How to Debate (and learn) like a Jedi

Originally posted at 365Jedi.

Debate, Argument (in the classical definition), Discussion. These are common elements in academia. These are common elements in the online Jedi Community. And certainly that extends to the Jedi Path in general. But sometimes Internet Culture will win out over Jedi Culture. Loss of Temper, Taking Opinion as Fact, Personal Attacks. So to help with a brief reminder, here are five elements Jedi keep in mind within various discussions.

1. Opinions Are Not Facts.
If you are confident that only you know what is right, you’re making yourself the center of reality. That’s just selfish.” – Anakin Solo
This does not invalidate your thoughts and opinions. But it is important that you understand your opinions and judgments are not factual in nature. They are observations which are limited by your own scope and understanding. They may be educated. They may be accurate. You may have a better than average ratio of being right. But this does not automatically mean your views and opinions are fact. Example, it is your opinion the moon is made of cheese. This does not make it fact simply because it is your opinion. And it doesn’t matter that you have never been to the moon to see otherwise.

Another popular thing people will try to do is cite an “opinion piece” (news article based on opinion) as fact. They cite Huffington Post, Daily Mail (uk), and label them fact-finding. This is not correct and something you should be aware of. There are many news outlets available these days, but due to the new structure of online reporting, fact-checking is a limited thing. Most report what they saw based upon another news source they read. So while you can research and come across “news” articles on a subject, you still have to separate opinion from actual facts.

Opinion is personal viewpoint. Fact is a viewpoint that has been tested multiple times by multiple people with tangible and repeatable results leading to a clear conclusion. When you find yourself exploring or debating a topic, be sure to secure yourself in facts, not merely opinion.

2. Society Does Not Dictate Facts.
Suspend your judgment, and every being has something to teach you.” – Qui-Gon Jinn
“Oppression is a fact of life.” – “This is just how the world works.” – Society can be a very broken thing. It can be a great thing which encourages growth and prosperity. It changes over time and is different in different places. What is considered a sign of encouragement in one society may be an insulting gesture in another. The opinions created within a society, much like individual opinion, does not equal fact.

We can get wrapped up in our world. We can get caught up in our heritage. Culture and history can be very important things to us, but they do not have to be constricting things. Don’t fall into the trap of judging things based upon society’s viewpoint. That is a just major opinion, it does not equal fact, it does not equal right. Many horrors have been done on a societal level. Slavery has existed in just about every civilization we know of. Genocide has been committed by many societies. Mass hysteria doesn’t make reality just because the majority have succumb to it.

Research, understand why something is a fact. Know the scientific method that helps to establish the things we come to know as facts. Continual experimentation to test theories and results. Peer review by other experts in the field (who also test theories and results). Don’t accept societal habits as matters of fact.

3. Be Objective About Subjectivity.
Each of us is still an individual. We will have worries and concerns that are unique to us. We cannot expect to always understand each other. The commitment (to each other) is what is important.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
Not all things in the world are written in facts and unchanging stone. Beauty is a subject which is very subjective in nature. This does not mean that objectivity has no place. It simply means we must apply that knowledge. Understanding that there are things that change depending upon our own point of view and experiences in life. Understanding our bias and subjective ways of thinking can be approached in an objective manner.

This is the basic, “keep an open mind, but not so open your brain falls out.” Be open to the experiences of others. As much as we are similar as a species (birth, blood, bones) we are different individuals. We don’t always share the same views and don’t always react in the same manner. What may make one person angry may make another person sad. It is not our place to tell people how they feel or even how they should feel. Objectively look at the situation, at the events, and facts of the matter, but be sure within the objectivity that you allow for the subjective nature of human beings to take place as well.

The twist on this is that people tend to look at things as completely subjective and thus completely different. Which really it goes to the quote above. It is not really different, we just perceive it to be so in our minds. But if you break it down, you have people reacting to outside stimuli. Reacting differently, sure, but feeling, reacting, and seeking to do the best they can nonetheless. Don’t get so lost in the differences that you miss the connecting factors as well. You can understand someone’s viewpoint without sacrificing your own.

4. Not Everything is Meant to be Fixed.
There is a lot of unrest in life. The Force is created by life, so it has unrest in it. If you open yourself to the Force, how can you not open yourself to a certain amount of unrest?” – Mara Jade Skywalker
A lot of society these days is about correcting problems. Fixing what is not normal. Adjusting people’s behaviors and outward appearance to match with that the current standard is. In life there are many peaks and valleys. It is actually one of the more interesting and beautiful things about life – its unwillingness to conform to a specific path. The beauty and perfection of life is not found on a magazine cover or in a youtube video. It is random, it is always moving, and it is completely natural.

Wabi-Sabi is one of the more utilized and solidified forms of this. I prefer it as a philosophy, but mainly it is used in design (interior and architecture). The idea idea that perfection is found in natural imperfection. The tree is beautiful, not because it is straight, slim, and perfectly groomed, but because it grows and sways as necessary. The clay tea cup is better for the cracks in the surface than a smooth polished finish.

You can engage in conversation and debates without needing to change or fix someone’s view and/or opinion. You can accept diversity without needing to force conformity. You don’t have to agree with someone to understand their viewpoint and where they are coming from. There is such a thing as respectfully disagreeing. Personal attacks are not necessary to disprove points or offer a productive alternative. There is beauty in the natural exchange of ideas, thoughts, and experiences, without the need to try and cure them or fix them.

5. You Know Nothing Jon Snow.
The more we learn, the more we discover how much we do not know.” – Yoda
It is important we remember the extent of our knowledge. Science and our understanding of the universe is not set in stone. Many facts and things we thought to be core truth have been proven false over time. While we have developed things like the scientific method to help minimize our assumption of reality and facts, we are still in a process of discovery and growth.

When in a debate or faced with a challenge in life, it is important to remember we do not know everything. There is plenty in the this universe that is still a mystery. There are subjects and topics in this life that we just are not well educated on.

The beauty of nescience is that it presents us with an opportunity to learn something new. Don’t blindly hang onto ignorance out of ego-sake. Look upon your lack of knowledge and understanding as a chance to learn something new. Even if that is merely how someone else in the world views a topic. It is a chance to gain new perspectives and information.

And it is doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that we don’t know everything. Do to our enjoyment and intake of knowledge and experiences we can sometimes we can forget that.

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