Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Conversational Truces

A thought from dinner: you'll never hear a philosopher say "let's just agree to disagree," but perhaps "I guess it's an empirical matter" can serve a similar role? This suggestion has one minor flaw: the cause of one's disagreement is sometimes very clearly not an empirical matter. So one probably couldn't get away with saying so. Still, I'm tempted to try. Next time Jack and I argue for hours over the nature of identity and whether it has any metaphysical significance, I'll have to close with, "well, I guess it's an empirical question..." (Alas, I don't like my chances of keeping a straight face!)


  1. The problem with empirical eveidence is that the evidence is not limited to flaw's. Empirical evidence is derived from experience/observation, and dismisses theory as well as logic. Human experience/observation, which is imperfect by design. And how can you construct a sound argument without using logic? In terms of identity I would think that you would have to rely on both empirical evidence as well as proven theory's in order to establish a logical conclusion.

  2. Instead of "let's just agree to disagree" someone once recommended to me the following - "let's just shut up".

  3. I've always really, really hated the expression, "let's just agree to disagree". From a purely philosophical perspective, first, it hardly even makes sense. If Bob thinks that fox-hunting is wrong, then I don't see how the view that fox-hunting is right, should be something he can rationally tolerate alongside his belief that it is wrong. If there *is* a way of arriving at a right answer (even if we don't know it yet or haven't 'discovered' it yet in our argument), then, it's clearly an unsatisfactory way of ending the discussion.

    But of course it's also just a rhetorical expression so I know not take it too literally. Still, part of the problem I have with 'agreeing to disagree', is that often it's said before the disputing parties have actually spoken to the points raised: it amounts to, "I still want to think X", which of course, is ridiculous.

    The better way of ending a discussion on these things, and this is the expression I use, is to say, "Perhap, allow me time to digest that perspective, as I still need convincing". That at least acknowledges that your interlocutor has said something, and that you're taking him or her seriously, and taking the process of rational inquiry seriously, too.


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