Symposium Question: What is the value of like-mindedness?

Time for another symposium question. Allow me to set this one up a little bit, with a kind of point/counterpoint:

1. It would seem that like-mindedness is quite valuable, since every sincere argument has as its goal agreement, and agreement is a form of like-mindedness. Also, a community that doesn’t agree about anything essential is really no community at all — and, since community is valuable, like-mindedness must also be. Even “agreeing to disagree” requires agreement, and such an agreement is a way to end a potentially hostile dispute. We know even at the individual level that to be of two minds about a subject is “disagreeable” and so we take strong steps to overcome such a situation. So like-mindedness is an obvious good, maybe one of the best of goods.

2. It would seem that like-mindedness is a real problem in human societies. For even if we grant that agreement about what is good is itself a good, much/most agreement is about something that is not necessarily good. Another problem is that like-mindedness is often achieved by silencing the voices of dissent through a process of exclusion. Plus, Rene Girard has shown that like-mindedness concerning the desirability of common objects leads to potentially violent antagonism or aggressive competition for that object. Finally, like-mindedness removes the diversity of opinion that makes thinking something new possible. So it is obvious that like-mindedness is, on the whole, of negative value.

Do you agree that this issue is important, both psychologically, intellectually and politically? So how would you respond to either or both of these points of view? Please respond in the comments section below.

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10 thoughts on “Symposium Question: What is the value of like-mindedness?

  1. Rene Girard on the dangers of like-mindedness: “Tragic antagonists do not fight about ‘values’; they desire the same objects and think the same thoughts. They do not select these objects fortuitously; it is not a matter of change or caprice, or some inconsequential reason; it is not the fault of the economic system in which too many people must compete for too few objects. These heroes think alike and desire alike because they are dear friends and brothers in all senses of the word ‘brother.'” — A THEATER OF ENVY, p. 17.

  2. St. Paul on like-mindedness: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” — Philippians 2:1-2

  3. Aristotle on Like-mindedness: “And friendship seems to hold cities together, and lawmakers seem to take it more seriously than justice, for like-mindedness seems to be something similar to friendship, and they aim at this most of all and banish faction most of all for being hostile to it.” (Nicomachean Ethics, p. 144)

  4. More from Aristotle: “To whatever extent that they share something in common, to that extent is there a friendship, since that too is the extent to which there is something just. And the proverb ʻthe things of friends are commonʼ is right, since friendship consists in community.” (Nicomachean Ethics, p. 154)

  5. “That man is a creature who needs order yet yearns for change is the creative contradiction at the heart of the laws which structure his conformity and define his deviancy.” — Freda Adler

  6. “No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

  7. “That was excellently observed’, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.” ― Jonathan Swift

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