Social Question

josie's avatar

Isn't it a waste of time to debate an idea that is subjective, but held with passionate intensity by the "believer"?

Asked by josie (28170points) August 26th, 2011

Fluther is a good place to witness this futile exercise.
The list of subjective, but passionately embraced ideas is almost endless, but a few that often show up on this site are

There is a God
Morality is a social convention
Wealth is a zero sum game
Poverty causes crime
The individual is subordinate to the state

Offering real evidence and/or flawless argument to refute these “beliefs” is a waste of time. If one is epistemologically commited to being a subjectivist, then one has no interest in objectivity anyway. So any debate becomes a dog chasing it’s own tail. Which happens here often enough, and every place else for that matter.

So why bother? The only real choices are give up the argument, or use force to stop it. Since using force is risky, expensive and unpredictable and is thus attractive only to the most ammoral, lunatics in our midst (except in a democracy, where you can hire thugs with your vote), what is left but to give it up and start living another day?

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26 Answers

ucme's avatar

Yes it is! No fucking argument here.

marinelife's avatar

It is OK to have an open debate on these issues as long as people don’t get heated or expect to convince others of their position.

SuperMouse's avatar

Trying to get one to change their mind on topics such is these is absolutely futile. If the debate is motivated by an enjoyment of discourse then it is not time wasted. As an aside, I would add abortion and the death penalty to your list. I saw the etc., just couldn’t resist adding those two.

josie's avatar

@SuperMouse They are implicit in the “individual is subordinate to the state” belief.

Keep_on_running's avatar

Well at least they can be entertaining to other people watching and you never know, you might actually learn something from watching a dog chasing it’s tail. Persistence for example.

wundayatta's avatar

I agree with you, @josie. I’ll often state my opinion once, and then leave. I might come back if I’ve been misunderstood.

For a long time, I wondered about this issue. Originally, I thought debate was about winning and losing—possibly about educating others. But I finally decided this wasn’t the point of the discussions or debates at all.

My opinion about this is that people love to argue. It’s like going to the movies or something: a form of entertainment. Most people aren’t really interested in dialog aimed at solving problems. They aren’t even really trying to understand each other. They are trying to be smart and funny and pugilistic because it’s fun to spar with others.

These discussions attract the usual suspects. Most of the people who don’t like to argue stay away.

_zen_'s avatar

Waste of time? Maybe. Fun? Definitely.

XD's avatar

The process may not be the most efficient, but there are 2.5 benefits.

1. Multiple iterations of the same debate allow one to refine the articulation of their ideas.

2. Multiple iterations of the same debate can lead to a deeper insight. (Think back to the scene in War Games, when the computer plays Tic Tac Toe).

2.5 Every once and a while, the other person says something sensible that you hadn’t considered.

Jellie's avatar

That would be a resounding yes. I sometimes ask questions for the purpose of debate and enlightenment and to hear different points of views but then it inevitably ends in people trying to CONVERT you. It’s ridiculous. There are some things which don’t have facts and are only based on opinion. It also annoys me how arrogant people get with their POV.

Blackberry's avatar

It’s fun, especially when logic is on your side. Even though it was disturbing, when I was younger, debating racist people was always exhilarating for me lol.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

It is a waste of time.

Sometimes I start down that path, not because I want to impose on that person, but because I do really respect them. I can’t believe someone intelligent would disagree with me.

King_Pariah's avatar

Sometimes it’s, but sometime it’s fun especially when they get all flustered and even better when you can plant a seed of doubt and get to see it sprout a little.

ratboy's avatar

We hold these Truths to be self-evident:

There is a God,
Morality is a social convention,
Wealth is a zero sum game,
Poverty causes crime, and
The individual is subordinate to the state.

It is our moral duty, assigned by God and endorsed by the state, to insist that you do too.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Yep, pretty much. I’m guilty of it though.

CWOTUS's avatar

No one seriously debates to change the mind of “the one who holds stupid or wrong ideas” and defends those stupid or wrong ideas. The debate is held in order to influence and persuade those who haven’t yet made up their minds, or who are trying to learn.

If what you question were fact, that it was “useless” to hold a debate with someone who held an idea diametrically opposed to yours, then we wouldn’t have courts and trials. That makes my point: the debate is to sway the minds of the jury, not the opposing attorneys.

snowberry's avatar

I’ve met more than a few people here who have tried to change my mind because they KNEW I was wrong and they were right (what hubris!). They insisted their opinion was not opinion at all, but fact. That’s where we fell apart. I have my opinion. I have my facts and stats. You have yours. It is possible find stats to support any number of opinions. We’ll see who’s right in the endgame.

Oh, and if you can’t change their mind, discredit their character. That’s always a good second choice.

Hibernate's avatar

If we were not to debate about them then what’s the point of staying around? It’s sorta lame to just hear 10 replies with people agreeing with you on the same subject.

@snowberry indeed. If the debate is not going to well most just choose to start talking about the other person and how “bad” are the believes one uses OR that one needs to get a bit more open minded.

snowberry's avatar

@Hibernate Hmmm. I don’t know. Maybe their need to have everyone agree with them feeds some sort of misguided self worship going on? I have brought this up in another question, and sort of got dismissed on the subject. Nevertheless, my- our point is valid.

DominicX's avatar

It’s a waste of time to try and get someone to change their mind, since it’s probablyl not going to happen. But it’s not a waste of time to challenge opinions and criticize them. How can an opinion be strong if it cannot withstand criticism? The way to strengthen your opinions and explore new possible opinions and ways of thinking is to debate. And I don’t mean calling people “stupid” for believing something, I’m talking about getting into the nitty-gritty of beliefs and opinions; I like having my opinions challenged, especially if I can defend them well.

augustlan's avatar

I’m with those who think it’s not a waste of time. Trying to convert the ‘true believers’ (on any issue) is surely a waste of time, but there are many benefits to having the discussion in spite of that.

Blackberry's avatar

Most of the time, the debates are pointless, but I really think it is good to have them. I’m not sure why, though. There are many reasons that I feel are important, but may not be to others.

Blondesjon's avatar

I don’t really care one way or another. I just love my own particular brand of bullshit so much that I can’t help but spread it around to see what it fertilizes.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I do not think that it is a waste of time. Yes, there will be cases where it might cause a person to stand their ground based upon the opposition’s argument due to ingrained beliefs. Then again, how often do we know that it doesn’t plant a seed? It could take a long time for it to sprout. It is rare that we ever hear back on a web-site that a person’s opinion changed, much less in real life.

For those that feel it is just a form of chest-butting, sure, there are people who are highly competitive. There are also those of us that tend to be confrontational. There is a difference.

In either case, tact should be used. In some ways, it is much easier to do in the written word, as it can be edited before the Answer! button is clicked. There are several Jellies that are really good at this. I need to thank them for being a secret mentor.

incendiary_dan's avatar

It’s a waste of time after you reach that point where the other side is either purposely misinterpreting what you said, legitimately too stupid to understand, or ignoring it. At that point, you’ve said your piece, and you can’t do much else. But as @CWOTUS said, sometimes it’s useful for getting your position out there, for others not in the debate to see.

Earthgirl's avatar

I try never to waste my breath on tallking to people who have their minds already made up. There is no chance of having a dialog with someone who is not going to be receptive and open-minded. It’s like talking to yourself! Hell, I already know what I think. I don’t gain anything by talking if no one is listening. I can still get sucked in though if I think I even have a remote, fighting chance to change someone’s mind on an issue I feel passionately about.

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