01 November 2005

It makes sense but I don't agree with it

A few years back my Dad told me about an advertisement for a radio program where in the announcer stated something like the following about a planned guest, "He makes sense but we don't necessarily agree with him." Over the insuing months this caused some heated debate at family/friend gatherings where it was brought up. I think, as of a year ago or so, it has been outlawed as a topic of convesation... so I am going to revive it now from the only place I safely can, 5000 miles away in Brazil.

Can you rationally believe that one's argument makes sense and yet not agree with it? Since the start of the argument, I have said "No, you cannot." I've been of the opinion that those that answer "Yes" to that question are confusing what it is really saying. Their argument usually goes something like this
I can see how they would think that. The argument makes sense to them. But I don't agree with it

Exactly! It makes sense to them, but not to YOU and so YOU do not agree with it because it doesn't make sense to YOU. A common counter to this statement is

Well perhaps they were talking about the theory of black holes. It may make sense but I cannot agree with it because I don't have enough knowledge in the area. It is just a theory after all, who knows if it is really true!

Unfortunately, this is just a more specific instance of the first argument, and hence not a counter at all. In this case the argument appears more valid because it is supported by someone with more specific knowledge on the subject. Perhaps the theory is correct or perhaps it is flawed. To say that a theory makes sense is to say you believe it adequately describes the observable domain. To agree with the theory has the same meaning. If you cannot say whether it adequately describes reality, then you should say neither that it makes sense to you nor that you agree with it.

I don't claim to be 100% certain that I am right on this, so let me issue a challenge: Find me an argument YOU think makes sense but with which to you do not agree.


Anonymous said...

I think we are overlooking an important dual-meaning of "agree." One can "agree" that a given argument adequately specifies reality, i.e. the way things truly are. One can also "agree" that a given argument adequately describes the way things SHOULD be; in this case, the agreement is a matter of opinion. For example, I agree (in the first sense) that when the status quo is threatened, people tend to discriminate against outsiders. However, at the same time I do not agree that this is the way it should be.

So, to bring this back to the point: When people say "Your argument makes sense, but I don't agree with it," they probably mean that the argument adequately identifies the aspects of the given topic, but that they hold a different evaluative opinion of it (whether overall it is good or bad).

To complicate the matter, however, people who say "It makes sense, but I don't agree with it" may alternatively mean "I can SEE how that would (erroneously) make sense, but I (being smarter than you) don't agree with it." In this case the message implies that the argument could seem superficially or spuriously true, but an enlightened person could make a better (more true) argument.

I'll end with an example of each case. First, if we are sitting in a room at a table, and you argue as such, I might say the aforementioned infamous phrase to mean "I agree we are sitting at a table (physical reality) but don't agree we are JUST sitting at a table (subjective evaluation); rather we are meditating and contemplating key issues of metaphysics." Taking the second case, if little Jane argues she got sick because of cooties from little Jim, that makes sense (from a child's perspective) but I also don't agree with that explanation (assuming Jim had his cooties vaccination ;-).

Amanda said...

If i could articulate my ideas as well as the anonymous comment before mine that is exactly what i would have said but i can bring yet another great comment to this blog.
UVaART50: i mean if you are happy with what you have why look else where?
Jeff Shepley: i think you make sense but i don't agreee

Yes this is Jeff putting his foot in his mouth.....thank you and good night.

annie said...

I think it is a matter of empathy in the most pure and simple form. When one puts themselves in the place of another then usually (and hopefully) one is able to actually feel for just a split second (or longer) the thought process and emotionality of that person. Hence making one able to see clearly what the other is saying, having it make perfect sense. Then the person exits empathy mode, and still is able to see the thought process and emotionality of the other person, but has their own reality superimposed and doesn't agree. Empathy Rocks!!!

annie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
annie said...

Having said that I would add that there are things that would be excluded from this theory. They would be matters of pure mathematical (or even scientifical) fact. But even then, one could argue their point. For example: one could say that 1+1=2. That is a mathematical fact. Which in my opinion is not really up for dispute. But some could say that if you take 1 male cat and 1 female cat and put them together you could have many, many kittens, making 1+1=infinity. I think that is changing the mathematical meaning of 1+1=2 and is not a legitiment argument. When it comes to issues of abortion, religion, politics etc there are so many ways to view the world. Various opinions do make sense, but many times folks just disagree. I think the idea of agreeing to disagree is a wonderful thing. Then we don't have to worry about who's right or wrong. We just can have good heated discussion and let the rightness or wrongness of it all up to a higher power and live life according to what we as individuals think is right. Just because I may not agree with something, doesn't mean that the point is not a valid one.