I made a seemingly flippant comment the other day in response to some Republican glurge:

“If Republicans were convinced by facts, they would be Democrats”

For people who operate via reason and argumentation, it can sometimes be frustrating and immensely counterproductive to be arguing someone who is unreasonable. So much time and effort is spent arguing in the only way a reasonable person knows how: through dilligent research and arraying a formidable array of facts for one’s side. However, so few reasonable people seem to every ask why reason has been such a poor strategey historically in changing people’s minds.

Imagine that you had a friend who literally had a hypnotic voice. When he speaks to you, he could convince you that up was down or bats were bird or that bacon was not delicious. He’s your friend and you know that he cares for you and would never do anything actively to harm you but at the same time, wouldn’t the most prudent form of action be to block your ears every time he comes by and to listen to none of what he is saying?

For those who are adept at reason and believe they can hold their own in an argument, reason is a value free tool, neither good nor evil. But for a large bulk of society, reason is not a tool but a weapon. It’s the hypnotic ray that the privledged elite use to mind control an entire country. And what’s more, reason is outside of their grasp and they know it. If you were part of the disengfranchised majority, wouldn’t you decide that shutting your brain off is the only reasonable defense?

  • Ross Lee Graham, PhD

    When talking about arguments or how to win an argument as if in every context one should use the same strategy is a sure sign that maturity of judgment in this matter has not yet occurred. For example if you love your spouse and you get caught in an argument with this beloved spouse, the first question you should ask yourself is whether it is more important to win the argument or is it more important to be happy. This is a case where you must consider the possibility that winning the argument may be a losing proposition and may even have long lasting  repercussions. In other words, sometimes losing is winning. Another example, to lower the negative impact that ‘winning’ an argument might have, do not argue in front of witnesses as this always intensifies hostile feelings in the ‘loser’. Imagine winning an argument with the boss in front of other employees. Could you really affirm you came out the winner. From my point of view when I find an obstinacy commonly found in evangelists I often find it useful to pose questions based on their assertions and these questions are asked with a voice that  should express an honest interest in what they said. It is often the case that well chosen questions can help your opponents destroy their opposition or at least put them in a quandary. Facilitating them to find their own (in your opinion) errors is far less insulting. It if far less insulting to lead your opponents to lose their own arguments than to make them feel they lost to your arguments. A kind teacher will use this maneuver with a student who came to a ‘wrong’ conclusion. The students sense no loss of personal dignity being led to discover their own errors. These strategies generate from an attitude that differs from someone who merely wants to win an argument and put someone down, under the guise that that is the logical thing to do. Any argument that projects an attitude that feelings do not matter is definitely the inhumane thing to do. An example of one of the inhumane things I did was when I was invited into an argument with a Judeo-Christian evangelist who was trying to save me. I asked him if he thought of God as God the Father in Heaven. He said yes. I then asked, “what does he do with his penis?” From the look on his face and his silence I presumed it was the first time he ever thought of it.