I googled images for “Argument” and this thing showed up. I don’t know what it is, but it fits:
I’ve been thinking a lot about argument lately – mainly because my Big Book tells me twice to avoid it, to not do it (and it gives further injunctions against fighting anything or anyone, and it does that in italics) but I tend to fall into it anyway.
And I’ve figured something out – a way of looking at things that has greatly helped me to keep from arguing.
And this huge piece of wisdom is this – there ain’t no sense in it.
(Okay, you can say “duh” all you want – but you keep arguing, don’t you?)
Here’s why there ain’t no sense in it – because there’s nothing to change.
I’ve about figured out, for myself – read “it seems to me” – that if two honest and logical people seriously disagree about some abstract issue, then the disagreement will boil down to differences in definitions, or in values.
I mean, think about it – if you’re honest, then you’re not leaving anything out. If you’re logical, then you’re not thinking incorrectly. Therefore, the only things to argue about are what the words themselves mean (definitions) or what is important (values).
If you’re arguing over whether Quiznos or Firehouse has the best subs, then you’re arguing about tastes and preferences, which all come back to values. When you eat a Quizons and he eats a Quiznos, you’re pointing at the same thing, but valuing it differently. (A case could be made here that that, in itself, is an argument about DEFINITIONS, since the parties are defining “best” as having different criteria. But those criteria are based on their values).
If you’re arguing about whether Nick Saban or Bear Bryant is the greatest football coach of all time*, the records are all there; the quotes are all there; what you’re really talking about is “what does greatest mean”.
And now, I’m going to throw a little spin on this – definitions could be argued, but there’s no sense in it, because there’s a dictionary, right there. But it contains multiple definitions for each word – and the one that you “pick” will be the one that’s important to you, which comes back down to “values”.
Two people can argue about “the program” – but one of them might be reading the Big Book where it’s defined, and the other person is quoting his sponsor, or something he heard or read somewhere else. They aren’t arguing over anything other than their definitions, which are based on their values.
(You can also “pick” a definition that’s not in the dictionary. This last weekend, I got into an argument with a friend over a definition – although I kept telling him that I didn’t want to argue. But he kept saying that “truth” is whatever you think it is, and I kept saying that that’s pretty much the opposite of “truth”. But it’s important for him to believe that “truth” is a social or ideological construct, because his values are structured that way (he’s Californian. Yeah, I know))
Now, it’s possible that an argumentative discussion could result in one of the parties deciding that he has the wrong definition of terms being used – that’s happened with me, and I learned something, and said “thank you”. But once we both agreed on the definitions, the argument went away. If the parties can stop and examine their definitions, quite often they realize that they aren’t arguing about the same thing – that their words are pointing at different concepts – and there’s no sense in continuing the discussion.
That won’t happen in arguments about values. And I’m not sure what all the true origins of values are, but I am pretty sure of one thing – they are not set, nor are they changed, by argument.
So nobody can win – if the purpose of the argument is to change the other person’s mind. Now, if the purpose of the argument is to show how smart you are, then that’s a different matter (although a case could be made that the fact that you’re arguing just to show how smart you are just shows how dumb you are, but that’s another post).
When I can stop long enough to realized that there is no argument – because either we’re not talking about the same thing (definitions) or different things are important to us (values) then I just say “Okay” and move on.
*if you are arguing that somebody besides Nick or Bear is the greatest football coach of all time, then you have already left the “honest and logical” stuff out, so never mind. Get your medication adjusted and come back to it 🙂