Thursday, July 30, 2009

Straw men are easy, talking to people takes more

Robert Wright:
When you view people or ideas as your adversaries—view them in zero-sum terms—your unconscious mind does the rest of the work, making you conceive them and depict them in less flattering terms than is objectively warranted.  ht: Zoomtard
Applies to all kinds of disagreements methinks. How different the argument might look if I view people as friends, or just human beings. People with feelings, relationships and lives to live.

Along a similar line Don Carson cites Bryan Magee on Karl Popper:
I had always loved argument, and over the years I had become quite good at identifying weak points in an opponent’s defense and bringing concentrated fire to bear on them. This is what virtually all polemicists have sought to do since ancient times, even the most famous of them. But Popper did the opposite. He sought out his opponents’ case at its strongest and attacked that. Indeed, he would improve it, if he possibly could, before attacking it. . . . Over several pages of prior discussion he would remove avoidable contradictions or weaknesses, close loopholes, pass over minor deficiencies, let his opponents’ case have the benefit of every possible doubt, and reformulate the most appealing parts of it in the most rigorous, powerful and effective arguments he could find—and then direct his onslaught against it. The outcome, when successful, was devastating. At the end there would be nothing left to say in favor of the opposing case except for tributes and concessions that Popper had himself already made. It was incredibly exciting intellectually. (152–53)
Easy to shoot holes in weak arguments, much harded to engage with the best of someone elses position, but much more respectful and productive.