Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Reflections on Opposite Day

I'm not stranger to playing Devil's Advocate: I, in fact, do it rather routinely--at least once a month--on the IIDB But some positions I never take the converse on--I never, for example, argue against Jesus' historicity, despite ample opportunity to play the case. Likewise I never argue against Jesus as a prophet of the eschaton.

It's hard to argue against yourself. My post wasn't nearly as strong as it doubtlessly could have been, which has given me pause. To be sure, some of it can be blamed on a lack of ample time for forethought, and justifiably so. But I'm not sure that this ad hoc amounts to much: I could put together a post in favour of eschatology with little trouble, and of substantially greater strength. Some of it can, of course, be attributed to the simple fact that it's the opposite of what I'd normally argue: If I could think of arguments against my position that I couldn't rebut, I wouldn't be so steadfast in the position.

Nonetheless, a failure to articulate the positions of your opponents points, I think, to a potential danger of becoming closed-minded; of rejecting opposing positions on the basis of their conclusions, rather than their argument. With that in mind, at some point in the (relatively) near future, the reader can expect a bit of a dialogue between me and my good friend, Ryan Saunders. Something of a point/counterpoint series of posts.

3 comments:

Loren Rosson III said...

It is indeed hard, and challenging, to argue against oneself without resorting to caricature. But for some reason I find it gratifying. Maybe I'm a bit schizophrenic.

Rick Sumner said...

I can definitely see the gratification in it, it's surely a good way to hone one's position, as well as develop an appreciation for what your position is maintained against.

It was interesting on "Opposite Day" to see just how many of the "good friends" (Ryan Saunders included) were largely caricature's of what one might expect to meet as an opponent.

But I think one should be able to adequately represent an opponent they might face, and am rather disappointed that I couldn't, or at least that I can't with any measure of rapidity (Ryan Saunders' next appearance will, I'm sure, be an improvement. He might even become a regular feature, offering a different perspective on my musings). Especially given how rudimentary my chosen topic is--really a bog-standard debate.

A strong argument should know what it's facing, and be able to address it. And be able to do so substantially, not by rote.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Some of it can, of course, be attributed to the simple fact that it's the opposite of what I'd normally argue: If I could think of arguments against my position that I couldn't rebut, I wouldn't be so steadfast in the position.

I think this is insightful. At one level, it is almost a truism that we think the beliefs we hold are well grounded--otherwise, why hold them?

Nevertheless, there are some issues where coming to a firm conclusion is difficult. I would put the existence of Q in that category. Although I'm generally skeptical about Q, I can still think of a number of nagging questions that I'd still like answered before I'll be substantially satisfied with my position. Perhaps Q could be the topic of the next opposite day for me.