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  • norrishappy norrishappy Jan 9, 2013 12:50 PM Flag

    OT but not really Persuasion as the Cure for Incivility Father Jenkins is president of the University of Notre Dame.

    Several decades ago, my predecessor as the president of the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, was presented with a dilemma. A Jewish student, after repeated hazing by some kids in his dorm, had left campus and gone home. After thinking it over, Father Hesburgh summoned the perpetrators. "Pack your bags," he told them. "Go find your friend. Either you persuade him to come back to Notre Dame, or you don't come back."

    The approach worked for everyone concerned, and it may offer an idea for easing the incivility that marks much public discourse and leads to political stalemate. We need to try harder to persuade one another—to try to get people to change their minds.

    There isn't nearly enough persuasion going on in America today, and there was too little, in the view of many citizens, in the past presidential campaign. A postelection Pew poll found that the 2012 campaign was a "frustrating experience" for many voters: 68% said there was more "negative campaigning and mudslinging," with less discussion of issues.

    The recent fiscal-cliff negotiations might have ended in a budget deal, but the rhetoric during the wrangling was hardly of the persuasive variety.

    That is likely because much of the election campaigning and much of the budget discussion wasn't designed to change anyone's mind, but instead to encourage people to believe more deeply what they already believed—not about policies, for the most part, but about the villainy of the other side.

    In the presidential campaign, the negative ads and speeches may have been unfortunately effective. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from last summer reported that 70% of Republicans saw President Obama in a strongly unfavorable light, and 57% of Democrats had a very unfavorable view of Gov. Romney. These were historically very high numbers for two presidential contenders.

    As a country, we seem to have become the factions James Madison warned against in 1787, when he wrote: "A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points . . . have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good." A more earnest effort to persuade one another could help remedy many of the problems we face.

    I confess that I am deeply biased. I am a university president with a strong belief in the power and importance of a liberal arts education. I believe that deep and candid dialogue, marked by many acts of courtesy and gestures of respect, is a discipline that brings us nearer the truth about ourselves, about our opponents, about human nature, and about the subject under debate. To shut down this source of wisdom because we are too angry to hear the other side is a tragic setback in our quest for knowledge and our hope for a healthy society.

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    • What if, instead of dealing with opponents by demonizing them and distorting their views, we were to take some steps to persuade them? I don't mean to suggest that one could persuade a stalwart partisan to switch parties, but perhaps one could persuade another that a particular policy or a position is "not as bad as you think."

      If I am trying to persuade others, I first have to understand their position, which means I have to listen to them. I have to appeal to their values, which means I have to show them respect. I have to find the best arguments for my position, which means I have to think about my values in the context of their concerns. I have to answer their objections, which means I have to work honestly with their ideas. I have to ask them to listen to me, which means I can't insult them.

      If we earnestly try to persuade, civility takes care of itself.

      Civility is sometimes derided in the modern world, where bluntness and even coarseness have somehow come to be celebrated in many quarters. But civility is not a minor virtue. It is not an attempt to impose someone's notion of courtesy, and it is certainly not an attempt to suppress speech. Civility is what allows speech to be heard. It is an appeal to citizens never to express or incite hatred, which is more dangerous to the country than any external enemy.

      A more sincere effort to persuade one another would remind us why the Founders believed this country could improve on history: We were the first society in many centuries with the chance to use free speech and sound argument to debate our way toward a better future.

      That path is still open, and as promising as ever.

      • 1 Reply to norrishappy
      • The Father is makes a simple break in logic. That both sides must meet the necessary condition of intellectual honesty so logic can be persuasion. One side allowing clearly delusional elements to be introduced as rational is to immediately negate any value of having a discussion. The condition of civility is to enable delusion or deception. The person who could be logically make a decision does not have actionable information to make a decision.

        The Progressive Collectivist multiple 'Nobel' prize winner introduces farce like this into a necessary discussion that our economy simply cannot sustain 25% of gnp.

        "Funny Money: Pundits float $1 trillion coin as answer to debt-ceiling standoff"

        Progressive do not respect our Constitution or law book so seek to undermine it in exactly the way our Founders and Framers said should not be allowed and no Patriot would attempt. If the Constitution is to be changed let it be done only by the prescribe manner and with the fully informed and enlightened support of the VAST majority of the people.

        So character clowns like Kegger have no problem floating delusional responses meant to undermine the balance of powers in our Constitution He steps back a little but the emotional spinners step forward.

        It is of course our press's scared duty to report with a pov within the frame work of objectivity or intellectual honesty and rationality. Instead nearly all our press reports on the effectiveness of the political play called rather than the honesty or substance.

        With due respect to the Father he made an objective determination of what happened. Given the facts I applause his solution. But how about if the bad actors were clever and obscured the facts from him?

        We see Progressive behavior on this board to. They claim it is my incivility which drives their claimed ignore when in fact their vanity drives them to factually unsustainable position. Does any of the OLB ever come back and admit their facts were wrong? Did any member ever come back and admit the nyZt fracturing coverage was not just inaccurate but flat out wrong?

        I am afraid the good Father made the mistake of applying the forgiveness model correctly in this case and then extrapolating it to secular matters. Secular matters where one side believes all ethics are relativistic and concepts of morality or virtue are therefore anachronism.

        In the example he gave, Progressive would have taken the same action as part of a selfish social contract. It is not the repentance of a Faithful person or the philosophical virtue of good character.
        Clearly the later is the example he means.

        Well learned Americans need to check their philosophy and understand Divine Individualism and collectivism do not mix and are in fact mutually exclusive. There is no comprise and this the truly elite Progressive do understand.

        The problem is not bad manners but a failed press which does not do their duty and impose rational objectivity on the debate. As we see with the Progressive political posting OLB the purposeful deception to protect their delusions has no end. They simply do not care about character so repent and change nothing.


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