How Not to Argue

I got into a Facebook argument with a stranger about gender dysphoria and its classification as a psychological disorder. His rhetorical strategies were, to say the least, not good.

I began by arguing that there are normal and abnormal ways to be, hoping that he would agree with me on that one point (as any sane person would) and then we could determine which ways of being should be considered normal and which abnormal. His response:


(Note: homosexuality came up because he earlier mentioned that it used to be included in the DSM, and part of the argument was about whether the inclusion of gender dysphoria in the DSM implies that gender dysphoria is a psychological disorder.)

My response:


Reasonable question, right? Apparently my interlocutor didn’t think so.


He dodges the question and appeals to his own authority(?). I add the question mark because he’s not really an authority on anything. “I suffer from depression and I’ve taken a handful of undergraduate level courses in psychology, so you should listen to what I have to say.” No thank you. Please give me reasons.

This is pretty much the entirety of what takes place in this discussion. I continue asking for him to give me reasons for his beliefs, explaining why having reasons for what you’re trying to argue is important. He keeps on trying to convince me to give a crap about his being a depressed psych major. Alas, we both fail.

TL;DR Appealing to your own authority is a stupid way to argue, especially if you’re not a real authority on anything. Majoring in something in undergrad is insufficient to make you an authority on something, and if you think that your undergraduate degree obliges other people to take you seriously, then nobody will.


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