is to evaluate the reasons for our opinions. When we do this with another person or even by ourselves, it is called either dialectic or argument. Dialectic is when we both know what we are arguing about, we are willing to be objective, we are open to the idea that we might be wrong and we are willing to discover who is right. Dialectic is always good. Arguments happen when we don’t have enough for dialectic, but we are still willing to disagree with another person. Some arguments are good and some are bad. (All dialectic is also argument.) We must use some kind of argument to evaluate someone’s opinion – even our own opinion. We must do so because we care about things in the world and we are not children that simply accept whatever we are told.

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