Victory without Truth

Convincing someone and being right aren't the same thing.

Trying to arrive at the truth, and trying to convince others of what you consider a truth, are usually completely different things.

Sophistry is fallacious but superficially plausible reasoning.

From what Plato called the Sophists – those who sought victory in debate rather than truth.

Incidentally, Sophists were also teachers of virtue and wisdom. In many ways perhaps, the forerunners of modern ‘life-coaches’.


“It is not truth that matters, but victory

Adolf Hitler

Sophistry becomes about victory – convincing people.

It’s one thing to convince the person you’re talking to.

That depends on both of you. You need to either be right, or a good persuader, or both. And he needs to either be gullible, or open-minded, or both.

Mostly though, it seems to be about convincing other people. Perhaps it’s harder for people to change their minds – it might feel like ‘losing’.

So how do you convince people without being right?

There are three parties you can work on – you, your ‘opponent’, and the audience.

Your Opponent

Discrediting your opponent or his words usually works well.

Paul Graham’s hierarchy of disagreement shows how you can do this, though there are plenty of other ways.

The most common – attack your opponent.

Name-calling is a good way to entertain your audience and discredit your opponent without bringing any substance into the discussion.

Slightly more intellectual is ad hominem – if a billionaire argues against raising tax rates for the rich, you can just discredit his arguments as motivated without giving them any consideration.

If you don’t want to attack your opponent directly, you can attack him through his words instead.

The easiest is labelling.

Anyone who says X is ‘racist / sexist / communist / etc.’

This seems to be very effective – probably because people don’t want to be accused of these labels – so they think if they don’t disagree with whoever is accused of them, they’ll be accused of the same thing.

Now if you decide to keep the discussion ‘clean’ and refrain from attacking your opponent, you can attack his words while still keeping the discussion at its low level.

Use tone to your advantage. Forcefully refuting someone, labelling his arguments as trash, without actually giving any justification is pretty effective.

Non-sequitur is a logical fallacy that means ‘it doesn’t follow’.

‘If you listen to him, he’ll take your money and put it in some hare-brained scheme’.

Use non-sequitur to instill fear in the audience about what’ll happen if your opponent wins.

Slippery slope is a similar but even better logical fallacy, trying to show how a small step will ultimately culminate in a much larger event (once you go down a slippery slope, it’s hard to get back up).

‘If you take a single drink, you won’t be able to stop and you’ll get addicted, then you’ll mess up at work and lose your job, and then your spouse will leave you.’

Now what if you don’t want to attack your opponent, and you don’t want to intentionally misinterpret his words?

You can still win through sophistry while being honest.

Pick a very minor point, perhaps a mistake on your opponents part or an unpopular opinion of his.

All you have to do is play it up, make it as though that’s his central point, and try to refute it, all the while ignoring everything else he said.


This one’s more subtle.

The first way to win was to pull your opponent down.

Another is to artificially elevate yourself.

A patronizing tone and lofty words helps achieve this.

‘You’ll learn with time’.

‘With time, you will understand why I was right’.

‘When I was your age I used to think that way too’.

This is subtle – in fact, sometimes people do this without any wrong intentions, because they’re not aware of how they come across to the other party. It’s easy to let it go if you realize this.

But it’s also more annoying when you know it’s intentional, because it’s clear that others usually don’t realize this and get impressed.

When I hear this, I usually hear ‘I don’t have any response to what you said, so I’ll just pretend to sound wiser than you.’

A sophist uses this to give the impression of standing on a higher perch than their opponent and looking down at him, supposedly waiting for the day he’ll reach the same height and acknowledge his mistake.

If you can’t give a person a reason or explanation, or at the very least acknowledge that you can’t, you shouldn’t expect them to take you up just because you can make yourself sound wise.

Another option is the good old non-sequitur again – except this time, you use it not to discredit your opponent, but to win support for yourself.

‘If we had a dictatorship, we’d grow much faster’.

‘If you eat meat or drink, you’ll develop loose morals’.

The relationship between the two is tenuous at best, but people usually accept the statement at face value, though the second doesn’t at all follow inevitably from the first.

Your Audience

Flattery sometimes works well.

‘You people aren’t stupid enough to listen to him’.

‘Upright, loyal people like you will definitely listen to me’.

Sometimes you can bring people to your side without them even knowing it.

‘We don’t agree with you’.

Words like ‘we’, ‘us’ make it look like it’s you and the audience v/s someone else.


Incidentally, there’s another quote from the same person who believed truth mattered less than victory.

“I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.”

Adolf Hitler

Convincing others is easier, especially large groups.

Typically, intelligence is inversely proportional to the size of the group.

It’s hard to imagine rallying thousands of people through sophisticated regressions and pie charts.

Tiny, byte-sized catchphrases are much more effective.

That’s inevitable. When you address an audience, you have to cater to the lowest common denominator.

Imagine you could arrange the audience based on intelligence percentile.

Tailor your pitch to the 99th percentile, and you reach only 1%.

Tailor it to the 10th percentile, and 90% of people can follow you.

Sure, you’ll lose out on the highbrows and those who can think for themselves, but you’ll still capture a much larger chunk by appealing to emotion rather than reason.

For all its flaws, this is also the redeeming factor of social media.

That it’s possible to reach out to millions of people, but individually.

The same person alone or in a small group is completely different when in a group.

Therefore you can tailor your content to individuals but achieve distribution comparable to groups.

And individuals too can connect to like-minded people, and perhaps even form groups, which, despite the shortcomings of groups, still manage to function somewhat as individuals joined together rather than a single homogeneous unit.

Summing Up

To win an argument without any substance then, you can play on all three parties involved – yourself, your opponent, and your audience.

Whether it’s worth doing so is a different question.

But it’s good to know how it’s done, even if you don’t use it yourself, so you can recognize it when it happens.



Sir , if a mother works as a govt teacher and do house chores too but a father works only professionally and doesnot contribute in house financially and he does not do single house chores and if his daughter asks them why only mother doing double jobs they reply becoz she is wife it’s her duty and she is woman now they force and apply same formula on daughter you should help with house chores becoz I am girl and I am destined to help my mother and work in the kitchen and my brother need not to help my mother becoz he is boy . What do you think how can a daughter of the story prooves truth or. Get out of this gender based inequality


You wrote the article but I don’t know yet how to apply this even now . I read your book beyond Human yet I don’t know what can be the convenient way to convince them
I hope for once you give your opinion of solution please

Sweta Tripathi

Just decide to implement and you will be able to do so , you don’t have to expect perfection in ur first attempt itself and not like after practising for 1 year you will master it for eg: karma yoga is a lifetime yoga once you stop practising you will get out of shape …. Whatever sir wrote in his book or article is not like he has achieved it to his extreme level but he is still practising it to make it more stronger once he would stop then he would too lose it….

So keep repeating and don’t get frustrated when u fail just keep falling and keep rising but don’t quit bcoz again u will come back to ur beginner stage which would make things more worst. …


“Whether it’s worth doing so is a different question.”

Glad u wrote this line.I have always felt it was pointless to try to win an argument without substance.

But I’m realising now, that a lot people do this stuff (hopefully unintentionally).

And it is sadly a life skill, I’m not really good 🙁
Maybe because mostly, I have always avoided pointless argument to prevent energy drain.

Except one with my younger brother.
He often uses this stuff..

“Use tone to your advantage. Forcefully refuting someone, labelling his arguments as trash, without actually giving any justification is pretty effective”

Which now i can relate,as u wrote this.

And i use this stuff–

‘You’ll learn with time’.

‘With time, you will understand why I was right’.

So it was hilarious reading your post and relating to our novice arguments 🤣

But i believe one must be aware of such tactics..Because a lot of people out there use it consciously to turn events in their favour in all possible spheres (irrespective of the real truth)

So doubly glad u mentioned this

“But it’s good to know how it’s done, even if you don’t use it yourself, so you can recognize it when it happens”


Hi Pratyush,
Voltaire once said, “common sense is not so common.” (Which is in fact a big truth) There is also dearth of available material on common sense. It has been loosely defined and interpreted. Thomas paine wrote about Common sense, that too in socio-political context. I have read it. But in general life common sense has different meaning and uses.

Will you please answer few questions on common sense :
-What do you understand by common sense ?
-Do you think it is a visible sign of intelligence ?
-Are some people enriched with it and many lack it ?
-If you can suggest few ways to enhance common sense quotient.


hello sir
excellent article. But, how did you come up with these thoughts, is it by reading books or just experience or both. If reading books have anything to do with these please suggest to me some.


Please consider writing an article on being selfish


Sir, how can we contact you.
What is your mail id sir.

Sweta Tripathi

All the time when I was reading this, in my mind all those news anchors and stupid politicians were popping up …like they all do the same they just wanna win not by truth but by the power of words and tones thats it all trash … you won’t get anything worth hearing from their long spoken speeches…


Great article sir….Learnt a lot…🙏