How to Make an Argument

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Zylark, Aug 15, 2008.

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  1. #1 Zylark, Aug 15, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2008
    This isn't about politics as such, but how political (and all other arguments) are made. Not all-encompassing, naturally, but a short primer.

    1: Stay on target (topic) and do not stray too far from it.

    Not always easy, especially on a stoner forum, but if you intend to contribute in a meaningfull manner to a debate, this rule is the most important.

    2: Never ever say anything you cannot back up with credible sources.

    Many fall into the pitfall of inventing their own facts or credit literally incredible sources. Such ploys are often, and in a debate with me who do check sources, revealed. If you do not want to get caught doing a fast one, then don't do a fast one. In short; do your research.

    3: Avoid logical fallacies.

    They are easily exposed, and will when so done, make you look bad. The more common fallacies are:

    Ad hominem: Personal attacks
    Strawman: Assigning the opposition positions they do not hold
    Non-Sequitur: The premises do not lead to the conclution
    Post-hoc ergo propter hoc: Confusing correlation with causation

    And there are many more.

    4: Make very damn sure your spelling and grammar is mostly correct.

    Nobody listens to anyone who cannot spell right. And yes, that applies to us not-english as first-language speakers as well on this english speaking (well, writing) forum. If your english writing skills are not up to scratch, do not expect anyone to read what you write.

    And for all that is good, learn to use the Return key. Big blocks of text are never read.

    5: Keep it as short as possible.

    This is where I fail continously. I try, but I find it a challenge as I try to nuance things rather than go black-and-white. But as a general rule, anything above 3-4 paragraphs generally won't be read. Sad, but true.

    6: Avoid "fishism"

    That is taking a debaters post, fragment it into multiple quotes, and then respond to each in turn. It just fragments a debate into multiple red herrings. Stick to at most two major points that you quote and want to debate, not the usual fishism ploy of multiple, even dozens of quotes.


    Any more tips to make a good argument? I'm sure I have glanced over a few considering how long it took me to write this in my beer and bong condition :D



    7. Look away By aaronman

    If someone posts a logical rebuke that can't be refuted, just look away and continue scrolling down. Pray it is lost amidst the ramblings.

    (personal edit, looking away is often a good thing. One cannot debate every point that comes up in a post. Especially if those points come up during the "shotgun" approach of argumenting. An approach creationists are very fond of)
  2. 1. but what if you can kill them on that argument too? :D
    2.Always do your research, love having stuff to back myself up. but hate getting the "the media is controlled man" that is just trying to take away from your source because they were proven wrong.
    3. Keep a level head. Don't resort to name calling even if they do it to you in the first place.
    4. Thats why I love that firefox has a built in spell checker :D
    5. I try to do this but when I get on a roll and rant it just goes on.
    6. I get hooked sometimes.

    Good stuff Zylark
  3. Awww, but I love doing that! I'm not good at abstract responses, especially with some of the more.. dubious claims.

    Anyways, while I internally debate the merits of it; I think the rest of the post is very good, perhaps it will stimulate a more consistent debate and discussion format.

    Good work, Zylark.
  4. #4 Zylark, Aug 15, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2008
    Hehe, this isn't a lesson on how to win an argument, just how to make it it.

    Subtle differences perhaps. And winning as it were, quite often involve some underhand tactics. Which I won't divulge much of here, as it requires a bit of training and patience to do right :)


    With regards to fishism:

    I know, I have done it myself until I was made aware of how underhand that techinque is. Since then I have been tempted many times, and I do have to make an effort not to do it when met with multiple inanities that just begs for a refutation. Indeed, ridicule. Point by point.

    But fishism is not a good manner to make an argument, even though it makes you feel good afterwards. Infact, fishism is just a kneejerk response to a body of argument you can not handle as a whole without some effort. Or in other words, it is the lazy way to do an argument, not the proper.

    What I find to work, is to just latch on to the one or two most outrageous arguments and pound on those, especially if they are more or less on topic.
  5. #5 Liquidtruth, Aug 15, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2008
    In my opinion you can "fish" and still get to the heart of the issue. It is all in how one goes about it. If all points are addressed and the crux of the argument is addressed, how can it not be a "good" argument?

  6. My specialty! Also leaves it open for interpretation.. :p
  7. +rep Zylark

    Should be a sticky

    If these basic debate guidelines were applied to this forum (and spirituality and philosophy) we would have much better threads
  8. with regard to keeping posts as short as possible:

    Hehe, well, sometimes, ambiguety is not what one wants.

    But ofcourse, where it serves its purpose...
  9. common sense is not so common, is it?
  10. #10 Zylark, Aug 15, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2008
    Oh no, and when it is, it is not all that sensical :p
  11. nice thread man!

    staying on topic is tough in a forum like this, with so many different arguments and opinions being thrown around.
    A lot of us (not intentionally) respond to a comment in a thread without realizing it has nothing to do with the topic.

    the weed smoking has a bit to do with it as well... :D

    i think i violated #5 with this post.
  12. *Waits patiently for Zylark to answer him* :p

    Come on man, sway me over to your way of thinking with logic! :)
  13. #13 aaronman, Aug 15, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2008
    Can't you read?

    Even the master debaters of GC use this tactic :smoke:
  14. #14 Zylark, Aug 15, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2008
    Hehehe, that did make me laugh. If for no other reason than it is true. Hell...

    edit: First contribution. Let us hope most get the fun of it, and not just take it at face value :D
  15. I can read, though, It is not a skill (for me anyway) that transcends time. ;)

  16. #16 Zylark, Aug 15, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2008
    Umm, but I have, even before you posted!

    The magic of prophecy. Or post-hoc as I like to call it...

    Yes, fishism feels satisfying. Yes, it is a method to jerk yourself off in an argument. Not very constructive though. If for no other reason than only one gets satisfied by it. The one who does it.

    Though you _can_ win an argument by fishism, you can only do so if it is the last argument, the final stab. When you got the opponent cornered with no escape. And only if your intention is confrontational and not congenial. Even then you need to make really damn sure every argument you make is correct in every sense. That is a hard task, and not always achievable.

    Fishism will backfire on you, if for no other reason than it is a demonstration of the red-herring fallacy, and also that it is hard to make a good argument when divided into many small parts.

    That is unless you want to make your opponents argument look silly. But again, employing fishism to that effect will (again) backfire as you are trying to cover too much ground in one post, rather than focus on one or two contentious arguments that you are sure of and not just knee-jerking to.

    Fishism makes you loose focus, and thus not do the proper research before making a claim. Maybe not always, but more often than not. That translates to giving the opposition a way out. Never a smart move.
  17. Alright, another thing came to my attention.

    I think we need a follow-up thread entitle; "How to Respond to an Argument"; specifically the one point I feel would need to be stressed is that in order to maintain some kind of consistency and intellectual honesty, a response needs to actually acknowledge all points made before making new claims.

    I find that many individuals, when being demonstrated incorrect will instead invoke a series of new claims instead of acknowledging error and attempting to re-formulate a thesis.
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