How to Disagree

To aid the under­stand­ing and con­struc­tion of qual­ity argu­ments, Paul Gra­ham has cre­ated a “dis­agree­ment hier­archy”: a study on how (and how not) to dis­agree.

We can use this clas­si­fic­a­tion sys­tem to ensure that when we respond to a per­son’s reas­on­ing, we respond to it in a way that is con­struct­ive for the con­ver­sa­tion (by avoid­ing responses low in the hierarchy—DH0, DH1, etc.).

  • DH0 Name-call­ing.
  • DH1 Ad Hom­inem.
  • DH2 Respond­ing to Tone.
  • DH3 Con­tra­dic­tion.
  • DH4 Coun­ter­ar­gu­ment.
  • DH5 Refut­a­tion.
  • DH6 Refut­ing the Cent­ral Point.

It’s a sim­pli­fic­a­tion of a com­plex area, use­ful as a ref­er­ence. Gra­ham sug­gests the fol­low­ing bene­fit, among oth­ers:

The most obvi­ous advant­age of clas­si­fy­ing the forms of dis­agree­ment is that it will help people to eval­u­ate what they read. In par­tic­u­lar, it will help them to see through intel­lec­tu­ally dis­hon­est argu­ments.

via @zambonini

4 thoughts on “How to Disagree

  1. Lloyd Morgan Post author


    With regards to the author of the com­ment above:

    <DH0>The author is a self-import­ant dilettante</DH0>

    <DH6>The authors main point seems to be that I am either a les­bi­an, gay, bisexu­al, and/or trans­gender per­son. As he says:

    “u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!”

    But this is wrong for the fol­low­ing reas­ons… I am a het­ero­sexu­al male who does not devi­ate form his gender role.

    Also, u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!</DH6>

  2. Andrew Smith

    Paul Gra­ham is the man. His art­icles on entre­pren­eur­ship are among the best on the inter­net. But, I do have my reser­va­tions about this art­icle.

    It seems to me that most com­ments on for­ums (e.g. Red­dit or You­Tube) don’t really seek to make a val­id argu­ment, but instead try to be funny. “u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!” is clearly sup­posed to funny response, prob­ably to some god-awful vlog.

    Addi­tion­ally, DH0 argu­ments may add sup­port to an impli­cit, or pre­vi­ously stated argu­ment. For example a video by Nick Griffin might lose its poten­cey if there were a thou­sand com­ments all say­ing “twat!!”.

    Gra­ham’s DH6 argu­ment seems to be the least effect­ive of all. It relys entirely on logic. It does­n’t appeal to emo­tions or estab­lish the arguer­’s cred­ib­il­ity.

  3. Lloyd Morgan Post author


    I also have some reser­va­tions about this art­icle and attemp­ted to hint towards this by men­tion­ing that I felt it was a sim­pli­fic­a­tion of a dif­fi­cult top­ic.

    I agree that DH0 argu­ments do have some mer­it (by, as you say, adding a voice to an impli­cit or pre­vi­ously stated point) and that DH6 argu­ments are lack­ing in that there is no emo­tion­al appeal–they are cold. They both have their lim­its and these are not dis­cussed in the art­icle.

    An example, con­tinu­ing from yours: if a per­son com­ments on some whin­ing child’s vlog with a DH0 argu­ment, and you respon­ded with a DH6, the next response will likely be along the lines of “u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!”.

    What should your response have been? Anoth­er DH0 argu­ment? A DH1 (to show your superi­or­ity, natch)? DH0 appen­ded with DH6?

    A use­ful ref­er­ence, yes. A fool-proof guide on arguing, no.

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