A worthy opponent

I was voted “Most Likely to Have an Opinion” in High School. Shocking, I know.

But blogging teaches me every day that I don’t have an opinion, about a great many things. I have a knee jerk, like most people, but given the opportunity to think my position out, I rarely have anything substantial. Except, that is, for my few pet issues: Christianity, immigration, language, and motherhood.

So I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised at the relatively few people who can argue effectively (read: constructively). Many people react with the knee-jerk, hurling invectives, and possibly hoping to cover their lack of independent thought with a few well-chosen, colorful expletives. It may be more fun to watch, but it’s hardly constructive. So below (ta-da!) are some thoughts (not all mine) on avoiding idiocy when the discussion rises above 98 degrees.

1. Avoid ad hominem. You know you do it. 

2. Avoid ad populum. Just ’cause your particular circle of friends thinks something may be so, it hardly follows that it’s true. It’s even debatable that if a majority of people believe it, it must be true.

3. Consider the worldview. You may not start from “God Exists”, but perhaps the person you are arguing with does. You also have a worldview, starting with something like this statement. All statements following your first principle are likely a logical outcome of it.

4. Do your homework. Statements like “a majority of homosexuals have diseases” is hardly fair unless you can back it up, preferably with authoritative sources. And no, Wikipedia doesn’t count.

5. Arguing from “is” to “ought”. Simply because something has been correct historically does not make it correct morally. “Ought” includes a moral judgment based on a worldview- see #3.

For a list of logical fallacies try The Philosophical Society.

Or you could always go with these suggestions. 

This entry was posted in christianity, faith, immigration, language, motherhood and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A worthy opponent

  1. KathyB! says:

    All I can say, is thank God I never debated you in high school or college. You would’ve destroyed me.

  2. faemom says:

    Great post! I hate arguing with someone who doesn’t know how. Did you ever read a short story about debate and arguement? I wish I knew the name because it was a great way to teach people how to argue.

  3. ink says:

    Nice post! I always look forward to the day in writing class when we talk about “post hoc ergo propter hoc” (because I think it sounds cool). 😉

  4. ultraguy says:

    Nicely done. These points are key not only for civility but for seeking and discerning truth out of often-messy dialogue.

    What’s tricky, nowadays, is that the belief that absolute truth even exists, or that it can be known, is itself considered just another worldview among many… just someone’s opinion.

    More and more, I find myself starting there (your point #3 and the embodiment of an eternal truth in an eternal creator) because, if the person I’m debating believes truth is relative (even if they have never articulated that idea explicitly to themselves) then the discussion can go absolutely nowhere except into a verbal shoving match (wherein ‘truth’ = force).

  5. evenshine says:

    ultraguy- thanks, I just wanted to go over the basics. I agree with your point about figuring out whether or not the interlocutor has an objective source for truth (most of the time they argue like they do, but deny The Source).

    I think I’d adjust #3 as well. Not everyone’s argument is a logical result of their worldview. More often than not, the nonbeliever is forced into adopting Judeo-Christian ethics, though their worldview doesn’t support it.

    Thanks for the comments, all.

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