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Revision as of 18:10, 4 January 2013 by Woozle (talk | contribs) (tweak of one "DO", and apparently SVG rendering works properly now -- so thumbnailing the Hierarchy of Disagreement)
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Unlike other reference projects, Issuepedia welcomes personal opinion.


  • Any opinion is an assertion of fact.
  • Any assertion may be challenged.
  • A challenged assertion that is not defended with a rational, evidence-based argument need not be taken seriously.

Also, attempts to undermine other debaters by use of logical fallacies and other rhetorical deceptions will be called out.

I have cross-posted these guidelines to LessWrong wiki in hope of sparking further refinement. --Woozle 15:58, 10 September 2010 (UTC)


related guidelines from a different source

The following are informal guidelines for engaging in debate; see project:Structured Debate for a more formal set of rules.

things to do

Statements higher on this hierarchy generally trump lower ones.

When arguing against another person's statements:

  • DO address the substance of the argument you are disputing.
  • DO be clear about what you're trying to say.
  • DO take a position before attacking the positions of others.
  • DO offer arguments:
    • for why the other debater's statements are unlikely to be true.
    • to support what you think is correct.
  • DO respond to every point you wish to oppose.
    • Failure to respond to a point does not make it untrue.
    • If a point remains unanswered, it is reasonable to consider it true.
  • DO draw attention to any unanswered points.
    • Others may assume or erroneously believe that unanswered points have actually been defeated.

things to avoid

It generally does not strengthen your position if you:

source accuracy

When disputing the accuracy of a source, or of an argument based upon a fact stated in a source:

  • DON'T simply claim that the source is unreliable.
  • DON'T simply claim that the fact is wrong.
  • DO identify better sources.
  • DO offer correct information.

source dependency

When outside material contains extensive information relevant to your argument:

  • Spell out the point it makes – rather than expecting others to read it. (No required reading.)
    • Otherwise you are counting on your opponent to not only understand it but agree with you as to its applicability to the discussion.
    • If you can't defend your own point in your own words, then perhaps you don't understand what you're arguing -- or perhaps you don't understand what you're arguing against, and are hoping that something somewhere in the required reading will suffice as a rebuttal. (Sources are not arguments. Claiming that a source makes your point is not the same as making your point. No throwing stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks.)
    • Pasting quotes is acceptable, but summaries are better -- especially if written to be specific about the matter under discussion.
    • If the source's argument is complicated, state the conclusion it draws and summarize the general nature of the arguments used. You need to give others at least enough of a basis upon which to frame further counters (or, hopefully, questions).

other ground rules

These are rules where the existence of a rule probably matters more than which way the rule goes.

  • If person A makes an assertion and person B challenges it, then it is A's turn to produce evidence defending their assertion.
    • In other words, you don't need to have your evidence together in order to challenge an assertion.
    • One possible exception might be a negative assertion ("there's no such thing as..."), since this can be particularly difficult to prove.