“We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.” -St. Thomas Aquinas, Dominican Philosopher. Providence College students have always engaged in lively intellectual debates through disputatio – the art of disputed questions. At Providence, there is often not one correct answer, but rather many answers that come together to form one truth. In a divided society filled with strong opinions, how do you work to ensure all viewpoints are considered and the ultimate truth is discovered?
In a society filled with strong opinions, the best way to ensure that all viewpoints are considered, and the ultimate truth discovered, would be to gather with those whose opinions we oppose. St. Thomas Aquinas says to love the opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, but I think that those opinions we reject are of a higher importance. Often times we float towards those individuals who share our same thoughts and views because it’s easier. But this old pattern never leads to a revelation of answers but, rather, just a constant confirmation of one single truth. It’s only through a continuous challenge of each others’ truths that new ideas have a chance to blossom. Unfortunately, most people avoid this path for fear of conflict and separation that simply stems from sharing their thoughts. I encountered a situation like this back in the beginning of junior year where I found myself separated from a group of my friends because their opinions on a particular issue—politics—significantly differed from mine. We all tried to share our views but ended up casting down others, claiming that their perspective on the matter was completely ridiculous and could therefore never be correct. This, of course, resulted in a creation of a new lunch table seating arrangement for a few days until everyone cooled off and a non-spoken agreement, to never share our political views, resulted for fear of breaking ties. However, I know now that this fear doesn’t have to exist if people don’t just present their own views with that being their only goal. Instead, people should speak with the intent to inform, listen with the desire to actually absorb, and conduct a debate with the aim of finding some kind of compromise. Or perhaps not even find a compromise, but instead find reassurance in their ideas, or find a new truth in the ideas of others. Whatever the outcome may be, a single truth will have been found because one would have viewed it from many different perspectives; giving them the ability to see the bigger picture which in turn would allow them to find the ultimate truth.