Here I'm going to talk about some dirty tactics that bad and dishonest people often use to try to win arguments without actually finding a flaw in your reasoning. (Though note that most of these aren't always done intentionally, so try not to assume guilt where it may not exist.)
- The untouchable lie
- The gift ploy
- Ideograph abuse
- Linguistic cloaking
- Virtue signal with something uncontroversial
- Disallowing opinion
- Agree to disarm
- Ridiculing hypotheticals
- Independence shaming
This technique consists of making a false factual assertion that you would know and that would win the argument if it were true, and then when your opponent calls you on it, you say "Are you accusing me of lying?" and shame your opponent for this ad hominem attack.
When someone uses this tactic on you, the best way I've found to counter it is to point out two things: firstly, that if no one can be accused of lying then everyone will lie, and secondly, lying to win an argument is not as severe an offense as most people think it is. After all, if you're having an argument about something like politics or religion, you can even argue it's morally right to lie if it convinces someone to believe something less harmful. Still, there's no telling how closed to reason the audience might be. I can only wish you good luck if anyone ever plays this card on you.
I detail this one in the linked article, as it contains enough sub-forms to warrant its own page.
As for how to beat this, pointing out what your opponent is doing probably won't end well in a verbal argument. They'll just take the opportunity to sidetrack you into a sub-argument about whether they are using inflammatory language or not, which isn't what you want - you want to focus on the actual debate. What I'd recommend doing against this is honestly inflaming back - if they're doing it too then they can't criticize you for doing it. Even if it doesn't succeed in provoking them, it'll likely help you keep your own cool, as it's a way of symbolically taking out your anger. Whatever you do, don't give into the temptation to flame them - it's what they want, because it turns the audience against you.
This is one that mostly applies to in-person arguments, and especially to non-intellectual debates (ie. where the objective is to get them to apologize or agree to do something rather than to change their beliefs). After a heated argument, you bring someone a gift, often food, and once they take a bite you make another foray into the argument. It's bullshit because it uses what is ostensibly a gift just to put the opponent in a low-status position where they feel like they owe you a favor, and leverage that to win the argument. And because it's ostensibly a gift, it makes them feel guilty if they call you on it, since you just deny that you meant it as a trick and there's no way for them to prove it. I really haven't found any half-decent way to counter this technique :(
An ideograph is a word with a strong (usually positive) connotation attached, especially one with no clearly defined meaning. Examples of these in modern American political discourse inclue "freedom", "justice", "equality", "terrorism", "feminism", etc. Almost everyone has some words that trigger them like this. The danger is that a smart adversary knows how to use your ideographs against you to manipulate your emotions and make you more receptive to their position. For example, if someone were trying to convince me to support some policy change, they would have much better odds of succeeding if they could find a way to use a word like "freedom" to represent their side. It's important to watch out for your opponent doing this to you in an argument, and try your best to remind yourself that their side isn't actually the one that promotes whatever ideograph they're using on you.
Another thing people do in in-person arguments to mess with your mind is to simply speak for so long that by the time they're done, you've forgotten what their original point was, and so you can't refute it. This leaves you with basically no options except to ask them to remind you. And that just makes it look like you're not really paying attention to your opponent's arguments, which of course casts a horrible light on you. It might be that I'm abnormally vulnerable to this since I clearly have difficulty holding a lot of abstract thought or information in my mind at once. Regardless, what I've started doing to try to counter it is start to speak between their sentences (if you don't have anything prepared you can try something like "Wait a minute" or "Can I speak?" to show you have a rebuttal to make), and if they don't let me interrupt, then at the end I point out what they've done: "How am I supposed to answer you if you won't let me speak?" or similar. If they go for "I'm letting you speak now", be ready with "I tried to speak earlier but you kept cutting me off. Why don't you go back through your arguments one at a time this time so I can actually answer them?"
This is the practice of using words with no clearly defined meaning to prevent the opponent from answering your argument, because they can't figure out exactly what it is. This is separate from ideograph abuse, since these often aren't words with a polarized moral connotation. For example, someone criticizing a work of fiction might say, "the ending is inconsistent with the tone of the story." But to make a criticism like that validly you need to have a clear idea of what a "tone" even is in this context (which I'm sure most people don't - I don't).You'd think it should be easy to just ask for a clear definition and instantly counter this technique. But in practice people seem to almost never do that when faced with this. I've had great success countering it that way, so I guess some people are just really bad at finding the obvious way out of a trap.
I guess there's also the case where someone keeps using unclear words in a definition train and you keep pressing them for a real answer and they finally accuse you of only pretending to not know what they mean. It's pretty dirty. But even that's usually not hard to counter by asking them to confirm that they're accusing you of lying (important to use that exact word), as the people who employ this rotten technique are normally the same ones who wouldn't dare say yes to that.
Very popular in politics. Debaters often open with a statement like, "I believe violence is wrong" or "America has had a past of racism and slavery, and it's important that we demolish the last remains of that". A remark like this, since everyone can get behind it, charms the audience into being instinctively more receptive to your actual claim, which is yet to come. It also subconsciously implies that the opponent does support violence or racism, since they're being contrasted with someone who doesn't. Obviously, there's a lot of overlap with ideograph abuse, but I don't think the two are the same.
As for how to counter this, there's not much you can do since they haven't really committed a fallacy or done anything necessarily dishonest, but you can at least emphasize when it's your turn to speak that you also don't support racism, or whatever the case may be.
This is the act of trying to make your opponent feel that certain positions are "out of bounds" and aren't allowed to even be proposed. (The Overton Window is basically this in politics.) This tactic is often whipped out whenever someone questions what are seen as the foundational principles of the society they live in, such as the legitimacy of government, the non-aggression principle (note the enormous contradiction between the two), that democracy is the best form of government, the legitimacy of taxation, the acceptability of eating animals, or similar. It usually takes the form of someone expressing shock and horror at your opinion and perhaps smearing it for being "anti-American" or some other completely bullshit negative ideograph.
To counter the effect this has on you, all you need is sufficient confidence to not be intimidated out of your position by some asshole's scare tactics. Preventing its effects on whatever audience might be present is quite a bit harder. My recommendation (depending on the situation) would be to point to examples of opinions that were considered unthinkable in the past or in other circles, but are now widely accepted. For example, America's laws used to condone slavery, and even the people fighting for "liberty" in the American Revolution owned slaves. Clearly slavery was evil despite how widely accepted it was, so just because an idea is considered radical does not make it false.
In the case of contingent facts with consequences for philosophy or politics, this often takes a form like "It's been scientifically proven ..." or "You can claim X if you like, but there's no disputing that ...". Of course, there is never "no disputing" a contingent fact known only through other people. Common fallacies relating to citations and statistics apply.
This technique works by making it look like your opponent is being unnecessarily hostile. Your opponent strongly condemns your position at the start of an argument, and so you start by telling them how much you agree with them. Point out as much common ground between your philosophies as possible and make it seem like the difference is smaller than it is. After you've done this and showed your willingness to discuss amicably with someone who thinks your position is horrifyingly evil, you've scored a huge point for yourself in terms of apparent moral high ground. The opponent is forced to either continue the appearance of one-sided hostility or de-escalate their rhetoric, implicitly admitting that they were wrong.
For dealing with this, one thing I'd recommend is just to be careful in an opening statement to not go too far with your rhetoric. If you must (because the opponent's position is genuinely horrifyingly evil), attach clear explanations of why everything you say is evil is so, and perhaps repeat these after the opponent responds. For example, if you're arguing for Anarchism and you righteously point out all the horrifying evils of government and then the opponent reveals that they're a minarchist and agrees with the vast majority of what you said but claims there should be a "minimal government", purely to protect people from crime, you should say something like, "That's an improvement, but it doesn't change that you're funding your activities through coercive theft backed by the threat of violence and therefore are a partial communist". (Note the use of three different ideographs in that rebuttal. Yes, it's ideograph abuse, but that's not immoral when you're using it for truth rather than to prevent people from considering the facts.)
This is the practice of trying to stop your opponent from using a hypothetical example to show how your principle doesn't hold. It takes the form of something like "that's ridiculous, such a situation would never happen" or "but that isn't the case". The truth of the matter is (at least for philosophy and morality) a valid principle must be able to work in any possible situation. It doesn't matter how obscure it is; if it could happen in any world that could exist then philosophy has to cover it.
I don't have any concrete advice on countering this. Our culture has an intensely "realist" mindset that makes its subscribers instinctively averse to considering situations very different from they believe is "real". And it's really dangerous, because thought experiments are one of the main ways of getting through to someone through reason. But I don't know what to do about someone who rejects that.
This mostly shows up in debates about morality, where a bad person says something like "It's insane to think that you are the one who gets to decide what is right". Of course, nothing is less insane. Everyone has conscience and telling someone else that theirs is wrong and they should listen to your word instead is what is really insane. There are a lot of possible approaches to countering this. What I just said is one, but it's by no means the only one.
One possible countermeasure is the immediate response, "But you are?" This is quick, simple, and powerful. It's not as in-depth as the explanation I gave, but might be a better version (perhaps depending on how the independence shaming was phrased).
Important to note is that this statement actually also has a strawman built into it. It's cleverly phrased so that it implies the good person is saying they are the only one who "gets" to decide what is right, when of course no one thinks that. Perhaps the best angle (assuming you won't be interrupted) is, "That's not what I think. No one 'decides' what is right. That's why everyone has to go by their own conscience."
Another possible angle is, "of course I get to decide that. So do you". This has the benefit of likely catching your opponent off-guard by elevating them to your level when they're bullshitting you. Of course, the natural question after this is, "but what if we disagree? Who gets to decide?" In some cases the shamer automatically defeats themselves if they ask that (because then it's clear the arbiter can't be them). But more often this is about statism (they're trying to shame you for disagreeing with the law), and so depending on the specifics the right answer is either "the property owner" (an obviously correct answer that clearly shows the evil of taxation), or it's moral conflict. In that case you might be in a bit of a pinch, because that's a hard idea to stomach for a lot of people (the thought of violence being the right thing even outside of anyone being evil), and somewhat understandably so.