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Re: Summary of the debian-devel BoF at Debconf9

* Manoj Srivastava <srivasta@debian.org> [090818 22:42]:
> On Tue, Aug 18 2009, Bernhard R. Link wrote:
> > * Ben Finney <ben+debian@benfinney.id.au> [090818 11:28]:
> >> Perhaps you have a better way of succinct terms to use when challenging
> >> those logical fallacies?
> >
> > I think succinct terms help not at all here. Once there is a succinct
> > term 90% of their use is name-calling. If people think something is
> > wrong they should say what is wrong and not invoce some name.
>         If you want a full description of the logical fallacy in all
>  replies, sure. The point is that the best refutation of a logical
>  fallacy is to point out it is a logical fallacy, and thus, stop
>   basing the rest of the discussion based on the logical fallacy.

I'd prefer if on-topic would not be about who did "wrong", but stay at
the facts.
All those fallacies are easy enough that if they are really done, one
can name the arguments (like noting that some arguments uttered are
indeed arguments against what the person things was the topic at hand.
But not against what was suggested/meant, because of...) or the lack
thereof ("I fail to see why we cannot implement it only because the
one suggesting has a bad character in your eyes").

>         These attacks on people, as opposed to discussion of what they
>  said, is one of the major reasons discussion threads devolve into
>  unproductive chaos. We should be managing to police discussion better,
>  and the first step is identifying that such a post has been made.

My point is that if something like that is done, it should be done on
another list. So that the discussion itself can continue and the meta-
question at hand can be solved (Was that an unrelated attack to the
person or not?). If that is in one thread, then it dilutes the
discussion about the fact and the meta-point is opened at a place where
people have other things to care about).

>         Just callingit strawman with no justification is suboptimal, I
>  agree. If you call something a strawman, you should also justify why it
>  is so (like, you are argying against point A, which not one ever
>  advocated, and you are ascribing to me positions I never took. This is
>  a strawman).

I think it is even better without the strawman at all. Everyone is able
to understand that arguing without having agreed what point is argued
about does not work. Expressing your perceived difference of the points
in discussion and why the arguments uttered are against the one but not
the other, is something that will usually help the discussion and does
not need any "fallacy" or "strawman".

Because we should all be aware that the error could also be on our side.
Giving the arguments makes it easier for the other side to answer them
and thus either to convice you or by making them answer them to make you
see what they misunderstood so you can convice them.
Adding the extra abstraction[1] of the "fallacy" adds more things to smear
the discussion. Thus I think that naming the fallacy is only helpfull if
you think the other person is doing it on purpose. And I think most will
agree that with that accusation the discussion if escalated to a
flamewar even it was not before.

>         But using the term, while also explaining why the term is valid,
>  seems like a good thing. Without the rationale for using hte term, you
>  are correct, it is just name calling.

I think it has at most merits in a meta-discussion about whether some
post was acceptable or not. I do not think it will help the discussion
about the facts in my eyes, and only has potential for new discussions.
(Take for example the discussion in the wikepedia-article about
in what cases "You claim that this man is innocent, but you cannot be
trusted since you are a criminal as well." is an ad-hominem and in which
cases it is not).

	Bernhard R. Link

[1] I'm a big fan of abstraction and agree that some things are easier
to understand in abstraction. But I doubt that would be the case at the
hand, because I think people will usually disagree about something
matching the abstract scheme instead. So describing the name of the
fallacy or describing the abstract fallacy would at most work for people
never heard of that abstract scheme which means introducing it would
introduce a discussion about what that term really means.

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