I was looking for levels and kinds of arguments you could possibly have on internet, just to equip myself with information on how to answer “you are just stupid!” etc. I am still looking but, I found this categorisation on Paul Graham’s site about levels of disagreements. Worth bookmarking them:
This is the lowest form of disagreement, and probably also the most common. We’ve all seen comments like this:
“u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!”
DH1. Ad Hominem.
An ad hominem attack is not quite as weak as mere name-calling. It might actually carry some weight. For example, if a senator wrote an article saying senators’ salaries should be increased, one could respond:
“Of course he would say that. He’s a senator.”
It’s still a very weak form of disagreement, though. If there’s something wrong with the senator’s argument, you should say what it is; and if there isn’t, what difference does it make that he’s a senator?
DH2. Responding to Tone.
The next level up we start to see responses to the writing, rather than the writer. The lowest form of these is to disagree with the author’s tone. E.g.
“I can’t believe the author dismisses intelligent design in such a cavalier fashion.”
In this stage we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom. The lowest form of response to an argument is simply to state the opposing case, with little or no supporting evidence.
Counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and/or evidence. When aimed squarely at the original argument, it can be convincing. But unfortunately it’s common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different. More often than not, two people arguing passionately about something are actually arguing about two different things. Sometimes they even agree with one another, but are so caught up in their squabble they don’t realize it.
To refute someone you probably have to quote them. You have to find a “smoking gun,” a passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s mistaken. If you can’t find an actual quote to disagree with, you may be arguing with a straw man.
DH6. Refuting the Central Point.
Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point, or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So a truly effective refutation would look like:
The author’s main point seems to be x. As he says:
But this is wrong for the following reasons…
The quotation you point out as mistaken need not be the actual statement of the author’s main point. It’s enough to refute something it depends upon.
Read complete thesis on original site.
2 thoughts on “How to argue”
Ad Hominem is a technical thingy. Its actually called the fallacy of ad hominem. Nice post!
YOU ARE A LAWYER ! that explains your authority on this 🙂