Thirty - Eight Ways to Win an Argument
from Schopenhauer's "The Art of Controversy"
...per fas et nefas :-)
(Courtesy of searchlore ~ Back to the trolls lore ~ original german text)
1 Carry your opponent's proposition beyond its natural limits;
The more general your opponent's statement becomes,
the more objections you can find against it.
The more restricted
and narrow your own propositions remain, the easier they are to
2 Use different meanings of your opponent's words to refute his
Example: Person A says, "You do not understand the
mysteries of Kant's philosophy."
Person B replies, "Of, if it's
mysteries you're talking about, I'll have nothing to do with them."
3 Ignore your opponent's proposition, which was intended to refer
to some particular thing.
Rather, understand it in some quite different sense,
and then refute it.
Attack something different than what was asserted.
4 Hide your conclusion from your opponent until the end.
your premises here and there in your talk.
Get your opponent to
agree to them in no definite order.
By this circuitous route you
conceal your goal until you have reached all the admissions
necessary to reach your goal.
5 Use your opponent's beliefs against him.
If your opponent
refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.
Example, if the opponent is a member of an organization
or a religious sect to which you do not belong, you may employ the
declared opinions of this group against the opponent.
6 Confuse the issue by changing your opponent's words or what he
or she seeks to prove.
Example: Call something by a different
name: "good repute" instead of "honor," "virtue" instead of
"virginity," "red-blooded" instead of "vertebrates".
7 State your proposition and show the truth of it by asking the
opponent many questions.
By asking many wide-reaching questions at
once, you may hide what you want to get admitted.
Then you quickly
propound the argument resulting from the proponent's admissions.
8 Make your opponent angry.
An angry person is less capable of
using judgment or perceiving where his or her advantage lies.
9 Use your opponent's answers to your question to reach different
or even opposite conclusions.
10 If you opponent answers all your questions negatively and
refuses to grant you any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite
of your premises.
This may confuse the opponent as to
which point you actually seek him to concede.
11 If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises,
refrain from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion.
introduce your conclusions as a settled and admitted fact.
opponent and others in attendance may come to believe that your
conclusion was admitted.
12 If the argument turns upon general ideas with no particular
names, you must use language or a metaphor that is favorable to
Example: What an impartial person would call
"public worship" or a "system of religion" is described by an adherent
as "piety" or "godliness" and by an opponent as "bigotry"
In other words, inset what you intend to prove
into the definition of the idea.
13 To make your opponent accept a proposition , you must give him
an opposite, counter-proposition as well.
If the contrast is
glaring, the opponent will accept your proposition to avoid being
Example: If you want him to admit that a boy must to
everything that his father tells him to do, ask him, "whether in
all things we must obey or disobey our parents."
Or , if a thing
is said to occur "often" you are to understand few or many times,
the opponent will say "many."
It is as though you were to put gray
next to black and call it white; or gray next to white and call it
14 Try to bluff your opponent.
If he or she has answered several
of your question without the answers turning out in favor of your
conclusion, advance your conclusion triumphantly, even if it does
If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself
possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the technique
15 If you wish to advance a proposition that is difficult to
prove, put it aside for the moment.
Instead, submit for your opponent's
acceptance or rejection some true proposition, as though
you wished to draw your proof from it.
Should the opponent reject
it because he suspects a trick, you can obtain your triumph by
showing how absurd the opponent is to reject an obviously true
Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on
your side for the moment.
You can either try to prove your
original proposition, as in #14, maintain that your original
proposition is proved by what your opponent accepted.
For this an
extreme degree of impudence is required, but experience shows cases
of it succeeding.
16 When your opponent puts forth a proposition, find it
inconsistent with his or her other statements, beliefs, actions or
lack of action.
Example: Should your opponent defend suicide, you
may at once exclaim, "Why don't you hang yourself?"
Should the opponent
maintain that his city is an unpleasant place to live, you
may say, "Why don't you leave on the first plane?"
17 If your opponent presses you with a counter-proof, you will
often be able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction.
Try to find a second meaning or an ambiguous sense
for your opponent's idea.
18 If your opponent has taken up a line of argument that will end
in your defeat, you must not allow him to carry it to its conclusion.
Interrupt the dispute, break it off altogether, or
lead the opponent to a different subject.
19 Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any
objection to some definite point in his argument, and you have
nothing to say, try to make the argument less specific.
If you are asked why a particular hypothesis cannot be accepted,
you may speak of the fallibility of human knowledge, and give
various illustrations of it.
20 If your opponent has admitted to all or most of your premises,
do not ask him or her directly to accept your conclusion.
draw the conclusion yourself as if it too had been admitted.
21 When your opponent uses an argument that is superficial and you see
the falsehood, you can refute it by setting forth its superficial
But it is better to meet the opponent with acounter-argument that is just
as superficial, and so dispose of him.
it is with victory that you are concerned, not with truth.
Example: If the opponent appeals to prejudice, emotion or attacks you
personally, return the attack in the same manner.
22 If your opponent asks you to admit something from which the point in
dispute will immediately follow, you
must refuse to do so, declaring that it begs the question.
23 Contradiction and contention irritate a person into exaggerating
By contradicting your
opponent you may drive him into extending the statement beyond its
When you then contradict
the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you had refuted the
Contrarily, if your
opponent tries to extend your own statement further than your intended,
redefine your statement's limits and
say, "That is what I said, no more."
24 State a false syllogism.
Your opponent makes a proposition, and by
false inference and distortion of his
ideas you force from the proposition other propositions that are not
intended and that appear absurd.
appears that opponent's proposition gave rise to these inconsistencies,
and so appears to be indirectly refuted.
25 If your opponent is making a generalization, find an instance to the
Only one valid contradiction
is needed to overthrow the opponent's proposition.
ruminants are horned," is a generalization
that may be upset by the single instance of the camel.
26 A brilliant move is to turn the tables and use your opponent's
arguments against himself.
opponent declares: "so and so is a child, you must make an allowance for
You retort, "Just because he is
a child, I must correct him; otherwise he will persist in his bad habits."
27 Should your opponent suprise you by becoming particularly angry at an
argument, you must urge it with all
the more zeal.
No only will this make your opponent angry, but it will
appear that you have put your finger on
the weak side of his case, and your opponent is more open to attack on
this point than you expected.
28 When the audience consists of individuals (or a person) who is not an
expert on a subject, you make an
invalid objection to your opponent who seems to be defeated in the eyes
of the audience.
This strategy is
particularly effective if your objection makes your opponent look
ridiculous or if the audience laughs.
opponent must make a long, winded and complicated explanation to correct
you, the audience will not be
disposed to listen to him.
29 If you find that you are being beaten, you can create a
diversion--that is, you can suddenly begin to talk of
something else, as though it had a bearing on the matter in dispute.
may be done without presumption if the diversion has some general bearing on the matter.
30 Make an appeal to authority rather than reason.
If your opponent
respects an authority or an expert,
quote that authority to further your case.
If needed, quote what the
authority said in some other sense or
Authorities that your opponent fails to understand are
those which he generally admires the
You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your
authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote
something that you have entirely invented yourself.
31 If you know that you have no reply to the arguments that your
opponent advances, you by a find stroke of
irony declare yourself to be an incompetent judge.
Example: "What you say
passes my poor powers of
comprehension; it may well be all very true, but I can't understand it,
and I refrain from any expression of
opinion on it."
In this way you insinuate to the audience, with whom you
are in good repute, that what your
opponent says is nonsense.
This technique may be used only when you are
quite sure that the audience thinks
much better of you than your opponent.
32 A quick way of getting rid of an opponent's assertion, or of throwing
suspicion on it, is by putting it into
some odious category.
Example: You can say, "That is fascism" or
"Atheism" or "Superstition."
In making an
objection of this kind you take for granted
1)That the assertion or
question is identical with, or at least
contained in, the category cited;
2)The system referred to has been
entirely refuted by the current audience.
33 You admit your opponent's premises but deny the conclusion.
"That's all very well in theory, but
it won't work in practice."
34 When you state a question or an argument, and your opponent gives you
no direct answer, or evades it
with a counter question, or tries to change the subject, it is sure sign
you have touched a weak spot,
sometimes without intending to do so.
You have, as it were, reduced your
opponent to silence.
therefore, urge the point all the more, and not let your opponent evade
it, even when you do not know where
the weakness that you have hit upon really lies.
35 Instead of working on an opponent's intellect or the rigor of his
arguments, work on his motive.
success in making your opponent's opinion, should it prove true, seem
distinctly prejudicial to his own interest,
he will drop it immediately.
Example: A clergyman is defending some
You show him that
his proposition contradicts a fundamental doctrine of his church.
abandon the argument.
36 You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast.
your opponent is weak or does
not wish to appear as if he has no idea what your are talking about, you
can easily impose upon him some
argument that sounds very deep or learned, or that sounds indisputable.
37 Should your opponent be in the right but, luckily for you, choose a
faulty proof, you can easily refute it and
then claim that you have refuted the whole position.
This is the way in
which bad advocates lose good cases.
If no accurate proof occurs to your opponent, you have won the day.
38 Become personal, insulting and rude as soon as you perceive that your
opponent has the upper hand.
becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack
on the person by remarks of an
offensive and spiteful character.
This is a very popular technique,
because it takes so little skill to put it into
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