Moving the Goalposts

GoalpostHow many times have you been in an argument with someone and the other person changes their stance in the middle of the conversation? And how many times have you just gone along with it?

Usually, the arguer does not completely reverse his or her position. They just tweak their argument a little.

Skepticwiki.org lists an example about a movie reviewer here.

In the example, the antagonist makes a claim with an example that is incorrect. Then the antagonist keeps making excuses for why his examples are incorrect.

The antagonist did not make the goal on his first kick, so he moves the goalposts in order to score.

I know that this happens to me all the time.  And I just go right along with it.  For some reason, I ignore the obvious goalpost movement and continue to argue against the main point.

But what I should be doing is acknowledging that the opponent is compromising his argument.  His point may be completely valid and it is just the one example that is wrong.  But since he is unwilling to admit that he is wrong in anyway, his main argument is weakened by the incorrect example.

If I want to come to an agreement with my opponent, I could try to find a working example for him.  If I can think of one, I could identify how the example works with my side of the argument also.

If I just want to win the argument, I could force him to admit that he is wrong. Immediately after that, I would site examples that work for my side and state that it was the end of the argument.

Photo courtesy of timparkinson 

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