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Thingdo's Guide to Constructive Arguments

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# 1Thingdo Apr 19 2008, 03:37 AM
Thingdo's Guide to Constructive Arguments

How many times have you browsed these forums only to see arguments descend into chaos? Probably more than a few. This is a common problem here on GR, and everywhere else for that matter, and I'm making this guide in hopes of exposing some of the major causes of this problem, as well as giving solutions to them. It is my hope that after reading this guide, you will be able to identify where an argument begins to go off track, and able to help bring it back and keep it constructive. That being said, lets start with the basics.

Part 1: The Basics

The points outlined in this section are fairly obvious, but I still see them violated, and they are important enough that they bare repeating.

Flaming - Don't do it. Arguments can get heated at times, but flaming the people your arguing with just makes you look immature. Instead of flaming them, post why you think they are wrong in a calm fashion, and let them make themselves look stupid when they can't give you a good answer.

Off Topic Comments - If you have a comment on a different subject, make a new thread for it. It's hard to keep a constructive argument going if it gets derailed by off topic posts continually.

Failing to Give a Reason for Your Opinions - "Welfare is bad/good. We need more/less of it". Clearly this isn't something that is widely agreed upon, so if your gonna make that claim you better back it up : "Welfare is bad/good because ________ . We need more/less of it".

Making Major Generalizations - "Everyone who disagrees with me is wrong" (this also happens to violate the failing to give a reason rule as well). Don't place an entire group of people/things in a category unless they really all belong there.

Making up information/Leaving out important information - This one should be fairly obvious, but its still worth noting because it can be extremly harmful to a constructive argument. If you can't back up an argument without making up fake facts, or intentially leaving out facts that could be harmful to the argument, you shouldn't post it in the first place. Doing so changes what you are saying from a real argument into a simple trick to try to get people to agree with you. -Thanks to CurlyFries for the suggestion.


Part 2: Some Common Informal Fallacies
Some of the biggest detriments to a constructive argument are informal fallacies. These fallacies can be very subtle and easy to miss/make if your not paying attention. Unfortunately, they are also extremely common on these forums (and in most other places). I'd like to outline a few of the most common fallacies, so we can avoid as many of them as possible.

Ad Hominem - Attacking the person not the argument. Here is a classic example of an ad hominem:

Person 1: "I think Obama's/McCain's plan is bad because ___________"
Person 2: "Your argument against Obama/McCain can't be good because you just don't like him because you are a republican/democrat!".

When you think about it, Person 2's statement is quite silly. Is whether or not what person 1 is saying is a good argument or not determined by their political party? No. It might mean they are biased, but it doesn't mean that what they just said is automatically unreasonable. Whether or not something is a good argument should be based on the argument itself, not on the person making the argument.

An example of this conversation reworked to remove the ad hominem might look like this:

Person 1: "I think Obama's/McCain's plan is bad because ___________"
Person 2: "I disagree. I think Obama's/McCain's plan will work because __________."

Appeal to the People - "Nobody with a good education thinks that". Essentially, an appeal to pity is an attempt to make people want to agree, by placing them outside of a group of people they desire to be in, in this case people with a good education". The problem is, appeals to the people usually generalize large groups of people, and don't necessarily mean that something is true.

Red Herring

The following fallacy is one of most commonly seen. It derives its name from the practice of teaching dogs used for detective work to ignore other smells and follow one scent, by dragging a fish (usually a red herring) across the track of the scent the dog was following. If the dog was well trained, it would follow the original scent, and not the red herring.

Similarly in an argument, a red herring is when someone changes the subject to something that wasn't being discussed and draws a conclusion about the new subject instead of the old one. For example:

Person 1: "I think the government should do ________ about the situation in the middle east"
Person 2: "We never should have gotten involved with the middle east in the first place".

At first Person 2's statement may seem fine because it sounds like it is on the same topic, but on closer inspection, you can see that it actually has very little to do with what Person 1 said. Whether or not a government should have gotten involved in the middle east does not directly relate to what a government should do once it is there.

It's important to note that a conclusion made in a red herring may or may not be true, and often is a point worth having an entirely different argument about, but the main point is that it does not follow from the statement proceeding it. A corrected argument would look something like this:

Person 1: "I think the government should do ________ about the situation in the middle east"
Person 2: "I think your plan would/wouldn't work because _______".



Straw Man

A straw man fallacy takes place when someone changes their opponent's original argument in order to make it sounder weaker than it actually is.

Person One: "I think we should get rid of the current welfare system because _________"

Person Two: "Person one wants to get rid of welfare and let unemployed people starve"

There are a few problems here. First, Person 1 never said he wanted to get rid of welfare altogether, he said he wanted to get rid of the current system. Second, it is easy to doubt the claim that Person 1 wants unemployed people to starve, he may have some other plan in order to handle that issue, however, Person 2 makes that claim in order to make Person 1's argument sound weaker.

This post has been edited by Thingdo: Nov 2 2008, 05:12 AM

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# 2Gage May 12 2008, 04:25 AM
Great work buddy!! Something we should all read imo biggrin.gif

Gage

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# 3Xenith May 12 2008, 06:18 AM
nice guide, though politics are banned so i dont know if those are the best examples...

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# 4-CRuSaDeR May 12 2008, 06:22 AM
my warn bar told me to read this.

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# 5Darkman_0 May 12 2008, 11:40 AM
Pro Guide. Seriously. I know lots of people who could use this.

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# 6Frawstbyte May 12 2008, 20:19 PM
QUOTE(Xenai @ May 12 2008, 02:18 AM) *
nice guide, though politics are banned so i dont know if those are the best examples...

F*ck banishment.

Sick guide, Thingdo thumb.gif

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# 7Sevy May 12 2008, 20:42 PM
you forgot propoganda and discreditment

This post has been edited by CurlyFries: May 12 2008, 20:42 PM

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# 8Thingdo May 12 2008, 23:46 PM
Thanks for posting this Gage, and thanks to everyone else who helped me out with this smile.gif

BTW, if anyone has anything they feel should be added feel free to write it up and post it in this thread. I'll add it to the original post (with credit being given to the person who wrote it ofc)

This post has been edited by Thingdo: May 12 2008, 23:47 PM

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# 9Sevy May 13 2008, 00:33 AM


Propoganda

A tactic overly used and very effective but not neccasarily true...
To use you "strecth the truth" about something to make yourself seem better then the other either by discredmint,or glorifacations.

To stretch the truth properly you need to have some truth in it.
Take this example for example



Person1: I think apple pie is the best pie of them all
Person2(propagandorising):Well peachpie is better because peach has over 12 key vitamins making it healthier then apple pie while still tasting even better.

Person2 stretched the truht by glorificating its self to be better with a few could-or-couldnot phrases that they probabbly made up right at the moment and could-or-couldnot be true

the truthful part of the statement was that it was a peach pie...You may recognise similar statements like this

Based on a true story (if its in the same country it could-or-couldnot be based on that)
I dont know about any blonde girl (Turns out she was brunette)
America:LandoftheFree (except for a 7th of the population wich are in prison)

if used correctly and with enough facts you can amke anything seem legit.

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# 10kingender May 13 2008, 01:03 AM
Good guide, but sometimes off topic post lead to other good arguments sad.gif

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# 11Thingdo May 13 2008, 01:38 AM
I agree, both those can be had in other threads.

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# 12Frawstbyte May 13 2008, 01:53 AM
QUOTE(CurlyFries @ May 12 2008, 20:33 PM) *
America:LandoftheFree (except for a 7th of the population wich are in prison)

Propaganda itself isn't much of an argumentative tool. A minor version of it, well probably, but it's usually done with the sole intent of putting down another idea (examples of which Thingdo explained).

By the way, there's a very good and justified reason why prisoners get all of their rights revoked.

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# 13Thingdo May 13 2008, 02:12 AM
Well, I appriciate the the help there Curly, but I'm not really sure where to put those. the first two examples I suppose could be considered concealing an important piece of the truth which is more akin to lying than anything else.

However you did make me think of something that could be added thumb.gif

BTW, the third example would probably fall into the category of generalizations.

This post has been edited by Thingdo: May 13 2008, 02:20 AM

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# 14Sevy May 13 2008, 03:14 AM
well theres another term ...


oh ig ot it!

Bandwagoning!

ill do this after i take a shower

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# 15Thingdo May 13 2008, 03:48 AM
Well it depends what you mean by that. If you mean arguing something just because its popular thats not really a problem as long as you can argue it well.

However, if you mean trying to get someone to agree with you by arguing that your posistion is the popular one, that is a problem, but it falls into the appeal to the people category.

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# 16Sean` May 13 2008, 19:23 PM
This should be a pinned topic on all BfME2 forums. Gj Thingdo

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# 17Frawstbyte May 13 2008, 21:27 PM
QUOTE(CurlyFries @ May 12 2008, 23:14 PM) *
Bandwagoning!

That's just when people agree with someone just b/c of who that someone is.

Like if DLJ said one thing that just happened to be a valid argument and Fabled counterargued, then most people would probably side with Fabled simply because he is Fabled and not DLJ.

There's a lot more non-BFME2 related examples of course. Like today my entire class got pissed b/c of a prank that my teacher pulled with the help of a student and everyone walked out because like 2 people walked out, but I stayed behind b/c I didn't care. I avoided bandwagoning unlike the others who went.

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# 18Forlong May 13 2008, 23:53 PM
QUOTE(-CRuSaDeR @ May 12 2008, 01:22 AM) *

my warn bar told me to read this.

Well-written Thingo, very nice. None of you are going to believe this, but I always thought of a red herring as a bird, not a fish. Then I read this, and I thought, oh, a herring!

sleep.gif

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# 19Gage May 14 2008, 02:39 AM
QUOTE(Forlong @ May 13 2008, 16:53 PM) *

None of you are going to believe this, but I always thought of a red herring as a bird, not a fish. Then I read this, and I thought, oh, a herring!

sleep.gif

You too biggrin.gif

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# 20Sevy May 14 2008, 04:54 AM
QUOTE(Frawstbyte @ May 13 2008, 14:27 PM) *

That's just when people agree with someone just b/c of who that someone is.

Like if DLJ said one thing that just happened to be a valid argument and Fabled counterargued, then most people would probably side with Fabled simply because he is Fabled and not DLJ.

There's a lot more non-BFME2 related examples of course. Like today my entire class got pissed b/c of a prank that my teacher pulled with the help of a student and everyone walked out because like 2 people walked out, but I stayed behind b/c I didn't care. I avoided bandwagoning unlike the others who went.



nice examples

but kinda scratching the line of peer pressure

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