Should the purpose of argument ultimately be to reach an agreement? | INFJ Forum

Should the purpose of argument ultimately be to reach an agreement?

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Gaze, Dec 5, 2014.

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  1. Gaze

    Gaze My word . . . hmm
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    Should the purpose of argument ultimately be to reach an agreement? Why or why not?
     
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  2. muir

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    It should be about digging to the core of the issue in search of the truth

    One or more party in the argument might decide not to embrace the truth even if it is uncovered and agreement might not be reached but others involved or listening to the argument might still gain greater understanding through the process

    So....the pursuit of TRUTH
     
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  3. Lark

    Lark Rothchildian Agent

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    I read this thread on another forum. It was better when it was done there.
     
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  4. ZenCat

    ZenCat Waving Sage

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    I have trouble finding purposefulness in "argument".

    I think that arguments are one possible mutation of discussion. My dislike of conflict is in conflict (heh) with my enthusiasm for investigating, assimilating and sharing information that is of interest to me, which historically has often resulted in debate, which often devolves into argument. My desire - when a discussion turns into debate and then into an argument - is that the arguer and I will at least find some common ground to agree upon. I really like when that happens.

    But generally it seems to me that more often the most common purpose of an argument is to win. Which is why I've forsworn political and religious discussion.
     
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  5. Delta

    Delta Community Member

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    I was never taught how to debate and tend to find the process boring. I have this thing where I don't waste time and see a lot of debating as just that because agreements are so rare.

    I suppose the crux of matters (for me) is that philosophically, a pure science view of things having stable outcomes just doesn't translate in real life. I can gain more insight from a look or touch than from debating/arguing and gain no joy in any view if there is not a win-win outcome.

    Typically I don't get involved in debating as by and large people can begin with a position that they are right, which is always preposterous in my mind. I think the world has been lead astray by taking this stance and I feel a sensation likened to drowning if I have to participate in such nonsense; societies 'winners' typically are arseholes and I can't ignore this, even if they are classed as winners

    As such I rarely get angry or argue. My husband and I have had 2 arguments and I strictly do not argue with my children. I prefer to leave people to their own development and don't feel I have the right to ultimately lead anyone. Intrinsically I guess I expect people to quite simply know x
     
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  6. Lark

    Lark Rothchildian Agent

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    I tend to think that there's dialogue, then discussion and then that degenerates through a number of stages like debate and dispute to argument, each stage is less useful if the goal is truth, or a shared understanding which is a fair secondary objective were no mutually regarded truth or consensus can be reached.

    The reason I think they are less and less useful is because emoting and psychological defensiveness plays the greater part with each stage of this degeneration.

    Edmund Burke said that people should be grateful for their antagonists because they engage them in a sort of mental wrestling match and compell them to make better arguments and refine their arguments, forcing the close examination of their thinking that maybe they have not personally engaged in (bare in mind that Burke also thought that gut instinct or prejudice was a sounder basis for judgement than reason, like a lot of conservatives, who later did juxtaposition abstract and practical reasoning).

    JS Mill liked debate societies and public discussions for what appears to be similar motives, although he was a fan of reasoning and rationalism rather than prejudice, he described Burke as a one eyed man and said that in the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man was king (a one eyed man is supposedly a myopic individual, its similar to a single minded man or one idea man).

    In contrast to these sorts of thinkers who felt there was a role for managed and civil conflict, differences of opinion being good things for different purposes (better to prove yourself correct, better to pursue truth), Hitler hated debating societies and the atmosphere they generated, he hated conflict and wanted to end it once and for all with only a single prevailing opinion allowed. I tend to believe that both left and right are hankering after the outcome which Hitler thought was desirable rather than either Mill or Burke at this point.

    Try and discuss mixed economies or financial regulation with a libertarian or the dominance of heterosexuality with a liberal and see what I mean.
     
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  7. La Sagna

    La Sagna Trying to become a butterfly

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  8. OP
    Gaze

    Gaze My word . . . hmm
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    I think it's true that in most cases the ideal would be to at least achieve common ground which may not mean agreement but a general understanding or something which allows each person to feel understood. The ultimate ideal would be to gain knowledge that brings us closer to truth, but as you've noted, too often arguments become more about winning which means who can assert more power, control, or dominance. It's about who can make an argument that is likely to achieve the most consent and acceptance despite validity or truth.

    People have positions or perspectives they hold and feel strongly about. They may feel they have good reasons for holding these views and so they won't question the validity of belief or the reasoning used to justify it. Most people consider themselves intelligent enough to make good judgments so they will feel their judgments are reasonable, fair, and correct. It's usually in debate that those assumptions are challenged.

    So, if they go in assuming they are right, is it really wrong of them to so . . . if they are actually right? Isn't it more the reason for entering the discussion that matters more? For example, if I think I am right, but someone presents a counter view to challenge my beliefs, then I can choose to resist, question, challenge, consider, and possibly accept this new perspective. But is acceptance of another point of view the only fair goal?

    In other words, doesn't everyone entering a debate believe they are right? Isn't that a good starting point for raising the question, "am I in fact right about how I think about this issue?" It seems that's what makes debate fun for many, is that feeling of looking forward to someone try to prove them wrong and see what they can use to combat those person's ideas, hopefully learning something in the process. Maybe the issue is more that believing you're right means no one should challenge you, maybe that's the attitude that's a turn off to many.
     
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  9. Dave Fallon

    Dave Fallon Community Member

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    I agree with [MENTION=273]ZenCat[/MENTION] about "argument" being one of many forms of discussion, or maybe it is one of many descriptions of what a discussion was after-the-fact.

    In college, I took a great course called Rhetoric and the Theory of Argument. On the first day, the instructor suggested that we should see argument as clearly different from "debate" or a "fight", and that the purpose should always be to find the greater truth for yourself, not necessarily to convince the other person.

    I can't tell you how much that advice served me in life. SO many times I am certain of my point of view, but I simply cannot explain it in a way that others understand, so I always need to reassess if I am learning anything from the discussion or if it is dissolving into a fight. If I'm no longer learning (ie, what seems to happen very often is those I'm arguing with simply keep repeating the exact same argument in different ways, ignoring my attempts to show them how they are wrong), then I try to drop it. There's no more reason to waste breath.
     
  10. Delta

    Delta Community Member

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    I would assert that there are positions based entirely on peer views which become dressed as the individuals position. There is a position of insight which goes beyond this and to this I bow. Pretty much that is my division. Being right in one's own eyes, or worse - persons of no substance is to me a form of death.
     
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  11. Dave Fallon

    Dave Fallon Community Member

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  12. ZenCat

    ZenCat Waving Sage

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    I like this very much. Whether we think it should be or not, I believe truth is subjective. So teaching ourselves to reassess our personal truths on a regular basis - especially if we find ourselves in an agitated state defending them - strikes me as a valuable skill.
     
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  13. OP
    Gaze

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    But aren't most people naturally defensive if they see that the intention is to prove them wrong? They're likely going to see that as a challenge to something they value dearly and see questioning as a lack of respect or understanding of how they feel. If the nature of argument wasn't simply about trying to convince the other person they were wrong, more people would likely be willing to consider another point of view. When people feel as if a speaker's goal is to convince them they are wrong, they may view it as arrogant and perceive the exercise as imbalanced, meaning each party's opinion is not being valued the same, and so they may feel they're not engaging on an equal plain. They may feel the speaker is focused more on getting someone to agree that they are naturally more right, showing an air of superiority. When people assert a belief however true it may be as a superior position, people tend to become defensive and perceive the persuader's approach slightly more negatively because they feel the right to hold a particular position as valid is being challenged. They may also feel the speaker is simply being patronizing in their effort to correct them. In this case, an approach similar to the Socratic method may be prove more effective at getting them to see a different side. But out rightly, telling someone they are wrong usually backfires. I think this relates to the psychology of persuasion, especially motivation.
     
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  14. bionic

    bionic sexy coconut
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    No. It would make life boring and would make people sissy liberalists.

    I enjoy arguing and debating. You really get to understand the true essence of a person when you see them enraged or even level-headed during a debate. How you handle yourself in a conflict, especially at your worst, speaks volumes about your character. I just chose to use debating and arguing as a means to weed out the weak from the capable.
     
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  15. Dave Fallon

    Dave Fallon Community Member

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    Oh, true. I guess I was thinking what argument "should" be thought of, not is thought of. Good point.

    But then, an "argument" (hehe) could be made that what you describe is actually an aspect of human nature outside of what an argument is really there for. If a person is defensive when challenged, they will exhibit that behavior in a lot of different interactions, like road rage, angry blog posts, anonymous hate comments, etc. It's not the argument; it's the arguer.

    And I think, if a person is being authentic with themselves, they will resist the urge to get defensive. Unfortunately, not many are like that, and those who are can't be like that all the time... One way to help get more authentic is to lose an argument a bunch. Like that speaker in the TED talk that [MENTION=9809]La Sagna[/MENTION] posted, losing an argument is actually the best of outcomes, at least from a personal perspective. Get your ego crushed a few times, and you get less sensitive to it when someone else proves you wrong yet again...

    OH! And bonus points on the Socratic method. Though, I think nowadays people have ways of resisting that if they want to, but it is a great place to start!
     
    #15 Dave Fallon, Dec 6, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2014
  16. OP
    Gaze

    Gaze My word . . . hmm
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    I think my argument (no pun intended :D) was that if you're going to make a argument worth considering, you have to consider your audience. You can't exactly ignore how they respond to it. The way an argument is made is just as important as whether or not it's true or valid. This is the problem is assuming that arguments are simply about challenging someone and trying to convince them they are wrong. It's not going to be effective if it doesn't consider how the listener thinks or feels. It's exactly what rhetoric is about, find the available means of persuasion that is likely to convince listeners to be more receptive. Being a good arguer or persuasive speaker is as much about knowing your audience as it is making statements that say what you believe or think is true. It's not simply enough to disregard the person as being bull headed or ignorant or not seeing reason. If the goal is to let them understand why a position, not necessarily them, is unreasonable, then there's a better chance they'll be open to the message. Simply saying, "well, this is the truth, take it or leave it" is not always effective. But if the point is to fight to prove that "I am right and you are wrong" then true truth-seeking can't take place because it presumes that the only truth is one based in one person's view of the issue, and cannot consider the other person's resistance. So, simply blaming the arguer for not seeing truth is not going to effective if in the end the believer is responsible for convincing them of the truth. Then, it comes down to strategy, not just "here's the facts or reality, take it or leave it." Someone assuming that the fault is in the person who does not want to accept truth may miss not realizing that the problem lies with their approach, not the person reluctantly listening.
     
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    #16 Gaze, Dec 6, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2014
  17. ZenCat

    ZenCat Waving Sage

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    ^This. Exactly.
     
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  18. muir

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    if you're online you don't know who your audience is. In fact you could post something, leave and never come back and years from that point someone could discover your post and read it

    Right now you could be speaking to people in the distant future

    So it's difficult to guage the effect you are having

    How do you know its not being effective?

    I see peoples perception as a screen in front of their eyes. That screen is their currenct perception of reality which has been placed there by their societal conditioning.

    If you try to convince them of a different perception of reality they are unlikely to abondon their perception unless they are already dissolusioned with it and are willing to discard it

    But by placing a piece of information in their mind that undermines their current perception of reality you have put a little crack or micro-fissure in their perception screen

    They will then go away and somewhere down the line they will get a new bit of information that challenges their currently held perception of reality and that will then increase the crack you put in. At some point eventually the information that undermines their current perception becomes too overwhelming to ignore and their perception shatters and then they can see further (at least as far as the next layer of societal conditioning)

    So you don't need to convince someone of something everytime you argue with them...not if your aim is to move people closer to the truth

    All you have to do is plant seeds..some will take and grow and others will lie dormant

    Have you ever watched a horse whisperer at work?

    if you look directly at a horse it will not walk towards you...they get unsettled because we have eyes at the front of our heads like predators and horses don't like being looked at by predators

    But if you don't pay the horse any attention...eventually it comes to you

    So you are having a debate with someone and they don't like what you're telling them...they call you an 'ass' and say you're 'crazy', but in the course of the argument you have dropped some informtion into their mind that you know will then take root and grow and you don't take their words personally because you know it was only really their ego defences kicking in as their ego tries to uphold their current perception of reality

    But they go away and they get some more info and that info builds on what you told them; suddenly they're curious. Their interest is peaked...they know there's more to reality than they currently know and although they're sore at you for the argument they had with you they come back because they know you know something and being a human and humans being naturally curious they come back and they speak with you again

    if your aim is to move closer to the truth then you don't care too much about your public image...you don't care if some peope don't like you and call you an ass or crazy just as long as the discussion keeps on that all important road closer to the truth

    Some people have paid heavily to keep the discussion on the road to truth...some have even burned at the stake, so what's catching a little flak in the grand scheme of things?

    And sometimes with time and distance the person stops being sore anyway becase at some point they realise that you weren't being an ass after all and in fact all you were ever doing was telling them the truth

    So things aren't how they always seem.....some people are playing a long game

    The problem people are those that know that you are right but argue with you anyway...they're the blackhearts...the black lodge...they will never be swayed because they have already looked at the dynamics of the situation and understand them and have chosen their side (and they'll stay on that side even though they know it is the side that screws most people over); they will become the INFJ's bitter enemy
     
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    #18 muir, Dec 6, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2014
  19. sprinkles

    sprinkles Well-known member

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    For me the purpose is just to challenge and stir things up. Because often it's like people just want to say their opinions without being challenged like they just want to hear themselves talk or something. Like everybody cares.

    To me it is really selfish and self centered to drop a "this is what I think" and expect it to stay in a pristine bubble completely unchallenged, like they don't want to argue or even discuss but they still want to say stuff. What makes them think anyone wants to hear it?
     
  20. Dave Fallon

    Dave Fallon Community Member

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    Oh, no doubt! There are always those who are good at arguing and those who are not. Good = able to provide fresh insight and rightly challenge your opinions. Bad = unable to give any insight and simply repeating the same argument in different ways. This goes back to what I mentioned about learning anything. My consideration of the audience is whether I think I can learn from them or not.

    Oh, ok. Yes, I agree that it's not just the "what" that you stand for, but "how" you stand for it. This is a personal failing of mine that I'm aware of. As I mentioned, I have trouble expressing my view or formulating "the way an argument is made", especially in face-to-face discourse. Writing it out on forums, though, is much more preferable... ;)

    Um... Hmm... I think you've lost me a little. What do you mean by "effective"? Especially if your point is you don't want to assume that arguments are simply about challenging someone and trying to convince them they are wrong?

    If you mean that you can't argue without listening, then I agree 100%.

    Oh, ok. I think we're crossing the streams as far as what we're talking about. I think you are right that rhetoric is a form of art/science of crafting a persuasive argument, sort of the lawyer talking to the jury. I don't necessarily equate arguing with rhetoric, personally, or a "good arguer" with a "persuasive speaker". So I may be misinterpreting what you mean.

    Again, though, I agree that not considering that audience is one of the greatest sins a rhetorician can make.

    Oh! No no no. I'm sorry you misunderstood what I meant. I guess this is a great example of me not being able to explain myself well...

    I don't really look at an argument as a war, or at least I don't like to. The goal is to get to the truth together, because one perspective can never ever see the complete truth (unless, somehow, you are a god, I guess). I look at an argument maybe as more of a discussion or conversation, but I want to be careful to not give you the impression that I also equate argument with idle chatter. An argument is when various people with various perspectives on a single issue can bring forth those perspectives for examination, dissection, and ultimately challenge to try to find what the truth is together.

    When I say someone is a bad arguer, what I mean is they are not interested in progressing the discussion towards a common goal of finding the truth. Instead, they are interested in "winning the war", and what I've seen most of the time is these people end up falling into a rut where they cannot make new points, they can only re-hash the same point but in different ways, hoping that it is enough to "beat the opposition". I do not claim these people are "pig headed" at all, just that they are not interested in reaching a common goal of truth, only in winning a war that I have no desire to be in. That's all!

    So, what you're really asking is about rhetoric, right? Not how to find the truth, but rather how to persuade someone that your truth is better than theirs. Are you at all worried that in those cases there's a risk you may be disingenuous? In other words, going back to the lawyer talking to the jury, do you worry that you may fall into the trap of "representing a true criminal" just because it is your "job" or "duty" or whatnot, rather than a true belief in what you are saying. And yes, I would agree that having a belief is helpful in rhetoric, but I disagree that it is necessary, as we can see from disingenuous lawyers and politicians over and over.

    I also want to question your concern over "blaming the arguer for not seeing truth". You are assuming, I think, that the argument is a one-way street. Or maybe you're saying that you think that's what I'm assuming? I don't think that, though I do think sometimes rhetoric is a one-way street. Whatever the case, I would never "blame" someone for not seeing the truth, as I myself don't always see it! And I'd hate to think someone would blame me for that; I think we're all in the same boat there... I would, however, blame someone for intentionally avoiding the truth. That's different. I sometimes call it "willful ignorance", or such a deeply held fear of the cognitive dissonance of finding themselves wrong, that they begin to get irrational. Continuing an argument with such people is a waste of precious time and breath (and frustration) in my opinion. I don't blame them for not seeing the truth, I blame them for intentionally trying to avoid it.

    Sorry for the confusion!
     
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