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The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?Views: 605
Dec 15, 2009 3:27 pmThe ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

Ken Hilving
Borrowed and modified from an article on what makes great art. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200907/unlocking-the-mysteries-the-artistic-mind
_____

PEAK SHIFT: We find deliberate distortions of a stimulus even more exciting than the stimulus itself.

GROUPING: It feels nice when the distinct parts of an issue can be grouped into a pattern or form. The brain likes to find the signal amid the noise.

BALANCE: Successful argument makes use of its entire representational space, and spreads its information across the entire canvas.

CONTRAST: It's particularly pleasing for the brain to find rich contrast, like thick black outlines or sharp angles.

ISOLATION: Sometimes less is more. By reducing reality to its most essential features amplifies the signals we normally have to search for.

PERCEPTUAL PROBLEM SOLVING: Just as we love solving crossword puzzles, we love to "solve" abstract issues.

SYMMETRY: Symmetrical things are more attractive than asymmetrical ones.

REPETITION, RHYTHM, ORDERLINESS: Beauty is inseparable from the appearance of order. Arguments of subtle repetitions or formal rhythms, appear more elegant and composed.

GENERIC PERSPECTIVE: We prefer things that can be observed from multiple viewpoints to the fragmentary perspective of a single point.

METAPHOR: Metaphor encourages us to see the world in a new way: Two unrelated objects are directly compared, giving birth to a new idea.
_____

Private Reply to Ken Hilving

Dec 15, 2009 5:31 pmre: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

Thomas Holford
Whatever the point of this is, I disagree.

T. Holford

Private Reply to Thomas Holford

Jan 13, 2010 3:51 pmre: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

abbeboulah
Ken, your post offers a challenge to look at argument in a different way than we usually do -- which I paraphrase for myself and the kinds of arguments with which I have been preoccupied as means to arrive at plans and problem solutions acceptable to all concerned or affected by the problem. Though I vainly harbor some modest artistic ambitions as well, I tended to see a view such as the one you suggested as a distraction from that purpose, and therefore did not react to this at the time. Some reflection leads me to reconsider, but I’d like to explore and clarify some questions first:

The view of an argument refers less to the individual argument of the kind analyzed for validity orf reasoning scheme and truth of its premises etc. by logic, rhetoric and critical thinking textbooks than to the process of arguing, that is, of a sequence of exchanges, is this what you are saying? And then, the arrangement of that exchange can be viewed and evaluated somewhat like the way we are looking at art? If so, the message or insight or experience we get might be both a ‘deeper’, more essential understanding of the subject we are discussing, and/or a higher ‘meta’-message?

But such a process is different from a painting or other artist work in that it involves two or several people -- unless, of course we are imagining and concocting such discussions as individual writer-artists the way Plato did, but not Socrates who actually talked with people but never wrote up anything. So, in the case of Socrates-type argument: who is doing the artistic fine-tuning to which we then can apply your appreciation criteria? It would seem to be the responsibility of both or all participants, would it not? (Of course, I realize that ‘responsibility ‘is perhaps too crude and mechanistic a term for such a delicate process, quite apart from the need to be held accountable for mistakes and violations of basic netiquette and such.)

But what is it that enables participants in such processes to engage and ‘play’ in such exchanges to make them the kinds of experiences you then can enjoy? In thinking about such activities, trying to teach students the art of cooperative design and planning, and finding to my dismay that the vast majority of interaction processes we teach children from the earliest kindergarten games up to national league sports are competitive rather than cooperative) -- I realized that there are some essential agreements -- in the form of game ‘rules’ that must be shared by the participants. In the case of one of the few examples of such cooperative activities (in which we are not ‘winning’ by defeating the partner, but in which I play better, the better you are playing, and both derive more enjoyment), for exampe making music together, the ‘rules’ are the key in which we play, the basic beat, etc. Such rules are often or mostly ‘arbitrary’ -- in the sense that we can agree to play in a different key, but then agreeing to stick to one rule set is necessary for a good performance. Are the aspects you list the equivalent of such rules? Then, indeed, the entire phenomenon: of tacitly or explicitly agreeing to the set of rules by which we develop our argument, and the skill and grace and elegance with which we play, becomes a kind of piece of art in itself -- almost independently of the subject matter of the discussion itself, and a message about who we are. Or could be. We have a lot to learn.

Private Reply to abbeboulah

Jan 14, 2010 4:47 pmre: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

Ken Hilving
There are a lot of different directions we can go here.

Let's take an example of a town hall. A citizen is unhappy with an action by the town council, just taken. A group of citizens had been trying to get a specific action taken. Over the course of a year, this group had attended council meetings to confirm what they needed to do in order to present their request properly, had then taken all of those actions, and had then presented their request in accordance with the requirements. The council had first tabled the request in order to review it, and then had cancelled the next two council meetings. This was the first council meeting after the request had been tabled three months earlier. The item was on the agenda, and in fact had been moved up to become the first item of action at the start of the meeting. It is speculated that most citizens in attendance are there in regard to this issue. The item was opened for discussion and two citizens have spoken in support. At that time, the attorney for the council interrupted and strongly urged the council to enter "executive session", which allows the council to meet privately. Citizens were made to leave the meeting hall while the executive session occurred.

On returning to open council meeting, the citizens were informed that their agenda item would not be acted on under advice by their attorney. That advice came in executive session and the citizens are denied any details of the discussion.

The floor is again opened for citizen input. There is a general murmur of side discussions between council members and between various citizens in the audience. A citizen in the front row stands, indicating a desire to speak. The mayor recognizes the citizen, and gestures towards the floor podium and mike.

The citizen looks each council member and the attorney in the eye, gaining their individual attention.
He waits for complete silence.
He then shakes his head in disgust while looking at the council members.
He reaches down and picks up his hat, placing it on his head.
He then turns and walks to the center aisle, from which he can reach the podium.
Instead, he turns his back to the council and walks deliberately to the rear exit.
Each step echoes in the silent meeting room, thanks to a wooden floor and wooden walls of the converted church.
As he walks out, other citizens give looks and gestures of support and agreement (smiles, nods, and thumbs up).

The question is whether or not he was using the "ART of ARGUMENT" characteristics by his actions.

PEAK SHIFT - yes?
GROUPING - maybe?
BALANCE - yes?
CONTRAST - yes?
ISOLATION - yes?
PERCEPTUAL PROBLEM SOLVING - maybe?
SYMMETRY - no?
REPETITION, RHYTHM, ORDERLINESS - yes?
GENERIC PERSPECTIVE - no?
METAPHOR - no?

Would a verbal statement have had as much impact, or stated his position better?

Private Reply to Ken Hilving

Jan 16, 2010 1:27 amre: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

abbeboulah
It seems that the metaphor is stretched to its limits here, even that we are not really dealing with argument here. Both sides are engaged in the application of measures that violate the agreements I talked about -- mainly, the agreement to abstain from coercion. The council tried to squash the dialogue by using its devices of procedure and withholding information (about what was discussed among themselves). The ingenious citizen, haveing recognized that the rules of argument no longer applied, skilfully wielded the (equally coercive, over longer time) weapon of social contempt for their action. I would be curious about the eventual outcome; but to me this is a perfect example of an interaction that violates the needed mutual agreements of cooperative planning and problem-solving. This is, in my view no longer argument but closer to war -- which of course also has its rules and many have described as a kind of art. (Even in book titles) So the criteria you describe can be applied to this incident as well. I am not sure they all have to be present for something to be described as art, and I would probably add several other aspects, from my perspective of the art of architecture. (When it IS art, which also all too often may not be the case...)

Private Reply to abbeboulah

Jan 16, 2010 2:05 amre: re: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

John Snyder
On my Old Network E.A.S.Y., that was standard conversation only we called it Debating.
John
Prof Wordsearch

Private Reply to John Snyder

Jan 16, 2010 3:00 pmre: re: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

Ken Hilving
Seems to me that the agreements Thor talks about represent an ideal of cooperation. The reality, though, is that our interactions are typically more related to winning or losing. Outside of possible venue constraints, such as how a post action is accomplished, or a meeting based on Robert's Rules of Order, the agreements are never established.

Following that thought, perhaps we do engage in verbal warfare rather than argument or debate. The reality, again, is that this generates more activity on networks.

Private Reply to Ken Hilving

Jan 16, 2010 9:18 pmre: re: re: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

Joseph Lynders
" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "

Yes. I have noticed that trend.

It takes so much more work to get excellent results with so many many people going all out for quantity over quality.

I still take the minority opinion these days that quality is best.

Have a good IDea today,

01/16/2010 Joseph F. Lynders FTg/M/?

Private Reply to Joseph Lynders

Jan 17, 2010 1:11 amre: re: re: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

abbeboulah
"The reality, though, is that our interactions are typically more related to winning or losing. Outside of possible venue constraints, such as how a post action is accomplished, or a meeting based on Robert's Rules of Order, the agreements are never established.

Following that thought, perhaps we do engage in verbal warfare rather than argument or debate. The reality, again, is that this generates more activity on networks."

Once upon a time the agreements were established and expressed in the very word for the institution: "Parliament" -- the place where we agree to leave our weapons outside and talk (parler) and agree to let each side try to convince the other of the advantages of its views on some controversy, with the (explicit or implied) agreement that we take turns in speaking, and listen to what the other has to say.

This great institution of civilization was based on the insight, I think, that the outcome plans achieved by violent fighting were not necessarily improved by the heroism applied to the fight, and most often not worth the cost in blood and misery associated with glorious military action. That this great achievement of civilization has itself been demeaned by trickery, violation of the implied rule of not resorting to deception (which nullifies the value of an argument) economic and psychological coercion and misrepresentation, and thus has come to be despised by many, is one of the great tragedies of our time -- because for all the razmatazz of negotiation seminars and psychology of rational and irrational decision-making and game theory, all exploited for the purpose of winning (you are right in this), no better alternative has been proposed, as far as I can see. I'd love to be proved wrong on this, and have tried hard to find somebody who is working on the task of reviving the ideal behind that old civilized principle of 'let's talk before we decide', and finishing the work it started. For it is still incomplete. For all the sanctimonious talk and popular demands of 'making decisions on the merit of arguments' and 'weighing the pros and cons', there are still no effective practical tools for assessing the merit of the kinds of arguments we use in such discussions about what ought to be done, especially not for assessing the combined merit of all the pros and cons -- the venerable disciplines of logic and rhetoric and critcal thinking and even informal thinking are all still busy analyzing single arguments, when we know, or should know, that decisions are made by considering precisely all those multiple pros and cons.

Trying to work out some guidelines for this from my perspective -- not really one of the disciplines one would expect to work on it -- I have come to the astonishing conclusion that as far as I can see, there are no other proposals out there for developing better tools for this. There is a some good and interesting work done on issue and argument mapping -- vital tools for giving people better overview of the different aspects of a controversy. But they all sidestep the issue of how to push those tools forward to where they facilitate a better, more transparent and systematic evaluation of planning and policy-making arguments.

And they all still sidestep the question -- the sticking point I have referred to -- of what to do about people who violate the implied or explicit agreements necessary for constructive, cooperative planning and problem-solving. Part of the problem is indeed that the underlying principle and these agreements have been forgotten or are now considered 'quaint' and obsolete, and their violation is seen as proof of great negotiation skill. That great nations spend orders of magnitude more in dollars and energy on 'disinformation', 'framing', advertising (declaring dollars for endless repetition two-word election slogans as 'freedom of speech'), of NLP-type conditioning of political beliefs aka propaganda regardless of their truth and validity etc, as on teaching our children the art of constructive argument: what kind of symptom of civilization greatness is that?

Yes: the trend, the emphasis is on 'Winning'. By all means, even despicable means. This is what we must try to change. That this great civilization has come down to letting promoters of "we don't sit down to talk with our enemies; we defeat them" get away with such talk without a peep: what does that say about it? Sure, sure: those guys have probably -- after careful analysis -- determined that those 'enemies' have violated the civilized agreements needed for constructive debate and problem-solving. Funny, so has, usually, the other side. So it's back to get out the clubs or smart bombs, fellow gentlecavemen. We can't come up with anything more decent, more innovative, creative? More artful?

With respect and apologies to the people who advocate return to principles like the Golden Rule: I admire that position and fundamentally agree with it -- but if we can't get it through to the other side in a controversy, with a good, yes, artful, but more importantly: effective argument, what good is it? If we can't offer guarantees that we are not resorting to underhanded means of circumventing the agreements for cooperative planning, if we can't be sure that we can trust the other side to play fair? And if we can't ourselves meaningfully evaluate the merit of the arguments the other side is proposing? Work to do.

Private Reply to abbeboulah

Jan 17, 2010 6:13 pmre: re: re: re: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

Joseph Lynders
" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "

There has been a bit of confusion between the two activities of discussion and argument.

The confusion probably comes from the two being almost identical in function but differing only in one detail. In a discussion no one knows the answer and everyone is trying to find it. In an argument everyone knows the answer and and everyone knows a different answer and is trying to protect it.

It is an interesting human condition that folks will always do more to keep what they have than they were ever willing to do to get it in the first place.

It probably goes double for IDeas.

It probably goes double again for dumb IDeas.

Have a good IDea today.

01/17/09 Joseph F. Lynders FTg/M/?

Private Reply to Joseph Lynders

Jan 17, 2010 6:32 pmre: re: re: re: re: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

John Snyder
An Argument is really a "Difference of Opinion", what escalates it is, refusal to see your opponents Point of View. Is it principle or just plain subbornness. Pride is a masculine trait and has been inherrent in us since we first began to think. Don't you feel good when you win? That is what we are actually talking about here, "No way am I going to lose." Sound familiar? Anyone care to Disagree with me?
John
Prof Wordsearch

Private Reply to John Snyder

Jan 19, 2010 8:49 amre: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

John Stephen Veitch
The process of how to engage in a productive discussion is an important issue. In the NZ Green Party, they have an internal objective of reaching agreement by consensus.

They start by openly sharing ideas, and building a table of facts and opinions, and the assumptions they are making. Then they seek to come to some agreed conclusion which is stated as an agreed policy position.

When they find they can't agree, those who oppose the stated position are asked to re-write the position in a manner that is acceptable to them. Then they negotiate a suitable text, eliminating all the strong objections, and encouraging people who have minor objections to live with the group process.

This is possible because people SHARE a group membership that is important to them. That does not apply in the case of debates on this network, nor to the dispute that Kenneth speaks about above.

I've been reading, "The Necessary Revolution" by Dr Peter Senge. He has several recommendations to make. I'll mention two of those here, both adapted quite a lot from the original.

The Inference Ladder:

7. Acting on the basis of my belief.

6. Having a belief that I can clearly state.

5. Drawing conclusions on which to base my beliefs.

4. Adding assumptions to the understanding I have developed.

3. Understanding the meaning combining the data I have and my life knowledge.

2. Finding the data and processing it to make sensible patterns.

1. Understanding who I am - My life experience.

Senge says that if we can identify how far up this ladder the person we are talking to has climbed, we can see how best to address the issues being discussed. For instance, the spokesman "acted on his belief" he walked out of the meeting to demonstrate his contempt.

The Council, if they want resolution, need to invite him back to make a clear statement about what he believes. (One step down the ladder.)

They are likely to still be strongly at odds with each other. Therefore, you come down the ladder one more step. What conclusions led to this belief. When did you draw that conclusion? What events, discussions or communications led you to that point of view?

And so on until the key values the spokesman is trying to protect are exposed. So the reason behind the strong feelings expressed are clear to everyone.

Four Parties Participation Model:
Senge suggests that in a discussion forum like this one; members can be trained to understand that they ALL have a role to play in every topic under discussion.

Advocate Leader: This is usually the person who opened the discussion. Certainly, the person taking the lead in making a discussion at the moment. (There may, possibly, be more than one leader.)

Opposing Leader: This person may or may not exist. If there is an opposing leader, a discussion is likely to develop. The point about any discussion is that nobody can control it's direction. Whatever is said next can change the topic for the following speakers.

Followers: These are people who generally agree with the Advocate Leader. They first of all offer support, but they may also contribute, and they may have questions for the Opposing Leader.

Bystanders: (This is what's missing on Ryze, as I see it.) These people are the disinterested referees. They observe. They hold an outsiders' point of view. They may at any time enter the debate, usually ask a question, sometimes to hold one of the leaders to account for something they have said. They may ask questions of either side. They may offer examples that they invite the leaders to discuss.

Senge claims that when all four types of participants are engaged in a discussion, the result is likely to keep the discussion moving towards a useful outcome.

John Stephen Veitch; The Network Ambassador
Open Future Limited - http://www.openfuture.co.nz/
Innovation Network - http://veech-network.ryze.com/
Building an Open Future - http://openfuture-network.ryze.com/

Private Reply to John Stephen Veitch

Jan 21, 2010 2:38 amre: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

Joseph Lynders
" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "

JV - "In the NZ Green Party, they have an internal objective of reaching agreement by consensus." - JV

The NZ Green Party have set their standards too low.

Have a better IDea today,

01/20/10 Joseph F. Lynders FTg

Private Reply to Joseph Lynders

Jan 21, 2010 3:24 amNZ Green Party Standards#

John Stephen Veitch
I'm sure you are correct in that assessment Joseph.

Even so NZ Greens still look very radical compared with mainstream parties.

Also because they are a minority group, it's important for them to only go where they can be sure that there is strong support from the their base.

For instance in 1975, the most radical NZ Greens were talking about a policy of ZERO ECONOMIC GROWTH, meaning zero growth in GDP. (An almost unthinkable idea at the time.)

That policy in terms of the protecting environment and global warming and population control is probably morally, and ethically, and environmentally correct. BUT, even among the Greens, ZEG can't get the support it needs to be part of party policy.

I have my own view that we are going to get zero GDP growth anyway, even when politicians are trying hard to do the opposite. (NZ's official policy is to catch up with Australia in 10 years. That's a madness requiring 8% growth per annum assuming that Australia grows at only 3%.) The simple process of environmental kick-back, and market resistance will ensure complete failure. Sadly the effort will mean the available money was often invested in the wrong places. The total cost to the economy and the environment will be greater than necessary.

People insist on learning their lessons the hard way. They insist on chasing pipe dreams, and the political class are no wiser.

John Stephen Veitch; The Network Ambassador
Open Future Limited - http://www.openfuture.co.nz/
Innovation Network - http://veech-network.ryze.com/
Building an Open Future - http://openfuture-network.ryze.com/

Private Reply to John Stephen Veitch

Mar 05, 2010 5:23 amre: re: re: The ART of ARGUMENT, or I love a good fight on networks?#

Ken Hilving
Postmortem on the town hall example.

At the next council meeting, the action requested by the citizens was finally acted on. The action was approved. The mayor and a majority of the council then resigned, since under the approved action they no longer were eligible to serve.

Under state law, the mayor and council will continue to serve until a special election can be held to elect a new mayor and council.

Perhaps the citizen who "argued" without a word pushed those members to act on conscience rather than on law. Perhaps they were planning to do so all along, but were waiting for a more complete legal ruling.

Private Reply to Ken Hilving

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