Could Debating Be Better with a Bit of Curiosity and Generosity?

By: Laura Bennett

It’s not uncommon, or even bad, to disagree with people and have opposing views but increasingly we’re seeing these disparities fiercely hashed out across multiple mediums leading to alienation, separatism and a deepening acceptance of cancel culture.

If we continue down this path, where will society end up? Is there a better way to disagree?

Filmmaker and founder of See Saw Films Emile Sherman and clinical psychologist Dr Lloyd Vogelman have been exploring the art of healthy debate on their podcast The Principle of Charity.

Each episode brings together two experts from opposing sides of hot-button topics like euthanasia, immigration and cultural appropriation, challenging them to highlight the best of their opponents perspective and inject generosity and curiosity into how they explore difficult conversations.

“The ‘principle of charity’ is a philosophical, scientific principle that suggests that we should understand another person’s argument before we instinctively reject it,” Lloyd said in an interview.

“It tells us to seek the truth, not to win the fight.

“Once people don’t feel understood, we tend to move toward a much more conflictual place and a more polarised world.”

“There’s nothing wrong with rejecting [someone else’s argument] as long as you understand the perspective from which they’re coming. Once people don’t feel understood, we tend to move toward a much more conflictual place and a more polarised world.

“There’s an absolute beauty in finding out you can be wrong.”

Recently launching its second season, The Principle of Charity has had a great variety of guests including journalist and presenter Andrew Denton, entertainer Tim Minchin and Dr Katrina Sifferd, Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Chicago’s Elmurst University.

During the production of the series, Lloyd’s shifted his own approach to debate: “I inevitably have my own point of view, and every time [a lot] of my views I felt I had to question”.

“I thought, ‘Maybe they’re not so right’,” he said.

“I could start to understand [opposing] views much more subtly with a greater sense of nuance rather than ‘I just can’t believe [they’re] saying that’.”

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

About the Author: Laura is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.

Feature image: Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash  

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