Elevating our Intellectual Discussion - 2021-12-20
I was recently having a conversation at a youth group, and one of the questions was on what sin we had a difficult time understanding as a sin. A few interesting ideas were brought up, such as suicide (due to lack of culpability often resulting from poor mental health) and private criticism. It was during this forum that I brought up my difficulty with the notion of intellectual property. As anyone who has even been skeptical of the common perception of intellectual property will know, the immediate reaction I got, the one I've heard over, and over, and over again, is "Somebody worked hard on it!"
If I had wanted to be rude, I could've responded "You don't say? I've never heard that argument before!" in a very sarcastic tone - I did not - for this is an argument I've heard a million times, and anyone who has even lightly discussed the topic has heard it already. In a way, it would seem rather naïve to me to assume that someone who is saying they have difficulty understanding a certain topic has not already heard the most rudimentary and simplistic counter-argument, and therefore assuming I wouldn't already have a response for such a simple argument. Rather than encouraging me to change my mind, it does the exact opposite which is to make it seem - thought it may be untrue - that the other side has no real arguments for their position other than the most obvious and simplistic one that I can already rebut. It is this, or there are better arguments, but this person is underestimating my intelligence - this is not the case, the woman who made this comment to me is very nice.
The reason I bring this up isn't (necessarily) to rant about one of my pet peeves - giving me stupid arguments that I've already heard a million times - but rather to point out that making these kinds of arguments not only annoys me, but is also counter-productive. To give an example, this is like someone arguing for God's existence saying "But things are complex, and therefore intelligent design!" It's so simplistic it sounds stupid, even if you agree with the point they're trying to make you can tell it's a poor argument. You're not going to convince them by giving the same argument you'd give to a child, unlike children adults can understand complex abstract concepts.
As such, perhaps the best first step when we're trying to enter into a productive conversation isn't to immediately throw out arguments, but rather to ask why they disagree or have difficulty with a given topic. In this manner, you neither go over their heads assuming they're credited philosophers, nor do you insult their intelligence by assuming they've never even heard the most basic arguments before.