Ska man argumentera?

På nätet utmanas man ständigt av argumentativa individer. Inte minst om man har en blogg, men även om man deltar i olika diskussionsfora. Jag hade en period mellan 1995 och 2000 ungefär, då jag ägnade enormt mycket tid åt nätdebatter, inte minst på olika BBS:er (som var populära på den tiden). Nuförtiden prioriterar jag annat för det mesta. När ska man välja att argumentera med andra? Arthur Schopenhauer ger som vanligt goda råd. Från ”Psychological Observations”:

As a sharpening of wits, controversy is often, indeed, of mutual advantage, in order to correct one’s thoughts and awaken new views. But in learning and in mental power both disputants must be tolerably equal. If one of them lacks learning, he will fail to understand the other, as he is not on the same level with his antagonist. If he lacks mental power, he will be embittered, and led into dishonest tricks, and end by being rude.

The only safe rule, therefore, is that which Aristotle mentions in the last chapter of his Topica: not to dispute with the first person you meet, but only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to cherish truth, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong, should truth lie with him. From this it follows that scarcely one man in a hundred is worth your disputing with him. You may let the remainder say what they please, for every one is at liberty to be a fool — desipere est jus gentium. Remember what Voltaire says: La paix vaut encore mieux que la vérité. Remember also an Arabian proverb which tells us that on the tree of silence there hangs its fruit, which is peace.

Jag avvaktar med debatterande tills jag stöter på personer som uppfyller de aristoteliska kvalitetskraven. Sådana personer är å andra sidan enormt värdefulla — de hjälper en, genom kritisk konversation, att se om det man håller för sant och värdefullt verkligen är det.