The Art of Being Right

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The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument
AuthorArthur Schopenhauer
Original titleEristische Dialektik: Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten

The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (also The Art of Controversy, or Eristic Dialectic: The Art of Winning an Argument; German: Eristische Dialektik: Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten; 1831) is an acidulous, sarcastic treatise written by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.[1] In it, Schopenhauer examines a total of thirty-eight methods of defeating one's opponent in a debate. He introduces his essay with the idea that philosophers have concentrated in ample measure on the rules of logic, but have not (especially since the time of Immanuel Kant) engaged with the darker art of the dialectic, of controversy. Whereas the purpose of logic is classically said to be a method of arriving at the truth, dialectic, says Schopenhauer, "...on the other hand, would treat of the intercourse between two rational beings who, because they are rational, ought to think in common, but who, as soon as they cease to agree like two clocks keeping exactly the same time, create a disputation, or intellectual contest."

Veronese, Paolo, Arachne or Dialectics, 1520


Basis of all dialectic, according to Schopenhauer

In Volume 2, § 26, of his Parerga and Paralipomena, Schopenhauer wrote:

The tricks, dodges, and chicanery, to which they [men] resort in order to be right in the end, are so numerous and manifold and yet recur so regularly that some years ago I made them the subject of my own reflection and directed my attention to their purely formal element after I had perceived that, however varied the subjects of discussion and the persons taking part therein, the same identical tricks and dodges always come back and were very easy to recognize. This led me at the time to the idea of clearly separating the merely formal part of these tricks and dodges from the material and of displaying it, so to speak, as a neat anatomical specimen.

He "collected all the dishonest tricks so frequently occurring in argument and clearly presented each of them in its characteristic setting, illustrated by examples and given a name of its own." As an additional service, Schopenhauer "added a means to be used against them, as a kind of guard against these thrusts…."

However, when he later revised his book, he found "that such a detailed and minute consideration of the crooked ways and tricks that are used by common human nature to cover up its shortcomings is no longer suited to my temperament and so I lay it aside." He then recorded a few stratagems as specimens for anyone in the future who might care to write a similar essay. He also included, in Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume 2, § 26, an outline of what is essential to every disputation.

The Manuscript Remains left after Schopenhauer's death include a forty–six page section on "Eristic Dialectics". It contains thirty–eight stratagems and many footnotes. There is a preliminary discussion about the distinction between logic and dialectics. E. F. J. Payne has translated these notes into English.[2]

A. C. Grayling edited T. Bailey Saunders' English translation in 2004.[3]


The following lists the 38 stratagems described by Schopenhauer, in the order of their appearance in the book:

  1. The Extension (Dana's Law)
  2. The Homonymy
  3. Generalize Your Opponent's Specific Statements
  4. Conceal Your Game
  5. False Propositions
  6. Postulate What Has to Be Proved
  7. Yield Admissions Through Questions
  8. Make Your Opponent Angry
  9. Questions in Detouring Order
  10. Take Advantage of the Nay-Sayer
  11. Generalize Admissions of Specific Cases
  12. Choose Metaphors Favourable to Your Proposition
  13. Agree to Reject the Counter-Proposition
  14. Claim Victory Despite Defeat
  15. Use Seemingly Absurd Propositions
  16. Arguments Ad Hominem
  17. Defense Through Subtle Distinction
  18. Interrupt, Break, Divert the Dispute
  19. Generalize the Matter, Then Argue Against it
  20. Draw Conclusions Yourself
  21. Meet Him With a Counter-Argument as Bad as His
  22. Petitio principii
  23. Make Him Exaggerate His Statement
  24. State a False Syllogism
  25. Find One Instance to the Contrary
  26. Turn the Tables
  27. Anger Indicates a Weak Point
  28. Persuade the Audience, Not the Opponent
  29. Diversion
  30. Appeal to Authority Rather Than Reason
  31. This Is Beyond Me
  32. Put His Thesis into Some Odious Category
  33. It Applies in Theory, but Not in Practice
  34. Don't Let Him Off the Hook
  35. Will Is More Effective Than Insight
  36. Bewilder Your opponent by Mere Bombast
  37. A Faulty Proof Refutes His Whole Position
  38. Become Personal, Insulting, Rude (argumentum ad personam)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 'The Truth' by AC Grayling in The Art of Always Being Right: Thirty Eight Ways to Win When You Are Defeated, (2004), Gibson Square Books, ISBN 1-903933-61-7
  2. ^ Arthur Schopenhauer, Manuscript Remains in Four Volumes, Edited by Arthur Hübscher, Translated by E.F.J. Payne, Vol. III, "Berlin Manuscripts (1818-1830)," Berg, Oxford/New York/Munich, 1989, ISBN 0-85496-540-8
  3. ^ The Art of Always Being Right: Thirty Eight Ways to Win When You Are Defeated, (2004), Gibson Square Books, ISBN 1-903933-61-7


  • Grayling, A. C. (2004) The Art of Always Being Right: Thirty Eight Ways to Win When You Are Defeated ISBN 1-903933-61-7
  • Parerga und Paralipomena, 1851; English Translation by E. F. J. Payne, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1974, Vol 2, ISBN 0-19-924221-6
  • Arthur Schopenhauer, Manuscript Remains, Volume III, English Translation by E. F. J. Payne, Berg Publishers Ltd., ISBN 0-85496-540-8

External links[edit]