17 Jun 2013, 03:11

Rapoport's Rules

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Rapoport’s Rules

Originally submitted by emil10001 on Wed, 12/15/2010 - 23:27

I am taking a course with Daniel Dennett, and he laid out some rules for constructively criticizing your opponent. The point, he said, was to make sure that your opponent knows that you understand very well their idea, that you get them to like you as a person and then when you deconstruct their idea, everyone involved will be enlightened. It is a way to force your opponent to concede to the points that you are making without being particularly forceful, and opening them up to such criticisms. He credited Anatol Rapoport for these rules, though I could not find a source. If anybody has a source for this, I’d really be interested to read a bit more about it. Here they are:

  • Restate your opponents view, giving the best possible interpretation. Be very charitable here, to the point where they will say, ‘Gee, I wish I’d said that’
  • List points of agreement between you and your opponent
  • List anything you have learned from your opponent and their ideas
  • Attack!

I followed the basics of these rules for the four discussions that I had with the ‘folk’ on Free Will. Using the above guidelines, I thought that the discussions went very smoothly. Rapoport’s rules are probably why I got all four of the participants to agree with my basic arguments, and even my conclusions. The rules aren’t about trying to be overly nice to your opponent because they deserve it, but because it is an effective technique.

Original comments here.

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