Dennis Hackethal’s Blog

My blog about philosophy, coding, and anything else that interests me.

Published · 7-minute read · Pro article

Success! You can now read the full article below. Be sure to save it to PDF before leaving or refreshing the page!

Need help? Email me and be sure to include this reference number:

Outthinking the Question

Serious critical discussions are always difficult. Non-rational human elements such as personal problems always enter. Many participants in a rational, that is, a critical, discussion find it particularly difficult that they have to unlearn what their instincts seem to teach them (and what they are taught, incidentally, by every debating society): that is, to win. For what they have to learn is that victory in a debate is nothing, while even the slightest clarification of one’s problem – even the smallest contribution made towards a clearer understanding of one’s own position or that of one’s opponent – is a great success.

— Karl Popper, The Myth of the Framework (p. 44). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition. Emphasis added

Outthinking the question is a common evasive and manipulative rhetorical trick that often goes unnoticed. Being able to identify it and defend against it makes you a better debater in search of truth.

The trick aims at winning a debate by anticipating some purpose behind an interlocutor’s question. When the honest answer to that question might lead the discussion in an unfavorable direction, a response to a different question or statement is usually given in hopes that the replacement goes unnoticed (examples follow). This tactic can quickly turn an open, critical discussion into a closed and illogical one. It often results in lies.

Replacing questions seems to be such a common consequence of outthinking them that, in this article, I typically include this particular consequence whenever I speak of ‘outthinking the question’. But such replacements are not the only consequence (more below).

Kevin Samuels identified and named this discussion tactic on his podcast The Kevin Samuels Show. In the episode ‘The REAL Deal with High Value Men?’ (at 1:47:15), he told a woman calling in to his show to stop outthinking the question. Samuels was an image consultant whose podcast focused on dating and relationships; people would call in to ask for relationship advice. Since he asked them tough questions, many of his callers employed this dishonest tactic in ‘self-defense’ (though, from a truth-seeking perspective, the tactic ended up hurting them more than it helped them).

In the below instance, the caller was a 35-year-old female with two children looking for a new husband to give her two more children. Below, I paraphrase parts of the exchange and add her replacements for his questions in italics. You might be surprised how often this happens and how sneaky the replacements can be!

Samuels: Let’s say you find a new husband. Once you’re married to him, do you want to have to work to pay significant bills after you’re pregnant with your next child?
The caller hears: would you like to continue working?
Caller: Yes, I would like to continue working.

Samuels immediately notices that she replaced the question:

Samuels: No, I asked whether you’d want to have to work, not whether you’d like to.
Caller: I don’t want to have to work, no.
Samuels: What percentage of the family’s financial load do you want to have to be responsible for?
She hears: how much are you willing to compromise on your previous answer in an effort to find a husband?
Caller: I’m willing to shoulder 50% of the family’s financial load. I feel like that’s reasonable.

But wait, there’s more!

You’re reading a preview of this Pro article. Pro articles are written with exceptional care and provide additional value. Purchase the full article for only USD 0.99.

Clicking this button will load the payment form. Stripe, the payment processor, may use cookies or cookie-like technology.

Learn more
Is this secure?

Yes. Your credit-card details are handled securely and in a PCI-compliant manner using the trusted payment processor Stripe.

What about privacy?

Your privacy matters to me. For this reason, I’ve decided to provide one of Stripe’s payment forms that’s more complicated to implement but increases your privacy. When you purchase an article, I do not see your name or contact information. However, Stripe does show me your card type, expiration date, issuing financial institution, country, last four digits of your credit-card number, your postal code (if you’re in the US), IP address, internet service provider, operating system, browser, device brand, device model, your card’s average transaction amount, the standard deviation for your card, and ancillary information, including but not limited to whether your card is a debit and/or prepaid card. I will not sell that information. I can’t even associate it with you unless you send me an email that divulges your name. If that is a concern, email me from an anonymous email account. If divulging your IP address is a concern, use a VPN before purchasing an article. Stripe may show me more information about payments in the future, and I’ll have no control over that. They may also have more visibility into your data. I recommend checking their privacy policy.

What if something goes wrong?

If, say, due to technical issues, or for whatever other reason, you cannot see the full article after purchasing it, simply email me and I’ll send you a copy. Please include your reference number starting with ‘pi_…’, if you have it. That reference number is shown to you right after you make the purchase.

Can I get a refund?

Yes. If you purchased an article and didn’t like it, email me and you’ll get a full refund, no questions asked. I will need the reference number starting with ‘pi_…’ to process the refund. That reference number is shown to you right after you make the purchase. Write it down carefully – I am unable to issue refunds without this reference number.

Can I share the full article with others?

The full article is copyrighted and only for your own, personal use. As such, you may not share it with others beyond what’s previewed before purchasing it. However, you are more than welcome to share a link to this page so others can purchase the article, too.


References

This post makes 3 references to:

There are 2 references to this post in:


What people are saying

What are your thoughts?

You are responding to comment #. Clear

Preview

Markdown supported. cmd + enter to comment. Your comment will appear upon approval. You are responsible for what you write. Terms, privacy policy
This small puzzle helps protect the blog against automated spam.

Preview