I’d like to explain something about my behavior that might frustrate some people needlessly. You see, if you get into an argument with me, and if this argument is longer than a few sentences, you will lose. If you’re on an ego trip, you’ll behave like a hissy critter and complain how is it that I’m always right, and the answer is, no, I just tend to pick my battles very carefully, and if you pay attention, you’ll see that most arguments end before they have really started, because I immediately concede to any valid point anyone makes; I don’t argue when someone’s right, or when I think the other side of the argument might be as valid as mine. So, it’s a matter of very careful triage, where I estimate how correct the other side is, and how important the issue itself is. If the issue is not important, I will shrug and say that it doesn’t matter who wins, or the difference between the opposing sides isn’t large enough for it to matter who is right. An example of this are arguments regarding equipment. Canon vs. Nikon, or PC vs. Mac, or iPhone vs. Android. Who cares. Someone will say that brand A is better, and I will shrug and say that the differences aren’t large enough for me to care. Basically, don’t compete if the prize isn’t worth winning.
The second case is when it isn’t clear who is right. For instance, if science isn’t clear on something, such as the string theory, I will refrain from having elaborate opinions and simply say that the theory sounds interesting or compelling, but the evidence for the whole thing just isn’t strong enough. It’s a case of don’t compete if it isn’t clear what the victory is; if it isn’t clear what the truth actually is, it’s impossible to say who won the argument.
The third case is when the other side is making a correct statement. If someone says that Hydrogen is chemically reactive, I will say “yes” and that will be the end of it. This will be so even if I otherwise strongly disagree with the person on other points, because the most important thing about winning arguments is not allowing yourself to be sidetracked, which includes opposing someone when he’s right about something just because you think he’s wrong about something else. If I think someone is the worst person in the world and he states that Paris is the capital of France, I will agree. If you think that you have to disagree with absolutely every single statement someone makes because you want to make a moral statement about his person or philosophy, you’re stupid and emotionally immature. If Hitler states that conserving the environment and building good roads is good, and you disagree because you disapprove of his racial policies, you’re an idiot. The correct way of arguing with Hitler is to say, yes, conserving the environment is good, and building roads is good, but if you really believe your race is superior, then meritocracy is the only credible way you should approach the issue, since inferior races will fail to compete with yours in the market of ideas and will die off. If you think you have to actively exterminate someone because he’s outcompeting you, then he’s obviously not the one who’s inferior. Essentially, you concede obvious truths and do not allow yourself to be sidetracked, you concentrate on your opponent’s core issue, try to figure out where he is wrong or his actions are contradictory to his beliefs, and then reduce the argument to a clear and compelling line of thought that is difficult or impossible to refute.
So, essentially, the reason why people think I’m “always” stubbornly insisting on defeating “everyone” is because they simply don’t add my early concessions to the tally of the arguments I participate in. Having done that, it would become obvious that I actually concede most points, or I ignore issues because I don’t find them important enough. However, it then becomes obvious that in a small minority of cases, where I do actually choose to fight, I do so by exploring the entire tree of possible arguments and counter-arguments in order to find weak points and flaws in my thinking, and before I express a thought, I am already aware of all the possible refutations, and if none of them are valid, only then do I state my case, and the reason why I do so with such certainty is because I already tested it against all the objections I could think of, and I am very good at thinking of test-cases for debugging code. So, that’s something to have in mind if you want to argue with me: I don’t pick losing battles. If I’m confident enough about something to insist, it means I probably tested my idea against a very large set of possible objections before having initially stated it, and unless you thought of something that I missed (which happens every now and then, but not frequently enough to be something a reasonable person would bet on), you will lose. Sure, in some cases I make intentionally controversial statements just to fuck with people and snap them out of their stupor, but even then the argument serves the purpose of getting you to think hard enough to see the way out. The fact that it’s wrong doesn’t mean that I missed something, it means I left it to you to figure it out.
Another important thing to have in mind is that for me, arguing isn’t about an ego trip, it’s about truth and virtue. I argue in order to oppose falsehoods and establish a correct way of handling things, not to win battles. That’s why I’m my own arguments’ harshest critic, but that’s the part you don’t see, because it precedes the point where I actually write the argument down. You don’t see the part where I mercilessly test it against possible objections. So, it’s not a case of “I’ll win some, and you’ll win some”. If you want to build up your self-worth by opposing me every now and then just so that it doesn’t look like you’re a “yes-person”, you’re in for a world of hurt, because if I recognize your argument as something I already tested my own argument against and rejected the objection as invalid, I will dismiss you in a way you will find quite abrasive to your self-image; in fact, if I recognize your argument as a lazy one, as something that doesn’t survive even the most superficial scrutiny, I will do things to your ego it might not recover from.
So yeah; if I really insist on something and if I act as if what I’m saying is a fact, it probably means that I tested the argument beforehand and I am convinced it is solid, and now I want to test it against other people’s ideas in case I missed something; in this case, I will appreciate good input, but my tolerance for nonsense is always low. You need to really turn your brain on, and in most cases it will be much wiser of you to concede than to argue, and I will think more of you if you do, because if I say water is wet and you argue against it, I will think you a fool; not because I like yes-men, but because I dislike insecure fools who think they always need to argue lest they be considered yes-men.