Most anyone can be made to look foolish:
- By restating their position(s) in an incorrect, out of context, or otherwise misleading manner and then proceeding to knock-down such straw-men; or by…
- Interrupting them before they have an opportunity to finish their thought/sentence/argument, and then proceeding to refute that incomplete statement as if it represented the whole of their position; or by…
Mocking, or otherwise attacking, what their “underlying beliefs must be if they hold to such a position” without taking the time to verify whether they really hold to such beliefs; or by
Poisoning the well, i.e., maligning them and their views, bringing up irrelevant matters (often when they are not present to defend themselves or to otherwise clarify their position), all as a means of discrediting them before others, beforehand; and by
Combining the above with a delivery laden with pathos, humour, trolling, supposed care, sophistry, and/or other forms of pseudo-intellectualism and deception.
However, few are more foolish than those engaging in such conduct.
This is why, consistently, we must strive to:
- Listen to others carefully,
- Consider their arguments objectively,
- Enquire (when clarification is needed) sincerely,
- Restate their positions honestly,
- Ignore truly extraneous matters completely,
- Research the matter thoroughly, and then, when prudent to do so…
- Proceed to refute the matter in as graceful, succinct, and humble a manner as possible.
Anything else is folly…
“If one rejects [answering, turning back, refusing, refuting] a matter before he hears [it intelligently, attentively, carefully, diligently, and discerningly], it is folly and shame [disgrace, reproach, dishonour] to him.” — The Holy Spirit, via King Solomon, in Proverbs 18:13 [Enhanced Literal].
“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. This is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of, else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty.
Ninety-nine in a hundred of what are called educated men are in this condition, even of those who can argue fluently for their opinions. Their conclusion may be true, but it might be false for anything they know: they have never thrown themselves into the mental position of those who think differently from them, and considered what such persons may have to say; and consequently they do not, in any proper sense of the word, know the doctrine which they themselves profess. They do not know those parts of it which explain and justify the remainder; the considerations which show that a fact which seemingly conflicts with another is reconcilable with it, or that, of two apparently strong reasons, one and not the other ought to be preferred. All that part of the truth which turns the scale, and decides the judgment of a completely informed mind, they are strangers to; nor is it ever really known, but to those who have attended equally and impartially to both sides, and endeavored to see the reasons of both in the strongest light. So essential is this discipline to a real understanding of moral and human subjects, that if opponents of all important truths do not exist, it is indispensable to imagine them and supply them with the strongest arguments which the most skillful devil’s advocate can conjure up. ” — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty