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Guidelines for posting in P&R

Posting in a philosophy forum - guidelines to help.

First a warning/disclaimer:
Posters and readers should be aware that this forum contains postings which may offend some people - particularly those of a strong religious faith of one sort or another. We do not censor postings based on their religious position (or lack of it) - only based on the TOS. This means that people are free to express their opinions here - even if those opinions may potentially upset some people - providing that the poster does not contravene the TOS.

You will find, for example, postings by me and others which are extremely critical of religion in general and Christianity and Islam specifically. If you think that this might offend you then I would advise you to try the faith forum instead, where discussion may be more to your taste. Please do not complain about the religious or atheist content of a posting in this forum unless it contravenes the TOS. Religious posters are free, of course, to post articles supportive of religion or advocating a particular religious position or faith, but I would ask you, as I ask ALL posters, to make a proper case, and not simply say how good it is.

Now a note on content....

This posting contains information which any poster, or even lurker, in this forum should be familiar with.

Any type of communication requires some basic foundations before it can go ahead. These include:
  • some form of grammar - a set of rules which govern how information is set-out
  • a syntax - a set of symbols or words which are commonly understood to represent shared concepts, experiences and/or perceptions
Additionally, philosophical debate has some more foundations which I will cover briefly here. A philosophy posting should be an argument (the word has a specific meaning and doesn't simply mean a disagreement or a slanging match) and attempts to clarify, improve or falsify this argument by other posters - these will themselves be arguments, which will be either supportive or critical (perhaps both) of the central argument (which will be the topic of the particular thread). Specifically:
  • Argument -a declarative sentence or set of declarative sentences, which together are an attempt to convince the reader(s) that a particular claim is correct/true. The claim will be the subject of the thread.
  • Declarative sentence - a sentence that is either true or false and which is intelligible to others.
  • Premise - a claim phrased in a declarative sentences.
  • Conclusion - the specific claim which the argument is attempting to establish as correct/true.
This is the basic format of a philosophical debate. If this is new to you then you might like to test yourself with the simple exercises below, designed to ensure you understand the concepts above sufficiently to construct an argument and join debate.

You should see from this that unsupported assertions (claims which cannot be framed in declarative sentences - meaning they cannot be tested or analysed to give 'true or false' results) have no place in philosophical debate. If you wish to join a debate then please try to frame your posting as an argument - either supporting or criticising the main argument of the thread. If you wish to post a new thread then please construct a clear argument - what is the point that you wish to persuade readers of, and what arguments can you muster to support the point?

I will deal with more advanced topics - specifically how we can spot errors in arguments and how we can avoid making them in our own arguments - in another posting when I get the time.

I hope users will find this useful - it isn't meant to be taken as a strict policy which must be followed or else - it is meant to help and inform posters and encourage them to develop their debating skills and techniques.

Test Yourself:

1) Declarative Sentences

Which of the following sentences are declarative sentences?
a) Bikerman is one of the moderators and he is particularly active in this forum.
b) Why is Bikerman setting these rules - is he a control freak?
c) Bikerman should leave us to post what we want.
d) Bikerman faketo meus sintandito parlunca

You should have the following answers:

a) Yes,
b) No (this is a question, not a claim)
c) Yes.
d) No - although this could be a declarative sentence, unless you understand it, it is not something YOU can argue about since it fails the 'intelligibility' test. (In fact this is gibberish - I just made it up).

A couple of important points here - firstly a question is not a claim, and secondly if you don't understand the claim being made then you cannot join the debate and should not try to do so. Occasionally there may be threads which require some specific knowledge or expertise, and this will be clear from the language used. If you don't understand the words then DON'T POST.

2. Making an argument.

Which of the following are valid arguments?

1. The sky is blue. That's because sunlight is refracted through the air in such a way that other wavelengths of light are diminished.

2. Alien abductions are real - I know someone who was abducted and they are completely trustworthy and would not lie about such a thing.

3. God exists and if you look deep inside yourself you will find that you know this to be true.

4. God exists. The evidence is all around you. The world is beautiful and was obviously designed for humans so there MUST be a designer - and that is God.

You should have the following answers:

1) No, this is not a valid argument. This is not an attempt to convince you that the sky is blue—that's
obvious. This is an explanation, and an explanation is not an argument.

2) No, this is not a valid argument. We have no way to establish whether the premises (that the person was abducted and that they are a trustworthy, reliable witness) are true or false and the argument is not phrased in declarative sentences.

3) No, this is not a valid argument. It is a bald assertion with nothing in the way of evidence.

4) No this is not a valid argument. It is another assertion with no way to test the truth or falsity of the premises (that God exists, that the world around us is direct evidence for this existence). The world we observe can be explained using naturalistic (ie non-supernatural) mechanisms. Any assertion that it required supernatural explanation is therefore, at best, unproven (and untestable, unless more information is offered by the person making the argument - such as 'we can see evidence for the Flood in the layering of fossils in the rocks' - that WOULD be a valid argument).[/i]
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