Should we use the DebateTree algorithm on wikidebates?

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Using the DebateTree algorithm to organize arguments and objections is interesting, but is it actually useful? Or is the only thing it can really settle the question of which side got the last word in?

We should use the DebateTree algorithm on wikidebates[edit | edit source]

Arguments for[edit | edit source]

  • Argument for Argument for The "refuted" and "sustained" tags engage visitors to read more about an argument, especially when they disagree about its current status.
  • Argument for Argument for The "refuted" and "sustained" tags act as a "call to action" for users who disagree with the current status of an argument.
  • Argument for Argument for The DebateTree algorithm motivates users to organize arguments so as to reach a logical conclusion about the current status of the debate.

Arguments against[edit | edit source]

  • Argument against Argument against The algorithm only determines which side got the last word in.
    • Objection Objection If an argument is stupid or otherwise unacceptable, it can be easily countered or deleted.
      • Objection Objection A skilled enough debater can produce acceptable arguments for just about anything, so this doesn't mean wikidebates will lead to truth.
        • Objection Objection When an argument is sound (valid and with true premises), there's no sound objection to be made (or the world would be contradictory). For less clear cases, only experience can tell how far a skilled debater can argue before appealing to stupid arguments that can be easily deleted or countered.
  • Argument against Argument against The algorithm is highly vulnerable to the Gish Gallop, as it treats each "argument" as of equal value, and codifies the "but you didn't refute each of my points" objection that the Gallop relies on to "win".
    • Objection Objection Unlike live debates (such as the ones Duane Gish took part), wikidebates don't have a time limit, so all the arguments that have an answer can eventually be answered.
  • Argument against Argument against The algorithm counts an argument as "refuted" simply because it has a sustained objection, regardless of the content of that objection. It's a purely formal criteria of refutation which says nothing about the importance of the objection.
    • Objection Objection If the objection is superficial, misguided, stupid or otherwise not important, it will be quickly refuted.
      • Objection Objection There is the risk that an objection's being superficial, stupid, misguided or unimportant is a subjective assessment, not necessarily a refutation. There may be "stupid"-looking arguments that are not easy to refute quickly.
  • Argument against Argument against A "sustained" argument is nothing else than an "unrefuted" argument. But "unrefuted" does not mean that the argument is sound. The DebateTree algorithm does not say anything about soundness.
    • Objection Objection Soundness is just as unattainable as truth (indeed, truth is part of the definition of soundness). All we can hope for is getting all arguments and objections in. And that should be enough.
  • Argument against Argument against With the DebateTree algorithm, the "refuted" or "sustained" tags of the arguments only depend on the "refuted" or "sustained" tags of the objections, of the objections to the objections, and so on. As a result, as long as every argument and objection isn't listed in the debate, the "refuted" or "sustained" tags are not relevant.
    • Objection Objection It isn't necessary for all the arguments of a debate to be listed for the "refuted" and "sustained" tags to be relevant. If an argument has many well-known objections, but only a few have been listed, then that argument will be shown as "refuted", even if some objections are missing. Similarly, if an argument is generally accepted, it may be shown as "sustained" even if not all the objections to the objections to that argument have been listed.
  • Argument against Argument against To be relevant, "refuted" or "sustained" tags imply that arguments and objections are all listed. But if so, that entails a huge cascade of objections, which is not convenient at all for reading.
    • Objection Objection The DebateTree software hides all objections and only shows the ones under the objection that the user clicks. This allows users to read as much as they consider relevant.
  • Argument against Argument against The DebateTree algorithm assigns a "refuted" or "sustained" value to arguments. This can work for factual arguments, but it cannot for moral or prescriptive arguments – namely, arguments with "what ought to be" statements. These statements are subjective and cannot be discussed.
    • Objection Objection If moral or prescriptive issues really cannot be discussed, then all that will happen is that all the arguments for or against the these issues will end up refuted.
    • Objection Objection There are several wikidebates about moral or prescriptive issues going on, such as Should abortion be legal? Some of these debates are quite active and complex, so it looks that moral or prescriptive issues can be discussed.

See also[edit | edit source]

Note and references[edit | edit source]