Friday, September 4, 2009

Argument vs. Rant

Mason Brown
Professor Spohn
Response/Process Paper 2
Writing Seminar II sec. D

Arguments vs. Rants

There's nothing like a good rant to make one feel better. That is if you are the one doing the ranting. Someone else's rant can be the most irritating thing in the world, especially if you disagree with his or her point. A rant is not trying to convince, it's trying to vent; to let off steam; to rail against some injustice or instance of stupidity. It can be very effective at ridiculing; at insulting; at calling out inconsistencies, lies or double-standards. It makes me feel good to rant, but if I'm ranting it usually means I'm preaching to the choir. If I'm talking to or writing for someone who I expect will disagree with me, I'm much more comfortable with argument.

Argument respects the other side. The humanity and reasonableness of the opponent. It assumes that, in the face of superior reasoning backed up by iron-clad facts, the other person can be brought around to agree with us. Or, conversely, that we may end up, after weighing the counter-arguments, changing our position. Argument is actually very open-minded. It is willing to honestly confront it's own shortcomings; it's own blind spots. Ultimately it is much more fulfilling than ranting because it is deeper. It must “wallow in uncertainty”, at least for a time.

A rant starts out convinced of it's righteousness, and though it may well be righteous, it is inflexible, shrill and brittle. It can leave one feeling a little ashamed; the way one would feel after blowing up at a family reunion. Better to stick with the feeling of superiority we can get from a solid, articulate, well-thought-out argument. Lovingly crafted and offered to our opponents to deconstruct if they can, with our blessing and approval. I'll bet you can't argue with that!

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