How to Win an Argument in 6 steps.
Recently, I became acquainted with a new Youtuber, Erick Braun. We were introduced by a mutual friend and have since found that our styles of thought, while respectable different, are equally stimulating. He recently posted a video questing towards the bridge between religion and philosophical truth.
After some time reading the comments, I became so overwhelmed with the the different directions people were taking their arguments. The content is great but, where do I start and how do I contribute to this conversation in a meaningful way? This is a common feeling, especially for those with no exposure to procedural philosophical discussion.
“Where do I start and how do I contribute to this conversation in a meaningful way?”
Arguing is not the only reason to discuss important and big topics. It’s valuable as a soft practice which pulls an actionable good from discourse. There are many people in the world who would love to debate and argue but feel it is a waste of their time because they don’t know how to pull that actionable good from their communication. Below, I am going to show you how get to that actionable good in 6 discernible steps.
Define your linchpins.
A linchpin is a word/concept that would have to necessarily be true for your argument to work. In philosophy, they are called Base Assumptions. The linchpins of any good argument are clear and well defined. They provide the foundation for you to structure the rest of your thoughts. It is important that you don’t try to have too many, and the definition of ‘too many’ greatly varies on topic and medium of communication. Stay focused- rest on the clear points.
Know the Difference Between Logic and Rhetoric
Logic is a way of thinking which can be demonstrated in a processional manner and follows truthfully from the Base Assumptions and rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Rhetoric can often look like Logic and Logic can often be used to persuade people. Knowing when to use one or the other is essential.
Arguing should serve as a way for all parties to clear up miscommunication so correct action can be taken. Without the follow up of action, arguing turns into a flexing contest. While it can be fun, flexing is often the reason many people are turned away from philosophical discourse (No one wants to see you stroke your own ego). That is why it is important to know when to concede the point.
I have witnessed many people lose an argument they could have easily won because they held onto a bleeding point. It makes no sense to keep a linchpin if it doesn’t hold the wheel to the axle. You are not your argument; if part of it is wrong, concede the point and try again. The worst that can happen is you learn something and that makes you stronger for the next encounter.
Logic is the road to a good defense. Rhetoric holds the key to attack. While you never want to be insidious and lie just for the sake of winning, using rhetoric is a good way to point out where an argument is weak. Expose rhetoric by applying the reasoning to a similar situation. If it doesn’t hold up, it was probably rhetorical. Of course there are massive exceptions to this step and the dimensions change as the arguments get more complex. For now however, keep this in mind as you move forward.
This step is actually so important, it should probably be step one. To win an argument, one must be well studied. Know your subject. Opinions are great but relatable logic is better. People will respect someone who is an expert in the field. BE THAT EXPERT. There is no shame in studying beforehand. Being well prepared for an argument can quickly turn a debate into a lesson, with you being the teacher.
Cultivate Self Awareness
The first five steps teach you how to win an argument but this step shows you how to benefit from it. Winning is great but don’t sacrifice your character to do so. If you followed all the way until step five then you are also responsible for your tactics and strategies. Know yourself, how you like to argue, your weaknesses, strengths, biases, as well as your goal for arguing in the first place. What are you trying to accomplish and how will you benefit from attempting to do so?
A good philosopher seeks to better themselves and hopefully others around them. It is to that end you should hold to when engaging in an argument.
For anyone without philosophical training, it is important to know how and why philosophers discuss topics the way we do. In short, it’s to (1)eliminate any chance for miscommunication and (2)make it easy for others to respond. This is extremely necessary when discussing things as magnanimous and unknowable as the subject of the above video, and just blatantly useful when discussing other more tangible topics.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out more of Erick Braun’s videos.
Contact me on twitter @Polandros if you have any comments or feedback!