Hyper-emphasis on the importance of facts strikes against our ability to properly understand those who disagree with us. It allows us to believe that their intuitions deserve our derision and condescension. The assumption that fidelity to fact is synonymous with Truth, in turn, leads to intellectual atrophy that frustrates both empathy and intellectual growth. As Eric Weinstein observed during his discussion with Rogan: “The claim that you fact-check has been synonymized with the claim that you are truthful, which is utter nonsense.”
Facts are unquestionably vital to the pursuit of understanding. But the possession of facts alone does not guarantee an accurate or optimal interpretation of those facts. How we feel about a set of facts has everything to do with how we interpret them. And how we interpret facts is, in part, a matter of values. Elsewhere in The Righteous Mind, Haidt theorizes that we rely for our intuitions upon moral foundations we share with other members of our tribe. If he’s right, then we can only explain our interpretation of facts to members of other tribes in ways that resonate with the moral foundations upon which they rely. And to do that, we must first acknowledge and understand them. This is what makes meaningful communication and reconciliation possible.
On balance, Ben Shapiro has been good for American political discourse. At his best, he can be a force for intellectual honesty, integrity, and even open-mindedness in our culture. Were he also to become a force for empathy and understanding he could be great.