I've observed that individuals, irrespective of their intelligence, have a tendency to engage in complex arguments that often lack clarity. This complexity arises because they either do not understand their own arguments well, fail to comprehend their opponents' arguments, or simply lack knowledge and fear appearing foolish. In order for an argument to hold any significance, it is important to have a specific objective in mind. This objective could revolve around winning the argument, persuading the other person, or making a necessary point.
Allow me to provide an example:
A Good Argument
Joe: "I believe being an optimist is beneficial." (Stating his point without context to invite early agreement or opposing views)
Mike: "I think being a pessimist is equally advantageous." (Expressing his viewpoint without context to encourage early agreement or opposition)
Joe: "Can you explain why you think so?" (Seeking more information to evaluate the wisdom of his position)
Mike: "Well, a lot of things go wrong in the world, and a pessimist simply believes that such negative events will occur. Therefore, being a pessimist is a wise approach." (Elaborating on his initial argument, employing basic reasoning, and implying that being "wise" is a favorable characteristic to gain early agreement or more complex opposition)
Joe: "However, in common usage, pessimism entails consciously maintaining a negative attitude about most aspects of life. We can both agree that this is not a good thing." (Bridging the gap in their understanding and usage of the term "pessimism," while asserting that holding a negative attitude is incorrect and flawed)
Mike: "I understand your point. However, I'm using the term differently. To me, pessimism is merely a logical deduction that bad things will happen, similar to how optimism is a conclusion that something good will occur. This is why I believe optimism and pessimism are equally valuable." (Aligning their understanding of the term, their arguments, and highlighting their similarities to reach a tie. Also, asserting his position once again by shifting the argument back to his terms to avoid being misrepresented)
Joe: "I agree if we adopt your definition of pessimism." (Gracefully conceding the win) "Nevertheless, if we use the term my way, maintaining negative attitudes about most things in life is unwise." (Attempting a different form of victory by asserting his initial point instead of letting it be lost on Mike)
Mike: "Yes, I agree with you on that." (Conceding Joe's point and granting him victory)
Joe: "Alright then." (Claiming victory on his terms)
(In this scenario, both Joe and Mike have "won" because they were willing to concede and understand each other's points and victories regularly. A participant in an argument doesn't necessarily need to win every time; the focus should be on understanding one another and exchanging information rather than solely winning.)
A Bad Argument
Joe: "You should really be an optimist." (Asserting a point forcefully, leaving no room for compromise or doubt, thereby converting the conversation into a demand according to Mike)
Mike: "Quit telling me what to do." (Responding with hostility, unintentionally validating Joe's demand and allowing it to escalate into an irrational fight. Also disregarding potential personal reasons to be an optimist)
Joe: "Stop yelling at me! Speak calmly like a normal person." (Retracting due to inexperience with conflicts and attempting to regain control by shifting blame onto Mike)
Mike: "Maybe you wouldn't start these fights if you stopped trying to control everyone." (Validating a point out of anger, shattering Joe's control over the conversation)
Joe: (Taking a deep breath to regain control of himself and think about how to proceed) "Look, I'll just leave. Call me when you learn to apologize for being such an idiot." (Using Mike as a sounding board to convince himself that he's a good person who doesn't need to change, as change is intimidating)
Mike: "Yeah, screw you too." (Giving up, dismissing Joe, and partially using him as a sounding board to convince himself that he's a good person who doesn't require any change, as change is intimidating)
(In this situation, neither Mike nor Joe has "won" because winning is no longer possible. This has transformed into a fight where only the loudest and most intimidating person seems to win, leaving no room for reason. )
As you can see, the best arguments are those where individuals actively strive to understand and learn from one another. Conversely, the worst arguments are those where individuals purposely navigate through complexity and discomfort to avoid personal change.
Common tactics of a good argument include attempting to win by incorporating the opponent's ideas into one's own, thus arriving at a mutually agreeable middle ground and aiming for a meaningful victory.
Conversely, common tactics of a bad argument involve eliminating reason and replacing it with fear and assertions of dominance or submission, resulting in a meaningless victory that satisfies no one.