Todd William

A Brief Thought Experiment ~ Argument as Dance

(Artwork by: William Prosser)
When you think of an argument what comes to mind? Intensity? Combativeness? Conflict?

Arguments elicit words like this because we are culturally conditioned to view argument as war. We use terms like "attacking a position", "gaining or losing ground", and "shooting down an argument". Because of the way we view argument, the goal is unquestionably to win.

But should that really be that case? By definition, an argument is merely a disagreement which on its own doesn't imply a winner and a loser. Yet the words and metaphors we attribute to argument have convinced us otherwise.

A New Paradigm

We're all guilty of adhering to the cultural view that winning is important and losing is disgraceful. Yet envision what life would be like if disagreements we're void of winners and losers and notions of victory were absent from argument.

In his book "Metaphors to Live By", George Lakoff offers the following alternative:

"Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way."

"In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently."

Perhaps the metaphors we use influence the way we interact with others more than we'd like to acknowledge.

Cultural Identities

What if instead of winning and losing, we viewed successful arguments as coming to an agreement, or absorbing multiple points of view, or where everyone left happy?

Might this foster a bigger desire in all of us to simply learn from others rather than put them in their place? We ought to consider if we're letting our cultural views inhibit our willingness to learn.

Joseph Joubert may have put it best when he wrote, The aim of argument or of discussion should not be victory, but progress."

Now how can you argue with that.

Todd William

About Todd William -

My name is Todd William and I’m an indie author. I like to focus on the positives in life. I’m like kryptonite for cynics. I’m a dedicated father and husband, a science and tech buff, a psychology enthusiast, chess and MMA fanatic, and noble introvert. My biggest fault might just be that I’m annoyingly happy all the time.

I’m addicted to books. I read constantly on a variety of topics, the result being that I tend to know a little about a lot of things yet not a whole lot about any one thing. I lay no claim to superior wisdom. I merely have an unyielding appetite for knowledge coupled with a strong desire to contemplate intriguing thoughts.