A slow shutter speed blurs a giant video screen during a presentation. (Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg News)

The Method Video Series by Noah Feldman

(Bloomberg) -- In politics, disagreement is good. But our current moment of polarization looks more like a political disaster: People of different beliefs watch different cable news channels, read different news sites, and listen to different radio stations. Is there an antidote? And if so, what would it look like? Here at Bloomberg Opinion, we have an idea for an experiment on a modest scale to begin the process of addressing the challenge. It’s an experiment in video, and it relies on a technique for arguments that we’re calling “The Method,” with apologies to Socrates.

The original Socrates, at least as described by his student Plato, was all about questions. By pressing his conversational partners to understand and defend why they believed what they did, he’d methodically uncover the core values at play.

The Method will pose big questions, then provide two very different answers. One may sound better, perhaps more familiar. Both are meant to help you to figure where you stand and begin to understand why others disagree. After all, those with different views usually aren’t bad or crazy or irrational. Neither are you. To the contrary, both sides in many of our most heated and important disputes actually share some common premises, however hard it may be to find them. And those common premises are the building blocks of reasonable discussion — and democracy.

Most of the time, I won’t be saying where I come down. That’s not because I’m short of opinions. Rather, it’s because the whole point of the exercise is to move away from the “We’re all on the same team here” approach that’s become so common in the media. Socrates himself never, ever, let on where he stood. He never explained why, of course. Maybe he never found answers that measured up to his definition of the truth. Or perhaps he, too, was worried about disastrous levels of disagreement in the republic.

With most videos hovering around two minutes, there isn’t really enough time for the kinds of dialogues found in Plato or in one of my law classes. Instead, I’m just going to lay out both sides myself. Our topics will be big and serious, small and light, and everything in between. If you’re interested in suggesting topics, please fire away. For now, the best thing is to watch this one and see what you think. The topic is North Korea — or to be more precise, whether peace with Kim Jong Un is even possible. Wish us luck, and if you like it, tell everyone you know.


To contact the author of this story: Noah Feldman at nfeldman7@bloomberg.net.

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