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Self-defeating arguments

Posted on Friday, March 20th, 2020 at 8:27 pm    


Many individuals take up positions that are self-defeating.  For lawyers, identifying self-defeating arguments can be advantageous in quickly and effectively resolving a case.

To illustrate, how often have we heard the argument “there is no truth?”  Many, in fact, have adopted this viewpoint despite its inherent contradiction.  Take for example a recent conversation I had with an individual that was arguing this very idea:

There is no truth.

I don’t understand.  So are you admitting that what you’re saying is false?

No, I’m telling the truth.

But you just said there is no truth.

In identifying the fact that his argument was self-defeating, the argument was over before it began.  I just had to point it out.  Further, I could have taken an even shorter route in quickly and effectively resolving this debate:

There is no truth.

Is that true?

And just like that it is over, at least if we’re being intellectually honest.  Because if there is no truth, how then can the statement “there is no truth” be anything but false?  And if false, then isn’t it true that it is false?

There are a number of ways to tackle the inherent contradiction in this argument.  The key is to identify it and then point it out for all to see.