Dan Cohen - How To Lose an Argument--And Why: Exit Strategies for Political (and Academic) Warfare


Manage episode 205735150 series 1535099
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This seminar discusses that polarization and vitriolic debate are nothing new in American political discourse. In recent elections, however, they have become so extreme that it is no longer merely alarmist to worry about the viability of democracy. We argue against one another without arguing with one another. What makes this so dangerous now is that the technology that permits the wondrous instantaneous dissemination of information also permits the instantaneous dissemination of misinformation, and the absence of the checks and balances that genuine dialogue provides, the rhetoric continues to spiral out of control. A large part of the problem is that we don't know what an argument can be. We don't know how to argue. We speak of arguments using images of warfare and fighting. We want our arguments to be strong and on target and to carry a lot of punch. We want to have knockdown arguments, or even killer arguments. We need to have our defenses up and be ready with counterattacks, hoping to shoot down a weak argument, or at least looking for an opening to force a retreat. What makes this so toxic is that the way we speak about argument reflects the way we think about arguments and, worse, it affects how we argue. It turns interlocutors into enemies, and ruins the chances for constructive dialogue. It puts us in the awkward situation that the only way we can learn something is by losing – and no one wants to do that!

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