Rules for Rational Discussion

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I saw this and didn't know if it belonged here or in Everything Else. In any event, I thought it was too awesome not to share.

Link

IMAGE(http://critical-thinkers.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/A-Flowchart-to-Help-You-Determine-if-Yoursquore-Having-a-Rational-Discussion.jpg)

Of course it doesn't really follow that because someone breaches the rules of a discussion that their points are all conceded even if it is sensible to terminate the discussion at the point. The Matthew fletcher comment in the original link's comments makes some good points too
http://critical-thinkers.com/2011/03...

Of course, while we're at it everyone should read Jamie Whyte's excellent Crimes Against Logic:
http://www.amazon.com/Crimes-Against...

One of the basic problems with this chart, aside from conflating empiricism and rationalism, is that it assumes that you "have a position," or hold only one position. I find this assumption tripping up communications I try to send on this message board quite often. I am often assumed to hold a position I do not, sometimes just because of a phrasing glitch, or I am assumed to be making arguments I am not, just because I am making arguments "that side" has used, or something that vaguely sounds similar.

It is possible for a person to not have a side.

Yes, LarryC. And those who have no side let people know that they're taking a position for the sake of argument. And people who don't even take a position for the sake of argument do nothing but confuse everyone involved, and come across as the worst kind of troll.

Kind of reminds me of the difference between communications in the East v. West paradigm. Those from the west are accustomed to putting their points in front of them for an active defense. Those from the east are far more indirect when it comes to debate. I find it infuriating, but I could at least try understand it if it was a cultural phenomenon. Of course, it would also help if there was a non-judgmental reciprocity in that attempt at cultural understanding, but I digress.

Regarding the chart, I think the first box is silly. If you could conceive of a reason why your idea is wrong, what's the point of debate? Things that sway me are often things I hadn't considered. I mean, if the point of that box is to say you should keep an open mind, so be it, but as it's worded now, it discourages debate on things that people care about the most.

I don't trust featureless white guys who stand beside giant question marks.

Grubber788 wrote:

Kind of reminds me of the difference between communications in the East v. West paradigm. Those from the west are accustomed to putting their points in front of them for an active defense. Those from the east are far more indirect when it comes to debate. I find it infuriating, but I could at least try understand it if it was a cultural phenomenon. Of course, it would also help if there was a non-judgmental reciprocity in that attempt at cultural understanding, but I digress.

Regarding the chart, I think the first box is silly. If you could conceive of a reason why your idea is wrong, what's the point of debate? Things that sway me are often things I hadn't considered. I mean, if the point of that box is to say you should keep an open mind, so be it, but as it's worded now, it discourages debate on things that people care about the most.

Boy do I know it.

When my wife gets pissed at me, it always starts with a warm up peeve of something completely unrelated. And any attempt I make to tell her to get to what is really bugging her just seems to make things worse. It's only after taking a solid beating that I'm allowed to know what the real issue was.

Hypatian wrote:

Yes, LarryC. And those who have no side let people know that they're taking a position for the sake of argument. And people who don't even take a position for the sake of argument do nothing but confuse everyone involved, and come across as the worst kind of troll.

Frankly, I don't see the point in taking just one position, especially if you have arguments for the converse position that you feel can add to the conversation. I'm more interested in communicating ideas and getting ideas than I am in winning since you can't win Internet arguments.

Maybe I'm behind the times. Does it make sense to entertain an adversarial debate structure on the Internet now?

I think that most people (here at least) prefer knowing whether the person that they are arguing/debating with hold that position honestly or whether they are just arguing for the sake of arguing.

It is typically the done thing to point out if you're playing devil's advocate or not.

LarryC wrote:

...but it's always struck me as flawed that a good logical argument could not be presented because it occurred to the wrong person.

Personally I believe that in the rewarding debates on this forum it generally isn't as important that a good logical argument (ANY good logical argument) is presented, but rather that we have the opportunity to humanize the mind that reached a specific conclusion. We 'win' by learning to understand the minds that can come to conclusions we disagree with. The most effective way is through exploring the thought processes that arrived at that thought. Arguing an academic position because it exists may further debate, but it does nothing for understanding the humans that actually hold those beliefs.

I confess that I cannot follow that thought process whatsoever. In a structured real-life debate, sure. Supposedly, you're assigned your sides, so you should be prepared to present both sides, but it's always struck me as flawed that a good logical argument could not be presented because it occurred to the wrong person.

On the Internet, though? Is it important to have teams at all? I can't see the value of limiting my world view to only one, let alone forcing everyone on in a discussion to do the same thing. Is it commonplace for people to not attempt to try a different perspective?

LarryC wrote:

Maybe I'm behind the times. Does it make sense to entertain an adversarial debate structure on the Internet now?

To agitate debate for the sake of debate is generally considered Trolling. That's not to say that a valid argument cannot be presented without implying that it is your own. However if you hold no personal position in an active debate then the constructive role is that of a spectator or commentator... not active participant. How you frame your contributions is important because it is a fine line, but an important one.
Think of it as a relay race. Jumping in with an argument framed as a personal position means you've put on the jersey, strapped on the cleats, and are holding out your hand for the baton. Taking that baton and then tossing it in the bushes is bad-faith participation in the race. Would there have been a 'winnner?' Maybe not. Generally discussions here serve to clarify each position rather than resolve them.

If you aren't actively on a team then you should make sure you note that your position is academic only. That lets others know that they can google your thought-process and not waste time exploring how that world-view came to inhabit the person LarryC that they interact with on a website.

EDIT: I'm getting the feeling that I need to credit someone for the baton analogy. I can't for the life of me remember where I could have seen that first...

The problem with 'sides' in a argument is that just because two people are on the same 'side' that does not mean they got there by way of identical argument. Like that box that says "If one of your arguments is shown to be faulty will you stop using that argument (with everyone)?" Well...if someone is on the same 'side' as me in the sense that they come to the same conclusion, but they're using an argument to get there that I find to be faulty, am I really on that 'side'?

I do not understand the point of trying to understand how a world view comes to inhabit me. I have difficulty even understanding what the idiom means. I am not important. Who says things is not important. What's important is what's being said, right? It's basic logic that Ad Hominem and Appeal to Authority are fallacies of the most fundamental nature, but I see them used over and over in English news outlets, discussions, and even defended as "not really fallacies," on this very site, by posters who are otherwise quite reasonable. Is this a related phenomenon?

I have... ...limited empathy. It's a strange thing for a doctor to have, I suppose, but it's one of the reasons why I can keep my head and do the right things when people are losing their heads because a person in front of them is dying.

I confess that it does not help that I have less empathy than usual for people who insist on using illogical reasoning for their ardently argued positions, especially when they so gleefully point out equivalent fallacies in their opponents.

Most of the time, I behave better when I just focus on the logic and/or the facts, as the case may be. Shouldn't we all? Is this not the true basis of rational discussion?

EDIT:

The baton analogy confuses me as well, so it's not a good analogy, if the point of the analogy is to clarify. Since no one can win, then there isn't much of a race, right? If I have a piece of amusing rhetoric or logic that does not further a prior argument - something I said earlier, should I withhold it, just for the sake of personal consistency? I do not value my ego that much. It would serve the community better to have this piece revealed, no?

For further clarification, any input I have made in threads I've participated in is contributed in earnest. It's not "academic" in the sense that I hold myself aloof. It's simply that I think that two mutually contradictory viewpoints can both be correct at the same time, and I can "believe" in both of them equally.

So you might say that I believe in all positions I advance, as much as you can say as I believe in none of them.

CheezePavilion:

It's good that you pointed that out. I'm often confused as holding an opposed "side" in an ongoing discussion, for pointing out an obvious logical fallacy or weakness in an argument, even when I've already presented arguments furthering that side. I think this happens often enough (and not just to me), that it has to be considered problematic to attach arguments to specific persons, quite apart from the Ad Hominem and AtA tendencies.

LarryC wrote:

The baton analogy confuses me as well, so it's not a good analogy, if the point of the analogy is to clarify.

You're simply focusing on the wrong component of the analogy. The important factor isn't the baton. It is the runner, dressing as a participant and standing on the line with their hand ready to carry the baton closer towards a goal... and then stalling the baton because they have no interest in reaching a goal because it isn't their jersey, they just know the names of the colors on it.

If anything, that just confused me more. Sorry about that. Maybe have a different analogy? Go back to the source subject?

LarryC wrote:

CheezePavilion:

It's good that you pointed that out. I'm often confused as holding an opposed "side" in an ongoing discussion, for pointing out an obvious logical fallacy or weakness in an argument, even when I've already presented arguments furthering that side. I think this happens often enough (and not just to me), that it has to be considered problematic to attach arguments to specific persons, quite apart from the Ad Hominem and AtA tendencies.

I often find myself in a situation where I agree with the conclusion of one 'side' in a particular discussion, but that 'side' made an argument based on a premise I have far bigger issues with than the whatever is currently under discussion. I often find the baby being thrown out with the bathwater--just because I agree it's bathwater and not Perrier like the other side claims it is, that doesn't mean I'm happy with the baby going out the window.

LarryC wrote:

CheezePavilion:

It's good that you pointed that out. I'm often confused as holding an opposed "side" in an ongoing discussion, for pointing out an obvious logical fallacy or weakness in an argument, even when I've already presented arguments furthering that side. I think this happens often enough (and not just to me), that it has to be considered problematic to attach arguments to specific persons, quite apart from the Ad Hominem and AtA tendencies.

Typically people participating in a debate do so because they assume the debate has a purpose. Actually having the debate is made worthwhile because it serves such a purpose. Often the assumed purpose is to try and persuade one another to change POV (sometimes it's with a view of creating consensus or synthesis). If you discover that someone is arguing a "side" that they don't actually hold then it fundamentally undermines the assumed purpose of debating in the first place and, for many people, makes the whole process worthless.

Also for many debates participants may want to come to a solution/conclusion that is meaningful to the participants, if your debate is open to all possibly imagined points of view whether they are actually held by people or not, then your debate is open to being never ending (or exceptionally intractable). If people intuit that participants are willing to make a discussion intractable then again the tendency is to view that kind of discussion as fruitless.

Well, for me, my stated purpose in discussing has always been to exchange ideas, not necessarily to persuade others to any particular point of view. Is the exchange of ideas without a goal to persuade generally considered a useless pursuit?

LarryC wrote:

If anything, that just confused me more. Sorry about that. Maybe have a different analogy? Go back to the source subject?

I know I don't speak for everyone here, but I certainly recognize the value of the discussions this community attempts to foster.
I can certainly try to reframe my take on it.

It's like sociologists miming out a ritualistic ceremony they've only experienced through second-hand accounts and then definitively answering questions about the reasoning for each action to a crowd that doesn't know that they aren't natives.

Most of our discussions aren't new, so we can google 'stock' arguments with relative ease. Having an opposing viewpoint presented by a person willing to discuss how they've personally reached that position in a clear and honest manner is a rewarding experience I hope you'll find the chance to appreciate. I know I have.

I think I see the disconnect. Your value proposition presumes that every person has a single personal position on every subject (or at least on the topic of discussion). Am I getting that right?

LarryC wrote:

I think I see the disconnect. Your value proposition presumes that every person has a single personal position on every subject (or at least on the topic of discussion). Am I getting that right?

Close, My position is that if you don't... why are you participating?

EDIT to elaborate: If the interest in that topic is purely academic... why engage in topics where people are ill-equipped to give you academic answers?
Now please note I'm not speaking about you specifically here. I'm addressing the key point of the flowchart. If you don't have an opinion to be changed, why engage in a topic about your opinion on a topic? There are plenty of threads for scholarly debate on subjects, so it is a bit disheartening to see those broader discussions dragged into specific topics, since those broader discussions muddy the water and make it harder to find understanding.

Rezzy:

Hm...

Please don't put any spin on what I say. I'm told that I sound supercilious or condescending sometimes, and this may be one of those times. Everything I say hereon is purely expository and as factual as I can put it. Take it purely literally and at face value. I'm not good with American idiom.

I have never been inclined to believe in anything by default, and my training in school only encouraged this latent tendency. Robear refers to me as a skeptical pragmatist, IIRC.

Simply put, I don't believe in anything, or I believe in everything - it's hard to explain this way.

rabbit once said that he doesn't believe that his car will explode in the morning and doesn't bother to think about it (or something to that effect, I may be misremembering). I prefer to think of it as highly unlikely, but still possible; not as a theory in my head, but something as palpable as my heartbeat. It could happen, and I'd be surprised that something that unlikely happened, but I've thought about it, and I would already have a number of plausible explanations should I get faced with that in the morning.

Everything I see, hear, or think exists in this probabilistic state. Tomorrow, I will be both alive and dead. Most probably alive, but still quite possibly dead.

The only things that I'm sure are there, are the things I can directly observe in the present, and only insofar as I can observe them. For instance, I can't be sure what's in my car without looking. It'll probably be just like it was the last time (maybe dirtier), but it may be completely different.

Thus, I only believe in any mental construct provisionally, or at my choosing.

This doesn't mean that I can't believe in a position, but I don't believe in anything the way many folks here do, I think. I am fundamentally skeptical (I don't even trust my own mind).

This doesn't mean that I can't appreciate or present a position, but it does mean that I look at all positions with equally hostile or friendly eyes. Granted, I'm predisposed to some conclusions apriori, but I try to clarify that when I can.

My chief interest in participating is to identify weak arguments, blatant fallacies, or to present new ideas, or old ideas in new ways. Is this not a valid interest?

I confess that I am quite wholly uninterested in convincing unknown strangers on the internet to say things on the internet in particular ways. Just because a handle on the net says they're convinced doesn't really mean anything. I'm more interested in rhetorical content, or new logic, or new takes. I don't have to be convinced or to change my mind to find these things interesting to me.

Is that a valid reason for participating?

EDIT:

For instance, this heavy emphasis on adversarial discussion and having a goal to change each other's minds - it's wholly new and somewhat alien to me. It feels hostile, strange, and antagonistic. I'm more used to discussion where participants are like workers building different houses on a block cooperatively, as opposed to smashing each other's houses to oblivion.

No, it's not a valid reason for participating. It's a valid reason for listening and asking questions, but not a valid reason for making actual arguments. Leave that to the people who actually care about those positions. This isn't debate club.

If you do bring up a point of argument, let people know that you're asking because you're interested in the counterpoint, not because you care. Otherwise people will misinterpret you as being someone who cares.

And then when it turns out you don't, they'll wonder why you were trolling them and inflaming an argument, taking it in directions it didn't need to go.

Hypatian wrote:

No, it's not a valid reason for participating. It's a valid reason for listening and asking questions, but not a valid reason for making actual arguments. Leave that to the people who actually care about those positions. This isn't debate club.

If you do bring up a point of argument, let people know that you're asking because you're interested in the counterpoint, not because you care. Otherwise people will misinterpret you as being someone who cares.

And then when it turns out you don't, they'll wonder why you were trolling them and inflaming an argument, taking it in directions it didn't need to go.

Between your points in the nonviolent dissent thread and this, I feel like I somehow owe you a beer. Well done, sir.

Hypatian:

I actually have the opposite stance on that. People who care too much about a single position are apt to make logical mistakes or to employ confirmation bias. This makes them less suitable for representing their position, as their ardor often leads them to make logical or factual errors. I've noted this occuring frequently, even on discussions on this site.

EDIT:

I was under the impression that "Rational" in "Rational Discussion" comes from Rationalism - a branch of philosophy that is based on using logic to arrive at conclusions from a set of mutually accepted assumptions. For some reason, Empiricism is involved as well, but I'm chalking that up to Russell and his antics.

That said, there is no place for impassioned but flawed content in these things. Emotional involvement only complicates discussion because the participants are always second guessing intent and trying to "win," themselves.

Approached from a purely logical or purely empirical standpoint, there would be no tendency to head off into Ad Hominem tangents (which are useless at best), nor would there be any reason to second guess intent, even when your opponent is making suggestions to improve your side of the discussion, no?

LarryC wrote:

Simply put, I don't believe in anything, or I believe in everything - it's hard to explain this way.

I don't believe you.
Any effort to convince me will prove me right.
Welcome to the Internet.

mudbunny wrote:

I think that most people (here at least) prefer knowing whether the person that they are arguing/debating with hold that position honestly or whether they are just arguing for the sake of arguing.

I know I do, but I also know that's an emotional and illogical preference. A point stands on its own. It really doesn't matter whether the messenger believes it or not. That's also why I don't consider charges of hypocrisy to be particularly compelling. Hypocrites and charlatans are distasteful, yes, but those are attributes of a person, not a position. Questioning someone's sincerity is an ad hom attack and does not logically negate their premise.

Hypatian wrote:

No, it's not a valid reason for participating. It's a valid reason for listening and asking questions, but not a valid reason for making actual arguments. Leave that to the people who actually care about those positions. This isn't debate club.

If you do bring up a point of argument, let people know that you're asking because you're interested in the counterpoint, not because you care. Otherwise people will misinterpret you as being someone who cares.

And then when it turns out you don't, they'll wonder why you were trolling them and inflaming an argument, taking it in directions it didn't need to go.

What's the difference between being 'interested in the counterpoint' and 'caring'? Why does someone who 'cares' about the topic being discussed have more right to participate in said discussion than someone who's 'interested in the counterpoint'?

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