Author Topic: Debating Techniques, Terms, and Ideas: A Guide  (Read 6020 times)

Jubal

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Debating Techniques, Terms, and Ideas: A Guide
« on: October 31, 2011, 05:03:55 PM »
I'm going to pin and slowly extend a glossary of ideologies, debating techniques, logical fallacies, and so on for use in this section. I'll subheader each type (so for example, the "logical fallacies" section) then enter stuff under that. If there's anything you particularly think should be in there, or you think my definitions are wrong, then do say so.

LOGICAL FALLACIES
These are flaws in arguments which it is useful to be able to spot, with their technical names. Internet names of these are also given as entries.

Ad Hominem
Attacking the person rather than their argument, e.g. "You may think llamas are better than wallabies - however, your argument is invalid because you are an imbecile." This is clearly not true; they may be an imbecile, but who they are has no effect on the validity of their reasoning.argument where they have proven nothing.

Appeal to Popularity
Stating that something is correct because everyone thinks so. "Wallabies are deadly, because 80% of people think they are more dangerous than alpacas." That 80% can, obviously, be wrong - their opinions have no bearing on how dangerous wallabies are. People used to think the earth was the centre of the universe, it doesn't mean that because people thought that it was true.

Circular Argument
An argument where the basic premise is the same as the final conclusion. For example, "There is no alternative to llama farming. Because there is no alternative to llama farming, it would be pointless trying to invest in research into other forms of farming. Because other forms of farming have not been researched, they cannot be used in practical purposes. For this reason, there is no alternative to llama farming." Essentially this debater has just created an argument where they have proven nothing - the conclusion relies on itself being true and has no other evidence to back itself up.

Strawmanning
Creating a "strawman" is the technique whereby the debater misrepresents their opponent's argument, creates a similar but less coherent version, then knocks THAT down instead of the original. This is a very common tactic in political debating, particularly where the sides are "playing to the gallery" and trying to convince a third party that their opponents have bogus arguments.

Example:
Person 1: "Wallabies are better than llamas, because if a llama and a wallaby fought the wallaby would win and that's pretty cool."
Person 2: "Animals that can easily kill people are a menace to our society; wallabies are therefore a real problem whereas llamas should be respected."

Person 2 has created a strawman; person 1 simply stated that a wallaby was better at fighting than a llama; person 2 created the strawman argument from that saying that wallabies can easily kill people. By extending their opponent's argument, person 2 now has something he can argue against far more easily.



IDEOLOGIES - POLITICAL
This section is for political views on subjects such as the size & power of the state, distribution of wealth, etc.



IDEOLOGIES - RELIGIOUS & ETHICAL
This is for different branches of thought in religion and ethics. There is a clear cross-over with politics, but having them as two sections helps avoid confusion and aids finding the right bits (so for a debate on abortion or god, go here, for taxation or wars, go to "Ideologies - Political").
« Last Edit: November 01, 2011, 10:33:51 PM by Jubal »
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Phoenixguard09

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Re: Debating Techniques, Terms, and Ideas: A Guide
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2011, 12:46:48 AM »
Don't you dare bring wallabies into this Jubal! Don't do it man!

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Jubal

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Re: Debating Techniques, Terms, and Ideas: A Guide
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2011, 10:26:02 PM »
Yeah, I'll do a section for rhetorical techniques at some point which will include those.  :)
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Pentagathus

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Re: Debating Techniques, Terms, and Ideas: A Guide
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2014, 05:17:53 PM »
Lawl I read debating as dating. Was highly disappointed after clicking on the thread.

Jubal

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Re: Debating Techniques, Terms, and Ideas: A Guide
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2014, 04:24:29 PM »
I can write a dating advice thread if you really want me to, I doubt it would go down terribly well though :P
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Pentagathus

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Re: Debating Techniques, Terms, and Ideas: A Guide
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2014, 09:09:40 AM »
I definitely do want that. So much.

joek

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Re: Debating Techniques, Terms, and Ideas: A Guide
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2014, 12:52:00 PM »
Reviving the zombie thread.

I was inspired to contribute a few more fallacies.  The first and third especially are seen quite often in debates on the internet.

Tone Arguments

"The tone argument is to dismiss an opponent's argument based on its presentation: typically perceived crassness, hysteria or anger." ~ The Rational Wiki on the Tone Argument.

Tone argumentation is a fallacy as it is used to dismiss an argument based on how it is presented, rather than whether or not it is correct or relevant.  It is frequently used by those who are less emotionally connected to a debate, as a way of presenting those who have a stake in the debate as irrational.

Users frequently try to position themselves as having an in some way "respectable" or "objective" position because they do not use curse words, or are arguing about something which doesn't personally affect them.

Example (proposed by Patricia Williams in Teleology on the Rocks (1991)):

Cain: Abel's part of town is rough turf.

Abel: It upsets me when you say that; you have never been to my part of town. As a matter of fact, my part of town is a leading supplier of milk and honey.

Cain: The news that I'm upsetting you is too upsetting for me to handle. You were wrong to tell me of your upset because now I'm terribly upset.

Abel: I felt threatened first. Listen to me. Take your distress as a measure of my own and empathize with it. Don't ask me to recant and apologize in order to carry this conversation further.

In this example, Cain is resorting to a tone argument rather than engaging with the substance of Abel's point: that Cain's original comment was offensive and unsupported.

Appeal to Common Sense

Common sense is something which intuitively looks like it should be true, or at least that a particular disputant suggests that everyone should be able to trivially see to be true.

Arguing from "common sense" can be fallacious because not everything that looks like it should be true necessarily is.  It's common sense that light shouldn't be able to act as both a particle and a wave, or that it is possible to know both where something is and how fast it is going; Quantum Mechanics has proved, however, that both of these things are true, regardless of what common sense has to say about it.

Equally, for instance, common sense fails when it comes to logical problems like the Blue Eyes problem or the Monty Hall problem.

No True Scotsman

No True Scotsman is a fallacy by which an individual tries to avoid a group with which they are associated being implicated in doing something unpleasant by claiming that no true member of that group does that thing.  It is a fallacy of redefining a group to exclude members of the group who are also members of another, more negative group.

If the group is defined narrowly to begin with, rather than changing the definition to be more narrow, then that is not this fallacy.

Example:

$a: This bag contains only red counters.

$b: I just drew a counter from the bag and it was blue.

$a: That counter can't have been in the bag: all the counters in the bag are red.

This example is extremely obvious, but real life examples can be much more pernicious.  Real life examples include the term "RINO", for "Republican in name only", the implication being that despite being a member of the Republican party, someone is not a "true" Republican because they disagree with the speaker on whatever issue.

joek

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Re: Debating Techniques, Terms, and Ideas: A Guide
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2014, 03:10:54 PM »
A few more:

Balance Fallacy

The balance fallacy is a fallacy which states that all sides in a debate necessarily have things to contribute of relatively equal values.  This is a fallacy when one side actually has a far stronger position.

Example:

$Professor of Ancient History: the term "pagan" to refer to non-Christians of Late Antiquity is generally agreed to be problematic because of X, Y, and Z.  However there is no generally agreed upon better alternative.

$J. Random Conspiracy Theorist: well, actually we know that what early Christians called pagan was actually the Lizard-People from Mars.  Therefore we should refer to early non-Christians as Lizard People.

$Moderator: Both sides have something relevant to say in this important debate.

Obviously, the historian is much more qualified to discuss the topic, and the evidence given by the conspiracy theorist is... lacking, to say the least.  The moderator, then, is in this instance guilty of the Balance Fallacy: only one of the two interlocutors has anything even vaguely valuable to add to the discussion.

Appeal to Moderation (The Fallacy of the Golden Mean)

Related to the Balance Fallacy, this is when a debater assumes that because there are two extreme positions in the topic, the correct answer is the middle ground between them.

Example:

$Professor of Ancient History: the term "pagan" to refer to non-Christians of Late Antiquity is generally agreed to be problematic because of X, Y, and Z.  However there is no generally agreed upon better alternative.

$J. Random Conspiracy Theorist: well, actually we know that what early Christians called pagan was actually the Lizard-People from Mars.  Therefore we should refer to early non-Christians as Lizard People.

$Moderator: We should clearly look for the middle ground here.  Can we all agree to call early non-Christians "Pagan Lizard People"?

The fallacy in this argument should be obvious.

Slippery Slope Fallacies

Slippery slope fallacies are a category of fallacies which take the form "If x, then y" where y is an obviously undesirable result.  They are so named because the argument often comes in the form "allowing x is a slippery slope to y".

Possibly the most famous example of a slippery slope fallacy was the argument put forth by Rick Santorum that legalising homosexuality would lead to "man-on-dog sex".

The argument is only fallacious if the negative consequence postulated cannot be shown to follow from the original position.  A statement like "if we don't do anything to curb greenhouse gas emissions, then global warming will result" is not fallacious as there is a generally agreed upon mechanism by which human actions can lead to global climate change.

Non Sequitur

Latin for "that which does not follow", non sequitur refers to a logical fallacy where someone states a set of premises, and draws an inference from those premises -- except that that inference does not follow in any reasonable set of logical axioms.

An example, formulated by Alan Turing:

P1: If each man had a definite set of rules of conduct by which he regulated his life he would be no better than a machine.
P2: However, there are no such rules.
C: Therefore, men cannot be machines.

This does not follow for two reasons:

Firstly, P1 has nothing to say about whether men are machines, only whether they are better than machines.

Secondly, P1 doesn't state that if there are no such rules, a man is better than a machine; only that with the rules he cannot be.

Such fallacies as ad hominem, circular argumentation, and the appeal to popularity are all special cases of non sequiturs.