Destructive Dialogue

Posted by on Mar 18, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve noticed in our combative culture that issues are often framed as either/or, all/nothing, or for/against propositions. The reader is required to simply agree or disagree. In other words, holding a blended, thoughtful position of some kind on the issue of the day is considered disingenuous and therefore unacceptable. It’s so tempting to resort to ultimatums in order to make a point or win an argument, rather than engage in a productive dialogue.

For example, one can’t oppose abortion and still have sincere concern for women’s health. On another front, one can’t strive to preserve the original definition of marriage and still care about the rights of those who pursue same-sex relationships. Apparently, one can’t resist legislation mandating a professing transgender’s right to enter the bathroom of their choice and still hold to constitutional freedom. Additionally, one can’t support restrictions related to the entrance of refugees to our country and still feel deep compassion for the plight of the refugee.

On the last one, I recently read a well-meaning post related to the refugee discussion which posed the following question … “Are we the kind of people who open our hearts to others in their suffering or the kind who get afraid and turn our hearts away?” So the question is framed with simply two options; either we have an open heart, or a fearful, calloused heart. That’s it. For/Against … Open/Calloused. And the opened heart obviously must invite every refugee in without any thought for what that person might do once they are in.

Scenarios like these are informal fallacies known as “false dilemmas” designed to force parties to choose a side rather than engage an issue thoughtfully and comprehensively. And they’re destructive. One side or the other gives the impression that there is only one right conclusion, and it just so happens to be theirs. These arguments are typically accompanied by significant emotional appeals, once again designed to vilify the opposing position.

By contrast, sleeping with your neighbor’s spouse is a true dichotomy. It is either right or wrong. There is no grey. If you favor such behavior, you favor infidelity, which is a violation of the most serious commitment, and therefore wrong.

If you favor reserving bathroom usage to biological gender, regardless of what someone might imagine their gender to be, you are well within a reasonable point of view which should warrant respect and consideration. It does not mean that you are mean-spirited, but rather that you have reasonable concern not only for the preferences of the professing transgender, but also for the welfare of others who will be affected by the actions of the professing transgender.

I’m in favor of shifting our conversations away from the winning or losing construct, and toward a solution-oriented construct which produces a far greater amount of genuine consideration shown toward parties with differing ideas.

What do you think? Have you seen other examples of false dilemmas as you surf the net? What other fallacies have you found in posts you’ve read?

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