Why do we argue? We battle to out-reason our opponents, prove them wrong, and most of all, win! In this article, we discuss the art of the good argument.
Before we discuss the intricacies of a good argument, firstly, it’s necessary to establish why we even argue with each other in the first place. Anybody who holds an assortment of opinions and is not afraid to express them will be familiar with the art of the argument. Whether it’s online these days or face to face. In the traditional sense of an argument, the opposing ideas or concepts will clash, and a verbal argument of war is declared wherein each person then attempts to out-reason each other to achieve victory.
This classic approach to arguing often has a fundamental flaw which is quite obvious to all of us who enjoy a good debate from time to time. The truth will often take a back seat when an argument heats up, with the ego and the desire for personal glory outweighing all things. The very concept of arriving at a healthy conclusion is now off the table. This situation now encourages tactics to be utilised over an honest attempt at reaching the objective truth. A burden that completely detracts from the substance of the communication and the true issue at hand.
Well frankly, this just doesn’t work for anybody who values critical thinking and enjoys an honest intellectual debate. So if you have any desire to leave your arguments more knowledgeable than you entered them, you must firstly change the way you approach an argument.
So, why do we even argue in the first place? What triggers the ego to seek victory at all costs? How do you benefit from changing a person’s opinion to yours? It’s fair to say we typically argue in this fashion because we seek validation towards our way of thinking. But any open-minded intellectual should demand only the truth as the end goal for any rational debate engaged. If you’re successful in convincing me to change my opinion on a specific subject, is it not I, who has truly benefited from the debate? The traditional victor gains nothing new from this debate, whereas I have benefited from dismissing an outdated, flawed belief.
In contrast, the argument of war concept never gratifies the loser. It continuously leaves many of you on the back foot, often resorting to anger and other emotional reactions to prevent a definitive defeat at the expense of truth. It’s sad really. Arguments absolutely never have to be this way again and I implore all of you who value subjective and open discussions to change one’s outlook towards debating immediately. Firstly, understand the traditional loser/winner narrative is flawed. As outlined in my previous paragraph, the traditional loser is actually winning if they leave the argument stronger than they entered.
Your ego often has no place in a rational debate. Even if you have held a particular belief for 8 years, objective truth really doesn’t give a damn. Be prepared to dismiss it the moment it fails to stand up to rational scrutiny. Social progress is often the victim of stubborn egos who are simply not prepared to drop a specific way of thinking because it’s the way it has always been. History has a fine way of remembering the many people who held on to a flawed concept because they weren’t challenging themselves to seek the best solution. And we tend not to think too highly of these chaps.
I’ll now leave you with an excellent 10 minute TED talk on arguing the capable way. May I present to you, the powerful philosopher Daniel H. Cohen: