An Argument’s Burdens Of Proof: Truth And Importance - Deepstash
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An Argument’s Burdens Of Proof: Truth And Importance

An argument is not a random grab bag of thoughts or exclamations. It’s not a repetition of all the things you think about a particular subject. An argument is a tool for changing minds, and it has two basic burdens of proof. First, showing that its main claim is true, and second, that this claim is important.


538 reads


Build Upon Good Disagreement, Not Upon Agreeableness

Build Upon Good Disagreement, Not Upon Agreeableness

The debate world acts as a symbol for what a community built around—not despite—disagreement can be, and harbors knowledge that we can apply in our day-to-day lives to start realizing that future. A future based not around agreeableness, but on good disagreement, which a...


195 reads

The “Side-Switch Exercises”

Much of debating is an exercise in certainty. You fully inhabit your perspective and come up with the best possible arguments for your side, recruiting the most persuasive evidence for your case. But in the last five minutes before the start of a round, the best debaters do something extr...


207 reads

Choose Your Battles

When you start picking up the strategies and secrets of good debate, every objectionable thing people say seems like an opportunity to quarrel and make a point. To the one holding the hammer, everything seems like a nail. But we know that good conversations and relationships have...


330 reads

Argue Deliberately

Meeting the RISA Checklist doesn’t guarantee that an argument will go well, but it suggests that there are conditions such that the argument could go well. By being deliberate and not jumping into disagreements out of pride or defensiveness, we can focus on disagreements...


261 reads

Debate, Magical Empathy And Practical Empathy

As a kid, Bo Seo used to hate being told to empathize with my classmates because He didn’t know what “empathy” meant. Some described it as a magical, mental connection that spontaneously arises when you look into the eyes of another person. Others described it as a v...


238 reads

The “Wriggle Room”

“Side-switch exercises” don’t help you achieve empathy, exactly, because there is no substitute for really hearing where the other side is coming from. But it does create wriggle room. It gives you the sense that there may be another way of viewing this issue. At a time when many...


196 reads

Arguing For And Arguing About: To Argue Is Not To Fight

When Bo Seo moved as an eight-year-old from South Korea to Australia, he didn’t speak English. He quickly learned that the hardest part of crossing language lines was adjusting to real-life conversation, and the hardest conversations to adjust to were disagreements. That was where pas...


850 reads

The RISA Disagreement Checlist

So, you face a disagreement. Is it:

  • Real?
  • Important?
  • Specific? and
  • Aligned?

Before entering into a disagreement, for example, ask yoursel...


280 reads

Debates And Arguments Are Types Of Discussions, Not Of Fights

“Debate” comes from the Old French word “debatre” (“to fight or contend,”), which in turn comes from the Latin “dis-“ (expressing reversal) + “battere” (to fight).

We must regain confidence and faith in what good arguments can be, realizing...


181 reads

Proving Truth

Imagine arguing that we should stop eating meat because vegetarianism benefits the environment. For that argument to succeed, first you have to show that being vegetarian is, in fact, good for the environment. Otherwise you have no legs to stand on for the claim that hea...


464 reads

Debate Can Unleash Our Voice

Bo Seo sensed that his differences from his peers, if exposed, could mark him as an outsider and let slip whatever foothold of belonging he had achieved in this new place. That made him resolve to be very agreeable, to smile, to nod, and to keep most of his thoughts to himself. W...


550 reads

Proving Importance

Second, the true question at the core of this argument asks, why should we privilege the health of the environment over personal enjoyment? It’s often that second part that people neglect. It’s not enough to show that you have a point—you have to make it count for the other side. That inv...


391 reads

The Opposite Of Bad Disagreement Is Not Agreement

The opposite of bad disagreement is good disagreement. For most of history, entire groups of people were barred from speaking by virtue of their station in life. Multitudes lacked any platform or capacity to be heard. What we’re doing today—embracing diversity in our com...


178 reads




“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison

“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” - Rumi

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The Concept Of Extraordinary Claims

  • Instead of viewing claims as either ordinary or extraordinary, it’s better to view them as ranging between these two ends of the spectrum, based on how likely they are given everything that is known on the subject.
  • It can be difficult to define the exact th...

Structure of a well-formed argument

It does not use reasons that contradict each other, contradict the conclusion or explicitly or implicitly assumes the truth of the conclusion. Checklist:

  • Does the communication include at least one reason to support the conclusion as being true? If not, it is not an...

Show that your research will be part of a larger conversation

Two basic rhetorical positions can help you frame the novelty-and-importance argument in academic research.

  • Build on or extend a set of existing ideas. 'Person A has argued that X is true. This implies Y, which has not yet been tested. My project will test Y. If I fi...

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