The current writing climate has become dizzyingly claustrophobic. Think-pieces lack depth, and the majority of news outlets (both mainstream and alternative) do not grant a platform for opposing views. There was a time when college campus clubs would invite opposition leaders to deliver speeches in an attempt to chisel away our preconceived notions in the search for truth.
Discourse should be like two builders who brought wood of varying length to a job site. Each believes their’s is cut at the correct length, and to find out they compare it to the blue-prints or drawings. In this example the drawings are the tertium quid, or the third thing. The tertium quid, or objective truth, is what we all seek when we debate; it’s existence is the entire reason we debate to begin with; we are trying to convince the other that our hypothesis more closely aligns with the Truth, the third thing – with reality.
Frequently, our society forgets this principle. It has lead to demagoguery and mud-slinging, to yellow journalism and tribal thinking. We must get back to the traditional form of rhetoric – of asking questions and seeking answers, of finding common ground in objective truths, of seeking both not to offend and not to be offended, of intellectual honesty and the mutual shunning of bad thinking and logical fallacies.
It is possible to discuss and debate with respect toward your opposition, even if you have no respect for their ideas. It is possible to have your beliefs and ideas attacked without taking it as a personal offense. Our ancestors knew this and many of the philosophers we hold up as great examples practiced it.
We must behave as if this present were the world’s last night. If this was the last day we had to live, if all our dreams for a utopian society would never come to fruition, would you be proud of how you behaved in this very present in pursuit of those dreams? What if this present were the world’s last night? Would you be able to say you spent today in the pursuit of truth, that you held an honest reputation? Once put differently, what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?