There is much to be gained from debating and arguing against individuals who hold to opposing viewpoints and beliefs. I would even argue that it is foundational to elucidating and even discovering ones own beliefs in fuller form. However, the minor and major differences we all share contribute in painting the vast spectrum of humanity. These differences should not only be tolerated and accepted but celebrated, if at all possible, even shared. The only differences which should be opposed at all costs and without leniency are those causing undue harm and suffering.
The indisputable fact remains that we all, as members of the human species, have far more qualities in common with one another than we could ever possibly have in difference. In point of fact it is usually the similarities which give birth to larger differences, a phenomenon which Freud termed “the narcissism of the minor differences.”
It is all well and good to argue and dispute differing opinions, beliefs, values and philosophies, however, it is of the utmost importance that while doing so one keeps well in mind that they share much more in common with their antagonist than they may be willing to admit. One would do well to acknowledge the differences where they exist and dwell on them only as long as is required, for there comes a time when affirming ones shared humanity takes top priority. I encourage debate and argument for birthed of these activities is an increase in knowledge and understanding, as Thomas Jefferson said: “Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to truth.” However, there seems to be - certainly in our current social climate - something missing; the most crucial aspect is absent. Even while arguing, or at least when one is concluding an argument, there should be a level of reconciliation, of mutual understanding and acceptance, of genuine empathy. This reconciliation, founded upon empathy and – as Carl Rogers phrased it “unconditional positive regard” – is completely absent in our social discourse.
Even when one is at extreme odds with another in debate it is wise to keep in mind the fact that there are, in fact, far more similarities than there are differences. There should be a concerted effort to keep not only this in mind, but, to remain as civil as possible and to end a heated debate with reconciliation rather than vitriolic animosity. We need to affirm our shared humanity, with this alone the social discourse – and overall environment - would benefit greatly.