TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Argument as fun

I think it would be helpful to specify a fourth category of argument: Argument as fun.
"Win" or "lose" are not helpful outcomes. The benefit is in playing the game.
Arguing is intellectually and socially stimulating. It leads to new insights and often to laughter. Sharing a good argument with a friend is FUN. Whether it be about which team will win on Saturday or about whether there is a god, Contesting ideas with friends is a deeply human, growthful activity. Long live debate and argument


Closing Statement from Jonathan Pincus

Well, we’ve come to the end of our allotted period. It’s time to sum up this thread.
It seems that there is at least a partial case for Arguing as Fun, but it is a minority interest and best done with a set of mutually accepted rules or conventions if it is to remain Fun.
Some discussants were concerned about the way that an argument may spill over into anger and ad hominem attacks or even violence.
Some participants preferred to “win” arguments. Others saw it as a purposeful activity trying to ascertain the “truth”. Still others saw arguing as an enjoyable activity in its own right, regardless of “winning” or “losing”.
The discussion largely paralleled the main discussion.
Thanks to all those who participated.
I’ve had fun. Hope you have too.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Aug 10 2013: In ancient Indian tradition there is a discipline named the 'Nyaya' (Art of Argument). In this tradition a young graduate is to engage in a formal argument with an expert in favor of a proposition to establish it. If s/he succeeds then his/her next task is to engage in a formal argument with another expert against the same proposition to prove it false. If s/he succeeds again, s/he is declared a graduate. The message is clear. Argument based on logic is a tool and can be used with a goal in mind. It has no connection with a truth in a fundamental level.
    Argument is fun as long as long as all the parties involved in it are aware of it. Otherwise it is useful to recall the 'Nyaya' stand.
    There are various levels of learning. Knowledge is one. Realization is another. When engaging in argument it is essential to understand which level of learning one is in.
    • thumb
      Aug 11 2013: Doesn't the integrity of Nyaya depend entirely upon the infallibility of the process of scoring? If the performance evaluation process is infallible and ALWAYS indicates the TRUTH, then let's adopt it globally. Otherwise it is one of many fallible scoring systems which do nothing to meet the goal of any rational, non-recreational or academic, argument-- which is displacement of error and discovery of truth.
      • thumb
        Aug 11 2013: Nyaya (originally sanskrit) is equivalent to the word 'Just'. It's not truth the discipline seeks to establish. In ancient traditions it proceeds through 'Tarka' (Argument) and 'Bitarka' (counter-argument) based on 'Yukti' (logic) in front of a panel of experts/judges who decides the winner. It is similar to science in as much as taking the validity of a proposition established only as long as it is not challenged and changed in later time. It is different from science in as much as it permits anecdotal evidence and abstract logical axioms in addition to verified physical evidence.
        The conclusion is : For now the proposition A is valid and X (the proposer) is 'Just'.
        It is a precursor of Law and Justice.
        It is somewhat different from modern debate in that the challenger is not permitted to just deconstruct the proposition without proposing an alternate proposition.
        I think in principle 'Nyaya' is already adopted in democratic conflict resolution all over the world.
        • thumb
          Aug 11 2013: Jolly good explanation sir! Thank you. It seems to me that, even if the goal is merely "fun", the point of argument MUST always be the displacement of error and the promotion of truth. Am I correct?
      • thumb
        Aug 11 2013: You are welcome sir. I'd agree with you as long as you don't demand that truth is immutable.
        • thumb
          Aug 11 2013: Only God is immutable. I erringly used the word in a temporal, human sense. Thank you for the correction.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.