Friday, January 13, 2012

The Futility of Argument?

Perhaps the new year has awakened my pugilistic instincts, but I've been arguing more recently. Why, just this past week, I involved myself in a political discussion that became a whirlwind of ad hominem before my very eyes. And so, once again, I find myself vowing to eschew argument as much as possible.

It's happened before. My habits seem to cycle: first I find myself paying more attention to debate. Then, in my mind, I begin to participate in discussion. Then I open my mouth, and I involve myself. And that's it. I decide afresh that argument is an exercise in futility.

That's just my opinion, of course. And I don't refer to argument as an educational tool: debate, discourse, rhetoric, dialectics, for the purpose of sharpening the mind. I refer to the arguments of people who care deeply about their position, people who want to share the good news of OWS or the "I Hate Religion/I Love Jesus" video.

Here's the nub of this cogitation: what good does arguing (as defined above) do?

When have you, O my ecstatic and adoring readers, used argument to convince someone to change their beliefs?

I don't think it's ever happened to me. Perhaps it's because I'm terrible at arguing. I've never argued with someone about an important topic and had them say, "You know what? You're right. I was mistaken--I was wrong. You've convinced me." Thing is, people tend to be pretty prideful, and being told they're wrong will (usually) just entrench them further in their position.

As I type that, I realize that yes, it's probably happened. At some point in the past, some impeccably humble souls have most likely mustered the courage to say those words.. Perhaps even to some of you reading this blog. I've never heard those words because I'm bad at debate.

If you've had this experience--if you have convinced someone that their views are wrong--leave a comment, please. If you share my frustration, if you seem to find argument futile, leave a comment, please.

This isn't so much my uninformed opinion as an appeal to those few who read this.

Long live equivocation!

1 comment:

riverofmusic10 said...

I have! Many times, actually. To me, arguments are puzzles. Religion and politics usually boil down to that we just believe different root things (God/no God), and arguing helps reveal what those are. In essence, you get to know the person better. Other topics may boil down to that, but I've won arguments several times by simply pointing out something the other forgot or didn't know. Effective arguments just usually take more time (time many won't give), but I have found it to be incredibly worthwhile if the other person is mature and willing to argue respectfully.

I am one of those people that find arguing valuable. But, to argue with you, I have to respect you. I have to respect you because I always go into arguments with the knowledge that the other person might prove me wrong. If I'm proved wrong, I would want that person to be respectful in their handling of the win.

I just recently got in an argument about a more trivial topic. The two of us saw a scene in an episode two completely different ways, and it was frustrating because we usually saw things the same way. Through taking the time, though, we discovered that I had not remembered one simple facial expression the character had made, and it was that expression that proved her point. We would not have been able to talk about that show again comfortably if we hadn't argued it out.

We could have lived, but it was better hashing it out. We both agreed after that, that arguing was worth it.

Honestly, though, arguing is not for everyone. Some people really are too stuck on what they believe and can't argue because it's frustrating to them that what they believed blindly is being challenged. Others can't think straight because of the pressure, so arguing does no good because they can't defend themselves. Others are just too passionate, can't restrain themselves emotionally and end up resorting to mockery or belittling. Others can't help but invest emotionally in arguments so they just plain avoid it because they don't like it (they know their limits). It's amazing how many people see arguments as personal attacks. You have to be able to handle it.

Anyway, I could go on all day about why I think arguing is important blah blah blah...I think that's enough, though. I do not believe arguments are futile. They are with some people, but definitely not with all.

Love live compatible arguers!

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