Reply To: How do you guys keep going?


@Pete: “Or when they say they disagree, they don’t say to what exactly or why?”

One of my favorite things to say when someone makes an assertion without any reasons for it is, “How did you draw that conclusion?” Or “Based on what?” If they don’t answer that after prodding, you can tell them that you don’t believe they are debating in good faith. And if they are not debating in good faith, what is their point in debating?

If anything they say pisses you off, write out your angry response immediately. Then delete it and write out your calm and reasoned response. That helps me get any anger out of my system and continue to talk rationally.

Realize that the victory occurs when they go from telling you things, to asking you questions. They won’t concede that you won them over outright. When they are in the mode of telling me things, so that I don’t get mad I like to reframe their argument in my mind as them saying, “I agree with everything you are saying, but I need help. What if I take what you are saying into a debate and someone says (insert their argument here). How would you respond to that argument?”

If they ever try to pull the “well that’s your opinion” card, explain to them what the difference is between an opinion and an argument. This is from “A Rulebook for Arguments” by Anthony Weston:

“In this book, ‘to give an argument’ means to offer a set of reasons or evidence in support of a conclusion. Here an argument is not simply a statement of certain views, and it is not simply a dispute. Arguments are efforts to support certain views WITH REASONS. Arguments in this sense are not pointless; in fact, they are essential.

Argument is essential, in the first place, because it is a way of finding out which views are better than others. Not all views are equal. Some conclusions can be supported by good reasons. Others have much weaker support. But often we don’t know which are which. We need to give arguments for different conclusions and then assess those arguments to see how strong they really are.

A good argument doesn’t merely repeat conclusions. Instead it offers reasons and evidence so that other people can make up their minds for themselves. If you become convinced that we should indeed change the way we raise and use animals, for example, you must use arguments to explain how you arrived at your conclusion. That is how you will convince others: by offering the reasons and evidence that convinced you. It is not a mistake to have strong views. The mistake is to have nothing else.

Typically we learn to ‘argue’ by assertion. That is, we tend to start with our conclusions—our desires or opinions—without a whole lot to back them up. And it works, sometimes, at least when we’re very young. What could be better?

Real argument, by contrast, takes time and practice. Marshaling our reasons, proportioning our conclusions to the actual evidence, considering objections, and all the rest—these are acquired skills. We have to grow up a little. We have to put aside our desires and our opinions for a while and actually THINK.”