One of the risks that we often run into, but rarely talk about is the risk of being accidentally or wilfully misinterpreted. This is particularly noticeable when your debating partner is in wild disagreement with their idea of what you said. Arthur Schopenhauer penned his “Art of Controversy” in the mid 19th century, yet it seems that it is once again coming to the forefront - without many debaters even knowing they’re using the “tricks” from the book. In case you haven’t seen it before, here’s the 38 “tools” for winning a debate no matter the cost. Schopenhauer identified these techniques and indeed warned against them. It is sad to see that he’s remembered for them, but not also his work in helping one defend against such techniques.1 Carry your opponent’s proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it.
The more general your opponent’s statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it. The more restricted and narrow your own propositions remain, the easier they are to defend. 2 Use different meanings of your opponent’s words to refute his argument.
Example: Person A says, “You do not understand the mysteries of Kant’s philosophy.” Person B replies, “Oh, if it’s mysteries you’re talking about, I’ll have nothing to do with them.” 3 Ignore your opponent’s proposition, which was intended to refer to some particular thing.
Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it. Attack something different than what was asserted.