Arguments from different perspectives

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I've always liked debates. Up till this day, I'm really thankful to my secondary school English teacher for pulling me and a sizable number of my other classmates into the inter-school debate competition. While it was not perfect, and I'm not that great a debater, I actually learned a lot from that whole episode, particularly about how to tackle arguments.

This article Is a very good read on arguments. Although it technically focuses more on reviews, the points made in the article are poignant for anyone wanting to establish any sort of argument.

People have opinions, whether or not they choose to express it. Sometimes people express them when they're not warranted. Other times, even pleading will not bring it to the surface. These opinions guide our decisions and judgments when reading any article or any conversation. A neutral article is one where we feel stronger about our opinions after we read the article, regardless of whichever side of the fence we were on.

Unfortunately, although some try to be balanced in writing articles or making arguments, their articles and arguments are often taken to be 'either or'. It basically means that to choose a neutral stance, trying to be objective in making an evaluation, would equate to being rejected by both sides. The example given is that when a balanced article praising say, an iPod, which at the same time points out various flaws and areas of improvements is found, Apple fanboys would get upset because the article doesn't praise the product totally. Similarly, detractors of the iPod would deem it equally blasphemous as it seems to sing Apple's praises.

Interestingly, psychological studies have found that in the end, what matters most is the initial opinion of the individual. If I'm pro-iPod, then a 'balanced article' would seem to me to be biased. If I'm anti-iPod, the same article would seem to me to also be biased, but to the other direction. What this means is that in an argument, one would definitely be unhappy whenever conflicting views are presented if one is not entirely neutral, and most people aren't. It matters not that the conflicting view is from a neutral source. The source would be deemed to be biased.

Being neutral is not easy, nor is it particularly rewarding. However, it is a true sign of maturity that one is able to make observations, evaluations and possibly argue from both sides of the fence, judging only when all aspects have been considered, if one is so required. In the end, one has to be very conscious about blindly accusing others of bias, when one is likely to have done the same.

I'd particularly like to quote this:
They care little for honest opinion. They want to pick up the paper and see in it a reflection of their own nearly religious zeal for the thing they love. They don't want a review. They want a hagiography.

Perhaps this kind of explains the reasons for fanboyism...

Posted by Gerald at 3/23/2008 03:45:00 PM