“If I agreed with you we’d both be wrong.”

It seems to me that that majority of arguers can be dropped into one of two camps based on the purpose they bring (consciously or not) to the argument:  those who argue in order to discover an approximation of truth, and those who argue to WIN.

The latter campers essentially treat argument as some kind of competitive sport.  Possibly they were “trained” in some high school or college debate club, or have just absorbed (through too many courtroom lawyer television shows) the tenets of American litigation, namely “My job is to argue my case as vehemently as possible, regardless of truth, and let the judge worry about finding truth and dispensing justice.”  Now, I’m not criticizing the American justice system (at least not here), and there is a logic to its adversarial nature.  The logic stems from the belief that truth, to the extent it can be discovered at all, can best be discovered if two or more proponents argue different interpretations and play devil’s advocate against each other’s position.

I get that.  But take this principle to the dinner table and we MUST remember that THERE IS NO JUDGE OTHER THAN US – we arguers.  So we bear the burden of both arguing the merits of the various interpretations and also filtering out the crap to arrive at knowledge, truth, justice.  If I only bring the litigator, the debater, and not the objective thinker – who’s as ready to ditch his own position when proved empty as he is to attack the positions of others – well, then, there’s a word for me.  Obstinate.

And other words, too.  Stagnant.  Boring.  Unable to grow, learn.  And that’s sad, because growing and learning can be fun, especially when accomplished around a table full of wine bottles and surrounded by the bright minds of curious friends.

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