Arguably Beautiful Argument

I really enjoyed Ester Barkai’s review of Creativity Counts (EW 6/24). But this is a college town, and I teach college students, and I’m about to be pedantic on something I think is important. Please take it in the spirit of generosity. Here goes.

Barkai said, “The discussion and illustration of practicality versus creativity is not dogmatic or argumentative, but rather fluid and thought provoking.” But “argumentative” is not the opposite of “thought provoking.” (“Dogmatic” clearly is. Good word, there.)

Arguments done well provoke thought. Powerful arguments are life-changing. Do a Google search for “Dominic Infante” and see what he said about the difference between argumentativeness and verbal aggression. Argument is not bickering; arguments are not shouting matches. Argument is beautiful and powerful.

I would ordinarily let this go lightly, but we are in a chapter of history where “argument” is a dirty word, and anyone who disagrees is signaling membership in an enemy tribe. One measure I’ve pegged is that the fever has broken and the insanity is fading like the pandemic is that we stop treating “argument” like a red flag.

Again, good review, and I hope to make it down to the Jordan Schnitzer to see the exhibit. But don’t shy away from arguments; they’re among the very best things you can do with your mouth and your brain. I wish more voters for the opposing party would argue with me. I can always use more thoughtful friends.

Doyle Srader


Barkai responds: I’m going to have to go ahead and agree with you about my use of the word “argumentative”! I was thinking of it in the sense of opposition, and argument in academic practice is more aligned with logic based on reasoning. Thanks for making your argument. Well done!