Couplers & Conflict Theorists

I listened to an old Rationally Speaking last night that inadvertently explained to me why there is no discussing things with some people.

Two ways of categorizing people:

a) Mistake Theorists vs. Conflict Theorists

Mistake theorists: “We all want to help the world, but we just disagree on how to
help it.”

Conflict theorists: “Stuff is bad because people have caused these problems, and so we need to defeat those people.”

b) Couplers vs. Decouplers

“In a nutshell, decouplers want to be able to talk about the specific claim,
or the specific disagreement, without context. We should just be able to
isolate these specific, factual questions and figure out who’s right.
And the non-decouplers don’t think that’s feasible or desirable. And they’re
kind of suspicious that the alleged decouplers really are decoupling, as
opposed to just trying to smuggle in a lot of attitudes and implications while
claiming to be decoupling.”

The other day a friend of mine complained about the writer of an editorial being “disingenuous.” I couldn’t understand it. How do you know he’s being disingenuous? Wouldn’t you have to read his mind? Or at least know him a hell of a lot better?

Now I get it – friend is a coupler. The fact is that the editorial writer had a reputation of being against affirmative action based on race. This is a no-no attitude in friend’s worldview. Ergo when the editorial writer tried to make it clear that he was not against affirmative action based on socioeconomic background, friend calls “disingenuous.” From friend’s point of view, editorial writer is just trying to catch you off guard so he can “smuggle in a lot of attitude.”

Needless to say I’m a decoupler and mistake theorist.

If you’re not going to give someone the benefit of the doubt for arguing in good faith, I don’t think you should engage at all.

2 thoughts on “Couplers & Conflict Theorists

  1. There are 2 kinds of people in the world:
    1. People who think there are 2 kinds of people in the world. Let’s call them bifurcaters. Dividing dilemmas into dichotomies is neat and orderly.
    2. People who are comfortable with the asymmetry, complexity, imponderablity and spectral immensity of real life.


    1. So maybe there are more like 10 or 20 kinds of people; that’s not the important point. Point is coupling vs. decoupling is really helping me to understand the people I could never seem to have productive arguments with.


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