Devil's advocate

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Vociferous, Feb 5, 2018.

  1. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    On the one hand, it is very easy, I do it all the time. For myself, I consider all the counterarguments available. The result is the base of my own position.

    On the other hand, it is close to impossible for me. Once I have seen the weakness of the arguments against the position I have chosen, to defend it openly would force me to defend arguments which I know are cheap, weak. So, doing this would be some sort of unethical - I would have to propose arguments and to hide counterarguments I know about.
     
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  3. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

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    That's the exercise. To argue a point like you haven't come to the conclusion you have. Try to tear down the justification for your actual position.
    There's nothing unethical about testing your ability to argue for the opposing position. It's actually the essence of empathy.
     
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  5. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    (In context of the OP question)

    I'll give you an example of a real life truth.

    Slavery is the perfect form of Capitalism. All great cultural works were built by slaves. Cheap labor increases productivity and is good for stockholders and the cultural wealth of a nation.

    Moreover, slaves can be bought at the price of a pig and sold as a skilled laborer when no longer needed.

    Especially sex-slaves have great value to their owners. All cash transactions which do not need to be declared on taxes. I have heard that a 12 year old virgin can bring as much as $100,000, but generate at least $500,000, before they are worn out and sold to a street pimp, which is a misnomer, because they are really facilitators of sexual gratification and add to the happiness of many men.

    So many financial and emotional benefits has to make Slavery the ultimate form of a Capitalist society.

    Anyone care to dispute these facts?
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
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  7. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    And also shows that "critical thinking" involves the consideration of alternative perspectives, rather than blindly reject anything but your own perspective.

    As Prof. Albert Bartlett proves in his lecture on the "exponential function"; Everything humans consider as "good", eventually will destabilize the natural balance, whereas everything we consider as "bad" will maintain a stable environment.

    Humans are an "invasive and parasitic species" which eventually will kill its host, namely earth itself. This will be the result of the exponential function, a mathematical certainty, unless nature itself will take corrective action, if humans do not modify their behavior.

    The interesting part is that we have a choice, unlike all other species which have learned (evolved) to live in harmony and are subject to their environment. OTOH, humans create their own invironment which is in direct opposition to natural selection.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
  8. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    From going from super Christian, to agnostic, to atheist to somewhat spiritual now, I'd say I've argued all sides of a topic. What is interesting is when you've argued opposing sides (or what you once thought were opposing sides), you come away with a greater respect for all people because you can see their views.
     
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  9. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    In any battle it is worth trying to understand how your opponent see things and what points you can expect them to make against all you may present.
    Also like playing chess against yourself...turn the board around so you can see how your game may appear from an opponents view.
    Alex
     
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  10. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    It is unethical to hide important arguments for the other side. But this is what I would have to do - I would have to hide arguments which I consider as important and decisive, else my own position would be different.

    Empathy is irrelevant because it is about feelings, not about the content of arguments.

    To understand how my opponent sees things is, of course, important. But this is what you have to do anyway if you want to have a chance to win.

    My situation is, here, quite different from those who use ad hominem as the main argument. A "this is a NATO propaganda source" could be easily reverted to a "this is a Russian propaganda source". Similarly for "arguments" based on emotions and feelings.

    For those who have not recognized that such arguments are cheap, taking the opposite side is, indeed, helpful, because it would help them to see the difference: Those "arguments" which I can easily transform into "arguments" in favor of my opponents are cheap, I would better throw them away from my argumentation completely. (With the only exception of occasional use of them as "tit for tat" if my opponent uses such arguments too often.)
     
  11. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    As I understand it, "empathy" is the ability to experience the same reality as someone else. IOW, in a chess game you would make the same moves as your opponent would. This is exactly what you would do if playing against yourself. Theoretically, the game should always end in a draw.

    In context of this sidebar, I would use the phrase "sympathy", which is the ability to understand the reality of someone else, i.e. you understand the rationality of your opponent's perspective and would be able to calculate a superior response.
     
  12. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

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    I didn't think winning was an option.
     
  13. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    "Winning" a discussion is, of course, a quite unfortunate choice. In a really good discussion, the "loser" wins more than the winner, namely, he learns interesting things, in particular, that some of his beliefs were wrong or some of his arguments weak. But there are, of course, a lot of contexts where to "win" a discussion really means to win something, for particular if a group argues about what to do, or, in particular, how to distribute something between the members. And this was, of course, also the usual context when we have learned to argue.

    Write4U, I have a completely different understanding about the meaning of empathy and sympathy. It is IMHO empathy which means understanding, while sympathy means a positive relation. So, I can have empathy to some mass murderer, understanding his feelings of hate, of why he has done this, but will not have any sympathy for him.
     
  14. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    I believe you are not looking deep enough into the emotional states which determine empathy and sympathy.

    Given your example, if you felt the "same emotion of hate" as the mass murderer, you would be empathetic to the murderer. If you felt the "same emotion of terror" as the victim, you'd be empathetic with the victim.

    OTOH, you could be sympathetic to the mass murderer because his actions were caused by say, his entire family was murdered the day before, which created the hate in the first place.

    And you could be sympathetic to the victim's plight for being at the wrong place at the wrong time to become the victim of such wanton violence, without being causal to the actions of the murderer.

    I believe the "mirror neural system" plays a great part in this scenario.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron
     
  15. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

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    True.
    Being sympathetic to the murderer's lost family is not the same as being sympathetic to his mass murder. I assume most sane people can only empathize with the murder but not sympathize with it.
    The role of mirror neurons might be the empathy to understand and anticipate dangerous people, buy sympathizing with the act would seem to be psychotic.
     
  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Recent report in Science presents findings that bonobos prefer to ally themselves with bonobos that hinder others - this contrasts sharply with humans, who prefer to ally themselves with humans who help others.

    The role of empathy in recognizing a motive of helping others - a motive which can be extrapolated to imagining that other helping oneself, and valuing help received from oneself, and thus a bond favoring alliance - would then become plausibly central in the development of the big human brain.
     
  17. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    Might this be due to the fact that most Bonobos are submissive to the group. If the group discriminates in some way against an independently behaving individual, it would seem natural that that individual would seek another less group oriented (independent) individual to bond with?
     
  18. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    I believe you posted a contradiction.
    If you believe that a sane person can emotionally feel what the murderer felt (experiencing the state of the murderer's mind and action), while observing, then a sane person must also have some sympathy for the murderer's state of mind.
    But I believe you have it backwards, though I don't believe that is what you intended.

    The mirror function is a cognition of intent . But our chemical response is always responsive and primarily defensive, thus we respond to the victim's injuries with empathy (experiencing the emotional reaction to pain), and we respond with antipathy (fear) to the murderer.

    The sympathy for loss of family can be granted to all.

    A crime of passion is considered a lesser offense than premeditated murder.
    Sometimes the Courts will grant an insanity plea, and if the criminal is incurably insane our sympathy rises to confinement for the "criminally insane", instead of shooting him out of a cannon into a brick wall................

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    Last edited: Feb 11, 2018
  19. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    p.s. can someone design a "wall smiley?
     
  20. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

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    sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.
    http://www.dictionary.com/e/empathy-vs-sympathy/
    I can put myself in the shoes of a murderer, try to understand the motives, and sympathize with the loss that may have contributed to the feelings.
    I cannot feel compassion, pity, or sorrow for the act of murder.

    I'm not so sure it's compassion that mediates the sentencing for the criminally insane. I still think it is our ability to place ourselves in their shoes that leads us to judge them somewhat incapable of being held fully responsible. Do we judge the actions of others out of pity for their predicament or their motive? Intent being a large part of law, I would think the latter.
     
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  21. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

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    The like for the explanation sympathy vs. empathy - I was a little bit unsure, given I'm not a native speaker, but based on the German meanings of Sympathie and Empathie, this is how I see it too.
    A main point of sentencing is deterrence. But deterrence works best for rational people who plan something. That means, deterring them most is simply rational. And if there would not be the possibility that rational felons could pretend to be drunken, stupid, insane, or hire children for the criminal job, it would be even stupid to penalize most of them at all.
     
  22. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

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    Well, deterrence alone would just maximize punishment. Weighing intent seeks to make the punishment fit the crime.
     
  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Maximizing certainty of consequences, not severity, maximizes deterrence. Increasing severity beyond a certain point brings no increase in deterrence - and to the extent that it decreases certainty (severe consequences deter witnesses, motivate extreme methods of avoidance, increase expenses of enforcement, etc) may even reduce deterrence.

    Playing Devil's Advocate on this forum might seem more reasonable if a higher percentage of the people favoring it had mastered Advocate in the first place.
     

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