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Disproving beliefs (or winning a real argument) is never a small job. Especially if such beliefs are long held.

It’s safe to state that there is an inversely proportional relationship between the longevity of a held belief and tractability of its disproval. That is, if I take a sheet of paper, plot a graph of the longevity of the belief on the y-axis against the time taken to ‘win the argument’, we will have a positive slope.

If I am to change your mind about a belief X and proof a case for belief Y. I could tell you about what I believe (about Y) and why I believe it. I doubt if that will change your mind. Or, I could try and disprove belief X in my own terms. Again, I doubt my chances of success.

However, a third approach can be a salutary. I stumbled on this in the Philosopher’s tool kit by Julian Baggini and Peter Fosl:

“To show us that though our position is mistaken, our error was nevertheless an understandable one to have been made given the true facts of the matter. In doing this, one would be providing an error theory”

In order words, I will tell you that you are wrong but you are right to be wrong.

An example from the book:

“While proving the world to be more or less spherical, for instance, we must at the same time produce a convincing explanation of why anyone would ever think it to be flat. If we are to convince our opponents that the world is spherical, we must begin our case with the plausibility of their assumption. While we present the argument for our own view, we must build a supplementary account that explains how such a fact as the true shape of the Earth could go unnoticed. Astronomers might argue about orbits of the planets and the shadow the Earth casts on the moon, but more simplistic theories tend to base themselves on less sophisticated, supposedly more obvious evidence. The sensation of walking on a flat surface looks like very compelling evidence for the overall flatness of the Earth, and takes some shifting. In the early days of seafaring, claims that sailors had circumnavigated the globe were sometimes dismissed as hearsay, but one could also have added that, because of the Earth’s vast size, its curvature is too gradual to be noticed during a walk in the park. This error theory shows that the view of the Earth as flat was a reasonable one on the strength of the best evidence that was formerly available.”

Apart from proving that the world is spherical, I think a lot of parents do their worse job when they try convincing their wards by using brute force.

Wisdom is required and this philosophy can be very handy.

It’s so obvious: no one want to look stupid (Not even a fool).

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