The Strength of an Argument

A friend in commenting on my argument about the objective beauty of people asked whether the argument would be all that convincing to somebody who honestly believed they were ugly.

To be honest, I’d have to say no. When it comes to the strength of an argument, the objective truth of the argument does not determine a person’s ability to believe it. There are a number of things that interrupt a person’s ability to believe something.

1) Trauma – People sometimes have mental blocks created by past hurts or present addictions. So, for example, telling someone with a low self concept that they are beautiful won’t work.

2) Desires – Sometimes people don’t want something to be true, and so choose not to believe it if they at all can. In normal situations that’s why some people refuse to see when their boyfriend or girlfriend (or even spouse) is bad for them. The reprecussions are too extreme, and so they simply do not want to believe it.

As an aside, most atheists claim that this is the reason people like me believe that there is a god. Though I’m not sure about this, as if there is no god, I can do whatever I can rationally convince myself is moral, and I’m trained to twist words, I can make a lot seem ethical.

3) Paradigms. Sometimes people have a method of interpreting the world around them that simply cannot conceive of the truth of anything that is opposed to their point of view. The most common example is an overly self-centered person.  They can’t imagine the needs of other people simply because they are so centered on themselves. Where some choose to believe things in opposition to truth, some cannot even see the truth. The evidence contrary to what they believe simply does not register.

All of this is important to remember when in argument, as the person you’re talking to may actually be more knowledgable than you even if you know that they’re wrong in some way, or conversely they may actually see things more clearly than you do, despite the fact you have more knowledge than they do.

Author: Stephen Dawe

Steve is a part-time vocational elder Calvary Baptist Church, St. John's as well as a full-time student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the Religious Studies Department.