Devil's Advocate/ Good or Bad?

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brimstoneSalad
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Re: Devil's Advocate/ Good or Bad?

Post by brimstoneSalad » Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:25 pm

carnap wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:52 pm
I think playing "Devil's advocate" has limited value because people really aren't psychologically capable of doing it well.
I don't think that's true, they just aren't usually motivated to do so: people tend to want more to win than to know the truth.
There are a few threads here with people making very strong devil's advocate arguments, but that's because we like to argue more than most people (that is, there's motivation).
As PsYcHo said, it can even change your own opinion on things (particularly if it's not that strong to begin with).

Another obvious example: Despite agreeing on veganism and the general conclusions with Isaac with regards to Name The Trait, I and other members here argued against it extensively and debunked it as a bad argument for veganism. You don't have to disagree with the conclusions to recognize something as a poor argument for something you agree with. Vegans can and do debunk other vegans' bad arguments.

We just had to be motivated to look at it critically (motivation that Isaac provided us in spades by being Isaac and refusing to consider friendly criticism).

I don't agree with absolutist arguments like Haidt's; there are plenty of people who care about efficacy more than dogmatic adherence to tribal arguments. Also, as arguments are better formalized the easier it becomes to recognize problems. We have a well established tool set to do so in formal logic. It's trickier with empirical arguments, but there we have professional consensus to lean on so it shouldn't even be necessary to discuss.

carnap wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:52 pm
So playing "Devil's advocate" will tend just to repeat poor arguments as a way to emphasizing the correctness of what you already believe.
If you're presenting an argument you know will not be a challenge ant that you know the answer to, that's not playing Devil's advocate, it's coaching. It's about as bad as presenting an argument you know has an obvious counter-argument you can't answer. It's something that might happen on occasion, but is best avoided.

carnap wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:52 pm
Also you avoid echo-chambers by committing to dialogue with people outside of your group not by people pretending to hold positions of people outside of the group.
Or encouraging ideological diversity inside the group, and discouraging prohibition of criticism.
carnap wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:52 pm
Another tactic that seems common is that arguing with outsiders that clearly aren't well versed in underlying topics. A recent example of that I've seen is when vegans started to go after Matt Dillahunty on a show that had nothing to do with animal ethics. Its very clear that he hasn't thought about the topics much so arguing with him does nothing other than giving you a sort of cheap sense of victory.
:lol: Did we watch the same call? Dillahunty cleaned the floor with Richard. He's obviously thought about these things quite a bit, and engaged in many private discussions on the matter.

Dillahunty is mostly wrong, but Richard's arguments completely missed the plot.

There's a thread on it here: http://philosophicalvegan.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3800

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Post by carnap » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:35 am

PsYcHo wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:02 pm
Does this apply only to people who are "set in their ways"? In other words, If I already believe heavily that, lets say, taxation is theft, I agree that I am definitely biased towards that argument, so maybe playing the Devil's advocate wouldn't be the best path; my "counter arguments" would likely be weak, intentionally or subconsciously.
Everyone becomes "set in their ways", once you commit to an idea, group or some identity you become anchored to it. Just how anchored you are to the idea hinges on various factors like your age, your personality, your education, etc but it happens to everyone.
PsYcHo wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:02 pm
But what about arguments where I am only mostly sure on. By playing advocate, don't I both challenge another person and myself to consider other opinions? Like I said in the OP, I've argued myself out of points I thought I believed..
Depending on the context it may have some value in either case, my point here is just that people typically cannot be good devil advocates. That doesn't mean its entirely without value, just that people are likely to exaggerate the value.

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Post by carnap » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:57 am

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:25 pm
I don't think that's true, they just aren't usually motivated to do so: people tend to want more to win than to know the truth.
Your motivation doesn't change human psychology, human thought is riddled with cognitive bias. Once you commit to an idea the way you process information related to that idea changes.

I'm not sure how vegans disagreeing on arguments for veganism would address the topic. A vegan playing Devil's Advocate would be giving arguments against veganism.

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:25 pm
If you're presenting an argument you know will not be a challenge ant that you know the answer to, that's not playing Devil's advocate, i
My point here addresses whether people are, psychologically speaking, able to be good Devil's advocates. I'm suggesting that they cannot since the cognitive process of committing to an idea has some undesirable consequences in terms of cognitive biases.

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:25 pm
Or encouraging ideological diversity inside the group, and discouraging prohibition of criticism.
Any group, social or intellectual, will have boundaries. There will be people inside and outside.
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:25 pm
:lol: Did we watch the same call? Dillahunty cleaned the floor with Richard. He's obviously thought about these things quite a bit, and engaged in many private discussions on the matter.
I don't think either of them are well-versed in the relevant philosophy, science, etc. But that wasn't so much my point instead that you cannot really expect people to come up with sensible answers when put on the spot unless its a subject they are actively engaged in. I've seen vegans use this tactic a lot, they ask people difficult questions about animal ethics and then chuckle when they cannot give sensible answers on the spot.

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Post by PsYcHo » Thu Mar 29, 2018 12:24 am

carnap wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:35 am
PsYcHo wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:02 pm
But what about arguments where I am only mostly sure on. By playing advocate, don't I both challenge another person and myself to consider other opinions? Like I said in the OP, I've argued myself out of points I thought I believed..
Depending on the context it may have some value in either case, my point here is just that people typically cannot be good devil advocates.
For the most part, I agree with you here. Most people don't actually play Devil's advocate; they use sarcasm and consider it the same thing. I don't think it's a tactic that is for everyone; but for people who genuinely wish to learn and debate respectfully, I think it's a great tool to both challenge someone else and possibly yourself. :)
Alcohol may have been a factor.

Taxation is theft.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:23 pm

carnap wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:57 am
I'm not sure how vegans disagreeing on arguments for veganism would address the topic. A vegan playing Devil's Advocate would be giving arguments against veganism.
When I argue against #NameTheTrait I'm not giving arguments against veganism, I'm giving arguments against something I see as harmful to veganism (a bad argument that makes us look stupid).

There are vegans who think the health arguments are bad, those who think the environmental arguments are bad, those who think the animal ethic arguments are bad, etc. and who each respectively think fighting these arguments makes veganism stronger.

They're not arguing against veganism, but arguing for better vegan arguments. Ideological diversity solves the issue by strengthening arguments with internal debate that is not merely play acting.

carnap wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:57 am
My point here addresses whether people are, psychologically speaking, able to be good Devil's advocates.
If they are sure the argument they are making is wrong and they aren't strongly motivated to make it then they probably can't do as good of a job.
However, with enough motivation cognitive dissonance comes in and they may begin to believe the argument could be right, making them perfectly suitable to argue it.
carnap wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:57 am
I'm suggesting that they cannot since the cognitive process of committing to an idea has some undesirable consequences in terms of cognitive biases.
As I said, I don't agree with that kind of extremist pessimism of reason. We have tools that help us overcome cognitive biases (like formalizing arguments). Arguing informally, a strong bias can make the argument weaker if the person is not motivated enough; it all comes down to motivations.
A bias is a motivation against providing a good argument, it can be counteracted by motivation to do so.
carnap wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:57 am
you cannot really expect people to come up with sensible answers when put on the spot unless its a subject they are actively engaged in.
This IS something Dillahunty has spent a long time thinking and arguing on. Probably more than Vegan Gains.

If you think he doesn't know much about it, can you demonstrate that with some examples?

carnap wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:57 am
I've seen vegans use this tactic a lot, they ask people difficult questions about animal ethics and then chuckle when they cannot give sensible answers on the spot.
It's a little funny(in a sad way) when somebody holds a position that person hasn't thought about. It's true for carnism, religion, even some vegans.
That shouldn't be interpreted as being right, but it is a victory in terms of debate; the other party has some thinking to do.

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Post by carnap » Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:47 am

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:23 pm
When I argue against #NameTheTrait I'm not giving arguments against veganism, I'm giving arguments against something I see as harmful to veganism (a bad argument that makes us look stupid).
And in what sense is that playing Devil's advocate? You're arguing against something you disagree with. You'd be playing Devil's advocate if you tried to argue for "NameTheTrait".
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:23 pm
As I said, I don't agree with that kind of extremist pessimism of reason. We have tools that help us overcome cognitive biases (like formalizing arguments). Arguing informally, a strong bias can make the argument weaker if the person is not motivated enough; it all comes down to motivations.
Cognitive biases are well documented in studies and there are no way to avoid them. You can do things that can help limit their impact but nothing is going to avoid them, they simply reflect how our brains work.
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:23 pm
This IS something Dillahunty has spent a long time thinking and arguing on. Probably more than Vegan Gains.
Can you point to where he has discussed it prior to being asked about it?

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Sat Mar 31, 2018 1:23 am

carnap wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:47 am
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:23 pm
When I argue against #NameTheTrait I'm not giving arguments against veganism, I'm giving arguments against something I see as harmful to veganism (a bad argument that makes us look stupid).
And in what sense is that playing Devil's advocate? You're arguing against something you disagree with. You'd be playing Devil's advocate if you tried to argue for "NameTheTrait".
I still essentially agree with the conclusions, my point is that the formulation is poor and it can be improved. Disagreeing with the quality of the argument rather than the conclusion.

As PsYcHo said:
PsYcHo wrote:
Fri Mar 23, 2018 2:04 am
Or because I think they have an okay argument, and want to help lead them to a better one when challenged by people who actually disagree with them.
I guess he'd have to decide if that falls in the domain of what he's talking about.

I don't know that a Devil's advocate has a very rigorous definition.

carnap wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:47 am
Cognitive biases are well documented in studies and there are no way to avoid them.
Overcome, not avoid.
carnap wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:47 am
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:23 pm
This IS something Dillahunty has spent a long time thinking and arguing on. Probably more than Vegan Gains.
Can you point to where he has discussed it prior to being asked about it?
He's been asked about it publicly multiple times, but it's limited since the topic of his show isn't very relevant.
He's also mentioned having these conversations quite a bit off the show, and it shows in his position and the consistency of his explanations which as he addresses it does seem fairly thought out (if still wrong).

I'm not really an expert in all things Dillahunty, but I may be looking into this more soon since we'll probably be moving onto criticism of his position now that Ask Yourself has fallen.

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