Rational debate (RD) (or truth-seeking debate) is a form of debate in which the participants view the process as a mutual search for truth, rather than a competition. Arguments must either support or oppose a position related to the central issue under discussion, and must use valid forms of reasoning to reach conclusions from stated premises (evidence).
In RD, non-rational forms of argument are not only considered invalid, but may also cause the user to lose credibility – which would not be relevant under ideal circumstances where the time and energy available for debate is infinite, but in practicality other participants may decide to eject a user whose credibility has droppped below some arbitrary threshold.
Ideally, a rational debate:
- allows unlimited iterations (responses to responses to responses...) and branching (multiple arguments for/against a given conclusion)
- allows unlimited time for consideration (research, analysis) before responding to an argument
- tracks all significant premises (i.e. those whose truth-value affects the ultimate outcome of the debate) to make sure they are either accepted or answered
- Structured debate is a methodology which attempts to support conditions for rational debate that are as close to ideal as possible.