Rules of Intellectual Conversation

One of my greatest joys in life is rigorous intellectual dialogue. Experience has shown that very few people are capable of playing this sport well, and I choose to only play with those people. 50% of humans think they are capable of playing at a high level, though I think only 1% or fewer are capable. I choose not to have intellectual conversations with the other 99%, though I am excited to be their friend.

I have discovered that some relationships ought to stick to what they are. Sometimes we ought to simply be vendors, kinfolk, employees, neighbors, biking friends or otherwise be of mutual benefit to each other without engaging in intellectual conversations.

If I have declined to have an intellectual conversation with you, or if you decline to dialogue with me, please know that it is not necessarily a “bad” thing, and we can still have an awesome relationship!

I have developed a set of subjective preferences, standards and rules of intellectual conversation, and if you will agree to them, let’s dialogue!

  1. Be intelligent. Nature has made this difficult for many, and if you are among the lower 80% of people, there are many awesome things we can do to enjoy each other’s company, but I decline to waste my time with those who are better suited for other activities. I got lucky in the brain department, and unlucky in the athletic, musical, painting and charisma departments. If you don’t have the ability to play on a high-level intellectual field, please don’t. I promise not to sing or ask to be on your sportsball team. Some people are in the top 20% but choose to be ignorant, obtuse or dogmatic. No thanks.
  2. Adhere to the rules of reason and logic. These are not synonymous with “common sense” or “what everybody knows.” As with many topics in life, less than 10 hours or self-directed study can place the smart person in the top 20% of the most knowledgeable people in this subject matter. One need not be able to name and define 30 logical fallacies, however we ought to be able to recognize fallacious arguments. To learn more, start by researching the following and follow the fun rabbit holes! “Logic” “Logical fallacies” “Inductive versus deductive reasoning” “anecdotal evidence”
  3. Agree to define words and concepts and to remain intellectually honest and consistent. For example, if you say that “Taxation is robbery” be prepared for me to challenge you on the definition of robbery versus extortion, fraud or burglary.
  4. Agree to seek truth. Be willing to accept that your previously held beliefs might be wrong. Do not be dogmatic and stick with the status quo without reexamining it. We both should be excited and happy when our conversation partners help us shed bad stuff and add new high-quality stuff. I am not interested in being preached at, especially with regurgitated simplistic ideas your favorite news outlet has been saying over the last week.
  5. Scientific method. While many people who have the label “scientist” do not follow this methodology, it is the one I most trust. When it applies to a conversation, we will use it.
  6. Agree to start at the foundation. Many failed amateur “thinkers” only want to argue about the micro aspects of things rather that the macro. For example, if you propose the rule of thumb, please know that I will ask that we go back to the foundation. If we don’t first hash out whether or not it is cool to beat one’s wife, we can not smartly discuss the thickness a beating stick ought to be. Even more foundational, the word cool is a moral judgement, is morality objective or subjective?
  7. Of mutual interest. There are many things that I don’t care about, for example; photosynthesis. I am not opposed to it, nor do I hate it, it is simply not on my list of “Top 100 Things I Give a Hoot About.” There are probably many lovely, important and wonderful things that don’t make MY list, and I think it is great that people who are interested in those things chat about them.
  8. Be civil unless you have a good reason not to be. I am really OK with you making points by saying things that are a bit rude but add nuanced or witty awesomeness to our conversation. Just don’t be a dumb mean idiot who tosses out tired old cliche ad hominem attacks, ok?

These things I require to engage in intellectual arguments. Again, they are my subjective preferences, standards and rules. These are not objective rules that I think all people should always obey lest they wind up burning in fire and brimstone. These are simply MY boundaries that I have chosen for my life after many years of frustration. I trust you will also be forthright and sometimes say, “Thanks but no thanks.”

*If you are developing your own boundaries, my friend Patrick Smith also has a great resource in what he calls Meat and Potatoes Purpose and Rules. See them here:

This is a heavily moderated debate space. Be concise, productive, genuine, polite and respectful. Be on the same side working towards finding truth.

Agreements to Participate Here
  1. No name calling (and that includes calling peoples positions, actions, or behavior names)

  2. Take it to voice as often as possible. Video chat is even better. Text is one of the worst methods of discourse available.

  3. No trolling. Engage honestly and earnestly. No tit for tat’ing or taking shots.

  4. Keep debates between two people at a time. Too many cooks in the kitchen makes it go all over the place and nowhere at the same time. If you have a topic specify who you want to discuss it with or ask for a volunteer. Tap out if you want to let someone else take your spot. If you are not one of the two current debaters and have comments, disagreements, thoughts, or discussion points put them in main chat for people to discuss with you as they watch the debate going on in Meat and Potatoes.

  5. Speak or type and break for replies. Try to avoid typing your points in multiple short messages that people will have to respond to individually spagettifying the chat and making it hard to follow. If in voice say when you are done talking so the other person knows when they can speak without interrupting you.

  6. Do not interrupt. Do not filibuster. Do not drone on and on. Make your point concisely and hand it off. Vlog somewhere else. The only exception to interrupting should be asking a question to get a clarification or stopping a straw man in progress. This is not carte blanche to take the mic back and start talking again. Say “point of clarification” to get the mic long enough for one or two sentences to ask your question or clarify before letting them continue.

  7. Winning is finding truth not being right.

  8. Logical fallacies are for the commies and other irrationals — neither belong here.

  9. Try to tackle one topic or point of debate at a time. State or acknowledge when moving on.

  10. No memes or react gifs and images.

  11. Take conversations that aren’t debates elsewhere. This channel is reserved for debates only and rule number 4 may prevent others that want to debate from using it if they see people already active in it.

  12. If the bot posts a message reminder to follow these rules that you agreed to consider it a courtesy final warning before you lose access to post in the channel.

  13. This list may change. Check it often.

How to Get Access to This channel

On Matrix access to post in this channel is open to everyone because we haven’t had many problems there.

On Discord you must read and show that you understand and agree to follow these rules by reacting to the post in the “welcome-rules” channel.

If you find that you have lost access to this channel it is most likely because you forgot these rules. Its usually not a permanent severe thing; just re-read the rules and contact an admin to request access to the channel again. Repeated problems will of course make your loss of access permanent. Severe problems will likely result in a server ban.

Definitions and Premises

The following are the basic definitions and presumptions for discussions in this room. Consider these debates “already settled”. Some limited debate on these points is fine but it should not dominate the room. If you see a problem or something that should be added contact an admin.

  • Truth: That which is logically consistent (conforms to rules of reason) and congruent with the evidence (accurate to reality).

  • Logic: Objective and consistent rules derived from the consistency of reality.

  • Valid: A position that conforms to logic.

  • Accurate: A position that conforms to reality.

  • True: A position that is both valid and accurate.

  • A = A: Reality is objective and consistent.

  • We exist.

  • Our senses have the capacity for accuracy.

  • Language has the capacity for meaning.

Grahams Hierarchy of Disagreement

Exist primarily around the top of this pyramid and you’ll do fine here.