Telling Someone to Grow Up is a Bad Argument

I recently read this post by Fast Karate’s Dave where he takes a game journalist to task for some blanket statements the guy made in regards to ideas like political correctness and freedom of speech. Dave makes good points about how these terms are abused to try and create the image of some noodle-armed over-sensitive people who can’t handle the truth. However, I find he also does something which can spoil the effectiveness of his arguments tremendously, which is that his conclusion simply amounts to telling the journalist (and others) to essentially “grow up.”

That article is not the first time I’ve seen this approach, and nor will it probably be the last, but I have to say that there is something problematic about structuring  well-reasoned arguments with a lot of good points to consider, particularly regarding topics such as the portrayal of sex and gender in media, and then just ending it with a simple demand to grow up, man up, get some common sense, or any other number of variations.

Certainly, as people mature they generally become wiser and may realize some of the arguments they made in the past were built on narrow perspectives or naive assumptions. However, the demand to grow up pushes the debate away from having points of discussion where people explain their sides and why they think it’s important that the other be convinced of their points, and into this vague space where certain intangibles are tacitly understood, as if to say that the point being made is so obvious if only you would catch up to the social norms which govern these interactions. Again, that’s not to say that the arguments preceding that jump couldn’t be perfectly cogent and even just outright correct, but if the idea at hand is so obvious that all it takes is for a person to “grow up” then the debate probably wouldn’t be happening in the first place.

I feel like if we can avoid narrowing the discussion to an argument against the other side’s immaturity then there wouldn’t be quite as much backlash.

7 thoughts on “Telling Someone to Grow Up is a Bad Argument

  1. I think that line of thought that you pointed out about “growing up” fits right in with that guy’s attitude about conflating good or bad, say, writing, with what is acceptable or unacceptable writing. Basically if he disagrees with it, it’s childish and cancerous.

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  2. I can’t wait to read the responses to this response to Dave’s response to an article responding to people’s responses to video game trailers.

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  3. If Dave hasn’t edited his post, I actually don’t really see a tone of telling people to “grow up” in his words. Maybe whether or not you take offense at his tone is all in the eyes of the beholder – ie. if you’re more likely to agree with him, you don’t find his tone that combative and belittling, and vice versa?

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  4. I haven’t read Dave’s post, but to me this seems like following a string of reasonable arguments (the rationalist world) with an emotional one, to get a reaction out of the other side: the majority of people who aren’t rational, won’t understand rational argument, and can only be riled up by a statement like “grow up”. Sure, it may antagonize a small part of the group we’re trying to convince, but the rest will start caring about the article and try to take it to heart, in order not to be branded as children (yay group psychology).

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  5. You are describing an ad hominem. It is a formal logical fallacy and thus weakens any argument by its inclusion. Dave’s love of this and similar techniques (I can’t remember if he used it in this specific article, but he makes quite frequent use of them in his podcast and other work) has a real tendency to cripple his arguments.

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  6. Dave is arguing two things, the more important one is to combat a critical environment in which his or your critical approach will become ineffective. The one thing I can’t agree with him though is his insistance that “real adults” deserve and demand “adult” treatment from their entertainment. What one deserves and what one demands are two different things, the latter one being a big flaky at times.

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