Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Arguing with a Narcissist

If you have ever argued with a narcissist, you'll appreciate this tongue-in-cheek piece on professional arguing (i.e., philosophy) by Professor Gary L. Hardcastle, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point: Themes in Contemporary Analytic Philosophy as Reflected in the Work of Monty Python.

He doesn't mention narcissists and children with imaginary friends, but he must have had them in mind. For, the first theme in Professional Arguing he discusses is the argument between mataphysisists and positivists.

Positivists valiantly tried to insist that a statement must be verifiable. Hardcastle says the positivists (scientific types as opposed to artists) were sick of arguers spiralling off "

...into bizarro metaphysics, where you could say anything at all and get away with it because there was no way to determine the truth of what you said or indeed if you even really said anything at all in the first place.

...

If you're out to verify the statement 'The cat is on the mat', for example, then presumably you're in search of certain experiences--like seeing the cat on the mat. ...[However] verifying that the cat is on the mat is not a matter of experience alone, but of accepting all sorts of other different statements, all the way from 'Light rays travel in straight lines' to 'I am not having another one of those darn flashbacks.' ...So if you want to maintain that the cat is on the mat when everybody else denies it, you can do so by deciding that certain atmospheric phenomena are making it look like there's no cat, or that the cat on the mat is a special kind of transparent cat, and so on.

Uh-HUH. That's why I call philosophers "professional arguers."

You see, philosophers from way, way, back in the analytic tradition believed deeply that, one way or another, reason was the proper foundation for society; it was both the mechanism that runs society and the grease on which the mechanism turned.

Ever interested to be of use, philosophers have worked hard at coming up with a theory of argument to describe how reason ought to work in daily life. ...But, as some of you might have noticed in Philosophy 1504, the theory of argument asks that you grant certain crucial statements beforehand, without argument. Statements like, for example, that something can't both be true and false at the same time. Well, if holism is true, then we can't count on our fellow citizens accepting such statements. Nor can we count on being able to convince them that they ought to accept such statements, if they don't! We shouldn't even call them crazy if they don't accept such statements, though we do it anyway!

And to illustrate such an argument with unreason--one you win everywhichway, leaving the narcissist without a leg to stand on, but never win--Professor Hardcastle gives us this clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Scene 4: The Black Knight. You are King Arthur, the narcissist is the Black Knight.

Enjoy.

BLACK KNIGHT:
Aaaagh!
BLACK KNIGHT:
Aaagh!
GREEN KNIGHT:
Ooh!
[stab]
BLACK KNIGHT:
Aagh!
GREEN KNIGHT:
Oh!
Ooh! Uuh.
BLACK KNIGHT:
Aaaagh!
[clang]
BLACK KNIGHT and GREEN KNIGHT:
Agh!, oh!, etc.


GREEN KNIGHT:
Aaaaaah! Aaaaaaaaah!
[woosh]
[BLACK KNIGHT kills GREEN KNIGHT]
[thud]
[scrape]
BLACK KNIGHT:
Umm!
[clop clop clop]

ARTHUR:
You fight with the strength of many men, Sir Knight.
[pause]
I am Arthur, King of the Britons.
[pause]
I seek the finest and the bravest knights in the land to join me in my court at Camelot.
[pause]

You have proved yourself worthy. Will you join me?
[pause]
You make me sad. So be it. Come, Patsy.
BLACK KNIGHT:
None shall pass.
ARTHUR:
What?
BLACK KNIGHT:
None shall pass.
ARTHUR:
I have no quarrel with you, good Sir Knight, but I must cross this bridge.
BLACK KNIGHT:
Then you shall die.
ARTHUR:
I command you, as King of the Britons, to stand aside!
BLACK KNIGHT:
I move for no man.
ARTHUR:
So be it!
ARTHUR and BLACK KNIGHT:
Aaah!, hiyaah!, etc.
[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's left arm off]

ARTHUR:
Now stand aside, worthy adversary.
BLACK KNIGHT:
'Tis but a scratch.
ARTHUR:
A scratch? Your arm's off!
BLACK KNIGHT:
No, it isn't.
ARTHUR:
Well, what's that, then?
BLACK KNIGHT:
I've had worse.
ARTHUR:
You liar!
BLACK KNIGHT:
Come on, you pansy!
[clang]
Huyah!
[clang]
Hiyaah!
[clang]
Aaaaaaaah!
[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's right arm off]

ARTHUR:
Victory is mine!
[kneeling]
We thank Thee Lord, that in Thy mer--
BLACK KNIGHT:
Hah!
[kick]
Come on, then.
ARTHUR:
What?
BLACK KNIGHT:
Have at you!
[kick]
ARTHUR:
Eh. You are indeed brave, Sir Knight, but the fight is mine.
BLACK KNIGHT:
Oh, had enough, eh?
ARTHUR:
Look, you stupid bastard. You've got no arms left.
BLACK KNIGHT:
Yes, I have.
ARTHUR:
Look!
BLACK KNIGHT:
Just a flesh wound.
[kick]
ARTHUR:
Look, stop that.
BLACK KNIGHT:
Chicken!
[kick]
Chickennn!
ARTHUR:
Look, I'll have your leg.
[kick]
Right!
[whop]
[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's right leg off]

BLACK KNIGHT:
Right. I'll do you for that!
ARTHUR:
You'll what?
BLACK KNIGHT:
Come here!
ARTHUR:
What are you going to do, bleed on me?
BLACK KNIGHT:
I'm invincible!
ARTHUR:
You're a looney.
BLACK KNIGHT:
The Black Knight always triumphs! Have at you! Come on, then.
[whop]
[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's last leg off]

BLACK KNIGHT:
Oh? All right, we'll call it a draw.
ARTHUR:
Come, Patsy.
BLACK KNIGHT:
Oh. Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you. I'll bite your legs off!

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4 Comments:

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Wilding said...

This cracked me up! It reduces the malignant narcissist to size, in more ways than one. Thanks!

 
At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy? YOU again ROCK.
The Holy Grail has been in my DVD player for months. I was raised on Python. Thank GOD. I am indeed very silly. I personally believe they are prophets (The Meaning of Life, The Holy Grail, The Life of Brian, especially poignant as we enter the Age of Character and the Photon Belt)...seriously, it is my personal opinion that Monty Python are a LIFE LESSON in grandiosity being smashed all to hell for being silly.
I would also like to say that often in my life I as a woman have been dismissed as "philosophical" or, "Oh, so we have a PHILOSOPHER here, have we?" for expressing personal truths gleaned from experienceand actually living one's life as opposed to sitting on my fat ass TALKING.
My truth is this: YOU DON'T NEED PHILOSOPHERS OR PHILOSOPHICAL OPINION(S) when you can FEEL, you numbskull.
I hate narcissists, Kathy. F%%%ing HATE THEM. I cannot believe how much hatred I have within me. All that s*** about "compassion" and "unity"? Sorry. So VERY sorry.
Their DEATH NOTICES will bring me peace.
...though I could be arguing in my spare time. GG

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

British comedy mercillessly pokes fun grandiosity. (Could that be targeted at anything in the British national character?) It's hilarious. Not only Monty Python but also "Keeping Up Appearances."

Brits know how to poke fun at themselves, and that is a wonderful and rare national character trait. It's why, I think, British humor just slays Americans. It makes them soooo lovable!

 
At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Rhea said...

My sister is thinking a lot about the family we grew up in and narcissism. I will forward a link to your blog to her!

 

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