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Is there any point arguing talking with someone whose rhetorical goal is to show that you are ignoring what they say? It may be my imagination, but it seems to be an issue, in argumentation.

Elaboration

Sometimes, when I argue, it is not to prove a claim, but to see what counter claims there are. In the examples I'm thinking of, the other party seizes on a term, and claims that if I mean sense 1 rather than 2, then such and such. However, I don't want to commit to 1 or 2, because if I were to say "OK hypothetically 1", to find out if I end up being wrong, they would claim that I was ignoring them, both because I deny one of the claims their refutation of 1 depends upon, and because I was not committed to 1 in the 1st place.

They seem to be arguing in good faith, but don't seem to understand that I'm not interested in 1 or 2 unless one or both refutes my original claim. It seems practically impossible to find out if they're right that my claim is false. And so they think I'm ignoring them.

Example

I'll claim that Hegel was a man.

I just don't know what Hegel's gender identity was, there's not going to be anything about that. They'll then assume I'm talking about gender identity, not sex, and so quote something which says that there was no such thing in the 18th century. I would object that it wouldn't mean that Hegel didn't implicitly have a gender identity, knowing that someone out there would agree that it is not that sort of construct, but they would just say I was ignoring the argument.

I could always say I mean sex, but don't want to commit to anything about gender identity. Do you mean gender identity, they ask again. Well I'm clearly ignoring them now.

Question

I recognise that I too am probably being poor at rhetoric here (and I hope my example captures it). But is there any point arguing with someone who always claims that I am ignoring them, because I don't want to make any meta-"theoretical" claims?

Can either of us win the argument: can they prove I am ignoring them and so my original claim is baseless? Can I prove that is not the case?

  • As I understand it, you're posing a hypothetical situation and taking one side for the sake of argument. Are you asking whether one of you can win the argument (that depends on the argument, but it's not impossible a priori), or are you asking whether it's valid to pose the hypothetical and (temporarily) claim one side of the argument in an exploratory manner? – Lawrence Aug 13 '17 at 11:36
  • i'm asking whether it's possible to prove someone is or isn't ignoring an argument, especially when the argument is about an equivocal term which is not demonstratively fatal @Lawrence – user28117 Aug 13 '17 at 11:41
  • If the Hegel example is representative, it sounds like they've misunderstood your question, and you're not interested in pursuing the version they thought you meant. If you articulate that, then you're clearly ignoring their version. So, is the proof possible? Yes - by construction, proving that you're ignoring their argument (when you actually are) is possible. – Lawrence Aug 13 '17 at 11:48
  • @Lawrence i think you're wrong (sorry if it's not what you meant) that if we agree i'm not interested in pursuing their understanding / misunderstanding that then they can prove i'm "ignoring" their argument. seems that no-one should take 'ignore' to mean not explaining why someone is wrong. i meant, "ignoring" an argument such that it also proves that my original claim is baseless – user28117 Aug 13 '17 at 11:55
  • I'm not saying that they can prove that you're ignoring their argument. I'm saying that you can prove that you're ignoring their argument. – Lawrence Aug 13 '17 at 12:00

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