The Art and Science of Argumentation

October 30, 2008 at 2:15 pm | Posted in How To, King markiV returns | 4 Comments
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 ‘Conversation, indeed!’ said the Rocket. ‘You have talked the whole time yourself. That is not conversation.’ 

     ‘Somebody must listen,’ answered the Frog, ‘and I like to do all the talking myself. It saves time, and prevents arguments.’ 

     ‘But I like arguments,’ said the Rocket. 
     ‘I hope not,’ said the Frog complacently. ‘Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everybody in good society holds exactly the same opinions. ‘


 – Oscar WIlde, The Remarkable Rocket.

I, for one, am a true lover of arguments. In fact I see no reason why one wouldn’t.  There isn’t a better source of entertainment in all of mankind. Except romance perhaps. Now that is a topic worth arguing!

Plus all the addition to your knowledge bank than a smart enough argument brings in. Existence of God, the correctness of terrorists, international politics, movies, attitudes, love… That is the beauty of an argument- you don’t have to necessarily believe in your stance. Just take one and break the opponent. Quite obviously, one does not have sufficient data in an argument. Of course I cannot prove the existence, nor inexistence of God. If I did, I would either start a religion or a political party. The point being, in an argument one is fielded with insufficient data, left to percolate through one’s rationale and perspectives to build a sufficient justification to one’s stance.

Now, a debate is different. By definition, in a debate both participants have pretty much the same amount of data available and therefore the subject matter is merely interpretation. On the contrary, in an argument, the arguer’s objective is to surprise the arguee with new data. The edge could be in the arguer’s capability to obtain some knowledge that the arguee has not yet received, new or old. Often times, however, both participants know sufficiently low enough information on the subject that the breaking flash is from information quite not related to the question at hand. No- I am not talking about the Palin types.

The greatest source of inspiration for bringing this indisputable unrelated data to the current argument table comes from social networking- specifically the six degrees of separation. Simply said, you should be able to connect any two random people in this universe (in fact any two events, incidents or things) in approximately six steps. There are different ways of doing this. Let me explain with a worked out example using the “same community” theory. 

The basis of this theory is to figure out how two people would know eacho other, assuming people in the same community would know one another.

For example, lets try and connect the tamil legend MGR, to, say, Michael Dell.

1. MGR’s grave is in Marina (Anna Square area)- which makes him part of the famous people at Marina Beach Community

2. Paul Dinakaran, the famous christian evangalist would be part of this communtiy as well, since this was his landing stage for most part.

3. Guy Kawasakhi and Paul Dinakaran would be part of the Evangalists community (Guy was the Apple evangalist in the 80s).

4. Steve Jobs and Guy Kawasakhi would obviously be in the Apple community.

5. Quite obviously Michael Dell and Jobs would be part of the “Will My Start-Up survive as long as I do?” community.

There you go.

I am pretty sure that if you only gave it a good enough thought you could connect any two random people- living, dead or in a doctorate program. 

Let me give you another one. Now try to link up Ramadoss and Jackie Chan. 

1. Ramadoss is part of the “I-know-supporting-LTTE-would-get-me-votes-but-Id-have-to-give-up-my-ministerial-seats” community, sitting right next to Karunanidhi.

2. Karunanidhi is part of the “Used-to-be-in-movies” community, along with Danush (he joined it after Pudhupettai, his only 3 on-screen hours worth classifying as a movie).

3. Danush and Jet Li are part of the “i-look-like-bruce-li-so-i-probably-am-him” community

4. Finally, Jet Li and Jackie Chan are the only surviving members in the “shit-when-is-the-next-flight-from-hollywood-to-china” community.

I could really go on, but thats not what this post is about. Try out the six degrees experiment for yourself- it could be a lot of fun!

Coming back to argumentation, the next skill set is placing a well defended premise aroung the argument.

Lets take the now all-so-frequent economy arguments. Since the arguee would most often take the offensive, punishing the economy for their lack of foresight, you would be left with having to defend the genius of the economists. Since that pretty much allows very little space for well fielded points, a smart enough arguer would move to reductio ad absurdum- reduction to the absurd.

Perhaps I hold reliable data about the prevalence of Aids amongst south Asians. Which makes south Asian markets unstable due to diseases. Since the whole of Wall Street except for the occassional “made in China” computers and “made in Bangladesh” suits beats by the pulse of south Asian markets, a troubled socio economic condition there would obviously carry its effect here. Moreover, the economists had nothing whatsoever to do with the prevalence of Aids in South Asia since they are mostly overworked and often impotent. So there.

Another tactic that I often use is called the slippery slope. Here instead of a premise backing up the argument with data, a number of logical effects are built over the causal argument, resulting in a catastrophic result.

For example, lets run through the argument of two neutral voters- one favouring Obama and the other McCain (yes, they exist). Just for discussion, let us assume that the voters are not fanatics (you must see this city!) and therefore not initially biased against the other. Under the given conditions, the McCain voter votes for McCain, and presumably McCain wins- whatever the reason (rigging, racial bias, high voter turnout, rationality and the likes). The not-so-logical majority would, however, assume the result to be a case of rigging. The country has endured a non-democratic election once and probably wouldn’t a second time, resulting in rioting, picketing and internal conflicts. This would further the already sinking economy to rock bottom, carrying down with it emerging pro-capitalist countries. That leaves us with the Chinese as a superpower. Imagine having Tofu and Springrolls as a global cuisine.

Thus voting for McCain would result in having to eat spicy Tofu for the rest of our lives… With chop sticks! 



I have finally invested in a domain for myself:

I will, as frequently as I choose to, blog at starting my birthday (so I can keep count of the timeline and stuff; plus it helps my ego!). I hope to make that site a collection of marketing stuff- thoughts, ideas, plans and results, obviously with my theories as well. However this space would go on for a bit longer. I hope to continue mainstream randomness, Reena posts and the likes here.

If you do know my birthday, please check then. If you don’t, open the site everyday and keep refreshing it every twenty seconds until I throw an announcement.


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