Intro: I have recently been having a discussion/debate with a chap regarding the political works of a particular professor. I have studied this person's works for more than 20 years and feel as though I know them about as well as one can possible know another's works. The other chap hasn't read a single book by the person, and only a few out of context references from which he jumps to making absurd assertions and conclusions. Below is a basic example of the problem. A refers to the other fellow, while N refers to myself, and X to the professor in question:
A: X thinks that 2+2=11
N: No, X's position is that 2+2=4, and there's nothing in his writings at all which would indicate that he thought 2+2=11.
A: Prove it.
N: I can't prove that somethings not there. (Hence the can't prove a negative.)
A: Then it's likely to be there if you can't prove it.
N: No, it's NOT there, nor has it ever been. And as I have read all of his material, listened to hundreds of hours of lectures, talked to him personally, I can...
Hi noodle, I don't think you're doing anything incorrectly. It sounds to me as though N is simply refusing to engage in a serious examination of either (a) X's ideas or (b) the possibility that his own interpretation of X's work is incorrect. To begin with, N is the one making the original assertion about X's position, so the burden of proof is on him to substantiate that assertion, not on you to refute it. If, as seems to have happened, he offers some evidence in favour of his position, then the question is: how good is this evidence? You suggest that the evidence is not good at all -- it depends on taking remarks out of context and attributing implausible interpretations to X. This shifts the burden of proof back to N, either to provide new evidence, or to show that his original evidence is better than you're claiming. And here is where it seems to me that N is simply being unreasonable. To begin with, N's evidence does not look any better just because he says 'You haven'tshown me that...
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