Don’t Argue — Dialogue and Recruit!

socdiaLindsey Ferguson recently made a post here on 5 Reasons You’re Not Winning Debates. Here is her 3rd reason:

You’re viewing the other participant(s) as the enemy. The other participant(s) are not the personification of the ideas you’re arguing against. Rather, view them as friends seeking truth. Don’t make the argument personal, and keep it friendly. Everyone is more open to the ideas of their friends than the ideas of their enemies.

So if you are one to shout down the average person for not believeing in an anarcho-capitalist society, privatizing roads, legalizing heroin, and what not – STOP IT! Instead, be friendly and have a nice philosophical dialogue, Socrates-style (a form of inquiry and debate between individuals with opposing viewpoints based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas).  Below are some sample questions you can use for a Socratic Dialogue on liberty. (Remember: when you are tabling, try not to engage in debates — because the time you waste arguing could have been used to recruit more members.)

Questions of Clarification

•         What do you mean by ________?
•         What is your main point?
•         Could you put that another way?
•         What do you think is the main issue here?
•         How does this relate to our discussion/problem/issue?
•         Why do you say that?
•         Could you explain that further?

Questions that Probe Assumptions

•         What are you assuming?
•         What could we assume instead?
•         You seem to be assuming _______. Do I understand you correctly?
•         All of your reasoning depends on the idea that _______. Why have you based your reasoning on _______ rather than _______?
•         You seem to be assuming _______. How would you justify taking this for granted?
•         Is it always the case? Why do you think the assumption holds here?

Questions that Probe Information, Reasons, Evidence, and Causes

•         How do you know?
•         What are your reasons for saying that?
•         What would be an example?
•         What other information do we need to know before we can address this question?
•         Why do you think that is true?
•         What led you to that belief?
•         Is this good evidence for believing that?
•         Do you have any evidence to support your assertion?
•         Is there reason to doubt that evidence?
•         What difference does that make?
•         What would convince you otherwise?
•         What would you say to someone who said _______?
•         What do you think is the cause?
•         How did this come about?
•         By what reasoning did you come to that conclusion?

Questions About Viewpoints/Perspectives

•         You seem to be approaching this issue from _______ perspective. Why have you chosen this rather than that perspective?
•         How would other groups/types of people respond? Why? What would influence them?
•         What would someone who disagrees say?
•         What is an alternative?

Questions that Probe Implications and Consequences

•         What are you implying by that?
•         When you say _______, are you implying _______?

Questions About the Question

• What does this question assume?
• Do we need facts to answer this?
• Do we all agree that this is the question?
• Is this question easy or difficult to answer? Why?
• To answer this question, what other questions would we have to answer first?

Questions that Probe Purpose

•         What is the purpose of _______?
•         What was your purpose when you said _______?
•         How do the purposes of these two groups vary? (e.g.: corporations, politicians)

Questions that Probe Concepts

•         What is the main idea we are dealing with?
•         Why/how is this idea important?
•         Do these two ideas conflict? If so, how?

Questions that Probe Inferences and Interpretations

•         What conclusions are we coming to about _______?
•         On what information are we basing this conclusion?
•         What do you think of _______?
•         How did you reach that conclusion?

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