FROLIO Formalizable Relationship-Oriented Language-Insensitive Ontology

Roger M Tagg 2010-2011

Welcome to FROLIO a new attempt to merge philosophy and the "semantic web" . This website is under continuing development.

Highlights of book: The Art of Always Being Right by Arthur Schopenhauer (late 19th century)


This is a mock serious presentation, from a front-rank 19th century German philosopher, of techniques people can use to make sure that they win every argument. Although it is more a warning for the other person in the argument to beware of such tricks, it is written as if it is advice to the person trying the tricks. Thouless's "Straight and Crooked Thinking" seems to cover somewhat similar ground, though that appeared much later than this book, and may have been written in partial answer to Schopenhauer.

You can find a full translation at: , as part of a wider selection of Schopenhauer's minor works translated by TB Saunders (1896).


  Explanation, or example

Counter (includes some personal suggestions)
S1ExtensionExaggerating what your opponent said, hoping to knock it downRepeat your moderate meaning
S2HomonymsUsing different meanings of the same words at different stages of the argumentPick up on it quickly
S3Generalize, in order to refuteOver-generalize something your opponent has stated with specific conditionsRepeat your limiting conditions
S4Conceal your gameGet the opponent to agree to easy assumptions as you go Watch out what you agree to
S5False premisesAssume something that isn't truePoint out the dodgy assumption quickly
S6Beg the questionPostulate as an assumption what one is trying to provePoint this out
S7Yield admissions through questions "You surely must agree that ...?" If you don't agree, say why
S8Make your opponent angry  Keep calm
S9Ask questions in deliberately odd orderConfuse the opponent and conceal your game Ask "what are you getting at?"
S10Take advantage of an opponent who always answers "no"Ask the question the opposite way round and hope to get inconsistent answersWatch for the switch
S11Generalize admissions of specific casesIn that case, you are saying all ?Say you don't think these cases prove the general point
S12Choose metaphors favourable to your proposition  Suggest a different metaphor to support your case
S13Encourage opponent to reject the counter-argument "So, do you also reject (the opposite viewpoint)?" Check if this is a trap, or whether you hold some view in between
S14Claim victory despite defeatWell, that was what I was sayingPoint out why it hasn't been resolved
S15Substitute a truism for your difficult paradoxical proposalE.g. "you can't change human nature" Say this is far too simplistic
S16Point out inconsistencies between what your opponent has said and other beliefs he holds (ad hominem) "Surely this is inconsistent with your belief that ..."Show how these beliefs are not inconsistent (if possible!)
S17Defend your argument by introducing some subtle distinctionClaim "it isn't quite the same"Explore whether or not it really makes a difference
S18If about to lose, divert the debate, appeal to any audience   Point out the tactic to the audience
S19If pressed for any objection, generalize the matter, then argue against   Bring the argument back to specifics
S20Draw conclusions yourself, even before all premises are agreed"So, you therefore must agree that ..." Say what hasn't yet been resolved
S21Counter with an argument as bad as his  Say that his argument makes no more sense
S22Refuse to admit a point that would lead to your opponent winning Say that you can see why he is reluctant to admit the point, move on to something related
S23Contradict your opponent, encourage him to exaggerate  Don't be drawn into over-playing your point
S24State a false syllogism, or distort your opponent's logic Point out what doesn't follow
S25Divert by finding one counter-example to opponent's generalization"But the fact that there is Xxxx explodes that idea"Examine if this really is a valid counter-example: it may be a matter of how things are being classified
S26Turn the tablesUse opponent's argument against him Examine what the opponent has actually claimed
S27Stir it up more if opponent gets angryIt may be his weak point Draw back from any excessive claim, keep calm
S28Persuade the audience, not the opponent   If the audience is interested, explain your point to them also
S29Diversion, changing the subjectBring in a side issue Say "can we get back to the main point?"
S30Appeal to authority rather than reasonBecause X says so Question whether X has full knowledge of what we now know, or whether he had an interest to defend
S31Claim to fail to understandSay "this is beyond me"Try to paraphrase in simpler terms, without jargon
S32Label opponent's thesis with some odious category "But this is Xxxx-ism!" Show how and why it is different from Xxxx-ism.
S33Say "that may be OK in theory, but doesn't apply in practice"   Ask what examples from practice the opponent can quote
S34Don't let him off the hook if he evadesIf it's a weak spot for him, urge the point all the moreBe clear how far you can move your position, but don't avoid the issue
S35Will is more effective than insightMake out that his point is against his values, interests etcRecognize one's own prejudices and interests, and separate them from the issues that are really at stake
S36Bewilder opponent through bombast, rhetoric, say "it's obvious" etc Examples in "The Vicar of Wakefield" Modestly point out that the opponent is substituting style for argument
S37Claim that opponent's faulty proof refutes his whole position  Say "I had better express that better" and proceed to do so
S38Become personal, insulting, rude ("ad personam") "All mental pleasure consists in being able to compare oneself with others to one's own advantage" (Hobbes) Let it wash over one's head
 A few extra thoughts from Schopenhauer:  
  Don't dispute with the first person you meet - find someone of similar ability 
  Ad hominem = truth as it appears to an individual 
  Ad rem = objective truth 
  "The great truth is that the will's blind strivings are the reason why life consists of so much suffering." 


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This version updated on 13th January 2011

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