Please Don’t Irk Me with Fast Arguments

Please Don’t Irk Me with Fast Arguments

I love Twitter for its ability to facilitate conversations over time and space. Recently, I have found myself feeling irked by a style of conversation which I could describe – and have described – as “cargo-culted argument”. In other words, arguments attempting to promote a position based on widely-held existing beliefs and ideas (and where the arguer appears have not thought through that belief).

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

~ William James

Socratic Questions

I find Socratic questioning to be useful when mutually exploring a topic or question (my preferred mode of conversation). In using Socratic questioning I seek to invite parties to the conversation to reflect on and think about the issue afresh. Occasionally, however, one party will choose to repeat “conventional wisdom” on the topic, without, seemingly, pausing for said reflection. I say “choose”, but I wonder how much of a conscious choice it is. We humans are creatures of habit, not least when it comes to thinking.

I feel saddened on such occasions, when we miss the opportunity for deeper mutual exploration of a topic (and thereby a deepening of our relationship or Twitter connection).

“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”

~ Voltaire

Fast Arguments – or Slow?

Kahneman writes about this phenomenon in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. He describes Slow (system 2) thinking as the kind of reflective, conscious, consider-things-afresh thinking Socratic questions invite, whereas we all prefer to default to what he labels as Fast (system 1) thinking, which so often, in this context, leads to a simple regurgitation of conventional wisdom.

Would you be willing to set aside your Fast arguments in favour of a more Slow exploration of topics of conversation?

– Bob

Further Reading

Thinking, Fast and Slow ~ Daniel Kahneman


  1. Jon said:

    Love this Bob and may I apologise now if I’ve ever irked you with a fast response.

    • No worries. I don’t recall any occasion, but in any case the irkedness is on me.

  2. François Bachmann said:

    Interestingly, my fast-thinking System 1 roared “Yes, of course!” but then my lazy & slow started mumbling “… but how come Bob is asking this question? what’s in it for me? And how long will I (and System 1, for which this is much harder) have to wait patiently for this payback?”
    So essentially System 1 is sold on the idea of delegating to System 2, but the latter is unsure whether this is a good idea. Sounds not unlike an empowerment snake-oil hype to me – and I’m certain you didn’t have this intention, Bob. Would you mind trying to reformulate your call-to-action question?

    • Hi François,

      May I invite you to apply your System 2 a little further, to uncover what’s it it for you, or conversely empathise with me and consider what needs of mine were driving this post and its refusable request?

  3. Nice succinct post Bob, thanks for sharing.

    Having been lead into several traps with System 1 thinking, I now only respond after some System 2 thinking.

    I’ve found that Twitter does not lend itself to deep thought & “conversation” – which is how I’m interpreting your paragraph on Socratic questioning.

    For me, Twitter is a filter to discover that deeper conversation in other formats, like responding to an authors blog, writing my own blog in response to another or taking that step further & actually meeting the content creator to have a face to face discussion.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: