I. (On Arguing)
Arguing is rarely beneficial.
If unavoidable one should begin to think strategically. It is best to shift ones countenance to that of the inquirer rather than that of the persuader. As soon as arguing begins, start to look for a polite way to escape. A good maxim to hold would be; Never argue against stupid. (Stupid people, or smart people putting forth stupid arguments. The outcome will be the same.)
This has been said before in one form or another. This particular tidbit will take a long time to learn for some people. For me it took decades.
As a child it seemed I was willing to argue on just about anything of substance or not. My dear departed grandmother used to say that I'd argue with a tree stump/fence post/brick wall/and anything else she could think of that was inanimate and would not argue back. I have to admit she was probably correct.
Likely it was a way for young me to assert himself and discover his boundaries. Boundaries of thought and boundaries of another's patience. I cannot remember exactly why I argued so much as a child.
I do remember being very concerned with fairness and much of my arguing was based upon this fact. I was very vocal when I believed an injustice had occurred. Whether one had, actually, occurred was of little relevance to an eight year old Matthew.
Mostly unfairness came in the form of what I saw as unjust punishment or a false attribution of a behavior. False in the sense that I may not have committed said behavior or said behavior was being misinterpreted in a way as to cause offense to an authority of some sort or other. So I spent much of my time as a youth defending real or imagined slights to my dignity.
As I aged into adolescence most of my arguments revolved around whether I had the rights of an adult. I did not. I also did not recognize that I did not. These were trying years for myself and most adults around me.
As a young man my arguing naturally turned toward the philosophical. And this is where it stayed for many years to come. I would argue about most of the classic things most thinking people have argued about for centuries i.e. Ethics, ontology, nature of reality and nature of consciousness. This lasted for most of my twenties as is does for most people.
During this time I discovered the scientific method and critical thinking. This is when my arguments took a petty turn. I did not know this of course. I believed I was being more precise in my arguments. I was not. What I was doing was becoming more of a pain in the ass. I'm sure we all know someone dedicated to this type of sophistry. Thank goodness this only lasted for a few years.
At some point in my thirties I decided I would not argue any longer. Admirable, but flawed in my motivations. I had decided that it was useless to try and change anyones mind on anything whatsoever. This in itself might not have been too great a sin against reason but the fact that I held this position because I thought I was clearly correct in my thinking and all those that opposed me lacked clarity of thought, was.
It would still take me a handful more years to discover that I had only half discovered a tidbit of wisdom. Discussions among fellow truth seekers seems a fine thing. Persuasive argumentation may have its merits, dunno, but gaining a deeper understanding of the human condition is not likely to be one of them.
Seems to me Socrates had a sound way of going about having disagreements. Ask questions of clarification if you see a problem in logic. Better to let the other person come 'round through their own thinking than to bludgeon them with our logic. For one thing, often times we are not as correct in our thinking as we may presume. By thinking about and asking others questions it forces us to abandon the fuzzy. More times than not we will discover a new, better way of thinking for ourselves.
At my current age of (old) I now find it most interesting to see if there is anything to learn from the encounter regardless of the stances taken on any given issue. Don't get me wrong, if someone is an ass I still just walk away. Which brings me to what I hope will happen for my next stage of life.
Lately, as it pertains to this concept I've been wondering if deciding someone is an ass and walking away is another item in a list of my shortcomings; A list which by all accounts is far far too long. There is a tickle in the back of my mind that I think is trying to point towards my behavior as a copout of sorts. I haven't really thought it out. Like I said it's just a tickle. But the discomfort it brings tells me there is something there I need to take a look-see.