Which Paul Graham essays contradict each other

Disagree well and agree well

In everyday life we ​​are confronted with countless ideas and perspectives. We agree with some, disagree with others. In places we get involved in discussions about these ideas and perspectives. We show our support or try to convince people of our position. The quality of these discussions can take place at different levels.

But what does goodContradiction or qualityapproval out?

How to contradict

Paul Graham wrote a very good essay on “How to contradict” (English original, German translation by Jens Meiert). He differentiates between different levels of contradiction, from insults about ad hominem, criticism of the linguistic style, contradiction, counter-argument, refutation to refutation of the central point. These different levels can be represented in pyramid form, because at least on the Internet it seems as if the lower levels are represented much more frequently than the upper levels.

Graham argues that anything below counter-arguments can be ignored, since insults, ad hominem, criticism of the language style, and contradiction (without arguments / evidence) are meaningless. They don't prove anything. If you want to criticize a position, you have to at least formulate counter-arguments (and prove them accordingly).

How to agree

Graham’s "hierarchy of contradiction" can also be transferred to consent. I tried this once and came up with the following "hierarchy of consent".

It may sound strange to distinguish between forms of consent. Isn't every form of consent desirable?

Research has shown that there are different ways to convince people. For example, the “Elaboration Likelihood Model” of belief points to the central vs. the peripheral route. With the central route, the person is convinced by dealing with the arguments, which leads to attitudes that are more resistant to change. The peripheral route is based on more superficial aspects of the message, e.g. expert status (here: "praise the person") or positive emotions (here: "unspecific praise"). It is "simpler" because it does not require any thought, but the strength of the arguments is largely ignored and the changed settings are less resistant to change.

In the “hierarchy of approval”, the peripheral route is found on the lower three levels, while the central route begins with approval of the arguments.

Meaning of the "hierarchy of objection" and the "hierarchy of consent"

Graham points out in his essay that the "hierarchy of contradiction" can be used to evaluate contributions as well as to write contributions. It is important here that higher levels are better, but this does not mean that the position is also correct.

In the same way, the “hierarchy of consent” can be used to rate the comments of people who agree to something. Are they only influenced by peripheral elements? Or have you really dealt with the arguments and are developing them further? Such an orientation is particularly helpful on the Internet, the “marketplace of ideas”.

When dealing with opponents and supporters of a position, it makes a difference at what level they argue. The lower levels can be safely ignored, even if the comments on the consent page may be very pleasant.

To develop discussions further, you need supporters and opponents at a higher level - i.e. at a high level.


Note: This post is based on an English posting from me.