Theodore Roosevelt photograph courtesy of Reddit: 19-year-old Theodore Roosevelt during his freshman year at Harvard, 1877
Side note: If the phrase “like a man” or “don’t be a whiny bitch” offends you, please read this article on Misogyny and Feminism. What I’m saying applies to men and women, and has little to do with the literal meaning of the words in the expression. “Man”, as absurd as it may sound, is something that both a man and a woman can be. The word (in this case) simply means integrity, strength, empathy, and intelligence. I wish our language was less misogynistic, and I’m sure it will evolve so, but for now it is what it is.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The following are some principles of argument that should be followed by people with the guts to care more about the truth than about their ego.
Do not get emotional
Anger and irrational verbal aggression is not manly. It’s a form of whining. Example: when arguing about the justification for the Iraq war, don’t start name-calling or questioning the other guy’s patriotism. Be calm, cool, collected, focused. Victory in an argument is not achieved by being “right”. It is achieved when a step is taken towards the truth.
Shut up and listen
Most problems in life can be traced back to you talking too much. Shut up and listen. That’s when learning is done. Also, that’s when thinking is done. It’s not easy to deliberate on a thought while flapping your mouth.
Fully consider the arguments for the opposing side
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle
Empathize. Empathy is hard. It takes time. It takes self-sacrifice. It takes temporary suppression of ego. You have to ask: “What world view is the person I’m arguing with coming from?”. You also have to ask: “Does his/her worldview have less or more objective validity than my own?”
Be willing to change you mind on any subject, no matter how personal
You might’ve spent years passionately arguing for (and even living for) an idea. Do not be afraid to discover that you were wrong. Do not be afraid to accept that you “wasted” all those years, and that it is now time to change your mind. This is really tough. Albert Einstein argued against quantum mechanics for decades, long after the majority of the scientific community has accepted it as a valid theory. However, the flipside of that (see next point) is that sticking to your guns (as long as you are brutally honest) is also important.
Do not be afraid to be an outsider, a heretic
“I don’t care what others think” is a popular claim to make, but one that very few people can actually live by. To be an independent thinker goes against human nature. It is hard. You have to value truth more than happiness and sometimes more than your own well-being. An example is Giordano Bruno who in the 16th century proposed several radical cosmological ideas and stuck by them despite overwhelming opposition. He turned out to be right, but was executed for his beliefs.
Above all: Think.