I’m seeing a ton of discussions concerning political topics on my Facebook feed. You know when you realize that you’re getting old just because of the stuff that pops up in your newsfeed ?
Anyhow, these discussions led me to think a lot about what makes me uncomfortable in political discussions. How come it is so hard to talk about something that is so important to the well being of a society?
I find that most discussions on these topics are filled with logical fallacies. We attack somebody’s character in order to undermine their argument, we justify our arguments with “it is just how things are”, we state that it is “just what everyone believes”, we refute an argument that was not advanced in the first place. You can find comprehensive list of logical fallacies here. These fallacies end up making it virtually impossible to have an healthy discussion with somebody.
The one that bugs me the most is the straw man fallacy. It is the most effective way to bring any discussion with me to an halt. I find most political/social issues so complex that I like to deconstruct them piece by piece and get an understanding of the thoughts around each particular piece. Often there isn’t a one size fits all answer. Arguments under the straw man fallacy seem to propose that such one size fits all answer exists and I find that very hard to believe.
Honestly, I’m happy that more people are talking about these issues in social media. I think the only way we are going to improve stuff is if we learn to have healthy discussions instead of just shrugging these topics under the carpet.
Lately I’ve changed some of the habits I have when reasoning about such topics. First, I always ask myself if a certain opinion on a given topic is fundamented or is just a bias I have. Second, I always go into a discussion looking forward to learn something new and possibly change my own beliefs. Basically, strong opinions, loosely held. These changes help me learn a lot about myself and the world. Hopefully, I’m becoming a better participant in discussions as well.