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How to debate with a fool?


Marshalscienceguy
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When I say fool I mean a person who is willing to pull out every dirty, under handed trick in the book to win an argument. Be it demeaning your character, ignoring your argument all together or using band wagon tactics against you. In debating there is a lot of dirty tricks that can be pulled. The reason these type of people do this is because they do not have any faith in what they are trying to feed you or their own ability to argue the point. Some people use intimidation to talk you down regardless of there being any actual substance in the argument they have or not. Thanks to these "Dirty tactics" you often lose your reputation if you are an intelligent debater or not. Despite how factual and well thought out your argument is you will always lose to someone who plays dirty. So how do you defeat a fool while being honest? Even an argument based on faulty information is not as pathetic as someone who is willing to be dishonest to win a debate.

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This is an excellent question. The answer, unfortunately, is not straightforward. As I will explain below, depending on the circumstances, you may not be able to debate at all.

 

Many scientists as well as politicians are asking the themselves the same question. For example, in the climate change debate, it seems that it is much easier to make a biased claim which is not backed up by any scientific research than to explain the actual science (and both sides use this trick). And in politics, the 'populist' politicians win the elections through simple oneliners rather than well-formulated and thought out arguments. So, from this I suggest that the success or failure of such dirty debating tactics depends on the audience (and, in the case of our forum right here, on the moderators as well). Often, this is not something that you can influence.

 

So, choose your debates carefully, and check the situation. If the situation favors the honest debater, you should participate - and as John Cuthber said, you should just point out the flaws in your opponent's arguments. But if the situation favors the dirty tricks, you might consider to use a few dirty tricks yourself, or decline to participate in the first place.

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As sad as it is, sometimes you just have to accept that the cheater will 'win' in some people's eyes. But to minimize that you can point out the flaws by learning common fallacies and tactics, use their falsities against them by making them go deeper and then point out why what they say is wrong, don't be distracted by moving goalposts, and (most importantly) only debate when you are very comfortable with the topic and your ability to convey it.

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i usually enter a topic and look to see if the arguments are constructive are not.

just because you are correct or "win" a particular point about something does not necessarily make a contribution to the solution as a whole.

 

i am often astounded by how being correct can lead you into a circular argument from whenst a thread may never return.

the best way to handle this is to sidestep punitive points in a discussion or "sticky areas" and add a contribution that continues the topic.

there are educated individuals who realize these traps too and once they see that you do you will end up with more intelligent responses.

 

you will also quickly learn who to respond to.

the difference between a simple argument and progress is effective communication.

it is better to be wrong and admit it than to be right and gain nothing at all.

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One type of fool is the one who say his words, looking at you in the eye, with high confidence and harsh tone and adding harsh phrases. If you are a humble guy, chances of winning the argument against aggression are less. You have to be like them, if it is not too official or public. Also, they would keep establishing their claims on some fallacy, and if you got it, keep repeating to them that they were wrong.

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When I say fool I mean a person who is willing to pull out every dirty, under handed trick in the book to win an argument. Be it demeaning your character, ignoring your argument all together or using band wagon tactics against you.

I don't really like the definition. What you're describing isn't foolish, especially if it works as well as you claim. It's either dishonest or it's just fallacious logic, depending on the person's intent and the context of the argument.

 

Also, I think you're making some assumptions you really can't know for sure, like these two:

 

In debating there is a lot of dirty tricks that can be pulled. The reason these type of people do this is because they do not have any faith in what they are trying to feed you or their own ability to argue the point.

 

... or they have plenty of faith in their own ability to make you look wrong. Or they don't discern much between tactics that let them win an argument. Or they have learned that it's easier for them to use such tactics and that's given them tons of confidence in their own ability to argue the point. Or....

 

Despite how factual and well thought out your argument is you will always lose to someone who plays dirty.

I don't think this is true at all. When your opponent's dirty tactics are pointed out, it often means a loss of support. You don't ALWAYS lose.

 

So how do you defeat a fool while being honest? Even an argument based on faulty information is not as pathetic as someone who is willing to be dishonest to win a debate.

Intention is the key. Are they arguing this way because it's been effective in the past, or are they deliberately skewing facts and using fallacious logic because their arguments will fail without such tactics? Are they out to "win" the argument, or are they interested in productive discussion? These things lend perspective.

 

If you know someone is arguing to win at any cost, their actions may or may not turn out to be foolish, but they're definitely intellectually dishonest.

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When I say fool I mean a person who is willing to pull out every dirty, under handed trick in the book to win an argument. Be it demeaning your character, ignoring your argument all together or using band wagon tactics against you. In debating there is a lot of dirty tricks that can be pulled. The reason these type of people do this is because they do not have any faith in what they are trying to feed you or their own ability to argue the point. Some people use intimidation to talk you down regardless of there being any actual substance in the argument they have or not. Thanks to these "Dirty tactics" you often lose your reputation if you are an intelligent debater or not. Despite how factual and well thought out your argument is you will always lose to someone who plays dirty. So how do you defeat a fool while being honest? Even an argument based on faulty information is not as pathetic as someone who is willing to be dishonest to win a debate.

I consider fools to be similar to trolls, and treat the solution the same; don't feed them. All they want is attention and if you argue with them they are fed more and more. Therefore, the solution is to simply ignore them.

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Unity's and Phi for Alls's post skew basically the same, in that they regard discerning the ethos of the debater in order to decide the debate's worthiness and your participation within it. That advice sounds to the ear both practical and logical, especially if your time needs spending elsewhere in other valued interests. However, It sounds like you want to destroy someone who argues dirty, and you want to do so with an honest argument. If that be the case sir, practice practice practice. The answer to any victory lies with skill. It sounds like you have come up against a dirty bastard who knows that trait well. Take your lumps and fight. If you lose this one, you will gain in experience. There will be not shortage of dirty bastards to line up in future. Hit your arguments again and again, and hopefully under pressure. Cheesy or not, the good fight wins in the end.

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When I say fool I mean a person who is willing to pull out every dirty, under handed trick in the book to win an argument. Be it demeaning your character, ignoring your argument all together or using band wagon tactics against you. In debating there is a lot of dirty tricks that can be pulled. The reason these type of people do this is because they do not have any faith in what they are trying to feed you or their own ability to argue the point. Some people use intimidation to talk you down regardless of there being any actual substance in the argument they have or not. Thanks to these "Dirty tactics" you often lose your reputation if you are an intelligent debater or not. Despite how factual and well thought out your argument is you will always lose to someone who plays dirty. So how do you defeat a fool while being honest? Even an argument based on faulty information is not as pathetic as someone who is willing to be dishonest to win a debate.

I think different circumstances dictate different approaches. What venue do you have in mind?

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1.) Learn and understand how to be a people person. There is a science/ art form to being able to manipulate people.

 

2.) Manipulate the fools

 

3.) I stand by the fact that if I can spend enough time with a conservative I can change their mind. Direct confrontation never works, plant seeds, keep the dialogue open.

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3.) I stand by the fact that if I can spend enough time with a conservative I can change their mind. Direct confrontation never works, plant seeds, keep the dialogue open.

 

Maybe because there really are no conservative people, only people who will act conservatively in certain situations, and usually because it seems most prudent. I don't know anyone who has a conservative/liberal stance on EVERYTHING, yet plenty of people style themselves as one or the other.

 

In my experience, conservative options are simply some people's default mode. But you're right, it's not that difficult to show how progressive actions can be the safest choices, in which case they become the conservative option. The fact that so many politicians choose direct confrontation makes me think they do so on purpose, to mark the distinctions and further polarize their stance from their opponent's.

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I don't understand toastywombat, are you equating a fool with a conservative ?

 

Don' t forget conservative and liberal are just labels and although Phi for All may try to make one label more preferential than the other by assigning the extra label 'progressive' to liberals, I assure you that is not always the case. Many so called liberal policies are actually repressive or even oppressive.

 

Every young person starts off as a socialist and progresses through life becoming liberal and eventually conservative in maturity, as they learn personal responsibility and the value of their hard work.

As a result 'I stand by the fact that if I can spend enough time with a liberal, I can change their mind. Direct confrontation never works, plant seeds, keep the dialogue open'.

Wise words from a ( hopefully ) wise person, but sadly way off topic.

Edited by MigL
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He who knows, and knows he knows,

He is a wise man, seek him.

He who knows and knows not he knows,

He is asleep, wake him.

He who knows not, and knows he knows not,

He is a child, teach him.

He who knows not, and knows not he knows not,

He is a fool, shun him.

 

 

I think it's Indian, and my grandfather used to quote it. Not sure which he thought I was.


Every young person starts off as a socialist and progresses through life becoming liberal and eventually conservative in maturity, as they learn personal responsibility and the value of their hard work.

Hasn't happened to me yet, and I'm 62 :)

 

Maybe because I haven't figured out yet that personal responsibility and valuing hard work aren't liberal values?

Edited by Lizzie L
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Sorry Lizzie but then again my definition of the liberal label is obviously different than yours.

 

By " personal responsibility and valuing hard work ", I;m implying that a lot of left leaning types ( socialist/liberal ) want to live in a nanny state where the government takes care of social and economic engineering, redistributing any wealth gained by your hard work as IT sees fit.

 

If you are responsible for your own actions and value hard work, I don't consider you part of that group and won't label you as such.

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Sorry Lizzie but then again my definition of the liberal label is obviously different than yours

Yes indeed :)

By " personal responsibility and valuing hard work ", I;m implying that a lot of left leaning types ( socialist/liberal ) want to live in a nanny state where the government takes care of social and economic engineering, redistributing any wealth gained by your hard work as IT sees fit.

 

Yes, I know you are :)

 

I think your implication reflects a misunderstanding of what liberal politics actually stands for. But I would agree that a lot of people share your [mistaken] view :)

 

 

If you are responsible for your own actions and value hard work, I don't consider you part of that group and won't label you as such.

 

I don't mind what you label me as, and I am happy to wear the "liberal" label with pride, as do many other hard-working people who take their personal responsibilities extremely seriously. Indeed it is because we see ourselves as responsible for the well-being of our fellow human beings, and are determined to ensure that all people gain benefit from the fruits of their labour that we embrace socialist/liberal politics :)

 

As the old Clause Four of the UK Labour Party used to say, before Tony Blair dumped it:

 

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

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Then again politics, unlike science or math, is based on opinions and I firmly believe everyone is entitled to one as per Voltaire.

 

But obviously someone of the liberal/socialist bent doesn't agree with that judging by the demerit points my opinion earned while yours were merited. Not that I care but isn't tolerance for other's ideas one of your principles ?

 

I know its one of mine no matter what I'm labelled.

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Voted yours back up again :)

 

I was not the person who downvoted post, which probably supports the idea that libertarian principles are largely orthogonal to economic ones. On the Political Compass, I fall firmly in the bottom left corner. You probably fall in the bottom right. So at least we share half our views :)

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We probably share more views than that Lizzie, as I said, the labels are what separate and polarize people. I don't consider miself conservative or liberal but try to live my life according to the best ( to me anyway ) principles of both.

As much as conservatives are generally looked down on or considered fools, almost everyone bases their household budget on conservative principles,. Yet when we pool our money into a government for a collective purpose, all of a sudden it becomes okay to spend and borrow like drunken sailors. That is obviously wrong, so at least one conservative principle is justified. There are others just as there are liberal principles which are beneficial.

I just find it odd that some people equate conservatives with evil people or fools.

 

Thanks for an interesting discussion, and I did like your grandfather's quote.

 

But as davidivad has said, maybe we should get back on topic.

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Don' t forget conservative and liberal are just labels and although Phi for All may try to make one label more preferential than the other by assigning the extra label 'progressive' to liberals, I assure you that is not always the case. Many so called liberal policies are actually repressive or even oppressive.

 

I must be losing my touch, because my whole point was that those labels shouldn't be applied to people, but rather to their stances in context to varied issues. I was born an Eisenhower Republican, so I've been progressive all my life, but I'm not a liberal when it comes to the clothing young women wear, and I'm not a conservative where education is concerned.

 

If you detect any favoritism from me, it's only because I feel the Republican party can't honestly represent all the mixed stances who try to shelter under that umbrella. I'm only moderately more pleased with the Democrats.

 

Every young person starts off as a socialist and progresses through life becoming liberal and eventually conservative in maturity, as they learn personal responsibility and the value of their hard work.

As has been pointed out, beware words like "every" and "all" when you're talking about politics. This is trivially refuted simply by looking at the demographics of both parties. If what you say is true, there would be no old "liberals".

 

I think you make a mistake trying to tie things like personal responsibility and the value of hard work to a political party. It's inaccurate and divisive. There's a lot more common ground out there than either major party wants you to think about. We needlessly poison the discussions when we approach issues like welfare without starting first where we all agree, that we want to help a widowed mother of three avoid homelessness, and we don't want to help those who could work but choose to scam the system instead. We need to start there instead of where a political brand wants us to start.

 

And that's what ties us back to the OP. Starting out assuming people are fools guarantees you won't even come close to understanding their perspective. And if you don't understand the perspective (understand, not agree with), it often leads us to be dismissive of it. And we shouldn't, we need everyone's perspective in a democracy.

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Maybe I misunderstood you as much as you misunderstood me. I wasn't referring to political parties as tody's repiblicans certainly aren't Eisenhower's republicans, but rather the labels conservative or liberal. I for one have no use for them.

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Some of my favorite quips to use when arguing with people.

Insults show a lack of insight. Your response reveals your ignorance on the subject. Your logic disagrees with reality. There is no proof to your claims, if there is cite a source.

Pretty much, I just like to point out a flaw in the persons debating style as soon as it's made. If they are hostile in their demeanor I will make them and the audience question why they are hostile, usually it's because they have no relevant information on the subject which is why my first quip usually defuses the hostile debate before it starts. That wont work if there was no insult thrown in though.

One time on a forum, some guy tried telling me I said something that I knew I did not say. It was ridiculous because the discussion was in the same topic thread and all he had to do was scroll up. So I ponted out to him, "claiming I said something which I did not say is a lie and thus would make you a liar". His next post was apologizing to me for lying, lol.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't understand toastywombat, are you equating a fool with a conservative ?

 

Don' t forget conservative and liberal are just labels and although Phi for All may try to make one label more preferential than the other by assigning the extra label 'progressive' to liberals, I assure you that is not always the case. Many so called liberal policies are actually repressive or even oppressive.

 

Every young person starts off as a socialist and progresses through life becoming liberal and eventually conservative in maturity, as they learn personal responsibility and the value of their hard work.

As a result 'I stand by the fact that if I can spend enough time with a liberal, I can change their mind. Direct confrontation never works, plant seeds, keep the dialogue open'.

Wise words from a ( hopefully ) wise person, but sadly way off topic.

 

 

Okay I should clarify, when i say "conservative" I mean the current platform of the Republican/Tea Party, and those who support that platform and the answer is yes, that is a foolish position and they are fools.

 

To your second point, please then explain the fact that their are young conservatives and old liberals.

Edited by toastywombel
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