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  1. #1
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Default Argue to Win

    This is fascinating stuff, especially the part about opening yourself up to changing viewpoint just by engaging in a civil discussion.

    But it also zeros in on the characteristic I like least about this community. It's been my experience that most discussion here is an argument to win - especially anything political. Nobody ever changes an opinion, regardless of what is said, how it's said, or what evidence is presented. The intent in these conversations is to score points - points, I should add, that never get tallied and aren't recognized by opponents. You might say they are, uh, pointless.

    It does make me wonder what it is the big arguers here get out of the exercise. It can't simply be for entertainment, can it?


    Are Toxic Political Conversations Changing How We Feel about Objective Truth?
    As political polarization grows, the arguments we have with one another may be shifting our understanding of truth itself


    In a key moment of the final Trump-Clinton presidential debate, Donald Trump turned to a question regarding Russian president Vladimir Putin:

    “He has no respect for her,” Trump said, pointing at Hillary Clinton. “Putin, from everything I see, has no respect for this person.”

    The two debaters then drilled down to try and gain a more nuanced understanding of the difficult policy issues involved. Clinton said, “Are you suggesting that the aggressive approach I propose would actually fail to deter Russian expansionism?”

    To which Trump responded, “No, I certainly agree that it would deter Russian expansionism; it’s just that it would also serve to destabilize the ...”

    Just kidding. That’s not at all what happened. Actually each side aimed to attack and defeat the other. Clinton really said, “Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.” To which Trump retorted, “You’re the puppet!”

    Episodes like this one have become such a staple of contemporary political discourse that it is easy to forget how radically different they are from disputes we often have in ordinary life. Consider a couple of friends trying to decide on a restaurant for dinner. One might say, “Let’s try the new Indian restaurant tonight. I haven’t had Indian for months.” To which another replies, “You know, I saw that place is getting poor reviews. Let’s grab some pizza instead?” “Good to know—pizza it is,” says the first. Each comes in with an opinion. They begin a discussion in which each presents an argument, then listens to the other’s argument, and then they both move toward an agreement. This kind of dialogue happens all the time. In our research, which involves cognitive psychology and experimental philosophy, we refer to it as “arguing to learn.”

    But as political polarization increases in the U.S., the kind of antagonistic exchange exemplified by the Trump-Clinton debate is occurring with increasing frequency—not just among policy makers but among us all. In interactions such as these, people may provide arguments for their views, but neither side is genuinely interested in learning from the other. Instead the real aim is to “score points,” in other words, to defeat the other side in a competitive activity. Conversations on Twitter, Facebook and even YouTube comment sections have become powerful symbols of what the combativeness of political discourse looks like these days. We refer to this kind of discussion as “arguing to win.”

    The divergence of Americans’ ideology is accompanied by an animosity for those across the aisle. Recent polls show that partisan liberals and conservatives associate with one another less frequently, have unfavorable views of the opposing party, and would even be unhappy if a family member married someone from the other side. At the same time, the rise of social media has revolutionized how information is consumed—news is often personalized to one’s political preferences. Rival perspectives can be completely shut out from one’s self-created media bubble. Making matters worse, outrage-inducing content is more likely to spread on these platforms, creating a breeding ground for clickbait headlines and fake news. This toxic online environment is very likely driving Americans further apart and fostering unproductive exchanges.

    In this time of rising tribalism, an important question has arisen about the psychological effects of arguing to win. What happens in our minds—and to our minds—when we find ourselves conversing in a way that simply aims to defeat an opponent? Our recent research has explored this question using experimental methods, and we have found that the distinction between different modes of argument has some surprisingly far-reaching effects. Not only does it change people’s way of thinking about the debate and the people on the opposing side, but it also has a more fundamental effect on our way of understanding the very issue under discussion.

    ARE WE OBJECTIVISTS OR RELATIVISTS?
    The question of moral and political objectivity is a notoriously thorny one, which philosophers have been debating for millennia. Still, the core of the question is easy enough to grasp by considering a few hypothetical conversations. Consider a debate about a perfectly straightforward question in science or mathematics. Suppose two friends are working together on a problem and find themselves disagreeing about the solution:

    Mary: The cube root of 2,197 is 13.
    Susan: No, the cube root of 2,197 is 14.

    People observing this conflict might not know which answer is correct. Yet they might be entirely sure that there is a single objectively correct answer. This is not just a matter of opinion—there is a fact of the matter, and anyone who has an alternative view is simply mistaken.

    Now consider a different kind of scenario. Suppose these two friends decide to take a break for lunch and find themselves disagreeing about what to put on their bagels:

    Mary: Veggie cream cheese is really tasty.
    Susan: No, veggie cream cheese is not tasty at all. It is completely disgusting.

    In this example, observers might take up another attitude: Even if two people have opposite opinions, it could be that neither is incorrect. It seems that there is no objective truth of the matter.

    With that in mind, think about what happens when people debate controversial questions about morally infused political topics. As our two friends are enjoying their lunch, suppose they wade into a heated political chat:

    Mary: Abortion is morally wrong and should not be legal.
    Susan: No, there is nothing wrong with abortion, and it should be perfectly legal.

    The question we grapple with is how to understand this kind of debate. Is it like the math question, where there is an objectively right answer and anyone who says otherwise must be mistaken? Or is it more like a clash over a matter of taste, where there is no single right answer and people can have opposite opinions without either one being wrong?

    In recent years work on this topic has expanded beyond the realm of philosophy and into psychology and cognitive science. Instead of relying on the intuitions of professional philosophers, researchers like ourselves have begun gathering empirical evidence to understand how people actually think about these issues. Do people tend to think moral and political questions have objectively correct answers? Or do they have a more relativist view?

    On the most basic level, the past decade of research has shown that the answer to this question is that it’s complicated. Some people are more objectivist; others are more relativist. That might seem obvious, but later studies explored the differences between people with these types of thinking. When participants are asked whether they would be willing to share an apartment with a roommate who holds opposing views on moral or political questions, objectivists are more inclined to say no. When participants are asked to sit down in a room next to a person who has opposing views, objectivists actually sit farther away. As University of Pennsylvania psychologist Geoffrey P. Goodwin once put it, people who hold an objectivist view tend to respond in a more “closed” fashion.

    Why might this be? One straightforward possibility is that if you think there is an objectively correct answer, you may be drawn to conclude that everyone who holds the opposite view is simply incorrect and therefore not worth listening to. Thus, people’s view about objective moral truths could shape their approach to interacting with others. This is a plausible hypothesis and one worth investigating in further studies. Yet we thought that there might be more to the story. In particular, we suspected there might be an effect in the opposite direction. Perhaps it’s not just that having objectivist views shapes your interactions with other people; perhaps your interactions with other people can actually shape the degree to which you hold objectivist views.

    WINNING VS. LEARNING
    To test this theory, we ran an experiment in which adults engaged in an online political conversation. Each participant logged on to a Web site and indicated his or her positions on a variety of controversial political topics, including abortion and gun rights. They were matched with another participant who held opposing views. The participants then engaged in an online conversation about a topic on which they disagreed.

    Half of the participants were encouraged to argue to win. They were told that this would be a highly competitive exchange and that their goal should be to outperform the other person. The result was exactly the kind of communication one sees every day on social media. Here, for example, is a transcript from one of the actual conversations:

    P1: I believe 100 percent in a woman’s choice
    P2: Abortion should be prohibited because it stops
    a beating heart
    P1: Abortion is the law of the land, the land you live in
    P2: The heart beats at 21 days its murder [sic]

    The other half of participants were encouraged to argue to learn. They were told that this would be a very cooperative exchange and that they should try to learn as much as they could from their opponent. These conversations tended to have a quite different tone:

    P3: I believe abortion is a right all women should possess. I do understand that some people choose to place certain determinants on when and why, but I think it should be for any reason before a certain time point in the pregnancy agreed upon by doctors, so as not to harm the mother.
    P4: I believe that life begins at conception (sperm meeting egg), so abortion to me is the equivalent of murder.
    P3: I can absolutely see that point. As a biologist, it is obvious from the first cell division that “life” is happening. But I do not think life is advanced enough to warrant abolishing abortion.

    It is not all that surprising that these two sets of instructions led to such results. But would these exchanges in turn lead to different views about the very nature of the question being discussed? After the conversation was over, we asked participants whether they thought there was an objective truth about the topics they had just debated. Strikingly, these 15-minute exchanges actually shifted people’s views. Individuals were more objectivist after arguing to win than they were after arguing to learn. In other words, the social context of the discussion—how people frame the purpose of controversial discourse—actually changed their opinions on the deeply philosophical question about whether there is an objective truth at all.

    These results naturally lead to another question that goes beyond what can be addressed through a scientific study. Which of these two modes of argument would be better to adopt when it comes to controversial political topics? At first, the answer seems straightforward. Who could fail to see that there is something deeply important about cooperative dialogue and something fundamentally counterproductive about sheer competition?

    Although this simple answer may be right most of the time, there may also be cases in which things are not quite so clear-cut. Suppose we are engaged in a debate with a group of climate science skeptics. We could try to sit down together, listen to the arguments of the skeptics and do our best to learn from everything they have to say. But some might think that this approach is exactly the wrong one. There might not be anything to be gained by remaining open to ideas that contradict scientific consensus. Indeed, agreeing to partake in a cooperative dialogue might be an instance of what journalists call “false balance”—legitimizing an extreme outlier position that should not be weighed equally. Some would say that the best approach in this kind of case is to argue to win.

    Of course, our studies cannot directly determine which mode of argument is “best.” And although plenty of evidence suggests that contemporary political discourse is becoming more combative and focused on winning, our findings do not elucidate why that change has occurred. Rather they provide an important new piece of information to consider: the mode of argument we engage in actually changes our understanding of the question itself. The more we argue to win, the more we will feel that there is a single objectively correct answer and that all other answers are mistaken. Conversely, the more we argue to learn, the more we will feel that there is no single objective truth and different answers can be equally right. So the next time you are deciding how to enter into an argument on Facebook about the controversial question of the day, remember that you are not just making a choice about how to interact with a person who holds the opposing view. You are also making a decision that will shape the way you—and others—think about whether the question itself has a correct answer. 
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...eid=519bb2c215
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  2. #2
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    I refer you to my post in Wiggins's thread about stuff.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  3. #3
    They propose an interesting distinction but I think it's a false one. Arguments about policy are almost always relativist, and should be. Arguments about reality are generally objective. Political arguments, in a perfect world, should revolve around policy. There shouldn't be a fundamental debate in our society about verifiable facts - say, that HIV causes AIDS, or that anthropogenic climate change is a reality, or that leggings are not pants. The debate should revolve around how to project forward the best policy that appropriately balances all of the competing priorities. That's somewhat objective (i.e. you can get better projections of the effects of a policy through detailed modeling and retrospective studies), but mostly subjective (how do you weigh the relative importance of competing priorities?). Policy exists as a dialectic, where the ideal outcome exists in tension between multiple opposing viewpoints.

    When people resort to arguing about facts, they're really saying that they are unable to marshal a coherent policy argument. Sure, it's entirely valid to argue about semantic overlays on facts (when does a 'human' life begin? Do jeggings count?), but the underlying truth is undeniable. As such, it's almost never worth engaging in a dispute with someone about facts unless they genuinely appear to be mistaken and open to correction (or, conversely, if you are not certain that your handle on the facts of a given situation is complete).

    I personally think the problem is that people think they're arguing about facts (and that they're right), when in fact they're arguing about some sort of semantic overlay. If two political opponents are using similar terminology in fundamentally different ways, or interpreting the same data set to mean wildly different things, they think they're arguing about facts, when in fact they're just arguing about language and meaning. This means they have the cognitive challenges associated with 'arguing to win' in an objectivist mold but don't actually achieve anything because they don't understand what their opponent is saying.

    Sometimes, all you need in order to at least understand one's political opponents is to agree on a set of common definitions. You won't necessarily have the same policy positions, but at least you won't argue with them over what is literally semantics. Most of the debates on Facebook - and, indeed, here - are at their core definitional in nature.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  4. #4
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    They propose an interesting distinction but I think it's a false one. Arguments about policy are almost always relativist, <snip> Policy exists as a dialectic, where the ideal outcome exists in tension between multiple opposing viewpoints.
    I think you may be talking here about how things ought to work, or how they work in your own approach to political discussion, instead of the widespread dysfunction in casual political debate the article is talking about. People commonly argue for or against policy in objective, no wiggle-room terms, with no intention at all to compromise or understand the opposing point of view.

    When people resort to arguing about facts, they're really saying that they are unable to marshal a coherent policy argument.
    Shouldn't any discussion of opposing policy views at some point involve fact-based support to "prove" the legitimacy of one position over another? I understood the article to be saying that when we argue to win, we are more willing to ignore, or maybe accept distortions of, facts to avoid losing points in the game.

    Maybe you are talking about argument for particular policy goals? I've experienced that opposing sides may not even value the same outcome, so facts supporting the policy to achieve that outcome are irrelevant. As example, I might argue that NASA needs more funding for xyz research so people can go to Mars, and support that with facts about science, NASA's budget, and the potential benefits of Mars exploration, etc. But the opposing view might be that government has no business operating or even promoting any kind of space program at all.

    . This means they have the cognitive challenges associated with 'arguing to win' in an objectivist mold but don't actually achieve anything because they don't understand what their opponent is saying.
    This is a problem probably fundamental to language itself. But it isn't new or increasing in and of itself, is it? Fact-ignoring discussion, in favor of a hard objectivist stake in the ground, has to exacerbate it for sure, though, and I think this is the issue the article is referring to. The process of understanding what your opponent is saying is fundamental to "argument to learn," I would think.
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  5. #5
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    I personally think the problem is that people think they're arguing about facts (and that they're right), when in fact they're arguing about some sort of semantic overlay. If two political opponents are using similar terminology in fundamentally different ways, or interpreting the same data set to mean wildly different things, they think they're arguing about facts, when in fact they're just arguing about language and meaning. This means they have the cognitive challenges associated with 'arguing to win' in an objectivist mold but don't actually achieve anything because they don't understand what their opponent is saying.
    I'd agree with you if you said this 5 years ago. But the main disagreement now is over what constitutes facts. While there's nothing new about ignoring inconvenient facts, it's pretty obvious that one side of the political spectrum has simply decided any organization that produces facts not to their liking is engaging in partisanship and therefore should be ignored. Instead, these people live in a warped reality where facts are created by people entirely unqualified to produce them who have no interest in anything resembling truth. Thus Obama is a Muslim. Climate change doesn't exist. Any study demonstrating the effect of widespread gun ownership is fake news. Tax cuts pay for themselves. Etc. These aren't distributional disagreements. They're a reliance on unambiguous lies as the basis for reality.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  6. #6
    Resiste et Mords! Steely Glint's Avatar
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    Article misses the point that 'arguing to win' and 'arguing to learn' are actually carried out for two very different purposes. When 'arguing to win' in a political context, the purpose is almost never to persuade the person you're arguing against but to a) persuade any possibility undecided third party observers, which is something that can be accomplished through a wide range of techniques beyond just having the most solid argument b) to try and frame the discussion, and by extension that of all of public political discourse, a way that is most advantageous to your side - see what wiggin has just said about definitions and terms, but what he misses IMO is that these wars over language and semantics are the entire point of the exercise, and not an unfortunate side effect that results in two otherwise well meaning people unfortunately talking past each other.

    The Romans and Greeks understood all this, and did not consider 'rhetoric' a dirty word but an art you had to be proficient at in order to call oneself educated with a straight face.

    Perhaps if we in the modern world understood that too we wouldn't be in such a mess as we are today, because people with nefarious intentions sure as shit understand every word of what I wrote perfectly, and absolutely no qualms about using it to achieve their own self-serving ends.
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  7. #7
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    Article misses the point that 'arguing to win' and 'arguing to learn' are actually carried out for two very different purposes. When 'arguing to win' in a political context, the purpose is almost never to persuade the person you're arguing against but to a) persuade any possibility undecided third party observers, which is something that can be accomplished through a wide range of techniques beyond just having the most solid argument b) to try and frame the discussion, and by extension that of all of public political discourse, a way that is most advantageous to your side - see what wiggin has just said about definitions and terms, but what he misses IMO is that these wars over language and semantics are the entire point of the exercise, and not an unfortunate side effect that results in two otherwise well meaning people unfortunately talking past each other.

    The Romans and Greeks understood all this, and did not consider 'rhetoric' a dirty word but an art you had to be proficient at in order to call oneself educated with a straight face.

    Perhaps if we in the modern world understood that too we wouldn't be in such a mess as we are today, because people with nefarious intentions sure as shit understand every word of what I wrote perfectly, and absolutely no qualms about using it to achieve their own self-serving ends.
    I understood the article to be referring to casual discussion between citizens, voters, not the discussion between political leaders and pundits posturing to drum up support. I agree, they argue to persuade the observer, not the opponent. But that's not what is happening when we argue with friends and family about politics. And the article is saying that in that casual political dialogue, people are increasingly arguing to win, like the pundits and leadership.
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    Article misses the point that 'arguing to win' and 'arguing to learn' are actually carried out for two very different purposes. When 'arguing to win' in a political context, the purpose is almost never to persuade the person you're arguing against but to a) persuade any possibility undecided third party observers, which is something that can be accomplished through a wide range of techniques beyond just having the most solid argument b) to try and frame the discussion, and by extension that of all of public political discourse, a way that is most advantageous to your side - see what wiggin has just said about definitions and terms, but what he misses IMO is that these wars over language and semantics are the entire point of the exercise, and not an unfortunate side effect that results in two otherwise well meaning people unfortunately talking past each other.

    The Romans and Greeks understood all this, and did not consider 'rhetoric' a dirty word but an art you had to be proficient at in order to call oneself educated with a straight face.

    Perhaps if we in the modern world understood that too we wouldn't be in such a mess as we are today, because people with nefarious intentions sure as shit understand every word of what I wrote perfectly, and absolutely no qualms about using it to achieve their own self-serving ends.
    I think you're right when it comes to 'debate' by politicians, which is clearly designed to shore up a constituency or sway undecided voters, and has every intention of distorting language and facts to achieve greater political power (or, possibly, a policy goal). But I didn't take the article as really focusing on that kind of interaction, but rather on political discourse as a whole, especially on the ground level (and, to a lesser extent, in our media). I don't really understand why anyone would bother 'arguing to win' on Facebook; obviously they do, but there's not as clear of a value proposition compared to debate by politicians.

    Quote Originally Posted by EyeKhan View Post
    I think you may be talking here about how things ought to work, or how they work in your own approach to political discussion, instead of the widespread dysfunction in casual political debate the article is talking about. People commonly argue for or against policy in objective, no wiggle-room terms, with no intention at all to compromise or understand the opposing point of view.
    Actually, I'm well aware that my ideal isn't how things actually work IRL, but my critique of the piece was a bit more subtle. The issue is that they assume that policy debates could be 'objective', when I suggest that nearly every policy debate is not, in the final analysis, even if it might be presented as such.

    Shouldn't any discussion of opposing policy views at some point involve fact-based support to "prove" the legitimacy of one position over another? I understood the article to be saying that when we argue to win, we are more willing to ignore, or maybe accept distortions of, facts to avoid losing points in the game.
    Not really, unless one policy goal is based on erroneous data - real differences in policy arise not because there's incomplete knowledge on one side of a debate, but because there are differing priorities and weighting of competing priorities. Most of the debates you get about data aren't really about facts, they're about models and projections, which are hardly objective truth.

    Maybe you are talking about argument for particular policy goals? I've experienced that opposing sides may not even value the same outcome, so facts supporting the policy to achieve that outcome are irrelevant. As example, I might argue that NASA needs more funding for xyz research so people can go to Mars, and support that with facts about science, NASA's budget, and the potential benefits of Mars exploration, etc. But the opposing view might be that government has no business operating or even promoting any kind of space program at all.
    Precisely. Though I would frame the debate differently: You, perhaps, might favor NASA funding for a Mars mission because you prioritize scientific research, or think the cultural impact of exploring another world would be beneficial, or want to diversify the human species to more than one planet. Your opponent might argue that the return is not worth the investment given competing budgetary priorities, saying they could take that $100 billion and put it to better use, say, feeding the hungry, or building infrastructure. It's not that one person says 'I like X' and another says 'I don't like X'. It's that there are a web of values and priorities, and finding the right balance between them all is the purpose of government.

    This is a problem probably fundamental to language itself. But it isn't new or increasing in and of itself, is it? Fact-ignoring discussion, in favor of a hard objectivist stake in the ground, has to exacerbate it for sure, though, and I think this is the issue the article is referring to. The process of understanding what your opponent is saying is fundamental to "argument to learn," I would think.
    You don't win an argument if you're just talking past each other, except in the narrowest of senses. There's no even a debate about facts in such a circumstance, it's just two idiots who don't understand what their opponent is saying. I'm not saying it's not common (it is), but it doesn't really fit the objective/subjective narrative developed.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  9. #9
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    You don't win an argument if you're just talking past each other . . . .
    I'm wondering if the problem might, at it's heart, be the very concept of "winning the argument." What in the world can you actually win in an "Argue to Win" political discussion? I've always thought that the only win worth a shit is to move your opponent in your direction, even just a little bit. Or maybe soften their position, even just a little bit. Or, learn something you didn't know before and move your own position. I genuinely believe that if you discover you're wrong or ignorant about a topic, that's a good thing. But if informal political discourse is becoming more and more of a point-scoring game, without any consideration of "learning", then there can't be a win for anyone.
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by EyeKhan View Post
    I'm wondering if the problem might, at it's heart, be the very concept of "winning the argument." What in the world can you actually win in an "Argue to Win" political discussion? I've always thought that the only win worth a shit is to move your opponent in your direction, even just a little bit. Or maybe soften their position, even just a little bit. Or, learn something you didn't know before and move your own position. I genuinely believe that if you discover you're wrong or ignorant about a topic, that's a good thing. But if informal political discourse is becoming more and more of a point-scoring game, without any consideration of "learning", then there can't be a win for anyone.
    I think winning an argument is a policy circle is convincing enough people - including a good chunk of your ideological opponents - that your proposed solution strikes the right balance among competing priorities. You'll never convince everyone, but if you make your argument well enough, your basic ordering of priorities gets ingrained in the way people view other, unrelated problems. That, more than any ephemeral policy, is what really drives change.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  11. #11
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    This is because casual political discussion is a social activity intended to signal and strengthen tribal affiliations rather than collaboratively discover truths. If you want those discussions to change, you have to promote definitions of our political tribes that are inclusive and pluralistic. My personal opinion is that this starts with our friends and loved ones. The other problem you describe is, I think, more an affliction of the pundits and professionals, and my view has long been that it is a consequence of western culture's naive approach to using the socratic method, encouraged from childhood onwards. Most of the influential voices in western politics cut their teeth on political debates in highschool, and have spent their adult lives adjusting to a society that values adversarial debate as the highest form of truth-seeking. Changing that will require a massive cultural shift over two generations.

    I agree with the idea that arguing to win can sabotage the quality of political conversations. It's not a new idea (you might enjoy an old book called "Parallel Thinking" that deals with this subject and discusses concrete personal and group level strategies for dealing with these problems). I have over time come to think that the flaws with conversations on this board can be ameliorated by supplementing these conversations with other types of discussions in other contexts, eg. on communities with other cultures. On its own, this forum is not satisfying. As a component of a larger process, these debates are still valuable to me and frequently lead to me changing my views.
    Last edited by Aimless; 01-05-2018 at 09:16 PM.
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  12. #12
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Apart from honor, glory, cheers from an adoring crowd and emotional satisfaction, you can persuade onlookers, or mobilize those who've already been persuaded. But it may also be habit, which drives a great deal of our most stupid and least adaptive behavior.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  13. #13
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Apart from honor, glory, cheers from an adoring crowd and emotional satisfaction, you can persuade onlookers, or mobilize those who've already been persuaded. But it may also be habit, which drives a great deal of our most stupid and least adaptive behavior.
    As in Facebook, with onlookers liking your post, reposting your posts... I was thinking more of face to face, real life, casual discussion. As you note, motivations in cyberspace are entirely different.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EyeKhan View Post
    As in Facebook, with onlookers liking your post, reposting your posts... I was thinking more of face to face, real life, casual discussion. As you note, motivations in cyberspace are entirely different.
    wiggin doesn't see why people would argue on Facebook, but maybe it's the same reason we argue here? I find it hard to have any real life, face-to-face, serious discussions about the world, especially the last decade or so. I've never had a Facebook account (and never will) so I come here to fulfill a need that can't be met in RL discussions.

    I've mostly focused on *discussion* part of D & D, and tried to deal with being chastised for not *debating* properly. I consider that part of the expectations-game and goal-setting that also makes politics and policy so challenging. What's a win anyway? How many times have people used the moving-goalposts trope to shut down a good conversation here? Too many anecdotes, wrong metrics, bad analogies, mixed metaphors, circular thinking, etc.

    Seems to me this forum is a pretty good example of what the OP article was talking about....and how easy it is to stop listening and learning, and resort to name-calling and personal insults, in order to "win". I'm guilty of that with Lewk, which is a shame, because I really DO want to understand why he thinks the way he does (and apparently there are millions who think that way, too). If perception is reality, I want to understand why we can say there are two Americas, or that they line up between two parties, right/left, right/wrong, black/white, forget the nuances or grey areas.

    ps to wiggin: leggings and jeggings count as pants, just like shorts do. Streetwear, probably not appropriate for most offices, or a job interview, or under a lab coat.
    Last edited by GGT; 01-18-2018 at 03:04 AM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Interesting read

    They started out commenting on a televised presidential debate, and moved to debates between friends or on social media....and didn't really make distinctions between the two. If it's about language and definition of terms, we should stop calling them "debates" in the first place, because we tend to view those as adversarial competitions; something to "win", with an objective winner. And I've never liked the post-debate polling that goes on either, or how they're used to report "the winner".

    Loki made a good point that the article didn't delve into: that HOW we get our information/news has dramatically changed in the last few years, and it isn't always fact-based. Sadly, that kind of misinformation is often intentional, meant to increase tribalism and polarization for political gain. No type of 'technique tweaking' can change that.

  16. #16
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    My assumption has been that the article assumes people can access facts and are, on some level, aware that much of their argumentative basis is false, but don't care. The goal of the discussion is to win and it doesn't matter if the truth is distorted, or even lost, in the process.

    I'm not sure what to make of the observation that when we argue to learn, even when we have the full weight of the facts behind us, we soften our positions. The example in the article was climate change. Despite being no wiggle room on the science - settled, hard fact - if you have a good faith discussion with a denier, your position will actually soften a bit. That's a big argument for --- what? Argue to Win is appropriate in some circumstance? How do you know which, if the facts are being fabricated or denied willy nilly?
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  17. #17
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Officials said they had questions about the studies’ expense to taxpayers. One, stopped in August, was looking at whether residents near surface coal mining sites in Appalachia face higher health risks than other Americans. The second, suspended last month, was aimed at updating and enhancing the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s oil and gas inspection program.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/polit...54d_story.html

    Case in point. These people are simply not interested in evidence-based policy. For them, the only truth is one that supports their own interests (I won't even say ideology, because they don't have one).
    Hope is the denial of reality

  18. #18
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/polit...54d_story.html

    Case in point. These people are simply not interested in evidence-based policy. For them, the only truth is one that supports their own interests (I won't even say ideology, because they don't have one).
    Is it inaccurate to say their ideology is that the economic benefit of mining is more important than health and environmental impacts, regardless of what anyone else thinks?

    But since what everyone else thinks matters in a democracy, everyone else might (mistakenly) restrict what's more important based on worries about what is less important, so information about things that are less important should be suppressed. And it's okay to suppress information about less important things, because they are less important! (another ideology, I guess).

    EDIT: SciAm is reporting on the erasing/ hiding of climate data that the Trump Administration has been doing. See link. It's the same thing as the link you posted. This is hiding data/ denying facts/ halting research because they know what the data will show, but don't want to take the actions the general public will want as a result. It's as much about undermining democracy as anything else -- democracy being dependent on an informed electorate.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...d-under-trump/
    Last edited by EyeKhan; 01-10-2018 at 04:21 PM.
    The Rules
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  19. #19
    Resiste et Mords! Steely Glint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EyeKhan View Post
    I understood the article to be referring to casual discussion between citizens, voters, not the discussion between political leaders and pundits posturing to drum up support. I agree, they argue to persuade the observer, not the opponent. But that's not what is happening when we argue with friends and family about politics. And the article is saying that in that casual political dialogue, people are increasingly arguing to win, like the pundits and leadership.
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    I think you're right when it comes to 'debate' by politicians, which is clearly designed to shore up a constituency or sway undecided voters, and has every intention of distorting language and facts to achieve greater political power (or, possibly, a policy goal). But I didn't take the article as really focusing on that kind of interaction, but rather on political discourse as a whole, especially on the ground level (and, to a lesser extent, in our media). I don't really understand why anyone would bother 'arguing to win' on Facebook; obviously they do, but there's not as clear of a value proposition compared to debate by politicians.
    I can't give a fully thought out answer to you both because these are some pretty nebulous ideas that I haven't really bothered to develop properly yet, but:

    1) Facebook is a public forum, there are in fact observers to potentially be persuaded
    2) Discussions amongst private individuals or groups of friends still helps frame the terms of discussion in the wider social group and, in an incredibly diluted way, the that of wider political discourse
    3) I think people just sort of do it naturally as part of the basic package of human social interaction. mass media is a relatively new thing
    4) The idea that this a new thing is, you know... wrong.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Maybe none of this is new, it just seems that way since the internet/social media is everywhere, all the time?

    But you might be onto something EyeKhan, when you focus on the goal of the arguer. If it's just to win (facts be damned) that's not just unproductive but can backfire over time. I was thinking how some couples argue, or kids argue with parents, and it's usually a disaster if one just wants to "win". What's being called 'argue to learn' reminds me of persuasive discussions -- where the goal is to get something in return for giving something -- more like a compromise. And that requires a willingness (on both sides) to actively listen, which can take a lot of time. Maybe what we're seeing is actually impatience, in a world where instant gratification and speed are the new norm? Or maybe people are just scared by what they perceive as rapid change?

    Long term, longitudinal studies about climate science probably won't matter to unemployed coal miners in Kentucky who need a job today; and even though science (and regulation) has made mining safer, they might perceive the goal as 'winning for the environment', while they lose jobs. A similar thing is happening in farming and fishing, really any industry where people use natural resources for a livelihood. When there are policy arguments, and 'compromise' has become a dirty word in politics, it's no wonder we end up fighting about winning.

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