Start at the Beginning

Two people using the same word to refer to different things can argue endlessly without making a bit of progress.

The point of rational argument is not to convince people, but to be correct. There are all sorts of logically invalid arguments that are highly effective at changing people’s minds. Using them is rhetoric. Rhetoric may or may not be a good thing for you to use, depending on what your goals are. But being rational is always one of the goals of being rational, while the goal of rhetoric is to change people’s beliefs.

The purpose of argument is to change the nature of truth.
– Bene Gesserit Coda

Rationality is active in its application but passive in its intent. The Bene Gesserit saying is actively hostile to rationality.

So what’s the point of all this? How is this applied? It’s simple. When in an argumentative discussion with someone, identity the key concepts in their argument, then ask for them to be explained.

If the explanation is easily and clearly given, the arguments can be evaluated in their light. If not, the arguments are not meaningful in the context of the discussion.

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