New Page: Argumentation and Debate

Announcing a new page on Argumentation and Debate, which includes some “new” dishonest debate tactics.

Readership: The intellectually gifted; Others who are interested;

Announcement

From the end of February to the first half of March, there was a record-breaking amount of discussion in the comments at Σ Frame.  It started with Scott’s post, Probabilities (2020-02-24) which was about the Meet Cute phenomenon.  The discussion soon exploded into quite a few tangential topics.  Since then, I’ve been busy addressing several of these tangent issues in separate posts, and I’m nowhere near being finished.

While reviewing many of the comments, I realized that it would be good for us to brush up on our argumentation skills, including myself.  I have taught a course in debate for a few years, and as part of the course materials, I’ve put together a summary of Argumentation and Debate which contains an extensive (but not exhaustive) list of logical fallacies.  (That last link goes to the new page.)

At 7,500 words, I don’t expect the average reader to make it to the end, much less memorize every word by heart.  So here in this post, I’d like to draw the reader’s attention to (1) the most important stuff, and (2) the most problematic stuff.

The Crux of Intellectually Honest Debate

The list of intellectually honest debate tactics is short and easy to remember.

  1. Revealing errors or omissions in your opponent’s facts.
  2. Revealing errors or omissions in your opponent’s logic.

All other debate tactics are intellectually dishonest.

Noteworthy Intellectually Dishonest Debate Tactics

Here, I’d just like to point out a few errors I’ve seen in the recent discussions at Σ Frame.  These include…

  • Accusation of Appeal to Credentials
  • Ad Hominem
  • Appeal to Hypocrisy
  • Changing the subject
  • False Dilemma
  • Finding Small Error
  • Ill-Defined Words
  • Oversimplification
  • Stereotyping
  • Strawman
  • Vagueness

Maybe there are others I’ve failed to notice.

Widespread or “New” Intellectually Dishonest Debate Tactics

I’ll also draw attention to some dishonest tactics that have become prevalent in society over the past decade or two.   I’ve made a few additions (in green font) which don’t appear in your average debate handbook, and therefore might be considered “new”.

  • Apex Fallacy
  • Assertion of Non-Existent “Rights”
  • Cherry Picking
  • Citing Irrelevant Facts
  • Group Polarization
  • Political Correctness
  • Selective Peer Approval
  • Tone Policing
  • Trolling

Final Statements

The new paradigm in debate includes argumentation at the meta-level, which is not easily discerned.  Because of this,

  • I do believe it is possible for an argument to be riddled with errors, yet still be truthful at its core.
  • I also believe an argument can be flawless, but still be unwise or gravely mistaken in its proposed application.
  • I also believe many arguments are used to fatigue the opponent, and to create an acceptance through repetition and familiarity.  These strategies are ubiquitous in MGM, and they go largely unnoticed.  I don’t believe these strategies have a name, nor have they ever been detailed in writing.

Note: I’ll offer the following suggestions for a name: Oversaturation; Smokescreening; Snowstorming.

The purpose of posting this page on Argumentation and Debate is to help us as a community (1) sort out the facts, (2) reason together, and (3) come to a better apprehension of the truth.  I hope that the information will be empowering, more than it will be disheartening.

I need to mention that commenters are not the only ones guilty of intellectual dishonesty.  I’ve read through several of my past posts since I started compiling this material, and because I had a fresh review of these fallacies on my mind, I’ve found some of these errors in my own posts, which was quite surprising and embarrassing.  This only reinforced my conviction that this page needs to be included in the header, and that I/we need to be more mindful of being intellectually honest in the future.

Perhaps I’m being overly critical, unwise for criticizing my readers, or overly stupid for admitting error, so I’ll leave it to the reader to identify errors.

If anyone takes up this challenge, I would appreciate an attitude of learning with sincere humility.  Please include links, quotations, and/or citations.

Related

 

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
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16 Responses to New Page: Argumentation and Debate

  1. ramman3000 says:

    “Please include links, quotations, and/or citations.”

    Now that you mention citations, the last time I posted more than one link, the comment was stuck in moderation for a week. I regularly find myself not posting linked citations to defend my comments because of the link limit. You should consider increasing the number of links you allow before a comment automatically goes to moderation. Since you, presumably, must approve all new commenters, explicitly, there is little reason now to allow your regulars to post more links. I believe yours is set to a maximum of 1 while the WordPress default is 3. If anyone abuses it, they can be moved to moderation or just asked to tone it down.

    “Perhaps I’m being overly critical, unwise for criticizing my readers”

    When I was accused of the “Apex Fallacy”, I disagreed (because I thought I was misunderstood) but let the matter drop in the interest of it not becoming a distraction. Despite my disagreement, I don’t think the accusation was overly critical or unwise. I want someone to point out my errors.

    One of the debate techniques that I have found to be useful over the years to improve the level of civility is the willingness to let someone else have the last word even when you think they are wrong. I don’t always do this, of course, but sometimes it is quite helpful. You don’t have to win them all. YMMV.

    “I do believe it is possible for an argument to be riddled with errors, yet still be truthful at its core.”

    This is related to the failure to assume good faith. If you assume that the ‘errors’ are not intentionally deceptive, but instead accidental, incidental, or unimportant, it changes the way you respond to them and raises the level of discourse. For example, I don’t always find Jason’s arguments to be… rigorously logical… but I often find them to be truthful, valuable, or insightful in many ways. So I keep debating with him.

    Like

  2. larryzb says:

    Sadly, it is the intellectually dishonest debating tactics (many of which are rather sophomoric or childish) that rule public discourse these days. Care to have an honest and rational debate on so-called man made global warming? Good luck.

    It is important also to bear in mind that there are 3 forms of a lie. Spreading false statements, suppressing important facts, and trafficking in half truths. As well, if the person(s) you are debating are driven (motivated) by ideology rather than a sincere search for truth, debating will not go well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JPF says:

    I’ve found some of these errors in my own posts, which was quite surprising and embarrassing… Perhaps I’m being […] overly stupid for admitting error

    Can’t speak for others, but I find it respectable when a person can improve, seeing their own prior errors. What I do not respect is a person who refuses to admit error, instead deflecting attention to some other topic or refusing to discuss the identified error.

    Derek suggests One of the debate techniques that I have found to be useful over the years to improve the level of civility is the willingness to let someone else have the last word even when you think they are wrong.

    No only can this improve the atmosphere, but sometimes further debate is entirely useless. This reminds me of two passages:
    Titus 3:9 (I included the next two verses for context) – 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
    2 Timothy 2:23 – Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

    I think it was on this site. A few weeks ago I tried to correct someone, in the hope that they would choose to improve. (I genuinely did/do think they could improve, I was not trolling.) They responded by claiming I had tried to “shame” them. Ok, fine. This person was obviously in no mood to have his mistakes pointed out so he could learn from them. What would have been gained by further antagonizing him? Better to try another time when he is in a teachable frame of mind. Or perhaps, better to let someone better skilled with words than I to make the next attempt.

    Like

  4. JPF says:

    I do believe it is possible for an argument to be riddled with errors, yet still be truthful at its core.

    Similar but opposite is the need to remember that a particular line of reasoning can both be faulty, and lead to a correct conclusion. The fact that you got to the correct answer with this (foolish) reasoning once, does not prove that the same reasoning will always lead to the correct answer.

    Appeal to Hypocrisy (AKA “tu quo que”): The debater rejects his opponents’ argument by claiming that the opponent’s behavior or beliefs are not consistent with his argument. This tactic is a fallacy unless the topic of debate covers the opponents own lifestyle or professional responsibilities.

    I watched the video you linked for this point. And I do understand the point that the character of this particular man who is presenting an argument does not, on it’s own, prove an argument is valid or false.
    However, I do think it is valid to point out that, when (almost?) the only people making a particular argument are those who act as if the argument is untrue, this is very relevant.
    If the leaders, or spokesmen, for a particular argument do not live as if the argument is true, I will wonder why no leader/spokesman who actually believes the argument can be found. If we are talking about stuff on Sigma Frame, I do not expect to see an “official spokesman” for anything; we are a bunch of men trying to improve understanding. Fine. But for a massive movement like (supposed) global warming, I expect that if an argument is true, they should have no problem finding a spokesman who will act in accordance with that belief. I think pointing out that big names in an advocacy movement act in obvious disregard for the supposed crisis is a very valid argument.
    Contrast that with the apostles like Stephen, who lived in accord with their arguments, even dying for them.

    Thank you for putting together that summary/list of fallacies.

    Like

    • Jack says:

      One problem I see with Appeal to Hypocrisy is that those who have made a lot of mistakes in life are usually those who know the most about how things actually work. They are also presumably more familiar with God’s grace and know how to improve from a bad situation. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 states that those who have overcome a specific hang-up are more suitable than others to minister to those who are struggling with the same hang-up. So (to me) the content of the message and the overall context is what determines if an argument might be fallacious due to hypocrisy.

      Like

  5. ramman3000 says:

    “but for a massive movement like (supposed) global warming, I expect that if an argument is true, they should have no problem finding a spokesman who will act in accordance with that belief. I think pointing out that big names in an advocacy movement act in obvious disregard for the supposed crisis is a very valid argument.”

    This is a tricky example and not at all what it appears to be. It is a fallacy, 100%, as I’ll demonstrate, but the argument can be made on other grounds.

    There is an implicit argument here. Given two competing theories (AGW and anti-AGW + fraud/bias/ideology), if the proponents of AGW act as if AGW is false, then their actions provide direct evidence in favor of fraud/bias/ideology. This implicitly—but indirectly—reduces the support for AGW because it reduces their legitimacy as experts. As this is an inductive (probability-based argument), this is not an argument from authority fallacy (as I explain here). Ironically, AGW proponents hinge their entire theory on the “scientific consensus”—an appeal to authority.

    So, you can’t use AGW proponent’s hypocrisy as direct evidence against AGW, because that is a logical fallacy, but you can use it against them as experts, thus legitimately putting their arguments from authority firmly into the realm of fallacious reasoning. IMO, this is what you did without realizing that you were doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. JPF says:

    Derek,

    Thank you for that explanation; I appreciate it. From the above, and your linked article, it is obvious that you have put more effort into understanding this area than I.
    I “childishly” want to continue to cling to the idea that a leader acting as if they do not believe what they say is correct is a valid argument, but I also do see the problems SF and you point out.
    Perhaps it would be better for me to say:
    – I see this particular “expert” acting with hypocrisy, so I do not accept that particular person as an expert; rather there is likely fraud, etc.
    – I want to see an expert (not acting with hypocrisy), before I will accept any appeal to expertise.
    – Apart from expertise, I am willing to consider other arguments you may present. But for these I will examine the merits for myself, without any assumptions about their accuracy due to their endorsement by any expert.

    but you can use it against them as experts… putting their arguments from authority firmly into the realm of fallacious reasoning

    It is interesting (to me) to consider that so much of what we hear is stated confidently, as if the speaker is an authority on the matter and expects to be accepted as such. Whether the topic is AGW, free/subsidized housing for the poor, the economy, or forestry, it is rare for me to hear someone admit that they have enough info to be convinced for themself, but yet admit that they cannot be certain or prove that an idea is true. Usually they do only the first half, and then assume you will accept them as an expert.
    I have not listened to him for awhile, but Jordan Peterson is one where I remember him trying to be careful with his words, careful to state only what could be proven, without extrapolating to demand you also believe some conclusion that could not be directly proven.

    From your own article, I think an important point is that appealing to authority only works
    a) in an inductive argument, and
    b) when both parties accept the authority being used.
    Even in Christian circles, the Bible is frequently not accepted as a supreme authority, so the Sola Scriptura folks have difficulty with convincing anyone of anything. Unless they have alternative arguments available.

    but you can use it against them as experts, thus legitimately putting their arguments from authority firmly into the realm of fallacious reasoning.

    I can see an “expert” claiming that the refusal to accept their earned credentials as a source of authority is a form of ad hominem, or similar to engaging in name-calling.

    I interact with the logic-deprived frequently…
    🙂 I found this funny… even after recalling that you just gave me a lesson in logic hah hah

    Liked by 1 person

  7. bee123456 says:

    JPF,

    “I think it was on this site. A few weeks ago I tried to correct someone, in the hope that they would choose to improve. (I genuinely did/do think they could improve, I was not trolling.) They responded by claiming I had tried to “shame” them. Ok, fine. This person was obviously in no mood to have his mistakes pointed out so he could learn from them. What would have been gained by further antagonizing him? Better to try another time when he is in a teachable frame of mind. Or perhaps, better to let someone better skilled with words than I to make the next attempt.”

    I believe this happened at Sharkly’s site not at Sigma Frame. (My user name on blogs that do not require a WordPress account is, “Bee” That name is already taken in the WordPess world.)

    https://laf443259520.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/virgin-imprinting/

    Your comment is on March 6, 2020.

    You showed up and repeated an argument that either Sharkly or Feministdesytroyer had already put to me and I had refuted. This made it appear to me that you had just jumped in the middle without reading the earlier comments. Sharkly and Feministdestroyer debated me like mature adults by using logic and arguments against my logic and arguments. You did not treat me like a mature adult; instead of logic you tried to shame me, to chide me like a child. As I commented there to you; trying to shame me was not an argument. Maybe it is a form of an Ad Hominem attack with possible superior posturing on your part.

    After this exchange you made no more comments on that thread and then weeks later you show up here explaining it to others who were not commenting on that thread. It would be more mature of you to apologize to me for trying to shame me on the blog where this happened. After that, we could continue to argue using logic and facts like two adults.

    Like

  8. ramman3000 says:

    “the Bible is frequently not accepted as a supreme authority, so the Sola Scriptura folks have difficulty with convincing anyone of anything. Unless they have alternative arguments available.”

    It is “pearls before swine.” Never waste such things on people who don’t accept the authority, rather, reach them on their own terms whenever possible. Paul (the apostle to the Gentiles) did this routinely. Jesus borrowed from popular culture (e.g. Rich man, Lazarus, and the Bosom of Abraham) because it made his points more accessible.

    “I can see an “expert” claiming that the refusal to accept their earned credentials as a source of authority is a form of ad hominem, or similar to engaging in name-calling.”

    This is quite common. I am repeatedly amazed whenever—during a disagreement—people cite themselves as authorities. This is incredibly unproductive. If someone disagrees with you, citing yourself as an authority isn’t going to magically cause them to agree with you. It is almost guaranteed that an appeal to your own authority will be instantly rejected, so why bother? Instead, you should cite the evidence that you—as an expert—should already posses and be prepared to defend it.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. JPF says:

    @Bee

    You showed up and repeated an argument that either Sharkly or Feministdesytroyer had already put to me and I had refuted
    FeministDestroyer had offered the conclusion, but without providing any argument for it. Simply saying “Bee […] is dead wrong in his interpretation of Levitticus 18” is not a refutation. I provided one as I thought it could be beneficial if it was read and considered. Sharkly and Feministdesytroyer gave other responses prior, but those also did not get the argument I provided.

    You did not treat me like a mature adult; instead of logic you tried to shame me, to chide me like a child… After this exchange you made no more comments on that thread
    I cannot make you see my words as I intended them. And you are correct; I made no further comments, for the reasons I gave above.

    It would be more mature of you to apologize to me for trying to shame me on the blog where this happened
    I will not lie to you by “admitting” to something that I did not do (choose to try to shame you). I however do not control what you feel, so I can admit that it is possible you felt shamed by what I wrote. Perhaps more importantly, I agree it is unfortunate that you feel offended, as this state does not encourage either sharpening or a friendly/civil mood.
    As you wish; I’ll add this response to the other blog.

    Like

  10. lastmod says:

    The only time there can be “debate” is when it is being moderated by some sort of referee. Roberts Rules of Order come to mind. Debate without that? Impossible. Its like the only time a fight between men is fair so to speak is when a referee is there in the ring.

    Debate today to me is basically the person who uses bigger words or has credentials that are supposedly worthy and that person basically engages in some sort of groupthink to put the sheep watching to bleet what he saying. Thus shutting up or shutting down the other person. Or if you are a real man who can bench press like DS…you just ban them and declare how right you are.

    Whatever.

    Debate being logical? You tools who are all genius level hardly are setting an example for my 92 IQ level self of how to behave.

    I have presented stuff over the years on forums. Told i was wrong…..smeared, riled up and then one of you fools says the same thing i have been purporting and you’re hailed as a genius. Debate is today “who is saying it” rather than “what is being said”

    Again you are all assuming everyone is born and comes out of the womb with the same in social status, intelligence, genetics, class standing and situational awareness and thus has taken advanced rhetoric at Dartmouth and should be able to debate logically.

    Anyway…..debate today is worthless. Winners in debates are selected by a group…..and many times. Too many times the group is wrong.

    Like

  11. Jack says:

    In spite of the technical errors, the vast majority of comments have been in good faith and have offered valuable insights. I don’t expect any discussion to be 100% free from fallacies. The important thing is for us to recognize fallacies when they appear misleading.

    I, for one, am really pleased with the discussion. There have been a number of tangent issues spill out, and I am working on writing separate posts on these things. I hope to see the discussion continue under these posts.

    @ Derek, thanks for your contribution. I have increased the number of allowable links to five.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Scavos says:

    Well, even though I’ve been watching and not engaging, this would be a good place to start. I’m sure not going to get help from most western pastors. I’m ready to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack says:

      Welcome Scavos!

      All through my 20’s, I met with Protestant and evangelical pastors. They tried to council/mentor me as best they could, but I didn’t get much insight from them. That was in the 90’s and early naughts – before the advent of anything red pill. I wonder what those men would have to tell me now. The pastor I have now has offered me some heavy insights to my own spiritual life, but not so much that would be considered red pill. I am satisfied with that.

      I think pastors face an uphill battle against the converged church, so I think men discussing matters with other Christian men may be the best venue to apprehend the insights we are looking for.

      Like

      • Scavos says:

        I was speaking in a generalization. I’m sure there are pastors out there who do want to obey God in their respective positions. I just haven’t come across any. And yes, their task against the converged church is a tall order. Looking forward to learning more!

        Liked by 1 person

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