‘I don’t believe in argument,’ he said, looking out into the darkness.
‘You don’t?’ Erens said, genuinely surprised. ‘Shit, and I thought I was the cynical one.’
‘It’s not cynicism,’ he said flatly. ‘I just think people overvalue argument because they like to hear themselves talk.’
‘Oh well, thank you.’
‘It’s comforting, I suppose.’ He watched the stars wheel, like absurdly slow shells seen at night; rising, peaking, falling… (And reminded himself that the stars too would explode, perhaps, one day.) ‘Most people are not prepared to have their minds changed, and I think they know in their hearts that other people are just the same, and one of the reasons people become angry when they argue is that they realise just that, as they trot out their excuses.’
‘Excuses, eh? Well, if this ain’t cynicism, what is?’
‘Yes, excuses. I strongly suspect the things people believe in are usually just what they instinctively feel is right; the excuses, the justifications, the things you’re supposed to argue about, come later. They’re the least important part of the belief. That’s why you can destroy them, win an argument, prove the other person wrong, and still they believe what they did in the first place. You’ve attacked the wrong thing.’
‘So what do you suggest one does, Professor, if one is not to indulge in this futile… arguing stuff?’
‘Agree to disagree,’ he said. ‘Or fight.’
He shrugged. ‘What else is left?’
– Iain M Banks, Use of Weapons.