Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Arguments

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

I find myself getting into arguments more often than I want to. I hate arguments. But I suppose I suffer from an irresistible desire to defend my ideas and opinions from all attackers.

It starts out simply enough. I'll state my opinion on something. Then someone else will come along and say, "Oh, no, that's wrong, because of these reasons!" And they'll state the reasons.

Uh-oh.

My reaction varies. Sometimes I think the other person is completely wrong. Sometimes I think that his position has merit and that I should investigate further. Sometimes I think my opponent is producing a brilliant, insightful debunking of a view that I do not actually hold. Sometimes I realize that he failed to see something because I accidentally failed to explain it.

Sometimes he is right and I have to post a retraction. Sometimes I will then be accused of contradicting myself...

I can post my reply but sometimes it seems like at this point I have already lost: if I "win" the argument I end up embarrassing the other person and this is not good for fostering friendship and open communication.

If I am wrong, I have to endure a loss of face, but this is almost preferable because I have the power to "fix" things just by accepting that responsibility.

But I can't let my opponent win if my argument is actually correct: I think it's wrong to cede the argument when I'm actually right, because then the truth itself is a casualty.

At the same time I don't like embarrassing people who might be right about everything else and thus be valuable to me in other respects.

I don't want to force (or to have the facts force) my opponent to accept a loss of face. I prefer win-win scenarios, but I am not sure how to create one in an argument, or how to prevent arguments before they occur.

Galt's speech says that with reality as the standard in a dispute, "One of us will lose, but both will profit." That's true, but sometimes reality is distant enough that the argument can rage for quite a while without being resolved by reality. Or it can stop, but with both parties dissatisfied, because nothing has really been answered.

Sometimes there is an uncontrolled variable that affects the answer. Whether the Bugatti Veyron is a good car to buy or not may depend a great deal on who is doing the buying, the shape of his finances, and so forth, but if this is ignored the argument can rage forever. "It's too expensive to be practical!" "Nonsense, it's worth every penny!" and so forth.

(Of course as soon as someone proposes a solution to the problem of arguing, someone else will dispute it and an argument will start. I can hardly wait. :P )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your main problem seems to be the fact that you think of an argument as something that you "win". I'll tell you right off: you can win sword fights and tennis matches, but you can't ever "win" an argument BECAUSE IT'S NOT A COMPETITION. The purpose of arguing is to establish what the truth is, not to score points. This idea of "losing face" is absurd.

I never bother arguing with people any more. If I disagree, I say so loudly and they can do their own thinking to decide whether I'm right or not. Sometimes I'll supply additional information/thinking if I think the discussion is complex enough (and my thinking incomplete enough) to warrant it. Otherwise, I couldn't care less. Sometimes I'll INTENTIONALLY "lose face" if I find out I'm arguing with someone I have absolutely no respect for by making my position even more obviously offensive to them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I never argue these days with my friends. When someone says something idiotic, and expects an answer from me, i usually ask: "i disagree, so do you really want to talk about this topic, or were you just making a random observation" or something along those lines. Most people can utter political or moral statements just for the sake of idle conversation, and therefore its just better to move on to other subjects. A good example is if youre at a bar with your friends watching a football game, and he casually says: "athletes these days are overpaid, they are ripping off the fans", then a simple "i disagree" will suffice. If he stays on the subject, then you can ask whether he really wants to discuss the topic, but otherwise its pointless to ruin a night out with your friends watching football over a casual remark one of the makes. Obviously you shouldnt leave him the impression that you agree with him, however, but i've had enough experience of turning mindless casual comments from my friends into heated arguments, and there is absolutely no value in it if you otherwise like hanging out with your friends.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the qualities I look for in my friends is the ability to have heated discussions over controversial topics, with neither person having to 'lose face'. One can only lose face in such a discussion if one's goal is something other than to learn the truth, and I have great difficulty retaining friendships with people if that isn't one of their goals. Partially because of this, I have few close friends. Not many people understand the difference between 'argue' and 'discuss' or 'debate'.

One of my closest friends is an evangelical christian; when we argue, it is almost always a religious discussion, since that's the only area we disagree with each other. My goal in those discussions is to learn where my arguments fall apart, and his is similar, since by now we both realize neither of us has enough information to change the other's mind. Because of that arguments are not personal, and therefore cannot affect our friendship unless we make it personal.

Arguing with my sister is quite different, but the key is the same: listen honestly to the other person's opinions, and give your own honestly when they ask for it. My sister recently declared herself a subjectivist (awful, I know, but I used to think she was a nihilist - this is better) and it took a good deal of honest curiosity on my part to get her to admit to herself that she does, in fact, think there is a right and wrong in some situations. The bigger problem there was that I could not hide my horror at her position and had trouble explaining my horror - and she was offended that I would morally judge her personal philosophy.

As for online arguments, it is important to realize that you are not arguing in order to convince the other person, because that may well be impossible. If the argument holds no value for you, leave it; if you consider convincing those who read it a value, as I do, it's easiest to find where the essential difference lies in your position and your opponent's, and try to find the truth starting from there. It's key to thoroughly read and understand your opponent's position, use proper grammar and spelling whenever possible, and use research to back up your position. Also, be very careful about how you word things, so that you really do say exactly what you mean; and if you are ceding a point, make that clear: "Oh, I hadn't thought of that. That's a good point." That isn't losing face; that is recognizing that your opponent is a rational animal, thereby saving face.

As JMeganSnow pointed out, the goal of an argument is not 'win'. For me, the goals are to: 1) deepen my understanding of my own position, 2) learn where my arguments fail to explain it properly, 3) help those I argue with and those on the outside to understand my position, 4) understand where my opponents fail in either their perception or interpretation of reality, and 5) help them recognize and perhaps correct that same failure. In that order. Which means, if I 'lose' the argument, it is because I held some flaw in my own understanding, and have achieved the first two goals, thereby also 'winning'. If we come to a friendly impasse, I have achieved the first three goals, perhaps four; and if I 'win', I have achieved all of them. In any case, I learn.

However, it's an entirely different scenario when arguing with somebody you love about something you both consider important to your relationship and lives. I haven't yet figured out how to do that without hurting one or both of us.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...