“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.” - Thomas Paine

As many held in high esteem at our fine university have argued, there needs to be more discourse on sensitive topics. I for one find much of the current and past discourse occurring on this campus to be fatuous and puerile. 

But in order for fruitful discourse to come to fruition, there must be an overarching concept that all individuals can agree to. It’s therefore my conjecture that this concept take the form of reason and evidence. Evidence and reason should be immediately distinguished from anecdotes, ad hominem attacks and “feelings.”

Anecdotes, often called anecdotal evidence, are for the most part not evidence. One of the most bothersome activities I encounter upon elucidating an argument is the inevitable “Well, I disagree with the evidence you’ve provided because such-and-such happened in my life.” 

This is not an argument, and I hope everyone can see the problem with this form of disagreement. Just because something happens in your life and causes you to disagree with a conjecture does not make this evidence. 

Oftentimes it is just as likely that you are a complete statistical outlier when compared with the fact that the anecdotes you’ve provided actually conform to reality or evidence. 

Ad hominem (“to the man”) attacks are probably the most pathetic of all three examples provided above. This is presumably because the entire purpose of these attacks is to deter further discussion. 

Exclaiming “you’re a racist” is not an argument and it is quite often accompanied or preceded by exactly zero evidence whatsoever. These sorts of arguments, that are meant to attack the person themselves rather than the claims being made, should be discredited from the absolute outset of a conversation.

Lastly, what you “feel” is not evidence. 

Many philosophers throughout history have stated that feelings are actually the antithesis of reason, and I tend to agree with them. 

If you hear something that causes you to cry, this is not the same as making a evidence-based argument, and it is morally repugnant to confuse the two. Your “feelings” are just as personal as the anecdotes mentioned above and likely have just as much evidentiary weight, i.e. none.

Thus, if pursuing discourse with the purpose of understanding both sides is the goal, than at the outset these aforementioned forms of disagreement should and must be left at the door. 

Reason and evidence should be the final arbiter on all matters.

(1) comment


Was your intention to alienate your intended demographic with your opening paragraph? Because an opening paragraph using the words "fatuous" and "puerile" does exactly that. This article reads like a sophomore English major is standing by in Microsoft Word with their fingers on the thesaurus hotkeys.

You're correct in that arguments must be formed with reason and logic. You are incorrect that empathy has no place in debate. It is the prerogative of humans to feel, and eliminating the emotion present in every person's position on a given topic to replace it with flowery verbiage paints you in an unsympathetic and pompous light. You are attempting to argue from a place above those with whom you are having a discussion, as opposed to raising them to your level to engage them.

Also, a bunch of your commas went missing. Alternatively, you just don't know how many commas you need.

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