Language of Argument

Language of Argument #

How our minds perceive reality is determined by a variety of factors; our acquired conditioning - mindset, our reasoning processes, emotions and the persuasive skill of presenters.

I never argue; I just calmly explain why I’m right and others are so wrong.

Adversarial processes are inherently antagonistic; the aim is to win the battle of hearts and minds with certainty, casting doubt on all contrary evidence, to ultimately win with whatever tactics it takes. Just like Trump and Republicans, political minds aren’t interested in actual evidence; they just prefer to peddle the myths that serve their cause. “History isn’t the story of what actually happened; it is just the story people choose to believe,”

Einstein claimed “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. He also maintained that “you can’t argue a person out of a position, they didn’t reason themselves into”.

Powermongers need to learn how to have a civil and intellectual conversation with those with whom we disagree.

Perceptions can be manipulated and many professions are skilled in the clever arts of insidious persuasion.

Socrates considered the debate in such settings unedifying, pointless and unworthy—in a word, “eristic”. Eris was the Greek goddess of strife (the Roman Discordia). It was Eris who, uninvited to the Marriage celebrations of Thetis and Peleus crashed it regardless and cunningly dropped a golden apple with the inscription “to the fairest” into a feast, inciting three goddesses—Hera, Athena and Aphrodite—to bicker over who deserved it and thus launching the ten-year Trojan War. Eris is present in presidential debates, in court rooms and wherever people are talking not to discover truth but to win.

Socrates’s alternative was “good” conversation or dialectic. To converse originally meant to turn towards one another, in order to find a common humanity and to move closer to the truth of something. Dialectic, in other words, is decidedly not about winning or losing, because all the conversants are ennobled by it.

Casuistry is the ability to deny everything, say anything and flip any position.

The point of the new rhetoric isn’t so much argument as abuse.

Science is a badge of our sophistication, while all other sources are a reminder of our primitivism.

French scientist Alexis Clairaut wrote in 1727, ‘a truth that is glimpsed’ must be verified by ‘a truth that is demonstrated’, This needs an empirical, rigorous and scrupulous process of discovery, sound inferences, valid assumptions and disciplined logic. Dr Samuel Johnson cautioned that “power is insufficient evidence of truth”.That conscious objectivity, through empirical methods, reveals the true nature of reality, offering us the means by which we can distinguish between reliable and unreliable evidence and assertions.

The forensic principle has everything to do with the discovery of accurate and validated information. The credibility of the exponent based on its ability to distinguish between fact and fiction by testing conflicting evidence.

The discipline of interpretation is to discriminate between contesting claims. The strength of all claims is measured by robust, independent and material evidence. Dishonest interpretations are characterized by tendentious interpretation and inadequate evidence. Decision makers have discretionary prerogatives to select the evidence and salience the respective weight. If this is done genuinely, the final conclusions will be accepted. Where the evaluation is questionable, doubt, credibility and trust becomes eroded.

“I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that’s important,” he told me. “But it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas. A contest of ideas shouldn’t be used to legitimize disinformation. And I think it’s often taken advantage of. And I think at great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt — not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will. James Murdoch

Professor Brian Cox, believes the humility is the highest virtue required in good science.

Identify the people with blustering certitude and don’t believe them, Science is not a collection of absolute truths. Scientists are delighted when we are wrong because it means we have learnt something."

Four main weapons of false arguments: “First, it unleashes a torrent of attacks contesting even of the tiniest points, so as to wipe the critic’s original point from everyone’s mind; second, it attacks the critic personally and pitilessly; third — somewhat paradoxically — it ignores the critic; and fourth, when all else fails, it simply continues asserting something as true as if no one has ever shown it was false.”

Once powerful people have made up their minds on something, it develops a momentum of its own that is almost impervious to facts, reason or argument

Only during the present century have the proper interpretive tools become available through the development of such disciplines as anthropology, archeology, and cultural history.

Decisions need to be for the many; not the few.

AD HOMININ ARGUMENTS Also known variously as poisoning the well, mudslinging, attacking the person rather than the argument – playing the man not the ball…., it is a classic ploy in debating contests.

It is one of the oldest tricks in the book for winning arguments – already clearly identified, labelled and widely discredited from Greek and Roman times.

The point of rhetoric isn’t so much argument as abuse. Understandably, it is the only trick in Trump’s play book.

A more earthy analogy; it employs the caged-monkey technique of punditry, simply flinging faeces at opponents until something sticks. (apologies to Jeff Sparrow –

Finding dark motives is the stock-in-trade of advocates attempting to smear their adversaries. It’s easy work. Slamming your opponent’s with relentlessly negative motives means you don’t have to grapple with facts; you don’t have to answer arguments; you don’t have to do any home work; and you can’t be disproved. In this environment, those taking a contrary (or even a more nuanced) view quickly become “damaged goods”, reputations are undermined and the information that informs judicial understanding diminished. It becomes one of the clearest indicators that rather than being a disinterested arbiter, the advocator is an engaged participant in the arguments.

Bernard Keane There’s something deeply wrong with Australian discourse - “The level of debate in Australia has been falling in recent years. Trump accelerated it, plumbed new depths for what it was permissible to say in what passed for civilised democratic discourse. But it was falling before him. That first became clear under Julia Gillard, who was subjected to a hateful barrage of misogynist abuse. But it’s got worse since then.”

Sagacious investigators realise showing acute mental discernment and keen practical sense, comes only with curiosity. Socrates, that sagacious Greek philosopher, believed that the easiest way to learn was by asking questions. Or Alice, when scolded for asking too many questions, replies: “No I won’t; the more curious I am, the more I learn”.