It is futile to express your ideas with others

Yesterday I had an interesting debate with a friend of mine about the significance of debating. He was the one who inspired me to set up this blog in the first place. However, he is also the one who is strongly against the very idea of debating with others, or expressing one’s thoughts to others in general. I disagree. Therefore I am writing this post to start a debate on whether it is pointless to exchange ideas and thoughts with others.

I have asked him to provide provide original structured lemma for the post so that his contention will not be misconstrued by my subjective interpretation in the monologue. With his consent, I hereby first introduced his views on why it’s pointless to talk to others about your own ideas:

The End Point

To put it short, any good argument assumes good logic. So if both sides use good logic, in the end it’s a debate only about data. The problem with data is: as a last resort you can always deny it. Because logic relies on axioms. But axioms can never be proved. So you can always deny the reality of data put forward. Say blacks on average are stupid than Caucasians:

No they are not!”

“Yes: data…”

“The data is manipulated by racists.”

“No it is not!”

“Yes it is!”

… The endpoint reached.

Of course moral principles aren’t provable either.

Let’s say “Tibet should be free”

“No it shouldn’t”

… The endpoint reached.

Meanwhile, spreading thoughts is good when you are dealing with influenceable people. But those tend to be pretty stupid and I hate dealing with them. I like to deal with smart committed people like myself. But with those have strong beliefs we will get to the endpoint sooner or later. Then again I believe my data is not very good still. So I’d rather keep on learning new data and new theories than going on preaching. If I really want to convince smart people I must continue to raise my level. You, on the other hand, have no pretenses of being a philosopher and are a social person used to deal with normal people. So people may listen to your arguments about the peril of lesser breeds. In Robin Hanson’s blog, as smug as it is, has good point saying that: people don’t take sides because of soundness of arguments; people take sides because of status signaling. So Kennedy, youthful good looking alpha dude, was popular because people wanted to associate with him, albeit his crappy arguments. In contrast, Nixon was way smarter but he was ugly and arrogant. So people didn’t want to be associated with him. I am not the most popular fella so I’d rather stick to my books. I did try to talk to those people. They didn’t like me. I returned the favor. Simple chicken and egg problem. Once again you listen to good arguments because you aren’t particularly biased. Most people just follow the mood. Whatever is popular whatever people will follow.

So what’s the point of spreading thoughts for me?

In order not to make another verbose unreadable lengthy article to deter all the potential readers stumbling upon, I presented my rebuttal in another post adjacent to his argument.

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7 comments

  1. Seems to me debate is almost always a useless waste of energy and time. The starting point is two opposing, fortified positions and two minds, each with some sort of investment in what the other chooses to believe. Both will walk away still holding the same views, whether one dominates in logic or fact [unusual] or doesn’t.

    Exchanges of ideas and open examination of observations with an intended result being learning something makes sense and if a person’s inclined, can result in two people walking away with new perspectives.

    Debates can’t, don’t, won’t. Becauuse that’s not in the agenda of debate participants. Winning debates is what debates is all about.

  2. “Exchanges of ideas and open examination of observations with an intended result being learning something makes sense and if a person’s inclined, can result in two people walking away with new perspectives.
    Debates can’t, don’t, won’t. Becauuse that’s not in the agenda of debate participants. Winning debates is what debates is all about.”

    The line you drew between exchange of ideas and debate seems vague to me. To me debate could lead to a endless loop if both sides were to debate for the sake of debating in the first place, that is to win over others, meanwhile it could also be a great learning process if you are hoping to learn from others. Only through reasoning debate that you could actually learn from what you perceive as more superior and advanced than your original ideas.

  3. Morning amigo. Likely you’re correct. People almost always indulge in debate to learn, as opposed to intending to sell a particular idea or overwhelm someone who disagrees.

    I surrender.

  4. If you goal is to convince people with rationality and logic. 9 out of 10 times it is indeed futile. Of course you could take the whole process as a learning process. But you have to pick up the qualified opponent first. In polemics, by nowadays standard, emotionalism and personal signaling are always the charm

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