Is there any point arguing talking with someone whose rhetorical goal is to show that you are ignoring them?



Is there any point arguing talking with someone whose rhetorical goal is to show that you are ignoring what they say? It may be my imagination, but it seems to be an issue, in argumentation.


Sometimes, when I argue, it is not to prove a claim, but to see what counter claims there are. In the examples I'm thinking of, the other party seizes on a term, and claims that if I mean sense 1 rather than 2, then such and such. However, I don't want to commit to 1 or 2, because if I were to say "OK hypothetically 1", to find out if I end up being wrong, they would claim that I was ignoring them, both because I deny one of the claims their refutation of 1 depends upon, and because I was not committed to 1 in the 1st place.

They seem to be arguing in good faith, but don't seem to understand that I'm not interested in 1 or 2 unless one or both refutes my original claim. It seems practically impossible to find out if they're right that my claim is false. And so they think I'm ignoring them.


I'll claim that Hegel was a man.

I just don't know what Hegel's gender identity was, there's not going to be anything about that. They'll then assume I'm talking about gender identity, not sex, and so quote something which says that there was no such thing in the 18th century. I would object that it wouldn't mean that Hegel didn't implicitly have a gender identity, knowing that someone out there would agree that it is not that sort of construct, but they would just say I was ignoring the argument.

I could always say I mean sex, but don't want to commit to anything about gender identity. Do you mean gender identity, they ask again. Well I'm clearly ignoring them now.


I recognise that I too am probably being poor at rhetoric here (and I hope my example captures it). But is there any point arguing with someone who always claims that I am ignoring them, because I don't want to make any meta-"theoretical" claims?

Can either of us win the argument: can they prove I am ignoring them and so my original claim is baseless? Can I prove that is not the case?


Posted 2017-08-13T10:38:51.420


As I understand it, you're posing a hypothetical situation and taking one side for the sake of argument. Are you asking whether one of you can win the argument (that depends on the argument, but it's not impossible a priori), or are you asking whether it's valid to pose the hypothetical and (temporarily) claim one side of the argument in an exploratory manner? – Lawrence – 2017-08-13T11:36:49.340

i'm asking whether it's possible to prove someone is or isn't ignoring an argument, especially when the argument is about an equivocal term which is not demonstratively fatal @Lawrence – None – 2017-08-13T11:41:04.570

If the Hegel example is representative, it sounds like they've misunderstood your question, and you're not interested in pursuing the version they thought you meant. If you articulate that, then you're clearly ignoring their version. So, is the proof possible? Yes - by construction, proving that you're ignoring their argument (when you actually are) is possible. – Lawrence – 2017-08-13T11:48:15.753

@Lawrence i think you're wrong (sorry if it's not what you meant) that if we agree i'm not interested in pursuing their understanding / misunderstanding that then they can prove i'm "ignoring" their argument. seems that no-one should take 'ignore' to mean not explaining why someone is wrong. i meant, "ignoring" an argument such that it also proves that my original claim is baseless – None – 2017-08-13T11:55:21.523

I'm not saying that they can prove that you're ignoring their argument. I'm saying that you can prove that you're ignoring their argument. – Lawrence – 2017-08-13T12:00:30.673

@Lawrence oh ok. in what way? i'm not committed to hegel's gender identity (terrible example, sorry), so how can i prove to myself that i am ignoring a refutation that "hegel was a man"? – None – 2017-08-13T12:02:35.800

Well, in your example, you claimed to ignore it, so a simple statement that you're ignoring it would be sufficient proof (it matches your internal state, which you know; QED). By the way, if you're talking about a link between ignoring an argument and proving a claim baseless, you might want to edit your question to express the connection more clearly. – Lawrence – 2017-08-13T12:06:10.920

@Lawrence ok can't edit for a bit, so i urge you edit it (correctly as stated) if it's gonna be closed – None – 2017-08-13T13:26:19.163

Take your time. Even if it gets closed, it should go back to the review queue when you edit it. I've made several attempts at understanding what you're trying to ask, but even though I think I may have an inkling of what you're asking, it's better for you to clarify your own question at this point. If nothing else, it needs to ask what you want to know. – Lawrence – 2017-08-13T13:29:35.923

If their rhetorical goal is to show that you are ignoring them what is yours? Clearly, there is no point arguing for the sake of "discovering the truth" if that is their goal, so you must have a rhetorical goal yourself. Is it to convince an audience that you are not ignoring them? In the realm of rhetoric there is no point to "proving" anything, unless that produces a rhetorical side effect, and tactics that produce it often rely on psychology more than logic. – Conifold – 2017-08-13T20:35:51.257

my goal is to either find out i'm wrong or to get them to admit i'm not "ignoring" a refutation of my original claim – None – 2017-08-14T12:27:17.820

In that case I suggest dropping the second goal, why care if they admit it, they may refuse to do it out of stubbornness, frustration, etc. As for the first, consider which of the two, 1 or 2, is likely to be more relevant/challenging to your claim and pick that one. People dislike arguers who hedge their bets, and dislike being led on, so you'll have to compromise between what you want and what they want. You can find out what happens under the other option at another encounter. – Conifold – 2017-08-15T02:31:25.950

No answers