They might not disagree

There are real and meaningful disagreements between people and groups of people, and that is important to admit and to deal with.

But I truly believe that most apparent disagreements are cases where both sides are conceptually completely compatible.

Now, that doesn’t mean the accompanying social problems can be easily solved by pointing this out. Much of the time, the thing people argue about is more of an excuse to be angry with one another than anything else.

But I assume that at least some people might care if a lot of disagreements turned out to be just people describing two sides of the same coin. At least some people would take that knowledge and make a different choice as a result of it.

There are lots of ways an apparent disagreement can actually be an agreement. Sometimes people are talking about the same thing at two different moments. Sometimes they’re talking about the same population but emphasizing different subsets. Sometimes they’re knowingly using hyperbole in opposite directions resulting in an appearance of contradiction where literally there is none. Oftentimes a single metaphor is being used to refer to two slightly different things. Oftentimes an event is being discussed not as what it is but as what it represents.

It’s okay to use language in these ways. It’s unavoidable. When, however, we deliberately refuse to start off with a presumption of genuine disagreement whenever there is apparent disagreement, we can better avoid getting confused, misled, manipulated.

It’s hard enough to find the truth when there is so much falsehood, approximation, and misinterpretation out there. Let’s not make the problem exponentially worse if we can avoid it.

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