Thinking and Debating

Recently, I have been reading Henry Hazlitt’s wonderful book Thinking as a Science.  He has quite helpful section on debate, which I think is useful for today’s campus activists:

After you have had a friendly argument with an acquaintance, you take leave either with the satisfaction that you have bested him, or with a vague consciousness that though you were right, he was just a trifle more skillful at bringing forward arguments. But having this satisfaction or dissatisfaction, you seldom think any more of the matter until the next time you meet him.

Now this practice is helpful neither to your debating nor your thinking. After you have taken leave of your acquaintance, and are left to the quietude of your own thoughts, you should mentally run over your controversy. You should dispassionately consider the bearing and weight of his arguments; and then, reviewing your own, ask yourself which were valid and relevant and which were not. If you find you have used a sophism you should resolve never to use it again, even though your opponent may have been unable to answer it. The question of morals aside, this is poor practice if you ever hope to become a thinker. In the end, it will tell against you even as a debater.

You can find a pdf of this wonderful book as well as the rest of Henry Hazlitt’s enlightening works on Mises.org.

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