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Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), was a brilliant German philosopher. These 38 Stratagems are excerpts from "The Art of Controversy", first translated into English and published in 1896. Schopenhauer's 38 ways to win an argument are:

**1).. Carry your opponent's proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it. The more general your opponent's statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it. The more restricted and narrow your propositions remain, the easier they are defend.

**2).. Use different meanings of your opponent's words to refute his or her argument.

**3).. Ignore your opponent's proposition, which was intended to refer to a particular thing. Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it. Attack something different than that which was asserted.

**4).. Hide your conclusion from your opponent till the end. Mingle your premises here and there in your talk. Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order. By this circuitious route you conceal your game until you have obtained all the admissions that are necessary to reach your goal.

**5).. Use your opponent's beliefs against him. If the opponent refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.

**6).. Another plan is to confuse the issue by changing your opponent's words or what he or she seeks to prove.

**7.. State your proposition and show the truth of it by asking the opponent many questions. By asking many wide-reaching questions at once, you may hide what you want to get admitted. Then you quickly propound the argument resulting from the opponent's admissions.

**8.. Make your opponent angry. An angry person is less capable of using judegment or perceiving where his or her advantage lies.

**9).. Use your opponet's answers to your question to reach different or even opposite conclusions.

**10). If your opponent answers all your questions negatively and refuses to grant any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite of your premises. This may confuse the opponent as to which point you actually seek them to concede.

**11). If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises, refrain from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion. Later, introduce your conclusion as a settled and admitted fact. Your opponent may come to believe that your conclusion was admitted.

**12). If the argument turns upon general ideas with no particular names, you must use language or a metaphor that is favorable in your proposition.

**13). To make your opponent accept a proposition, you must give him or her an opposite, counter-proposition as well. If the contrast is glaring, the opponent will accept your proposition to avoid being paradoxical.

**14). Try to bluff your opponent. If he or she has answered several of your questions without the answers turning out in favor of your conclusion, advance your conclusion triumphantly, even if it does not follow. If your opponent is shyr or stupid,and you yourself possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily succeed.

**15). Iyou wish to advance a proposition thatis difficult to prove, put it aside for the moment. Instead, sumit for your opponent's acceptance or rejection some true poposition, as thoug you wished to draw your proof from it. Should the oppoent reject it becasue he or she suspects a trick, you can obtain your triumph by showing how absurd the opponet is to reject a true proposition.Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on your own for the moment. You can either try to prove your original proposition or maintain that your original proposition is proved by what the opponet accepted. For this, an extreme degree of impudence is required.

**16). Ehen your opponet puts forth a proposition, find it inconsistent with his or her other statements, beliefs, actions, or lack of action.

**17). If your opponent presses you with a counter proof, you will often be able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction. Try to find a second meaning or an ambiguous sense for your opponent's idea.

**18). If your opponent has taken up a line of argument that will end in your defeat, you must not allow him or her to carry it to its conclusion. Interrupt the dispute, break it off altogether, or lead the opponent to a different subject.

**19). Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any objection to some definite point in his or her argument, and you have nothing much to say, try to make the argument less specific.

**20). If your opponent has admitted to all or most of your premises, donot ask him or her directly to accept your conclusion. Rather draw the conclusion yourself as if it too had been admitted.

**21). When your opponent uses an argument that is superficial and you see the flasehood, you can, it is true, refute it by setting forth its superficial character. But it is better to meet the opponet with a counter argument that is just as superficial, and so dispose of him or her. For it is with victory that your are concerned, and not with truth.

**22). If your opponent asks you to admit something from which the point in dispute will immediately follow, you must refuse to do so, declaring that it begs the question.

**23). Contradiction and contention irritate a person into exaggerating their statements. By contractiong your opponent you may drive him or her into extending the statement beyond its natural limit. When you then contradict the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you had refuted the orginal statement your opponent tries to extend your own statement further than you intended, redefine your statement's limits.

**24). This trick consists in stating a false syllogism. Your opponent makes a proposition and by false inference and distortion of his or her ideas you force from the proposition other propositions that are not intended and that appear absurd. It hen appears the opponent's proposition gave rise to these inconsistencies, and so appears to be indirectly refuted.

**25). If your opponent is making a generalization, find an instance to the contrary. Only one valid contradiciton is needed to overthrow the oppoent's proposition.

**26). A brilliant move is to turn the tables and use your opponent's arguments against him or herself.

**27). Should your opponent surprise you be becoming particularly angry at an argument, you must urge it with all the more zeal. Not only will thismake the opponent angry, it may be presumed that you put your finger on the weak side of his or her case, and that the opponent is more open to attack on this point than you expected.

**28). This trick is chiefly practicable in a dispute if there is an audience who is not an expert on the subject. You make an invalid objection to your opponet who seems to be defeated in the eyes of the audience. This strategy is particularly effective if your objection makes the opponet look ridiculous or if the audience laughs. If the opponent must make a long, complicated explanation to correct you, the audience will not be disposed to listen.

**29). If you find that you are being beaten, you can create a diversion that is, you can suddenly begin to tlak of something else, as though it had bearing on the matter in dispose. This may be done without presumption if the diversion has some general bearing on thematter.

**30). Make an appeal to authority rather than reason. If your opponent respects an authority or an expert, quote that authority to further your case. If needed, quote what the authority said in some other sense or circumstance. Authorities that your opponet fails to understand are those which he or she generally admires thae most. You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote something that you have invented entirely yourself.

**31). If you know that you have no reply to an argument that your opponet advances, you may by a fine stroke of irony, declare yourself to be an incompetent judge.

**32). A quick way of getting rid of an opponent's assetion, or throwwing suspicion on it, is by putting it into some odious category.

**33). You admit your opponent's premises but deny the conclsion.

**34). When you state a question or an argument, and your opponent gives you no direct answer, or evades it with a counter question, or tries to change the subject, it is a sure sign you have touched a weak spot, sometimes without knowing it. You have as it were, reduced the opponent to silence. You must, therefore, urge the point all the more, and not let your opponet evade it, even when you donot know where the weakness that you have hit upon really lies.

**35). This trick makes all unecessary if it works,. Instead of working on an opponent's intellect, work on his or her motive. If you succeed in making your opponent's opinion, should it prove true, seem dinstinclty to his or her own interes, the opponenentwill drop it like a hot potato.

**36). You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponet by mere bombast. If the opponet is weak or does not wish to appear as ife he or she has no idea what you are talking about, you can easily impose upon him or her some argument that sounds very deept or learned, or that sounds indisputable.

**37). Should your oppoent be in the right but, luckily for you, choose a faulty proof, you can easily refute it and then claim that you hae refuted the whole position. This is the way which bad advocates lose a good case. If no accurateproof occurs to the opponent or the bystanders, you have won the day.

**38). A last trick is to become personal, insulting and rude as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand. In becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack on the person by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. This is a very popular trick, because everyone is able to carry it into effect.

(abstreacted from the book:Numerical Lists You Never Knew or Once Knew and Probably Forget by: John Boswell and Dan Starer)
posted by infraternam meam @ 2:21 PM  
  • At 9:35 AM, Blogger Damo said…

    This philosopher must not have been interested in truth. His advice is incredibly dangerous for the peace and progress.

    The only people that need this advice to succeed are manipulative assholes out for their own gain and little else.

    I think Kirk Cameron does his best to use these tactics to argue against evolution. Lol.

  • At 10:30 AM, Blogger nicole said…

    I agree with Damo, these are tactics that politicians use when the goal is to win, not to gain any sort of ground. Very interesting to see it laid out in detail though.

  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger thomas said…

    As I read this philosophers comments all I could think was that all of the Fox News Team must have taken classes from this man. The truth doesn't matter, only the outcome. A true Republican premise. The end justifies the means. Machiavelli at his finest moment.

  • At 3:06 PM, Blogger Wolf said…

    Sorry to interrupt, but those comments don't do Schopenhauer's list justice. By dismissing such rhetorical infighting tactics as outright "dangerous for peace and progress", otherwise intelligent people become easy bait for advocates of hollow arguments and are regularly slaughtered in real discussions.
    It's a dangerous and arrogant assumption that the sole thing needed to win an argument are truth and the facts on one's side. That's the classical walking into a shootout with a knife - situation.
    The described tactics are just the arsenal. You can use those argumentative weapons for whatever purpose you desire. One can defend truth or advocate falsehoods by using such tactics.
    But to dismiss them as outright dangerous is not a smart move that has lead many too righteous defenders of sound arguments to rhetorical hell.

  • At 6:22 PM, Blogger monkiesatemybaby said…

    Still won't work on a woman.

  • At 8:01 AM, Blogger MTGAP said…

    These tactics are pretty clever, but most will utterly fail if you have an informed opponent and a smart audience. Similar to what Damo and Nicole said, these tactics are very effective against an uninformed audience. Most of these tactics are actually logical fallacies, and if they are understood as such by the audience, they will not succeed. Some of them, though, and in the right dosages, can work to persuade even the most clever people.

  • At 10:49 PM, Blogger Nano said…

    @Wolf, i think you are misinterpreting their meaning. these strategies are absolutely what you need if you want to win an argument, but the validity of a claim isn't determined at all by how it stands up in an argument. by calling them 'dangerous' i think the intention was a much broader meaning. you dont need to be right to walk into an argument and win, but that is not what matters in the justification of an idea.

  • At 11:10 PM, Blogger Wolf said…

    @ Nano:
    The argument is valid or not, independent of the outcome of the debate. But the fate of the idea behind is decided by how its probonents fare in the discussion about it.

    I don't quite get what you mean exactly. What is it that matters in the justification of an idea?

  • At 3:30 AM, Blogger Robert said…

    39. Become a lawyer.

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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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