Dealing with Arguments


(Phil) #1

Just wasting time this morning, and saw this article on how to deal with passive aggressive arguments. As we often see this form of argument on the forum (and perhaps I am guilty of using it sometimes myself!) I thought it interesting to consider, and remind ourselves to be clear and forthright in our communications, and also to help communicate when things go off the rails a bit.


(Randy) #2

Great one! Frightening, because I have seen my own logical fallacies in this article. Apologies and appreciation for patientce to anyone on the forum who has dealt with my faults!

I’m going to save this.

I also liked Jared Byas’ podcast about how to talk with people you disagree with… Two things he said stood out to me: 1) no matter the situation, I’m always going to be wrong about something, and can learn from the other person 2) try to improve the other person’s argument, even if you don’t agree completely with it (similar to Randal Rauser’s 50/50 arguing time rule for steelmanning rather than straw manning)

https://randalrauser.com/2018/06/overcome-your-cognitive-bias-with-the-50-50-rule/


(Mitchell W McKain) #3

I decided to read the article with the attitude of seeing how many of these passive argument tactics might apply to me. The result is that I perhaps got something a bit different out of this.

  1. Begging the question: This slope may not be slippery but it is a long one, and it is certainly an indication of emotional investment in the topic. I think I avoid the outright logical violations fairly well, but the more subtle aspects described certainly apply for I make my condemnation of the things I disagree with quite clear.

  2. Extending to Extremes: Interestingly enough, this comes rather close to a valuable method used in physics for extracting principles. Emmanuel Kant made something like this the basis of his system of morality, asking the question, “now what would happen if everybody did this?” So, while this doesn’t cover everything described in the article, I point this out so you can see that a little discernment might be required sometimes. By contrast I would describe the worst version of this tactic a little differently as coming from a battle mentality that throws people into rather limited boxes based on the flimsiest of excuses.

  3. Diverting the subject: Having encountered this dishonest tactic frequently I might not have seen another reason for caution and discernment if I had not approached this the way I did. Some people are more convergent thinkers good at zeroing in on the topic and the critical issues, while others are more divergent thinkers who are more focused on finding the connections to other topics. So instead of venting my frustration with past encounters with this, I instead offer this reason for caution.

  4. Pushing Buttons: We all push buttons whether intentionally or inadvertently. But while doing this intentionally sounds diabolical, I have to wonder whether people can really employ the worst of this tactic in a forum all that often. Do we really know each other that well? On the other hand, how can we not think about how the topic might push our own buttons and isn’t this a valid part of the discussion?

  5. Invoking Authority: The biggest objection described falls a little flat in this context of an internet forum. We are discussing things asynchronously on a computer where all the research power of the internet is at our fingertips, so checking the facts is all too easy for us. Thus the only important question I can see with regards to this is whether authority is really applicable on the topic of discussion.


(Randy) #4

Here’s another good blog post about arguments, this time by Pete Enns. He observes that “Show me someone who expresses his/her faith in language peppered with anger, and I will show you someone who is deeply afraid of losing control of God.”

And aren’t we all afraid of that? That’s sort of where Christ’s love comes in, doesn’t it? He came to show us how the father is–and someone who gave His only Son is someone who can be trusted to welcome us as little children, no matter our mistakes.


(Christy Hemphill) #5

That’s how I read it too, but less out of a conscious decision to be self-reflective and more out of a reflexive assumption that I’m probably doing something wrong. #confidencecode

LOL You sure do!
Sometimes I resent the idea that the “best” argument is the most purely rational/logical one. Humans are creatures with passions and intuitions and imaginations and it makes sense that our reasoning processes will be holistic. I think this happens to women far more often than it happens to men, but I have had pretty darn good arguments about immigration and gender and race discrimination that were backed up with legit facts from reputable sources dismissed as “emotional ranting” because I did not express myself in a completely feeling-neutral manner. That’s just wrong. I’m sorry that my caring passionately about what I am saying is evidently so distracting, but caring is kind of a natural human thing. And I would personally rather listen to someone who can express their thoughts with all the feelings and force of their convictions than a robot.

Good point. As a divergent thinker myself, I appreciate you pointing this out.

It is definitely easier to do with close family members, but I think if you can accurately categorize a person, and you are familiar with the type, you can definitely push buttons pretty easily. I try to behave myself on this website, but there was a time period in my life not that long ago where I found it amusing to go on comment boards of Neo-cal or conservative evangelical Patheos blogs and basically “push buttons.” I did not know the people but it was not hard. I am more sanctified now. :innocent: But I had some good times before the unfortunate but well-deserved demise of Mark Driscoll.


(Phil) #6

I still cringe when I see he has a blog on patheos. I go there these days only to read Roger Olson and Anne Kennedy.


(Christy Hemphill) #7

No! That’s new since October, and you should not have told me that. I might fall off the wagon now. Good thing my post-surgery couch days end Thursday, or I would surely relapse in the face of such temptation.


(Mitchell W McKain) #8

But when the personal aspect is missing then doesn’t this just boil down to finding the weakness in their particular positions. What could be more natural than finding the Bible passages that disagree with a fundamentalist’s position or pointing out the lack of evidence for the claims of an aggressive atheist?

Wait… your examples of doing this yourself is evoking some memories, because it suggests a little dishonesty involved… in that case I might see what you are talking about, though I typically describe it differently. I have seen people taking potshots at others while saying little or nothing of their own position. Then the idea of pushing buttons is not about a defense of your own stand on issues but about getting a reaction from other people. Yeah, I really really hate it when I encounter people doing that!


(Christy Hemphill) #9

It could, but sometimes it was more fun to just say things like “this is a classic example of male fragility” or “it seems you must be trying to compensate for something” and watch the fireworks.

Exactly. It’s not very nice. But I learned that sometimes I just needed to fight with someone, and it was better for my marriage to find young Reformed seminarians on the internet than to start discussions with my husband about stuff I knew we did not see eye to eye on.


(Randy) #10

I wonder if anyone has done an Enneagram assessment and study to find if that helps with communication? I’m a type 9; but it sort of helped me when I realized my wife (and others) are not the same, and don’t see the world the same


(Randy) #11

this is also a helpful summary from Jared Byas on how to talk with people you disagree with–I especially like the part about avoiding belittling words (at the bottom). Yes, this ends with a dangling preposition. :slight_smile: https://peteenns.com/talking-to-people-you-disagree-with/


(Christy Hemphill) #12

I think anything you do that helps you understand your “normal” and your communication partner’s “normal” can be helpful. Ennegram wasn’t super meaningful to me (7 :partying_face:), but StrengthFinder and Myers-Briggs were very useful tools. But it’s not like you can master everyone’s differences, it’s more for people you work closely with or live with.


(Matthew Pevarnik) #13

What do you think? Here’s Nathan Lents (author of Human Errors and other books) on why the scientific appeal to authority can be legitimate:


(Randy) #14

Good one. Authority in science is a provable source of reasoning, and the reasoning is available to everyone.


(Phil) #15

What a great aid! Sorry to say I need to pay attention, especially to the first point.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #16

Oh my gosh Randy you are such a 9, yes.

My twin brother is a 9 with a 1 wing; I’m a 1 with a (very strong) 9 wing. My wife is a 3 with a 4 wing, and we are very different!

I do find the Enneagram quite helpful for such things. Although if we talk about this too much, one of these mods will break us off into a new thread, “Scientific debate and the Enneagram”…


(Mark D.) #17

Pretty darned interesting. Thanks for sharing it. Now you have me curious about the Enneagram assessment. Is that an online questionnaire kind of a thing?

I’m sure my wife and I are pretty different but that has helped me/made me learn more about myself. I definitely have the capacity to be pretty darned judgmental but that has made me realize that people really can be different and I see both advantages and disadvantages for both our ways. Fortunately those are fairly complimentary in some ways at least.