Tuesday, June 1, 2010


This is part of an argument I had witnessed recently. It is quite telling; it's also embellished---a bit. It goes like this:

...No, no, listen, you got it all wrong...no, that's not the way it was...no, but, you said she...that she... What? Where did you get that? Oh, that's a way off...listen, listen to me...that's not right, that's...But you won't give me a chance to explain...OK, listen, when she said that...well, she was only thinking that...she was only saying what she felt at the time of...No...but see, it doesn't make a difference...no, because...because there was nothing there...nothing...Yeah, well, that was the first time, and...but you're...listen!, you're stuck on this one thing, this one thing, and...no! See, there you go again. this all has to do with what happened, what? three years ago? Unbelievable, no, I keep telling you that's a fallacy...that's not true. You're...you're...Oh come on, let it go. I can't believe you're...What? What'd you say? Oh sure, that makes sense now. No! I already explained everything...you don't listen...I don't know what else to say...See, see, you're doing it again. There's no sense talking to you when you are in this state...I've explained everything, and you won't listen. No, I won't! That makes as much sense now...OK. That's it then. You can go on and on about this...What? But you see...you don't...you don't................

It goes on and on alright and gets nowhere. There is an art to the argument and has been written up in literature since the ancient Greeks. Aristotle of course is the master, who itemized all the important elements of the argument in Rhetoric. It's a bit regimented when you adhere to this form of argument, and doesn't go down well when you tell your opponent that his line of argument is illogical. Mostly because nearly all arguments are illogical and nonsensical, I think anyway. Most people who revel in argumentation usually just like to hear themselves speak. I tone out quite quickly.

The world is filled with nonsensical arguments: Does life begin with the fetus? Should gay or lesbians be married? Is morality a religious concept? Euthanasia? Is Elvis still alive? Do blonds have more fun? The true nature and aerodynamics of angels?

There are many books on the Art of Argument. Notable is THE ART OF ARGUMENT by Aaron Larsen. Also THE ART OF ARGUMENT by the Cambridge University Press. You'll find everything in these books to further your skill to keep on topic and even win an argument.

I'm really not that great at arguing; I give in too easily. Sometimes it's best to do so when you realize just who you are arguing against. For instance, a mule will not listen or change its ways.
My wife and I rarely argue, if we ever did. She has that fiery French temper that I was mentioning earlier, but it seldom comes out on me. But she has a unique trick of turning an argument back on me which I find confounding. Such as: I'll be upset over something she said or did. I'll announce this upset at the appropriate time in a rather raised voice. She, in turn, will match my tone and criticism and stomp out of the room. This is done in such a manner that I will wonder what just happened. I'll follow her and say:

Bernie: Hang on, hang on, Why are you mad?
Wife: Why are you?
B: Wait now. I was mad at you first.
W: Why?
B: ...ah, I'm not sure now.
W: Well, when you find out, let me know.
B: But why did you say that?
W: Say what?
B: Out there, when I was mad at you?
W: I didn't say anything, you were the one having a fit.
B I don't understand.
W: You're just tired. Have you had your nap today?
B: Don't change the subject. I'm upset with you...I think.
W: No you're not. Let's go out to eat tonight.
B: Oh, OK. That'll be good.