Principles for Dialogue and Mutual Edification

I recently concluded my 8th year as a blogger with FPR (or its earlier affiliate). In reflecting on the various debates and discussions I’ve seen or been involved in during this time, I started thinking about how these discussions modeled good and bad principles of dialogue. In a new year’s resolution of sorts, I’ve tried to identify a few principles of good dialogue. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. The Principle of Integrity. I do not say anything online that I would not say in person. I identify and articulate my values; arguing for them vigorously.
  2. The Principle of Charity. I recognize that any disagreement is set against the backdrop of agreement; we always agree on more than we disagree. I believe that my interlocutors have the best of intentions. I also believe that most misunderstandings stem from my inability to articulate my views, and not a willful misunderstanding or an inability of my interlocutors. When an interlocutor’s argument seems weak or outlandish I assume that I must be missing something, and not that my interlocutor is foolish.
  3. The Principle of Dignity. I believe that my interlocutors are my brothers and sisters and not my enemies; they are worthy individuals such that they are worthy of respect and worthy of membership in the Church (if they make such a claim).
  4. The Principle of Humility. I am committed to changing my views when compelling reasons are provided for change. I seek out friends whose opinions I trust even when I may not be fully persuaded by their advice. Lastly, I apologize to my interlocutors when they feel I’ve offended them.

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