Two people disagree on a point:
John: Capital punishment is bad
Bob: Capital punishment is good
They can keep repeating themselves but (in many cases) its is unlikely that John or Bob will learn something new or change their opinion.
They may try to explain their thoughts to each other. This would help advance the conversation and may provide the other with new information on the topic:
John: Its murder – murder is bad
Bob: Criminals are evil – evil should be destroyed.
John and Bob are not going anywhere fast and here is why.
In the example John is thinking about the definition of killing and whether this is right.
Bob is thinking about what hinders the world (evil) and how to fix this (destroy it).
John does not even believe in the existence of evil in the same way that Bob does (ie that a person can exist as evil) so already they are on a completely different wave length but Bob doesn’t know this.
To try and agree on the main point (capital punishment) from two entirely different directions is almost impossible. If John is to win his friend around, he must move on to a new argument first – The existence of evil.
This in itself is a huge argument that will involve even more sub-arguments to reach a conclusion. And those sub-arguments will have many of their own sub-sub-arguments.
With such a complicated way to find common ground and understanding, it is no wonder there is so much conflict in the world!
In theory, given enough time and patience the two friends will cover the web of arguments and opinions and be able to work back to the original point – if they remember it!
Enter the technological solution that is – WikiLogic!
WikiLogic will allow someone interested in a point like whether capital punishment is moral to search for it and be provided with a visual ‘argument web‘ of all the points surrounding the issue.
It will use the Wikipedia model of being free for anyone to use or edit.
When people add backing premises to a claim they can turn it true. The evidence itself is a claim of some sort that requires its won evidence. If the backing evidence turns out not to be true it will leave it with no support and so it to will turn false. This will propagate its way up throughout the argument tree.
However it is not just evidence that can be at fault when making an argument. It can also be fallacious. That is to say, the reasoning does not add up. For example saying birds have wings which is true and planes have wings(also true) so birds are planes (clearly wrong!) There are many kinds of fallacious argument but we wont cover them all here as there are many existing web sites if you want to know more.
These will be dealt with by using fallacy tags. To open up a tag they need to define the issue presented in the argument they are attacking. You can pick one of the rules of logic that is being violated or request a link backing up the truth of what is stated. For example the first set of premises on the capital punishment page might say:
“A survey showed most Americans want it.”
Someone else goes on the site and clicks the “Argumentum ad populum (Appeal to the masses)” ticket from the list of fallacies, which allows them to also add a post explaining why they added it if they want. In this example the person writes “Most Americans wanting it, does not make it moral unless the definition of moral is based on majority rule.”
This makes the premise group fallacious which means it can no longer be used to back up whatever claim it was supporting. Although the concluding claim will only be set to false if there are no other backing premise sets left.
Another example of how this claim can be rebuffed might take the following form:
A person opens a ticket by clicking the “Link is required for fact” button on the premise that says “A survey showed most Americans want it.” If someone supplies the link to the study then it passes and can be used as evidence. As the fallacy tag mentioned earlier still stands, it will not help the capital punishment discussion in this instance. However it could still be used in a claim about people’s feelings towards capital punishment in America.
But there is a second problem in common conversations. It is highly likely that a scientific fact will be required.
John: People are products of the environment
Bob: No they are products of genes.
John: They showed people in poor areas are more likely to commit crime even if they are descended from a rich family but I cant remember any of the details about the experiment.
In most cases the average person can not remember specific experiments proving his point. Even when one feels they do they may have misunderstood or remembered incorrectly. If the fact is a critical point that’s being disagreed on, the conversation is forced to stop until some point in the future where they both have a chance to fact check. In reality this rarely happens as it is a lot of effort for the average person. Instead both sides just stick to what the think they know. And as a result mankind stagnates…
To allow people to unravel the mess of different arguments at their own pace, rather than trying to keep up with someone else in a conversation, we need a way of writing it down. But an infinite canvas would be useful because we will soon run out of space on A4 and turning pages gets confusing. And wouldn’t it be great if others could collaborate.