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!