Structure a discussion around logical components of an argument

(czep) #1

The idea I have for my discussion site is to organize conversations around the logical pieces of an argument (premise, inference, deduction, conclusion, etc.). On the surface it will function like any other discussion site ala Hacker News, Slashdot, Reddit. It begins with a link to an article, blog post, or something offline like a book, call it the Primary Text. Before commenting, I want users to identify the arguments made in the Primary Text: here is premise X, here is conclusion Y. Only after some piece of an argument in the Primary Text is tagged can users make comments. Their comments can be in agreement or disagreement, offer evidence or counter evidence. Then other users can vote on whether the argument is valid or sound, and which arguments “win”.

The goal is to encourage structured, focused debate. A major problem that I encounter with standard discussion forums is that arguments are all over the place and there’s no way to “keep score” when the same post can be commenting on multiple pieces of an argument. Maybe it won’t work, maybe this will only appeal to people with the same Myers-Briggs score as mine (INTJ, if it matters :wink: Forcing this structure on forum participants may be too constricting and actually impede discussion rather than encouraging it. Still, I’d like to try. I want people to think carefully about constructing their arguments logically. And I want a scorecard for determining winning arguments rather than a long blob of unorganized disjointed opinions in which nobody can easily see what the winning arguments are.

Uh, ok so why am I posting this here? I love Discourse. It is awesome and beautiful. All of its features are ones I don’t want to try to write myself. Except I have no idea how I could possibly jam this structure into Discourse. Any encouraging or discouraging opinions are welcome!


(Jeff Atwood) #2

I believe this is covered in



(czep) #3

Thanks for the links, this is helpful context. Although my proposal is different from these 3 examples, it shares the idea of imposing extra structure on a conversation. Am I correct in interpreting the responses in these threads to mean that Discourse is not really meant to support such structure but rather is designed to maximize free and open discussion?

I can certainly understand the motivation behind such a design decision: forums are intended to allow as much freedom as possible. I would still like to try my idea and if there would be any way I could write a plugin to adapt Discourse to handle the logical argument parsing that I envision, I would be keen on trying that approach.

Unfortunately I don’t have a good mockup yet of what it would look like. Potentially, each Primary Text could be it’s own topic, and conversations belonging to the topic would be further subcategorized by the type of argument in the Primary Text, so each thread would be prefaced like so:

Premise: Socrates is a man.
Premise: All men are mortal.
Definition: Mortality means you will die.
Conclusion: Socrates will die.

And participants would contribute evidence or counter evidence in each thread. Then some voting system would evaluate the winning arguments.

Forcing the debate to occur within these clearly identified logical parts would, in my opinion, encourage focused debate that can be evaluated quantitatively, rather than one giant conversation where arguments are peppered throughout and it’s unclear how to decide what’s winning, what’s already been refuted, what evidence has been presented, etc.

(Kane York) closed #4

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