This is an odd phrase, I find. What does it mean? Colloquially, it seems to indicate that a discussion is no longer progressing and time would be better spent on other endeavors. It is a "cease fire", of sorts. This, I think, is an accurate analogy for the use of the phrase in practice. To wit, a "cease fire" indicates no fundamental change in either position or, more importantly, attitude towards the opposing party. This is to be contrasted with a true cessation of hostilities, in which each side comes to terms with the position of the other. In order for this to happen, a certain respect must exist towards and from both sides. Each participant
must recognize whatever value, or at the very least the potential
for same, lies with the opposing point of view.
Often in Aikido training, an instructor will use the analogy of "look from your opponent's point of view" in order to assist a student in producing the correct body motion for a technique (often a kokyunage). This is, of course, naturally resonant with the prinicples of Aikido, in that one seeks to "harmonize" with an attacker (no longer thought of as an "opponent") in order to neutralize said attacker's aggression. The idea is not to retaliate, but to maintain one's own center, one's own point of view, in the face of aggression, independent
of any other parties. It can be said, therefore, that Aikido seeks, above all, to allow the practicioner to "Agree to Disagree" should the need arise.
This might suggest that Aikido supports multiplicity, i.e. it promotes all perspectives as having equal validity. The phrase "Agree to Disagree" seems to carry this colloquial message as well. It renders acceptible that differing parties may. . . well . . . differ. At this level it is both a fine and admirable concept, as well as a necessary one. Indeed, one can argue that Aikido is necessary because we must interact with others, with whom we must inevitably come into conflict (not necessarily physical
The aspect of the phrase which troubles me is that it carries a connotation that all points of view, all perspectives, are in some sense valid.
The question is in what sense this is the case. Is it correct to consider an ill-informed opinion "valid"? It is certain that any point of view is valid to the extent that it is held, but how should this affect our approach to interacting with one another, particularly when practical decisions are impacted by opposing points of view?
Here, then, is the connundrum: on one end, we have multiplicity, the acceptance of all perspectives as equally "true". On the other, we have, for lack of better words, singular dogma: the "one true" perspective. If there were no such thing as objective reality, multiplicity would rule the day. However, we are not dealing with a case of opposites, and singular dogma is just as, if not more, dangerous.
The brain seems to operate by crafting metaphors. Different metaphors, like equivalent theories of physical systems, can achieve similar ends. We can stand in different places and understand the same fundamental truths in different ways, just as we can build and comprehend a variety of models and theories to understand the physical world. Richard Feynman, I believe, was fond of saying that a good theoretical physicist could derive any equation at least three different ways. Truth works in this manner, I think. Multiplicity is a tool, not a philosophical end in and of itself, and certainly not a justification for subjective truth.
The rub, of course, is that perception is always flawed. Still, I have a great deal of trouble "agreeing to disagree" when presented with arguments which are either illogical or contradict certain facts as I understand them. I can negotiate a cease fire, but that is all. A theory which produces rubbish is discarded, and for good reason.