Monday, March 26, 2018

The Obvious Argument

When I was somewhere in my pre-teens, my father and I were talking, and he'd asked me about some or another thing that I'd said, and I replied, "Dad, it's obvious."

To which my father replied, "Obvious, Aaron, is something that's so crystal-clear that you are the only person who sees it." Of course, he was right about this, and as I've grown older (I'm now older than my father was when we had that conversation), I've come to appreciate the wisdom of that statement more and more.

And so I tend to be disappointed when people trot out "obvious" in social and/or political debates arguments. (This includes religion.) Mainly because it's usually deployed when the person speaking, for whatever reason, has no intention of supporting the argument, point or fact that they've just uttered. The really bummer for me, however, is when "obvious" is used to close off the conversation. In this context, one can imagine connotation of "obvious" being self-evident not only to the degree that no proof is necessary, but to the degree that even requesting proof is a sign that one lacks the intellect, discernment and/or good intent to accept any proof that would be offered; therefore, none will be.

And sure, sometimes, this is merely a smokescreen to cover the fact that someone has made a statement of faith, or born of their worldview, and they've never actually looked into it deeply enough to know, or be able to articulate supporting evidence. Accusing the other of being too stupid, gullible or false-hearted to accept proof can be a useful, if insulting, way of hiding ignorance. But it can also simply be a way of casting the other person as too "lesser" to be bothered with. And that's something that our discourse already has enough of.

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