This discussion board is intended to be in the form of a blog, that is a place for me to post my ideas, rather than as a general discussion board in which anyone can start a topic. I decided that a discussion board was the best way to do this, as the ideas I post are likely to be at an early stage, and I would like to encourage discussion to be able to develop them further. This is why you are not allowed to start topics
It is noticeable though that most discussions on the internet leave a lot to be desired as a way to develop ideas. There are a couple of problems I see in the way arguments are generally conducted:
- People don't expect to have to defend their arguments
Many arguments don't seem to be framed in a way that would persuade anyone of anything. Rather they are framed to score points in some way while 'preaching to the converted'.
For instance I sometimes see on Quora questions starting along the lines of 'Why do liberals...'. I see several problems here:
Quora was set up as a place to get information by asking questions, but this disguises a claim as a question, and because of this there doesn't seem to be any idea that there ought to be some support offered for the claim that is being made.
The question talks about what 'Liberals' are supposed to believe, rather than arguing against what anyone has really said. This is just inventing a ficticious opponent to argue against.
- Us and Them
This sort of question divides the world into two groups and implies you have to follow one of them, but the best conclusion may be something entirely different.
In theory academic journals should provide a venue for better arguments, but note the words of Max Planck:
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
And Planck was presumably thinking of Einstein, who at least felt that he could expect his arguments to be published in an academic journal and read - I don't think an unknown 22 year old could do that today.
- Discussions can get too long to read
The web site Kialo attempts to structure arguments in a reasonable way, but I find that it spreads out the discussion too much, making it hard to take in all of the different threads.
I see it as better if one person can summarise all of the different parts of the argument. This suggests that a book is the good way of putting forward arguments (and then replying to counter-arguments in a later book). But a long sequence of books is likely to be intimidating to anyone with an interest in a topic. For instance, if you are interested in philosophy you are likely to be guided into reading lots of ancient books, which seem to have little relevance the ideas you originally wanted to investigate. One way of dealing with this might be to have summaries of the arguments, with the understanding that if you want to argue against what you read in a summary you're going to need to read the full argument before doing so.
My hope for this site is that I can find ways to minimise the problems described above by moderating posts where necessary. I'll try to give you the benefit of the doubt, that is to allow you to come back and improve arguments which I don't consider reasonable, but time pressure may make it easier to delete such posts, and I certainly intend to delete posts which I feel aren't made in good faith.
I would hope to gradually develop a way of keeping arguments on track, and if I am successful in this then I would consider allowing others to start new topics on this board.