In philosophy and rhetoric, eristic (from Eris, the ancient Greek goddess of chaos, strife, and discord) refers to argument that aims to successfully dispute another's argument, rather than searching for truth. According to T.H. Irwin, "It is characteristic of the eristic to think of some arguments as way of defeating the other side, by showing that an opponent must assent to the negation of what he initially took himself to believe." Eristic is arguing for the sake of conflict, as opposed to resolving conflict. Perfect example of this is: Listening to one's coworkers argue about sports (i.e., Salary Caps, which team is better, the definition of a winning season, etc...).
Use in education
Eristic was a type of "question-and-answer" teaching method popularized by the Sophists, such as Euthydemos and Dionysodoros. Students learned eristic arguments to "refute their opponent, no matter whether he [said] yes or no in answer to their initial question".
Plato contrasted this type of argument with dialectic and other more reasonable and logical methods (e.g., at Republic 454a). In the dialogue Euthydemus, Plato satirizes eristic. It is more than persuasion, and it is more than discourse. It is a combination that wins an argument without regard to truth. Plato believed that the eristic style "did not constitute a method of argument" because to argue eristically is to consciously use fallacious arguments, which therefore weakens one's position.
Unlike Plato, Isocrates (often considered a Sophist) did not distinguish eristic from dialectic. He held that both lacked a "'useful application' ... that created responsible citizens", which unscrupulous teachers used for "enriching themselves at the expense of the youth."
Schopenhauer considers that only logic pursues truth. For him, dialectic, sophistry and eristic have no objective truth in view, but only the appearance of it, and pay no regard to truth itself because it aims at victory. He names these three last methods as "eristic dialectic (contentious argument)."
According to Schopenhauer, Eristic Dialectic is mainly concerned to tabulate and analyze dishonest stratagems, so that they may at once be recognized and defeated, in order to continue with a productive dialectic debate. It is for this very reason that Eristic Dialectic must admittedly take victory, and not objective truth, for its selfish aim and purpose.
Argumentation theory is a field of study that asks critical questions about eristic arguments and the other types of dialogue.
- Irwin, T.H. "Plato's Objection to the Sophists." The Greek World. London: Routledge, 1995. P. 585. Print.
- H.D. Rankin (1983). Sophists, Socratics and Cynics. Pp. 233–237.
- Alexander Nehamas. "Eristic, Antilogic, Sophistic, Dialectic: Plato's Demarcation of Philosophy from Sophistry". (page 6)
- Irwin, T.H. "Plato's Objection to the Sophists." The Greek World. London: Routledge, 1995. 583. Print.
- Alexander Nehamas. "Eristic, Antilogic, Sophistic, Dialectic: Plato's Demarcation of Philosophy from Sophistry". (page 7).
- Marsh, Charles. Classical rhetoric and modern public relations: an Isocratean model. New York: Routledge, 2013. P. 121.
- Controversial Dialectic on CoolHaus.de accessed at January 19, 2008
- In his Dialectica Eristica Schopenhauer presents 38 eristic stratagems
- Schopenhauer, Arthur. Eristische Dialektik, 1830.
- Encyclopedia Britannica defines eristic
- Arthur Schopenhauer's Eristische Dialektik: