I Cannot Make Him Change His Mind

A common refrain I often hear from readers is that “there seems to be no way I can convince anyone to change their mind about anything”. I am very sympathetic with that difficulty.

I would like to suggest that the positive thing we can do is to learn Critical Thinking and after we do so to challenge the other person to do the same thing. The more a person knows how to think the better that person will be in making good judgements.

Critical Thinking is now being taught in our schools and colleges. Our educational system has decided that teaching students what to think is useful for training them to get good jobs but is insufficient for later life. Since most adults have never been taught CT they must learn it on their own.

Those who are already Critical Thinkers can go immediately to step two and start the effort to convince others to become Critical Thinkers.


coberst :

whenever i meet one of those persons, i use the following method. i firstly take the time to explain to them popper’s falsifiability principle. if they fail to grasp it, or refuse to grasp it, well, i wasn’t all interested in talking to them. if they do grasp it, simply ask under what circumstances will they abandon their present persuasion.

i never heard of any better method.

Under what circumstances would you abandon your present persuasion that every event has some cause? Or, your present persuasion that nothing can be in two places at the same time? Or, even your present persuasion that it is wrong to torture an innocent child? Or, for that matter, your present persuasion that you exist?


How many people do you know who know anything about Popper or much less his theory. It seems much easier to throw a lasso around his or her neck tie him or her up and force feed them CT for ten days.

None of my friends know anything about Popper or Ct for that matter. Our work is cut out for us.


When I cannot convince the other person I stop there before anything gets heated. The other person just simply doesn’t have what it takes to be convinced. Eventually, when the time is right and depending on whether or not they needed to be convinced this lesson or not they will learn on their own. They will then think back to the person who tried to convince them and realize how close minded they were being.

I have found that it is impossible to change anyone unless you are at the right position in their life. If they look up to you, trust, and respect you, you could convince them the world would end tomorrow (father or mother figure, religion, etc.), but a stranger walking down the street would have little affect on them. So boys and girls the lesson here is if you can get a person to look up to you and you have a story that sounds plausible you can manipulate their mind! You could tell them that some supreme being ran them down some assembly line in a human factory called Heaven and they will most likely believe you.

No disrespect to religion, but it poses such a good example for my post.

Yes, this is a tough problem. What to do when you just know with certainty that the other person is absolutely, verifiably wrong, and - therefore - being close-minded. Like those damn theists.

It’s a puzzler all right.

Of course I suppose one could always step back for a second and ask oneself if there might be something about the other person’s argument that one is missing, or misunderstanding. Or if there might be some potential for some possible shred of truth in the other person’s viewpoint. Or some reason to at least consider it a little more seriously.

Nah. Probably the best thing to do is just move on and find somebody who appreciates and understands the absolute, verifiablity of our certain knowledge about everything. Somebody more open-minded.

It’s probably best to engage in productive discourse with someone who has similar or equal critical skills. Because if you don’t, the conversation becomes less about the topic at hand, and more about you teaching them a lesson in critical thinking, and unless you’re a teacher or parent, you’ve lost them. It’s like saying let’s play football, and discovering the person hasn’t yet learned how to walk. Then you start trying to teach them how to walk so they can play football. But they don’t know the word “walk,” so you have to teach them the word “walk,” so you can then teach them HOW to walk, so you can then play football, and all this over a turkey sandwich at the diner…it gets pretty exhausting and humiliating for everyone. It’s sad to think you have to treat some adults as if they were children in matters that depend on complex critical thinking, such as making good decisions independent of the pre-programmed routes. Patience, kindness, playing at their level. Also, saying “I find that all my decisions were better when I decided to look into the art of critical thinking…” or “Hmm, I wonder how you’re going to sort all this out rationally, and have fun doing it…”

Could you define Critical Thinking a little more? I’m with you in theory, but there’s a lot of grey area in your argument that Critical Thinking is ‘knowing how to think’ which leads to ‘making good judgments.’

I take a critical approach to critical thinking.


Wait, are you serious? Here’s two responses:

If you’re not serious: Yah! Screw the closed minded bastards!

If you are serious: No! Be compassionate. Be understanding of people, not just ideas. By entrenching yourself in opposition to others on the basis of them being closed minded you become them. Don’t be them, they’re closed minded!


Funny, the first question I had, was why would I want to convince anyone of anything? I can only say how I see whatever it is I’m seeing. I might even be able to explain how I got there, but the other person can only see the whatever it is from their perspective, which may include enough like-experience for some agreement - or not.

To say I can’t convince the other person is really just saying I can’t get the other person to agree with the way I am seeing the whatever it is I’m seeing, which is impossible in the first place. Occasionally, there is enough like-experience or shared experience to foster close agreement, but that simply happens as it happens. There is no way to ‘convince’ anyone of anything.


It was pure sarcasm.

in order :

1.if i was given an example of an event that had no cause.
2.if i was given an example of an object that was in two places at the same time
3.i do not think it is wrong to torture an innocent child, i think it’s distasteful. you can’t discuss taste.
4.the day i die

coberst : it’s really simple.

you say “do you agree that if a proposition does not include a defined criteria which would render it false, it can not be true ?”
it’s a yes or no question.

But you don’t have to convince “anyone” of “anything,” you only have to convince another party (or parties), your customer, to buy your product. Persuasion is marketing, that’s all. Being “right” in that context means that you’ve successfully closed the sale of your opinion.

The goal of entering into this transaction is no different from selling your laundry detergent: to sell something that you have to someone who may or may not want or believe they need it. It’s getting someone to either happily replace an existing idea or happily believe that he’s still operating within his existing morality if he replaces his idea with yours. Purchase of the product (or, acceptance of the idea) is the successful result of creating desire for exactly what you have to sell. So you focus on the want, because the perception of need is secondary to that and relatively malleable. Desire for your product is created by understanding the customer (which will shape your appeal to him, the optimal mix of reason and emotion, for example), understanding the environment within which he operates well enough so that you can convey in language he understands its shortcomings or how it can be even better if he has your product. This is pretty easy to do if you start out in agreement with him at some fundamental level, terribly challenging if you don’t.

I think that philosophers tend to underplay the importance of emotions in selling their ideas, perhaps because they find them to be too fuzzy, that it’s unseemly not to move someone by reasoned argument alone. However, if you’re going to present a philosophical opinion with the goal of getting someone else to buy it, then you’d better understand at the necessary level how your customer (the guy you’re trying to convince) is responding emotionally to your presentation. For example, it may be productive to throw in a lot of references to various philosophical schools if that’s what either impresses or engages the customer. If you do, however, you must pre-determine whether or not you need to explain them and at what level of detail (will this insult him?) or assume that he already knows the rudiments (will this instill insecurity if he doesn’t? – not necessarily an impediment to the sale).

I’ve seen instances on this site where discussion of ideas between intelligent and erudite individuals degenerated into base and juvenile ad hom behavior. Why? Because they weren’t paying attention. Now, it’s quite possible that Person A’s nature may be that his goal is not really to convince Person B to replace his idea with Person A’s but, if they get into a spat, it’s likely because either or both have a lot invested in the emotional need to be “right”. Yet they don’t understand that “right” is nothing more than the end result of the sale. And they have the knowledge of the product but lack skill in characterizing it, through effective persuasion techniques, in a way that makes the other person see the value of it for himself.


I think you make a very important point and that is that we have to find a way to know just where in the world of enlightenment a person is. We have to discover what means that person has in the way of understanding. No person can understand subject AA if they do not have the means–the prerequisits.

I almost never meet up with a person who already understands CT so CT is, for me, a good starting point.


My answer is, obviously, no.

For instance, it is true that all triangles have three sides. What is the “defined criterion” that would render that proposition, false?


This is a post I generally make to a person who askes me about CT.

Our schools and colleges are beginning to introduce their students to a subject matter called “Critical Thinking”. Educational institutions in the US have, in the past; focused almost entirely upon presenting to their students the knowledge becoming a good citizen and valuable employee.

Introducing Critical Thinking signifies a recognition that “just the facts” form of education is not sufficient. Our schools and colleges have come to recognize that knowledge alone proves insufficient for good citizenship in a dynamic technology driven democracy. It might be analogues with the homily about giving a man a fish versus teaching the man how to fish. Teaching a student what to think will get us through tomorrow but knowing how to think will help us navigate a lifetime. CT might be thought of as preparing the student for a lifetime of critical analysis.

CT differs from other subject matter such as mathematics and geography in that it requires, for success, that the student develop a significant change in attitude. Attitude adjustment is the underlying factor that makes CT the important factor it will become in a citizen’s life.

Anyone who has been in military service recognizes the significant attitude adjustment introduced into all recruits in the eight weeks of boot camp. During the first eight weeks of military service each recruit is introduced to the proper military attitude. During the eight weeks of basic training there is certain knowledge and skills that the recruit learns but primarily s/he undergoes a significant attitude adjustment.

I would identify the CT attitude adjustment to be a movement from naïve common sense to critical self-consciousness. I would say that it is an attitude that might be called ‘philosophy light’. Education in philosophy engenders a critically radical self-consciousness and CT is just a critical self-consciousness.

This represents my view and I suspect you can ask a dozen teachers of CT and you will get a dozen different definitions. I think this is because CT that ‘takes’ for a student is a subjective transformation. (I am not a teacher just a self-actualized scholar.)

The subjective transformation of CT is, I think, especially important to citizens of a democracy because CT that ‘takes’ produces a citizen less dependent upon authority and more intellectually mature. An adult with CT skills who is also a self-actualized scholar is what I think all democracies should promote.

I think a good read to begin with is this one


your contention about triangles is unfortunately not true. it is valid. not the same thing. fact of the matter, nothing is true about triangles, they being an abstract notion.

THe problem with a laissez-faire or nonchalant approach to convincing others is that beliefs lead to actions. Beliefs like those of the 911 terrorists, in terms of justification, are no different than a Christian who believes in heaven. (The outcome is fdifferent, but not the way they arrived at the beliefs…this is important to note.) You have to argue. Those who think more freely and adopt an a=a approach to working through problems will always be at war with those who passively embrace error or whatever they’re fed.

“I’m okay you’re okay” is bullshit. Nobody is okay. We will be like screaming alarm clocks waking eachother up for a long time before the world knows peace. There’s work to do. Any ideas to speed up the process are welcome, and early courses in critical thinking are a superb idea. It makes me feel almost militant about it. and the human element of argumentation must be mastered to reduce alienation and defensiveness.

signs gamer’s petition

But the presupposition I have sensed here today, Gamer, is that critical thinking will get us all to arrive at the same place. There are many critical thinkers here at ILP who disagree about worldviews vehemently. The idea I’m picking up is that if somebody disagrees with somebody, then one of those people must obviously have been ill the day CT was taught.