Communication and Identity: Waking Up with Sam Harris Reflection

Harris @23:45: “Yeah, that’s why I think identity politics is so toxic in my view, ’cause if identity is paramount, communication is impossible; like because you haven’t shared my specific experience or you don’t have the same skin color, same gender, there’s no bridge between us. And there’s no chain of reasoning from you to me, that should trump anything I currently think because what I think is anchored to identity, and we don’t share an identity.” 

So Sam Harris, author, neuroscientist, philosopher, released the 112th episode of his podcast ‘Waking Up with Sam Harris: The Intellectual Dark Web’ yesterday. There’s a ton of great food for thought available there, and I super suggest you give it a listen, but in the meantime I wanted to share the above quote and my thoughts regarding it. Maybe I hope that by reading his perspective, and my own personal take away, it’ll help motivate you to invest the patience needed for the two hour plus episode, because I do believe there’s a lot to be gained there.

It’s not often an outspoken atheist can have such an eloquent, civil debate with a well known conservative theist and that’s not even factoring in Eric Weinstein’s brilliance. But if I’m being honest, this episode was really about the back and forth between Ben Shapiro, lawyer, author, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, and Harris. Both men have come to shape my worldview in recent years despite their many differences. To my mind, they share one key characteristic that has earned them both my attention and my respect: sincere intellectual curiosity. 

And that’s apparent in this episode. It’s like Harris said, if identity is the most important factor in any conversation, then how will we ever communicate? How will we ever learn from each other? I can never have your experience, your physical appearance, etc, but maybe, I can learn from it by your guidance, and vice versa. I want to keep learning from anyone willing to teach me, but that can’t happen if there are no bridges, no chains of reasoning.

In this new year, I hope we can all build as much as possible, instead of burning. And I hope brilliant arguments and deep meaningful conversations are in over abundance. Because let’s be real: We are a nation divided here in the ole US of A, and if we don’t talk to each other, simply because we don’t all identify the same way, we’re not going to mend the gap.

Gotta mosey passed the old adherence to labels. You know, like ‘atheist’ or ‘theist’. Like ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’.

Jessie Gutierrez

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