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Posts Tagged ‘hypocrisy’

Hypocrisy and Argument

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

I’m often more interested in how we argue than what we argue about. By “interested”, I mean “endlessly frustrated”.

Here’s a big gripe of mine: People don’t seem to understand that when arguing with someone, the hypocrisy (perceived or actual) of an opponent’s argument does not justify their own.

Let’s say that you are staunchly pro-life and I take you to task for it. Suppose that you are pro-death penalty and you have supported the various wars your country has initiated or been involved in. Let’s also say that I am pro-choice and anti-death penalty.

(I know, none of that is controversial, right?)

If make an argument that you cannot rationally be both pro-life and pro-death penalty, you cannot justify your position by claiming that I’m being a hypocrite. You may be correct — I may not be able to rationally be pro-choice and anti-death penalty. But that doesn’t justify your inconsistencies.

The worst part is that by using my inconsistencies or hypocrisy to justify your own, you are legitimizing mine.

This is where too many conversations go. People use all sorts of tactics, intentionally or otherwise, to avoid confronting their own inconsistent beliefs. Do you want to discuss my inconsistent beliefs? That’s fine, but one thing at a time. Let’s examine yours, then we’ll examine mine. Why in that order? It’s somewhat arbitrary — I brought it up first. Deal with it.

Or maybe you’re not interested at learning something new or having your mind changed. Congratulations, you’re part of a large group.

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