Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Purpose of Discussion ~ a divergence

With Mr. Pond & Jenna St. Hilaire
"In all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane"
   ~Oscar Wilde

I love discussion for discussion's sake. One of my greatest frustrations in life is when groups collect to 'solve' some small problem - The Healthiest Diet and How to Raise Children are the most common and the most likely to cause a fight - and insist on "coming to a consensus". It's not in my nature to "come to consensus" I guess, or maybe the topics on which a group can come to consensus are generally boring and not worth the time spent on them. So I don't participate in our discussion in order to attempt forming us into a consensus of mutual compromise and resentment. I don't necessarily participate in order to hear (or read) my own voice, though honestly, I have a blog, so obviously I like reading my own words and promoting my own opinion. So why the discussion? I like the interchange of ideas. I like the possibility for growth and change. But on Monday, Jenna wrote that argument "never convinces anyone, any more than the opposing arguments convince me. Minds develop, they don't often change." And that distracted me. It actually disturbed me a bit, when I first read it. I like minds that change, not on essentials - the things that have been wrestled with - but even then, should we wrestle again and again, getting stronger and wiser each time?

"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative"
   ~Oscar Wilde

But Jenna is not unimaginative, so I assume she's referring to certain weak arguments, like those I enjoyed so much in Mr. O'Brien. And she's right, those arguments don't convince, well, they do, but they really shouldn't.

"A man who doesn't think for himself doesn't think at all"
  ~Oscar Wilde

But what arguments do convince, and how do they convince? Because some of them have to. Minds change, often and for good reason. I want to delve into this a bit, if Jenna and Mr. Pond will agree to. What is the purpose of discussion, of argument, of this little discussion? How do minds' change, and when, and why?


  1. Haha, this is going to be an interesting post to reply to. :)

    What I meant by "Minds develop, but they don't often change" is that you don't very often see a full reversal of mental direction, not instantaneously. For instance, it's rare for someone who believes in fiscal conservatism to make a sudden shift to socialism, or vice versa.

    Likewise, if someone strongly believes that (a) authorial intent can be demonically influenced and that influence can carry to the reader, and (b) that the Old Testament and Revelation ought to be taken very literally, that person is unlikely to suddenly become OK with "good" witches, dragons, snakes, and other things that in Biblical symbolism stand for evil.

    Also, I didn't mean that argument never convinces anyone. I meant that that argument never convinces anyone. People have generally made up their minds about whether witches and vampires and dragons can be rightfully portrayed as Good Guys in fiction, and whichever side they're on, there's no getting through to them. So say I, and I have certainly made up my mind on the subject. :)

  2. P.S. Some young person is bound to come along and say that yes, minds do too change, theirs did and all their friends' have. With all due respect to young people--that is to say, anyone who hasn't reached that hardening point between mid-twenties and early thirties--the younger you are, the more generally susceptible to new information. This is particularly true around early college-age, where you've grown up hearing just what that controlled circle of parents/teachers/friends have told you, and all of a sudden along comes someone with new information, and the whole world changes. They don't call youth the formative years for nothing.

    But get in an argument with someone like Mr. O'Brien, and good luck to you. :)

  3. I hope I left it open enough - if not, feel free to break off - for it to be used as "discussion" in general, not specifically discussion with the Michael O'Briens of the world (can you imagine a whole room of them!)..I don't really get the impression he "discusses" so much, but maybe I'm being unfair, his writing style leans toward laying down the law though. I thought it must be something like that, but the statement really struck me, so I latched on.

    I would say that authorial intent can be demonically influenced in obvious (i.e. "Seth Speaks") and less obvious ways, with the less obvious being more common, and harder to pin down. Can that influence carry to the reader - depends on the reader. Is that influence found especially in books full of dragons and serpents, not likely. It's just as likely the devil would insert himself in would-be pious fiction, as pride tends to be the sin he seems to prefer developing.

    And I think your right about that argument not often convincing. Especially when examples of evil include Elliot, that was a mistake.

  4. I think you totally left it open enough. And yeah, my original comment just wasn't clear enough.

    It's totally weird to me that O'Brien went off on Elliott! And not on Harry Potter? Maybe the book was written before HP became huge. Anyway, if you want to know what he thinks about Harry, he's got articles around the Internet. I'm sure I could track down a couple for you if you wanted them.