[Reader-list] to win an argument...

faiz ullah faiz.outsider at gmail.com
Mon Aug 20 15:53:44 IST 2007

*38 Ways To Win An Argument*
*by Arthur Schopenhauer*

*1 Carry your opponent's proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate
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 defend.

*2 Use different meanings of your opponent's words to refute his argument.*
Example: Person A says, "You do not understand the mysteries of Kant's
Person B replies, "Oh, 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.*
Mingle 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

*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

*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 your opponent answers all your questions negatively and refuses to
grant you any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite of your
This may confuse the opponent as to which point you actually seek him to

*11 If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises, refrain
from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion.*
Later, introduce your conclusions as a settled and admitted fact.
Your 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 your proposition.*
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" or "superstition."
In other words, insert what you intend to prove into the definition of the

*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 paradoxical.
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 black.

*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 not follow.
If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal of
impudence and a good voice, the technique may succeed.

*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 proposition.
Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on your side for the
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.*
Example: 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.*
Rather, 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 character.*
But it is better to meet the opponent with a counter-argument that is just
as superficial, and so dispose of him.
For 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 their
By contradicting your opponent you may drive him into extending the
statement beyond its natural limit.
When you then contradict the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you
had refuted the original statement.
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.
It then 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
Example: "All 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.*
Example: Your opponent declares: "so and so is a child, you must make an
allowance for him."
You retort, "Just because he is a child, I must correct him; otherwise he
will persist in his bad habits."

*27 Should your opponent surprise 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.
If your 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.*
This 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 most.
You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your authorities, but
actually falsify them, or quote something that you have entirely invented

*31 If you know that you have no reply to the arguments that your opponent
advances, you by a fine 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.*
Example: "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.
You must, 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.*
If you 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 philosophical dogma.
You show him that his proposition contradicts a fundamental doctrine of his
He will abandon the argument.

*36 You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast.*
If 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.*
In 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 effect.


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