Derailing - "Thirty - Eight Ways to Win an Argument", Arthur Schopenhauer

Debunking nutjob claims is shooting fish in a barrel. Herein lies the problem. Born of the shadowy world of rumour and hearsay, used to sitting in circles and sagely agreeing with one another, spreading the TRUTH to the greater world is bound to be traumatic. Outrageous claims exploding at pin-pricks of logic breed resentment and anger. Which in turn breeds nastiness, dirty tricks, gossip and slander. Even outright malice.

Here is Schopenhauer's Thirty - Eight Ways to Win an Argument in it's entirety. You're average nonsense shaman uses these automatically and without thinking (or even knowing who Schopie is), much in the same way creationists and fundamentalists in general do.


Thirty - Eight Ways to Win an Argument from Schopenhauer's "The Art of Controversy"

1 Carry your opponent's proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it.
The more general your opponent's statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it.
The more restricted and narrow your own propositions remain, the easier they are to defend.

2 Use different meanings of your opponent's words to refute his argument.
Example: Person A says, "You do not understand the mysteries of Kant's philosophy."
Person B replies, "Of, if it's mysteries you're talking about, I'll have nothing to do with them."

3 Ignore your opponent's proposition, which was intended to refer to some particular thing.
Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it.
Attack something different than what was asserted.

4 Hide your conclusion from your opponent until the end.
Mingle your premises here and there in your talk.
Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order.
By this circuitous route you conceal your goal until you have reached all the admissions necessary to reach your goal.

5 Use your opponent's beliefs against him.
If your opponent refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.
Example, if the opponent is a member of an organization or a religious sect to which you do not belong, you may employ the declared opinions of this group against the opponent.

6 Confuse the issue by changing your opponent's words or what he or she seeks to prove.
Example: Call something by a different name: "good repute" instead of "honor," "virtue" instead of "virginity," "red-blooded" instead of "vertebrates".

7 State your proposition and show the truth of it by asking the opponent many questions.
By asking many wide-reaching questions at once, you may hide what you want to get admitted.
Then you quickly propound the argument resulting from the proponent's admissions.

8 Make your opponent angry.
An angry person is less capable of using judgment or perceiving where his or her advantage lies.

9 Use your opponent's answers to your question to reach different or even opposite conclusions.

10 If you opponent answers all your questions negatively and refuses to grant you any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite of your premises.
This may confuse the opponent as to which point you actually seek him to concede.

11 If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises, refrain from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion.
Later, introduce your conclusions as a settled and admitted fact.
Your opponent and others in attendance may come to believe that your conclusion was admitted.

12 If the argument turns upon general ideas with no particular names, you must use language or a metaphor that is favorable to your proposition.
Example: What an impartial person would call "public worship" or a "system of religion" is described by an adherent as "piety" or "godliness" and by an opponent as "bigotry" or "superstition."
In other words, inset what you intend to prove into the definition of the idea.

13 To make your opponent accept a proposition , you must give him an opposite, counter-proposition as well.
If the contrast is glaring, the opponent will accept your proposition to avoid being paradoxical.
Example: If you want him to admit that a boy must to everything that his father tells him to do, ask him, "whether in all things we must obey or disobey our parents."
Or , if a thing is said to occur "often" you are to understand few or many times, the opponent will say "many."
It is as though you were to put gray next to black and call it white; or gray next to white and call it black.

14 Try to bluff your opponent.
If he or she has answered several of your question without the answers turning out in favor of your conclusion, advance your conclusion triumphantly, even if it does not follow.
If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the technique may succeed.

15 If you wish to advance a proposition that is difficult to prove, put it aside for the moment.
Instead, submit for your opponent's acceptance or rejection some true proposition, as though you wished to draw your proof from it.
Should the opponent reject it because he suspects a trick, you can obtain your triumph by showing how absurd the opponent is to reject an obviously true proposition.
Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on your side for the moment.
You can either try to prove your original proposition, as in #14, maintain that your original proposition is proved by what your opponent accepted.
For this an extreme degree of impudence is required, but experience shows cases of it succeeding.

16 When your opponent puts forth a proposition, find it inconsistent with his or her other statements, beliefs, actions or lack of action.
Example: Should your opponent defend suicide, you may at once exclaim, "Why don't you hang yourself?"
Should the opponent maintain that his city is an unpleasant place to live, you may say, "Why don't you leave on the first plane?"

17 If your opponent presses you with a counter-proof, you will often be able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction.
Try to find a second meaning or an ambiguous sense for your opponent's idea.

18 If your opponent has taken up a line of argument that will end in your defeat, you must not allow him to carry it to its conclusion.
Interrupt the dispute, break it off altogether, or lead the opponent to a different subject.

19 Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any objection to some definite point in his argument, and you have nothing to say, try to make the argument less specific.
Example: If you are asked why a particular hypothesis cannot be accepted, you may speak of the fallibility of human knowledge, and give various illustrations of it.

20 If your opponent has admitted to all or most of your premises, do not ask him or her directly to accept your conclusion.
Rather, draw the conclusion yourself as if it too had been admitted.

21 When your opponent uses an argument that is superficial and you see the falsehood, you can refute it by setting forth its superficial character.
But it is better to meet the opponent with acounter-argument that is just as superficial, and so dispose of him.
For it is with victory that you are concerned, not with truth.
Example: If the opponent appeals to prejudice, emotion or attacks you personally, return the attack in the same manner.

22 If your opponent asks you to admit something from which the point in dispute will immediately follow, you must refuse to do so, declaring that it begs the question.

23 Contradiction and contention irritate a person into exaggerating their statements.
By contradicting your opponent you may drive him into extending the statement beyond its natural limit.
When you then contradict the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you had refuted the original statement.
Contrarily, if your opponent tries to extend your own statement further than your intended, redefine your statement's limits and say, "That is what I said, no more."

24 State a false syllogism.
Your opponent makes a proposition, and by false inference and distortion of his ideas you force from the proposition other propositions that are not intended and that appear absurd.
It then appears that opponent's proposition gave rise to these inconsistencies, and so appears to be indirectly refuted.

25 If your opponent is making a generalization, find an instance to the contrary.
Only one valid contradiction is needed to overthrow the opponent's proposition.
Example: "All ruminants are horned," is a generalization that may be upset by the single instance of the camel.

26 A brilliant move is to turn the tables and use your opponent's arguments against himself.
Example: Your opponent declares: "so and so is a child, you must make an allowance for him."
You retort, "Just because he is a child, I must correct him; otherwise he will persist in his bad habits."

27 Should your opponent suprise you by becoming particularly angry at an argument, you must urge it with all the more zeal.
No only will this make your opponent angry, but it will appear that you have put your finger on the weak side of his case, and your opponent is more open to attack on this point than you expected.

28 When the audience consists of individuals (or a person) who is not an expert on a subject, you make an invalid objection to your opponent who seems to be defeated in the eyes of the audience.
This strategy is particularly effective if your objection makes your opponent look ridiculous or if the audience laughs.
If your opponent must make a long, winded and complicated explanation to correct you, the audience will not be disposed to listen to him.

29 If you find that you are being beaten, you can create a diversion--that is, you can suddenly begin to talk of something else, as though it had a bearing on the matter in dispute.
This may be done without presumption if the diversion has some general bearing on the matter.

30 Make an appeal to authority rather than reason.
If your opponent respects an authority or an expert, quote that authority to further your case.
If needed, quote what the authority said in some other sense or circumstance.
Authorities that your opponent fails to understand are those which he generally admires the most.
You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote something that you have entirely invented yourself.

31 If you know that you have no reply to the arguments that your opponent advances, you by a find stroke of irony declare yourself to be an incompetent judge.
Example: "What you say passes my poor powers of comprehension; it may well be all very true, but I can't understand it, and I refrain from any expression of opinion on it."
In this way you insinuate to the audience, with whom you are in good repute, that what your opponent says is nonsense.
This technique may be used only when you are quite sure that the audience thinks much better of you than your opponent.

32 A quick way of getting rid of an opponent's assertion, or of throwing suspicion on it, is by putting it into some odious category.
Example: You can say, "That is fascism" or "Atheism" or "Superstition."
In making an objection of this kind you take for granted
1)That the assertion or question is identical with, or at least contained in, the category cited;
and
2)The system referred to has been entirely refuted by the current audience.

33 You admit your opponent's premises but deny the conclusion.
Example: "That's all very well in theory, but it won't work in practice."

34 When you state a question or an argument, and your opponent gives you no direct answer, or evades it with a counter question, or tries to change the subject, it is sure sign you have touched a weak spot, sometimes without intending to do so.
You have, as it were, reduced your opponent to silence.
You must, therefore, urge the point all the more, and not let your opponent evade it, even when you do not know where the weakness that you have hit upon really lies.

35 Instead of working on an opponent's intellect or the rigor of his arguments, work on his motive.
If you success in making your opponent's opinion, should it prove true, seem distinctly prejudicial to his own interest, he will drop it immediately.
Example: A clergyman is defending some philosophical dogma.
You show him that his proposition contradicts a fundamental doctrine of his church.
He will abandon the argument.

36 You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast.
If your opponent is weak or does not wish to appear as if he has no idea what your are talking about, you can easily impose upon him some argument that sounds very deep or learned, or that sounds indisputable.

37 Should your opponent be in the right but, luckily for you, choose a faulty proof, you can easily refute it and then claim that you have refuted the whole position.
This is the way in which bad advocates lose good cases.
If no accurate proof occurs to your opponent, you have won the day.

38 Become personal, insulting and rude as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand.
In becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack on the person by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character.
This is a very popular technique, because it takes so little skill to put it into effect.

Tags: abuse, derailing, noise, perversion, vandalism

Views: 362

Replies to This Discussion

Yup. Equivocation is the big one alright. Lol.
Easily the most annoying methodology of 8) is when they state that because you linked Wikipedia or Quackwatch, you have not done any research and therefore are not worth even talking to.

a) Please produce an example of a erroneous Wikipedia - they won't because they can't. Wiki has meticulous references and an army of critics ready to pounce on even the smallest typo. Their promptness and willingness to correct genuine error is something the nutjobs should really learn about.

b) Quackwatch is an agenda driven propaganda site ? - Does that mean that by extension, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, where Stephen Barrett - owner of Quackwatch - is a fellow, is also an agenda driven propaganda site ? And by extension again, that The Center for Inquiry itself is also an agenda driven propaganda site ?

Their ludicrousness is only matched by their shamelessness.
I think it's likely that most Christians and UFO buffs emphatically think that the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Center for Inquiry are agenda-driven propaganda sites. They probably also think both of those institutions are somehow just in it for the money, like the CDC. You know, kind of like how Underwriters Laboratories and Consumers Union actually rule the world from their subterranean Antarctic base. Why do you think we have global warming? They want to put in a putting green.

It's sad. I hesitate to even make jokes like that, because some tinfoil hat is going to use it as evidence of a new conspiracy theory.
I trust Wikipedia with uncontroversial topics--nobody has an axe to grind about the molecular structure of alcohol, for example. As with anything else, if a topic is controversial, I expect the Wikipedia entry to be subject to tampering or unexamined bias. That said, I think Wikipedia's owners and contributors do a great job of fighting the nonsense. They just can't always keep up.
Well said. Although I've found topics pertaining to popular culture, even when uncontroversial, are often biased (usually favorably -- I guess it's reasonable to assume a good amount of them are written by fans).
Adriana: Wikipedia is a good resource but it is always a good idea to check the original literature if available.

Precisely. I would modify that though - it is the best resource, and it is not a good idea to check the literature, it is obligatory that you do so. Anyone who only relies on a single reference as evidence is not being responsible.

Jason: As with anything else, if a topic is controversial, I expect the Wikipedia entry to be subject to tampering or unexamined bias.

That's what WikiWatcher / WikiScanner are for. Same site, don't know why there's 2 names or 2 URL's -

http://wikiwatcher.com/
http://wikiscanner.virgil.gr/

Even with tampering, Wiki is holding it's own. Note how they have withstood the Scientologists.

My question to all critics is this - please provide an example of erroneous information. The answer is always silence.

The absurdity of Wiki bashing is compounded by the fact that the same loons that dismiss it, offer you citations from websites that sell anti-polio diets, and get offended when you laugh at them.

Wikipedia needs defending, not deriding. Attacks on it are unwarranted and undeserved. There are many people who hate it merely for being free AND being accurate. Most prominant are other information resource gatekeepers and, of course, loons.
I generally link to Wikipedia as a quick introduction to something, but I rarely go beyond to Wikipedia's referenced links. But then, I'm usually not arguing something in depth, and I think a quick introduction is all that's warranted.

I certainly didn't mean to bash Wikipedia. I find it invaluable, and I generally trust it. It's just that with controversial topics such as Scientology, it's hard to know what biases the Wikipedia writers themselves bring to the discussion. I know they strive for neutrality and have locked down many of the more controversial entries, but that doesn't mean they've achieved perfect objectivity (I don't know that there is such a thing when it comes to certain topics) or security. In any case, I still use Wikipedia as a resource for controversial topics, it's just that I have a greater tendency to look for other references as well. Not so much with uncontroversial topics.

Having said that, my one complaint about Wikipedia, even for uncontroversial topics, is that the articles are not always quite fleshed out. But that's not really a complaint. When you're trying to document the known universe, it's necessarily a bit of a work in progress.
It's just that with controversial topics such as Scientology, it's hard to know what biases the Wikipedia writers themselves bring to the discussion. I know they strive for neutrality and have locked down many of the more controversial entries, but that doesn't mean they've achieved perfect objectivity (I don't know that there is such a thing when it comes to certain topics) or security.

I one of the first things I jump to on a wikipedia page is to look at the talk/discussion section. It will fairly quickly alert you to the challenged areas of almost any wikipedia article, and often to the opinions and biases that might exist as well.

One of the things I like about wikipedia is the history of the article revisions and discussions around them.
Felch: My question to all critics is this - please provide an example of erroneous information. The answer is always silence.

Like with any encyclopedia, you're bound to stumble upon small factual errors in Wikipedia occasionally (and indeed I spotted one just yesterday in this French Wiki article - it claims that "Alexander the Great and his army crossed [the Khyber Pass] on their way to India", which is incorrect -- WikiAnswers, on the other hand, has it right.)

And while I find the English version of Wikipedia reliable, thanks to a large community of committed supporters, there are other versions which seem to be ridden with inaccuracies and errors. Be wary of articles which are verbatim translations from other languages, and still pending revision.
making someone angry to win is just SO fucking easy. I can do it so well that it bores me. That's why I'm so immune to it from other people (and see it coming, poor bastards) and am able to point out that personal attacks just make them seem dimwitted and unable to stay on topic. (cue exit when they get angry. boring.)

That's why I pursue truth now, not victory.
Excellent examples here, Felch.

However, there are some missing. The following have been used a lot on my debating group.

Argument By Emotion
1. You insulted, demeaned me and/or hurt my feelings and/or were a big meany (or variations of the such) therefore you must be wrong (or a troll - whichever works ...).
2. Look at all the mass murders the evil atheists committed in the 20th century therefore Christianity is good. This one includes the Red Herring fallacy and makes an irrelevant association.

The Big Lie strategy
1. Perpetuate a lie to discredit your opponent. All atheists are rude, mean and engage in Ad Hominems. (Ad Hominem is then misinterpreted to mean all rude comments and/or insults).
2. Every time the opponent states a position, provoke them into being rude by insulting them.
3. Use their response which you deliberately provoked to continue to perpetuate the lie.
That was a Schopenhauer extract as is and is not meant to be comprehensive. The dude died 150 years ago. I doubt even in his worst nightmares could he have imagined the modern loon.

Of course, my link is to Wikipedia, therefore it's not fact, therefore you are entitled to ignore me and call me names. Loons can do both at the same time, logic be damned. Not that you're a loon, you are too coherent. But if you were, you could.

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