Fight, Explore, Dance: Effective Communication in Apologetics Part 2
Last week, I made the claim that what we perceive as indifference about apologetics, or as a difference between men and women in argument may, in fact, point to a deeper-seated difference between preferred styles of argument and discussion. (Read Part 1 here.)
The first of the possible modes of argument is what I called the Fight mode, which has its own strengths and weaknesses.
The second image for argument that I propose is Exploration. In Exploration, we can visualize two people going for a walk side by side. Both people in the argument are facing in the same direction, moving into new territory together. In the Exploration mode of argument, the ideas are traded back and forth, turned over, looked at, and questioned: How does this work? Why is this important? What are the implications of this idea?
In Exploration mode, the discussion can be quite as intense and productive as in Fight mode. The difference is that the people involved are partners in exploration, not opponents in debate.
A soft version of the Exploration mode is often associated with the stereotypically “feminine” mode of argument. I suspect that more women than men find the Exploration mode to be their primary mode of argument, but there is nothing inherently masculine or feminine about it.
Exploration done right is intellectually rigorous. Literature is exploratory, not combative – and yet it can challenge the reader to his or her very bones, just as much as an argument in Fight mode, perhaps more. In the Fight mode, we attempt to defend against the challenging idea; in the Exploration mode, we interact with it.
However, if the danger of the Fight mode is to become narrowly combative, the danger of the Exploration mode is to become comfortably vague. In order to have a productive argument in Exploration mode, you have to be willing to ask hard questions and test out the answers. Otherwise, you get Dorm-Room Philosophizing or Idle Speculation, entertaining but ultimately unproductive.
Next week we will conclude by looking at the image of the Dance as a mode of argument, and considering the three modes in context (read Part 3 here).