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Arthur Schopenhauer and The Art of winning an argument

History

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher. 

He believed that the world is driven by a powerful force called “will“, which causes people to desire and strive for things. He believed that true happiness comes from letting go of desires and finding inner peace. Schopenhauer’s ideas were not popular during his time, but they have since become more influential in modern philosophy. He emphasized the importance of being kind to others and avoiding unnecessary wants to achieve a peaceful life. 

Eristic Dialectic: The Art of Winning an Argument 

In “Eristic Dialectic: The Art of Winning an Argument,” Arthur Schopenhauer explores tactics that individuals can use to win debates, even if their position lacks truth. Schopenhauer termed this type of argumentation as “eristic,” prioritizing victory over discovering the truth. Central to his work are a plethora of techniques, each meticulously crafted to gain a strategic advantage in verbal confrontations. These tactics encompass a wide range of rhetorical tricks and logical fallacies, skilfully employed to sway an opponent’s judgment and emotions, rather than persuading them with sound reasoning. 

In an ironic and satirical tone, Schopenhauer unveils the darker side of human nature, exposing the exploitation of our cognitive weaknesses and psychological biases. He artfully reveals how individuals can skilfully manipulate an opponent’s thought processes, steering them away from rational analysis and guiding them towards emotional reactions. 

Eristic Dialectic: The Art of Verbal Combat and the Ethical Implications of Persuasive Discourse 

While “Eristic Dialectic” may be seen as a handbook for mastering the art of verbal combat, Schopenhauer does not hesitate to critique this approach, urging readers to recognize the folly of prioritizing victory over the pursuit of genuine understanding and truth. He encourages a deeper appreciation for the ethical implications of persuasive discourse, underlining the importance of using reason as a tool to uncover reality rather than as a mere instrument for outwitting one’s opponent. 

Schopenhauer’s exploration of eristic dialectic provides readers with a captivating glimpse into the realm of human persuasion and the artful manipulation of argumentation. Yet, his underlying message serves as a poignant reminder of the need to temper these skills with ethical considerations, guiding us towards a more sincere and authentic search for truth and knowledge in our interactions with others.

In business

In a business context, being aware of Schopenhauer’s tactics serves as a cautionary reminder.  

Although the main goal should be to make informed decisions, recognizing manipulative techniques helps to identify such behaviours in negotiations and decision-making processes. Understanding how these eristic tactics exploit human weaknesses helps avoid falling into the trap of using them. It could be argued that weaker individuals may resort to manipulative tactics to win, even at the expense of truth, as victory boosts their self-esteem. Despite the perception that “anything goes” in business, ethics is fundamental.  

It is always frustrating to face ambiguous situations or unclear individuals. Sometimes, acting correctly in the short term leads to nothing but wasted effort. However, we must maintain hope that integrity will always pay off in the long run. The outcome is not guaranteed or clear. I have often doubted the result, but in the end, our principles and values define us as individuals. We must follow and believe in them both personally and professionally. There is no other way to preserve our integrity. 

Next Article: “The Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli 

Recommended readings: 

Political Philosophy:  

1. “The Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli 

2. “The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau 

3. “The Republic” by Plato 

Strategic Philosophy: 

1. “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu 

2. “The Art of winning an argument” by Arthur Schopenhauer 

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