How To Argue Badly: A Primer

Currently listening to
Wonder What’s Next
By Chevelle

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I’ve been through a great many discussions, debates, and arguments in my life.  I can’t even blame that on all the Philosophy courses I took while getting my first degree, because a large portion of those events did not occur in the classroom.  They occurred either in person or online.

I have made plenty of mistakes during those discussions, debates, and arguments.  I have also observed others making plenty of mistakes during those events, and I would like to share both my mistakes and those of others so that you too can argue really badly.  Or avoid these pitfalls.  Whichever you prefer.

  1. The first step to arguing really badly is to assume the worst about your opponent.  Assume that they have bad intentions, that they are evil and corrupt and only interested in the destruction of all that is good and healthy in this world.  And don’t forget to assume that they hold the most irrational form possible of their viewpoint.  If they seem calm and rational, assure yourself that this is merely a facade and that no one who disagrees with you could possibly have come by their views thoughtfully and honestly.

  2. The second step is to attack your opponent as much as possible while avoiding the real issue that brought on the discussion.  Try to minimize the amount of time you spend talking about the actual problems, and if you do have to talk about them, be completely dismissive of your opponent’s concerns and their intellectual capacity.  Be sure to invalidate any positive sentiments or constructive suggestions they might have.  And don’t forget to frequently mention any poor choices they have made in the past, especially sexual ones.  Make crude remarks about their parentage or physiology when even the slightest opening presents itself.  If no opening presents itself, make the crude remarks at random.  Reassure yourself that the things you have done are not nearly as bad as anything your opponent has done.

  3. The third step is to make wild accusations that compare your opponent to groups or individuals that almost everyone disagrees with or dislikes and to frequently mention your associations with groups or individuals that almost everyone agrees with or likes.  And don’t forget to suggest, with of course the utmost humility and genuine concern, that their views are harmful to groups to which most people have a strong emotional attachment or groups which have a protected status in your society.  Make sure to utilize terms with the most strongly negative connotation whenever you mention your opponent’s views and associate your opponent’s views with highly controversial and divisive phrases or slogans.  Reassure yourself that you have the moral high ground.

  4. The fourth step is to demonstrate the irrationality of your opponent’s positions by showing that they lead to all sorts of terrible consequences, and be sure to mention consequences that could not possibly be predicted based on any of the real evidence.  It is far more effective to make predictions that cannot possibly be verified and appeal to the prejudices of your audience than to bring up consequences that are testable.  And don’t forget to mention that your views would bring about the best possible consequences with little to no cost, and make sure that those positive consequences are equally unverified and untestable.  Reassure yourself that you have a truly oracular vision.

These four steps should be enough to make a complete waste of time out of any discussion, but if you feel that you need more in-depth assistance, feel free to let me know and I can dispense personalized advice on how to argue badly in any situation.

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7 Responses to How To Argue Badly: A Primer

  1. Jenny_Wren says:

    Ha..I’ve done a few of those. :/ Good post.

  2. QuantumStorm says:

    I was thinking of writing a post on men’s rights and paternity, and this post describes many of the typical reactions I would get when I argued about it in the past. Nice job!

  3. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Jenny_Wren – I think we all have.    They’re very human things to do, unfortunately.@QuantumStorm – I’m sure it does, especially given that topic.  And you could look at it as a description of typical political discourse.  These sorts of things pop up in sectarian religious discourse as well.  Or day-to-day arguments with family.  I tried to distill argumentation down to a pretty basic level, so it applies very broadly.

  4. bagert says:

    So you’re saying, don’t act like a typical politician during an election cycle 🙂

  5. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @bagert – That’s a great way of putting it! 

  6. quest4god says:

      Good post!   Things to keep in mind when listening to political “debates.”

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