Talk:Universal Debating Project

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Some interesting (edited)feedback by John Ringland via Facebook, May 2013 is presented here. He saw my link to the page of this p2pfoundation link on the Universal Debating Project, and was clearly interested. However, he made some other worthwhile remarks about another link he originally put up which was concerned with rationality, and debating. That specific link is found on the page of this entry as opposed to this discussion section.

John Ringland ......On another thread someone raised an interesting point: "Just because there's a logical fallacy in what somebody is saying doesn't mean they're wrong."

That is true, but being right is only one component of a meaningful communication!

For instance, in terms of Habermas's universal pragmatics, which is "the philosophical study of the necessary conditions for reaching an understanding through communication." (

There are three necessary requirements that need to be met in order for meaning to be successfully communicated.

1) Conceivable: the statement must refer to something that is conceivably true within the world-view of the receiver.

2) Appropriate: the statement must imply an appropriate relation between the sender and receiver - e.g. an attempt to deceive and manipulate the receiver is inappropriate whereas an attempt to convince the receiver with criticisable validity claims is appropriate.

3)Trustworthy, it must be free of factors that lead the receiver to doubt the sender's motives, intellectual ability and sincerity.

Thus a statement that contains logical fallacies (i.e. lies, deception and manipulative tactics) but still happens to be true, will only satisfy the first condition and fail in regards to the last two conditions.

Thus such a statement is suited to propagandist polemic but it would be inadmissible within any rational discourse. Before it could be admitted it would need to be queried and then reformulated in a manner that is devoid of fallacies. Only then could its truth value be adequately tested and validated.

BTW re the implications of universal pragmatics: just because a statement is true (whether it contains fallacies or not) doesn't necessarily mean that it will refer to something that is conceivably true within the world-view of the receiver. Thus it might be rejected at the outset.

Hence, if the sender wants their statement to be received then they must tailor it so that it makes reference to things that are conceivably true to the receiver and then incrementally extend this into new territory - thus enabling the receiver to become capable of conceiving the possibility. Only then will the statement be subjected to rational consideration.

If the sender simply persists in stating their truth in ways that are utterly inconceivable to the receiver, then this just adds more evidence to the receiver's growing doubts regarding the sender's motives, abilities and sincerity.

"According to Habermas, the phenomena that need to be accounted for by the theory [communicative rationality, which includes universal pragmatics] are the "intuitively mastered rules for reaching an understanding and conducting argumentation", possessed by subjects who are capable of speech and action. The goal is to transform this implicit "know-how" into explicit "know-that", i.e. knowledge, about how we conduct ourselves in the realm of "moral-practical" reasoning. Communicative rationality - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The three requirements introduced by universal pragmatics, which I discussed above, are related to the receipt of particular statements, this is the micro-dynamics of a rational discourse. The theory of communicative rationality addresses the macro scale of rational discourse. For instance:

"Jürgen Habermas' theory of rational communication... offers the most systematic critical theory presently available of democratic communications. For Habermas the public sphere is constituted by moral-practical discourse, which is interaction oriented to resolving political problems. Habermas' analysis of communication reveals that every participant engaged in moral-practical discourse makes reference to a number of pragmatic presuppositions and thus to a set of normative conditions of the public sphere. This set of conditions can be summarized as follows:

i. Autonomy from state and economic power. Discourse must be based on the concerns of citizens as a public rather than driven by the media or money and administrative power that facilitate the operations of the market and state.

ii. Exchange and critique of criticizable moral-practical validity claims. Rational-critical discourse involves engaging in reciprocal critique of normative positions that are provided with reasons and thus are criticizable, that is, open to critique rather than dogmatically asserted.

iii. Reflexivity. Participants must critically examine their cultural values, assumptions, and interests, as well as the larger social context.

iv. Ideal role-taking. Participants must attempt to understand the argument from the other's perspective. This requires a commitment to an ongoing dialogue with difference in which interlocutors respectfully listen to each other.

v. Sincerity. Each participant must make a sincere effort to make known all information, including their true intentions, interests, needs, and desires, as relevant to the particular problem under consideration.

vi. Discursive inclusion and equality. Every participant affected by the validity claims under consideration is equally entitled to introduce and question any assertion whatsoever. Inclusion can be limited by inequalities from outside of discourse - by formal or informal restrictions to access. It can also be limited by inequalities within discourse, where some dominate discourse and others struggle to get their voices heard.

These six requirements provide an analytical template by which to evaluate the claim that [a particular discourse] is enhancing and extending the public sphere of rational-critical deliberation." (

Glistening Deepwater ....I wonder what the author of that paper would find if investigating the same question now, 12 years later? although, I guess that is the motivation behind your proposal hey!

John Ringland ....... Yeah, it would be interesting to have a regularly updated analysis of the state of the online "public sphere of rational-critical deliberation"!

I suspect that some online discourses are doing well but on the whole our standards have slipped - possibly due to the influence of mass media and our growing habituation to propagandist polemic... 6 hours ago · Like..John Ringland BTW here is an interesting article that summarises the theory of communicative rationality... "Communicative rationality and formal pragmatics"

Robert Searle .........Very interesting, and a much neglected subject. Universal Debating Project - P2P Foundation

John Ringland ........Great idea Robert! I hope you don't mind if I incorporate the idea of a central repository into my own project...

Your idea sounds like an excellent adjunct to my idea of the game of understanding, which btw results in the creation of several 'models', each of which has three archives (pro, con, unclassified), which contain linked structures of arguments that explain why each argument is either true or false (within the context of that model), tracing down to a set of axioms for each model. Thus each model is a logically self-consistent perspective on a topic. The game allows multiple perspectives to be explored in parallel and in relation to each other.

The results of explorations into various problem domains could be held in a centralised repository and used as a starting point for future games that seek to test new hypothesise or question existing arguments within a particular problem domain. This way the body of collective knowledge would grow

John Ringland ............ BTW that P2P article had a link to an implementation of that idea: Debatepedia

John Ringland........... Looking through the results of various debates recorded on Debatepedia it occurred to me that the results of the game of understanding contains more information than Debatepedia; in four ways.

1) arguments are linked to arguments, thus tracing out networks of supporting and counter arguments, thus allowing us to validate the logical consistency of the arguments.

2) there is the unclassified category, which records statements that cannot yet be proven or disproven within the context of the model.

Then, whilst both Debatepedia and the game record valid statements for and against a proposition, the game also records:

3) failed attempts to argue for the model / proposition.

4) failed attempts to argue against the model / proposition.

This is useful information when certain invalid arguments are repeatedly encountered.

Note: The way the results of the game map to the pro/con structure of Debatepedia is:

The pro-model archive contains valid arguments for the model (pro) and invalid arguments against the model.

The con-model archive contains valid arguments against the model (con) and invalid arguments for the model.

The unclassified archive contains arguments that cannot yet be placed in either the pro or con model, due to the lack of supporting or counter arguments. These can be reconsidered later when the model is more developed and expressive.

Speech-act theory:

Systematically speaking, speech acts convey a speaker's intent in three respects: they assert some proposition about the world ("the" world of external phenomena and events), and/or about the speaker's expectations towards the hearers ("our" interpersonal relationship), and/or about the speaker her- or himself ("my" inner world). According to this three-world model, Habermas distinguishes three different, though interdependent, "idealized or pure cases" or "basic modes" of speech acts, which I prefer to reformulate slightly here in terms of three basic functions of speech:

1. The constative function of speech consists in stating the speaker's views about states and events of "the" world of external nature; that is, it asserts relevant opinions and knowledge.

2. The regulative function of speech consists in conveying the speaker's intention with respect to "our" social world of interpersonal relations; it stipulates criteria of proper action or evaluation.

3. The expressive function of speech, finally, consists in disclosing the speaker's subjective world of "my" wishes, attitudes, and emotions; together with actual behavior, it reveals the speaker's motives.

As a simple example, let's imagine a couple's conversation during a mountain hike. "It's clouding over, we are sure to get rain soon." (constative) – "We better hurry." (regulative) – "I hate getting wet!" (expressive). These are three different speech acts, but the first one might very well perform the function of expressing all three intentions in one and the same utterance, especially in a conversation among partners who know each other well. Some of the functions of speech will thus often be implicit (speech-act immanent) rather than explicit (articulated as separate speech acts). Speaking of "speech functions" rather than "speech acts" has the advantage of leaving it open whether we are effectively dealing with separate utterances (explicit "speech acts") or rather with speech-act immanent functions of one and the same utterance. When they remain speech-act immanent rather than being made explicit, it matters the more for a competent speaker to be aware of their being at play; for only thus can we grasp the full meaning of an utterance and are able to question its validity in all respects.

The crucial point in distinguishing the three functions of speech is indeed that they are always at play together yet appeal to different sources of credibility. The husband who tells his wife "we're in for some rain" obviously expects her to find his observation of imminent rain accurate, as she must know he is an experienced mountaineer (source of credibility: experience). Given the dangers of mountain hiking in bad weather, he also anticipates his wife must agree they had better hurry (source of credibility: a basic principle of precaution in mountaineering). The more as she must know he hates getting wet – how often has she experienced his foul mood when bad weather caught them in the mountains! (source of credibility: the husband's record of behavior)

Generally speaking, in uttering a statement we expect others to accept:

1. that its propositional content (i.e., what it states about the world) is true (factual and accurate);

2. that its normative content (i.e., its effect upon others and their relationship with us) is right (acceptable and legitimate); and

3. that its subjective content (i.e., what we thereby disclose about ourselves and our motives) is truthful (i.e., authentic and sincere).

Three kinds of validity claims:

Whether consciously or not, we thus raise with every speech act three basic kinds of validity claims: claims to truth, rightness, and truthfulness. This multidimensional structure of speech has important consequences for the concepts of "competent" speech and "rational" communication... each kind of validity claim requires its specific form of vindication. Claims to truth imply an obligation to provide evidence of relevant facts; claims to rightness an obligation to justify underlying norms (or principles of action); and claims to truthfulness an obligation to prove trustworthy. All three claims need to be redeemed argumentatively; truthfulness, in addition, calls for consistency of the speaker's subsequent behavior.

The following link to an article by John Ringland maybe of interest



Let me point out that, at large, debates in the society are not aimed at solving actual problems and hardly at getting to the consensus. Debate, mostly, is a ritualized violence. Thus, the goal is to discharge tension, improve community integration and - mostly in modern times - give the plebs some entertainment. It is (almost) all about emotions, and the nasty ones. So, rational tools are needed for rationalisation only - which, I understand, is against the core concept of the UDP. :-)

--FreeLab Org PL (talk) 07:41, 8 February 2013 (UTC)

We are not here talking about endless debates, and endless repetition of arguments for, and against any subject without any "practical" outcomes. There is any amount of this already on the internet. We are talking about the exact reverse in which we could build the most complete arguments possible for, and against specific topics online... notably starting with, major global issues like climate change, poverty reduction, banking reform, et cetera, et cetera....This can lead to more practical, and more credible decision-making for governents, and NGOs.Developing the greatest, and highest degree of rationality possible is "...the very core concept of UDP." However, emotions can be channelled in largely rational ways with the right training, and with the right attitude in the serious democratic development of this centralised online "Global Brain" relying on decentralised individuals, and "independent" organizations. It is just a form of Open Source p2p cooperation on a huge scale, and indeed, a voting arrangement, or an official, or unofficial referendum could be included. The resulting collective decision on some topic(s) though could be subject to thorough "objective" re-examination of its rationality, so to speak. If this is lacking a re-vote could be possible which maybe in line with rationality, and genuine holistic thinking of the highest order. This is a big subject, and have no time at the moment to explain more. RS


Thank you for your response. Yes, this is "..a fascinating proposal." I like your diagram too and of course, the key subjects there can be sub-divided further (eg. Economics...Binary Economics, Behavioural Economics, Environmental Economics,et al). Time allowing I hope to expand the concept of the UDP.



This is just a courtesy visit 18 months on.

I find it frustrating that in spite of all the intellectual output, there is no awareness of the need for presenting information in a classified system: why have a list of hundreds of items instead of a few (not too few, say 12 :-) categories with 12 sub-categories each and (if needed) 12, sub-sub categories--- 1728 into 12. We could still have a search function in case we want to find one specific item of information.

--Janosabel (talk) 17:04, 7 February 2013


With respect, Janos, the reason is simple. I have been too busy with other issues notably the propogation so to say of Transfinancial Economics, and Multi-Dimensional Science. I hope to expand the entry on the UDP at some later date. Thus, for now at least TFE, and MDS must take precedence. Regards, RS

This is a fascinating proposal. Ambitious, as you say, but badly needed in view of the enormous amount of information filling cyberspace. Crafting a manageable but sufficient number of categories to contain increasingly specific knowledge items is part of the job.

I have been gestating a twelve division knowledge base with not much success on my own:

--Janosabel 21:54, 27 August 2011 (UTC)