Defeat by Truth is Victory

Jonathan Shaw in Harvard Magazine:

PRESIDENT LAWRENCE S. BACOW delivered a Morning Prayers address on August 31, following a tradition in which the Harvard president speaks in Memorial Church at the beginning of the fall term.

…He expanded on thoughts he’d shared with the freshmen class at their Convocation: “Over time,” he had told them on the previous day, “truth is revealed; it needs to be tested on the anvil of competing ideas. If you really seek the truth, you must engage with those who think differently than you” and “be willing to change your mind.” At Morning Prayers, he shared Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’s argument for healthy debate. “We ought to argue… ‘out of a desire to discover the truth, not out of cantankerousness or a wish to prevail over [our fellows],’ not ‘out of envy and contentiousness and ambition for victory.’ When we argue for the sake of the latter… ‘what is at stake is not truth but power, and the result is that both sides suffer. If you win, I lose. But if I win, I also lose, because in diminishing you, I diminish myself […] The opposite is the case when the argument is for the sake of truth. If I win, I win. But if I lose, I also win—because being defeated by the truth is the only form of defeat that is also a victory.”

More here.