Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Does Making Arguments Help to Open One’s Mind

An argument opens new perspective; changing perspective will change your mind.

An argument seeks to change a concept, perspective, idea and provoke action. With or without a final satisfying outcome! Some ideas may be worth spreading. The argument is an investment of time, by two contrasting sparks, positive vs. negative, right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, etc. Are there benefits of conflict? If so under what circumstance? In what arena? Thought? Communication? Is our necessity for agreement rooted in egocentrism. Or is dialog more effective when contrasted with opposing views? Can making arguments help open one’s mind?

We become argumentative when the beliefs we hold as our foundation are challenged. This is a sign that one is not adaptive; we should be open to new information or a different view. What if our stance is wrong? It is ok to be wrong, as long as we learn, but holding on too tight to our perceived truth is the difference between power vs. force. The power lies in a quest for truth, and your perceived power may actually come from force, which is trying to impose your truth upon another even if it is not absolute. If people argue over an issue, it doesn't mean that they are competing or that they have competing interests. One side may just think that doing something is morally disagreeable, and the other side may think it's fine. That would be missed if both sides or one side misinterpreted the argument as "competing interests." The good intention to make an argument is about understanding the other point of view and learn something from it.

An argument opens new perspective; changing perspective will change your mind. The truth is the whole coin. Perspective is looking at either heads or tails. A coin is an interesting metaphor as while your focus is on heads you can not see tails and while looking at tails you can not see heads. The secret lies in "imagining" a perspective of the whole coin as you aspire towards truth. Beliefs, perspectives, or whatever you want to call them, are those things that we personally hold to be true, but which cannot be conclusively proven. The gray area is because there are serious philosophical differences regarding what a proof consists of. Perhaps, unnecessary argumentation is in some way the result of the lack of sincerity of purpose, lack of clarity in communication, lack of openness towards viewpoints of others and the lack of humility in personality.

Perspective is a personal " truth," and an argument is based on a position of passionate belief in this truth. This is why arguments can be seen as aggressive as a passion has a strong emotional foundation. This is obviously a double-edged sword as emotions can cloud clear thinking, the benefit is that you will "fight" much harder for something you are invested in emotionally. The problem with looking too hard at concepts of truth, perspective, argument, etc. is that the deeper you look, the more likely you can turn into a cynic. It may be helpful to start by distinguishing p-argument -- the process of arguing -- and m-argument -- the messages exchanged during such events. From there: p-argument implies that the people involved in it want to achieve something: that is, some change in the other party's mind. That is why they are still talking, after all. Their purpose is, for the sincere use of p-argument, to show how the view proposed by one participant A is really supported by (ideally: logically deduced from) beliefs the other already holds or can be led to hold by providing evidence, or more arguments in their favor. Logic and rhetoric have studied what makes such arguments-m effective and trustworthy, valid, so that you can feel confident in accepting the conclusion.

Arguably, humanity argues as much or more about what we ought to do but has not developed good tools for the evaluation of these kinds of arguments, no matter how sanctimoniously officials promise to 'carefully weigh' these pros and cons. Generally speaking, an argument opens new perspective, evokes paradoxical thinking, you don’t need to agree completely with the other side of viewpoint, but you can always gain empathy, insight, and new perspective to see things from the other angle, and open mind for information and innovation, that should be the positive driver for making an argument and learn something from it.


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