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Principle of Charity

JaxsonRaine
Posts: 3,606
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5/18/2012 7:47:23 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Is the Principle of Charity a fundamental part of formal debating? Should one look to take advantage of semantic weaknesses or obvious unintended meanings in an opponent's arguments, or apply the Principle of Charity to debate against the actual meaning of the opponent's arguments?
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Lasagna
Posts: 2,440
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5/18/2012 8:04:36 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 7:47:23 PM, JaxsonRaine wrote:
Is the Principle of Charity a fundamental part of formal debating? Should one look to take advantage of semantic weaknesses or obvious unintended meanings in an opponent's arguments, or apply the Principle of Charity to debate against the actual meaning of the opponent's arguments?

Semantics are fair game. You have limited space, so if that's what you want to dedicate your characters towards then by all means do it. However if you're debating me, then I'll point out that your attempt to use semantics is representative of your lack of ability to find a better argument to use against me. Also, if a semantic argument is really what you wanted and you hold back, you may find that in later rounds you are returning to it when things start to heat up and you will regret not just bringing it up in the first place.

Otherwise, you shouldn't have any ethical concerns about the tactic.
Rob
Zaradi
Posts: 14,124
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5/18/2012 8:05:01 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 7:47:23 PM, JaxsonRaine wrote:
Is the Principle of Charity a fundamental part of formal debating? Should one look to take advantage of semantic weaknesses or obvious unintended meanings in an opponent's arguments, or apply the Principle of Charity to debate against the actual meaning of the opponent's arguments?

I think there's a certain brightline between what was obviously just an ignorant mistake and shouldn't be semanticized and what is just clearly poorly worded intentionally and deserves a good trolling. There's no definite definition to when one crosses over the line into either side, as it's entirely relative, but there's good examples for both extremes.
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innomen
Posts: 10,052
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5/19/2012 1:26:45 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Semantics should only be a real issue if there is legitimate miscommunication involved. If someone's ability to effectively communicate is more about presentation rather than clarity, just leave it to the judges.

Debaters that delve into semantics, are the debaters that have the weakest arguments in my opinion.
Stephen_Hawkins
Posts: 5,316
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5/19/2012 1:58:34 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 8:05:01 PM, Zaradi wrote:
At 5/18/2012 7:47:23 PM, JaxsonRaine wrote:
Is the Principle of Charity a fundamental part of formal debating? Should one look to take advantage of semantic weaknesses or obvious unintended meanings in an opponent's arguments, or apply the Principle of Charity to debate against the actual meaning of the opponent's arguments?

I think there's a certain brightline between what was obviously just an ignorant mistake and shouldn't be semanticized and what is just clearly poorly worded intentionally and deserves a good trolling. There's no definite definition to when one crosses over the line into either side, as it's entirely relative, but there's good examples for both extremes.

The principle of charity is usually a good thing to follow, but it's best to just follow the debate line. I always state that "squirelling is banned" just to make it clear. However, a slight reinterpretation is reasonable. Best interpretation, not what the other person wants in a debate.
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WriterDave
Posts: 934
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5/19/2012 10:47:03 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 7:47:23 PM, JaxsonRaine wrote:
Is the Principle of Charity a fundamental part of formal debating? Should one look to take advantage of semantic weaknesses or obvious unintended meanings in an opponent's arguments, or apply the Principle of Charity to debate against the actual meaning of the opponent's arguments?

If your goal is to seek the truth, the PoC is good. If your goal is to win, the PoC is bad.
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drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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5/19/2012 10:56:19 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 7:47:23 PM, JaxsonRaine wrote:
Is the Principle of Charity a fundamental part of formal debating? Should one look to take advantage of semantic weaknesses or obvious unintended meanings in an opponent's arguments, or apply the Principle of Charity to debate against the actual meaning of the opponent's arguments?

Why should the principle of charity stop there? I mean, if you're going to grant your opponent the benefit of the doubt regarding semantics, why not grant him the benefit of the doubt regarding his entire argument?

The only way you can know the "actual" meaning of your opponent's arguments is through semantics. If there is some semantic weakness or flaw in your opponent's argument then notions of "obvious" meaning, intended or unintended is little more than assumption on your part.

I just don't see why I should assume conditions conducive to my opponent's case. I call this the Principle of Making My Opponent Do His Own Work.
Zaradi
Posts: 14,124
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5/20/2012 12:42:45 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Actually, upon thinking about it a bit, I think we need to define the difference between critical argumentation and semantic wordplay.

Critical argumentation is arguing against specific details about the topic. Say, the way in which the resolution is phrased grammatically or a word choice that could ambiguously mean a few different definitions. As long as this isn't taken to ridiculous standards, I have yet to see a problem with critical argumentation.

Semantics, on the other hand, generally pushes the envelope too far. For reference examples, look at almost any of imabench's train-wrecked debates where he took a debate where the instigator would a) probably have gotten n00bsniped, or b) the opponent set up an unfair win, and turn it around for the hilariousness. That's fun and all, but it shouldn't have a place in an actual debate.

The difference between the two is one is a reasonable interpretation, while the other is an unreasonable interpretation. Last I checked, it was okay to be reasonable in a debate.
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