The Importance of Discourse

Moral principles require reasoning and discourse to discover the certainty of their truths; they lie not open as natural characters engraved on the mind.

-John Locke

Consider the above quote.

I don’t want to go much into politics, I’d rather leave that to my thesis, but at the same time, it’s also something that is slowly becoming unavoidable.  Presidents and Prime Ministers all over the world are becoming increasingly populist, with mandates to help the people, to make it seem like their voices are being heard.  But are they?

Take the unnecessary tragedy of the Grenfell Tower in London about a week back.  Take the uproar British PM Teresa May caused when she refused to talk to the victims of the disaster.  Take any religious/racial/gender conflicts happening not just on a wide scale, but even small arguments you might have about it with a friend, or see around the neighbourhood.  Or rather, take any disagreement, take any misunderstandings that have offended others or you.  Aren’t these all the result of the lack of discourse between each other?

So what is discourse? It’s just another fancy word for written or spoken communication.  It means talking to each other, exchanging opinions, and being open to new ideas.  Ancient Greek philosophers had a pretty good idea of it, seeing as because they placed importance on discourse, they believed that democracy (people power) would work.  I think it would, but if and only if everyone is willing to cooperate in discourse.

My point here, is not only that discourse is lacking in politics, and so there is such a huge disparity between what we vote for, and policies that are executed.  Or that the lack of political discourse means that more and more people are disappointed and discouraged to be politically active, which is actually something that is extremely necessary for a functioning society.  But that there is a lack of discourse in general in every day life.

How often do you sit down for a cup of coffee with a friend and talk about a controversial topic, or a subject you don’t agree on?  Even more important, how often do you sit down with someone you don’t really get along with and have a long conversation with them? It doesn’t happen because we avoid it.  We avoid it because it can makes us frustrated that the other person doesn’t see things in your way, or because to you, what they believe in is just unbelievable.  But the whole point of discourse, is so that you become more open to the fact that there are people who think and see things differently to you, and that its also important to think and see things for their perspectives.

And the base here, goes back to the human.  When you start to realise that you are speaking to another human being, that’s a step towards tolerance.  And the more questions you ask on why they think that way, what made them see things like that, you start to understand their reasoning and thought process and more often than not, you realise that it’s a logical conclusion they have come to.  This obviously works both ways, and the person you are talking to should be just as willing, open and tolerant to you too.  But by being mature, being curious and not judgemental, you realise why there is a difference of opinion, and you might even be able to come to a neutral conclusion of what you both agree to be true.

I honestly believe this is so important, not just on a political level, but on a banal level to. Our daily lives are shaped by communication, and if we as human beings can take that further to understanding each other, it would lead to a much more accepting, tolerant world.  Call me an idealist but I do think so.

 

Have a lovely day, full of deep, meaningful discourse. x

Also, to anyone who is interested, this TED talk is a great talk on this topic:

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