I think this is an unnecessarily dismal take on an interesting community. While out-and-out 180 degree reversals of viewpoint are comparatively rare, a very notable portion of posters approach the debate in good faith, and often the discussion results in a softening of views, and an admission of "maybe it wasn't quite so black-and-white or extreme as I originally thought".
i.e., where the author of this article asserts
> Today, the fundamental orientation of online debate culture is toward universals, which are more likely to spark a reaction. There is a heavy reliance on words like “always” and “never,” as well as a tendency towards extreme responses to perceived social ills:
I think the CMV community, on occasion, manages the miracle of pulling away from universal absolutes, and towards an empathetic understanding of concrete situations.
In my opinion, the phrase "discouragingly few" shows the author's unrealistic expectation, not the quality of CMV debates.
The author talks of "hate speech" and assume the certain side should win, otherwise debate is useless. This is wrong. The true side should win, and you don't know whether your side is true or not. This epistemic humbleness is the essential ingredient of the useful debate.
Now I'm not saying logic isn't useful for seeking truth; with a lot of care applied to the choice of axioms and examination of the data it can still be very helpful in weeding out untruths.
The problem is a lot of these debates are permeated by rhetoric which is more interested in some predetermined conclusion than seeking truth. Even subtle tweaks to a good logical approach can get you out into the weeds very quickly.
Literally unusable in real world arguments though ;)
That leaves a lot to interpretation ;).
> The wrong side can win, but not just as easily
The true side has an edge in logical debates. If we exclusively used logical debates, the true side would be the majority. Since we don't, the majority is often wrong.
This is being compounded by a widespread effort to promote emotion to being something reasonable to consider in discussion and debate. It makes one wonder if this is just a brief blip or if we're beginning a historical repetition. The word pathetic is quite interesting and appropriate. It is derived from pathetikos which is essentially somebody that is sensitive or otherwise subject to emotion. It would be interesting to understand the exact events which evolved the word to its current connotation.
Debate doesn't work because the idea of the right is to restrict resources to the "deserving" (individualism, tax breaks, etc) and kick around everyone not in the in group. The left says that we can make a more equal society and so we should try to solve our problems by redistributing resources.
This is not a gap you can bridge with logic, it's a fundamentally different moral interpretation of reality. This is sharing vs defending.
EDIT: However, Noam Chomsky gave a very interesting talk about how moral senses develop and change. There is some flexibility in our moral systems. For instance, until like, a year or two ago, casual homophobia was acceptable in public, now it isn't amongst a growing swath of the population. It's kind of fun to look at old Tweets by media personalities and see how much they've changed their positions (something very desirable) either because their beliefs changed or because their audience did.
There are good points to be made for both positions, although 2018 sees both parties skewing heavily from these historic emphases, one more than the other.
The weird part is that the author seems to take pains to draw a distinction between reason and rhetoric, but it seems her general conclusions conflate the two. If I have a conclusion based on logic, and someone comes at me trying to convince me with rhetoric based on ethos or pathos, it's not going to be convincing to me no matter how many points it scores on the audience. But that doesn't mean logic won't change my mind.
And most conclusions along the lines the author describes are normative conclusions. If, through logical debate, it's discovered that both parties are reasoning correctly, basing their conclusions on different moral (axiomatic) values, and neither has changed their mind, that is perfectly okay and should be considered a victory for responsible dialectic. Dialectic is about finding shared understanding and unsound reasoning, not about humiliating your opponent for having different values than you.
I haven't taken a close look at Kialo but if, for all their structure, there isn't much effort spent on the logical relations between statements, then... well, it might still be helpful to a degree, but I can also see it inviting a lot casuistry.
"The idea of “debate” imposes an adversarial framework on online interactions, as well as privileging logic as a tool of discovery."
>> It appears the author is saying that since people don't change their mind as often as the author would like, then it means that reason doesn't matter.
It's more that if you want to effect positive change (like "ending slavery"), reason doesn't get you far. To the contrary, a very reasonable argument could be made to non-slaves on why freeing the slaves would be a mortal risk to them. Changing "morals" on the other hand, is effective, because morals transcend reason. This is the playbook of the left.
EDIT: I also think it is really ironic that she is using reason to say that reason doesn't actually let us arrive any closer to the truth: why write the article at all then?
I do that too sometimes though I think the reason is deeper than simply winning. The few times I concede a point, the opposition is very likely to ridicule me for that (on the internet at least that is my experience, even in so called "welcoming communities").
It's a rather hostile behavior to laugh at others for having learned or discovered something new.
Fake news, online hate, disrespect, etc are part of an extremely innovative and subversive reactionary movement (for better or worse).
This movement is a reaction to the failing economies of the late 20th century (generously padded over by ever-so cherry picked statistics), the fact that secularism never really came up with any kind of raison d’etre, and the hijacking of legitimate means of truth seeking (government departments, universities, think tanks etc) by powers with ulterior motives.
Saying “the earth is flat” is the best example of this. It’’s such an amusingly false claim, to continue to believe it and declare you believe it is a kind of emancipation from / attack on the systems of power. There is nothing they can do.
Also the best example of the last point regarding “hijacking of legitimate means of truth seeking” is replacement of public intellectuals like James Kenneth Galbraith, who lead all rationing for the US during WWII, with the likes of those desperate for more PR, sales, and conference speeches such as serial-plagiarizer Fareed Zakaria.
But on the whole you can practically guarantee both of those methods will be primarily PR mechanisms, and / or used for the advancement of those who control them.
Universities used to be, but they are becoming increasingly politicized again.
Perhaps they used to be better at producing an aura of speaking and deciding from up above or from a mythical social consensus that "everyone" (suitably filtered) agrees on.
Some countries are more "pure" on one side or other.
Hmm, reading an article about a flat earther gathering on Ars, I wondered if some of these flat earther weren't crooks who wanted to steal the other: after all by declaring 'I believe that the earth is flat' you're also saying "I'm a gullible idiot"..
1) Once a person has decided they have enough evidence to form an opinion, they form the opinion then forget the evidence. This makes it excruciatingly difficult to change their minds, because they can no longer check why they formed their original beliefs.
2) Debate will likely be one of two cases:
- A factual debate, where one side who is 'wrong'
- A values debate, where both sides are necessarily focused on different issues
Both of these are very delicate situations where empathy, moderation (as in mildness) and consideration are quite important in getting to a good place. Unfortunately, if participants suspect the audience perception is that they are losing in a factual debate rather than learning about others in a values debate they get very defensive very quickly.
It can get even more interesting when memories are there but have been “edited”, making it easier for the mind to rationalize the present opinion.
(It's unfortunately common for non-Esperantists attempting to use Esperanto words or sentences not to fact-check their translations. There are plenty of fluent speakers who would be glad to fact-check a translation you're going to publicize. Shout-out to the New Yorker who did fact-check a recent one-off Esperanto translation.)
On the topic of the article though, I've come to believe a similar thing lately, with one caveat – reality is often a forcing function to align the "honor world" with logic. Cognitive dissonance can only get you so far, and e.g. in the workplace I find it easiest to resolve debates by demonstrating hard consequences of some particular faulty logic. The places we see the most disconnect in today's society tend to be the places where demonstrating consequences is difficult (e.g. global warming).
> In his 2010 book The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah shows that arguments are not what change people’s minds on moral questions — honor is. The end of dueling, or Chinese foot-binding, or the Atlantic slave trade, did not come about, Appiah writes, because of new or more convincing arguments — the arguments against these practices had been in place, sometimes for centuries, before most people were turned against them. What changed was the “honor world” — the group of people who understand and acknowledge the same codes of behavior. Dueling was illegal before it came to seem dishonorable, in part because a newly created popular press brought the aristocracy’s honor code into discussion in lower class circles. This exposure to ridicule or mimicry put a new complexion on a practice that had persisted despite all logical argument against it.
It seems like the culture of rationality, logic, and debating is itself one of these "honor worlds", where defending your positions against logical attack is an expected code of behavior. If you're not part of this culture, you may not be prepared to defend yourself, even if what you're saying is totally true.
I think this is really what the article is talking about -- not that debate is intrinsically bad, but that it only operates well within a particular cultural context. Since most important decisions affect more than just rationalist debaters, the tools of rationalist debate may not be enough to make a correct decision.
Or that only use of rational arguments is rational, as opposed to rhetoric?
As we stand, accrual debating is likely to entrench views of people rather than change them, even if irrationally.
Experiment and results are more convincing than any amount of words.
I do think you could make a more interesting argument for the author's view though. One thing that's always disturbed me is just how highly heritable political views are in twin studies. And that's after excluding the influence of family which share much of your genetics. If people's political beliefs are so predictable, then there can't be that much influence from reason and debate.
Perhaps this is just a consequence of the above. Perhaps most political issues are just about people's subjective moral feelings about things. And that could be mostly genetic.
The main source of problems, however, is that not all participants engage in good faith. Some treat arguments not as tools of truth-seeking, but as instruments of war, trying to win some influence for themselves. Pretty much anything humans create can be gamed by people who start treating it as an instrument to something else; I'm not sure we can even do something about it. Are manipulative people always going to win?
And then some statistics are politically incorrect to discuss, even though they're absolutely critical to the issue. For instance the murder rate among the largest majority in the country is 3.4 per 100,000. For a certain demographic that makes up about 13% of the population, it's 24.7 per 100,000 meaning that 13% actually ends up responsible for the majority of all murders in the nation. There are all sorts of other interesting numbers and figures from the DOJ here. 
And then you end up getting into questions of liberty. Alcohol, for instance, is behind vastly more deaths per year in the US than all homicides - many of those being people other than the imbiber himself, yet we view the liberty of the masses to be more important than the misbehaviors of a minority of users.
But I think there's perhaps an even more important point here. Many political issues are 'fake' in the sense that if they were not so highly politicized I do not think anywhere near the number of individuals would politicize them themselves. Imagine you were aware of all the statistics on crime, death, and other things - yet there was no directed politicization of any specific issue so you had to come up with your own views.
Where would guns rank? I suspect the answer would be far down. But they're a handy political tool to divide people which helps ensure the status quo in our government. Abortion is identical. Where would abortion rank if people had to choose what was important on their own? Again, I suspect it would a nonissue but it's similarly very useful in dividing people.
 - https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf
I do not mean to say that my beliefs as to what is good are always correct. It is quite possible for me to be wrong about such things.
But I am not incorrect when I say that there is a fact of the matter.
If you're a believer, you may say God - though that still leaves two questions open. One, of implementation details - where is that morality codified, so that we can tell good from bad? In God's word? In our brains? Two, (almost?) all religions teach we have free will. So we can accept or reject God's morality. That decision is based on something that's purely in us. I'd suggest that this something is morality.
If you're not a believer, the only reasonable source of somewhat-consistent morality is the shared architecture of human brains. That is, we're all born with mostly-same hardware and firmware, and as members of human race, we find ourselves in agreement to some basic moral ideas - like "suffering bad", "joy good" - from which each culture weaves its complicated moral lattice.
Can there be a conceptualisation of "good" independent of morality?
How or how not? To what limits? Or is good axiomatically moral?
Three tragedy of it is lack of emotional "belonging". This is what most moral amd honour systems build upon. Not even of belonging to an elite.
The main question it asks is whether any given question is meaningful and by how much, how it affects yourself, others, who benefits and who does not.
As for morality, I don't see how it can be objective. It's not a feature of the universe, it's a feature of a mind. Humans have common values, because we naturally have common brain design.
Consider that outright murder (in-group) and cannibalism are considered immoral by almost all moral systems. There are very good reasons why. (Both are due to is how fear works and social survival.)
Also why any act of killing is very restricted and the individual is cut out of the group.
Being moral does not guarantee a good outcome...
Can a system of, say, sheep, have goodness or badness? Does it have morality?
Maybe you could say humans mostly have the same moral feelings since we have 99% the same DNA. But we seem to have no trouble finding important issues we disagree about.
The reasoning for this is the idea that slavery ended because it was deemed "dishonorable" through a transformation of "morals", not through "logical debate".
Further points against "debate culture":
- winning a debate is not about the "truth", but about "persuasion"
- ensuing moral relativism
- debates don't actually change minds
I disagree with the last point. People simply don't change their minds in real time and many people are too invested into their points of view. I've personally gradually changed my viewpoint away from the left in large part due to the general failure of leftists to persevere in debate. What a coincidence then, that some of the same people would question the merit of debate altogether...
> Today, the fundamental orientation of online debate culture is toward universals, which are more likely to spark a reaction. There is a heavy reliance on words like “always” and “never,” as well as a tendency towards extreme responses to perceived social ills
Yet is the author not herself attempting to spark reactions by making broad, universal claims like:
> Debating won’t bring us closer to truth
> Was logic an inappropriate tool with which to approach this question?
> The ostensible divorce of reasoning from identity becomes a meta-argument for universal truths and solutions. It works to shore up the idea that a logical truth will stand on its own no matter who is delivering it.
> The fixation on logic as an ideal vehicle for human progress is less a reflection of the practicality of this means of resolving our shared issues than it is a longing for a moral framework beyond human perceptions.
Seems a bit extreme to pigeonhole all advocates of using logic as a valid piece of an argument as people who advocate for exclusively logical arguments. It's perfectly reasonable to discuss logical arguments divorced of identity. That doesn't mean that a logical argument must be divorced of empathy though. John Rawls' "Veil of Ignorance" and other works make a compelling, logical case, for social justice and liberalism, and that concept revolves entirely around learning to think in terms other than one's identity.
I also found it interesting that right after the author laments how ineffective facts and figures are for convincing people
> But logical argumentation rarely makes people change their minds; neither does exposure to facts.
She uses cites a well known academic body that analyzed facts and figures to strengthen her argument!
> Cornell analyzed data from Reddit’s ChangeMyView community, where users propose a thesis and invite others to debate. While the results showed that some tactics are better than others...
My final bit of amusement comes from that while she counter-argues that "honor" and experiences are a better way of convincing people
> In the behavior of social media users posting under their real names, identity — contrary to logic-proponents’ assumptions — may be among the strongest persuasive tools.
It's mentioned in the same article, that Aristotle considered _ethos_ a fundamental component of rhetoric, along with logic. It's strange to see that she is clearly arguing for the inclusion of ethos and pathos in online discussions over social issues, yet she seems to be sarcastically deriding Aristotle along with the online debating platform crowd by aligning them with hate speech?
> Aristotle saw the possibility of misuse in laying out his theory of rhetorical tactics; in the wrong hands, persuasion could be used for ill. But he generally agreed with the site administrators of QallOut — that it would be easier to convince people of things that were just and good than of things that were not. So “the average Jew would kill you over a penny” should be easy to argue against, and your audience should find arguments against this thesis more persuasive.
On the positive side, I do agree that "sport debate" and the tactics it engenders are often meaningless and sometimes to dangerous to an individual's pursuit of truth. Logic itself as a means to question assumptions though? The author clearly knows better than to think that's actually the case. Like so many others out there, she's exaggerating to enhance the impact of her argument on the listener.