Arguing for your opponent

Can you articulate, and defend, an opinion you disagree with?

Everyone says to write from your heart, to express your feelings and such. That is a good thing, but our opinions should be based on more than how we feel. It is easy to have an opinion, but it takes some effort to really understand an issue and then analyze it to the point that you have an coherent opinion based on evidence and fact.

One way to do this is to really understand a viewpoint you do not agree with. Here are a couple quotes I found that say what I am getting at.

“I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that
I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.”

Charlie Munger

I like this quote by Munger, but it has a raging weakness. That weakness being that you could never know if you know the other side better than they do. Still I think it is a good aspiration.

“If you can’t imagine how anyone could hold the view you are attacking, you just don’t understand it yet.”
— Anthony Weston, ‘Rulebook for Arguments’

When I was a reporter for newspapers I was pretty good at divorcing my feelings from stories. I was able to tell other people’s stories without really even having an opinion about them. I wanted to understand them. At times I did have an opinion, but I did train myself to write without letting my opinion interfere with the story.

There was this one politician in the late 90s that I remember. He seemed way out there to me, very radical, and so I decided to let the world see just how radical he was. I quoted him at length. I really thought he would be mad because it made him look pretty crazy. He loved the story though, because I was the only reporter that quoted him accurately without interjecting any judgement.

That radical message he had would be pretty much mainline tea party today.

It is important to have opinions but it is more important to understand your opinions. Of course you think you are right. Everyone thinks they are right. But Do you know why you thing what you think? To take that even further, can you articulate what the other side of that opinion is?

It would be interesting to write opinions you do not hold, and even disagree with. I wonder if I did that on here, should I say that I am articulating an opinion I don’t really hold? Or maybe it would be better just to do it as a means of getting real feedback to see how I did.

This is the problem with ideology, whether it be conservative, liberal or something else. If you subscribe to an ideology, then you can carry around a bunch of opinions and you never have to think. I do get on conservatives a lot, but I don’t think liberals are any better. Ideology is for people who do not want to have to bother to actually think.

Teller of tales, many of which are actually true. Award-winning journalist, and the William Allen White Award for reporting.