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-   -   How to Structure Your Arguments and Discussions to Maximize Effectiveness (http://www.lucasforums.com/showthread.php?t=175873)

Emperor Devon 02-20-2007 01:17 AM

How to Structure Your Arguments and Discussions to Maximize Effectiveness
 
Mod note: Just to clarify you do not need to hold a formal debate to post your thoughts in this forum. This thread is just meant as a guideline for those who are interested in partaking in such debates. ~M

As some of you already know, I enjoy formal debate in my spare time. In my experiences with that, I've come across quite a few things that I've not noticed employed at LF. Other people probably have as well, so I thought I'd start this for us all to share any debating tips and whatnot we know.

So, without further ado...

One of the ways to argue an issue the most efficiently is to structure it efficiently. A typical LD format is almost always enough for that. (FYI, LD is short for 'Lincoln-Douglas debate')

For starters, there must always be a resolution. Without one, you're not really debating. If the topic was the use of lethal force in the face of domestic violence, your resolution would be 'lethal force is acceptable in the face of domestic violence'. From there, you have two sides. One that negates the resolution, and one that affirms it.

Let's continue the example with the affirmative side. In order to affirm the resolution, the aff side obviously needs one key thing to prove why his side is correct. This is called a value, which is usually something very broad and/or philosophical. It's best when it's something hard to disagree with, too - in this instance, we'll use morality.

The case so far is:

Resolution: lethal force is acceptable in the face of domestic violence -->

Value: morality (ie because it's moral)


To prove why lethal force is moral, you have another thing called a criterion. This is something more specific, and down-to-earth. Let's use 'because it saves lives' for an example.

The case so far is:

Resolution: lethal force is acceptable -->

Value: because it's moral -->

Criterion: it's moral because it saves lives


Now you'll have to prove that your criterion is true. This is called a contention, and is usually proven by data, statistics, or something that's undeniably reasonable. For an example, let's use a statistic that says 'a survey performed in La La Land showed that 1,000 lives a year were saved by using lethal force'. Keep in mind that you'll always want more than one - this is the bulk of your arguments.

To review the case again:

Resolution: lethal force is acceptable -->

Value: because it's moral -->

Criterion: it's moral because it saves lives -->

Contention 1: in La La Land it saved 1,000 a year
Contention 2: another contention (you should have more than one)
Contention 3: at least one more contention (again, you should have more than one!)


Structuring debates like this can be incredibly handy at times. You can adopt a certain 'cut the top vine and let the lower ones wither' approach, by disproving some of the upper parts of your opponent's case. For instance, if you said "That survey in La La Land was done a year ago, and recent trends have shown in results 2,000 extra deaths", you would have disproven your opponents contention about La La Land. But if you proved that lethal force doesn't save lives anywhere, you would negate their criterion, and thus all their contentions.

Organizing a debate like this can be quite helpful. It can help clear up what justification your opponent has for their beliefs, it can allow you to systematically disprove their case without having to address all their arguments... It's been immensely helpful for me when debating.

I'll add more stuff later, but is there anything anyone else wants to share? :)

Achilles 02-20-2007 01:41 AM

This sounds great. My only concern is that a lot of people struggle just to avoid logical fallacies, therefore I don't see most LF'ers getting much out of this (which is not to say that I don't like it or disagree with it).

My 2 cents.

Emperor Devon 02-20-2007 02:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Achilles
This sounds great. My only concern is that a lot of people struggle just to avoid logical fallacies, therefore I don't see most LF'ers getting much out of this (which is not to say that I don't like it or disagree with it)

All the better for those who don't, then. http://i90.photobucket.com/albums/k2...evon/amuse.gif

Personally I've found it be very helpful, though most of all in real life. Since you're supposed to take notes on your opponent's case while they talk and aren't given much time to think up responses/questions, it helps quite a bit to have what they say down on paper.

Of course, this is just one of the many strategies out there. This thread is for everyone to share their experiences/tips. :)

machievelli 02-20-2007 02:39 AM

looking at Silent Scope and I, who is the better debater by your 'criteria'?

Not just at mach....I'll allow this kind of discussion for the time being, folks, as long as it looks like it's being used as a teaching tool on improving mach's (or anyone's) debate skills. The moment it looks like it's being used to make someone else look bad, it'll get snipped. --Jae

Emperor Devon 02-20-2007 03:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by machievelli
looking at Silent Scope and I, who is the better debater by your 'criteria'?

My first impression was you so far.

Some of SilentScope's assertions have included that we should've stayed to fight wars like Vietnam, that we could win any war with the right price, the advocacy of standard high school history books, that a couple cities isn't too big a price in a war. You had logical enough responses to them (though my opinion might be biased by how I disagree with all those assertions).

I can put your arguments into the proper format if you want something more detailed, but my opinion probably wouldn't be that different.

Jae Onasi 02-20-2007 09:38 AM

Let's in the future address it this way: 'What can I do to improve my personal debate skills?' That way, it's not a comparison with someone else.

Achilles, if you'd like to provide people with some basic definitions on logical fallacies and such, I'm sure that would be welcome. :)

jonathan7 02-20-2007 10:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Emporer Devon
Organizing a debate like this can be quite helpful. It can help clear up what justification your opponent has for their beliefs, it can allow you to systematically disprove their case without having to address all their arguments... It's been immensely helpful for me when debating.

Hmm, the probelm with providing a solution to an argument is the assumption you are right or another person is wrong (for example does a tree make a sound when it falls down when no-one is around?). Generally in any of my arguments I will state the facts as I know them, both those that support my argument and those that oppose it. I merley seek to provoke thought and for people to understand my perspective not necaserily because I'm right. So for example, as many of you may have gathered I am a Christian, however when on arguments of faith I will try and present the facts as I know them, and if someone draws an opposite conclusion so be it. I merely try to understand what, how and why someone thinks, even if I dont agree with them. One of the great Greek Philosophers (I forget which one) said 'The sign of an educated mind is the ability to contemplate anothers arguments without necasarily agreeing with them'.

Thats my 2cents :p

JediMaster12 02-20-2007 12:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jonathan7
Hmm, the probelm with providing a solution to an argument is the assumption you are right or another person is wrong (for example does a tree make a sound when it falls down when no-one is around?).

Assumptions have to made. Take a trial proceeding. The prosecutor, with the support of acceptable evidence, assumes that the defendant is guilty and will use that assumption in the arguments to the jury/judge that the defendant is guilty of the crime. The same can be said for the defense attorney seeing as they operate on the assumption that their client is innocent. The whole legal system is based upon the assumption that suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jonathan7
Generally in any of my arguments I will state the facts as I know them, both those that support my argument and those that oppose it. I merley seek to provoke thought and for people to understand my perspective not necaserily because I'm right.

You say you seek to provoke thought. Isn't that an assumption in of itself that it will provoke thought? All arguments present facts as they are known and received and are usually of reputable sources. Sorry Wikipedia doesn't cut it. What I mean by a reputable source is one that is respected within its realm. If the topic is on a science question then science journals or even personal research helps because you also have to draw from work previously done.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jonathan7
One of the great Greek Philosophers (I forget which one) said 'The sign of an educated mind is the ability to contemplate anothers arguments without necasarily agreeing with them'.

You don't have to agree yes but you have to acknowledge that there is evidence that contradicts yours.

ED: This thread is a good idea. I was never on the debate team or anything like that but I have presented even though it is research in a classroom.

A good thing to remember is that when you go to make an argument, it is wise to do a bit of research. If you want to take a stand, you have to be able to back it up with credible evidence. Like a criminal trial, evidence or lack thereof is a necessary component in which to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty/not guilty. When you research, don't just read all the information that supports your position but read what is against it. This goes in the face of knowing your enemies and the like but it helps. It makes you look like an intelligent person who is aware that there is contradictory evidence and you have the knowledge to back it up.

That was my two bit for the day. Nice job on the idea ED. That is one point in your favor :D

SilentScope001 02-25-2007 09:05 PM

Any tips for me to improve my arguing and debating skills? I'm planning on writing some sort of philosphy book (after being inspired by Kavar's Corner) and I do want to defend my conclusions effectively.

Emperor Devon 02-25-2007 09:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SilentScope001
Any tips for me to improve my arguing and debating skills? I'm planning on writing some sort of philosphy book (after being inspired by Kavar's Corner) and I do want to defend my conclusions effectively.

More info about your philosophies would be nice. :) Are they about economics, metaphysics, God, the human spirit...?

SilentScope001 02-26-2007 04:52 PM

Quote:

More info about your philosophies would be nice.
Hm...I'm going to have to say that it is primarilly a combination of "Ethical Relativism", and Sophism. Basically, the belief that everything is relative and that truth is the construct of the people who are thinking it. I'm trying to establish that it is correct and from there, make some moral judgements about beliefs. Also trying to establish how ideas are the main causes of war, and the many ways of ending wars using that knowledge.

machievelli 02-26-2007 05:39 PM

The collison between different belief systems is almost always the cause of war. As much as you railed about economic to me, we spend most of our military budget on weapons designed to reduce the death toll.

Jae Onasi 02-26-2007 06:08 PM

Stay on topic here, folks. This thread is specificly about structuring discussions debates. If there is an issue you wish to debate or discuss in particular, please start a thread in the forum itself, not in this thread. Thanks!

Emperor Devon 03-01-2007 09:35 PM

Look like I'll have to defer to my nemesis this time. :p Start another thread for that and I'd be happy to comment in it.

Nancy Allen`` 03-17-2007 06:31 PM

And something I think that is important, and has been raised here before, is to respect the opinions of others and those who hold those opinions. This isn't a formal debate forum per se where it's war and scant little is deem inappropriate to beat the opposition. Just because you disagree with someone's point of view doesn't merit comments on their beliefs making them retarded, and I apologise if that comment ruffles feathers but the point I'm making here is that by acting like a jerk people will quickly tire of having anything to do with you and not only will your points lose creditbility your comments will be ostracised by the mods and others.

Rogue Warrior 09-25-2007 05:17 AM

I realise that I am only new here but perhaps I can give a few pointers.

First and foremost, think about what you write. The way I usually go about this is read posts in the morning, write my replies but hold off posting unless there is something that needs to be addressed and come back to it in the evening. That way I can think about what I had written and look at it again to make certain that I am happy with what I have written. Now not everyone has to do it this way but it lessens the chance of something coming up and biting you later on.

The second point would be that you are not writing an exam. People tend to think that the longer something is the more it tries and justify itself, and if it is on someone being wrong then it looks like one big whine. By adding to a post and adding to a post and adding to a post not only could there be more in what you write for others to attack with it bores people who think you are bragging about how smart you think you are.

You should never ever ever ever take what you read too seriously. To use an allegory if you were a black girl and someone was criticising black girls, then the message that comes across is that it is not cool to be a black girl. Really that is their problem and all they do is come across as a jerk broadcasting it.

And most importantly, at least try and remember that you are dealing with people who do not necessarily share the same views you do. This actually ties in with point three in not upsetting others. Whether it be racism, politics, or religion, quite simply there is no need for attacks on others because of what they think.

The Source 06-09-2008 04:15 PM

I can see alot of good ideas in this thread, but I think people need to know one more important feature: Have Some Fun!

When I hold my debates in the other threads, I usually allow speculation, insight, and logical reasoning. If I missed something in my logic, people are kind enough to open my eyes. Debates are all about presenting facts, assumptions, and other insights. Even though you or I do not see a connection, that doesn't mean a connection cannot be made. Collations come in many forms. I personally do not believe in an absolute wrong answer. Thinking outside of the box is essential for growth.

At the end: Just Have Some Fun!

Pavlos 10-06-2008 06:57 AM

I read this recently and when I saw this thread thought it might be relevant. Doctor Judith Woolf, a lecturer of English and Italian literature, had this to say on the importance of being clear:

A striking illustration of the importance of clarity in conveying complex ideas is given by the materials scientist J.E. Gordon, writing about Young's Modulus, a fundamental concept in engineering which enables the elasticity of materials to be precisely measured, helping to prevent ships from sinking and buildings and bridges from falling down. Thomas Young, who published the first definition of the modulus in 1807, was a polymath and a genius. However:
It was said of Young by one of his contemporaries that 'His words were not those in familiar use, and the arrangement of his ideas seldom the same as those he conversed with. He was therefore worse calculated than any man I ever knew for the communication of knowledge'
The truth of this is only too evident in his own definition of the modulus, which reads as follows:
The modulus of the elasticity of any substance is a column of the same substance, capable of producing a pressure on its base which is to the weight causing a certain degree of compression as the length of the substance is to the diminuation of its length
Not surprisingly, the Admiralty responded, 'Though science is much respected by their Lordships and your paper is much esteemed, it is too learned... in short it is not understood'; and ships went on sinking and buildings and bridges went on falling down until the engagingly named French engineer Claude-Louis-Marie-Henri Navier found a better way of putting it in 1826:

E = stress/strain


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