Issuepedia:Arguing/clarity

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Rule: It is the speaker's responsibility to clarify their argument, not the responder's responsibility to understand it.

In other words, responsibility for making an argument clear lies on the arguer, not the respondents.

The only caveat to this is the problem of the obtuse respondent. If a respondent seems to be failing to understand the obvious, arbitration may be necessary in order to objectively resolve the question of whether the respondent is being obtuse or the speaker is explaining their point poorly.

Justification

Long, convoluted arguments are expensive to analyze and relatively inexpensive to generate; this applies doubly for links to external pages which supposedly contain an argument of relevance.

Allowing such an argument to be considered valid until it can be understood and analyzed this leaves the door wide open for:

While detailed arguments and external links can help convey a deeper understanding of the point being made, placing the burden of comprehension on the reader gives honest participants an unnecessary disadvantage against discussion trolling.

Corollaries

  • External links (including videos, audio clips / podcasts, and so on) may not be presented in lieu of a clear in-stream argument.
    • This rule is also known as "no required reading" or "no bookstops".
    • If the external link contains text which is directly applicable without modification, paste the applicable piece into your comment (with or without quotes as appropriate).
    • It's okay to include a link for further reference or as a source.
  • If an argument is long or complex, try to summarize the point that you are making (and label it as a summary) before launching into your full explanation. A sentence or two, of the general form "$A, $B, and $C, therefore $D", should suffice to convey the gist of almost any argument.

Stalemate

It is possible for an arguer to claim innocence when making a short but incomprehensible argument, or while failing to understand a simple and crystal-clear argument being presented to them. It will therefore probably be necessary, at some point, to resort to a group vote or other method of determining consensus as to whether an argument is clear or not.

Note that this is not the same as deciding the truth by consensus. Participants would be voting on whether or not the argument makes sense – or, more formally, whether the text in question represents a valid argument (i.e. contains premises and a conclusion following logically from those premises) – rather than whether or not they agree with it.