The Greek word eris means to "create strife." The word eristic is derived from the Greek, and it is a literary device referring to an argument where two sides engage in heated verbal opposition and do not reach a conclusion or solve the problem.
When writers use eristic argumentation, the idea is to prolong the conflict rather than reach a conclusion or solve an issue. The purpose of the argument is to sometimes confuse, or even bait, the opponent, and sometimes illogical arguments are used (i.e. conspiracy theory or even "fake news" types of arguments) that are sometimes comical.
In summary, the goal of someone engaging in eristic argumentation or writing is the argument itself, rather than the truth or any type of resolution.
One of the best examples of someone who uses eristic argumentation in the modern day is Donald Trump. Donald Trump often uses techniques designed to win an argument or prolong an argument rather than techniques that lead to resolution. He often calls stories that are unflattering to him "fake news." He attacks opponents personally in his speech, questioning their intellect.
Examples of Eristic from Literature
From Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett-characters argue over whether or not they need bones):
"No no, he does well to ask. Do I need the bones? (He turns them over with the end of his whip.) No, personally I do not need them any more. (Estragon takes a step towards the bones.) But ... but in theory the bones go to the carrier ..."
"Mister ... excuse me, Mister ..."
"You're being spoken to, pig! Reply! (To Estragon.) Try him again."
"Excuse me, Mister, the bones, you won't be wanting the bones?"
Mister! (Lucky bows his head.) Reply! Do you want them or don't you? They're yours ... I don't like it. I've never known him to refuse a bone before ... Nice business it'd be if he fell sick on me!" (He puffs at his pipe.)
From Shakespeare's Macbeth-Lady Macbeth:
"How now, my lord, why do you keep alone,
Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
With them they think on? Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what's done, is done ...
To bed, to bed! There's knocking at the gate:
come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What's
done cannot be undone.-To bed, to bed, to bed!"
Literary Terms Examples