October 17, 2012

What if you had to argue that it's good for children to play "What if you had argue?"

In the previous post, where I'd slipped and made a ridiculous statement in the post title — "46% say Clinton won the debate" — I updated to reminisce about the old game — I called it "crazy" — that I used to play with my sons called "What if you had to argue?"
I'd come up with some strange statement and the challenge was to come up with the arguments they'd make if they had to argue that. What if you had to argue that Bill Clinton won the debate?
See? You could come up with some things to say, and you could have a lot of fun listening to the quasi-cogent or absurd things that would be said. Looking back on the old days with my sons, I tend to self-deprecatingly call the game crazy. Why would you encourage your children to argue persuasively about things that are not true?

What if you had to argue that it's not crazy at all? Actually, I don't think it is crazy. What the children are learning — if you handle the discussion well — is how human beings deceive and manipulate with language. It's a hands-on — brain-on? — experience with how trickery is done, how people can lie with a straight face, how something can be made to sound perfectly plausible when it's clearly dead wrong. They learn how it feels from the inside to construct lies and sophistry, so they can recognize it in others and in themselves. They learn a respect for verbal skills. They learn the power and the danger. That's an important life skill! Like all the other life skills, it can be turned to evil, but critical thinking and verbal skill ought to equip them to discover an authentic ethical foundation.

What if you had to argue that critical thinking and verbal skill lead children to an authentic ethical foundation?

76 comments:

chickelit said...

What if you had to argue that it's not crazy at all? Actually, I don't think it is crazy. What the children are learning — if you handle the discussion well — is how human beings deceive and manipulate with language. It's a hands-on — brain-on? — experience with how trickery is done, how people can lie with a straight face, how something can be made to sound perfectly plausible when it's clearly dead wrong.

What if this were a metaphor for the Althouse comment section with "people" showing up everyday to argue things for the sake of arguing?

What that were good training for the legal profession where this is done day in, day out?

The crucial difference is that in a courtroom, such arguing is done in the presence of judge who is impartial and not at all a Candy Crowley wannabee.

David said...

Critical thinking? Nah, it will never catch on.

But criticism is in strong supply.

pm317 said...

Country (and you) subliminally wants Bill Clinton back after 4 years of Obama. Simple. Argument. Not crazy at all.

EDH said...

Why not make the "What if you had to argue" game more interesting and lifelike?

You could have a stack of "Get Out of Reality, Free" cards with a Candy Crowley caricature on them.

Mitchell said...

A game I like to play is "What if I had to have sex with someone in this room?"

virgil xenophon said...

"Advancing un-truths/"crazy things" as true with a straight face? Isn't that something lawyers do in court every day?

Lem said...

What if you had to argue that critical thinking and verbal skill lead children to an authentic ethical foundation?

Crack bait ;)

Oh wait...

David G. said...

This reminds me of Peter and Valentine Wiggin's persona switch in "Ender's Game," in which each anonymously wrote articles from the other's point of view, and (as a result) became champions of political factions they didn't agree with. Funny how much that book anticipated the political blogosphere.

Jeffrey said...

Verbal skill? Verbal skills? Hm. Count noun or non-count noun? I believe that Ann here chose the non-count form to match with the non-count gerund, thinking.

Livermoron said...

My Dad used to throw dinner-table topics (he was an USAF intelligence officer who played a pivotal role in the October Missile Crisis) at his 5 kids and he would have us argue both sides.
There were some pretty amazing discussions at times.
I do that with our kids too. Our youngest was put into the gifted program simply because of his critical thinking skills.
Schools/colleges aren't good at teaching kids critical reasoning. Sometimes I suspect that that is on purpose. Most of the time I blame it on the high levels of incompetence and the echo-chamber quality of the US educational establishment.

creeley23 said...

The most common writing mistake I make as I've gotten older is to insert the wrong word into a sentence and not notice.

The wrong word either sounds like or seems like the right word.

Annoying.

Shouting Thomas said...

What if you had to argue that Obama and his surrogates told the truth about Benghazi?

EMD said...

One thing I like to do if I'm mentoring younger art directors is to challenge them to think of a product they hate, and then concept a campaign idea for it.

Shouting Thomas said...

One thing I like to do if I'm mentoring younger art directors is to challenge them to think of a product they hate, and then concept a campaign idea for it.

Shit, I do that all the time. I'm a whore. I've said that before, and virtually nobody understood it. My life experience has taught me that my choice is to be a good whore or a bad whore.

I do better if I'm a good whore. That is, financially.

I once tried to explain to a FB correspondent that I'm in demand as a writer, programmer and video, audio and animation producer. He leapt to the conclusion that I was huckstering my own opinions and ideas.

No, my skill is that I know how to huckster anybody's opinions, no matter how bad or shallow they might be.

Shouting Thomas said...

The toughest lies to shill for are those within the Diversity racket.

I've had to do it several times in my career.

There are really only three short paragraphs of actual information within the entire Diversity racket, and everything else is filler.

This makes it very tough to produce 45 min. to one hour online courses, which is what my clients like to see.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

What if you had to argue that critical thinking and verbal skill[s] lead children to an authentic ethical foundation?"

I would find that a very easy argument since it is something that I passionately believe in.

One of the most interesting debate exercises that occurred while I was in college debate team was one where we were asked how we felt about a certain rather politically charged topic. For example: "are you pro Vietnam War or anti the War".

We were then divided up into smaller teams and told to argue the opposite side (the one we didn't believe in). So all the anti war believers were to argue FOR the pro war side. It was for a grade and this was before grades were dumbed down like they are now.

Some students were terrible at it. Others, like myself found it very interesting because it forced you to consider and anticipate the arguments of an idea that was the opposite of your actual beliefs.

It made you a better person and a better debater since you were FORCED to consider all sides of an issue. It didn't necessarily change your mind but it did open you up to understanding pf the other side and even discovering that some of the oppositions ideas may have validity.

THIS is one of the problems we have today. The narrow, blinkered view of a topic and the refusal to even consider that you might not be 100% correct.

Gabriel Hanna said...

"What if you had to argue" is an extremely useful life skill.

It can be used to teach you to put a position that you disagree with in terms that a person who agrees that position would say were fair.

This exercise might not end up changing your mind about anything, but it will prevent you from thinking that straw men are the only people who disagree with you.

But it requires the "judge" to enforce it. For example, a roomful of liberals might play "What if you had to argue for voter ID laws" and only ever say things like "It will discourage minorities and the poor from voting, which is a good thing." Of course, this is not the argument that people who are for voter ID laws actually put forward--rather it is the secret motivation they are accused, on no evidence, of having. Played this way "what if you had to argue" can actually reduce your ability to learn things from and about other people's opinions.

bagoh20 said...

"Why would you encourage your children to argue persuasively about things that are not true?"

So he can someday explain why he's voting for Obama, without admitting the obvious?

Did I get it right?

Bob Ellison said...

Now you're going all meta.

As EDH suggests, this might be a really good party game, kinda like Apples to Apples. I picture a game with a starter set of maybe 200 cards, each with an absurd argument to erect. Like Trivial Pursuit, future profits come from future sets of cards.

You should do it, Professor. I'll help with the marketing and production!

traditionalguy said...

That is life in the communications dominated fields of law, religion, and the investing of other people's money.

We have to learn to taste words like we taste foods and wines. Then we can spit out the cheap fakes and swallow the real thing.

But the persona and sexy smiles of some speakers overwhelm many people's discernment. That and calling out a prejudice of division hatreds of others does a trick on robes. Obama is a Master at both of those tricks.

But try closing your eyes while you listen. That disarms the con man until they will call rudeness and seek out another target than you.

bagoh20 said...

I think this is a absolutely essential skill for a lawyer, since I have never seen one admit to being wrong on anything, even when it's painfully obvious to others.

On this blog, anyone admitting they are wong is very rare, no matter how glaring it is. Maybe that's true of all blog commenters, since you can just disappear, or take your time to work this skill to produce some ridiculous way out of that admission.

Why are some people so incapable of just saying, "I was wrong, now I know better." It should be something you are proud of, something that proves you trustworthy, and honest.

Bob Ellison said...

The name of the game:

Argue This!

Card one: "Any cat, sufficiently fed, could eventually be taught to fetch a beer from the refrigerator on command."

Bob Ellison said...

bagoh20, I voted for Obama in 2008. I was wrong. Now I know better.

Bob Ellison said...

The game should be modeled on Apples to Apples. Each person creates an argument, and the group (minus the dealer, who doesn't participate) votes on the winning argument.

bagoh20 said...

This manifests itself in my field when designing a product, where I often ask my team to imagine what we just came up was presented to us as a competitor's product. How would we beat it with a better design?

Bob Ellison said...

Oh, and there's a follow-up game: Refute That!

Card one: "If you drop an egg from the top of the Empire State building, it will likely break."

edutcher said...

Sounds like Mom didn't leave the conlawprof at the university.

bagoh20 said...

"bagoh20, I voted for Obama in 2008. I was wrong. Now I know better."

Congratulation Bob. You are a confident, humble and honest man.

I voted for McCain, and I'm not real sure he was a better choice. He just didn't require me to take the enormous risk of voting for a complete unknown. As I've said before, Obama turned out much better than he could have been, since we had no idea what he might do.

I think the 2008 election was the poorest choice ever presented to the American people, and that made it a very tough call, at least for conservatives. Hopefully we will have better choices from now on. We know both men well this time.

Bender said...

"What if you had to argue?"

That is, what if you personally had to be a liar?

That's the good lesson to learn?

First, you can teach children that some people lie, that what they hear and read is not always necessarily true, without having them engaging in lying themselves. One can teach them that evil exists without them doing evil or without teaching them that the ends justifies the means.

Second, to resort to deceit and lies in order to argue a point is a piss-poor way to argue -- unless one is a relativist amongst an audience of relativists who really do not care about truth in the first place, other than to pretend that their lies are true. An argument "won" on lies is no win at all. To be sure, it is not really authentically argument to make resource to lies and deceit.

Argument by its very nature, which is grounded in reason and rational thought, is supposed to be about advancing truth, using logic and reason to persuade the other.

But then again, one must believe in truth, in the existence of truth and in the priority of truth, to even care about what authentic argument is or whether the ends justifies any and all means.

blutax said...

It is really neat that you spent time with your kids and challenged them to think critically and gave them a safe place to respond. Kudos to you.

Lisaocean86 said...

I'm a middle aged woman who voted for Obama in 2008. In 2000 and 2004 I voted for Bush. I consider myself an Independent. I really don't care about anyone's likeability factor. I do care that my three kids, summa cum laude all, have left the country to look for work! My son has lived in Beijing for three years, my twins in Italy. I don't want to have a beer or dinner with anyone. I just want someone who can get us out of this fiscal mess. Romney makes me think he's better prepared to do that. Who cares if he's a technocrat!

Bender said...

It made you a better person and a better debater since you were FORCED to consider all sides of an issue.

Only if you care about truth are you forced to consider all sides of an issue.

If you don't care about truth, instead of considering the merits of the opposing side, you simply make it up. You especially make up strawmen so that when you go and argue your real position, then you can knock down the strawman and claim you've won.

An anti-war ideologue arguing in favor of the Vietnam War? Americans are inherently bloodthirsty baby-killers. Thus, if you are a good American, you will support napalming little Vietnamese babies.

It's easy. You simply advance a false premise, one which you know to be a lie or you don't really care one way or the other, and then proceed from there.
___________________

Yes, absolutely it is good and essential that people learn the skill of seeing all genuine sides of an issue, that they learn to anticipate the positions and objections of their adversaries. But one can teach them that without the idea advanced here -- that you incorporate into that teaching them about how people lie to advance a cause.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

one must believe in truth, in the existence of truth and in the priority of truth, to even care about what authentic argument is or whether the ends justifies any and all means.

This seems to imply that only ONE side of an argument contains the truth. Blindly and arrogantly assuming that only your argument is the container of "truth".

I prefer to consider that both sides of the argument/issue have some elements of truth and some elements of self delusion.

To teach your children the critical thinking skill of being able to recognize that there are many sides and elements of an issue is to arm them with the skill to be able to navigate through life.

Critical thinking IS critical.

Dust Bunny Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"Skills" with an "s" in that context hits my ear as education-professional talk. "Skills training."

I picture a blackboard.

And fingernails pulled slowly across it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

An anti-war ideologue arguing in favor of the Vietnam War? Americans are inherently bloodthirsty baby-killers. Thus, if you are a good American, you will support napalming little Vietnamese babies.

In a debate, a "real" debate in an academic situation, you need to be able to support your arguments or else you lose.

To merely put forth an assertion, or strawman type of argument, such as the one above....Americans are bloodthirsty...with out references or proof, makes your side a loser. (not that I think that IS your argument)

This, strawman false premise style of debating is why it is impossible to try to have a rational conversation with some people. Liberals are worse and put up false premises in order to argue a point, however Conservatives can be caught out doing the same thing.

If people have been taught critical thinking skills, they will recognize when the false premise is being thrown out and not give the argument any credence. Unfortunately, we have educated a flock of ignoramuses and sheeple who have no ability to think.

Dust Bunny Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

"Skills" with an "s" in that context hits my ear as education-professional talk. "Skills training."

To my ear to not have verbal skill[s] as a component of critical thinking is a jarring usage.

Critical thinking is an item, a whole.

There are many types of verbal skills, not just one skill that contributes to the whole.

Stylistic differences?

bagoh20 said...

It's good to teach your children to see all sides, but I think it's dangerous to to teach them to argue all sides. That is plain and simple teaching them to lie effectively. It would be better to give them the lie, the plausible but false statement, and have them find the truth, and prove the lie wrong. That is the challenge of life, and there are already enough lies flying around. We could use some more people cutting down those weeds, they seem to proliferate pretty well without any help.

Pettifogger said...

I wish I had done that with my kids. I did ask questions intended to bring out points related to some principle I was trying to get across, but I could see on their faces that they regarded that as a there-goes-Dad-again moment.

bagoh20 said...

I raised a boy and a girl (not my own biological kids) and when they wanted something badly, I would create a test with 5 or 10 questions which they had to work together to research and answer correctly. It had to be 100% correct to get the prize. I was dick, but they loved it. It gave them power over me, and they would ask for the tests, as a way to force me to give them something. I think it taught them to value knowledge and the truth. This was before google and wikipedia became the ubiquitous oracle it is now. It's simple, but finding answers on your own is a valuable empowering skill for kids.

Bender said...

This seems to imply that only ONE side of an argument contains the truth.

There is a difference between (1) trying to find slivers of truth in Bill Clinton's debate performance by which to argue that he won and (2) "argue persuasively about things that are not true."

Althouse advanced the latter, not the former. She argued for teaching not critical thinking, looking for the valid points of the other side, but for teaching lazy thinking, i.e. trickery, lying, deception, and manipulating language.

Paddy O said...

It's interesting that some would jump immediately to lying as being the equivalent to being able to argue all sides.

I don't think of it as lying. I think of it as critical thinking skills in which one better develops a sense of the whole, from each perspective, then and only then has a firm grasp on why one's own chosen position can be maintained as truth.

If you don't understand why people disagree with you then you don't understand the whole of your own position. So, to really get a hold of your own position you should be able to argue the opposite as good as if not better than actual opponents.

More than just critical thinking, it's also empathetic, trying to understand why someone would choose to be against that which you see as evident.

Which means if you can understand and argue for your opponent's side, you can actually develop stronger and better arguments for your own cause against that opponent, specifically to address their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Paddy O said...

It's also a very scientific tactic. The universe is strange, especially at the smallest levels. Learning how to piece together seeming paradoxes or unusual problems helps revolutionize our understanding of the world. And practicing those skills in diverse ways helps when someone has to apply it to a real world problem.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Somewhere there's a Chesterton essay about this, but, dammit, I can't find it at the moment. It was about debate as taught and practiced at Oxford and Cambridge, where you got assigned an arbitrary side and had to argue the case you were handed. (I think it's still done that way, exactly like moot court.) Anyway, I have to quote from memory, because I can't find it online and I can't find it in my library either, but Chesterton discusses the whole atmosphere of that sort of education that encourages being able to argue any side of any question, naming most of the benefits Ann mentions herself. And then ends the description with "It has every virtue but the love of truth."

I'm conflicted on this one -- as Chesterton must have been too, given his much-quoted lines about how you ought only to tear down a fence once you well and truly understand why someone put it there in the first place.

I think that anyone who can't clearly state an opponent's position isn't really in a position to grapple with it. But if you get into the habit of seeing all sides of every question as equally arguable, you end up in the position of the CPUSA over the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: One moment there's nothing particularly wrong with Nazi Germany, and supporting Britain's war against it in any way is just Jingo imperialism; the next, Nazi Germany is the enemy to be defeated at all costs, and Britain needs all the help that we can send.

Apologies for Godwinizing, but it was the aptest example I could think of. Human heads don't swivel as rapidly as that without considerable ideological training.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It's interesting that some would jump immediately to lying as being the equivalent to being able to argue all sides.

I agree. Being able to argue both sides does not necessarily mean you are lying.

There is a difference between (1) trying to find slivers of truth in Bill Clinton's debate performance by which to argue that he won and (2) "argue persuasively about things that are not true."

The winning or losing of Clinton, or Obama or Romney in these situations is subjective. In the mind of the beholder. There is no absolute "truth" or fact here. Facts are things that cannot be argued away: such as trying to argue that the speed of sound is something other than what it is. Or trying to argue that an historical event did not happen. We DID drop a bomb on Hiroshima. Those are facts and not subjective ideas.

For instance to argue that the Holocaust did NOT happen is to argue a lie. However to argue why, how, rightness or wrongness (a very subjective idea) and the severity of the Holocaust is not to necessarily argue a lie.

Very different concepts.

To teach your children to consider and even argue a position that they don't agree with is not to teach them to "lie" it is to teach them to understand all sides of a subjective concept and gives them the ability to not only understand other people's way of thinking but also to examine their own.

Bob Ellison said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson, well said. I didn't know that quote, but I think I may have found the primary source in the writings of William Hazlitt here.

"The love of truth" seems to have been a fairly common phrase back then.

Askance said...

Everyone should seriously and frequently engage in the What if you had to argue? "game".

This is not simply a game for training lawyers or debaters -- it is an essential capability for scientists, economists, artists, philosophers and anyone who wants to understand the world around us.

What this game asks of the player is to make a sincere effort to adopt a perspective other than their own -- including a perspective that might be considered to be untrue. A scientist or economist or lawyer (etc...) has to be able to develop and consider theories completely independently -- theories that may later come to be recognized as true, but often are initially rejected.

What if you had to argue that the Earth travels around the Sun?

What if you had to argue that Randall Dale Adams was innocent?

What if you had to argue that sanitary conditions in operating rooms would save lives?

These seem easy to argue now, but they weren't always. It required people with the imagination and mental flexibility to sincerely consider that these positions might be true -- they had to construct an argument to explain how these positions could be true, and then they had to engage with other to persuade them of that position.

Althouse asks about this in relation to an authentic ethical foundation. It is only possible to achieve such a foundation through one's own effort. To simply accept what may be told by society -- "This is what is right, that is what is wrong" -- is to abdicate freedom and the control of one's life -- and the same is true for those who simply reject what they are told by society.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Good points, Askance.

" theories that may later come to be recognized as true, but often are initially rejected."

Some established "truths" are actually not true at all or are only partially true. There is always the need to examine and challenge instead of mindless acceptance. Man made global warming, comes to mind.

(hoo boy, just wait to see who appears to derail the thread on this interjection)

bagoh20 said...

"To teach your children to consider and even argue a position that they don't agree with is not to teach them to "lie" it is to teach them to understand all sides of a subjective concept and gives them the ability to not only understand other people's way of thinking but also to examine their own."

I think some people want to believe that, but is it really true? In fact, this argument is exactly what's wrong with this idea. It takes an untruth: that arguing something you know to be wrong is not lying, and convinces you that it's valid. You are now convinced that a non-truth is true. The danger I suggest in this is demonstrated perfectly by this attempted argument. Arguing for something known untrue is lying. Only an educated person could find a way to see it otherwise.

Bob Ellison said...

bagoh20 said... "Arguing for something known untrue is lying. Only an educated person could find a way to see it otherwise."

A scientist, a seeker of truth, would say that "something known untrue" is a fallacy. Only a trained person could see that what one assumes to be true might not be.

Bob Ellison said...

That said, Al Gore is an idiot.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It takes an untruth: that arguing something you know to be wrong is not lying, and convinces you that it's valid.

You are confusing an untruth and subjective opinions.

Truth: Hiroshima was bombed.
Untruth: Hiroshima was never bombed.

You have to be delusional to try to argue those facts.

However take these two issues

1. Bombing Hiroshima was a necessary action and in the end created more good than bad

2. Bombing Hiroshima was a horrible thing and there is no justification.

These are subjective and whether you believe one side or the other personally, it doesn't make the other side 'liars'. Your purpose in debating is to convince the audience and the opposition that your point is correct. The purpose of making you debate the other side (the one you do NOT believe in) is to broaden your understanding of the whole issue. Get inside the mind of the opposition. AND...you might even find that some of the opposition's points are valid.

There is nothing liar-like in this exercise.

YoungHegelian said...

@MDT,

When I did debate in high school it was called "Oxford" style for just the reason you stated.

Soren Kierkegaard's dad used to mess with litle SK's head by doing things like saying "Soren, the mayor is sitting in our dining room there."

"No, he's not, Dad. The chair is empty."

"Yes, he is. Describe to me exactly what he's wearing, from head to foot."

Well, needless to say, this either considerably stretched SK's powers of imagination or messed him up considerably. I'll leave that decision to my readers.

Paddy O said...

Saying arguing different sides is "lying" is like saying that in a practice if some players play against the starting team, those players are actually on the other team.

Or like in military training, if someone plays an opponent to US forces, they're really Communists.

Paddy O said...

People who are afraid of arguing an opposing side sound like defenders of truth, but really it betrays a lack of confidence in the truth.

Of course, arguing an opposing side when it really matters, just like killing US soldiers in a war, is an entirely different matter, but that's not what Althouse is talking about.

DADvocate said...

Sounds like a pretty cool game to me. But, it bypasses the skill of recognizing when trickery, lieing, and making wrong things seem right it being done. Because when all these things are being done by an expert, they appear to be perfectly normal to a person of typcial perception. Knowing how their done is only half the battle.

Last night Jaltcoh said:
Romney blatantly panders to women by referring to the increase in "women living in poverty" during the Obama administration. Has there not been an increase in men living in poverty, or do men living in poverty just not matter as much?

Made me wonder where he had been the last 40 years, or his entire life I assume. While he's reacting to Romney's comment, it's quite clear that he's missed the multitude of signs that men don't matter nearly as much as women. Wehn was the last/first time the NFL raised awareness about prostate cancer? Jaltcoh needs to read a bunch of Dr. Helen.

Sigivald said...

It is a useful skill - though more when applied to things you don't believe than things you provably know are false.

(Arguing that black is white is mental masturbation; trying to argue for a policy you disagree with [because it is based on assumptions you do not share] is actively useful, if you do it honestly.

It's useful because it may provide some insight into the fact that the opposition isn't just Purely Evil Or Wicked Liars Who Really Know They're Wrong Deep Down, a sort of assumption I see now and then.

If only because, if one has some understanding of why your opponents actually support what they support, rather than a hollow caricature that merely supports your side's egotism*, you'll be far more effective at defusing their opposition or converting them - or at least arguing effectively, if the former aren't possible.

* By far the most common sort of "explanation" is like that. The Other Side Is Just Wicked And Self-Serving Because Why Else Would They Disagree?

[Even Communists and Nazis honestly believed** that their ideologies were the best hope for the future, after all.

** At least the true believers did. The followers-of-convenience might not have, or cared.])

bagoh20 said...

"Only a trained person could see that what one assumes to be true might not be."

The idea is to take something known to be untrue. That's my issue. I have no problem with teaching kids to look at both sides, but if you take a certainty of untruth and ask them to argue it, then you are asking them to practice lying. Would you ask them to practice unsafe gun handling just so they would know what it looks like?

Bob Ellison said...

I agree with you, bagoh20. That's a big problem, not telling kids what's what. But it's also a problem that we don't train them to question what they're taught.

Oh, hell, they're kids; they'll question everything anyway. I'm not that worried.

Kirk Parker said...

EMD,

"One thing I like to do if I'm mentoring younger art directors is to challenge them to think of a product they hate, and then concept a campaign idea for it. "

A friend of mine (a high school classmate) was in precisely that position early in her career, working on a campaign for some tobacco product. The partners in the agency finally let her off the account when, on their annual Customer Appreciation Day at their office, she put up a big No Smoking sign on her office door.

bagoh20 said...

Do you really want your kids or everyone else's to be good at arguing things they know are untrue. That's very different from taking the opposite side when you don't really know if it's true.

A defense attorney should be able to argue a case even if he thinks his client is guilty, but that does not permit him to argue things he knows to be untrue. He is tasked with forcing the prosecution to make it's case strong enough to remove doubt, but not to outright lie about it.

n.n said...

The quality of critical thought is judged by established or recognized principles. These principles arise from a reconciliation of an ostensibly perverse natural order and recognition of axiomatic "truths", including individual dignity and intrinsic value, which serve to temper the underlying order.

As for the lesson in a harsh reality, it is helpful to describe life as an exercise in risk management.

If you know the enemy [or generally a competing interest] and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
-- Sun Tzu

Edwin den Boer said...

The game is called 'crazy', not 'lying'. It's not just about truth, but also about creativity. Statements in such a game should be as absurd as possible, so that you'd have to think out of the box just to find a remotely plausible line of reasoning. For that purpose, I made a webpage that randomly produces outrageous statements about hot-button topics. It's in Dutch, but I'll translate a few of them for you:

Licking lesbian rabbits is a sign of civilization

Selling Moroccan statues should only happen on weekdays

Eating skinny terrorists will solve the budget deficit

Freeman Hunt said...

What if you had to argue that critical thinking and verbal skill lead children to an authentic ethical foundation?

Equip them to find it, like you wrote before. But the foundation is that truth matters, and I don't think you can get that from those skills. Otherwise you're hanging out in the second story of a house without a first floor.

Uh oh, now we're getting into "why I believe in God" territory...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The idea is to take something known to be untrue. That's my issue.

Perhaps it would be helpful if you gave some examples of what types of arguments/debates are based on 'untruths'. I gave some. Hiroshima being bombed or not bombed. Truth vs Untrue.

Subjective topics are different. There is not necessarily a truth or untruth. Those things are based on a perception or a value judgement. While I may think that for example Romney won the debate last night, it doesn't make my perception necessarily a black and white truth or the opposite perception that Obama won the debate a lie or untruth.

Maybe we are on the same side, just using different terms.

Bender said...

To teach your children to consider and even argue a position that they don't agree with is not to teach them to "lie" it is to teach them to understand all sides of a subjective concept and gives them the ability to not only understand other people's way of thinking but also to examine their own

DBQ -- if you are disputing what I said, then you are redefining the issue to fit your point.

The stated issue by Althouse is arguing "persuasively about things that are not true." THAT is the issue as presented in the post -- arguing lies, arguing what are objectively not true or which at best you believe to be not true. The issue is not arguing points that you don't agree with -- that is not the issue -- the express issue is arguing things that are not true.

What you say is all well and good, but it is also entirely beside the issue as presented.

bagoh20 said...

DBQ,

Bender answered for me just fine. You and I are in agreement. I am not with Althouse. Love you both anyway. Am I lying?

Bender said...

Let's put this in real life terms --

Suppose you are a criminal defense attorney and your client tells you that he did it, that he is 100 percent guilty.

Now, no doubt an attorney can do so, but may he then ethically argue to a jury at trial that the defendant is entirely "innocent," that he did not do what he is accused of?

Answer -- no, as bagoh says. It is sanctionable unethical conduct for an attorney to lie in presenting his case. He can argue that the evidence fails to prove the defendant is guilty, that the evidence fails to show that the defendant did it, but he may not ethically make a dishonest argument that the defendant absolutely did not do it.

Bender said...

About criminal defense -- this is why, if you suspect that your client is in fact guilty but will probably want to take the case to trial, you ought to be careful NOT to ask him if he did it or not.

traditionalguy said...

The whole point is that truth is not an absolute in most human exchanges. We all see through a glass darkly and need other's points of view to sharpen our brain's image of what is real and what is fake.

The internet has recently created the opportunity for forums like Althouse that have that exact benefit. Moby's may attack , but seldom fool anyone for very long.

Only Jesus IS the truth, and until He does His Psalm 110 parousia , we are all going to have to live and let live, and show mercy when possible.

Synova said...

I just overheard a lady give a quick TV interview. She explained that what Romney said about women in the workplace was "problematic" because he mentioned that they might not be open to working late hours because they have to make dinner.

Being female Latino was more important for voting, she thought, than just being Latino.

She does research of some sort in Sociology.

Made me think of this topic thread and also my one English instructor (PhD candidate) explaining the concept of "Theory". Theory is the way of looking at the world and interpreting everything that happens in the world.

And it's all just a "what if you had to argue" game, isn't it?

If I am looking at what Romney said through a "feminist theory" prism, then I'm deliberately and explicitly bending truth to fit my theory and is it any wonder at all that I'd conclude that what Romney said when he talked about improving the workplace environment to take into account women's concerns is "problematic."

How is looking at the world through a purposeful distortion even useful? To anyone?

I have my paradigm, don't confuse me?

Maybe playing the game with kids would be useful if they understand that what they argue isn't true so maybe they'd recognize when someone presents an interpretation of the world viewed through "theory" as the complete hoax it is.

Bender said...

The whole point is that truth is not an absolute in most human exchanges

He says as an absolute truth.

Synova said...

Hah... looks like the interviews might be a Univision crew.

Paddy O said...

"Let's put this in real life terms"

Are you saying that raising kids to be critical thinkers is not real life?

Bender said...

Are you saying that raising kids to be critical thinkers is not real life?

I'm saying that playing hypothetical games and "what if?" is not real life. What is real life, on the other hand, is real life -- real situations that real people (attorneys) must really deal with when representing real clients in real trials.