"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, November 27, 2009

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices." - William James


On argument:

The Meming of Life » The Joy of Giving Up

"At this point I have some choices.

Do I challenge his assertion...? Do I challenge [his implicit argument]? Do I point out that [his alternative proposal is as bad, possibly even worse]? Correct his spelling of Napoleon? Tell him [he is misquoting someone and misattributing the quote]? Do I point out that [his premise is totally wrong]

To answer these, answer this: What result am I after?

Ten years ago I would have started with, “Oh Aaron, Aaron. Where do I even begin?”—then gone after every single one of those points in as superior a voice as possible. In the end, I’d imagine him lying in a pool of cyber-blood.

But most of us eventually notice that winning an argument requires that the vanquished recognize his defeat. Sure enough, time after time, I would be amazed and incensed when the other person — apparently unaware of his demise — came back with more nonsense.

I came to realize that these exchanges accomplish precisely nothing but lost time and gained blood pressure. He comes back, I reply, again and again. We consult our mutually-exclusive rulebooks to see who’s winning. And oh how the pretty painted ponies go round and round.

I want those hours back.

... I didn’t unleash a deafening point-by-point but chose a third option: the (potentially) hearable reply.

The hearable reply includes two elements: at least one point of agreement, and ONLY ONE solid, well-supported point of difference"

My tack is slightly different:

As long as you don't get emotional or (often and) irrational (like the people you're arguing with), such exchanges do help to convince bystanders of the truth of your argument (as long as they aren't already irrevocably convinced, like the person you are arguing with, of the truth of *his*).

Even if there is no audience, like tempered steel arguments emerge from fire stronger - and you occasionally even learn something new.

Of course, the down side is, as the writer points out, less time and more blood pressure.

So the question is where the optimum point lies - but generally as these exchanges grow longer (and either or both parties becomes more and more irrational and/or emotional), the benefits go down and the costs go up.
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