I’d Like An Argument Please

Public debate over almost everything devolves into trench warfare, in which the most important goal is to establish that the other person is wrong. Sensible differences of opinion deteriorate into a bad high school debate in which the objective is to win and facts are deployed like checkers on a board – none of this rises to the level of chess – mostly to knock out other facts. Like the customer in Monty Python’s legendary “Argument Clinic” sketch, we find ourselves merely gainsaying whatever the other person said last. (“This isn’t an argument,” the angry customer tells the professional arguer. “Yes, it is,” he responds. “No, it isn’t! It’s just contradiction!” “No, it isn’t.” “Yes, it is!”)

Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017), p. 41. eISBN: 9780190469436