“I like to ask: What is my opponent in love with?”

“I like to ask: What is my opponent in love with?” December 11, 2014

Back when I was in Ireland, giving a talk on ways to have better fights about religion, I did a short interview with a local news outlet, and I’ve just found the video.  In our conversation, I talk a little about my own conversion, and why my approach to argument resembles Ender’s empathetic approach to a fight:

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them -” “You beat them.” For a moment she was not afraid of his understanding. “No, you don’t understand. I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don’t exist.”

Ok, minus that last bit!  I can see why my copy-editor might have gotten the wrong idea! As subscribers to my book mailing list know, my habit of using martial metaphors got me this bit of marginalia during copy-edits:

Please evaluate all instances of the word “fight” and make sure it’s the word you want. Here it seems appropriate because of the deep emotions evoked, but generally it has a connotation of physical violence. When it is used frequently, the atmosphere of the narrative may be more combative than desired. Maybe use dispute or conflict or struggle more often?

Just like I need to remember that “Why is this report different from all other reports?” is a confusing punchline outside of New York, I should keep in mind that “Oooh, come have coffee and a fight with me!” is not how people traditionally extend overtures of friendship outside my debate group.

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