Is my position strengthed by admission of weakness?

I don’t normally like to jump into Great Debates, because it makes me feel like a caveman throwing rocks at the moon (I mean, I’ve got a theatre degree here, I can’t really argue physics)

But I was wondering the other day if someone’s position on things like Evolution/Creationism, Anti-Abortion/Pro Choice, Republican/Democrat is strengthed or at least more respected if they admit some wrong to their position.

I’m a woman who is opposed to abortion, but whenever I hear about violence against doctors, or bombings or hate mail or whatever I just feel like they’re ruining it for the rest of us who are moderate on the issue, and I DO believe that there are cases when abortion is necessary, and I admit that when I’m arguing with someone about it.

I’m also a Christian, but when I see people at Matthew Shepard’s funeral holding signs that say GOD HATES FAGS, I just want to throw up, and I find myself explaining that away, too, imploring that we’re not all like that.

Conversely, I have friends who are strongly pro-choice, and they won’t admit for a second that there are women who abuse their right to choice (like my college room mate who had three abortions within 10 months), and I feel that this makes them seem like a blind follower.

So my question I guess, is: is it easier to respect people who say “I believe strongly in this issue, and yet I realize it has flaws,” or the person who says “I believe in this issue, and take it in 100%”?

It depends on whether you wanna have a Great Debate or an argument. You can have a “debate” with a person who admits there might be some room for compromise, for negotiation. But all you can have with someone who plants his flag and refuses to budge is an argument. And not a fun one, either.

The former, of course. It makes it seem as if you’ve thought about the issue and, more importantly, it makes a meeting of the minds possible. Realistically speaking, very few people will concede any weakness or doubt in their position when arguing with someone whose position is clearly intractable (this is particularly true if this person is also highly contentious). If person A admits that person B might be right about some aspect of the debate, then B will then be more inclined to admit his doubts about parts of his own arguments.

Oops, class. Gotta run.


As I see it, in the examples that you provide, you are not admitting to a “weakness” in your own position. Rather, merely clarifying that your position is not as extreme as might be thought. This is a common defensive tactic in debates or arguments.

It is a common technique in debating to try to get your opponent “painted into a corner”. This, by portraying his position in an extreme, harder to defend, version. Thus a person arguing in favor of abortion would rather focus on abortion clinic bombings than late term abortions, the converse goes for a person arguing against abortion. A anti-abortion person who feels the need to point out that she opposes bombings is seeking to forestall this tactic, and shift the debate away from defending extreme positions that she does not hold, and towards positions that she actually does hold, and can defend.

So I’m not sure if these examples tie in with the final question in the OP. What is an example of admitting that there are “flaws” in your position? Could you admit to “flaws” in your position without admitting to some uncertainty about this position?

Ultimately, most people hold to their own positions “100%”. They hold of others’ positions to the extent that it agrees with their own.

And so here is why I don’t venture into Great Debates! Because I have no idea what I’m talking about! :slight_smile:

My question is (and I don’t even know if THIS will be clear) are people who are hard set in a position “THE WORLD WAS CREATED IN SIX DAYS, END OF STORY” more respected in a sense because it appears that they cannot be swayed in their belief?

Many people find me to be a ‘weak’ Christian because I have been, in my life, influenced to change my mind on topics such as Homosexuality and Evolution.

People very often are surprised to hear my views saying “Wow, you don’t seem like most Christians I know”. And I don’t know if that’s bad or good. Someone who admits that there are extremist or ‘crazy’ elements to something they believe in, is essentially presenting cracks that can be exploited.

Or, I could just stay in IMHO where I belong. :smiley:


Well, if the question is if people admire those who hold simplistic, all-or-nothing, black-and-white, positions more than those who are more nuanced, I would be inclined to doubt it, but you’d have to take a survey. (Try one in IMHO :smiley: ). I would caution that it would be a mistake to assume all holders of extreme positions to be simpletons, and all holders of nuanced positions to be deep and complex thinkers. In fact, I would suspect that, to the extent that people do respect extremists more, it might be attributable to the fact that, in some instances, the holders of nuanced positions may be less thought out and consistent than the holders of black-and-white ones.

And I disagree with this statement

The only way it can be “exploited” is through some sort of “slippery slope” argument. Overall, its more effective to admit and disassociate, as mentioned earlier.

I think its a good thing.

Most things are NOT black and white but merely shades of gray and to be honest, we are mainly grasping at truth.

For example ’ was the bible meant to be taken word for word ?’, if evolution is right then what evolved the planet in the first place etc. etc.

Due to our education system and a human tendancy to tidy we would like things to be easy ‘truths’ but the world just isn’t like that.

I thought of an example. The death penalty. I have two friends, both opposed to it.

FriendA: I’m opposed to the death penalty

Me: Even for charles manson?

FriendA: Yes.

Me: Would you feel that way if someone killed your mother?

FriendA: Yes.

Me: Your child?

FriendA: Yes.
then there’s friend B

FriendB: I’m opposed to the death penalty.

Me: Even for Charles Manson?

FriendB: Yes.

Me: What if someone killed your child?


FriendB: I don’t know how I’d feel then. That may be a different case.
So do we admire and respect A more, because they’re consistent and unwavering? You can ALWAYS count on them to be against the death penalty. Or B, because they consider every instance and are able to be swayed.

Well in your example, I would say that Friend B is being hypocritical if they seriously believe that an exception should be made for their relative. If they would merely feel differently, but recognize that there is no logical basis for treating their relative’s murderer differently than any other, than I’d say the difference between them and Friend A is a purely emotional one. (I suspect that a lot of people would claim to be like Friend A, but would really be more like Friend B if the situation actually arose).

In the Bush-Dukakis presidential debate Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis this very question. I remember thinking it a pointless question.