Arguments

My second introductory thought is about arguments.

All relationships of importance involve arguments. More than that, it seems to me that it is often the arguments that are some of the most important elements in any healthy relationship. What is more, I think any learning of value involves arguments.

It is worth trying to say something about what I mean by ‘arguments’:

  • We sometimes speak as if arguments were the same as ‘debates’ – the putting up against each other of two different ideas or sets of ideas / beliefs that are in conflict with each other, with the assumption that one will ‘win’ over the other.
  • We sometimes speak as if arguments are ‘tiffs’ in which one person/group is trying to deal with some negative emotion about another.
  • We sometimes speak as if arguments are ‘fights’ in which two or more people compete for control, or dominance.

I am using the term ‘argument’ to refer to a human encounter in which there is some kind of emotional, physical and intellectual transaction between two (or more) people – this often involves elements of the above but is not satisfactorily understood as the above. A good argument is a multi layered experience which involves the intellect, the emotions and the belief systems in intermingled relationship with each other. Michael Billig for example said, ‘Thought is a kind of argument with oneself’ emphasising the complex interplay of elements even within an apparently simple intellectual process.

Two quotes might help – from to my mind great writers. George Eliot expressed the point beautifully:

An argument is – the “Blessed influence of one true loving human soul on another! Not calculable by algebra, not deducible by logic, but mysterious, effectual, mighty as the hidden process by which the tiny seed is quickened and bursts forth into tall stem and broad leaf, and glowing tasseled flower. Ideas are often poor ghosts; our sun-filled eyes cannot discern them; they pass athwart us in thin vapour, and cannot make themselves felt. But sometimes they are made flesh; they breathe upon us with warm breath, they touch us with soft responsive hands, they look at us with sad sincere eyes, and speak to us in appealing tones; they are clothed in a living human soul with all its conflicts, its faith and its love. Then their presence is a power, then they shake us like a passion, and we are drawn after them with gentle compulsion, as flame is drawn to flame.” 

Waterland by Graham Swift is for me one of the great books of the 20th century – he understood how we learn:

” ‘Look, I’m sorry I messed up your classes, sir. I’m sorry I cocked things up for you.’

‘But that’s what education is about, Price. It’s not about empty minds waiting to be filled, nor about flatulent teachers discharging hot air. It’s about the opposition of teacher and student. It’s about what gets rubbed off between the persistence of the one and the resistance of the other. It’s a long hard struggle against a natural resistance.. a slow unending process. Needs a lot of phlegm.’ ” 

No doubt, I will return to arguments – the notion is core to any helping service which is seeking to bring about change.

I suppose then that a successful blog is one that leads to ‘arguments’ – in the context of a blog this is in part a plea for feedback and discussion, but I guess I would hope that what I have to say might have some influence through ‘arguments’ that take place elsewhere of which I will know nothing!

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