Find yourself arguing in favor of liberty, economics and any other political issues popular in current discourse? Well, bad news. You’re doing it wrong. Let’s dig into these “Bad Arguments” and learn how to address common rhetoric and positions effectively. In this series, we will be deconstructing why each of the listed arguments is poor to use, and why they need to leave the sphere of the conversation. These articles will be punching in all directions and hopefully serve to improve the quality of debates and discussions you, the reader, may have in the future.
Quite often when we discuss politics with our opposition we find ourselves demonizing them for their stances and opinions. Rather than engaging with them to find out why they believe what they believe and working out solutions to our ideological divides we instead jump directly to attacking them for their stances. For the 25th installment here I thought it would be appropriate to attack the vein of many of these bad arguments rather than the arteries. In this case, it’s the issue of bad faith in argumentation itself that needs to be addressed.
Bad faith arguments tend not only to hold unnecessary malice behind them but also are generally riddled with fallacies. A bad faith argument is generally defined as coming from a place of “two hearts” which is to say acting on hidden or alternative motives. In argumentation specifically, we see this also be defined as claiming to enter into an “open-minded debate” when in reality the intention is simply to mock, attack, and disprove the other person in the discussion.
This is simply bad form. The purpose of debate is to discuss ideas, compare and counter opposing ideas, and reach a form of truth. We instead tend to aim to win the debate regardless of whether our specific positions are correct. Other times we may aim just to humiliate and make our opponent seem irrelevant. Neither of these paths leads anywhere useful. With the case of the former, it becomes nebulous as we fail to define what winning is. Being right in the debate means little if you were unable to persuade your opponent or audience, but by having this second heart while entering open discourse we will achieve nothing.
Another issue with bad faith arguments is the errors that come from them. If the goal was as stated, open discourse, then we wouldn’t fall into the trappings of fallacious arguments. It is the secondary desire to win or to humiliate that perverts the discourse. It also leads to the inability to make corrections or accept faults in our own thinking.
Arguing from a place of bad faith doesn’t just damage your opponent as one may intent, but it damages the discourse itself making it fruitless. Why engage in pointless discourse when it could instead lead to better understanding and perhaps changing hearts and minds. It is a pointless and generally malicious endeavor and one we should aim to stop.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.