Discourse. This is a term I find myself interested in lately. The word means the communication of thought by talk and words and I think it’s an important definition to showcase. I don’t want to confuse people with thoughts of academic papers floating across desks and being read at symposiums because it’s not what my point is at all. My point is that our society seems to lack an affinity for communication of thought through talk and words. We certainly talk a lot, but do we communicate? Do we discuss?
In my encounters and travels I find I classify communications into three broad categories (which are by no means exhaustive – these are my own personal definitions and in the interest of discourse, I think it important you realize them as such): discussion, cheerleading, and arguments. The rarest of these is discussion insofar as any “weight” is given.
When two people share a dialogue my favorite type of dialogue is the discussion. Discussions can be friendly banter, they can be idle chit chat, or (most rarely) they can be debates. When two people of differing opinions discuss an issue with open minds and are accepting of real facts, I consider that discussion. When people are talking in order to better understand a new concept and are accepting of facts, this is discussion. At the end of a discussion, opinions may remain unchanged, but at the end of a discussion the participants have hopefully learned more about the topic and the other people.
I enjoy discussions.
Cheerleading – which some readers have figured out since most people who read this are people I know and most people I know can figure this out – is better known as “preaching to the choir.” I have been a member of some incredibly intense cheerleading. I don’t quite understand how we work ourselves into such a froth when we all agree with each other, but it happens. It’s enjoyable. I like to have people who agree with me. Lots of people I know do.
Oh, but there are those folks who do not like to be agreed with and that is when you have an argument! Yes, that horrid thing – I hate arguments. In an argument (and this is my personal view) people have decided before the dialogue on their opinion and they Will Not Change It No Matter What Happens. And that is too bad, because I think arguments are the perpetrators in the great Discourse Dilemma.
To broaden the Argument umbrella, I put anyone who is unwilling to process facts or challenge beliefs under it. There is an entire tangent on the weakness of belief if not truly challenged, but I won’t go into it – I am arguing for discourse right now.
How is discourse achieved? Agreement. There is a degree of contrariness to be understood in any discussion, but the participants must agree on certain areas. Definitions and their source is one thing – this is how it is done in much of academia. Fact are another. There are certain facts that are true and need to be accepted as true. It is unfortunate that there is often a smart aleck ready to dispute a given fact – and I admit to having been one myself on occasion. But it makes discussion a chore.
Let us use a fact to illustrate my point. It has been generally accepted by the populace as a whole (which is a good working definition of certain facts) that the sky is blue. But – our smart aleck may reply – the sky is not really blue. That is merely the wavelength that reaches our eyes after sunlight is diffused through our atmosphere. Also – they will continue – there are times the sky is red, orange, black, and other colors. I will take my response off the air – they conclude.
Well, to be fair – and I am being smart alecky myself – the sky is not truly a color at all. The sky is an intangible concept we have defined to better describe our visual field. However, people know what I mean when I say “sky” and it is plausible to assume they think of the sky as “blue.” So it benefits discussion to say it is blue. Otherwise, I would be saying “with the exception of specific weather, position and time-related circumstances, the wavelength that my eyes perceive as ‘blue’ is the wavelength most readily scattered in my direction by the atmospheric particles surrounding the third planet from the star ‘Sol.'”
And so, it is easier in discourse for us all to accept things like that as fact. Where we run into trouble are facts that stem from things like “science.” Oh, this is a can of worms I am not quite ready to open, but it seems to me that discourse would be greatly improved if people stopped putting things like “faith” and “belief” into scientific facts. These are truths that have been exhaustively tested and tested and tested again, and they are the truths that are going to help us in the longest run.
That is how I wish to produce material, at least non-fiction. I am not interested in arguing with people, nor am I all too excited by the prospect of cheer leading. Discussion is my goal, and it is too hard too often to discover this – but I am going to try.
To accept a mode of discussion, there need be rules, and the rules for me rest in the division of facts and opinions. There is also a need to accept definitions as definitions. We have agreed as a people to speak our incredibly complex language of English, and I think it only fair to employ it’s rules and definitions. This is something I surmise many people have a problem with. One only needs to witness some sort of propaganda machine to learn this. Labels in politics are affixed to people who do not meet the definitional criteria for that label – and that makes me very upset. This is due to people wanting to “win,” which means no one “does.”
I am not philosophical, so I am not going to entertain the concept that our reality is pliable and real only due to our brains. At least, not right now. For any opinion piece of mine, I think it acceptable that reality be accepted as real, and facts be accepted as fact. I don’t wish to state something as a fact without backup available, but I don’t think I will readily seek out the proof needed to prove myself. The burden of proof is on the people trying to prove me wrong. That’s how it works in court, as far as I understand.
And so, as I head into this world and I write my opinions, I do my best to support them with facts. My opinion is that we need facts. We need discourse. We need to work together because we’re all in it together. But that’s just this man’s opinion.