Friday, March 10, 2017

Advice from 500 years ago on how to converse

He [Acontius ca. 1520–1566] describes how to conduct a conversation with those in error. His advice to the speaker includes the following: the speakers’ tone and words should be conducive calm debate; speakers must adapt themselves to what the person, time, and place demand; they must begin with their audiences’ presuppositions, not their own; and they should be very careful never to misrepresent their opponents’ position. Common to all these various strategies is the assumption that it is not enough for the speech’s contents to be true. Speakers are also obligated to foster an environment in which their listeners are capable of understanding the truth. This means that speakers should eschew all verbal abuse. They must do so not only for the sake of their interlocutors, but also out of concern for the nonparticipating spectators, who are affected by a speaker’s abusive language. As some onlookers will identify the means of debate with the argument itself, improper means will come to be equated with erroneous doctrine, even if the doctrine itself is true. Hence, some will presume a mean-spirited presentation to be prima facie evidence of error.—Humanism and the Rhetoric of Toleration, pages 129–30

<idle musing>
Good advice even now, isn't it? If only! Some of this reminds me of Covey's Seven Habits: seek first to understand, then to be understood, specifically. Again, if only!

Perhaps it boils down to a lack of respect for the other person. Perhaps we don't really believe the other person is worth respect, be it because of their social or economic standing, or maybe education level. Whatever the cause, they are still made in the image of God and worthy of respect. Jesus died for them as much as for you. Reread C.S. Lewis's essay "Weight of Glory" for a quick refresher course on what the image of God implies.
</idle musing>

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