My New Year’s Wish: Disband Debate and Let 2014 be the Year of the Dialectic

Socrates and Plato believed truth to be the highest virtue. In search of absolute truth they employed the dialectic, a discourse between people holding opposing viewpoints. The critical distinction between dialectic and debate is that in dialectic the two individuals (or groups) engaged in a disagreement have no emotional investment in the outcome of their discourse. They both seek the truth; being “right” or “wrong” has no relevance. Victory is achieved if the truth is identified and acknowledged by both parties during their thoughtful interchange. In debate, winning is everything. Emotional appeal, persuasive arguments, and even distorted reasoning can win the day. The truth is not the prize, rather it is victory in argument that opponents seek.

Today we are bombarded by hostile media-reporting. On both “sides of the aisle” respect and honor appear to have vanished. News is rarely if ever reported in an unbiased fashion; there are always elements of editorializing. The right and left are polarized; they report the news to win their “argument.” Though I believe the populace yearns for objective, uncensored reporting, it seems to be a thing of the past. We the people consequently distrust our media. They fail to give us what we need; a window to the truth. Compounding the disillusionment and despair felt by so many Americans is the fact that we have also lost faith in our elected officials. My patients – some nearing one hundred years old – tell me they have never witnessed such discord in our nation. Something must change for us to get back on our prior track. We need to reclaim an America where Kennedy’s inspiring words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” become once again cause for resounding applause.

So my 2014 New Year’s wish is simply this: Let’s reach back through the ages and heed the advice of the fathers of philosophy, Socrates and Plato. United, let’s use dialectic not debate to find our way. No more polarizing-politics, name-calling, character-assassinating, or skirting real issues. Instead let’s try to find the truth where we can, so America can once again become a nation of greatness and an object of emulation.

Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy New Year!

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