The power of conceding

December 7, 2018

The political world has felt much more chaotic to me now than it has in any other point in my lifetime. Many political debates in the news or online are arguments that are going over other party members’ heads, leading to anger on both sides. Additionally, social media is now a cacophony of outrage and vexation, much of it political. Part of the reason for this is likely because I am now of an age where I’m able to fully develop my political opinions.

Outside of me, the mainstream political chaos also has clear roots in the polarized nature of the views being expressed. But I would argue that it is not the views themselves which are the main reason for the developing of the chaos I describe, rather it is the ways in which those views are expressed which give rise to most of the discordant discourse we have experienced.

Admittedly, this is not a new phenomenon. Political discourse has always been littered with blatant logical fallacies and disingenuous argumentative tactics on all sides. This is why political fact-checkers are of such importance to the public. Yet, I believe there is an argument to be made that the worries about how political perspectives are expressed have heightened in recent years.

There is a way that we should be looking at discourse in order to maximize our collaborative efforts, and that way lies in the power of conceding. It is a difficult exercise, but one that I believe is important to the establishment of constructive debate. In addition to looking for ways to logically convince those of other perspectives to subscribe to our reasoning, we should be looking for concessions that we can make and compromises that we can reach.

My method of discussing socio-political issues is very much an academic one. Discussions in philosophy, art and other theoretical disciplines often use this form of synthesis through concession. How are we supposed to reach any theoretical conclusions without using our different perspectives to our advantage? I believe that socio-political issues are similarly theoretical and therefore require a more understanding-based approach rather than an advocacy-based one.

Truth in the Trump era seems to be a subjective term. This is an extremely worrisome notion for all Americans as it prevents the major sides of an issue from being able to find common ground. It is more important than ever that we work together to find ideas in the opposing sides to which we can concede.

It is significant to note that there is issue with the idea that one must concede in order to carry out truly constructive discourse. Concession can often be a bad thing if one undermines one’s own values by doing so. Rather, what I am calling for is that we look for fallacies in our own arguments with as much scrutiny as we look for fallacies in opposition. Regardless of what views or ideals one has, conceding should be seen as just as much of a victory as convincing the opposing perspective.

In recent years, we have seen the prevalence of some academically minded voices such as Professor Jordan Peterson on contemporary mainstream issues for the exact reason that an academic approach is often necessary for getting to the root of the issue. To take Professor Peterson as an example, he often states in his interviews that he finds himself changing his mind on various issues often.

In an interview with Jim Jeffries, he clearly and openly concedes on the issue of whether or not a business should be obligated by law to serve a gay couple. The power in the way Professor Peterson’s debating ability comes mainly from how thought out and experienced his perspective is. While I personally disagree with most of the conclusions Professor Peterson reaches, I certainly endorse the introspective and academic way in which he approaches mainstream socio-political discussion.

As humans, it can be hard to confront the perspectives of those with whom we disagree, especially in a climate centered on outrage. However, negotiating so many issues with so many passionate, listening ears becomes a little more manageable when one recognizes the power of conceding.

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