An epiphany about arguments

Put two people together and you’ve got the basis for an argument.

But there’s a difference between arguing and discussing: arguing is frustratingly emotional with no intention of giving in; discussion is a dispassionate plan to lay all the cards on the table, avoid the basic seven fallacies of argumentation, and come up with a best solution. 

Basic seven fallacies?

–Making a decision based on generalizations, omitting specifics. 

— Attacking the character of a person rather than attacking the information itself.

— Appealing to ignorance.

–Questioning or ignoring an opponent’s authority.

–Appealing to tradition.

–Using a “red herring” (something irrelevant to shove the issue off track)

–Assuming that one action must necessarily follow another.

We all think differently, assuming that we are right – until we meet others with dissimilar points of view. And that’s fine, too – if we discuss (not argue) to grow and learn from one another. 

The worst current example of arguing has been political; since 2016, have we ever been so bitterly fraught with so many friend-splitting diversities over issues like gun control, climate change, drugs, borders, etc., where discussions end in frustrating, useless arguments – and no one winning?

One of many reasons for differences is often based on where and how we grow up. 

Sigmund Freud proclaimed that the first seven years of a person’s life create the personality, and the next seven cement it.

Example: (true story): A 4-year-old boy is given a very expensive, beautifully tailored three-piece suit with vest, coat and short trousers.  The boy’s eyes light up; he is about to try it on, when his father snorts derisively, “Hah! Short pants!”  The result? The boy never wears the suit, and for the rest of his life never wears shorts.

A historical example of family affects: North Carolina novelist Thomas Dixon lived from the close of the Civil War to the 1940s. He had an uncle – a proud member of the Ku Klux Klan, who led the admiring lad to believe in his uncle’s ongoing love for the Klan to such an extent that Dixon wove it into a  novel about the War Between the States, featuring hooded men who bravely rescued the South from rampaging freed slaves. The novel, “The Clansman,” was later made into one of the greatest silent movies:  D.W.Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” (to later influence K.K.K. scenes in the creation of another movie classic, “Gone With the Wind”). 

Both Dixon and Griffith were reputed to be fine, patriotic men,  but with a racist philosophy based both on family beliefs as well as on the times and place of their upbringing. 

Now flash forward to arguments based on the critiquing of a popular movie: 

It began with the viewing of “84 Charing Cross Road,” a 1984 film starring Anne Bancroft as a NYC eccentric with a passion for old books and Anthony Hopkins as the manager of a  book store in London. The film hops back and forth through the second World War, with letters and purchases culminating in an unexpected but heartwarming conclusion.

Now the odd catch. Critics and viewers were strongly divided on the movie – either admiring it with its warm progression between two unlikely people and their love of books – or being totally bored by such a barely dramatic plot.  

A closer look revealed something amazing:  Nearly everyone under 40 hated the film while those older found it immediately engaging.  Why?

Because the older people grew up with books, having been read to by parents and having spent  fond past times in libraries, while the younger people grew up on television and movies: result, TV and movies, yes; books, no. 

A startling discovery!  A cultural shift over the years develops contrasting tastes, along with early influences from associates, current fads, changes in environments, and more, into what we call a generational gap, frequently fraught with arguments.  

Simplistic? Perhaps, but these few examples might help understand how easily arguments can develop from the merest issues based on individual biases, based on individual backgrounds, based on generational differences – on and on.

Was Freud right? Care to discuss it?


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