Announcing a new page on Argumentation and Debate, which includes some “new” dishonest debate tactics.
Readership: The intellectually gifted; Others who are interested;
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.
- Revealing errors or omissions in your opponent’s facts.
- 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
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
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.