A Revelation!

I realized something this morning. As you might know, I have a second blog with a Catholic friend of mine called AtheistCatholic. We have tried to keep the atmosphere friendly, but the comments get a bit heated and get very debate-like which drives me nuts.

I don't like to debate. For someone like me, it makes me incredibly frustrated. Well, I don't mind having arguments with some people. For instance, I can disagree with my husband and many of my friends and we can have a friendly argument where we have different points of view. I usually end up feeling we both hopefully learned something and it seems productive. Awesome.

But there are some people (and some types of people) that I just can't stand arguing with. With them it turns into a debate and I end up feeling extremely frustrated or downright angry. I don't like being frustrated or angry. My revelation is why it's so irritating.

It's because they don't play fair. They use logical fallacies like cats take naps. They play the "offended card" at the slightest disagreement. But the main reason is that their logic is so flawed that it makes me feel crazy just trying to figure out what they said.

My problem is that I can tell that they are doing these things intuitively now, but I can't name the logical fallacy or explain the flawed logic and straighten it out. Sometimes it's because I know the topic well enough to understand it, but not well enough to explain the mistakes of someone else. For this issue, the only solution I see is to learn more deeply about the topics that matter to me.

And I guess I can study the logical fallacies more, right? But the flawed logic, that just boggles my mind. I think I need to study that more. If you have any suggestions for good books that teach logic, let me know! Preferably something that is understandable in everyday language.

Do you have people that you deal with who don't play fair and are really irritating to argue with? How do you deal with them? How do you avoid debating but still get your point across? I can't figure that out either.

 

18 comments:

  1. Sophie LagacéMay 27, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    I mostly encounter those people among "friends of friends" on the 'Net. If they are irredeemable and very active, I just start hiding their comments altogether. I love actual intellectual debate, but when it becomes clear that the person is not interested in logic, I have no time to waste.

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  2. I find that self deprecating humor can take the edge off of many conversations. What keeps me from going crazy is knowing that people change over time. Very rarely will someone say, "Gosh Andy, you're right about water being wet or rocks being hard."

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  3. I just had a couple of them in a discussion about alternative medicine. One was an atheist who added me through facebook and the other was from a facebook game. The first one said that alternative medicine worked at the same rate as conventional medicine and that the later was "just about money". The other said we couldn't be sure of anything because we had not tried it. The thread reached 77 comments, most of them made on a pretty civil manner. But I do understand your frustration. Just don't take it personally, unless they start making "you" comments. Then you can see the discussion has gone to hell and can actually ban the infractor.

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  4. For one thing, when I feel I've made my point I butt out. I've been through it enough to know there's no such thing as a knockout punch. No matter how ironclad your argument, a determined opponent will find something--anything--to throw back at you. (Those places in the Gospels where the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees go running in defeat because of some supposedly whizzbang argument by Jesus just show how fictional the accounts are.) I'm sure I've been called a coward and a troll a time or two, but I don't see the profit in wasting a lot of time against adamantine irrationality.

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  5. Sadly, Neece, I think there is no simple answer to guarantee success. I suspect that most of the people you are talking about are not even listening to you, rather they are planning what they will say next. Once a dialogue degenerates into a series of points scoring opportunites for one of those involved, all hope of a meaningful exchange of ideas is gone. You are attempting a discussion when all they want is a victory, and no amount of logic is likely to influence their thinking. So the short answer to your question is that you can't avoid debating with them and still get your point across; you can only avoid debating with them.

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  6. Thanks Andrew. I'll have to keep that in mind. :)

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  7. Yes, I agree, Sophie.
    My problem is, people are leaving comments addressed to me on Atheist Catholic. Then when I answer they come back with a debating retort that I feel I have to defend. If I don't then I look like I have conceded. But I don't know how to respond to this stuff. It makes my brain hurt. :(

    I also like a good intellectual debate. If one or both of us in a discussion learns something new I consider it a huge success. :)

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  8. Good idea, Diego. I get so frustrated!
    That's a great idea, that when they start making "you" comments to end the discussion. :)

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  9. Think by Simon Blackburn. Oxford University Press, c. 1999. ISBN 0-965-025331.

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  10. I go straight for the throat. By that I mean I seperate myself and the other person from the argument and in a civil manner ask them to have a dialogue with me one on one. I hardly ever get takers and it shows me I'm dealing with intellectually cowardly people.

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  11. Thanks so much, Angie! I'll look into that book. I hadn't heard of it. :)

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  12. That's interesting. That's how Roxane (my blogging partner from An Atheist and a Catholic) got into a long discussion and then ended up creating our blog together. I don't really have time to engage with anyone else like I do with Roxane. But that's one way to deal with people. Thanks very much, Jay.

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  13. I recently watched a debate on whether the Catholic church was a force for good, which I would like to share. For me, the highlight was a speech by Steven Fry, which can be found on youtube here. The whole debate can be found if you search for it. There's a lot that we can learn from him, but I think the biggest thing is that even if the opponents aren't persuaded, a neutral audience may be. If you're getting into a frustrating argument, remember that you don't have to counter every point that your opponent raises, and that if they are being unfair the readers will probably see that.

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  14. Good idea, Mike. That's definitely food for thought. :) Thanks

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  15. I agree, Bitzer, they aren't even listening. You're so right.

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  16. I believe that there are certain people who you simply cannot argue with because they have a personality disorder like antisocial personality disorder or narcissism. It doesn't matter if you present undisputable facts to them, like the sky is blue, they will find a way to be contradictory. It is in their nature.
    These disordered people are lacking empathy, the key component of what makes us human, and when you are confronted with someone like this, it is impossible for them to understand other points of view because their only goal is to be "right" at all costs (their fragile ego depends on it). This is why you hear some of the most illogical reasoning imaginable.

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  17. That might be a factor, Andrea. I've known many narcissists and you're right, they just have to be right at all costs.
    I think, since I'm reading Shermer's 'The Believing Brain', it has to do with beliefs too.

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