1. MatrixGravity
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    MatrixGravity Senior Member

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    Arguing effectively.

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by MatrixGravity, Aug 1, 2012.

    Does being able to argue critically and effectively have anything to do with a person's vocabulary range, or is that entirely irrelevant? What factors determine how well a person can argue effectively? Any idea's?
     
  2. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Hmmm. I don't believe using a vocabulary that is above the comprehension level of my contestant is going to convince him of anything. However, being able to articulate well, thought out points that make sense to my contestant may be what we are aiming for. Take for instance the gamut of political debates plastered all over facebook in lieu of the the up coming U.S. elections. The moment someone uses fancy lingo conversation shuts down if those in the discussion are not all on the same page intellectually. Name calling starts about this point as well, since one party deems the other is insinuating they are stupid by using their "big words". I think audience is the important thing to note with debating. Just like it is with writing. I wouldn't use superfluous words in a young adult novel. The kids won't understand a lick of what I'm saying. However, to use trite words with a novel intended for a historical buff would irritate the reader as well. Vocabulary may not be the most important aspect, but knowing how to use your vocabulary well, sure will come in handy.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that vocabulary is pretty close to irrelevant in arguing. What would matter more would be the ability to empathize with a person, understand how that person thinks, and to be able to put together a line of logic that can present that person with a new idea in a way suited to that person.

    That's assuming that you're actually trying to persuade, rather than just trying to score points in a debate. For debate, there's a lot pubished about various debating tactics, so I won't try to reproduce that here.

    But in any case, vocabulary would make very little difference.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think your own range of vocab can indeed add to an argument, because it's only in understand a word perfectly by its technical definition AS WELL AS its conceptual definition and all implications and connotations that are tied with the word can you fully analyse what each concept means - and thus, come up with the best counter argument.

    However there does come a time when your contestant doesn't understand a word you're using, or won't see the multiple layers of meaning and societal influences behind the word - and then you're pretty much arguing in circles :rolleyes: but I like to engage in discussions only with people who have the ability to see from more than one perspective. But here it's more a matter of the person and his/her analytical abilities rather than a matter of vocab.

    It's also often the case that the ones who know the most vocab are the ones who have read the most - and reading increases knowledge and analytical skills etc, which enhances your debating skills. It's also pretty hard to argue at all if you have no background knowledge of the issue at hand.
     
  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I think it has nothing at all to do with a large vocabulary unless you are arguing in public, then you can impress people with it - it's a common device with politicians. However, it's a bad idea to rely on it because what if you have an opponent who can 'cut through the bullshit' so to speak you'll end up looking like a fool. The best way to debate and win an argument is to listen, and think critically about the other position.

    That's what we were taught in university anyway.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Vocabulary is a poor method of argument. Trying to beat someone by knowing more fancy words than them is silly. People like Will Self use lots of long, complex words, but really I find they hinder him as much as help him -- and he's an extraordinarily intelligent and gifted man. You need enough vocabulary to be able to express your arguments and concepts.

    I grow slightly worried about your obsession with vocabulary as prime indicator of intelligence and writing merit, MatrixGravity.
     
  7. ThievingSix
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    ThievingSix Member

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    I think it also depends on the medium of presentation, in a speech for example, using a wide vocabulary can make a person appear knowledgeable on a subject hence creating the illusion in an audience that anything else they say is also true because, "they must have researched it" or "they sound like an expert". In text i think being able to argue effectively comes down to an in depth knowledge on the subject matter. You can write all the fancy words you want but, a reader can usually see straight past large word.

    Another factor is the nature of the audience itself. If you are writing/talking to an audience of meat packing factory workers, I don't think you'd gain any advantage by talking about the metaphorical chiaroscuro of the factories ambient illumination system and the conceptualised connotations. If anything, you'd come off as a complete jerk and lose your audience. A more appropriate argument would be "The dim lighting in this factory makes it seem like corporate doesn't want to spend a cent on replacing the damn lights!"
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The secret to winning an argument (I find) is to have an argument - and have a reasoned, intelligent argument. And the best way to show the strength of your argument is to be able to explain it in a way almost anyone could understand. You don't need to talk about the 'Stygian implications of conservative protocol - but be aware also that protocol takes precedence over procedure!' (points are awarded to anyone who gets that reference) you just need to say what you mean in a way that can be easily understood. Having a large vocabulary does not help an argument in any way that has real meaning.
     
  9. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Clearly it is a factor. A person who only knows five words
    (the cat sat on the mat) won't have the ability
    to back their claim up in a conversation of words.

    PERSON1: The cat sat on the mat.

    PERSON2: How do you know?

    PERSON1: The cat sat on the mat.

    PERSON2: Seriously guy, tell me.

    PERSON1: The cat sat on the mat.

    PERSON2: You make my blood boil!

    PERSON1: The cat sat on the mat.

    PERSON2: I'm out of here, punk.
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say that being articulate is more important than being erudite, although ideally one would be both. Having a large vocabulary is a large component in both of those, so in that respect, having a large vocabulary is going to be helpful. Not only can having a large range of words from which to choose help you formulate your own argument, but it can help you parse the other person's argument. That said, the mere possession of a large vocabulary isn't going to help you argue effectively.

    I think the most important component of being able to argue effectively is understanding whatever issue is being discussed as completely as possible. Understanding all of the nuances involved is critical. Acknowledging the strengths of the opposing argument is important, as well. I think an effective argument will break down the issue into the major factors underlying the situation, and in turn, address all of them. If the opposing side brings up other factors that were not addressed initially, those need to be assessed, as well. Realize that in many instances, assessing all of the underlying factors does not result in 100% of those factors falling in your favor. In that case, you need to show that on balance, the remaining factors that do favor your position outweigh the factors that do not.

    I've said this before: having a large vocabulary is never going to hurt you. What matters is that you are able to use it well.

    Having a large vocabulary, however, will be of no use if you are not able to analyze the issue being argued and articulate the factors you believe outweigh the case on the other side.
     
  11. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    There are two ways to argue:

    1. Have a reasonable argument and provide supporting ideas and facts to back it up.
    2. Stubbornly cling to an argument without proof, support or reason, but do it so thoroughly and with such conviction that people have no choice but to believe you. (This is a favorite technique of politicians :D)

    Both can benefit from a good vocabulary, but its not necessary to win an argument.
     
  12. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    They do have another choice: Dismiss you as a nut. That's not a good choice to give them.
     
  13. EldritchDwarf
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    EldritchDwarf New Member

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    Personally if I was arguing I would only use an advanced vocabulary only when I needed it. The problem with using more specialized words and phrases is that people can have varying definitions, so you have to be constantly defining things to be understood.

    I would prefer to argue when I have all my points organized and supported, but what I prefer and what happens do not tend to coincide.
     
  14. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hahaha! Story of my life!
     
  15. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    lol

    the cat sat on the mat.
     
  16. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Haha, that's true! I knew this guy who would debate for fun at work. We got into it about who would win, wolverine or optimus prime. His closing argument was that I was adopted. I dismisses him as a nut lol
     
  17. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    At least you're debating the great questions of our time. ;-)
     
  18. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is that really the only other 'choice'? Is that a reasonable conclusion?

    What if a populist belief/perception is deeply flawed?

    For instance, a person may form a perception based on certain
    fallacious propaganda in the media. He/she will go about their
    daily life with this perception, and will never critically examine it;
    and when someone does critically examine it, the person
    finds that he/she can't actually back it up (even though
    he/she believed in the validity of the perception for all that time,
    believed they could back it up, and even expressed it to other people
    on many occasions; they may have even campaigned or been quite
    vocal).

    The person genuinely believed in the validity of their
    perception because many others believed it also. He/she
    believed in the authority of the 1) media 2) crowd.

    This person was never trained in critical thinking.

    Is it reasonable to dismiss them as being a 'nut'?

    Please, forgive my ignorance.
    You guys seem awfully wise.
    I'd very much like to be enlightened.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  19. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Basically, all I was saying is that a good vocabulary is useful. As for the dismissing as a nut part, well, I think we were talking about an extreme example. For example, If your argument is that trees are evil...well that's kinda nutty. lol But in your example, deeply held but fallacious ideas, if a person is shown the flaw in their thinking and accept, that's one thing. But to know that your argument has either flaws and not make any effort to find something concrete to back it up, and continue to hold to it out of stubborn belief, that to me shows a small mind.

    If a person knows their argument is wrong and clings to it because they want to be right...I would not feel bad calling a person like that a nut.

    Also, I am not wise. Shoot. I get into arguments about which comic book character would win. I can't speak for Chicagoliz, but i know that I am not wise. :rolleyes:

    I don't understand tho, are you saying that arguments should be accepted because of the ignorance of the person arguing it?
     
  20. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    No. I'm not saying that.

    Please tell me, what is the definition of 'nut'?
     
  21. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let's back this up to look at the origin of this particular point of the discussion.
    Pheonix posited that one method of arguing is to cling to the argument without proof, support or reason, so that people have NO CHOICE but to believe you. I took exception to the 'no choice' supposition. Accepting that a person embraces the 'steadfastly argue without proof' position, there is the choice Pheonix stated of accepting or believing the person's argument. I said there was not only one choice -- there did, in fact, exist a second choice: to dismiss the arguer as a nut. You are now questioning whether there is, in fact, an additional choice beyond that.

    You seem to be indicating that the additional choice available is that the person making the argument without authority lacks critical thinking skills and blindly accepted the position he is arguing from what he perceived as as a legitimate source. What are we to make of someone who "lacks critical thinking skills." Contrary to your implied assertion, I would say that no 'special training' is necessary to develop these skills. An simple awareness of their necessity should be enough for a person to attempt to develop them, and by attempting to develop them, they will be at least somewhat successful. How do categorize such a person who either lacks the awareness of the necessity of critical thinking skills or the motivation to develop them? I'm tempted to categorize such a person as a moron or an idiot. You are welcome to disagree and give me some other reason that a person would lack this awareness or motivation. If we accept that such a person is, shall we say, stupid, then I suppose yes, we could say that the choices for an observer of this argument are:
    1) agree with the arguer
    2) dismiss them as a nut
    3) dismiss them as uninformed/stupid.

    Is that what you are suggesting the third option should be? If not, what do you suggest as the third option?

    If so, I suppose I could accept that.

    But to take this further, what makes someone a "nut?" There is of course, some sort of actual mental illness, but for now, let's leave that aside. Also, it could be applied to someone who has given such blind allegiance to a cause or a person or some other entity. That would explain the lack of motivation for finding outside facts or to develop critical reasoning skills. This would not necessarily make them "stupid." (Although they could very well be.) So, I think the 'nut' moniker could actually suit them, without the further parsing of "nuts" versus "stupid." Therefore, it is possible to interpret this universe of choices as limited to two.

    I'm unsure of your characterization of "wise" but I hope that you have found this enlightening. If you have not, I would, as you indicate you are, welcome enlightenment.

     
  22. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I think of someone who is a 'nut' as someone who is not thinking completely correct. Someone who has at least partially taken leave of their better judgement. It's not always a completely bad thing. That's what it means to me anyway.
     
  23. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    HAHA :) I was just using that as a figure of speech. Basically, I said it to try and be funny while making a disparaging comment against politicians lol

    I think we may be all taking this a bit too far.
     
  24. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two definitions of 'nut':

    Thanks, people. I'll come back to this later.

    Pheonix, you said:

    What's the difference between:

    1) a person who believes trees are evil*

    and

    2) a person who deeply holds fallacious ideas












    * That's assuming he's not being facetious lol
     
  25. Hettyblue
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    Hettyblue Member

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    I would 'argue' that there is a correlation between vocabulary and effective debating skills as the processes by which you gain a larger vocabulary - extensive reading etc. can also help you argue coherently and confidently.

    But that is not say that speaking like you swallowed a dictionary makes a good argument as obviously it does not - clear and coherent debate requires logic and reason, fiery and impassioned also have their place of course. I grew up in an environment where issues of the day, politics and economics etc. etc. were talked about and argued over all the time - it was a pastime - particularly of my Father. The vocabulary used was concise rather than flowery (and as he was a Scouser plenty of sweariness to add emphasis). The important thing was to be engaged and informed about the subject you were discussing. That made for an effective and enjoyablen debate. So if you want to argue a point make sure you know what you are talking about as a good vocabulary won't fill the holes in an ill-informed opinion.
     

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