Futility in arguments


It seems that societies function through the primary use of arguments. And this is so even when teams are collaborating and working closely together to finalise projects. For such instances, it can be observed that arguments are present but have already been settled before the teams commence on their work. So, where is the argument, you may ask. Well, the argument takes place at the point where management or the team members have brainstormed on the direction they are heading and/or what product/service they are creating before starting the project. Yes, in this instance, I am considering “brainstorming” as a form of argument, since different ideas are bounced around and more importantly, justifications are made before a decision is reached.

In fact, when we look around us, we will see arguments everywhere. It’s just that we use different terms (some of us may consider them as euphemisms) such as “brainstorming”, “discussions” and “chats” to tone down the negative connotation that is usually tagged to the term “arguments.” Ultimately, at the end of the day, all the terms refer to the differences in ideas or at times, a conflict of interest(s): a common occurence in daily life.

Aristotle defines 3 techniques to persuade: ethos (which depends on the credibility and reputation of the speakers), pathos (which depends on engaging the feelings and emotions of the audiences such as appealing to their values) and logos (which base one’s credibility on (scientific) evidences).  

Personally, I see futility in arguments. Each of us has different mindsets and perceptions, and even if someone or a group wins an argument, it is often through a consensus rather than mass agreement among every participant.  Thus – seen in this light- I see futility in having debating competitions as well. Even if a team has won a competition, it only serves to prove that they have won over the minds and hearts of the judges and not their competitors or even every member of the audience. Therefore, we should ponder on the effectiveness of such an outcome.

If I were to choose one of the most effective technique out of the three as defined by Aristotle as mentioned above, I will definitely opt for pathos, since winning the hearts of the audiences is important in getting one’s message across and this aligns well with the findings from research in recent years that the primary determinant in a successful public presentation ultimately lies with the recipients of the message (read: audiences) and not the speakers themselves.

The important thing in any argument is to put our thoughts across and this is the best thing that any one of us are able to do. The outcome of our argument is then determined not by us but by the receptivity of the participants.

Seen in this light, what then is the point of having an argument?


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