Rules for Logical Argument

I’m keeping this post to link to from any argument space that I control, like my Facebook wall. I prefer to argue in an objective mode, even if the subject is religion, aesthetics, or politics. I wholly reject the proposition that all categorical statements are political.

This is what I expect from all participants:

1. Clarify any special terms you are using. Do not proceed to argue until you agree on the meaning of your words.

2. Do not use logical fallacies, which includes argument against identity, explicit or coded in buzzwords like “mansplain” or “femsplain.”

3. Do not tell other people what they think or feel. As a procedural necessity, everyone must be treated as an authority over their own experience.

4. If the argument gets heated, have each person summarize the other’s point and gain their acceptance of the interpretation before moving on.

5. If you are asked if you are arguing from a certain premise, give an unequivocal answer, no prevaricating with “It’s more complicated than that” if the question must have a yes-or-no answer. You can qualify your position, but at some point, you must also commit to a premise in order to argue at all.

6. Don’t indulge in sarcasm when countering someone’s points.

7. Take the most charitable interpretation of your opponent’s statements that you can.

8. Do not ask or expect other people to do your own research for you. “Google it” is not a valid rejoinder to a request for evidence.

General Observations:

Just as in a trial it is incumbent on the prosecution to build their case, in an argument the person advancing the proposition must supply their own evidence. People hate to be exposed as wrong, so asking them to supply evidence against their position is tantamount to asking the defense to support the prosecution’s case.

Instead of calling someone out on an obscure logical fallacy, say, “That’s not an argument,” and only elaborate if necessary. (Nod to Jack Raynard on this latter idea.) Character assassination is the genetic fallacy. You cannot win a rational argument with moral superiority. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is literally the Devil.

Charitable interpretation, even charitable inference beyond the literal words, demonstrates both your cleverness and reasonableness. People will think you’re either disingenuous or not very bright if you miss alternate valid interpretations to win points in an argument.

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Civilized Argument Online

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been involved in a private Facebook group that has sought to bring ideological opponents together to discuss contentious issues. I was part of the moderating staff for a few months, and I gave input on the guidelines. Whereas the founder’s primary interest has been in building the group and inviting quality members, I’ve been more interested in seeing if his experiment could succeed and be translated into a system that anyone could use. I’ve reached the conclusion that the experiment is largely a success, and that we can radically improve our online dialog.

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When identity politics trumps all

In a recent Facebook thread on identity politics, I made the following contribution, with some redaction here.

I see a dozen online memes an hour speaking to Trump’s “misogyny” and “racism.” These terms have suffered scope creep. They no longer refer to an avowed attitude of racial or gender superiority. Now they apply to people’s actions. So why shouldn’t they? After all, if someone uses racist language or targets a minority group for discrimination or exploitation, they probably hold racist attitudes; if a man takes sexual liberties with a woman, he probably holds women in contempt. Anyone who objects to judging people to be racist or sexist based on their actions is probably racist or sexist themselves. Continue reading

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Do Dungeon Masters roll magic dice?

Tony Daniel at Baen commissioned this article from me. I’d been thinking about the role of self-deception in both creating and appreciating stories.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Evo Psych, Fantasy, Games, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Glossary for The Precambrian Conspiracy

The Precambrian Conspiracy is either my public-domain project or the real state of affairs. In either case, feel free to set stories in this universe. Ideas are cheap and this is no exception. However, I ask that you give me or other contributors attribution for ideas you crib — you can just reference this blog if you’re in doubt. Thanks. I will update this glossary from time to time. Feel free to contribute to it in the comments. Continue reading

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Dungeons & Dragons: How You Play

I’ve recently introduced my young nephews to D&D, and that inspired me to write a how-to series, which Loren Rosson III has been hosting on his excellent blog The Busybody. I’m gratified and humbled he’s supported the project. I started playing D&D in 1980, and a few years ago, I became interested in really figuring out what makes it work — that is, when it does. In 2014, I wrote a long essay for Baen Books that covers the history of D&D and indulges in some general theorizing, but I wanted to write a more practical guide on the topic. I got my nephews up and playing and having fun within an hour by explaining to them the core trappings of the game, which I cover in article one, and then adopting a viewpoint that I now outline in article two. I will probably write a third and final article that puts everything together, describing the adventure I wrote and ran for my nephews and how I employed my own advice to keep things moving.

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Liberalism Needs a Housecleaning

After this post, I hope to leave off religion and politics for a while. I’m a liberal and liberal apologist but also a philosophical conservative, meaning I’m more into Adam Smith than Karl Marx, more into Plato and Lao Tzu than Nietzsche. But don’t let me do your homework, please. Read widely.

I’m bugged by the logical fallacies and dissembling self-described liberals engage in. When we stray from logic and the facts, we give our opponents ammunition, end up being unfair, and generally sabotage the whole project of making the world better.

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Posted in Evo Psych, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized | 15 Comments