Interesting thoughts about arguments

A fiction author/videogame programmer who goes by Vox Day recently posted a blog wherein he notes the problems with trying to explain oneself in our current culture. First he quoted this guy, saying

Like the mistaking of kindness for weakness that plagues today’s nice guys, there is some element of the human mind that frames lengthy and incessant counter-argument as a position of weakness and insecurity. He who masters pithy, concise (and indirect and ambiguous, I might add) communication commands a stronger image of rhetorical confidence and state control than the bloviating firebrand whose logical appeals may indeed be without equal.

I would say that on the internet as well as in person I’ve had this problem. It’s not just with the young folk either. Even people my age and people forty years my senior seem to take the process of explanation as a sign of weakness. I’ve often in my life, because of certain types of social awkwardness I experienced as a youngster, tried to explain things that made perfect sense to me (because I looked them up, thought them through, and came to an opinion) and was either mocked or ignored. It wasn’t until I learned the art of insulting others and sarcastic retort that I gained some traction socially. But moving on from those moments, I’ve still found myself having this problem in positions wherein I am certain logic and debate are the flavor of the hour (because I’m at a book club, a staff meeting for this or that employer, or in a class discussion in college). 

Day’s observations, however ungrounded in any particular science, track very well with my own observations: 

There is a massive difference in perception between being the recipient of a breathless, circuitous infodump and being the recipient of a long lecture after the lecturer first coldly informs you that this is going to be a long, detailed, and painful experience because you are so woefully ignorant that there is simply no other choice if you are not to be left drowning in the swamp of your stupidity.

Another factor here is that simple binary thinkers tend to view multiple reasons as being somehow contradictory even when they reinforce each other. After all, if reason X is correct, then reason Y is at best unnecessary, and therefore to mention it must be indicative of a weakness in X. This is, of course, profoundly stupid, but has a rational foundation in that people who have no case do tend to take the spaghetti approach and throw out everything they can in the hope that something will stick.

I don’t relish, usually, moments where some horrific wall of human stupidity has to be cracked by the pick-ax of rhetoric rather than surmounted by more agile forms of logic. But, sometimes these things have to be done. The last thing any Christian should want to become is an irascible jerk, but the amount of conversations in and out of church circumstances where simply appeal to evidence or logic leads to mockery, blank stares, or quotes from internet memes which are mistaken for intelligent discourse is astounding. This all goes back to this:

4  Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
5  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5 ESV)

Sometimes you need to ignore a fool. Sometimes you need to make one feel the utter weight of his foolishness lest he think he’s right about something silly or dangerous. 

Anyhow, I’ve already fallen back into the folly of over explaining someth…



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