How to Argue: ‘Play the ball, not the man’

November 28, 2012

I encourage you to share your thoughts or arguments in the comment section under each blog entry.

As St. Eutychus says, “Play the ball. Not the man.”  (I think a lot of the rest of his comment policy is good advice, too.)  Seriously, I think you should stick to talking about substantive ideas, even if only for totally selfish reasons—if you start insulting people and taking everything personally, it makes you look bad, and makes your arguments sound less reasonable.

RIGHT:

Mr. A:  I don’t think pre-emptive war is ever justified.  How would we like it if Iraq invaded our country?

Mr. B:  Arguably that was not pre-emptive, but I also think pre-emptive war is sometimes justified.  Or rather, as both our intelligence and our enemies’ weapons make use of more and more advanced technology, the traditional distinction between pre-emptive and non-pre-emptive war becomes less meaningful.

Mr. A:  I understand the temptation to draw that conclusion, but I think it is mistaken.  There are limits to to human knowledge; we can’t always know whether a country could represent a real threat until that threat is realized, and I think we should err on the side of peace, rather than err on the side of invading sovereign countries that may pose no threat to us.

WRONG:

Mr. A:  I don’t think pre-emptive war is ever justified.  How would we like it if Iraq invaded our country?

Mr. B:  Arguably that was not pre-emptive, but I also think pre-emptive war is sometimes justified.  Or rather, as both our intelligence and our enemies’ weapons make use of more and more advanced technology, the traditional distinction between pre-emptive and non-pre-emptive war becomes less meaningful.

Mr. A:  That’s a stupid argument.  Anyone who disagrees with me is clearly a stupidhead dumdum.

ALSO WRONG:

Mr. A:  I don’t think pre-emptive war is ever justified.  How would we like it if Iraq invaded our country?

Mr. B:  Arguably that was not pre-emptive, but I also think pre-emptive war is sometimes justified.  Or at least, as both our intelligence and our enemies’ weapons make use of more and more advanced technology, the traditional distinction between pre-emptive and non-pre-emptive war becomes less meaningful.

Mr. A:  Why are you so angry?

Mr. B:  I’m not angry.  I thought we were discussing the morality of war.

Mr. A:  (cries) Waaanh!  You hurt my feelings.  You’re a terrible person!

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5 Responses to “How to Argue: ‘Play the ball, not the man’”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    Waaanh?


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