How to Argue, How Not to Argue

September 29, 2011

Check out this flowchart about how to have a rational discussion.

I don’t entirely agree with the framework it presents; if nothing else, I think it’s sort of too legalistic, if meant literally—but that’s probably intentional, and part of the humor.

In any case, I think it’s pretty great, in that it articulates (and calls out) some of the ways that discussions can fall victim to sloppy thinking, perhaps usually without the participants’ noticing or understanding what’s going on. ¬†

I had seen it once before, but hadn’t linked to it or otherwise made a note, and so couldn’t find it later. ¬†Today I happened to run across it again; so here it is.

3 Responses to “How to Argue, How Not to Argue”

  1. Tevyeh Says:

    Isn’t it a little bit ironic that this flowchart is found on a site devoted to the zealous promotion of an untestable proposition?


    • Namely atheism? I guess it is!

      I hadn’t thought of it as ironic yet, but I was thinking about remarking on it and arguing that arguments about religion (or worldview generally, actually) are a sort of exception to the schema envisioned by the flowchart: As one of our classmates once said, maybe it’s not strictly logically possible to argue someone from one worldview into another, because they come from different starting assumptions. Instead, arguably, people should try to understand each worldview on its own terms, starting from its assumptions, and evaluate whether it makes more sense (is less internally contradictory) from its assumptions than other worldviews do from theirs.


    • Oh, and the validity of reason and the reliability of any evidence whatsoever are themselves assumptions. I think some atheists think they’ve built their worldview from the ground up, from no starting assumptions, but I think that’s actually impossible.


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