Issuepedia:Structured Debate/v2009

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This version of the rules allows for "informal" points and "bundling". It also uses slightly different terminology.


  • Every argument starts with a target claim which asserts as fact the subject of the debate.
  • Any claim may be answered by zero or more response claims
  • Each response claim must relate to the target claim in one of the following ways:
    • Support: an argument that the parent claim is true
    • Counter: an argument that the parent claim is false
    • Informal (or "informational"): information which neither supports nor contradicts the parent claim but helps narrow or guide the discussion in some way
  • Any response claim may also be viewed as a target claim, and the rules for target claims (given above) apply without modification
  • Any claim may either be standalone or bundled:
    • A standalone claim remains active as long as it has at least one active supporting claim
    • A bundled claim remains active only as long as all of its supporting claims remain active
  • Any claim which has no active counterclaims is described as "active" and possibly true
  • Any claim which has at least one active counterclaim is described as "inactive" and presumed to be false
  • A response claim may require a chain of reasoning in support; in this case:
    • each link of the chain becomes its own claim, subject to the same rules as any other claim
    • failure (deactivation) of any one of the links in the chain invalidates (deactivates) the claim (normal claims remain active as long as any one supporting claim remains active)

For example, a claim may have several counterclaims, but if they have all been countered as well, then the main claim remains active and will be considered true.


(using text terms rather than icons)

  • claim: Socrates is mortal
    • support: Socrates is mortal because he is a man.
      • requirement: All men are mortal.
      • requirement: Socrates is a man.
    • support: Socrates is dead, therefore he was mortal.
      • requirement: Socrates is dead.
      • requirement: Death is sufficient to demonstrate mortality.
    • counter: Socrates's works have endured for millennia, therefore he is immortal.
      • counter: This is an argument that Socrates's works are immortal, not that he himself is immortal.

Exploratory Option

It looks like it would be useful to have an option for a less rigorous but still structured debate, where territory is still being mapped out and participants are not so much disagreeing with each other as engaging in a sort of question-and-answer volley. A good example is here. "Exploratory" seems like a good name for this mode. It would omit the tracking of pro-and-con and focus more on identifying the individual participants, which establishes individual beliefs and positions at various locations in the issue's "terrain" without necessarily invoking conflict.

Later on, we might add categorization-tagging of each point so we could (for example) quickly look up all of a given participant's statements on a given issue, or all participants' statements on that issue. (This would also require the ability for participants to go back and clarify or comment on their positions, especially if they change in the light of later evidence.)