Art Of Disagreement

Following are the excerpts on the “art of disagreement” by Bret Stephens, Pulitzer Award Winner columnist at The New York Times from his recent lecture delivered at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia.

“Disagreements arise from perfect comprehension; from having chewed over the ideas of your intellectual opponent so thoroughly that you can properly spit them out.

“In other words, to disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say.

“Intelligent disagreement is the lifeblood of any thriving society.

“What makes our disagreements so toxic is that we refuse to make eye contact with our opponents, or try to see things as they might, or find some middle ground.

“Instead, we fight each other from the safe distance of our separate islands of ideology and identity and listen intently to echoes of ourselves.

“The crucial prerequisite of intelligent disagreement — namely: shut up; listen up; pause and reconsider; and only then speak”.

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