Rules for Argument

1. Make sure that regarding whatever you know about a particular topic, you have questions about that knowledge itself. If you don’t have questions, you probably have blind faith and are not suited for argumentation.

2. There are issues which admit no compromise, and it is true that there are radicals in our midst. Would you believe that you’re not saving the world by yelling at radicals? If something is really important, taking the time to persuade those you can persuade is a far more critical goal.

3. There are people who admit no compromise. It should be noted that people who cannot compromise are either too beastly or too perfect to deal with. If they are too beastly, they should be avoided. Your skills for argumentation are not going to get any better making them look bad, and you run the risk of being made to look bad yourself. (One curious thing about the Internet is how a troll can say anything and we immediately share the skepticism the troll inspires, never mind that the troll is purposely trying to stir up hate).

If they are too perfect, they should be listened to. It should be noted that perfection in this realm does not depend on success – it depends on the ability of one to see a host of issues one might not normally see.

4. Repeating yourself to someone is dismissing their intelligence. We have been taught that a good public speaker repeats the same point over and over throughout his speech. That’s actually not true – if Cicero and Cato and Pericles and Lincoln and FDR didn’t repeat the same thing over and over, why should we? A modern dismissal of rhetorical art only makes us dumber. Trust yourself and your audience to be reading, listening and thinking carefully and remembering each point brought forth.

5. Being correct usually means you’ll win the battle and lose the war. Most people are only correct in an overbearing way, where they make mistakes #1-4 note over and over: they don’t have questions about their “knowledge,” they find people that aren’t going to listen, they yell at people who cannot listen or should not listen to them, and they keep yelling. If you’re absolutely right about something, it probably is something so obvious that other people are in denial about it. Finding out why they’re in denial without thinking them stupid or deranged is a good idea.

I should say as a conservative that it is easy to label everything the Left does “decadence.” Strictly speaking, though, conservatism has no innate ability to deal with change. We have an answer for every Leftist argument because that’s the nature of tradition – that doesn’t mean our answers are good answers always.

Our job has to be to show that our way works in our own lives, and keep Leftist excess from destroying us. Insisting that we have a fixed and final truth will only accelerate our decline. Battling on every issue as a result of “awareness” is really a product of being a slave to the media – something comes forth, and we need to react, and when we don’t react, we feel we haven’t done our part. I think our part is a lot smaller than we think it to be, precisely because the issues are so much graver than any media outlet could present them as.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.


  1. Ashok I agree with you basically- the thing though that I’d add is that to be fruitful an argument doesn’t have to have a conclusion- quite often I find that argument forces me to refine a position that I’ve taken which I might still beleive in but needs more defences. It also teaches me things. Sorry that’s pretty poor- I’m suffering from flu at the moment and plead that as my excuse but I think there is something to what you say.

Leave a Comment