How to have a constructive argument

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16 May 2020 10:39 #351992 by Loudzoo
I came across the work of Anatol Rapoport recently (via one of Daniel Dennet's books) and thought it was of great relevance to our forums here and therefore worth sharing:

"Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent? If there are obvious contradictions in the opponent’s case, then you should point them out, forcefully. If there are somewhat hidden contradictions, you should carefully expose them to view—and then dump on them. But the search for hidden contradictions often crosses the line into nitpicking, sea-lawyering and outright parody. The thrill of the chase and the conviction that your opponent has to be harboring a confusion somewhere encourages uncharitable interpretation, which gives you an easy target to attack. But such easy targets are typically irrelevant to the real issues at stake and simply waste everybody’s time and patience, even if they give amusement to your supporters. The best antidote I know for this tendency to caricature one’s opponent is a list of rules promulgated many years ago by social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport (creator of the winning Tit-for-Tat strategy in Robert Axelrod’s legendary prisoner’s dilemma tournament).

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

One immediate effect of following these rules is that your targets will be a receptive audience for your criticism: you have already shown that you understand their positions as well as they do, and have demonstrated good judgment (you agree with them on some important matters and have even been persuaded by something they said)."

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16 May 2020 14:03 #351995 by Rosalyn J
Very simple but I think effective

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17 May 2020 05:44 #352016 by Rex
Even if I don't disagree with someone, it's always helpful in my opinion to try and flesh out what they're actually saying. Active listening means you show you understand what they've explicitly and often subtextually said, and want to know more. Most of the disagreements I have aren't even necessarily about the premises from which my counterpart is building their point, but rather how proceed afterwards. Sometimes, I'll find that the disagreements are simply poor communication between people, and some friendly questioning can clear it up.

Of course, I don't really care to waste my time and energy with obvious trolls.

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17 May 2020 15:56 - 17 May 2020 16:20 #352025 by OB1Shinobi
We are in the Post Truth era. I believe the Mueller Report . Political operatives and ideological fanatics are prolific and influential.

There is woman who I work with who told me last week that she thinks the CDC is inflating the coronavirus numbers. I may bring this (the official CDC guidelines for listing causes of death) to her attention and explain it to her at some point but idk, i also might just let it go. She is not an operative or a fanatic. She is a nice person but she is not well educated and she doesn't value intellect, data, or learning. She does not know how to vet sources. Frankly, she is a sucker for propaganda. As is a huge percentage of my country. Being a sucker has literally become a threat to national security.

So I dont argue with rational people (with the exception maybe of debates around here). I go into intellectual battle with political operatives and ideological fanatics. Left wing, right wing, i dont care. There are crazies and propagandists everywhere, and their efforts have real life consequences. My aim is to use sources and data to expose lies and deliberately-fostered misconceptions and to be an example of what proper research and critical thinking look like. I have no interest in converting or reaching most of the people that I contend with because most of them are not reachable. We are in a cultural war of ideas and values and its not with rational, truthful people: its with people who disregard that rationality and truth are even important next to their need to win.

People are complicated.
Last edit: 17 May 2020 16:20 by OB1Shinobi.

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17 May 2020 16:52 #352026 by Proteus

OB1Shinobi wrote: We are in the Post Truth era. I believe the Mueller Report . Political operatives and ideological fanatics are prolific and influential.

There is woman who I work with who told me last week that she thinks the CDC is inflating the coronavirus numbers. I may bring this (the official CDC guidelines for listing causes of death) to her attention and explain it to her at some point but idk, i also might just let it go. She is not an operative or a fanatic. She is a nice person but she is not well educated and she doesn't value intellect, data, or learning. She does not know how to vet sources. Frankly, she is a sucker for propaganda. As is a huge percentage of my country. Being a sucker has literally become a threat to national security.

So I dont argue with rational people (with the exception maybe of debates around here). I go into intellectual battle with political operatives and ideological fanatics. Left wing, right wing, i dont care. There are crazies and propagandists everywhere, and their efforts have real life consequences. My aim is to use sources and data to expose lies and deliberately-fostered misconceptions and to be an example of what proper research and critical thinking look like. I have no interest in converting or reaching most of the people that I contend with because most of them are not reachable. We are in a cultural war of ideas and values and its not with rational, truthful people: its with people who disregard that rationality and truth are even important next to their need to win.


I believe one of the reasons people approach this as a war in the first place is because of the fact that everyone on all sides think what you just said above about one another, instead of breaking the chain of "battling". In a war, nobody really wins. This is why it stays perpetual, and the more your "opponent" faces battle, the more you make them simply double down on their position. It's self-fulfilling perpetuation. You're keeping your own enemy propped up and feeding them opportunity to continue convincing others of what you believe is wrong.

“For it is easy to criticize and break down the spirit of others, but to know yourself takes a lifetime.”
― Bruce Lee

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17 May 2020 19:01 #352031 by littlerickie
Replied by littlerickie on topic How to have a constructive argument
The is no such thing as a "constructive argument". There is intelligent discourse. When the intelligence is no longer present in a discussions it is over. Lead by example and if that isn't enough don't allow yourself to sink to their level. You can't fix stupid.

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18 May 2020 22:29 #352056 by JamesSand

The is no such thing as a "constructive argument". There is intelligent discourse. When the intelligence is no longer present in a discussions it is over. Lead by example and if that isn't enough don't allow yourself to sink to their level. You can't fix stupid.


Wrong.

Was that not constructive?

Okay.

Anecdote time!

Occasionally I'm involved in a "working group"

I'm sure there are a bunch of ways to achieve this, but we tend to do it by locking a selection of experts in a room and seeing what they come up with by the deadline.

It's an argument in that everyone has an agenda, views, and occasionally even data to back up their designs.

It's constructive in that no one is really trying to "win" - the goal is to distill a "best path" from all the knowledge and experience in the room - everyone ultimately has the same end "goal" .


At some point it usually ends up looking a bit like this -






Broadly, the points in Loudzoo's post apply - Since we are "arguing" for a common goal, rather than to win Internet Points, it's generally useful to make sure you understand all the information provided by the others.

If I was to add another point, it would be aftercare - a good (especially prolonged, if the issue takes days, weeks, or longer to resolve) working group is a bit like a good BDSM partner - you need to sit down with them afterwards, clean up, have a nice cup of tea, and make sure everyone is doing okay.

The one ring was forged in the fires of mount doom, but it was also unmade - you don't want to crack people.
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19 May 2020 11:53 - 19 May 2020 11:55 #352067 by littlerickie
Replied by littlerickie on topic How to have a constructive argument
"Was that not constructive?" ?

You're describing intelligent discourse which can degrade to argument but rise up to intelligence again. .Of course how one defines argument may be subjective. :-)
Last edit: 19 May 2020 11:55 by littlerickie.

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19 May 2020 18:41 - 19 May 2020 19:20 #352075 by OB1Shinobi
@Proteus:
Quoted from time.com/5565991/russia-influence-2016-election/

“Russia’s plans to affect the U.S. election began in April of 2014 with the development of a “troll farm” that could spread false and disparaging messages on social media.

The Internet Research Agency and its employees, the indictment said, sought to conduct “information warfare against the United States of America” in order to spread distrust and support Trump’s election. In an operation that cost millions of dollars, the Russians studied U.S. political groups, traveled to gather intelligence in several states and developed a network of fake accounts that they used to infect the American electorate. Throughout 2016, they posted divisive content about topics such as Black Lives Matter, immigration and gun control; they bought political ads criticizing Clinton; and they pumped out hashtags like #Hillary4Prison and #TrumpTrain to their masses of followers.

All of this was incredibly successful, according to University of Pennsylvania professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Experts disagree about how to quantify the impact of Russia’s social media campaign, but Jamieson, who did a forensic analysis of online activity in 2016 for her book Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President—What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know argues that it’s very likely Russia did sway the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Those are some of the people i was talking about in my post. The Kremlin Gremlins lol. I think Loudzoo’s OP was awesome and that the framework outlined within it is exactly right when youre dealing with rational, honest people. I think you were correct when you spoke of why people, even rational and honest ones will double down on their positions in the face of challenge. But theres a lot of irrationality and outright manipulation going on and Ive reached the point where im not really concerned with changing the minds of the people I address directly, anymore. Im trying to get to the many other people who will read the exchange and make up their minds, one way or another.


JamesSand wrote:

Broadly, the points in Loudzoo's post apply - Since we are "arguing" for a common goal, rather than to win Internet Points, it's generally useful to make sure you understand all the information provided by the others.



A great degree of the cultural dialogue is taking place online. In my country, a buffoon from a reality TV show was even elected to the presidency because he and the people behind him were good at winning Internet Points. I dont think theyre trivial, anymore.


People are complicated.
Last edit: 19 May 2020 19:20 by OB1Shinobi.
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19 May 2020 20:54 #352076 by forceuser
Replied by forceuser on topic How to have a constructive argument
I definitely don't know much when it comes to
Expressing myself.
But just my 2 cents
For me even just hearing the words constructive argument
Places thoughts in my mind of a winner and a loser........ And I think for most people they would like to be on the winning side so they begin to prepare for defense A victory


Maybe when we talk to people if we changed the name of the game.
To say maybe

Enlightenment topic
Listening and learning time.

Sharing thoughts and ideas
Growth and prosperity ideas


The challenge now is the true puppet masters have given us all a choice the right side the left side
heads or tails
But in a bigger picture most people can't see that in of itself it is really 2 sides of but the same coin. that you were given to look at.

And really there are thousands of other coins and thousands of other things to look at instead of the few things the puppet master has our attention go to.

From the last of the crazy men
Peace & Love and good studies

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