Telling the Truth & Winning Arguments

Something I’ve been encouraged to consider recently is whether being right or being honest is more important. Now these two things should be the same thing but that’s not the world we live in now; if it ever has been. What got me thinking about this was something Stefan Molyneux said on one of his videos fairly recently. He puts out so many that I don’t remember which one, nor can I recall his exact wording. I believe he was discussing political philosophy and he said he would rather someone be a libertarian from firm empirical reasons than because they just found tax or government overreach personally irritating. These were not his exact words but I am as confident as I can be (without checking), that he’d agree with that summary.

Stefan has many gifts but one of the under appreciated is his ability to get right down to peoples motivations and expose them when speaking with people on his call-in shows. He does this in a friendly, patient but very direct manner. He doesn’t (or rarely does) give advice, he just shows them where they are and what they’re thinking and ultimately leaves it up to them to decide. Something I’ve noticed in these callers and something that I also notice in myself, is how uncomfortable it can be when that jingle goes off to a notion that what you are doing or have done is actually wrong. Further, something that you previously hadn’t or not wanted to consider. The first instinct is to reject it and this is usually an emotional response even if it includes actual arguments. Probably the most notorious videos provoking these type of responses are his anti-spanking/peaceful parenting videos. Interestingly he gets this from both people who were spanked and people who have spanked their children.

What this post is about doesn’t concern that specifically though, I just want to use the responses they provoke in another example. That is being right or more accurately; being seen to be right publicly. This goes to people’s pride and is one of the more seductive sins. This is something I have been working to stop in myself. What I want to try to be at all times is honest, even if that means I get things wrong. Even if I look like a fool to my peers or other observers at times. This is harder than it sounds.

I’ve noticed that many people whether in online message boards, or at dinner occasions will sooner tell a lie or a half-truth than be seen to be wrong. Conversations about politics and religion or any potentially contentious subject can be uncomfortable and certainly provoke passions in people. But the minute it becomes a matter of how you are seen over what is to the best of your knowledge true, then you have a problem. As I mentioned at the beginning with regards to libertarianism, it would be better (though painful), for me to be bettered by a communist in a debate than to use lies or half-truths to better him. If the communists views are held for empirical reasons and the libertarians for emotional, then the communist has the more honest view, whether or not he is ultimately right.

This is not to completely reject emotion or perhaps what is better called instinct, it is merely to leave this out of discussions and rational debates. If one is going to participate in political debates whether informal or formal, they should be ready to leave their pride at the door. They should be ready to be wrong and be a darn good sport about it too. One should not want to win any argument unless they are doing so honestly. I know I’m not stating anything new but it seems like something worth repeating over and over again, as many different ways as people are able.

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