If so, how well?
If not, why not?
To take it to the extreme, can you put forth an argument in favor of something you’re utterly and totally against in every way?
Can you argue for gun control, even as a Card-Carrying member of the NRA?
Can you argue for Capitalism, as a card carrying pinko?
I can do pretty well. If not, ad hominem often works good enough to fool most people in the audience.
Of course not, because I am never wrong.
Sure. Politicians do it all the time. It really only matters where your campaign contributions are coming from.
Absolutely. Debate was one of the main focuses of my education, especially at university. The other was research skills. With those two under your belt you can conquer the world.
Or become a travel writer in Greece - your choice.
I can. As part of my work, I often times have to convince others that my idea or plan of action is the best one. One way to prep is to try the argue the issue both from the way that you think they are going to make it and from the way that you would make it so that you can have responses ready in your back pocket.
There have been many instances where I had to modify or change my opinion/idea/plan because I really focused on things from the other side’s position and decided it might be the better choice.
Nope, I’m terrible at that. I also find even trying to do so seriously uncomfortable, as it’s a form of lying. I tend to either draw a complete blank or squirm a lot ( which rather cuts down on my persuasiveness ).
Sure. No problem at all. As a lawyer my job is to present the argument that best represents my client’s interests, not my personal preferences. When on the debate team in college we regularly had to switch back and forth arguing both sides of the proposition. Absolutely no need to personally favor a proposition to argue in support of it.
Absolutely. I was on the debate team in high school, and little pseudo-hippie that I am, I worked for the “defense” and would argue against topics like further government regulation of potential pollutants and other things that would make most liberals blush.
If it came down to that as my job, I would have a lot more problems with it.
I really do enjoy a friendly debate. I often play devil’s advocate, as it’s a great way to see different angles of a particular issue.
It depends on the issue. For most things, no problem at all. For Issues that have a factual basis to them and the other side has nothing, not so much. It hurts my brain to have repeat nonsense as fact.
Hell, I even enjoy arguing over mundane things that would otherwise be considered neutral. In a debate course at the university, I once had to debate the merits of the circus (yes, the ones with elephants, clowns, and trapeze artists). It was an exercise in not only argument prowess, but also improvisation - two people were called to the front of the room, an issue was picked out of a hat, then voila, a spontaneous debate. It was quite fun, actually.
After years of political science, I don’t feel really strongly about anything anymore; my opinions and personal ideology have not changed drastically, but by now I find it very easy to present points of view that totally oppose my own.
I’ve gotten too good at this over the years. My internal critic is so practiced, he’s like an evil drill sergeant of self-doubt. The result is that I can usually use systematic logic to demolish any* positive* belief I hold. Sometimes not believing that logic is so much work it’s mentally exhausting.
Depends on the opinion–and the level of rigor of the debate. I’m better at pointing out the holes in someone else’s argument than making arguments in favor of something else.
Like Švejk, my opinions aren’t very strong, and I play devil’s advocate all the time. I like arguing I guess. Sometimes I even forget what my actual opinion is, or maybe I just don’t have one. I’d have trouble arguing something with no factual basis whatever (Creationism, say) without resorting to lies/fallacies/diversions etc, but then that problem exists for actual Creationists too.
That’s kind of my job, but I don’t really think of it in those terms. I sometimes have to rigorously cross-examine someone I like to defend somebody I don’t, or am forced to argue a point of law that I might think is the weaker position, but I don’t really think of it as arguing against my opinion. I’m presenting the evidence and law that benefits my client’s case - my personal opinion not only doesn’t come into it, it’s improper to give it.
I constantly confuse myself by doing exactly this. I would say it’s one of my greatest weaknesses–feeling paralyzed by all sides of the issue. The trickiest one for me is abortion. I am pro-choice but I don’t have particularly strong feelings about it one way or another. So I’m easily swayed by both perspectives.
There are some exceptions, but they all fall under the category of ‘‘mean/hate.’’ Meanness and hate are always wrong. There’s no point even discussing it. If you are a bigot, you’re reacting in a violent way, you’re hurting others out of self-centeredness, whatever, I don’t care what your excuse is, you’re just wrong.
I also learned how to do this when on the debate team in high school. We got assigned sides for practice debates without regard to what our opinion was. When we prepared for the county league we researched both sides. I even changed a long held opinion thanks to doing this research.
I do a job where I need to argue against my own opinion sometimes as well (civil service). I’ve put more than one recommendation to Ministers/senior officials that I didn’t agree with in my time, and shown how the evidence makes the decision the right one. Fortunately there are far more instances where I’ve got to argue that my opinion was right and that the facts supported it, which is much more satisfying.
I was about to write “outside of my job” but actually I think having done this job has meant that I’m able to look at most issues from different angles, and unless I’m clear I really know what I’m talking about I tend not to be definite in my opinions (sure I’ll have an opinion but I’m open to persuasion/education if it’s not something I believe I know enough about to have some authority in). I’m also very clear there are lots of issues where there isn’t a right answer, and pretending that your opinion is one is just pointless.