The Art of Being Right

The Art of Being Right is a The read time is about one hour. treatise The more complete arrangement is called The Art of Controversy. by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in 1831. The book details thirty–eight strategies for winning disputes. The work is profound enough to be called in some circles The Art of Always Being Right. In the typical flair, Schopenhauer writes in a somewhat colorful manner, and delivers his thoughts in a direct and matter of fact prose.

“Directly after copulation, the devil’s laughter is heard.” Arthur Schopenhauer, The Will to Live

In Parerga and Paralipomena (Appendices and Omissions), Schopenhauer observed that no matter the domain, the logical tricks disputers employ, were not just eerily similar but had the same air of subtlety. This trickery goes beyond mere logical fallacies and applies to stratagems that employ subtle controversies within the context of the fallacy. Schopenhauer calls this the Eristic Dialectic, and more arbitrarily, The Logic of Appearance. The eristic’s goal is to successfully win arguments — not to gain enlightenment or to discover a truth. Schopenhauer’s eristic wins disputes similarly and also signals victory to the audience through this controversial dialectic. The dialectic in this In fact, Schopenhauer redefines the dialectic completely because in his view — eristic, dialectic, sophistic, and peirastic arguments are concerned with winning. refers to the skill of determining the truth of an opinion.

The discovery of objective truth must be separated from the art of winning acceptance for propositions; for objective truth is au entirely different matter: it is the business of sound judgment, reflection and experience, for which there is no special art. The Art of Being Right, Page 3

The logic of appearance is a satisfying flourish — an apt word picture for a delicate dance away from the path of objectivity. This jousting is not merely a show of logic, but becomes its own science — a dialectic that concerns itself with an appearance and anatomy of the truth. Separation of the dialectic to consist of a logic concerned with the appearance of truth is fascinating and it usually emerges where there is a lack of evidence or objectivity.

“A man often does not himself know whether he is in the right or not; he often believes it, and is mistaken: both sides often believe it. Truth is in the depths.” The Art of Being Right, Page 3

Disputes often hinge on the acceptance of propositions and feelings toward an argument rather than a systematic and reasoned approach towards The realm where formal logic and domain expertise become indispensable. The purpose is to, in essence, win, and Luckily for many truths it is often a given that right assimilates to your side. that the truth and right are on your side. This is indeed a paradoxical reversal, but a humorous and hopelessly brilliant reversal. Schopenhauer saw this as a sign of Of course, in the wider consensus, what Schopenhauer deems a weakness is conventionally and more naturally viewed as the perfection of the human intellect. In other words — winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. in the human intellect. Disputes were guaranteed and unmeasured, but truths reserved and attained by mere happenstance and coincidence.

“Dialectic, then, need have nothing to do with truth, as little as the fencing master considers who is in the right when a dispute leads to a duel. Thrust and parry is the whole business.” The Art of Being Right, Page 3

The methods that Schopenhauer observed virtually ensures one is right in a dispute, even when factoring in the audience’s knowledge of the subtle controversy. If the awareness of the eristic dialectic is factored in, then disputes often become magical, cosmic even, and transform into a mysterious and higher order level of argumentation — a type of Controversies within fallacy of fallacies. logic of appearance. Those who are especially adept at exploiting this delicate limbo will always be right, especially in the presence of an observing audience.

Take for instance a popular move from the controversial dialectic’s playbook: the Not to suggest that the appeal to authority is a completely invalid approach in the wider scope of the dialectic. Logical shortcuts (fallacies) are used to arrive at “correct” conclusions all the time. The subtlety here is the skill of using shortcuts, and the controversies within them, to block the path towards objectivity. to authority. In the right situation, a skilled eristic can elegantly terminate all thinking. The flow towards any attempt at objectivity is disrupted and ended by an opinion from authority. The dispute ends quickly with all parties passively admitting a lack of ability to think or reason. The eristic skillfully appeals and wins by default — the path towards reason and objectivity was too difficult anyway.

In short, there are very few who can think, but every man wants to have an opinion; and what remains but to take it ready–made from others, instead of forming opinions for himself? The Art of Being Right, Page 15

Schopenhauer Quoting Democritus: “For truth is in a well.” “the truth is in the depths”. The truth is indeed in the depths, deep within the recesses, and is often reserved for the future generations that unearth them. The future grants wisdom in old matters, if only because the situation under examination is so far removed from one’s own time. That physicality infers a natural tendency towards objectivity.

Conclusion

Schopenhauer’s grim and matter of fact view of the dispute is a satisfying reminder of the Alternatively understood as a “rationalized irrationality”. In the current zeitgeist, there are subtle distinctions (demarcations) between the rational and the irrational. manifestations of the human condition. In a world of persuasion, trick, and subtlety, it would be remiss to avoid the peculiarities of being right, right being on your side, and the truth. Schopenhauer’s treatise, The Art of Being Right, is a good read, and in light of this brief abstract, below are popular stratagems used today from the book that employ controversies within the dialectic to successfully steer debate and give the appearance of truth.

  1. Appeal to Authority Rather Than Reason (30)
  2. This is Beyond Me (31)
  3. Defense Through Subtle Distinction (17)
  4. Persuade the Audience, Not the Opponent (28)
  5. Claim Victory Despite Defeat (14)
  6. It Applies in Theory, but Not in Practice (33)
  7. Yield Admissions Through Questions (7)
  8. Anger Indicates a Weak Point (27)
  9. Interrupt, Break, Divert the Dispute (18)

Updated 1 June 2021
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