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why you should stop trying to change people's minds

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why you should stop trying to change people's minds

recently i posted the following question on my facebook page: “are you actually interested in opinions you disagree with?” the answers began to pop up and, given the bipartisan nature of my facebook page, they were from a mix of friends on the left and the right.every answer started with “yes,” but almost all, from both sides, contained caveats. some said the person they disagree with must accept facts and science, some said he must be open to new ideas, some said he must not offend.after a few dozen of these responses, my friend jess chimed in with a very important point. she noticed that what tied these “yes, but,” answers together was a requirement that the person offering the opinion be persuadable. she suggested this is a poor standard upon which to limit one’s discourse, and it seems to me she is exactly right.an old debatea major problem with valuing discourse on the basis of persuadability is that it makes all of our conversations and consumption of ideas transactional. we are only listening with the intent of finding flaws we can use to prove the truth of our own perspective. but this assumes discourse is a zero-sum game, that eventually one idea will win and one will lose. while sometimes this is true—the earth is round, for example—the vast majority of the time it is not.in a sense, this demand for efficacy and admission of error from my facebook buddies stretches back to plato. socratic dialogue establishes a dialectic in which the great philosop...