The Art of Intellectual Fencing
Intellectual fencing, or arguing, can be a healthier replacement for verbal or physical aggression as it requires skills and strategies that can help you effectively communicate your ideas and beliefs. In order to win an argument, being likeable and respectful is important as it allows you to gain the audience’s trust and attention.
The power dynamic between the participants plays a crucial role in determining the effectiveness of an argument. If the power dynamic is relatively equal or if you have the potential to shift the dynamic through your leverage over resources, abilities, knowledge, skill, physical and intellectual ability to overcome challenges, creative thinking, strategy and positioning, and timing, then arguing can be a successful method of communication. Having chemistry and support with the audience in the dynamic is also important.
There are various argument strategies that can help you make your point effectively:
- Generalization is a method used in argumentation that involves making a broad statement about a group of things based on a limited number of examples. This strategy can be effective in making a point, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations of generalizing. For example, overgeneralizing can lead to inaccurate conclusions and can make the argument appear weak.
- Sign – A sign is a piece of evidence that supports a claim. It can be a fact, statistic, or expert opinion. The use of signs can be helpful in strengthening an argument, but it’s important to make sure that the signs used are credible and relevant to the argument.
- Cause – Cause and effect is a strategy used in argumentation that involves explaining why something happened. This strategy can be helpful in making a point, but it’s important to make sure that the cause and effect relationship is accurate and well supported.
- Authority – Appealing to authority is a strategy used in argumentation that involves citing an expert or a reliable source to support a claim. This strategy can be effective in convincing the audience, but it’s important to make sure that the authority cited is credible and relevant to the argument.
- Principle – A principle is a fundamental truth or law that guides behavior and decision-making. Using principles in argumentation can be effective in making a point, but it’s important to make sure that the principles used are relevant and applicable to the argument.
- Issue about the Issue – In argumentation, it’s important to not only address the main issue at hand, but also the underlying issues that contribute to the problem. Understanding the issue about the issue can provide a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the problem and help to reach a more effective solution.
- Nature – Nature refers to the inherent characteristics or qualities of something. In argumentation, understanding the nature of the issue being discussed can provide valuable context and insights into the problem and can be helpful in finding a solution.
- Origin – The origin refers to the source or beginning of something. In argumentation, understanding the origin of the issue can provide insight into why the problem exists and can inform how to address it.
- Priority – Priority refers to the order of importance or urgency of something. In argumentation, it’s important to consider the priorities of all parties involved in the issue and to prioritize solutions that address the most pressing concerns.
- Definition – Definition involves clearly defining terms and concepts used in the argument. Having a clear definition helps to ensure that all parties are on the same page and reduces misunderstandings.
- Assumptions – Assumptions are beliefs or premises that are taken for granted in an argument. It’s important to identify and examine assumptions in an argument to ensure that they are valid and not affecting the conclusion.
- Fact – Facts are objective, verifiable pieces of information. In argumentation, it’s important to use facts to support claims and to be cautious of misinformation or inaccuracies.
- Value – Values are principles or beliefs that are important to an individual or group. In argumentation, it’s important to understand the values of all parties involved in the issue to find solutions that align with their beliefs.
- Relevance – Relevance refers to the connection or relationship between the argument and the issue at hand. In argumentation, it’s important to ensure that the arguments and evidence used are relevant to the problem and help to advance the discussion.
- Significance – Significance refers to the importance or worth of something. In argumentation, it’s important to consider the significance of the issue and the potential consequences of different solutions.
- Implications – Implications are the indirect effects or consequences of an action or decision. In argumentation, it’s important to consider the potential implications of different solutions and to weigh the pros and cons of each option.
- Setting – The setting refers to the context or environment in which the argument takes place. Understanding the setting can provide valuable context and help to tailor the argument to the audience.
- Process/Procedure – The process or procedure refers to the steps or methods used to solve a problem. In argumentation, it’s important to clearly outline the process or procedure used to reach a conclusion to ensure that it’s transparent and credible.
- Judges/Expertise – Judges or experts refer to individuals who are knowledgeable or experienced in a particular field. In argumentation, it’s important to consider the expertise of judges or experts in evaluating the credibility and validity of an argument.
- Clarifying Differences in Assumptions – In argumentation, it’s important to clarify differences in assumptions to ensure that all parties understand the issue from the same perspective. This can help to reduce misunderstandings and advance the discussion.
In order to make your argument strong, it is important to know the facts and supporting sources, clarify differences in assumptions, and have confidence to prevail over your opponent. Instead of attacking their reality, you should offer them a better perception of reality, listen to them, reflect it to them, and let them think about their argument.
In intellectual fencing, it is also important to avoid ad hominem, inconsistent, and ad rem arguments. Ad hominem is when one attacks the person instead of their argument. Inconsistent arguments refer to beliefs, statements, actions, or lack of actions that are not aligned. Ad rem arguments are when one deviates from the topic at hand. Be aware of where your opponent is deviating from ad rem and utilize the following strategies:
Extend – This involves taking the argument further by connecting it to other ideas or concepts.
Minimize – This involves downplaying the significance of the argument to make it less convincing.
Turn the tables – This involves putting your opponent’s interpretation on values, goals, qualities, and what’s best and making it work in your favor.
Generalise – This involves making a broad statement based on limited evidence or examples.
Divert – This involves changing the topic or person and using relevance, setting, and significance as justification.
Convert terms – This involves changing the terminology used to describe an idea or concept.
Show inconsistencies in beliefs, statements, actions, or interests – This involves pointing out inconsistencies in your opponent’s beliefs, statements, actions, or interests to affect the audience’s perception of their character and reliability and decrease their motivation.
Conclude – This involves drawing conclusions yourself based on the evidence and arguments presented.
Categorise – This involves putting your opponent into an odious category to discredit their argument.
Appeal to authority – This involves using credible sources or experts to support your argument.
Good in theory – This involves showing that the argument is good in theory but not in practice.
In conclusion, arguing can be a healthier alternative to physical violence if done correctly and with the right strategies. The power dynamic, argument strategies, and avoiding argument fallacies are important factors to consider in order to win an argument effectively.