When not to Argue,
Sometimes it’s just fucking pointless.
This is a big thing. Which is why I’m shoe-horning it in before a long discussion about fallacies.
In pt I of this series I made mention of when argument is warranted and necessary. But even a cursory glance at popular public discourse will show that it is equally, if not more important, to know when not to argue.
My basic rule is: try not to argue about dumb shit.
Dumb shit, in this arena, mainly consists of opinion and preference.
Here’s why: opinion, preference don’t really affect the course of our collective lives. If you can take it or leave it, as you choose, then it doesn’t really call for argument.
Logic need not get involved.
In those instances, where you just want to persuade someone else, reason isn’t required. Logic can sometimes aid in persuasion, but, if you’re watching the world we live in, you’ll have noticed it usually doesn’t enter into it. Shows you how easily we’re persuaded.
Emotion usually does much of the heavy lifting in persuading us to think one way or another.
(Yet another reason I cackle when some pundit makes pronouncements about society based on the assumption that we are motivated by reason. That’s a motherfucker who is out of touch with reality. Best to give them non-toxic crayons and keep them away from open flames.)
The problem with Emotion doing our deciding for us is that emotion is ephemeral and easily swayed. And we, as creatures of emotion, are likewise easily swayed. So much so that we can make catastrophic errors when we base our decisions solely on emotion.
The point of arguing with Logic is that it removes the bias emotion can interject into a discussion.
People can be emotionally persuaded of almost anything.
Go up in a sufficiently tall building, and you will see the curvature of the Earth. And yet, there remain citizens – many of whom are still legally allowed to vote and carry firearms – who staunchly believe the Earth is flat.
Want to believe something bad enough, and you will.
Logic and Reason end run around that.
The whole point is to flense away the things that don’t meet the standard of reason so that we may get closer to the truth.
So, when it comes to discussions of a purely subjective matter, argument isn’t the tool you’re looking for. Learn how to construct a sales pitch. That’ll get you more distance in that race.
There is another time where it’s just fucking pointless to argue with someone:
When the other party has no respect for the discussion or the members involved.
You don’t argue civil rights with a white supremacist. They neither believe in them or that you have the right to have them. In this, they are not good faith members of the discussion. You wouldn’t listen to the Nazi side of the argument about the formation of a Jewish state. And you don’t argue women’s rights with and avowed misogynist. It’s a fruitless exercise, and your opponent doesn’t believe you have the right to exist anyway, so fuck ‘em.
(The way to deal with these types, in a democracy, is to outnumber, outvote, and outlast them.)
So, let’s recap:
It’s just fucking pointless to argue when:
a) Your opponent is not a good faith member of the discussion.
b) It is a matter of subjective concern. (Persuasion, personal preference, etc…)
Logic is meant to help us find objective truths. Use it for pretty much anything but that, and you’re wasting your fucking time.
And let’s face it, you really don’t have time to waste, do you?
Until next time, where we’ll try to dig into logical fallacies, or at least the ones that show up over and over and fucking over again in our culture…