This is another quote from Magee, but this time it’s about his friend Karl Popper, and what Magee learnt from Popper’s way of arguing. I would love to read more polemical theology that was written following Popper’s example (and I would love to write polemical theological with Popper as a guide).
“One of the things that impressed me most, and has influenced me science, was Popper’s way of dealing with opponents. I had always loved argument, and over the years I had become quite good at identifying weak points in an opponent’s defence and bringing concentrated fire to bear on them. This is what virtually all polemicists have sought to do since ancient times, even the most famous of them. But Popper did the opposite. He sought out his opponent’s case at its strongest and attacked that. Indeed, he would improve it, if he possibly could, before attacking it – over several pages of prior discussion he would remove avoidable contradictions or weaknesses, close loopholes, pass over minor deficiencies, let his opponent’s case have the benefit of every possible doubt, and reformulate the most appealing parts of it in the most rigorous, powerful and effective arguments he could find – and then direct his onslaught against it. The outcome, when successful, was devastating. At the end there would be nothing left to say in favour of the opposing case except for tributes and concessions that Popper had himself already made. It was incredibly exciting intellectually.” Bryan Magee, Confessions of a Philosopher pp152-153