In our journey upriver to wisdom, we are confronted with the shoals and shallows of bias, authority, emotion, fallacy and conventional wisdom. To navigate these potential perils and credibly argue our positions, it is important to understand four pillars upon which our beliefs are built -- authority, intuition, results, reason.
Argument is important, but most of us do not argue well. Worse still, we tend to think we are better at arguing than we actually are. Too often we dominate the discussion, we make no attempt to see the other person's side of things and we can't back up our positions.
This is Part Two of a Discussion on Argument and Debate. You might also want to read Part One. I don’t usually go back and forth with people in YouTube comment sections. Comments are a healthy, liberating forum for millions of people, and I don’t deny that at all. I do find that the pseudo-courage supplied by digital anonymity makes it too easy for discussion to morph quickly into personal disparagement of the ‘so’s your mother’ variety; but the web is what it is, the good outweighs the bad. I will occasionally make a sarcastic rejoinder [...]
Most of us don’t argue very well. I’m not talking about the “…so’s your mother” type of argument — most of us do just fine there; I’m talking about debating points of disagreement in politics, economics, or anything where facts are in dispute and abstract reasoning has to come into play. Now, I should declare my biases here. Unlike Aristotle, I do not believe that man is, in his deepest depths, a rational animal. Nor do I believe that most people, much of the time, will change their most deeply held convictions on the basis of even [...]
I have a friend who writes poetry. I find this admirable. Poetry is not exactly the signature art form of this young millennium. There are reasons for this, of course — most of them reflecting rather large gaps in the modern cultural curriculum. Most of us did not attend a hoighty-toighty Ivy League prep school and have not had, in our formative years, the good fortune to come across a Peter Keating (the character played by the much lamented Robin Williams in Dead Poets’ Society). By the time we get to college, many of our literary habits [...]