Does argument entrench or shift perspective?

@Jon, did you have any more thoughts about this?

I'm referring specifically to discussing how people (for example you and I) might go about debating issues where there is a strong disagreement, avoiding the various irrational pitfalls, making a good-quality case, and so on.

To be super-clear: I am not suggesting that people should start talking about what the disagreement is about, etc. - I am exploring whether a discussion could take place about agreeing some sort of ground rules or a framework for rational debate.

The bottom line for me: if there were an agreed set of guidelines and the case being argued by my opponent were sufficiently strong, I would be prepared to change my mind.

Do you allow for the possibility you might be prepared to change yours?


Staff member
Within my own biases, I am more concerned about the truth than being right. But I defend my point of view because I have arrived at the conclusion through prior rational thought. So when someone brings an argument to the table, it is very likely that I have already factored that into the equation.

But to answer your last question, I am always prepared to change mind given compelling evidence.

Regarding the BBC fact-checking the other side, to me that is not evidence that the tilt in political bias with the BBC is not decidedly one way. You need to look at the aggregate of what they do.

I have to say, I am sitting indoors and it is 29.7C (85F) in the room, 34C outside (93F). Stiflingly hot. I got a tiny fan that is barely doing anything.
Well, "Within my own biases" is one thing we should try and remove from the debating equation. I am sure I have biases as much as you do. I'm sure I ran into a few pitfalls myself when arguing with you. For example, on occasion, I just wanted to make a quick point and used sources without checking the whole article. You don't want to do that in a high-quality context.

Have you ever tried to build some rules prior to debating with others?

About the heat, it is hot. Most people though can't wait for summer to be here and then they complain it's too hot! Get yourself a bigger fan ;)
I was revisiting some discussions you and I have been having - One of the pitfalls we ran into was changing subjects in the middle of a disagreement.

So, for example, one rule could be "We can't change subjects. If we disagree on A we keep talking about A without moving to B or C".
To help us get focused on what we disagree on we could 1) keep it specific (for instance, rather than saying "Trump bad/Obama good", we could discuss policy details) 2) keep a small, one-liner in bold of what the disagreement is at the top/bottom of each post 3) refer back to the one-liner when we feel we are straying too far from the path.
This is just an example.

Another example could be to refer to sources we both agree are fairly reliable ones. This statement, as it is now, ("refer to sources we both agree are fairly reliable ones") is too generic though, because, even if we agreed it's a sensible one, we'd also have to agree on a set of common sources. In other words no point in me thinking source X is reliable but you disagree and you thinking source Y is reliable but I disagree.

A third example might have something to do with avoiding fallacies. We could even devise a score system whereby we lose points by using fallacious arguments. Once again, we would have to agree on fallacies too, otherwise the danger would be that either of us points out the other just used a non sequitur argument and the other disagrees.

I could go on but hopefully it makes sense.


Staff member
I can't agree to something that is unknown. That is an unreasonable position.

You can say don't change subjects, but what about context? Who defines if the the "change" is actually a change but just more context? I think your proposition is unworkable. You want to constrain what someone can say. Who defines if the argument is fallacious. I understand your motive, but for me it is not going to work. No one could agree on sources. You want CNN, and I want Fox News. So you say, how about NPR, and I say there is a history of allegations of bias about the organisation from Republicans.

Show me where your proposed solution works? Or is that an example of me changing the topic unlawfully?
You can say don't change subjects, but what about context? Who defines if the the "change" is actually a change but just more context?
In the PC topic we started discussing transgender people and then we moved on to BLM and from there we moved on to Trump.

That's three separate subjects.
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