A Code of Conduct for Effective Rational Discussion

The Fallibility Principle

When alternative positions on any disputed issue are under review, each participant in the discussion should acknowledge that possibly none of the positions presented is deserving of acceptance and that, at best, only one of them is true or the most defensible position. Therefore, it is possible that thorough examination of the issue will reveal that one’s own initial position is a false or indefensible one.

The Truth-Seeking Principle

Each participant should be committed to the task of earnestly searching for the truth or at least the most defensible position on the issue at stake. Therefore, one should be willing to examine alternative positions seriously, look for insights in the positions of others, and allow other participants to present arguments for or raise objections to any position held with regard to any disputed issue.

The Clarity Principle

The formulations of all positions, defences, and attacks should be free of any kind of linguistic confusion and clearly separated from other positions and issues.

The Burden of Proof Principle

The burden of proof for any position usually rests on the participant who sets forth the position. If and when an opponent asks, the proponent should provide an argument for that position.

The Principle of Charity

If a participant’s argument is reformulated by an opponent, it should be expressed in the strongest possible version that is consistent with the original intention of the arguer. If there is any question about that intention or about implicit parts of the argument, the arguer should be given the benefit of any doubt in the reformulation.

The Relevance Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should attempt to set forth only reasons that are directly related to the merit of the position at issue.

The Acceptability Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should attempt to use reasons that are mutually acceptable to the participants and that meet standard criteria of acceptability.

The Sufficiency Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should attempt to provide reasons that are sufficient in number, kind, and weight to support the acceptance of the conclusion

The Rebuttal Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should attempt to provide an effective rebuttal to all serious challenges to the argument or the position it supports and to the strongest argument on the other side of the issue.

The Resolution Principle

An issue should be considered resolved if the proponent for one of the alternative positions successfully defends that position by presenting an argument that uses relevant and acceptable premises that together provide sufficient grounds to support the conclusion and provides an effective rebuttal to all serious challenges to the argument or position at issue. Unless one can demonstrate that these conditions have not been met, one should accept the conclusion of the successful argument and consider the issue, for all practical purposes, to be settled. In the absence of a successful argument for any of the alternative positions, one is obligated to accept the position that is supported by the best of the good arguments presented.

The Suspension of Judgement Principle

If no position comes close to being successfully defended, or if two or more positions seem to be defended with equal strength, one should, in most cases, suspend judgment about the issue. If practical considerations seem to require an immediate decision, one should weigh the relative risks of gain or loss connected with the consequences of suspending judgment and decide the issue on those grounds.

The Reconsideration Principle

If a successful or at least good argument for a position is subsequently found by any participant to be flawed in a way that raises new doubts about the merit of that position, one is obligated to reopen the issue for further consideration and resolution.

From: Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments” by T. Edward Damer (Amazon .co.uk/ .com )

Fleck’s Addendum

“Do not feel as though you MUST ALWAYS HAVE THE LAST WORD OVER YOUR OPPONENT”