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A few basic principles of a "productive" discussion

1. A party to a discussion ought to have some identifieable point he wishes to make, and be able to answer the simple question one sees from time to time, "what is your point?".

2. A party to a discussion ought to answer reasonable questions about his position, in a reasonably direct manner..

3. A party to a discussion ought to refrain from deliberately mischaracterizing his opponent's position.

4. A party ought to respond to the plain meaning of an opponent's argument. Since we don't follow legalistic or other formal logical rules, but engage is largely informal discussions, it is not asking too much of a party to make reasonable inferences regarding an opponent's position, even if the opponent has been somewhat inarticulate.

5. If a party is genuinely confused about that opposing position, he ought to ask his opponent to clarify the opposing argument -- including furnishing specifics about areas of confusion.

6. If asked, a party ought to furnish evidence, data, sources of information and other support for his position, if he has it, or state that he doesn't have any particular support for his position other than his own powers of inference and deduction.

6. A party ought to avoid "name calling," but a party ought to also be charitable toward the inevitable temporary breaches of etiquette. We're grown-ups here, and ought to be able to refrain from being downright abusive. But as grown-ups, we ought to know to handle the occasional insult.

7. Finally, a party ought to view these principles as guidelines and not strict rules, and not whine about trivial breaches of these principles. As long as an opponent generally observes these basic rules of a civilized discussion, a party to a discussion ought to extend him a little latitude.

From Conceptual Guerilla's Molotov Cocktail Lounge


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