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Learning From Losing Arguments

ppl argue badly. this is ok once. even a few times is not a big deal.

from this, they need to learn things like:

  • they might suck at arguing.

  • they might be biased.

  • they might be dishonest.

don’t accept these things. you don’t know. call them maybes.

from there, pivot to: how do i figure these things out? how does one get better at them? what sort of path is there to develop intellectually in order to get better at this stuff and/or even be able to evaluate it?

what people routinely do instead is:

  • get discouraged by an arguing failure.

  • refuse to pivot to the underlying issues that are raised by the failure.

  • or pivot briefly then forget it, rather than it being an ongoing project.

  • reset back where they started an argue badly again with nothing having changed.

overall, people lose track of the situation – that they might be e.g. dishonest and they should be investigating. this is no accident, and it destroys their ability to make progress.

sure, say what you think, see what happens, make mistakes. try stuff. but don’t repeat this endlessly. don’t repeat it much at all. move on. find a problem or three and actually pursue them instead of starting over again next conversation with the now-unreasonable default assumption of your competence, rationality and honesty. those are things that are rare, and shouldn’t even be expected by default.

move on to trying to develop competence, rationality, honesty, intellectual skills. make that an actual goal and actually consider if your actions are in pursuit of that goal. don’t just carelessly argue some point that comes up as if you’ll learn much. if you aren’t taking discussions to conclusions with persistent energy, and you don’t organize your activities, you shouldn’t expect to learn much.

Elliot Temple on January 17, 2018


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