There are different reasons why people argue, for many it is merely to claim intellectual superiority over another about a matter, some would argue to make their will prevail over the will of another, others argue for knowledge and enlightenment of the other side’s views and their own.
Whatever reason you choose it may be worth it to know that arguing for the sake of winning an argument may not produce the best results, because winning an argument involves having people capitulate to your reasoning and leave theirs, it is a very difficult thing to achieve. Human beings can be stubborn and defensive about their views, and this fact applies to both you and the person you are having this intercourse with. I would want to believe the primary altruistic reason for engaging in discussions is to know more and understand things better. People tend to avoid arguments because enlightenment and understanding rarely happen eventually at the end of the day.
Having said all these, there are some pointers I would like to give readers to take note of while engaging in argumentative discourse of any kind.
- You owe the other person the duty to understand his perspective if you want him to understand yours. You should not dismiss another’s perspective as silly or invalid without understanding it first. If you have not found a single facet of the other person’s argument solid, even if you think the argument is weak, then you do not understand enough of the other person’s side. There is usually always a modicum of validity in a perspective, human beings are normally rational and there must be a rational reason for them to think the way they do, if you can not understand this reason you can not think in consonance with them, perhaps you are the irrational party. My point being, hear the other side.
- Be ready to critically examine your beliefs. Of course many religions frown at this. Since the validity of many of these religions are based on faith, which is basically an unquestioning belief in what you cannot see or understand. Perhaps this is what gives validity to my next point.
- Avoid religious arguments. Let’s say a Muslim and a Christian argue about which is supposedly the better faith, one thing we have been conditioned to do is have unquestioned and unflinching belief in the validity of what we do not understand, the things that don’t make sense to us. How do we expect to explain these parts of our religion to another person who holds the same conditioning about his own faith? I feel awful when I see two such people arguing and one will say “my bible tells me….” and the other person will retort with something like “Nope, this is not the case because my Qur’an tells me….”. I think what is being engaged in is an exercise in futility. Since that person does not believe in your holy book and you do not give his own holy book much regards in how you run your own religious existence. Faith is intrinsically antithetic to logic, religions preach faith. Since arguments are activities in logic and logic based reasoning, religious arguments are like using logic to convince the other person about something which is not based on logic. It falls flat. By virtue of this it is better to avoid arguing on religious matters for two people of different religions.
- Do not lie to reinforce your position. i will come back to haunt you eventually.
- Never be afraid to change your side or point of view when you realise that you have been objectively wrong after all. This is the primary, altruistic purpose of arguing, enlightenment. If you have become enlightened enough to see that you are wrong in the direction you have been thinking then you should be very willing to change your mind. This may sound like you have no mind of your own but that is untrue, it actually means you have understood both sides of the divide long enough to pick the side that is better.
- Avoid fallacies like attacking personality, red herrings, irrelevant conclusions and hasty generalisations. Be aware that words can hurt, and once spoken the effects are almost impossible to reverse.
- Everyone is entitled to their opinion as long as it does not contradict empirically verifiable facts. Walk away if it is getting nowhere, you can not force opinion into a person’s brain.
These tips are not exhaustive, but they help. Comments? Put some thoughts below in the box. Thanks for reading.