Bad Arguments and How to Avoid Them
It can be a challenge to keep ourselves cool and not sink deep into arguing when responding to twitter, foregoing a heated conversation in dinner table or sitting with family discussing politics. The purpose of the debate is to gain insights, find the truth and upgrade knowledge.
But how many times does any one of us really go with this approach?
I guess quite a few of us.
Most of times, we enter into the war so as to prove ourselves. It is because it is difficult for the brain to defy our existing beliefs and cling to new one. We prefer not to change our minds.There can be other reasons too-sometimes just for entertainment, other times we “fight” to prove that we are smarter than the other. But are we gaining anything? Are we learning anything new?
These arguments don’t get us anywhere. That might be because we are not tracking the opponent’s view point, rather we are trying our best to prove ourselves. We try our best to “convince them” rather than “understand them”.
Two Types of Arguments
1. Straw man argument
Straw man argument is misrepresentation of the opinion. For example,person X asserts a position A. Person Y superficially opposes the position B, as if X supported B instead of A
It gives the impression to the opponent that you are refuting while in reality the argument on the basis of which you are refuting was not actually presented by opponent. The argument is constructed by over simplifying and over exaggeration.The argument is called the straw man because just as it is easier to fight with the person made of straw than with the normal human, the straw man argument is easy to knock down on the ground.
2. Iron man argument
It is constructed in a powerful way that it is difficult for us to oppose. The opponent will use jargon and terms to make their stance. For example, when the politician says, “We prioritize those strategies that have positive impact on everyone in the society. And so reservation is the best possible action to empower the poor people in the country.” They have answered the question and nothing more can anyone say to oppose their stance.
How to abscond from those disputes?
The first thing is to peep into ourselves. It is much easier to look into people giving straw man or iron man argument, but it is difficult to look it into ourselves. In many cases we don’t realize that the argument we are giving is actually irrelevant.
Doing it is just a simple affair-Forget your argument for a while and recognize the good sides of your opponent argument. Play to their strengths. Ask questions. Be curious. You might not change your mind but you can learn a lot.
When your opponent is using bad argument
Stay calm and measured. This is the first thing you should do.But still when your opponent is poking against you-point it out.Explain why the argument is unhelpful and tell them where it is coming from. No need to use straw man jargon, they won’t be familiar to these words and hence no use.(unless you are trying to look smarter)
Similarly, no need to node yes for everything, this will mean that you don’t have your own opinion. The best thing is to define the concept, reiterate the beliefs and tell them how they differ from the bad argument.
If this doesn’t work, you can continue to reiterate your point and concepts. Still if the situation is not seeing any improvement then it’s worth considering if there is any point in continuing the debate.
Do start this practice from now onward. Next time you get to any clash, remember to be calm and look through others perspective.
Most importantly- Be ready for the change.