“The Highest Form of Disagreement. The best way to argue is to take on your opponents’ strongest arguments, not their...

“The Highest Form of Disagreement. The best way to argue is to take on your opponents’ strongest arguments, not their weakest ones.” A refreshing reminder of the value of the philosophical virtues in public discourse.

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  • See also [Rapaport’s Rules.](https://www.joneshistory.net/rubrics/debate/rappaport's%20rules%20argumentation.pdf)

    >You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

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  • I think public discourse has gone – and, you could argue, has always *been* – so far down the rabbit hole of disputing observable facts that this advice becomes orthogonal to ordinary best practices.

    It’s one thing to confront the best version of your opponent’s argument based on the facts. It’s quite another to begin implicitly conceding to different facts – *even if* you only meant to do it hypothetically.

    On a distinct note, it’s also important to recognize that “strawmanning” has been cynically co-opted just like every other concept and associated term. I’d venture that its most common usage these days is as a means to reflexively dismiss a *reducto ad absurdum* by gambling on the audience’s ignorance and stupidity (or, even more cynically, their tendency to already have had their minds made up.)

  • I think a large part of disagreement is because people don’t realize that most ideas can only be objectively rated by scoring them by a metric. People will argue for hours about which idea is better without realizing they should be discussing the correct metric to score the ideas. Basically people aren’t privy to the underlying source of their disagreements

  • I’m tiring of arguing online, mostly because people just stop and leave the argument hanging when they get blocked. It’s much harder to do that face to face when even just body language can create tension and momentum for continuation.

    Maybe it’s just me but I like to either win or lose my arguments and not just drop them. Someone always learns something that way.

  • In general it is a good idea to assume other humans are just as smart if not smarter than you. Their ideas and thoughts are not drug induced ramblings. Treat other humans ideas with the same respect you want them to treat yours. Most people are ignorant, not stupid, it’s important to remember the difference.

    If someone disagrees with you it’s either because they have different values or different information and it is important to figure out which one. If you have different values then there is nothing that can be done, it is very difficult to change someone’s base values.

    If you find that the person has different information then you must deduce which set of information is more in line with the truth and must debunk bad information and cement good information.

    It’s not very often that someone’s opinion will change during a debate because the ego is very powerful. But with this method you can at least chip away at ignorance.

  • It’s hard when your opponent can just say fake news and never bat an eye

  • This is great in theory, but it relies on me evaluating which of my opponent’s arguments are weak and which are strong. Based on recent experience, I have no confidence that I can do this.

    There’s a difference between a strong argument and an important argument. People take action — vote, for instance — based on arguments that I think are absurd. If I tried to empathize, and restructure their argument into what I think is its strongest form, the odds of me succeeding are minuscule.

    Much of public discourse is part of a larger narrative, often a composite of stupid arguments. The stupid arguments are evidence for the stronger, and you waste your time mired in stupidity if you choose to wade into the argument at all.

  • [We covered this in this same sub today, did we not?](https://redd.it/6k68hi)

    Might be worth the redundancy, though.

  • >And I want more Americans who demand these kinds of debates for the sake of our democracy.

    What if I believe democracy is a terrible way to organize a society?

  • Sometimes, thinking about taking on my opponent’s best argument gives me anxiety. You know that nervous feeling you get down in your gut? There are times when I know I’m reading (or hearing) something that I know is well-articulated and coherent and it kind of makes me want to stop reading.

    And I don’t want to stop because the other person is so wrong that it is upsetting, but because I fear part of me might actually be converted. *I might be convinced myself*. And, at that moment, it is so tempting to just find some pedantic quibble or make some snarky remark to avoid engaging with it.

    At that point, if you truly believe in what you’re arguing, that’s the moment you have to find the will to really make an effort to understand the other point of view and counter it at its best. It’s like a tree needing wind to grow stronger; your argument needs stiff resistance to be its best.

  • I wish I could tell literally every online forum this.

  • Really getting tired of ad hominems

  • I doubt it. People are trained to believe that even if someone argued a superior argument, that just makes them a dick and you more right.

  • Just like the last battle in 8-mile.

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  • I prefer [Daniel Dennett’s Rules for Argument](https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/03/28/daniel-dennett-rapoport-rules-criticism/)

    * You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

    * You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

    * You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

    * Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

  • We should also revive the position that once someone starts using personal attacks, they’ve lost the debate.

  • But what if their strongest argument is against your own weakest argument?

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  • This assumes that people don’t simple talk past each other.

    Define liberty:

    To a progressive it is the freedom from a want or need. A “positive freedom”.

    To a conservative it is the freedom to practice the traditional values of society. A semi “positive freedom”.

    To a liberal (classical sense) or libertarian it is the freedom from coercion. A “normative” freedom.

    So in a conversation, even if each person thinks they are attacking the strongest side they are simple talking past each other. I am not sure we gain anything from attacking at all. The problem to me, and I am on the internet yelling into the void, is that we have fundamental differences on how we view the world. And regardless of which argument you attack the other side will view it as a straw man.

    PS I don’t mean to imply that these are the only three view points or definitions on liberty. I use these to illustrate how the definition of the word is so different depending on the view point of one another, and I apologise for any offence caused though none was intended.

  • When it comes to people disagreeing with “Paleo” or “low carb” eating… it’s like I want to believe you, but you cherry pick the weakest arguments from the start and then I have to dismiss you for being lazy.

  • “Best” is pretty subjective. Best way to achieve what? Perhaps it’s the best way to get to the truth, or the best way strive for enlightment.

    It may not be the best way to accrue power in politics or win court battles.

  • I’m gonna try this. I’m not always right but I try not to speak on a topic I’m not confident about. So if I find myself in an argument I’ll try “Well, what’s your strongest argument on this?” Or however it applies. The good news is I imagine they’ll stop and think for a moment before continuing the same argument. To which I’ll have some smart answer like “then were done here, I’ve already told you that’s wrong”.

    Well, this sounds like r/iamverysmart, but tough titties.

  • 1. Don’t argue with idiots because they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience. —Greg King
    1. Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. —Mark Twain
    1. Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. —Proverbs 26:4 (King James version)

  • ‘Steelmaning’ is the colloquial term I’ve heard. As opposed to strawmaning.

  • Steel man instead of Straw man

  • Or just respond with “*You’re.”

  • Exactly! Educate yourself. Don’t look up arguemebts for your point all the time. Spend some time looking up information from your opponent’s viewpoint. Google some of their shit. See if you can form a good case against what you find. Education and knowledge are out greatest tools, and oftentimes a click away 🙂

  • Not when they throw a Gish Gallop at you. Pick apart their argument from the bottom.

  • You win when you find a better answer than you had when you started.

  • Paging Evergreen State students…

  • If there’s one thing dark souls taught me it’s take out the little guys BEFORE the big boss.

    Or you’ll be outta estus and they’ll jump on you after 🙁

  • It is called not being a dick.

  • The best way to take on your opponents’ strongest arguments is with a crowbar.

  • Or in this sub, just delete everything they say?

  • Discourse is only valuable assuming both sides are rational. It’s no surprise that public discourse exists around the most emotionally stimulating issues. These are the issues for which people lose their sanity and draw conclusions based on their emotions, such ad sympathy, jealousy, or fear.

  • Ah, but how can you tell the strength of an argument without attempting to refute it?

  • Yes, that is much better than going into your safe space.

  • This is ridiculous.

    If you’re engaged in discourse for the purpose of convincing someone, you take on your opponents arguments as they exist. They’re not going to be impressed because you declared ex ante that their actual opinions were too stupid for words, so you’d like to discuss better ones they ought to hold instead.

    If your goal is to figure out if the position you currently hold is true, then you don’t even need to “take on your opponents arguments,” you need to investigate the subject matter. Fun fact! Your opponent’s arguments, even the best ones, can be idiotic… and you can still be wrong. Refuting a series of arguments for a proposition does not prove the proposition’s negation. Philosophers should know that.

    This “steelmanning” crap from Scott Alexander is and has always been terrible. The fallacy of straw man arguments isn’t that you’re cheating at Ye Olde Gentelman’s Rules of Civilized Discourse. Its that you can’t say you’ve defeated one argument when you’ve constructed something else and attacked it instead.

    But any “steelmanning” that doesn’t result in you changing your mind halfway through the process… is still doing that!

    Philosophical virtues in public discourse. Pfah. If your “philosophical virtues” involve inventing new arguments, claiming that they’re better than your opponents actual arguments, attacking them, showing them to be false (how is one false argument “better” than another? does symbolic logic have some new symbol I’m unaware of? True, false, and almost as false but still false actually? What’s that look like, the “meh” emoji?), then declaring that you’ve defended your position or worse that you’ve attacked your “opponents” position, you aren’t a very good philosopher because you stumbled way back at the starting gate where you confused attacking a positive argument for a claim with making a case for its negation.

  • The highest form of disagreement is taking on all the arguments.

  • No the best way to argue is to correct their grammar.

    Or you go through their post history and address another comment completely unrelated.

    Haven’t you guys been on reddit?

  • Attacking an opponent’s figurative and literal weaknesses is seen as the easiest road to victory. It is relatively effortless and effective. However, attacking their strengths delivers resounding results whose effects are better, longer-lasting, and more satisfying.

  • Or you could just discredit and demonize anybody who opposes you on a platform that promotes echo chambers like most would


  • What is public discourse? Let me watch reality TV now! Say whatever you want you say in 140 characters.
    Sadly the current environment we live in.

  • Sometimes a person’s core principles are 180 degrees out of phase with another person’s core principles. I’m not sure it’s worth arguing or debating.

    If one person thinks life begins at conception and the other person believes it begins when the umbilical cord is cut, there really isn’t much value in arguing anymore. It’s a belief.

  • What’s the Chinese guy with the gigantic spool of metal supposed to represent?

  • When debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.

  • What if you agree with their strong points?

  • Invest in the right answer. Invest in proving what is true and what is false.

  • Known for ten years.

  • Take on the most robust feminist argument and really challenge yourself.

  • Or. Take the post modernist route… no public discourse at all!

  • Thats why religion is my fav topic at the functions

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