Rules of Argument
"These rules are simple, but I recommend them to anyone who has occasion to engage in public arguments. Briefly, they are as follows:
"Among the many errors committed are having no central theme, concentrating too much on unimportant aspects rather than vital ones, giving too much detail, ...over-estimating the background knowledge of the audience, failing to set the research in its proper background, and so forth ad nauseam. I consciously tried to avoid all these errors, and think of the particular audiences I was addressing, their needs, interests and requirements..." (Eysenck, 1997, p. 122).
- Never argue about something about which you are fundamentally ignorant.
- Do your homework, so that you really know everything there is to know about the topic in question.
- Keep what you have to say short, because if you go on for any length of time the audience will forget the points you are making.
- Concentrate on the most important points, and don't go hunting after those that matter less.
- Having decided what are the most important points, force your opponent to answer these points, and don't let him [or her] escape by dragging in all sorts of irrelevant matters" (Eysenck, 1997, p. 76).
"[My father] taught me that it is very important indeed to have a particular high spot in your presentation, something which stands out and which will be remembered by the audience for a long time" (Eysenck, 1997, p. 122).
"[The peer commentator] implied that my alleged misrepresentations and distortions were deliberate.... Any such implication is false, but I cannot think that [he] meant what he said. Such remarks distract from the scientific issues and discourage debate. [He] and I have always agreed on the value of a good debate. Mistakes are corrected, questions are raised, ambiguities are clarified, alternative interpretations arise, and future possibilities are suggested" (Russell, 1995, p. 388).
"All my life I have placed great store in civility and good manners, practices I find scarce among the often hard-edged, badly socialized scientists with whom I associate. Tone of voice means a great deal to me in the course of debate. I remember to say 'With all due respect' or its equivalent at the start of a rebuttal, and mean it. I despise the arrogance and doting self-regard so frequently found among the very bright" (Wilson, 1994, p. 25).
Eysenck, H. J. (1997). Rebel with a cause: The autobiography of Hans Eysenck (Revised and expanded edition). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Russell, J. A. (1995). Facial expressions of emotion: What lies beyond minimal universality? Psychological Bulletin, 118, 379-391.
Wilson, E. O. (1994). Naturalist. Washington, DC: Island Press.
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