What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

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What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby angel_jean » Mon Jan 14, 2008 10:29 pm UTC

Hiya all.

I've been reading a few of the threads around here, and in the past couple of days it seems that people have been criticising each other's argument styles. I'm not going to go and argue with them, because I'm not very good at it :P But I'm interested to hear people's opinions of what does and doesn't constitute a fair argument style - and why.

I'm perfectly happy for this thread to turn into an argument in itself, but I hope that people don't make it personal!

Does this count as serious business? If not, I'm happy for it to be moved.

Here's some of my ideas to start with (and I'm an amateur, so they are simple):

Name-calling: Unacceptable unless done in jest (which is not the idea in this forum). I'm talking about derogatory words being attached to people. You may attack practices to your heart's content, although I seem to have a line drawn at attacking ways of thinking. This is a personal thing, and for some reason I apply these rules to my own thoughts at all times.
Flaming is of course moderated under the rules, but quite apart from that, in my book name-calling is a juvenile practice, and smacks of hiding the fact that you have no better argument.

Quoting sentences, rather than paragraphs: perfectly okay. I would like to think that every sentence I write is something I believe in itself. As such, I'm happy to have every such sentence challenged, standing alone. If, on challenge, I felt the sentence needed clarification, I'd add it, and that would be that. New post, different sentence. Or if I felt that the sentence had clarification or context elsewhere in the post, I'd point it out.

Quoting someone to try and show them their own way of thinking: not something I'm clever enough to indulge in, but I would accept it, because in certain moods I would love to have my thinking examined. I can see that in certain moods it might piss someone off, but for me it's still valid. Examples:
If you pointed out two sentences I wrote in the same post that contradicted each other in some way, I would appreciate having my internal contradictions pointed out. Then I'd have to think further and clarify.

If, on the other hand, you quoted parts of different posts of mine that contradict, there's the chance I might respond that my opinions had changed, and wasn't this perfectly normal? So I might not allow it to advance your argument. I defend your right to do it, though.

Those are my opinions. Feel free to challenge them. What're yours?

the angel Jean

[edit] New question added, 22/1/08: What do you think is the best response in these situations/other arguments that bother you?[/edit]
Last edited by angel_jean on Mon Jan 21, 2008 2:08 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable?

Postby Masuri » Mon Jan 14, 2008 10:47 pm UTC

I have noticed this, too. Don't let it bother you too much. It is just part of the lifecycle of a message board.

Things start out light and breezy, and then get a little more formalized as time goes on. Eventually, as the board becomes more popular and less friendly, the moderation becomes so heavy-handed that topics don't even get discussed anymore - it becomes all about the phrasing of the posts instead of the actual content of the post. Users jump on this bandwagon until every topic devolves into whether you're "doing it right." Eventually, even posting something becomes a drama no one wants. This usually culminates in a huge drama thread, and the mods either scale back a bit or a large chunk of the main clique leaves to start their own community. Or both. Rinse. Repeat.

Happens all the time. I just think of it as sort of like the American revolution, just a lot smaller, more petty, and less important. ;)

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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable?

Postby Indon » Mon Jan 14, 2008 10:55 pm UTC

angel_jean wrote:I would like to think that every sentence I write is something I believe in itself.


I largely agree, though I feel there are circumstances in which a phrase can be removed from its' context, and that addressing that phrase without its' context can be a somewhat fallacious, if not argumentatively malicious, approach.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable?

Postby angel_jean » Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:10 pm UTC

Masuri wrote:I have noticed this, too. Don't let it bother you too much. It is just part of the lifecycle of a message board.


Hehe. It doesn't actually bother me at all, although you could say it clouds the argument. (Hey, it's not my argument they're clouding!) I'm just asking a related question.

Maybe, to clarify this, some nice mod could change the subject of my topic to 'What argument styles do people find acceptable?' or 'What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable (Opinion only!)'
[edit edit: I didn't realise I could still edit the OP!]

Actually, it interests me because I used to moderate a forum. And when I think about it now, I was imposing my own standards on the board, and then wondering why people thought they couldn't say anything. But I'd still like to know what other people's standards are!

Indon wrote:
angel_jean wrote:I would like to think that every sentence I write is something I believe in itself.

I largely agree, though I feel there are circumstances in which a phrase can be removed from its' context, and that addressing that phrase without its' context can be a somewhat fallacious, if not argumentatively malicious, approach.


I agree with you there, Indon, and I also wonder what the correct response to that attack is, other than 'you took me out of context, the context was [I also wrote this in the same place]'. It interested me that someone extended that idea of context recently to include their whole post, seeming to think that the whole post needed to be quoted in its entirety, or at least addressed.
Last edited by angel_jean on Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:18 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable?

Postby Indon » Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:13 pm UTC

angel_jean wrote:I agree with you there, Indon, and I also wonder what the correct response to that attack is, other than 'you took me out of context, the context was [I also wrote this in the same place]'. It interested me that someone extended that idea of context recently to include their whole post, seeming to think that the whole post needed to be quoted in its entirety, or at least addressed.


I can only imagine the ideal method of dealing with that is the same as with any other apparent misunderstanding; an in-depth explanation, followed with more hostile measures if maliciousness should become apparent.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable?

Postby Masuri » Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:14 pm UTC

I'm happy with any response. Even ones like, "ur mom !11!one"

Then you at least know whether to read a post or skip! ;)

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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable?

Postby angel_jean » Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:23 pm UTC

Masuri wrote:I'm happy with any response. Even ones like, "ur mom !11!one"

Then you at least know whether to read a post or skip! ;)


Fair enough. You sound like a fairly easy-going person. But in the context of Serious Business, that kind of response counts as off-topic, so it might be moderated. And I guess I can see why ... it's pleasant to read an in-depth discussion without being stopped short by irrelevant responses (I'm not a good skimmer/post skipper).

But I'm not here to discuss forum rules I guess ... I'm after the more subtle stuff. People still call 'no fair' on stuff that is allowed under the rules, after all. And I'm not looking to make new rules/enforce anything here, just want to know what people think.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby mosc » Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:29 pm UTC

I think it's a fundamental flaw with this form of communication. We have different opinions of the bounds and different contextual things can evoke different responses. Forum boards have their advantages and they have their flaws. This is just one of the more glaring flaws.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Belial » Tue Jan 15, 2008 12:30 am UTC

I've been reading a few of the threads around here, and in the past couple of days it seems that people have been criticising each other's argument styles. I'm not going to go and argue with them, because I'm not very good at it :P But I'm interested to hear people's opinions of what does and doesn't constitute a fair argument style - and why.


Start here.

The most important part is the big old list of logical fallacies.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby ++$_ » Tue Jan 15, 2008 2:29 am UTC

There are a number of reasons A might criticize B's argument:

1. The argument is logically incorrect (invalid): the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises.
2. The argument may be logically valid (or not), but one of the premises is false, meaning that the conclusion is unfounded.
3. B's argument consisted of or contained an ad hominem attack on A, even if this was incidental to the argument.
4. The conclusion of B's argument is something that A doesn't agree with, but A can't pinpoint the error in the argument.
5. B's argument suddenly made A realize that he (A) might be wrong, which is frightening.
6. B's argument made A's argument look stupid, or not well-thought-out.
7. Some random other reason.

Criticisms stemming from reasons 1, 2, and 3 are valid reasons to criticize an argument. In particular, case 2 includes B misquoting someone, while case 1 includes logical fallacies such as circular reasoning being used in B's argument.

Criticisms stemming from reason 4 might be okay, but won't convince anyone. They are essentially invalid, but they are genuine statements of personal belief. And who knows -- A might eventually be able to find an error in the argument.

Criticisms stemming from reasons 5, 6, or 7 are completely invalid. Making such a criticism is also a very childish thing to do. In particular, rejecting someone's argument because they quoted sentences from your original post, or because they brought together multiple sentences from one post, is childish. I haven't seen that happen here, but if I did my opinion of the perpetrator's arguments would become less favorable in future posts (meaning that I would search more carefully for flaws, etc.).

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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby angel_jean » Tue Jan 15, 2008 8:33 am UTC

Belial, thankyou so much for that link! I'm an amateur here, and previously it's confused me when a forum poster here says something like 'don't strawman me'. Definitions of logical fallacies are so useful, you are right, it's a very good place to start. Now if only I can teach myself to recognise such fallacies when they come up ...

I could wish that others would learn how to recognise the logical fallacies that they use as well, or at least appreciate them when pointed out. Not that I've been personally affected (I'm not such a good fallacy spotter).

++$_, you made me think! A lot. Now let me try and find something relevant to reply with ... :P

Firstly, I agree with your points on why someone would criticise someone's argument, and I agree about 1, 2 and 3 being 'valid reasons for criticism' and 5, 6 and 7 being 'invalid reasons for criticism'. I also agree about 4 (in general. I haven't named it for myself yet.)

So, you make good points and I agree with them. You all have. End of discussion? No, I'm not satisfied yet...

I didn't frame a good, easily answerable question to start with. And now I'm getting even more curious!

++$_, you give motivations for criticism. Being a wannabe empath, I like that; I'm constantly trying to infer people's motivations. But I have to go on data, and the data I have is the substance of what people say (or write). And the material I can use to argue with/against is only what people say/write, I can't go saying 'you're arguing with me for x reason, stop it.' because I might be wrong, and people don't like being told what they're thinking. So I'm looking for something a little more practical, and my question is complex:

What is it that people say/write, that would strike you as 'unfair argument'? What gets your hackles up, whether your response is to say to yourself 'not fair tactics'/'how silly/childish', or to say so explicitly, or to feel that you don't want to argue with them any more because the discussion is not fun? This is in the context of stuff that is allowed under Serious Business rules (which are generally more restrictive than a lot of other fora, and I like them because I hope they sustain discussion among intelligent people.)

I gave the example of someone quoting small segments of a person's post, and we agree that it can be fair, and we also agree that it can be used unfairly. I gave the example of someone criticising the act of quoting sentences of their post, and we agree that this can be childish if that is their only criticism. But I have seen it - recently - in these forums - so someone must disagree. I'm not expecting them to come over here and specifically defend that, although it would be lovely and interesting if they would (I promise I won't flame you!) But I would love to hear more examples from people who have been discussing here a while and are experienced in arguments.

For example,
Indon wrote:I can only imagine the ideal method of dealing with that is the same as with any other apparent misunderstanding; an in-depth explanation, followed with more hostile measures if maliciousness should become apparent.


Hostile measures? Do you mean meta-discussion stuff, like withdrawing from the argument, or complaints to discussion moderators? or, as I hope, do you mean different argument tactics, and if so what? P.S. I agree about in-depth explanation, and I love your precise terminology.

I thought of another example. There is this person I used to have extended arguments with (unfortunately in a staff/player context, me staff, him bad player). One of his tactics that I hated was that he would attempt to restart the argument on his terms. Literally 'let's start again: Here is premise a, here is premise b, here is context, here is my argument." There are several things that got my hackles up: firstly the way he wanted to ignore everything that had previously been said, secondly I usually didn't like his premises themselves and would start getting caught up arguing with them, thirdly it smacked (to me) of him trying to take a superior position as the better logician (which I knew was patently false :P) and fourthly because I suspected he did it when he wanted to avoid my point of view entirely.

I'll stop there on that point and leave it open, before I start arguing with myself (I'll leave that bit for later, or for you!). What do you guys think?

Mosc, your post was also thought-provoking, but I'm talking too much so I'll leave my response for later or another discussion.

Everyone else talk, I'm having fun!

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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Iv » Tue Jan 15, 2008 9:51 am UTC

++$_ wrote:There are a number of reasons A might criticize B's argument:

1. The argument is logically incorrect (invalid): the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises.
2. The argument may be logically valid (or not), but one of the premises is false, meaning that the conclusion is unfounded.
3. B's argument consisted of or contained an ad hominem attack on A, even if this was incidental to the argument.
4. The conclusion of B's argument is something that A doesn't agree with, but A can't pinpoint the error in the argument.
5. B's argument suddenly made A realize that he (A) might be wrong, which is frightening.
6. B's argument made A's argument look stupid, or not well-thought-out.
7. Some random other reason.

Personally I also add :
8. The argument may be valid but its discussion is off-topic and should maybe take place in another thread.

To the OP :
It may seem childish to speak about the way of making inference or the category of arguments used by a person instead than the argument itself, but it is actually sane : discussions between two persons not agreeing and locked in reason 4. can span pages and pages. The best way to prevent that is to have some dose of humility, honesty and constructive mind. That is what I like around here : there is no shame in being wrong so long as you recognize your error. People here come in discussions to get informations as opposed to some other forums where they come only to be right. I believe that learning why you were wrong is of more value than having 20 people agreeing with you .


angel_jean wrote:What is it that people say/write, that would strike you as 'unfair argument'? What gets your hackles up, whether your response is to say to yourself 'not fair tactics'/'how silly/childish', or to say so explicitly, or to feel that you don't want to argue with them any more because the discussion is not fun? This is in the context of stuff that is allowed under Serious Business rules (which are generally more restrictive than a lot of other fora, and I like them because I hope they sustain discussion among intelligent people.)


Well, 'unfair' is not the word but 'invalid' arguments are what gets my hackles up most of the time but I think Belial's link will cover most of these. The only unfair but maybe valid argument I stumbled over (not on internet but in real life) is an argument in the form "you cannot understand that because you are not X" X being any group like goth, catholic, black, Japanese, old enough, etc... I find it quite unnerving because it may very well be valid but it effectively closes the discussion. In practice I never found such an argument that was valid but I can imagine how one could be one day.

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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby angel_jean » Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:02 am UTC

ooh! New person, new ideas!

About off-topic discussion: I agree that it is sometimes unwanted, particularly in Serious Business, but I disagree that it deserves criticism. If anything I think it should be gently ignored, or at the most I would disclaim that I 'have opinions, but will not discuss here'. If it is truly not relevant to the argument then it does not need to become a part of the argument, and may not need to be part of the discussion at all.

Iv wrote:It may seem childish to speak about the way of making inference or the category of arguments used by a person instead than the argument itself, but it is actually sane : discussions between two persons not agreeing and locked in reason 4. can span pages and pages.

Ahh, I think I have been misunderstood. I do not say it is childish to talk about the type of arguments someone is using against you, or even to criticise them. Maybe I should explain more what this person did.

They complained that the other person was quoting parts of their text (which were at least sentence-length) and responding to them at length. They claimed that this was poor form, and commented that the moderators would decide whether it was legitimate. They asked their counterpart to refrain from doing this.

As I have said, I feel the style of argument they were complaining about is valid. (I could even say that in past times it has been impractical to address every single point a person makes, so addressing single points has been the default.) And it is the act of asking their opponent to no longer do this that I find childish.

That said, I can't generalise from this feeling. Asking someone to no longer continue a style of argument is hopefully valid sometimes, or maybe it is just a useful meta-discussion element. I need to be able to tell someone 'stop calling me names, it isn't useful.' I cannot precisely describe (yet) the difference between this situation and the other I describe above.

As for the 'You are not part of this group so you cannot understand' argument: yes! this is a good example! I see your dilemma, because in my experience it has been used validly, in the context:'You'll understand when you're older.' (I did.) At the same time, I find the concept that someone is not capable of understanding something, to be intrinsically offensive. And it does cut off the discussion ... it's a very interesting problem. Does anyone have solutions?

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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Ari » Tue Jan 15, 2008 2:23 pm UTC

angel_jean wrote:As for the 'You are not part of this group so you cannot understand' argument: yes! this is a good example! I see your dilemma, because in my experience it has been used validly, in the context:'You'll understand when you're older.' (I did.) At the same time, I find the concept that someone is not capable of understanding something, to be intrinsically offensive. And it does cut off the discussion ... it's a very interesting problem. Does anyone have solutions?


These aren't valid arguments in the technical sense a philosopher uses the term, but many of them are likely to be correct. Just a little recommendation- in really serious debates, substitute "persuasive(ly)" for the way you used "valid(ly)" there. A persuasive argument is one that appeals to people. A valid argument is one where if your assumptions are true, so is your conclusion. (And a sound argument is a valid argument with true assumptions)

Back on topic, "You'll understand when you're older." isn't necessarily true. You may be precocious and understand better than the person pulling this excuse on you. Or you might never understand this fact, and your inability to comprehend it would have nothing to do with your age.

Those "you need to be X to understand what I mean" arguments are bad because they assume correlation implies causation. That is, because many people start to mature as they get older, many people assume that age causes maturity. It doesn't. Likewise, you don't need to be Japanese to understand any given fact about Japan, unless it's some sort of national secret. It's just much, much harder for outsiders to understand things that might seem perfectly natural to them, and diminishing that work is really offensive.

These arguments are actually even trickier to deal with due to the fact that they're mostly useful, but the exceptions really hurt people who have worked hard to achieve something few people manage. The end result is that they're often used to escape uncomfortable observations made by outside experts.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby yoni45 » Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:17 pm UTC

angel_jean wrote:What is it that people say/write, that would strike you as 'unfair argument'? What gets your hackles up, whether your response is to say to yourself 'not fair tactics'/'how silly/childish', or to say so explicitly, or to feel that you don't want to argue with them any more because the discussion is not fun? This is in the context of stuff that is allowed under Serious Business rules (which are generally more restrictive than a lot of other fora, and I like them because I hope they sustain discussion among intelligent people.)


Essentially, anything invalid, based on faulty premises, or irrelevant (which is arguably under invalid). That's really a list of most (if not all) cases on the basis of which you can start calling 'foul'. How to do so?

If it's invalid, show why.
If premises are faulty, show why.
If it's irrelevant, show why.

Of course, having done that, (referencing back to the list of numbered objections previously noted), you won't necessarily receive objections that fall into categories 1-3. At that point, you have a choice to withdraw from the argument and you won't have done anything wrong. That said, keep in mind, if you're withdrawing from the argument on that basis, the basis is expected to be substantial for your withdrawal to be considered in good faith. For example, if your opponent constructs a substantial argument but closes it by calling you 'silly', your withdrawal from the argument would likely still be taken as you implicitly conceding your point (and justifiably so).

angel_jean wrote:I gave the example of someone quoting small segments of a person's post, and we agree that it can be fair, and we also agree that it can be used unfairly. I gave the example of someone criticising the act of quoting sentences of their post, and we agree that this can be childish if that is their only criticism. But I have seen it - recently - in these forums - so someone must disagree. I'm not expecting them to come over here and specifically defend that, although it would be lovely and interesting if they would (I promise I won't flame you!) But I would love to hear more examples from people who have been discussing here a while and are experienced in arguments.


Hah, I think that was actually me on the other side of that argument (the one that chose to quote segments I saw as flawed)... ^_^

angel_jean wrote:One of his tactics that I hated was that he would attempt to restart the argument on his terms. Literally 'let's start again: Here is premise a, here is premise b, here is context, here is my argument." There are several things that got my hackles up: firstly the way he wanted to ignore everything that had previously been said, secondly I usually didn't like his premises themselves and would start getting caught up arguing with them, thirdly it smacked (to me) of him trying to take a superior position as the better logician (which I knew was patently false :P) and fourthly because I suspected he did it when he wanted to avoid my point of view entirely.


That's not necessarily an unfair or invalid method.

Essentially, he's bringing forth a new argument. In other words, he believes that whatever his previous argument was, it was either insufficient (and in such a case, although you can call him on it, this does not free you from having to respond to his new argument), unnecessarily convoluted and required restructuring, or both. This is fine so long as this is his argument he's replacing.

If he's choosing to completely ignore your argument in favor of whatever his argument puts forth, then you're still obligated to show why his argument is flawed, but at the same time, you can call him out on the fact that he's choosing to ignore (what you would assume, and hasn't been shown otherwise, is) a sound argument, which is similar to the cherry picking fallacy...
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Ari » Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:47 pm UTC

I'm pretty sure it's practically impossible to show something to be irrelevant, you can merely exhaust the easy options and wait for the original author to either agree it's irrelevant or try to put it in a better context.

(Although that said, some things are so obviously irrelevant that you can just sorta laughingly refer to them to dismiss them. What do jumping fish have to do with the political situation in a land-locked region of Europe, for instance? ;) )
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby yoni45 » Tue Jan 15, 2008 5:01 pm UTC

Ari wrote:I'm pretty sure it's practically impossible to show something to be irrelevant, you can merely exhaust the easy options and wait for the original author to either agree it's irrelevant or try to put it in a better context.

(Although that said, some things are so obviously irrelevant that you can just sorta laughingly refer to them to dismiss them. What do jumping fish have to do with the political situation in a land-locked region of Europe, for instance? ;) )


Ah, that's a good point. Arguably, you can't really show anything to be true. In essence, what you generally end up doing is showing something to be true beyond a reasonable doubt, at which point you shift the burden of proof onto your opponent to show otherwise.

Likewise, I'd say that you can show that, beyond a reasonable doubt, any effects of jumping of fish would be irrelevant to the political situation in a land-locked region of Europe. At that point, the burden of proof would shift to your opponent to show that wait, the only difference between the two positions of the two major candidates in the upcoming election is in the potential acquisition of a faraway river, from which they (somehow) plan to generate energy from fish-movement ( be creative :) )...
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue Jan 15, 2008 6:06 pm UTC

somehow missed this thread.

While I'm not a huge fan of their community, the Stardestroyer.net forums have an excellent set of guidlines for serious debate that span a few pages.

The first is the list of Logical fallacies with good explanations thereof here
and their Board rules
some of which are obviously 'board rules' and not 'rules for argument/debate' of course, but I believe the point gets across.

The list and explanation of logical fallacies is a great resource, many of them aren't taught, or well explained in school, and unfortunately, a lot of people don't pay attention to the ones that are.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Ari » Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:58 pm UTC

yoni45 wrote:Likewise, I'd say that you can show that, beyond a reasonable doubt, any effects of jumping of fish would be irrelevant to the political situation in a land-locked region of Europe. At that point, the burden of proof would shift to your opponent to show that wait, the only difference between the two positions of the two major candidates in the upcoming election is in the potential acquisition of a faraway river, from which they (somehow) plan to generate energy from fish-movement ( be creative :) )...


No, it's always your opponent's/opponents' responsibility to establish the relevancy of their own arguments. The burden of proof is always on the person putting forward an argument for something not yet either established or accepted in common among everyone discussing. The burden of proof never "shifts" until everyone is satisfied that someone has established their conclusion with sound reasoning- although in practice the initiative will shift backwards and forwards as people make persuasive points, this isn't the same thing. Especially seeing some people deliberately give away the initiative because they feel they're arguing from a stronger position, or they just care about the truth so much that they want to discover the problems with their position as easily as possible.

But yeah, in situations where you think someone's trying to get somewhere important, it's best to show them the ways you've not understood them, in order to clear things up for everyone. It helps to not say things like "but the burden of proof is on you!" and "you bastard, stop using all those ad-hominems!" ;)
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby yoni45 » Tue Jan 15, 2008 8:52 pm UTC

I'm somewhat confused on where we disagree, since it doesn't seem like your post went against mine very much.

I never stated it's not my opponent's responsibility to establish relevance. What I did state, is that should it be necessary, one is capable of showing showing irrelevance beyond a reasonable doubt.

(That last sentence is basically the entirety of my point...)

You state:

Ari wrote:The burden of proof never "shifts" until everyone is satisfied that someone has established their conclusion with sound reasoning...


When in my post, I clearly stated that the burden of proof shifts once an individual has shown his opponent's point to be irrelevant, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Again, that doesn't really contradict what you stated... 'Until everyone is satisfied that someone has established their conclusion with sound reasoning' and 'once an individual has shown his opponent's point to be irrelevant, beyond a reasonable doubt' are essentially two ways of saying the same thing (with the exception of the 'everyone' clause, which I doubt is a necessary one - the masses are hardly a good indicator of an argument's validity)...
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Ari » Wed Jan 16, 2008 4:44 am UTC

Again, that doesn't really contradict what you stated... 'Until everyone is satisfied that someone has established their conclusion with sound reasoning' and 'once an individual has shown his opponent's point to be irrelevant, beyond a reasonable doubt' are essentially two ways of saying the same thing (with the exception of the 'everyone' clause, which I doubt is a necessary one - the masses are hardly a good indicator of an argument's validity)...


We're disagreeing in that I don't think it's ever and opponent's job to establish something irrelevant. It's the job of the person who said it to establish its relevancy, just as its their job to ensure their ideas' consistency, validity, and soundness.

You can merely say "I don't see how this is relevant" and it's their job to explain it. (Thought you are right that it is courteous and useful to lay out how you find it irrelevant)
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby akashra » Wed Jan 16, 2008 5:05 am UTC

angel_jean wrote:Name-calling: Unacceptable unless done in jest (which is not the idea in this forum). I'm talking about derogatory words being attached to people. You may attack practices to your heart's content, although I seem to have a line drawn at attacking ways of thinking. This is a personal thing, and for some reason I apply these rules to my own thoughts at all times.

There's a big difference between "people who do x are y" and "you're y". Sadly, people seem incapable of differentiating, which leads me to: People who can't tell the difference are idiots :)
It didn't go down too well the other day with one particular mod here who didn't like me pointing out some peoples lack of brain function who think in a particular way - regardless of the fact that by plain dictionary definition what I said wasn't inaccurate :)

If you're going to call someone something, at least justify it. Having a censor step in to protect you though is pretty pathetic by all accounts - if people want to think negatively of someone who's said something, let them - but let them make up their own mind, not have it decided by a censor. I don't need someone else to stop me reading a comment which might otherwise make me think of someone who's said something, "this guy's a jerk", "this guy's a racist", "this guy's completely and utterly bigoted" or "this guys argument sucks and/or is just plain wrong/OT".

angel_jean wrote:Quoting someone to try and show them their own way of thinking: not something I'm clever enough to indulge in, but I would accept it, because in certain moods I would love to have my thinking examined. I can see that in certain moods it might piss someone off

ohnoes, God forbid we might hurt someones feelings by showing them to be incorrect, irrational, or just plainly unable to act in a way that isn't subject to complete rubbishing by others. What, so now we should cease from making strong arguments because someone might be offended?
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby 4=5 » Wed Jan 16, 2008 5:50 am UTC

akashra wrote:
angel_jean wrote:Quoting someone to try and show them their own way of thinking: not something I'm clever enough to indulge in, but I would accept it, because in certain moods I would love to have my thinking examined. I can see that in certain moods it might piss someone off

ohnoes, God forbid we might hurt someones feelings by showing them to be incorrect, irrational, or just plainly unable to act in a way that isn't subject to complete rubbishing by others. What, so now we should cease from making strong arguments because someone might be offended?

maybe,
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Ari » Wed Jan 16, 2008 6:05 am UTC

Akashra- it really depends on whether you want someone to stick around so you can try to convince them of more stuff or not. Being a little less blunt when you break something that really challenges the way someone thinks can help them accept it. A lot of people join these debates without being entirely willing to have all their beliefs challenged, and tearing them apart verbally and falling back on "well, what I said is correct!" still doesn't change the fact that you have tried to deconstruct an important part of someone's worldview with no sensitivity to what that might do to them. And that kinda attitude is exactly what stops people from listening to rational criticism of their beliefs.

(edit: That's obviously an extreme case, and I'm not suggesting anyone here does this, just that it gets done in arguments a lot by people who genuinely think they're being helpful and smart with the best of intentions.)

So yes, being nice has its place in arguments. At the very least, if you can't be nice, don't be smug when you challenge something very important to someone. It might just make you more persuasive, even if it doesn't do anything to logically or factually enhance your argument.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby angel_jean » Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:14 am UTC

Ooh, lots of interesting voices. Time to try and talk to everything people have said... by the way, I'm interested in responses from everyone to these questions, not just from the people who made me think of them.

Starting with Masuri, who mentioned the life cycle of the board. Do you think what I'm doing is going to affect the cycle (speed it up/slow it down?) And, by the way, I'm not talking about moderation at all. I haven't seen any moderators step in, in any of the topics I've been reading. I'm just interested in the way people discuss (and censure each other :P)

And mosc, who mentioned the flaws of forum boards. Different opinions of the bounds of a conversation are rife, yes, although the bounds here are more strictly set than in other places ... but I would think it was no worse than any other situation, because hardly anyone ever bothers to make the bounds of their conversation clear. In real life conversation, for example, people will regularly break what they might see as boundaries of the conversation to make their opponent uncomfortable. And in IM there are hardly any defined bounds at all :P What do you think are the special flaws of message-board type fora?

Ari, with the 'only this group can understand' argument, now I see that wasn't really thinking about the concept of 'valid' properly. I've rethought it. And while I agree with all of what you said, especially the assumptions implicit there, I would contend that 'only this group can understand my argument' is a statement, not an argument in itself. When people use it, I think they mean 'My argument is valid (or what you just said is wrong), BUT only this group can understand where I'm coming from'. There is no logical manoeuvre there, just an assertion of its validity and its complexity.

By the way, 'you'll understand when you're older' is another statement, and it might be true or false (rather than a valid or invalid argument for the case). In my case it later proved true. I was, however, not persuaded at the time, being 16 then, so I wouldn't call it a persuasive one :P

As for the response, my instinct would be to whine 'but can't you explain it to me?' because in a lot of situations, pride wouldn't let me admit I couldn't understand Anything. :P In many situations there is not the time for explanation. Maybe this is one place where forum boards have the advantage. But for people who have already worked hard on understanding, yes, it would be quite the insult.

yoni45,
yoni45 wrote:That's not necessarily an unfair or invalid method. Essentially, he's bringing forth a new argument. *snip*

I agree that it can be done fairly. (Like I said, I was quite prepared to argue against myself on that one, I just figured I'd leave it to someone else). It irked me when, as in your second example, he completely ignored my argument, and in our situation we didn't have unlimited time. By the way, "cherry picking fallacy" ... I've been reading all the nice links people have mentioned, and I don't see that one. Mind explaining for me? (and how does it differ from that guy who didn't want to be selectively quoted? :P)

By the way, the links are
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ ... logic.html (a long list found by Belial)
http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=6634 (a short list found by EdgarJPublius - hello there!)
http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ (a long list referenced in the first link)

akashra,

ooh, a very different voice. I wonder who you're arguing against? You haven't disagreed with anything I've wanted to say yet (although I might not have said it properly ;) ). But I don't agree with all you say either.

akashra wrote:There's a big difference between "people who do x are y" and "you're y".

Well, there is. Personally, I don't use either, that is just me. I prefer 'the practice of x is y' and I prefer adjectives that actually convey useful information rather than labels. (This doesn't make me superior by the way, there is just a certain switch in my brain that I put in there at some point. Sometimes I wish I could turn it off.)

akashra wrote:Having a censor step in to protect you though is pretty pathetic by all accounts - if people want to think negatively of someone who's said something, let them - but let them make up their own mind, not have it decided by a censor.

Well, there's a couple of things. I've tried not to say anything about moderators so far, as that isn't the scope of my discussion. But since you're talking about name-calling, I think the idea is to stop people writing things that would offend readers, not in the 'I don't like what he said about them!' sense, but in the 'you're trying to make me feel horrible' sense. (I apologise for my lack of vocab.) There is a place for restricting such things, and I would say this forum is one of those places. That said, it's open to misinterpretation. And I don't mod here, so *shrugs*

akashra wrote:
angel_jean wrote:Quoting someone to try and show them their own way of thinking: not something I'm clever enough to indulge in, but I would accept it, because in certain moods I would love to have my thinking examined. I can see that in certain moods it might piss someone off

ohnoes, God forbid we might hurt someones feelings by showing them to be incorrect, irrational, or just plainly unable to act in a way that isn't subject to complete rubbishing by others. What, so now we should cease from making strong arguments because someone might be offended?

Ahh, I never said it should be stopped. I personally find it perfectly fine. I even appreciate it at times. I merely meant that some people are offended sometimes. Do they have a right to be? Feelings are feelings. Doesn't make the argument invalid, and as we've all said, valid arguments should be allowed. However, I agree with Ari in that we should make our arguments carefully for the sake of being more persuasive.

Can I say that you knocked down a straw man instead of me, there? I must say that for two people each trying to start arguments, you and I have very different styles. :P

But anyway, more ideas are welcome!
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Engma » Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:38 pm UTC

I have to say, most of the arguments I run accross in forums are either reasonablely well thought out (if not something I agree with) or so freakin' stupid that it defies convention.

The stupid ones tend to make the most random jumps in logic, or try to do much at once, rather than going in a more linear, progressive pattern.

I also can't stand arguments that bend, twist, or otherwise mutilate perfectly good statistics. Yes, I know that statistics are the only bits of information that scientists can use to draw opposite conclusions. But seriously, there comes a point.

A non-internet argument I heart was by the president of the Campus Conservative club. He was arguing the following: 1) Black families are less likely to have the father present in the picture. 2) Black people are more prone to criminal activity. 3) Having a father figure will keep you away from criminal activity.

First, I'll mention that this was stupid, because about 50 black people were grouped together looking murderous at this guy...I don't care if they were black or not...I just wouldn't piss off a large group of people with one of my arguments.

Secondly, his agrument was barely based on statistics. He seemed to think that the presence or lack of a father figure is the ONLY thing that determines whether or not one turns to a life of crime. Yeah, right. For some people, the lack of a father might be the better thing.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Maurog » Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:13 pm UTC

You're saying it as if the argument was even remotely correct and he just missed a minor point, but really it's just logically wrong. It's like saying that a - cats are less likely to swim, b - cats are more prone to be killed by traffic, therefore c - regular swimming decreases chances to be hit by a car.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Anpheus » Wed Jan 16, 2008 6:44 pm UTC

I hate it when people do this, more than anything else.

(Example given.)

Angel_Jean: You're wrong. Blah blah blah, argumentative point made not responding to your post, blah blah blah.

angel_jean wrote:Hiya all.
Name-calling: Unacceptable unless done in jest (which is not the idea in this forum). I'm talking about derogatory words being attached to people. ...text omitted... This is a personal thing, and for some reason I apply these rules to my own thoughts at all times.


Name calling is absolutely valid, you %!#@! I mean, really, does that make any sense? Really? Come on. No, it does not make any sense. So you're wrong. Also, I removed irrelevant sections of material that I considered to be off-topic and thus not apply to this argument.

There would be another quote here, but the arguer decided that it's much easier to counter my view by not quoting all of my post.

Quoting sentences, rather than paragraphs: perfectly okay.

I disagree.

I would like to think that every sentence I write is something I believe in itself.

Blah blah blah, I disagree. Reasons why... blah blah blah blah blah... another paragraph.

As such, I'm happy to have every such sentence challenged, standing alone.

It's actually a lot more annoying than you think, and doesn't lead to productive argument.

There would be another quote here, but the arguer decided that it's much easier to counter my view by not quoting all of my post.

Random blurb at the bottom where arguer says blah blah blah, I'm right, you're wrong, you're being an ass for criticizing my posting style, it's perfectly acceptable to quote only single, unsupported and out-of-context sentences, attack them, and then presume the other person's argument wholly defeated.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby angel_jean » Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:20 pm UTC

Anpheus wrote:I hate it when people do this, more than anything else.

(Example given.)


Okay, I see that you hate it. Why?

(and do I have to quote your example?

and ... you used my name. Did I do what you said? If so, where?)
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Anpheus » Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:26 pm UTC

That's what I was doing, I made an arbitrary and obviously nonsensical example. Yes, I strawmanned what I disliked, as well.

But the reason I hate it is not due to... well, I could probably, with significant thought, come up with an explanation for the following observations, but I do not have a ready reason for why they occur. The reason I hate it is purely due to the observed consequences of any debate involving someone who does a "needle-quote" style. The topic will very quickly drift from its original purpose with a needle quoter, again, anecdotal. Needle quoting people will avoid quoting any evidence that they're wrong and tend to care more about attacking an argument than defending their own views. Even if your argument is solely an attack on theirs, that is, you seek to say, "Hey, I don't know the answer, but I know you're not right and here's why," they will somehow avoid quoting anything that denies the validity of their argument. Again, this is all anecdotal.

I've never seen an argument with a needle-quoting individual end up in any useful discussion of truth, and even if you're lucky enough to avoid descending into ad hominem attacks, they may as well be, because a needle-quoter is not interested in the pursuit of truth, only proving everyone's ideas else false.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby yoni45 » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:32 pm UTC

Anpheus wrote:...Yes, I strawmanned what I disliked, as well...


Which is what made your argument flawed. Well, in addition to the nonsensical nature of some of it.

In short: it wasn't the selective quoting that made your argument look like that of a ranting 6 year old. It was everything else that you did wrong with it.

Anpheus wrote:because a needle-quoter is not interested in the pursuit of truth, only proving everyone's ideas else false.


1. Shall we assume that's also anecdotal at best, or do you actually have anything with which to substantiate that kind of (clearly broad) generalization?

2. You do realize that everyone else's ideas being false can be a truth on its own?
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby angel_jean » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:33 pm UTC

Okay.

Now I'm pondering what to answer.

Firstly, let me say I'm not exactly sure what needle-quoting is. You may have given a good example, but I'd like a better concept of it - a list of characteristics. Because my first (inexact) concept is "not quoting all of a post" and my second one is "discussing each aspect separately, breaking the quotation down into separate sentences if necessary". And I personally have no objections to either of these concepts. It is my instinct to do both of those. Because you object to needle-quoting I am going to refrain until I have a better concept of what you mean.

Secondly, if you prefer that someone not use this style of discussion, what do you suggest they do? I am somewhat at a loss here.

I have thought of a solution: I will try and summarise what I think you mean, and then say what my response to it is.

You propose that needle-quoting is bad. You give anecdotal examples of what can happen to the debate where needle-quoting is used. You also theorise on the motivation of someone who uses needle-quoting. If this is an inadequate summary, please correct me.

My response: because I don't know your definition of needle-quoting, I can't agree or disagree. But in general, I have a bad feeling about what you say. I'm not persuaded. I would like to give you the chance to clarify, and maybe to persuade me.

So, what do you think of a response with no quotes whatsoever?

Also ... I would also like to know if you disagree with any of the views that I have expressed. That goes for everyone. But right now, I am asking you to clarify your argument.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby yoni45 » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:36 pm UTC

Ari wrote:We're disagreeing in that I don't think it's ever and opponent's job to establish something irrelevant. It's the job of the person who said it to establish its relevancy, just as its their job to ensure their ideas' consistency, validity, and soundness.

You can merely say "I don't see how this is relevant" and it's their job to explain it. (Thought you are right that it is courteous and useful to lay out how you find it irrelevant)


I guess that's fair - I'd still advocate pointing out irrelevancy for the sake of courtesy, but I guess it's not required... ^_^
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Anpheus » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:41 pm UTC

Needle-quoting is what you get when Yoni45 posts. I'm serious, by the way, with regard to what I've seen him post. He will quote tiny little sections of your text and then reply with greater quantity to each section he proposes. It's kind of like arguing with someone who has acute tunnel vision and can only see one sentence you type in five.

Case in point: see, I admit the flaws of my own argument, insist that it's anecdotal and only based on my own observations made, etc. And he proceeds to tear into my post as if it were a personal attack on him, insists that I'm wrong while attacking points I concede in the very post he's referring to and ignores the general context of what I was saying: I don't have an exceptional, well-thought out reason for why needle-quoting leads to the observed phenomena I see.

And to Yoni45, attempting to prove everyone else wrong in order to validate personal beliefs is not the same thing as attempting to find truth, it's a process called rationalization.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby akashra » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:46 pm UTC

Anpheus wrote:And to Yoni45, attempting to prove everyone else wrong in order to validate personal beliefs is not the same thing as attempting to find truth, it's a process called rationalization.

Lets be fair though, truth doesn't need to be proven. Truth just is. Personal beliefs and ethics on the other hand are perspective and subjective.

I have thought of a solution: I will try and summarise what I think you mean, and then say what my response to it is.

Summarising or rewording what someone else has said, in your own words, is rarely a good idea, as it's pretty transparent that you're trying to doctor their comments to help your argument.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Anpheus » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:48 pm UTC

Eh, err? I don't see the relevance to the argument, akashra. Did you misinterpret my sentence you quoted?
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby akashra » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:50 pm UTC

Now if you turn that into a statement of fact rather than a question, we'd just call it trolling.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Indon » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:53 pm UTC

Anpheus wrote:I've never seen an argument with a needle-quoting individual end up in any useful discussion of truth,


I feel that this 'needle-quoting', so long as you mean it to be quoting of the minimal amount of text neccessary to formulate a reply, can be good for saving space and even clarifying what portion of a post (given a post that discusses multiple ideas) is being discussed.

So, provided what I did just now is in fact needle-quoting, I would assert that it can be used productively. :P

I'm also a big fan of rephrasing arguments. When someone rephrases my point in their words, it allows me to see what their thought process is, and if they have any misunderstandings of my claims which I can then break down and convey better.
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Anpheus » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:56 pm UTC

Well, we could get into a debate about whether or not truth needs to be proven, the goal of scientific endeavor, the goal of a philosophical argument or debate, etc, but I don't see the relevance.

Particularly because regardless of the validity of the first two sentences, I don't see how they tie into my quote at all. I didn't say anything at all with regard to "proving truth."

To Indon: I think needle quoting with intent to prove a person's whole belief wrong based on an out-of-context quote is what I'm referring to, I apologize for not making that clear.
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Indon
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Re: What argument styles are acceptable/unacceptable? (Opinion!)

Postby Indon » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:59 pm UTC

Anpheus wrote:To Indon: I think needle quoting with intent to prove a person's whole belief wrong based on an out-of-context quote is what I'm referring to, I apologize for not making that clear.


Ah, so a specific kind of misquote, a kind of misquote-by-omission. Understood.
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