Damer’s “Code of Intellectual Conduct”

This code of conduct very much relates to Rapoport’s Rules, Adler’s advice, and Alan Jacobs’s “The Thinking Person’s Checklist.”

SOURCE: T. Edward Damer, Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments, 6th ed (Australia ; Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2009), 7–8.

1. The Fallibility Principle

Each participant in a discussion of a disputed issue should be willing to accept the fact that he or she is fallible, which means that one must acknowledge that one’s own initial view may not be the most defensible position on the question.

2. The Truth-Seeking Principle

Each participant should be committed to the task of earnestly searching for the truth or at least the most defensible position on the issue at stake. Therefore, one should be willing to examine alternative positions seriously, look for insights in the positions of others, and allow other participants to present arguments for or raise objections to any position held on an issue.

3. The Clarity Principle

The formulations of all positions, defenses, and attacks should be free of any kind of linguistic confusion and clearly separated from other positions and issues.

In the seventh edition, the following is added:

It is particularly important to define carefully any key words used in an argument or criticism that may be unclear or misunderstood.

4. The Burden-of-Proof Principle

The burden of proof for any position usually rests on the participant who sets forth the position. If and when an opponent asks, the proponent should provide an argument for that position.

5. The Principle of Charity

If a participant’s argument is reformulated by an opponent, it should be carefully expressed in its strongest possible version that is consistent with what is believed to be the original intention of the arguer. If there is any question about that intention or about any implicit part of the argument, the arguer should be given the benefit of any doubt in the reformulation and/or, when possible, given the opportunity to amend it.

6. The Structural Principle

One who argues for or against a position should use an argument that meets the fundamental structural requirements of a well-formed argument. Such an argument does not use reasons that contradict each other, that contradict the conclusion, or that explicitly or implicitly assume the truth of the conclusion. Neither does it draw any invalid deductive inferences.

7. The Relevance Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should set forth only reasons whose truth provides some evidence for the truth of the conclusion.

8. The Acceptability Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should provide reasons that are likely to be accepted by a mature, rational person and that meet standard criteria of acceptability.

9. The Sufficiency Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should attempt to provide relevant and acceptable reasons of the right kind, that together are sufficient in number and weight to justify the acceptance of the conclusion.

10. The Rebuttal Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should include in the argument an effective rebuttal to all anticipated serious criticisms of the argument that may be brought against it or against the position it supports.

11. The Suspension-of-Judgment Principle

If no position is defended by a good argument, or if two or more positions seem to be defended with equal strength, one should, in most cases, suspend judgment about the issue. If practical considerations seem to require a more immediate decision, one should weigh the relative benefits or harm connected with the consequences of suspending judgment and decide the issue on those grounds.

12. The Resolution Principle

An issue should be considered resolved if the argument for one of the alternative positions is a structurally sound one that uses relevant and acceptable reasons that together provide sufficient grounds to justify the conclusion and that also includes an effective rebuttal to all serious criticisms of the argument and/or the position it supports. Unless one can demonstrate that the argument has not met these conditions more successfully than any argument presented for alternative positions, one is obligated to accept its conclusion and consider the issue to be settled. If the argument is subsequently found by any participant to be flawed in a way that raises new doubts about the merit of the position it supports, one is obligated to reopen the issue for further consideration and resolution.

By Joshua Steele

Software engineer using "dead" languages to help the living. Learn more at joshuapsteele.com.

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