Tips for Players

Tips for Players

1) Make an opening statement

Before the reasons start flying, you can speak in general terms about the issue, and the side you are taking on the MainClaim. Acknowledge that it is controversial, that others have differnt viewpoints. In some cases, terms in the MainClaim  maybe explained orally, rather than by an explicit definitional premise. Context may be provided. Your introductory introductory preamble might also emphasize the importance of the issue addressed by the MC.

2) Don’t leave it to a vote. Speak to your Reason-in-Play.

Your premises do not speak for themselves. Players need to speak up in support of their claims. As soon as a Bout  commences, the Player who advanced the Reason-in-Play may speak to it, offer a  verbal statement clarifying or advocating RiP. These short remarks may be planned in advance, have a beginning, middle and end. You will also need to jump to the defense of your Reason-in-Play if (or when) if comes under attack by others. Ask your opponents what changes to the wording would render your Reason acceptable, but be careful not to change it so much it no longer provide support!

2) Get your facts straight in advance (if needed).

Players are advised to prepare in advance to introduce empirical support for RiPs, where relevant. Not all philosophical argumetn rely on empirical premises, but when these are not common knowledge, they might be introduced orally (or in some cases as an additional Reason-in-Play, based more on the facts introduce than on philosophical dialogue.)

3) Articulate the relevance. Connect the dots.

Ask: why is the evidence cited (an established premise) actually a reason for (or against) the MC?  What principle warrants the link between the established fact-premise and the desired normative-conclusion?

Generally speaking, for an argument to be well-connected logically, every word or phrase in the conclusion (the MainClaim) needs to appear in the premises (established Reasons), since nothing comes for free in logic. The first reason you think of probably shares a main concept with the MainClaim; that is natural. That first thought will also most likely introduce a new word or phrase, which will now have to be connected to rest of the conclusion, which has so far not been mentioned in a premise. Connect the unconnected bits to find your ‘missing’ partner-premise. (An argument is not a random list of pros (or cons), but a connected (i.e., overlapping) series of reasons.)

4) Think conditionally to reach your desired conclusion.

Does your reason point to some benefit? Take care that your opponent’s reason does not offer more of the same! Instead of pointing to a benefit, point to an exclusive benefit (or beneficial consequence) that only comes from your proposal. Put differently, think in linking terms: “only if”; “unless”; “otherwise”; “if not”; “without”; and similar conditional expressions. Relatedly, you can point to the avoidable costs and to downsides that arise if your proposal is rejected. (By “your proposal” here is meant the side — for or against— of the MainClaim you support.)

5)“Draw the sting”

It can be strategic to admit weakness of case in advance, to defang, what opponents will say later. A weak interpretation of a strong claim may attract more support than a strong interpretation of a weak claim. Admit the force of objections as far as they go, and adjust wording to accommodate the concerns raised.

6) Beware of verbal red-herrings. 

If opponents object to your Reason-in-Play relying on new concepts (words or phrases you did not introduce), check whether those new ideas really prevent you connecting your premises to your conclusion. The new words may attract all the discussion, without actually blocking the completion of your argument.

7) Probe the sufficiency of opponents’ Reasons.

A good argument requires not only true premises, but enough content in the premises to reach the conclusion. In other words, besides all true premises, arguments must be valid.  Encourage Players not only to challenge the truth of reasons-in-Play, but also challenge the sufficiency of the premises taken together. Sufficiency is validity.

8)Be polite.

Be polite. Acknowledge and thank opponents. Sandwich critique in the sliced bread of compliment.

I’m Michael

I’m a writer and philosopher, and now a game developer. This site introduces Tug of Logic, a game and web-app I have created to serve public reasoning.

Recent posts