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How to disagree well: 7 of the best and worst ways to argue

https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/how-to-disagree-well-7-of-the-best-and-worst-ways-to-argue

bigthink.com

How to disagree well: 7 of the best and worst ways to argue
Many find themselves arguing with someone on the Internet, especially in these days fraught with political tensions. A great tool, the web also seems to drive dispute. It is also a reflection of the larger reality, where divisiveness has spread throughout our society.

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Paul Graham's disagreement hierarchy

Paul Graham's disagreement hierarchy
  • DH0. Name-calling: the lowest level of argument.
  • DH1. Ad hominem: attackung the person rather than the point they are making.
  • DH2. Responding to tone: The lowest form of responding to writing is disagreeing with the author’s tone. 
  • DH3. Contradiction: you offer an opposing case but very little evidence.
  • DH4. Counterargument: a contradiction with evidence and reasoning.
  • DH5. Refutation:  quote someone back to themselves and pick a hole in that quote to expose a flaw.
  • DH6. Refuting the central point: The most powerful form of disagreement.

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Straw man arguments

A straw man argument is a misrepresentation of an opinion or viewpoint, designed to be as easy as possible to contradict.

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Hollow man arguments

This is a weak case (similar to the Straw man arguments) attributed to a non-existent group: Someone will fabricate a viewpoint that is easy to contradict, then claim it was made by a group they disagree with. Arguing against an opponent which doesn’t exist is a pretty easy way to win any debate.

People who use hollow man arguments will often use vague, non-specific language without explicitly giving any sources or stating who their opponent is.

Iron man argument

It is designed to be resistant to attacks by a defier.There arguments are difficult to avoid because they have a lot of overlap with legitimate debate techniques.

A person using an iron man argument will most likely make their own viewpoint so vague that nothing anyone says about it can weaken it. They’ll use jargon and imprecise terms. This means they can claim anyone who disagrees didn’t understand them, or they’ll rephrase their argument multiple times.

The Gish gallop

The Gish gallop

It is a rhetorical technique that involves overwhelming your opponent with numerous vague arguments, with no regard for accuracy, validity, or relevance of those arguments.

Examples of Gish gallops

A classic example is when a proponent of some pseudoscience bombards an expert with many weak arguments and start a new argument each time the expert successfully refute one of them.

But Gish gallops also appear in less formal contexts. E.g., someone who wants to support an unfounded stance on social media might post a huge list of irrelevant sources that they didn't actually read.

Arguments within a Gish gallop

When responding to specific arguments within a Gish gallop, you can use certain techniques to respond effectively to the flawed arguments.

  • When someone states there is support for their stance, you can ask your opponent to list the specific evidence they claim support their view.
  • When responding to generalised claims, show that they contradict the scientific consensus on the topic.