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Debate strategies and tactics


Dagobahn Eagle
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Ad hominem: Attacking the messenger instead of the message

 

Actually, biting someone's head off doesn't need to constitute an ad hominim argument. It only does so if one does so in order to provoke a rejection of the other side's points based on an evaluation of the messenger instead of the arguments. This may even be justified at times. I'll provide a few examples:

 

If I respond to an argument with only: "You're an [insert expletive here], so you must be wrong!" then I would be making an ad hominem argument (and even if the latter half of the sentence is omitted, one could argue that it still is, because the utter vacuity of the former half of the statement, if presented totally without context, implies the latter).

 

If, OTOH, I provided a detailed refutation of your argument and ended with: "Since you believe this bovine manure in the face of so overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you must be a l00ser." it would be bad form, but not - technically - an ad hominem argument, since I'd have provided a substantiative argument previously. If, however, the other side declined to respond to the substantiative argument and focused only on the insult that woud actually be an ad hominem argument, no matter how diplomatic the language.

 

Lastly, I mentioned that ad hominem arguments may have their place. If someone cites a source such as the Discovery Institute or Fux News which is documentably, notoriously, and pathologically prone to publishing bovine manure so divorced from reality that one does not know whether to laugh or cry, demanding that the person who cited them bring up a remotely credible source - or at least one in shouting distance of sanity - would, while technically an ad hominem argument, be a fully justified alternative to wasting everybody's time and several eV of mental activity on debunking yet another publication batch of blatant lies.

 

Lastly, if a thread has reached 500 posts or something, don't join it. You will have no way to know if what you "add" to the debate by stating your points has not been said before. If you join a long debate, at least join the discussion as it is at the point where you join. Don't go "I haven't read this whole thread, but I wanted to state my views...".

 

On the contrary, this may often bring a fresh view into an otherwise deadlocked flame war... Of course there are two considerations to observe: 1) Don't assume that the subject line still applies (read the last 10-20 posts or so to get a feel for where the debate is at the moment) and 2) If you are about to present a textbook example, you can safely assume that it's been presented before in the thread. Adherence to these two simple rules should prevent your post from being viewed as excessively trollish.

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  • 4 months later...
  • 3 months later...

A little "grammar-nazi" note for us:

 

Latelly in the English language there's been an increasing number of sentences with left-out dashes (the dash being this thingie: "-"). This alters the meaning of what you're writing (as shown below), so be careful not to leave it out.

 

For example, it's not "Bush related", but "Bush-related". It's not "DHMO Free", but "DHMO-free". And it's "short-range", not "short range".

 

"Bush related" means that "Bush related something", "DHMO Free" means the DHMO is free, not that the object is free of DHMO, and a "short-range missile" is not the same as a "short range missile" (which'd be something like a range missile that's short).

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  • 2 months later...

One thing that really bugs me, though I haven't seen a great deal of it here, fortunately, is when people type phonetically.

 

i meen wen ppl tipe lyk dis. it rly pissus ppl off, nd wen u do it, u will b ignord.

 

Something I find helpful is going back to a debate you've posted in and re-reading what's been said. Including your own statements. That way, if you find something that you think you need to clarify or explain, you can do so before any possible weakness is exploited.

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If the answer includes a non sequitur or a strawman, then the question may not have been answered. Something to chew on. Though, to be honest, I only skimmed over the progenitor question for your criticism above, as I found it tiresome to try and follow the back-and-forth nature of it. Still, I've participated in many debates where questions get answers of non sequitur and strawman variety and the respondent attempts to claim a tenable answer has been provided, so my comment here is in the general debate tactics sense, as all here should be, and not in regard to a specific tactic in a specific thread.

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Wow. You beat me to it. I was planning on linking to that tonight. I just listened to this on Miro and the first thing I thought of was this thread. I second the recommendation for this 5 minute podcast and recommend the rest of the series as well as their primary podcast which you can find by inserting "skeptic's guide" into Google search bar and clicking "I feel lucky."

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  • 2 years later...

My debate advice: Don't look at it from the point of view of "I'm right, you're wrong, and I'm going to prove it to you".

 

Develop your opinion and idea, present it, and counter-attack the opposite side. If you keep your idea that what you think MUST be right, and they MUST be wrong, then you have the potential in limiting yourself to the full expanse of your argument. Let their idea feed yours. The best mind is a flexible one. That doesn't mean you will be less strong, but it does give you the ability to move at a pace faster than your opponent's.

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