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Thread: Anger in Debates

  1. #1

    Default Anger in Debates

    I was on another forum and someone (probably a mod) posted this. There was a lot of discussion about it, and I found it quite interesting. I'd be curious to see what some of the people on here think (and this seems like it would be something right up Peachy's alley, since he's the ultimate peacemakers ).







    Similarities between you and your "opponent" when you're angry:

    -You both have strongly held views.
    -You both believe that you're right.
    -You both believe the other person is wrong.
    -You both are afraid of being proven wrong, which makes you defensive.
    -You both feel that you have a legitimate reason for getting angry at the other person.

    Disputing common excuses for getting angry:

    1. "I'm angry because the other person is obviously wrong."

    You are NOT angry because you believe the other person said something incorrect. There are plenty of cases in which people say things that are incorrect, but you don't blame or get angry at them. (Example: If a 2-year-old innocently says, "The sky is green", that probably doesn't get you angry.)

    2. "I'm angry, because this person is intelligent enough that they ought to be able to understand what I'm saying. It's so obvious."

    If what you were arguing about was completely obvious or universal, then there would be no need to debate it. There wouldn't be any disagreements. Either what you're arguing is not obviously true, or the other person is simply unable to accept the obvious.

    3. "Well, then if this person doesn't understand what I'm saying, which is obvious, it's because they're intellectually defective or deficient. There's something seriously wrong with them."

    That may be true that they're just dumb or illogical. But then, why is it necessary for you to argue with them if you're resigned to the fact that you can't ever succeed? Why get angry? Why not just give up on the argument, and calmly accept that the other person can't grasp your viewpoint?

    4. "I can't give up on this argument, because it's really necessary that they know what I do. I can't just let them go around spouting non-truths that are harmful and damaging. I'm angry because it is wrong that anybody should think as they do."

    Or to be more precise...you believe that it is wrong that anybody should think as they do. You don't actually know what is right or wrong with complete certainty.

    The real reason you get angry:

    5. "Okay. I firmly believe that this is how things should be. I live my life by these principles, I think that they're right, and so it makes me angry when somebody else violates them."

    BINGO. You're angry because somebody is threatening your worldview. It's a personal threat on you, because it threatens how you define yourself in relation to the world. If you're deeply invested in an idea, then disputing that idea amounts to an assault on YOU as a person.

    However, you are confronted with the fact that other people define themselves in terms of completely different beliefs, ideas, and facts. The other person has different premises, or uses some premises to the exclusion of others.

    Applying Buddhist logic to the situation:

    In Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, when monks debate dharma, they use syllogisms of the following form:

    Consider [subject]:
    It is [predicate]
    Because [mutually accepted reason].

    To convince the other person of your argument, 2 things must happen:
    1) They must accept the truth of your reason.
    2) They must accept that the truth of your reason implies the conclusion.

    This is the same as Western philosophy. However, there's another interesting component: prior to debating, the monks have to agree upon a common set of premises. If the other monk does not accept the same premises as you, you are not allowed to debate them. The only time debating with someone is productive is when you can acknowledge a common set of assumptions. If this does not happen, debating is pointless.

    Some resulting principles which will prevent needless hostility:

    1. The goal of debating is not to prove that you're right. It's to reach a consensus which seems true and right to both people.

    2. If someone disagrees with you, don't immediately correct them. Try first to understand why they believe what they do, since your goal is to persuade them using reasons that they already agree with.

    3. The process of debating is to identify points on which you agree and disagree; try to generate reasons for points on which you disagree; and to continue until you either infer the same conclusion, or you both accept that your underlying assumptions are too different for you to come to an agreement.

    4. If the other person doesn't accept your reasons, and you can't provide reasons for those reasons which they do accept, then the debate is over.

    5. If you agree on a commonly shared set of assumptions, then do not argue.

  2. #2

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    Interesting. I think most of that could be condensed into this one sentence:



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    The goal of debating is not to prove that you're right. It's to reach a consensus which seems true and right to both people.
    I'd say that a lot of arguments become heated because people feel that they are being judged on the basis of what they believe. On a couple of occasions (in real life) people have been argumentative towards me because they want to "show off" their logic skills or common-sense and discredit me or my opinion. Other times, people have taken my criticism of an argument as a personal criticism when it wasn't intended that way. Once a person has been offended they seem much less willing to change their point of view (even if it is clearly irrational) and more willing to engage in sophistry or deception so they can "win" the argument at any cost. When that happens continuing the argument is usually pointless.

    But arguments shouldn't be emotive, they should be factual and logical. As they said in the Monty Python Argument Clinic sketch (see below), "An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition." - not a shouting match.


  3. #3

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    I kind of like the last bit, but I have some issues.




    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post

    Similarities between you and your "opponent" when you're angry:
    Why is the word "opponent" in quotes? There's nothing wrong with opposing someone, and it's what you do in debate. We are on opposite sides. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that


    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    -You both have strongly held views.
    -You both believe that you're right.
    -You both believe the other person is wrong.
    -You both are afraid of being proven wrong, which makes you defensive.
    -You both feel that you have a legitimate reason for getting angry at the other person.

    Disputing common excuses for getting angry:

    1. "I'm angry because the other person is obviously wrong."

    You are NOT angry because you believe the other person said something incorrect. There are plenty of cases in which people say things that are incorrect, but you don't blame or get angry at them. (Example: If a 2-year-old innocently says, "The sky is green", that probably doesn't get you angry.)
    I happen to live in a democracy. When some hick doesn't believe in evolution, It's a problem, as he can vote. I hold adults to a higher standard than infants.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    2. "I'm angry, because this person is intelligent enough that they ought to be able to understand what I'm saying. It's so obvious."

    If what you were arguing about was completely obvious or universal, then there would be no need to debate it. There wouldn't be any disagreements. Either what you're arguing is not obviously true, or the other person is simply unable to accept the obvious.
    In Africa, there are people who believe that AIDS can be cured by raping a virgin. Obviously, this isn't true. However there is a disagreement.


    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post

    3. "Well, then if this person doesn't understand what I'm saying, which is obvious, it's because they're intellectually defective or deficient. There's something seriously wrong with them."

    That may be true that they're just dumb or illogical. But then, why is it necessary for you to argue with them if you're resigned to the fact that you can't ever succeed? Why get angry? Why not just give up on the argument, and calmly accept that the other person can't grasp your viewpoint?
    Because my viewpoint could be very important. I want to help them by showing them a new viewpoint. Sometimes people are stubborn, but then see the light. Why bother debating if I'm just going to give up?



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    4. "I can't give up on this argument, because it's really necessary that they know what I do. I can't just let them go around spouting non-truths that are harmful and damaging. I'm angry because it is wrong that anybody should think as they do."

    Or to be more precise...you believe that it is wrong that anybody should think as they do. You don't actually know what is right or wrong with complete certainty.
    I don't know that poison will kill me, because I have never drank poison. I could have an immunity to it, or simply puke it up. But If anyone wants to drink poison, I would advise against it, despite not knowing what will happen.
    Phenomenalism is fun, but not very practical.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    The real reason you get angry:

    5. "Okay. I firmly believe that this is how things should be. I live my life by these principles, I think that they're right, and so it makes me angry when somebody else violates them."

    BINGO. You're angry because somebody is threatening your worldview. It's a personal threat on you, because it threatens how you define yourself in relation to the world. If you're deeply invested in an idea, then disputing that idea amounts to an assault on YOU as a person.

    However, you are confronted with the fact that other people define themselves in terms of completely different beliefs, ideas, and facts. The other person has different premises, or uses some premises to the exclusion of others.
    No. It's nothing personal. My view could simply be superior. People can not have two different sets of facts.


    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    Applying Buddhist logic to the situation:

    In Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, when monks debate dharma, they use syllogisms of the following form:

    Consider [subject]:
    It is [predicate]
    Because [mutually accepted reason].

    To convince the other person of your argument, 2 things must happen:
    1) They must accept the truth of your reason.
    2) They must accept that the truth of your reason implies the conclusion.

    This is the same as Western philosophy. However, there's another interesting component: prior to debating, the monks have to agree upon a common set of premises. If the other monk does not accept the same premises as you, you are not allowed to debate them. The only time debating with someone is productive is when you can acknowledge a common set of assumptions. If this does not happen, debating is pointless.
    Westerners do this to. It's philosophy 101, actually. For example: when debating the existence of God, philosophers always ask 'define god". It's definitely not exclusive to monks.

    So there's my revision suggestions.

  4. #4

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    Keep in mind when I respond here, I'm not in 100% agreement with everything this person posted. However, I do want to mention some things.



    Quote Originally Posted by Dethklok_still_rules View Post
    I happen to live in a democracy. When some hick doesn't believe in evolution, It's a problem, as he can vote. I hold adults to a higher standard than infants.
    I think the idea of the way the person posted this was to go in order. This first point posted may be the issue for someone. However, if it's not, then you move to the next one. So when you say that you hold the adult to a higher standard than an infant, then if you read issue #2, that addresses that.




    Quote Originally Posted by Dethklok_still_rules
    In Africa, there are people who believe that AIDS can be cured by raping a virgin. Obviously, this isn't true. However there is a disagreement.
    Keep in mind the context of the purpose of this...that's to address people getting angry when discussing/debating issues on forums. Unless you're going on on African forums and debating that issue, it's more of a hypothetical that doesn't necessarily apply in the actual issues that come up.

    In addition, even if you were, it's the same thing as I said before...you move on to #3, because that would be the next issue.




    Quote Originally Posted by Dethklok_still_rules
    Because my viewpoint could be very important. I want to help them by showing them a new viewpoint. Sometimes people are stubborn, but then see the light. Why bother debating if I'm just going to give up?
    Again, this may mean that you're moving to #4. But IMO, if someone is stubborn, getting angry at them is less likely to get them to see a new viewpoint than clearly and calmly pointing out your viewpoint. I'm not saying 100% of the time, but most of the time.





    Quote Originally Posted by Dethklok_still_rules
    I don't know that poison will kill me, because I have never drank poison. I could have an immunity to it, or simply puke it up. But If anyone wants to drink poison, I would advise against it, despite not knowing what will happen.
    Phenomenalism is fun, but not very practical.
    You're saying "advise against it". Again, does showing anger towards them, especially over the internet, make them more likely to take your advice?





    Quote Originally Posted by Dethklok_still_rules
    No. It's nothing personal. My view could simply be superior. People can not have two different sets of facts.
    Again, even if if this were to be true...I don't see how one getting angry would convince someone else that they indeed have the correct view.



    So again, I'm not saying I agree with everything mentioned in this post, nor do I completely disagree with what you've posted. But I still don't see a concrete purpose of anger in these kinds of discussions.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    I don't see how one getting angry would convince someone else that they indeed have the correct view.
    I don't think anyone (except the most vulgar of sophists) would use anger intentionally as a tool to convince someone that they are correct. Anger is more likely to be an "unintended" side-effect of passionately wanting to reach agreement in the argument.

    But, as Dethlok... implies, we live in a society where other people's opinions do affect us. If they hold unjustified beliefs that make them want to persecute a particular group of people, we may consider it our moral duty to show them why their actions are unjustified. If we fail to make the other person change their opinion (or, conversely, become persuaded that the action *is* in fact justified) then we may feel that we have failed morally because our inability to form a persuasive argument means that our opponent's immoral actions will continue.

    Anger is there for a reason. It prevents us from giving up too easily or swaying from our deeply held convictions.

    I can see both sides of the coin here. Anger is useless in purely logical discussions. And, since it's an emotion, it can influence our logical thought processes and de-rail our quest for truth. But, anger is useful in "firing us up" and being a "call to arms" if we feel that a situation is untenable. Logic is a precision instrument like a scalpel; anger is a powerful force like the demolition ball on a crane. If you can use logic to direct your anger appropriately, surely this can be a force for good? Would women have the vote, or would white and black Americans have equal rights if it weren't for anger?



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    Keep in mind the context of the purpose of this...that's to address people getting angry when discussing/debating issues on forums. Unless you're going on on African forums and debating that issue [the mistaken belief that AIDS could be cured by raping a virgin], it's more of a hypothetical that doesn't necessarily apply in the actual issues that come up.
    When forming an argument, I like it to be water-tight and hold true for any situation. Who knows what people are going to discuss on forums? I'd disagree that it's necessarily hypothetical and not practical that we might have a debate in which anger was justified.

    Consider this argument: The higher the tax rate, the more money the government takes in taxes. Seems uncontroversial enough... but what would happen if income tax were set at 100%? No one would bother working and the government's tax revenue would fall. You might say, "Oh, that's hypothetical - the government would never do that!" but the point is that is proves that the correlation between the tax rate and tax revenue is not linear.

    Similarly, we may be unlikely to discuss the merits of raping virgins in an attempt to cure AIDS, but the fact that we could and that anger may be justified in such a case, does not mean that we can say that "anger is never justified on a forum discussion".

    Of course, in the context of a civilised chat forum, I hope we can stick to the nice clean logic and avoid anger wherever possible...
    Last edited by tiny; 02-Jul-2010 at 13:23.

  6. #6

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    something that is very hard on the internet is realising that everyone has their own opinions and trying to modify them through argument can be fruitless as it's about two pages before each post is 2000 characters long and chock full of ad hominems and tu quoque-isms and if there isn't a straw-man argument on the first page then the two arguees have done very well for themselves indeed

    unfortunetly I am guilty of internet argument pride so I only know too well about this but I can't help myself. :c

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    Disputing common excuses for getting angry:

    1. "I'm angry because the other person is obviously wrong."

    You are NOT angry because you believe the other person said something incorrect. There are plenty of cases in which people say things that are incorrect, but you don't blame or get angry at them. (Example: If a 2-year-old innocently says, "The sky is green", that probably doesn't get you angry.)
    A 2-year old doesn't know any better. A grown person who can read and write posting on the internet that the collapse of the American auto manufacturing sector wasn't disastrous for Detroit is willfully ignorant, and the willfully ignorant people don't deserve better treatment.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    2. "I'm angry, because this person is intelligent enough that they ought to be able to understand what I'm saying. It's so obvious."

    If what you were arguing about was completely obvious or universal, then there would be no need to debate it. There wouldn't be any disagreements. Either what you're arguing is not obviously true, or the other person is simply unable to accept the obvious.
    The way you phrase it, it seems like it's completely beyond imagination that people might not be willing to accept the obvious. Unfortunately, there's lots of people who put a lot of effort in to not accepting the obvious realities around them because those realities conflict with what they want to be true.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    3. "Well, then if this person doesn't understand what I'm saying, which is obvious, it's because they're intellectually defective or deficient. There's something seriously wrong with them."

    That may be true that they're just dumb or illogical. But then, why is it necessary for you to argue with them if you're resigned to the fact that you can't ever succeed? Why get angry? Why not just give up on the argument, and calmly accept that the other person can't grasp your viewpoint?
    Because as Jefferson said, "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions".



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    4. "I can't give up on this argument, because it's really necessary that they know what I do. I can't just let them go around spouting non-truths that are harmful and damaging. I'm angry because it is wrong that anybody should think as they do."

    Or to be more precise...you believe that it is wrong that anybody should think as they do. You don't actually know what is right or wrong with complete certainty.
    It's impossible to objectively know anything with 100% certainty. It's impossible to objectively know with 100% certainty that we aren't all figments of the imagination of a 9 year old autistic boy. That doesn't mean that people who earnestly believe we are autistic figments should be taken seriously.

    Despite what that bit implies, not every viewpoint is automatically or equally valid. Some people are just fucking morons with dumb-ass views.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    The real reason you get angry:

    5. "Okay. I firmly believe that this is how things should be. I live my life by these principles, I think that they're right, and so it makes me angry when somebody else violates them."

    BINGO. You're angry because somebody is threatening your worldview. It's a personal threat on you, because it threatens how you define yourself in relation to the world. If you're deeply invested in an idea, then disputing that idea amounts to an assault on YOU as a person.
    I'll keep that in mind next time someone advocates replacing science with religion in public schools. Hey, it's not a threat to our society at large by hindering children by teaching them nonsense! It's really that I'm hurt that my worldview is threatened! Those people who died in abortion clinic bombings wouldn't have been so hurt if they were more stable in their worldview - they were just to emotionally threatened by someone with an opposing opinion. Next time an election comes around, I'll remember that it's just my worldview when someone advocates cutting taxes in order to balance the budget or suggest that it's the Liberal party that are financially irresponsible.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    1. The goal of debating is not to prove that you're right. It's to reach a consensus which seems true and right to both people.
    You're assuming no two positions are ever mutually exclusive.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    2. If someone disagrees with you, don't immediately correct them. Try first to understand why they believe what they do, since your goal is to persuade them using reasons that they already agree with.
    If someone believes that the earth is 6,000 years old or that Barack Obama is a "seekrit mooslin from Kenya", I don't give a rat's ass why they believe it. Odds are, I already know why, and it's because they're frigging morons.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    3. The process of debating is to identify points on which you agree and disagree; try to generate reasons for points on which you disagree; and to continue until you either infer the same conclusion, or you both accept that your underlying assumptions are too different for you to come to an agreement.
    Only in some debates. There are adversarial debates, where the objective is to systemically demolish your opponent's claims. Sometimes, people are just plain wrong.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    4. If the other person doesn't accept your reasons, and you can't provide reasons for those reasons which they do accept, then the debate is over.
    You need to watch "Thank you for Smoking". The objective isn't to convince *you*, the objective is to convince *everyone else*.



    Quote Originally Posted by teddy564339 View Post
    5. If you agree on a commonly shared set of assumptions, then do not argue.
    I take it you've never been in a situation where people agree on the facts at hand, but disagree on the interpretation of those facts.

  8. #8

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    I think the key for us here on adisc is to be civil to one another. (though, does that mean I can't write a sarcastic story?) I've noticed a trend to be condescending which really hinders getting an intelligent point across. If you state your argument well, you gain more ground by being objective. I do agree that it can be extremely frustrating when intelligent points are countered by absurdity, but I suppose one person's illumination is absurd to someone else. And that is at the heart of the problem.

  9. #9

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    Having been around for a long time and seen a lot of arguments on various forums, some of which I have been involved in, some of which I have merely been a bystander; I've come to the conclusion as of late that it all boils down to something that can be summed up in one word. Tact. How the persons who are participating in the argument approach it, usually dictates the outcome. Not what their opinions are, but what their motivation for conflict is. Some approach it desperately wanting to persuade people they're wrong, some approach it not caring about persuading anyone and simply wanting to make their opinions heard and respected, and others simply do it for the attention and sometimes they will create an opinion simply to join in on argument, not because they necessarily believe what they are saying, but because they want to feel like they belong.

    The problem is we all have different motivations for arguing, as well as different opinions on said subject. And we all have different methods of expressing both the motivation, and the opinion.

    I find it much easier to have an argument in real life and keep it civilized, than I do over the internet. Whether this is because there's such a wide variety of people on the internet too meet, and in real life I am limited to who I meet socially, or because in real life it is much more personal than the internet could ever be, I don't know. But I do know it is so much easier to misunderstand meaning on the internet than it is in person. Everyday face to face communication relies on so much more than conversation, it's facial expression, tone, body language, and just little knickknacks you pack up throughout your life to help you express yourself better.

    In the end, internet debate, while instant and fantastic in someways, is always going to be a frustrating limited means of expression. Always.

  10. #10

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    I thought it was hilarious in my informal logic course to hear the logic fallacy "argument from anger," is also known as the "Limbaugh argument."

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