7 August 2004

To serve man

Are arguments based on altruism (presented to correct an opinion based on flawed logic or false information)? Or on arrogance (originating from hubris and vanity)? And what is the basis of the cause of the argument, the original statement? Ideas can exist in our minds as easily as in a public place. Why was the idea put out there in the first place? Altruism or arrogance?

I recently watched a documentary on Nova about Galileo. His arrogance was emphasized and illustrated well in a major mistake he made. He looked to the tides to find proof that the Earth revolved around the sun. He felt that they occurred from the movement of the Earth and mocked those "astrologers" who believed that the moon affected the tides. He was steadfast and knew his belief had to be correct.

His altruism was illustrated too. He wanted the world, and the Catholic church specifically, to understand the true workings of the universe. If a flaw existed anywhere in their beliefs, it dirtied the whole of their beliefs. However, his impassioned arrogance brought him before the Inquisition, forced him to recant those beliefs, and put him under house arrest in the final years of his life.

If we're shocked at the display of arrogance in some arguments, aren't we ignoring the arrogance and pride existing in all spoken opinions? When we make an argument, we think we're right and someone else is wrong. We think that, somehow, we've had the attentiveness and acumen to gather facts more accurately than another. Is an actual show of arrogance bad taste on the speaker's part, or is it naivety on our part--trying to ignore the base impulses that are a natural part of debate?

Or, maybe we'd say that we're as much trying to correct our own belief system as that of others when we argue against them. After all, we should find the most accurate ideas out there and challenging those we currently hold helps us do that. Self-correction certainly may be a benefit, but I think there would be some deception going on if we thought that it was the primary impulse. When presented with a conflicting opinion, the first thing you think is of a way to defeat it with your own opinion. There's no altruism there. But we will continue to argue if we feel that the conflicting opinion is a detriment to society. Such arguments, such attacks, have the potential to help others.

[ posted by sstrader on 7 August 2004 at 3:46:02 PM in Culture & Society ]