From the most interesting conversation I had today: what is the ability to engage in good conversation? My friend and I identified quick wit, understanding and comprehension of your interlocutor’s statements, and the ability to truly argue. True argument we defined not as insisting that one is right but rather to intellectually spar and be able to simultaneously defend one’s own position while conceding merit in the other person’s as an exercise to move closer to truth; valuing one’s argument opponent as having a position of potential merit which, if argued for convincingly enough, one might adopt.
More importantly, are these sorts of things attributes of oneself, or are they skills which can be developed and cultivated? We both assumed the latter, and further concluded that those kinds of skills require practice and regular exercise, and if the exercise of good conversational skills is not engaged in, the skills will atrophy. Do activities like text messaging, facebooking, e-mail, and (oh noes!) blogging cause those conversational skills to atrophy, by making those who engage in that sort of communication assimilate and set forth information in a fundamentally different way? We both concluded “yes,” but I’m making this post to solicit your points of view as well.
After all, the point of argument is to move closer to the truth through the mechanisms of reason, evidentiary citation, and persuasion, and I value your arguments whether or not I adopt them as my own.