September 19, 2014

Molyneux's Debate Technique

In the video above Stefan Molyneux tries to win a debate by deciding what a valid argument is and what isn't, which basically amounts up to him being right and the other person being wrong. Others have noticed his debating techniques as well and complied a list 7 years ago that is valid till this day. Here are some points.

1. Tangents;
When you ask Stef a question (in a verbal debate), he has the habit of very briefly and unsatisfactorily responding to it and then going off on a tangent for two minutes possibly in the hope that neither his discussion partner nor the audience will return to his unsatisfactory answer to his question and instead reply to the last thing he said (the tangent).

2. Misrepresentation;
Stef will misrepresent positions:
1. Create straw men and attack them
2. Say something like ‘but isn’t one plus one two?’ (in other words, put forward something that is both completely true and uncontroversial and completely irrelevant) so that there seems to be agreement when in fact there is not.

3. Cherry picking and ignoring questions;
Very often Stef does not even try to create the impression that he has answered your questions and will just downright ignore them.

4. Confusing quantity with quality;
When you call Stef on his not having answered your questions he tends to say something like ‘I participated in several threads on this topic, did 3 podcasts and had 2 personal conversations with listeners so don’t tell me that I haven’t engaged in the debate.' He sure has engaged in debate but he has not actually addressed let alone answered your most important arguments.

5. Psychologizing;
Stef wont address your arguments but instead try to steer the discussion toward your psychological state (that may account for your position in his eyes).

6. Ridiculing & Bullying;
While psychologizing, when applied wrongly, is already a form of bullying, there is also more obvious bullying going on on the board, like when Stef makes fun of other posters.

The video above falls under point 15.

15. Ending the debate;
Usually, in large part thanks to Stef's evasiveness, debates don't go very well, the core problem is not being discussed explicitly and instead there's a circling around that problem, with points being revisited and revisited.
The clever thing that Stef then does is take the initiative to end the debate, by for example sighing or just saying something like "okay, I don't think we're not moving forward anymore, so I'm gonna stop' or 'this has been a merry-go-round and I'm getting off now' or something like that. So he identifies what has been happening in the debate and then says that therefore it's time to stop. By so taking the initiative (especially if he accompanies it with a sigh or some other mild form of contempt) he can make it seem (to the audience and even in some cases to his discussion partner) as if the cause of the fruitlessness of the debate was his discussion partner (who kept going around in circles, who just wouldnt accept some point, whatever), not him.

Before you debate Stefan Molyneux it's probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with his debating techniques because in my opinion he's a pathological narcissist who convinced himself he's some great philosopher who simply can't be wrong and he'll put you through the wringer to maintain that public perception.

Peter Joseph found out as well. See video below.

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