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Trial by Fire

Arguing is not bad, viewed and performed properly. I just argued with a professor for at least half an hour. To the outside observer it would have appeared that I was saying that her methods of inspecting the data were faulted and that her understanding of interpreting data was foolish. And sure I know that's darn near how I argued, but since there were no hard feelings related to it, I suspect that she understand perfectly well what I was doing. I was demanding that she prove me wrong, not because I thought I was right but because I wanted her to show me why I was wrong - and I wanted a good answer.

Intellectuals have a special way of arguing. We (if you're reading this then you're likely of us) often appear pompous and seem to dismiss other's ideas as stupid if it differs from our own. While perhaps not entirely false, it is most certainly not true. Our fervor and vim is the requirement that all contentions be solid and rigorously explained. Holes and faulty reasoning is unacceptable. We expect to win some of the time, but also to lose as well; it's not personal. I fall back on the example of Richard Feynman. While I do not consider myself anywhere near the physicist he was, everyone who has read Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman remembers his style of arguing - I won't describe it here, but I think it makes a nice case in point.

The moral: if I seem to get bent out of shape when arguing about something, fight back; but be sure you're right - don't just counter argue, that's just irritating. And never act like you've got the moral high ground and walk away - that's an insult to the other party's intelligence and extremely rude. The other point: absolutely never take OR make it personal - losers bring emotion into it. Be serious and a heated argument will be more akin to blacksmithing and less to an intellectual bar fight. (Get it? Bar :)


I'll keep this in mind. Oh yes I will.