Benjamin Franklin On Arguing



I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradictions to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbade myself the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fixed opinion, such as "certainly", "undoubtedly", etc. I adopted instead of them "I conceive", "I apprehend", or "I imagine" a thing to be so or so; or "so it appears to me at present".


When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing him immediately some absurdity in his proposition. In answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appeared or semed to me some difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engaged in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I proposed my opinions procured them a readier reception and less contradiction. I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right.

-- Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

I doubt a cantankerous fellow like myself could do this completely, but I've moved in that direction already, and continuing to do so seems worthwhile. I certainly think that having less ego-investment in your opinions makes it easier to revise them. Oh crap, I was just certain of something...not so good at this...must practice. Oops, I mean "I apprehend I should conceive to practice more, should I wish to improve." :grin:

(Hat tip to Gausebeck)

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This reminds me of a similar

This reminds me of a similar issue I brought up in the thread on ID, which is that the Japanese language has many of these tendencies built into it as linguistic constructs, so concerned (even sometimes to the extreme) are the Japanese with avoiding direct and open conflict. For example, if you ask a clerk for stamps, he might respond with "The stamps..." instead of "I have no stamps." because that avoids directly contradicting the initial speaker. Another obvious example is the tendency to ask sentences with interrogatives at the end, sentences that translated would sound like "Oh, you went the game, right?", or "Ayn Rand's theory of epistemology provides a sound basis for a rational, egoistic ethics, right?"

This and similar cultural tendencies have often induced people to distinguish the "collectivist" east from the "individualist" west. I used to think this was a legitimate distinction until I became a libertarian. Now to me it seems like both are collectivist and statist, for the most part.

Sounds like a decent read.

Sounds like a decent read.

I prefer, more pussy than

I prefer, more pussy than Hugh. though that may be stretching it a little. Benj was quite the lady's man though!

"I made it a rule to forbear

"I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradictions to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own."

I'll try it.

"When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing him immediately some absurdity in his proposition. In answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appeared or semed to me some difference, etc."

Like this?

You might be right *ON BIZZARO WORLD* but it appears to me that we are on planet earth...

I think I can get the hang of it.

I've also tried to follow

I've also tried to follow Franklin's advice. I find that it provides for more rational discussion than the alternative, which usually devolves into brick walls yelling at each other.

Also, Franklin got more tang

Also, Franklin got more tang than an astronaut.

It's a good line, but I think it might flow better if you replaced "an astronaut" with "Buzz Aldrin."

In Dale Carnegie's "How to

In Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" he talks about how Franklin was a sharp tongued young man, but softened his ways later in life. It's a good book (in spite of his praise of Lincoln, FDR, et al.) and if you're looking for more advice in that vein I'd recommend it.

Also, Franklin got more tang than an astronaut. If that's not a good reason to emulate Ben, then I don't know what is.

Good Advice or A New

Good Advice or A New Direction
We Theocrats are big fans of Benjamin Franklin for many reasons. Ask Adam some day and he’ll be more than happy to give you the rundown in any length you want: short, long, voluminous, or excruciating. (Ed: It’s rarely excruciating — ...

If you want to see a really

If you want to see a really top-notch argument style (and obviously Patri, this doesn't apply to you, since you've been exposed) I recommend following David Friedman's posts on Google Groups. I've tried to imitate him.

Another obvious example is

Another obvious example is the tendency to ask sentences with interrogatives at the end, sentences that translated would sound like “Oh, you went the game, right?"

Stefan, we've also invented this one in the West? Particularly teenage girls? But now it has spread to many women and even some men? Uptalk? I find it incredibly annoying?

And it also seems somewhat

And it also seems somewhat Jewish, why not?

wow, I did this a while ago

wow, I did this a while ago (in normal conversation, and because of comments made to me by friends), and I came to the same conclusion.

It indeed works and has most definitely made my life much better!

"I recommend following David

"I recommend following David Friedman’s posts on Google Groups. I’ve tried to imitate him."

Me too. Except for all the the gratuitous politeness.

You're saying you don't

You're saying you don't imitate his gratuitous politeness?

That's surprising, you seem perfectly polite to me.

Scott, I wish I knew where I

Scott, I wish I knew where I stole the saying from.

Steve, but "tang" has that awesome double meaning thing going for it. Maybe "more pussy than an animal shelter"

Dave - I'm totally going to

Dave - I'm totally going to steal your lines, saving them up for years until I get the perfect opportunity to punnily praise someone's sexual prowess. (my own, most likely).

In Dale Carnegie’s “How

In Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” ...."

Ugh. I need a bunch of loser friends like I need more holes in my head.

I opened the comments in

I opened the comments in this thread hoping to find someone violently disagreeing with the post. Yet in 17 comments, no one has succumbed to such satire. For shame. :)

Good Advice On Arguing (via

Good Advice On Arguing (via Catallarchy)
Patri Friedman at Catallarchy gave some excellent advice on arguing (from some reading he's doing on Ben Franklin):
"When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing...