Sergey Povarnin: the art of arguing - discussion or sport?

Sergey Povarnin: the art of arguing - discussion or sport?
Sergey Povarnin: the art of arguing - discussion or sport?

The most famous book by Sergei Povarnin is dedicated to the art of argument. Formal logic was needed at all times, even in the revolutionary era. The book "Dispute. On the Theory and Practice of the Dispute” was published in 1918.

It is easy to imagine how many political and scientific discussions, everyday disputes and quarrels have been heard and seen by a wonderful Russian logician in his lifetime.

Controversies of the 20th century

Photo by S.I. Povarnin

Sergey Innokentyevich Povarnin lived a long life. He graduated from St. Petersburg University in 1890. He studied at the Faculty of History and Philology. A year later, Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin passed the exams at the Faculty of Law as an external student at the same university. They were peers, representatives of the same generation. Both were born in 1870, lived, worked and died in Russia.

Fate kept Sergei Povarnin. He lived to a ripe old age and died in 1952. He had the title of professor of philosophy at the Leningrad State University. He defended his master's thesis even before the revolution, in 1916. And in 1946 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science.

Enemy of stagnation

One of the lifetime publications "On the theory and practice of the dispute."

"It is necessary to argue. Where there are no serious disputes about state and public affairs, stagnation sets in," Sergey Povarnin argued. The revolutionary era is a time of heated political controversy. The philosopher offers to master the technique of conducting a discussion.

Addresses Povarnin to thinking people. Even if they are not yet familiar with logic, everything is in their hands: another wonderful work by Povarnin, How to Read Books (1924), helped them in this.

Povarnin wrote an amazing brochure about the art of argument. In a lively, clear, intelligible language, he explained what tastes they do not argue about, but about which they argue. With vivid examples and images.

Arguing for "sport"

Yes, says Povarnin, this type of dispute - for the sake of "sport interest", for the sake of the process itself - is very common!

A good quote from "The Little Humpbacked Horse": "Be merciful, brothers, let me fight a little."

In this case, writes Povarnin, the art of argument turns into "art for art's sake." To argue always and everywhere, experiencing a keen desire to win - this version of the dispute has nothing to do with proving the truth of the judgment.

But there is another - the correct dispute. A person in it can pursue three main goals:

  • Substantiate your thoughts.
  • Rebut the enemy's ideas.
  • Become more aware.

To clarify the roots of the dispute, its main theses - the primary task of the discussion. 'Cause sometimes that's enoughto come to an agreement of opinion. It may turn out that the contradictions were imaginary and arose only because of the vagueness of concepts.

The ability to listen and read

Povarnin's words about the art of arguing sound very relevant: the most important quality of a participant in a discussion is to listen, accurately understand and analyze the opponent's arguments.

Listen! This is the foundation of a serious discussion, according to the logician Povarnin.

Friendly discussion

Respect for the participants in the discussion, for their beliefs and convictions is not just spiritual sensitivity. It's not that tastes differ. Claiming absolute truth is a serious mistake. A false thought is sometimes only partly false. Also, correct reasoning may contain a number of inaccuracies.

"Lady's" or "women's" argument

Of course, Povarnin meant not only women. Curious sophisms are used by men with no less frequency. But in a woman's mouth, according to logic, such manipulations sound more impressive.

An example is simple: a husband notices that his wife has treated a guest unkindly. Ladies' argument: "I will not pray for him as an icon." There are many ways to justify your position and explain why the guest is unpleasant. But the wife chooses the most ridiculous solution to the issue. The husband did not offer to “pray” for the visitor, but only asked about the reason for the cold reception.

"Male" example. We are talking about the time after the abdication of the emperor from power.

First interlocutor: “This composition of the government is completely unable to managecountry.”

Second interlocutor: “Then we need to return Nicholas II and Rasputin.”

But after all, the first spoke about other problems, about the competence of the new government, and not at all about a return to the past. The subject of the dispute goes aside, an incorrect debater does not argue, but simply replaces the issue under discussion.

Sabotage in dispute

Who are they - saboteurs in a dispute? What are they doing? These diversions have nothing to do with the real art of argument. But they are quite common. Usually this is just a transition to the personality of the opponent. Povarnin gave an interesting classification of various psychological and logical tricks, sophisms and manipulations.

Before you get into an argument, you need to take "preventive" measures to maintain composure. Sergei Povarnin's recommendations were relevant for all lovers of discussions - oral and written. And now for online!

  • Argue only about well-studied subjects.
  • Carefully clarify all theses and arguments, your own and your opponent's.
  • Don't argue with the rude and manipulative.
  • Keep calm in any controversy.

How not to succumb to tricks and sophisms, how not to turn to personal accusations, how to avoid being accused of slander? Why is it better to leave some incorrect methods of disputants without much attention, while others are exposed? According to Povarnin, insinuations, disruption of debates, and arguments against the policeman are completely unacceptable. Protesting in this kind of discussion is an absolutely normal reaction and even a duty.

Sophism against sophism

Povarnin asks interestingquestion. What if the dispute uses a lie that can be exposed only when the audience's horizons are expanded, that is, new information is introduced and assimilated? Sometimes this is not feasible…

Discussion, variety of reactions. Lots of objects

People are just people. Even from the right argument, they can run away, fall asleep, turn away if it is heavy. Eloquence comes into play. The simple, albeit flawed, argument seems very attractive. Complex structures are annoying. Politicians, officials, representatives of different parties, diplomats, newspapermen, and even pundits are ready to respond to sophism with sophism. If only it sounded catchy and seemingly convincing.

Despite everything, there is still a real dispute to test the truth. It is quite possible between intelligent and balanced people. Povarnin ends his treatise on the logic and art of argument in a very philosophical way: an honest and correct argument is a matter of conscience.

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