“Losing” An Argument

When you think about it, talking about arguments in terms of winning and losing doesn’t actually make much sense.

Think about it; assuming that the argument is based exclusively upon facts and logic (which is usually a pretty big assumption, but let’s consider the ideal case), then if you are unable to defend your belief, it’s probably because it’s false. In short, if you are unable to defend a position through facts and logic, then you had no business believing it in the first place. By ‘losing’ the argument, what have you actually ‘lost?’ Nothing. In fact, ideally, you have gained a more accurate picture of the world around you. This, in fact, is the very essence of the ruthless logic of the Scientific Method.

Talking about winning and losing does nothing more than turn the focus of the dispute from what it is actually about (namely, the conflicting positions), and onto the opponents’ egos.  It reflects the unhealthy love that people have for particular ideas and their tendancy to attach emotional weight to impersonal matters.

Is the same sort of terminology used when discussing argumentation in other languages? I honestly have no idea. But I think it would be lovely if we could discuss the relative merits of ideas without having to invest ourselves in them. And from now on, I will try (however unsuccessfully) to recognize when I am wrong and own up to my errors, as well as to avoid humiliating the people I inevitably defeat.

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About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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3 Responses to “Losing” An Argument

  1. Lindsay says:

    My brother once, when we were a lot younger (I don’t remember if we would’ve been children or young teenagers), said something I thought was amazingly reflective of this mentality.

    We were talking about something, I don’t even remember what, and he came out with some total non sequitur that just stopped me entirely, and then he crows out, “I win the conversation!” I found that hilarious.

  2. Alex says:

    Reading this just makes me imagine miscellaneous snippets of Stephen Harper talking gravely about science. “We are a democratic society. And because of that, our science must ALSO be democratic. We cannot transform the scientific community with communist rhetoric.”

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