A year after I ordered Professor Zarefsky's course on logical argumentation, the Teaching Company sent me the letter below. Enclosed in it is an essay, 38 Ways To Win an Argument, by Arthur Schopenhauer (the inspiration for Nietzsche, who inspired Heidegger, who inspired Derrida and his philosophy of Deconstruction). Emphasized in red below are the ideas (for derailing an argument) that are consistent with Derrida's deconstructionist “philosophy” 150 years later.
Personal note: my dislike of deconstruction was intense and instantaneous. As a high school debater, I knew that the way to survive a debate for which I was unprepared was to quarrel and quibble over the definition of the debate issue and attack the definitions of the opponents' plan or rebuttal on complex linguistic or syntax grounds – exactly what Derrida recommends, though for different reasons. Because logical argumentation works and Derrida tears it down, only to replace it with nothing, his philosophy is simply an irrational exultation of chaos.
Further, the essay below provides, for situations that fit the 38 examples, a certain proof that the argument presented is bullshit.
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But he was not a nice guy. The son of a prosperous merchant and a successful novelist, he was independently wealthy and a notorious curmudgeon. For example, he decided to teach at a university opposite Hegel and deliberately scheduled his classes to conflict with Hegel's. (The reported result is that everyone went to Hegel's classes.)
His curmudgeonly nature is perhaps further revealed in the essay we have found for you: "38 Ways to Win an Argument." The spirit animating this essay is quite unlike Professor Zarefsky's premise that argumentation is a cooperative, social enterprise for finding truth. Schopenhauer wrote a guide for stopping enemies who might use these devices against you, though some regard it as a guide to doing in an enemy. Enjoy it.
Example: Person A says, "You do not understand the mysteries of Kant's philosophy." Person B replies, "Oh, if it's mysteries you're talking about, I'll have nothing to do with them."
Example: If the opponent is a member of an organization or a religious sect to which you do not belong, you may employ the declared opinions of this group against the opponent.
Example: Call something by a different name: "good repute" instead of "honor," "virtue" instead of "virginity," "red-blooded" instead of "vertebrates."
Example: What an impartial person would call "public worship" or a "system of religion" is described by an adherent as "piety" or "godliness" and by an opponent as "bigotry" or "superstition." In other words, insert what you intend to prove into the definition of the idea.
Example: If you want him to admit that a boy must do everything that his father tells him to do, ask him, "whether in all things we must obey or disobey our parents." Or, if a thing is said to occur "often," ask whether you are to understand "often" to mean few or many times, the opponent will say "many." It is as though you were to put gray next to black and call it white, or gray next to white and call it black.
Example: Should your opponent defend suicide, you may at once exclaim, "Why don't you hang yourself?" Should the opponent maintain that his city is an unpleasant place to live, you may say, "Why don't you leave on the first plane?"
Example: If you are asked why a particular hypothesis cannot be accepted, you may speak of the fallibility of human knowledge, and give various illustrations of it.
Example: If the opponent appeals to prejudice or emotion, or attacks you personally, return the attack in the same manner.
Example: "All ruminants are horned," is a generalization that may be upset by the single instance of the camel.
Example: Your opponent declares, "So and so is a child, you must make an allowance for him." You retort, "Just because he is a child, I must correct him; otherwise he will persist in his bad habits."
Example: "What you say passes my poor powers of comprehension; it may well be all very true, but I can't understand it, and I refrain from any expression of opinion on it." In this way you insinuate to the audience, with whom you are in good repute, that what your opponent says is nonsense. This technique may be used only when you are quite sure that the audience thinks much better of you than your opponent.
Example: You can say, "That is fascism" or "atheism" or "superstition." In making an objection of this kind you take for granted:
1. That the assertion or question is identical with, or at least contained in, the category cited; and
2. The system referred to has been entirely refuted.
Example: "That's all very well in theory, but it won't work in practice."
Example: A clergyman is defending some philosophical dogma. You show him that his proposition contradicts a fundamental doctrine of his church. He will abandon the argument.