How to Disagree

To aid the understanding and construction of quality arguments, Paul Graham has created a “disagreement hierarchy”: a study on how (and how not) to disagree.

We can use this classification system to ensure that when we respond to a person’s reasoning, we respond to it in a way that is constructive for the conversation (by avoiding responses low in the hierarchy—DH0, DH1, etc.).

  • DH0 Name-calling.
  • DH1 Ad Hominem.
  • DH2 Responding to Tone.
  • DH3 Contradiction.
  • DH4 Counterargument.
  • DH5 Refutation.
  • DH6 Refuting the Central Point.

It’s a simplification of a complex area, useful as a reference. Graham suggests the following benefit, among others:

The most obvious advantage of classifying the forms of disagreement is that it will help people to evaluate what they read. In particular, it will help them to see through intellectually dishonest arguments.

via @zambonini



4 responses to “How to Disagree”

  1. u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!

  2. All,

    With regards to the author of the comment above:

    <DH0>The author is a self-important dilettante</DH0>

    <DH6>The authors main point seems to be that I am either a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender person. As he says:

    “u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!”

    But this is wrong for the following reasons… I am a heterosexual male who does not deviate form his gender role.

    Also, u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!</DH6>

  3. Paul Graham is the man. His articles on entrepreneurship are among the best on the internet. But, I do have my reservations about this article.

    It seems to me that most comments on forums (e.g. Reddit or YouTube) don’t really seek to make a valid argument, but instead try to be funny. “u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!” is clearly supposed to funny response, probably to some god-awful vlog.

    Additionally, DH0 arguments may add support to an implicit, or previously stated argument. For example a video by Nick Griffin might lose its potencey if there were a thousand comments all saying “twat!!”.

    Graham’s DH6 argument seems to be the least effective of all. It relys entirely on logic. It doesn’t appeal to emotions or establish the arguer’s credibility.

  4. Andy,

    I also have some reservations about this article and attempted to hint towards this by mentioning that I felt it was a simplification of a difficult topic.

    I agree that DH0 arguments do have some merit (by, as you say, adding a voice to an implicit or previously stated point) and that DH6 arguments are lacking in that there is no emotional appeal–they are cold. They both have their limits and these are not discussed in the article.

    An example, continuing from yours: if a person comments on some whining child’s vlog with a DH0 argument, and you responded with a DH6, the next response will likely be along the lines of “u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!”.

    What should your response have been? Another DH0 argument? A DH1 (to show your superiority, natch)? DH0 appended with DH6?

    A useful reference, yes. A fool-proof guide on arguing, no.