The Requirements of Persuasion

Release Date
June 12, 2017


Free Speech

Trying to persuade someone first requires believing they are open to being  persuaded. Full interview with Prof. Turner here

    1. Marxism Explained in 2 Minutes, with Deirdre McCloskey – Learn Liberty  (video): Deirdre McCloskey explains the Marxist conception that our ideas are determined by our class position, and the contrary notion that ideas in themselves are meaningful. 
    2. Shaming Someone Doesn’t Change Their Mind – Learn Liberty (video): A look at the work of Alana Conner, a cultural scientist at Stanford University, and the social psychology of persuasion. 
    3. If you want to persuade people, stop “winning” arguments (blog): Professor David R. Henderson explains how we can have a greater persuasive impact if we stop looking at those we disagree with as opponents, and start asking them the right questions instead. 

Brandon Turner: There’s a sense in which, I mean, argument … Particularly argument fits into the liberal tradition. It does require a particular context, so I mean, you might say, it requires an engagement with a subject. If you don’t think that the other person is capable of changing their mind, if you don’t think, you, yourself is capable of changing your mind, in other words, if you don’t think that the other person is anything other than the product of an ideology, the product of class position, the product of their gender, the product of whatever it happens to be, but then it’s really kind of, pointless to argue with them, right. I mean it’s like trying to get a Mac to run a PC program, or something like that.
Dave Rubin: Right.
Brandon Turner: It’s just not going to happen, the hardware is not there. So, if you don’t regard your interlocutor as a subject, in some sense, as someone who is capable of changing their mind, of someone who is capable of entertaining different ideas, of someone who is capable, in other words, of what we would think of traditionally. A very traditional sense as being rational, being susceptible to reasons, then, I mean, it’s … We do have to wonder what it is that we’re doing.
Dave Rubin: Right. Isn’t that, true bigotry?
Brandon Turner: Well, it is right? So, I think … So, it’s interesting, I’m not, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it bigotry, I would say that we’re encouraged to think about people in these ways, from a number of different directions. So, you see that something like this, in what we would think is traditionally is the Marxist tradition. So, in the Marxist tradition, we are all of us, we are conscientiousness that are formed by our position in the class struggle. Right? So, the ideas are in our head, all of our ideas, all of our ideas about religion, our ideas about sex, about marriage, about children, about work, about all this kind of stuff, these are determined by our position within a class structure.
So, when we tell someone, “Oh, you’re being very bourgeois,” this is exactly what we mean. We mean that you are very much a product of your economic position, we would say. So, in that case, right, we do have to wonder, if it’s the case that I am just merely, right, the outcome of a process that’s already been predetermined, right? In what sense am I really engaged in a dialogue. In other words, so we see that position in some camps on the left, but we see it too, on the right, so in other words, if I … There’s an infinity, for example, in the libertarian circles for evolutionary psychology, evolutionary biology, and I’m not crazy about this, and for very similar reasons, right, so the emphasis on signally, and all this kind of stuff.
It says, “Listen, when I’m engaged in argument, I’m not actually engaged in argument, I’m not actually trying to convince you of anything. I’m not treating you as a subject, nor myself a subject. What I’m trying to do, is I’m trying to improve my position in a, in a hierarchy, and so, I will use whatever tools I have at my disposal, whether it be moral outrage, whatever kind of strong signals I can send to other people around me, that indicate, in some sense, my superiority to you.”
Dave Rubin: This is, we see a ton of this, these days.
Brandon Turner: Yeah. So, in other words, the internet, I think, encourages that kind of behavior, but both lenses, though, I think the Marxist lens and evolutionary psychology lens … I think it discourages us from treating other people, again, as subject, as saying, “Listen, I don’t care what class you’re from, I don’t care what your position is in the evolutionary structure, or something like that, I think that you’re capable of being persuaded. I think you’re capable of having a conversation, and I’m willing to sit down and talk these things, talk these things over.” So, I mean, I think it’s, in other words, we have a lot of tools at our disposal these days, for writing off everything we see around us, for reinforcing our own views of our own rightness.
Dave Rubin: Yeah.
Brandon Turner: We’re on both sides of the political spectrum that, I think, that we’re well-suited to identifying and distancing ourselves from those.