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BS: Fighting fair in arguments

GUEST 11 Oct 03 - 09:44 AM
Mickey191 11 Oct 03 - 09:19 AM
John Hardly 11 Oct 03 - 08:55 AM
Amos 11 Oct 03 - 08:51 AM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Oct 03 - 08:38 AM
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Subject: RE: BS: Fighting fair in arguments
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Oct 03 - 09:44 AM

I used to think obstinate arguers needed to be right. But the bit of wisdom I've gained from loving a good argument myself, is that it isn't about being right. It is about not being perceived as weak or stupid, and A LOT about saving face/embarrassment. People who argue blindly and obstinately tend to be fearful and insecure, in my experience.

OTOH, those who do like a good argument or debate generally find their way to "fighting fair" (as McGrath calls it) because they are natural born debaters and critical thinkers. And we do tend to overwhelm a lot of people, especially those who aren't natural born critical thinkers.

But there is a third category not mentioned yet: those who fear and/or despise conflict of any sort. They can muck up a good argument/debate worse than the obstinate ones in my opinion, because they become so deeply disturbed by conflict that one's empathy response to their distress is hard to override. Which makes it nigh on impossible to ever resolve anything with them. It's a Rodney King "can't we all just get along" sort of dysfunction. On one hand, they try and avoid conflict, and on the other, they are drawn to it like a moth to the flame. These sorts of people have a profound need to learn how to deal with conflict, but often never figure it out.

I think the instinct to go for one's debate/argument opponent's weak point is pretty natural though. I'd also suggest that the smart folks learn, by debating/arguing a lot, what their own weak points are, and how to defend/protect those points in themselves. Those are the people who are most fun--those who are a real challenge to argue and debate with, because they have learned the rules of fighting fair well, and have perfected their use of them over time.


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Subject: RE: BS: Fighting fair in arguments
From: Mickey191
Date: 11 Oct 03 - 09:19 AM

I've never understood why some people must always be proven right, even after ten people have proven them wrong. They leave with their mind closed and content in their "rightness."

Another angle
I recently was proven wrong on an inconsequential personal matter. I simply misremembered, I apologized twice, realizing there was no question about it-I was wrong. I put the matter to rest. My friend went back four months and proved I was wrong with my own email. Okay-I apologized a third time. The need to be right is so strong in this person's make-up that my three sorrys were not enough. After receiving yet another email I'd had enough. I wrote: from now on this is a given, you were always, you are, and you always will be "Right." Now can we put this to rest?

Have not heard a word in a month. I'm sorry the friendship is over--but one can only take so much BS in one's life. In every other aspect we were compatible and great friends. I don't know what the heck I could have done to appease her. Tis a shame.


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Subject: RE: BS: Fighting fair in arguments
From: John Hardly
Date: 11 Oct 03 - 08:55 AM

"One thing that I often find irritating in a discussion, whether I'm involved myself, or just looking in on it, is when people are just going for each other's weak points, while brushing aside any weak points in their own case which are brought to light. If you are seriously interested in a topic, rather than in just winning an argument, the useful thing about any argument is the way it can identify your own weak points, so that you can examine them and modify your position as needed."

THAT is a brilliant observation. I have noticed the phenomenon -- even noticed it to be the main strategy for some in discussions. I've often wondered what would be the result if one was to discipline one's self to NOT answer what they think is the obvious weak spot in another -- ESPECIALLY as that weak spot is SO OFTEN not the main point of their arguement -- and instead, really concentrate on responding to the stronger points others make.

Of course, on the other hand, it is tempting to try to shoot down the red herrings as they were brought dishonorably to muddy the waters of a good clear-thinking debate.


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Subject: RE: BS: Fighting fair in arguments
From: Amos
Date: 11 Oct 03 - 08:51 AM

WHat makes something important is a wildly subjective variable; and for the not-quite-bright, the most important thing of any and all is plain being right. This obsession makes for rather thin gruel in ordinary living but it is not uncommon.

It also makes for bad tasting "dialogs" in which no understanding comes about because the battle for RIght is too loud.


A


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Subject: BS: Fighting fair in arguments
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Oct 03 - 08:38 AM

I've been trying to work out in my mind why some exchanges about potentially controversial topics turn nasty and leave you with a bad taste in the mouth and others end up with you feeling you have a better understanding of what you think and of why someone else might see it differently.

And it seems to me that one reason is that there are different models for what is happening in the course of such exchanges. On the one hand they can be fights, trying to beat the opponent regardless, anything goes. Or they can be collaborative exercises - either collaborative in the way that in a formal contest or game your opponent is actually in a deeper sense your partner; or in the way that different people with different ideas can be involved in a joint project.

One thing that I often find irritating in a discussion, whether I'm involved myself, or just looking in on it, is when people are just going for each other's weak points, while brushing aside any weak points in their own case which are brought to light. If you are seriously interested in a topic, rather than in just winning an argument, the useful thing about any argument is the way it can identify your own weak points, so that you can examine them and modify your position as needed.

In a game that can be fair enough, and some discussions are essentially games, and most discussions have a games element. But when it comes to serious discussions about things that matter, playing games should be subordinated. Picking out the bits where someone on the other side has contradicted themselves, that's fun, and that's fair - but the main thing is to respond fairly to the exchanges that seem to indicate a flaw in your own argument.


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