Arguing with steel

For those who think that arguing is better than sex is a sport, this article would be of interest because it’s quite methodical. It’s about steelman.

Steelman is the enemy of the strawman and, I think, is a close cousin of devil’s advocate.

In short:

First… you must attempt to re-express your opponent’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your opponent says “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.” Then, you should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement), and third, you should mention anything you have learned from your opponent. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Published by

Dr Martina Feyzrakhmanova

I am a hospital doctor and founder of an education platform. Avid reader and writer of introspective blogs.

10 thoughts on “Arguing with steel”

  1. This is basic communication/negotiation skills 101, no?

    It is imperative that for very good communication, that people recite back what they have heard and understood (I believe this is called mirroring). Asking for clarifications helps. Focusing in on areas of disagreement should start from the more important to the less. The basics.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wrong, wrong, wrong. What I’ve learned from observing the political arena, when in a debate, simply insult and personally attack your opponent, humiliating them, accusing them, and get off topic immediately. Putting someone down with great one-liners makes you look “on top” and “in charge,” and that’s all the public remembers. That’s how it’s done here in ‘Merica.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. … May God bless it (and other places that are increasingly using divisive methods). There was an election recently in Russia – and I watched the debates. It was like Jeremy Kyle or Dr Phil or whatever – I mean there were people cursing and throwing water on each other. The incumbent didn’t participate.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In the university system of the middle ages, this approach was called the Questions method, and is demonstrated most vividly by Aquinas in his writings:

    – state the question: “Whether such and such is the case.”
    – state as strongly as possible all the arguments against: “it would seem that… ”
    These can be one or many.
    Note: the goal was to state the opposing position in such a way that those who hold that position would agree that you have stated it well.
    – Only THEN state the arguments in favor.
    – Provide rebuttals of each of the opposing arguments.

    Lather, rinse, repeat. Note that the medievals, following Aristotle, understood that there were three degrees of knowledge: 1) necessary truths, such as the laws of math and logic. These were true absolutely, at least to the extent that no understanding, let alone discussion, of reality is possible if they are not true; 2) conditional truths, such as science, metaphysics, and even theology: given A, B, and C are true, following the rules of logic, D is also true. Of course, we can always be wrong about conditional truths because we are prone to error in either our premises or logic, but, with careful observation and reasoning, we can gain much useful practical knowledge; 3) opinion. Beliefs unsupported by careful observation and logic.

    It’s hard work, following the Questions method, which is why, starting around DesCartes time, it became popular to withdraw into one’s study and contemplate one’s navel as the preferred approach to understanding reality. Or set up strawmen to attack. Only in the sciences did people keep following the Questions approach. They still do, although not one in a thousand knows they do.

    The Enlightenment spent most of its time dismissing the people who built the universities, hospitals and the concept of individual rights, and so that we, today, are conditioned to reject out of hand that anything positive came out of the 12th century or that anything really, really, STUPID came out of the Enlightenment. Thus, the writer of the admirable essay you link to above has NO IDEA that ‘steelman’ would have been what people went to the university to learn how to do – in 1175 A.D.!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sex? Nix that. Let’s wrestle words! At least I can still fight standing up. But let’s sit down for this one…
    ~~~
    No, da-bait, is not a 15 year old hussy struttin’ down a gravel road.
    ~~~
    R’gue, damn right I wanna r’gue. About what? Why, about who’s better at r’gue’in a’course.
    ~~~
    Doc, I’m trying to keep it classy here, but whoo-boy, the things goin’ through my head right about now…
    ~~~
    OK — I went to go all, Stonehengy on that site and you have to be a team member to post — so here you go (Classy — mostly):
    I am TitaniumMan. I’ll see your position and strengthen it 100 fold.
    I am LithiumMan. I’ll, um, I’ll… Boy, I’m really depressed here. Could you lend me a shoulder?
    I am CopperMan. I’ll gladly adopt your argument, until the bones roll in my favor.
    I am BronzeMan. I’ll take your opinion and impale it upon my gladius.
    I am IronMan. Duh, dun, dun-na-da, danal-danal-danal da duh-na-dah.

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Carry on…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. that’s some serious stuff societies are struggling with!
    Arguing have became something inside the genes! Just a quick look at th internet society. arguing have became a meme!!! like you can’t change my mind and you have to wholely agree with me! that’s some wicked stuff happening today!! I think we should learn/teach how to discuss a matter not argue.
    and also, no one liners or catchphrases.

    Liked by 2 people

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