A remarkable thing happened Friday. Shortly after Senator Lindsey Graham delivered a totally out of control (and totally out of character) ranting tirade against the Democrats on the judiciary panel, two senators, one from each party, got together, met, and then communicated with the entire committee, all of whom arrived at an agreement. In unison. Without dispute.
It was remarkable, I say, because these differing factions had come to agreement based upon a discussion between two people, one from each faction. That discussion, I am told, was a reasoned discourse. Whatever may come of the discourse, the fact that it happened is, in my mind, a huge event, perhaps even, one might hope, the beginning of a return to reasoned discourse from the contentious and devious conduct of both sides that has been characteristic of our political arena for far too long.
This, however, might be a good time to ask the question: just what is “reasoned discourse”? Every time I think of reason, the image of Mr. Spock sneaks into my head. We call his kind of thinking “cold logic”, and there is a reason why we call it “cold”. Logic, by itself, like all science by itself, lacks an element crucial to human discourse. It obviously lacks emotion, but that is not the key missing element. I put it to you that the key missing element is what I will call for the moment moral impetus. Morality may be loosely defined here as concern for others, and any discourse that lacks that concern is trivial, irrelevant, all but meaningless. Discourse owes its very existence to our concern for others. Reasoned discourse then is an exchange of concerns governed by the rules of reason. What is reason? Not just pure logic, but in some way a recognition of what is real. When you get right down to it, reason is the recognition of things as they actually are. To think that there is a horned monster under your bed is unreasonable because there are no horned monsters. You may still check under the bed, but the reason for checking has nothing to do with reality.
Reasoned discourse is, then, a discussion between two people concerned about others which is conducted within the scope of reality. To put that in English, those who engage in reasoned discourse share their concerns for others, but they “keep it real.” That is what the judiciary panel did on Friday, and we should all hail it as a giant step for American politics.
What an interesting world it would be if we all committed to reasoned discourse. No more calling each other idiots. No more attacking each other’s motives. No more seeing the world through a perverted set of glasses. None of this will happen overnight. It will happen in bits and pieces, and it will only happen if you and I start it. To start, think about that Friday exchange. Remarkable.