Question of the Week: How Hard Do You Argue?


November 5, 2007 by A.C. Rhodes

James Baldwin once said, “I love to argue with people who do not disagree with me too profoundly.” I interpreted this as bristling at people whose demeanor is overly officious, or those of the new school of “debate” a la Bill O’Reilly or Tucker Carlson.

We’ve all had friends or colleagues who either run on or try to discredit other’s opinions, but how far should one go to emphasize a point and what’s your tolerance level where others are concerned? In other words, how much is too much?

2 thoughts on “Question of the Week: How Hard Do You Argue?

  1. Alex V. Cook says:

    I will stand my ground if I can still make my larger point and sound clever doing it, but I try to back off when it reduces down to Socratic posturing.

  2. Renaldo says:

    For me it completely depends on the subject being discussed. Since this is a “rock critics” web site, I’ll presume first that you’re referring to arguments about rock music.

    I refuse to argue about music. If I like something, I’m always willing to explain why I like it. If you disagree, that’s fine. Once we’ve heard each other’s opinons, I see little point in taking it further.

    Occasionally certain facts may be relevant to the subject. For instance, I might think a certain act of music shows great originality – but if you can show me that those ideas were stolen from some other musician, then I’m very interested in knowing that and it might change my opinion.

    Otherwise, I know very well that if you like a piece of music, I’m not going to argue you out of liking it. And the same applies to me. Obsessive nitpicking arguments about the merits of a particular CD strike me as boring and immature. Life is much too short for that.

    As for arguments about other subjects, how hard I argue depends entirely on the importance of the subject and the degree to which it’s subject to rational discussion.

    There’s an old cliche which is often repeated by foolish people: “One should never discuss politics or religion.” That’s a bit like saying one should never discuss anything that actually matters.

    In the case of politics, I think it’s imperative that after we inform themselves, we must rationally discuss and argue the issues of the day with our fellow citizens. Without that, you can’t have democracy.

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