Listen carefully to an argument sometime.
It’s personal. Even the slightest disagreement (what’s the quickest way to get downtown?) is subtly transformed from a search for truth into a battle for being right, with the satisfaction and recognition that entails. It’s a social contest. We’re hard-wired for it. We want to win.
I’d like to propose the Argument Fallacy: the notion that winning an argument makes your position true.
Nobody would claim they think this way, of course. It’s absurd when you spell it out. We all know you can “win” an argument and still be wrong.
But we act like this fallacy is true. We judge the accuracy of our beliefs by how many battles they survive.
Not everyone does this to the same degree, but the tendency is always there. And you can’t fight the bias till you know it exists.
Arguments and debates can guide us to the truth, if we let them. An exchange of ideas, exposure to criticism, new perspectives, these are all excellent and vital things. We need arguments to challenge our ideas.
But winning an argument doesn’t make you right.
Maybe the person who lost simply isn’t as persuasive, as articulate, as quick on their feet. Maybe they don’t have all the information needed to defend their position. Maybe they just don’t care about winning the argument.
None of this has any bearing on the underlying truth. In the heat of discussion, that’s easy to forget. But remembering it will make us wiser.
What about you? Have you seen people seduced by the Argument Fallacy?