Winning the Battle

I am often told that I am impossible to argue with. Depending on the person, this might surprise me and prompt me to question why. When I do, the answer is usually something like,
“You are stubborn and rude. When discussing with you, things get emotional and heated really quickly, with very little respect to the other person’s opinion.”
I have yet to be given an actual example.

The thing is, you see, I don’t usually get emotional in a rational discussion. When I feel insulted or belittled I might react out of proportion, but when it concerns a simple clash of opinion, I really don’t feel like I get very emotional, although I tend to raise my voice a little when getting excited.
Frankly, I think I already know why I am so difficult to persuade. Often, someone will drop their opinion on my plate, founded on their life experiences, deeply felt emotions and carefully reached conclusions. It might concern some moral principle, a personal habit or whatever, and comes straight from the heart.
And I sit there and dissect their phrasing a little, and pick out the first logical fallacy I see. “This is why your argument is invalid, and your opinion is wrong.”
Case closed unless they can bring a different, valid reasoning.

Logical fallacies: They’re a thing. One of my favorite things, as a matter of fact. I like to wander specialized websites and discover what mistakes people tend to make in their theories big and small, and test my own convictions against them. It’s fascinating, but also humbling: More than once you might find a tiny article that basically goes, “You know that thing you believe so deeply in, on life and love and everything in between? Well it’s flawed, and you’re wrong. Better luck next time.”
And what’s worse, you can’t deny that they have a damn good point.

That humbling is not what people want to run into when they’re trying to convince you of their vision. When you sweep their opinion off the table with a shrug, they get emotional, understandably so. But I don’t care and I show it, so then I’m the asshole who is being stubborn and turns a normal discussion into a personal shooting range.
But come the fuck on, when I see people basing important decisions on personal emotion, or support some cause or other because of flawed reasons, am I really supposed to follow them into that train of thought and argue within? Things like “well others do it so I can do it, too” or “he’s a dick so what he says is wrong”, you’d be amazed how many times they come up in people’s arguments, including your (and my) own. I feel like encouraging others to follow that train of thought would be unfair, not only because it drowns out the voices of those who have a valid argument, but also because you’d block any personal development within a reality that actually makes sense.

So yeah, I discard opinions that I don’t feel follow the rules of reasoning. If you can’t get that part right, how do you ever hope to reach a conclusion that is actually right? And while you certainly are entitled to have your own opinion, that doesn’t mean it makes actual sense, and we should welcome its arrival with little flags.
There’s a number of rules that I strongly try to stick by, and expect others to.
-Don’t attack the other person. Calling them an idiot automatically loses you the conversation, and gives them the right to introduce you to the hand.
-Accept logical fallacy as a counter-argument to yours. Not easy, I know.
-Ditch your ego. The point of a discussion is to reach the truth, not to make the other person “see” that you are right.
-Don’t change the subject. Stick to the point, even if you feel cornered.
-You are allowed to call for a time-out so you can collect your thoughts and facts, and continue on the subject some other time.
-When push comes to shove, an opinion is usually wrong or right. You are entitled to it either way and often it’s impossible to determine its validity, but that doesn’t mean that just because your opinion exists, it is true.

And that, oh simple one, is how you win the battle and lose the war.

It should be mentioned that there are 3 relevant versions of reality, as far as I know: I like to adhere to the logical one, but there is also the social truth and the moral truth. The latter 2 might commit logical fallacies but should still be taken into consideration because they are what society runs on. Oftentimes, a discussion escalates because both parties draw from a different set of truths and can’t comprehend that the other is denying such irrefutable facts, while the other side of the table feels the same.
The emotional truth is not relevant. No matter how strongly you feel about something, and no matter how many feel the same way, you and everyone else can stick those pretty emotions where it hurts the most depending on their size. If I might seem insensitive discussing your personal feelings, it’s because they have no place in the conversation and instead of trying to make others accept them, you should suck them up.

The logical truth is the only truth that will still be here long after you and I and everyone else is dead. We, the world, the universe is based on mathematical principles and in order to discover them, even our own man-made constructs, we at least have to get our reasoning straight. We’ll be running around in circles if we don’t. Every logical fallacy overcome, helps us move forward as a species. If that means I have to be a dick, that’s just a sacrifice I’ll have to make. I’m pretty good at it, anyway.

The story continues here:
Not only is it a bite-sized and interesting read, you’ll be a different person when you’re done.

2 responses

  1. The Other Dieter

    It took me quite a while to figure all this out, you’re way ahead of me.

    Although I don’t agree 100% about your dissing of the emotional truth.

    I used to be a hyper-rational person, but that didn’t go so well.
    Then after a long deep trip through the doors of perception I was confronted with this thing, then still unknown to me: my subconsciousness.
    During this trip this subconsciousness was the only thing that was still functioning, and every subject I visited caused a strong emotional reaction, which then put some things in a better perspective for me.

    After that experience I’ve tapped into this new resource quite a bit, and it has worked out very well for me.

    Since then, many times I feel that I know instinctively what decision I should take based on my emotional, subconscious feelings. Often this is also the most logical choice.
    However, there are also occasions where I feel that a certain choice is the right one, but I am not immediatly able to translate this into a reasoning or build a logical motivation for those feelings and the associated choice.

    Sometimes it can take a few days for me to understand why I feel a certain way about something, and why I feel I need to take a certain decision this way or that way.
    Most of the times I figure it out and can translate my feeling into a logical reasoning eventually. The feeling is, as far as I remember, always right, I just can’t always immediatly explain why.

    Bottom line: don’t discard your/others gut feeling / subconsciousness / instincts by default.
    It’s a more powerful thing than you might realize.

    (This is probably the most spiritual thing you’ll ever read from me, for the rest I’m a pretty down-to-earth guy. IT and sciences and stuff…)

    (Based on personal experience. Results achieved in the past are no guarantee for the future.)

    BTW let me know if you hang out in a pub sometimes, this is superb discussion material for over a beer. I’m buying!

    25 November 2014 at 23:50

    • Wow, thanks for that input.

      I agree that some decisions should be made in favor of a gut feeling or emotion, you’re right in that I didn’t mention that. But those emotions should be taken into account with all other factors when making a decision, not be the only reason why you do a thing.

      But going with a feeling and adding an explanation later is a dangerous way to approach a problem, since we humans tend to rationalize terrible things we did based on emotion, effectively silencing our conscience after the damage is done. It opens us to outside influence, especially from those who know how to manipulate emotion.

      But yes, some decisions will make us happier when we go for the one that ‘feels’ right rather than the one that makes sense. We just have to beware that that happiness doesn’t come at the cost of others’.

      I’ll pick you up on that offer. I don’t drink beer but you’re still buying ;)

      26 November 2014 at 00:16

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.