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Is it best to chose a side or position rather in an argument

  1. Sep 16, 2003 #1
    Is it best to chose a side or position rather in an argument, for arguments sake?

    I'm often non-confrontational, and i tend to avoid chosing a position to argue from and usually pick some non committal stance so that i may review both sides or the debate without bias. I've always validated this by saying that i'm only in pursuit of knowledge, not to cause conflict and problems. I'm thinking,however, that perhaps the best means of aquiring knowledge would be to establish a position and argue it the best i can, and hopefully squeeze more information from all opposing positions in doing so. As long as i realize that i'm involved in the argument for learnings sake, and not to force my beliefs on anyone, then wouldn't that be the better way to learn?

    or, if perhaps i'm wrong, then tell me, what would be the best way to argue, if you're goal is to learn something?
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2003 #2
    I do no choose sides when i see an argument. I believe that everything is 50/50 so picking a side and arguing on a one sided point is blind. Both sides want something different and to completely see what they want you must remain neutral. If you try to find a solution while remaining neutral you may find a solution that both sides can agree with.
  4. Sep 16, 2003 #3


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    I would say it all depends on your interest in the argument.

    If you're not interested enough in the topic to actively discuss it or learn more about it, and you're not out to push your beliefs on anyone (I hope not!), then I say you might as well take a non-commital (or non-interested to the point of non-commital :wink:) stance and save yourself time and energy, even if you do have a definite opinion one way or the other.

    On the other hand, if you're interested in the topic and you want to learn more, I find it is often very instructive to pick a side and argue for it, whether that side accurately represents your current beliefs or not. This is called playing devil's advocate. As long as it is understood by all parties that the position you are arguing for is not necessarily one you agree with, I see nothing wrong with this practice. It's an especially instructive method of learning if you find arguments on both sides compelling, but you can't make up your mind as to which one you really side with. By arguing for the compelling components of one side vis-a-vis the compelling arguments of the other you can often come to a clearer and more decisive opinion of exactly where you stand on the matter.
  5. Sep 16, 2003 #4


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    Ah but is that really realistic?
  6. Sep 16, 2003 #5
    In any philosophical argument as opposed to an actual fight both sides at the very least clairify their thinking and exersize their brains. I have often referred to it as a chess match for it often resembles one with oneside and then the other putting forth arguments neither really believes in but just trying to make a point. It is also a very good way to learn from others as I have on this forum and the others here at PF. Just remember it is a game, like a chess game.
    It is when we lose that we learn the most. There are some who will never admit that they have lost, thus they never learn. That is a bit of an overstatement but you get the point.
  7. Sep 16, 2003 #6
    Perhaps it isn't realistic for both parties to agree and get what they want. But it is realistic for both parties to sacrifice a pleasure/pain choice to a neutral choice where neither pleasure or pain is caused by the agreement.
  8. Sep 17, 2003 #7
    I would choose a side on a very few things that are so complex to try to get deeper into it if worth the effort, but realistically choosing a side on most things suggests that we have already made up our minds as to which is better and it's easier to go blind to one side then, like all the apocalyptic visions of tommorro books, they sell because people have looked so deeply into only one side of the equation that they found some of the most emotive and convincing reasons why the world is going to end but when they don't honestly try to find the antithesis and synthesis of their argument then they are mostly just selling a book and selling out themselves not seeking the truth. It seems the more one "chooses sides", rather than keeps all options open while trying to weigh the pros and cons, the more close minded they get, because the deeper we look for reasons to convince ourselves something is true the more reasons we find creating an imbalance, that imbalance is more likely to be toward the support of an argument that we would like to be true for our own emotional and superficial reasons, not for the sake of truth itself. The truth is sometimes brutally honest and doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks or if feelings get hurt
  9. Sep 17, 2003 #8


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    But does that work? In a peace treaty perhaps, but when we are arguing about a question in which only one can be true?

    Does god exist? The ideal answer cannot be neutral - god cannot both exist and not exist. The only close to neutral answer is that there is no answer, at the time. (which raises further questions...) Thus the argument endures. In many cases - though not all - we are required to take a position, simply to get a handle on the problem, and the best thing we can do is to fall on one side, but acknowledge the possibility of the alternative.
  10. Sep 18, 2003 #9
    Well there are many answers to why god would exist but equally the same amount of answers to why god don't exist. I can never admit that god does or doesn't exist as long as i have an idea. For my ideas maybe one in an infinite but it is still a possibility. We can't say that there is no answer just because we can't comprehend what this answer might be. So neutral answers may seem unsatisfied to the people who choose their sides but remaining neutral is a peaceful choice. For disagreeing is on the negative side of actions and understanding is not.
  11. Sep 18, 2003 #10
    Why do people become extremists? Are all extremists bad or just some or does it really make much difference as long as I'm not one of them?
    This is why I think taking sides is usually a bad idea, because the deeper I look into one side the more emotionally stimulating and flattering reasons I find to support my biased argument, and over time if a person spends 9X the effort only looking on one side of a multifaceted debate then they will find more and more stimulation on one face and possibly grow to be blind to the other sides, since to take on the antithesis with as much open mindedness and effort would seem to withdrawl from as much certainty and emotional stimulation the mind craves. Alternatively, by rejecting those too soundly devised arguments of others we can dig our own excavation pit and it can be a real challenge to climb back out after spending months in a biased state of mind and perhaps that makes a person more flexible and perhaps we all go through it in steps toward more unbiased views or some fall into the pits for awhile a dig deeper than has yet been done, maybe it depends on the person, how much bias can they stand and still keep in mind they are severly biased and still be able to climb there way out when they choose or at least admit to bias it would be like quiting a heroine addiction to some at some point. As a general practice I can't find much good in taking a side and comming up with arguments and waiting for others to respond to the debate of why I shouldn't go to work today, eventually I'll lose my job always thinking like that, one ought to spend an equal effort on the antithesis and synthesis of the two for their own sake. But there are probably a few things that are worth spending a great deal of time and effort investigating a single side of which seems to be what the ancient greeks did with many philosophies, had they always choose the middle ground we might not have seen as deeply the practical things of hedonism versus asceticism, but they seemed to believe(I'm somewhat guessing) that there were many unknowns and to truly know a thing one had to look hard and deep into it for a long time with the clear understanding and expectations that they would never be able to see it all but would come to see much more I'm guessing this was one of the things Socrates was teaching, like the power of assumption or of rejecting all certainty and allowing the mind to scramble and desperately reach for explanations and in so doing it learns to reach further. Maybe it is good for a few like Diogenes to take up an extreme like cynicism and spend a lifetime of investigation, of course now days people believe that all you need to do to learn the truth is buy someone else's opinionated book on it. Maybe it was Diogenes's natural talent to see the side of humanity people don't want to see and it gave him pleasure to investigate this where it makes most people sick. Supposedly Alexander the Great came to him asking how he might be of service, Diogenes responded by saying you can get out of my sunlight, Alexander later remarked that if he were not Alexander he would wish to be Diogenes. They say he ran through the streets carrying a latern in broad daylight looking for an honest man, I'll bet he was really looking for someone to dismiss his stature and scathing remarks and tell him he was being an idiot if he thought a latern was going to help.
    In summary I think it is good to take a side on a few worthy things and intend to start trying to argue against other people's too soundly designed arguments, but for most everyday things it would seem to be mentally corrupting and mentally taxing to take up singular positions. I use to hold that it was better to have balance in all things, not so sure anymore, maybe it's even better to have balance in almost all things and extremes in a very few because otherwise we would all have the same stale ideas. Or maybe by rejecting all explanations we reach for our own and it doesn't much matter that it's wrong but more important that we learn to reach for ourselves. What does it matter if God can be proven or not? If the effect of believing in God is good for one then the effect exists and that's all most people want is some peace of mind.
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