A Code of Intellectual Conduct

A Code of Intellectual Conduct

(taken from T. Edward Damers Attacking Faulty Reasoning)

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Standards for the Code itself:

Procedural: the rules that, when followed, most often lead to 1) the successful resolution of issues, 2) the most rationally endorsed beliefs and, we hope, 3) truth

Considerations stemming from our aims (ex. The product or ends of our argumentative efforts)

Ethical: the rules that , when followed, constrain our behavior within contexts of disagreement in light of what we owe to others and to ourselves (i.e. these rules describe the best way to be and behave in a certain sphere of human life)

Considerations stemming from how we go about pursuing them (ex. Our attitudes or means in argumentative exertions)

The Fallibility Principle

Each participant in a discussion of a disputed issue should be willing to accept the fact that he or she is fallible, which means that one must acknowledge that ones own initial view may not be the most defensible position on the question.

The Truth-Seeking Principle

Each participant should be committed to the task of earnestly searching for the truth or at least the most defensible position on the issue at stake. Therefore, one should be willing to examine alternative positions seriously, look for insights in the positions of others, and allow other participants to present arguments of or raise objections to any position held on an issue.

The Clarity Principle

The formulations of all positions, defenses, and attacks should be free of any kind of linguistic confusion and clearly separated from other positions or issues.

The Burden-of-Proof Principle

The burden of proof for any position usually rests on the participant who sets forth the position. If and when an opponent asks, the proponent should provide an argument for that position.

The Principle of Charity

If a participants argument is reformulated by an opponent, it should be carefully expressed in its strongest possible version that is consistent with what is believed to be the original intention of the arguer. If there is any question about that intention or about any implicit part of the argument, the arguer should be given the benefit of the doubt in the reformulation and/or, when possible, given the opportunity to amend it.

The Structural Principle

One who argues for or against a position should use an argument that meets the fundamental structural requirements of a well-formed argument. Such an argument does not use reasons that contradict each other, that contradict the conclusion, or that explicitly or implicitly assume the truth of the conclusion. Neither does it draw any invalid deductive inferences.

The Relevance Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should set forth only reasons whose truth provides some evidence for the truth of the conclusion.

The Acceptability Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should provide reasons that are likely to be accepted by a mature, rational person and that meet standard criteria of acceptability.

1. A claim that is a matter of undisputed common knowledge

2. A claim that is confirmed by ones personal experience or observation

3. A claim that is adequately defended in the context of the argument or at least is capable of being adequately defended by some other accessible source

4. An uncontroverted eyewitness testimony

5. An uncontroverted claim from a relevant authority

6. The conclusion of another good argument

7. A relatively minor claim that seems to be a reasonable assumption in the context of the argument


1. A claim that contradicts credible evidence, a well-established claim, or a legitimate authority

2. A claim that is inconsistent with ones own experience or observations

3. A questionable claim that is not adequately defended in the context of the argument or not capable of being adequately defended by evidence in some other accessible source

4. A claim that is self-contradictory or linguistically confusing

5. A claim that is based on another unstated but highly questionable assumption

The Sufficiency Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should attempt to provide relevant and acceptable reasons of the right kind, that together are sufficient in number and weight to justify the acceptance of the conclusion.

The Rebuttal Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should include in the argument an effective rebuttal to all anticipated serious criticisms of the argument that may be brought against it or against the position it supports.

The Suspension-of-Judgment Principle

If no position is defended by a good argument, or if two or more positions seem to be defended with equal strength, one should, in most cases, suspend judgment about the issue. If practical considerations seem to require a more immediate decision, one should weight the relative benefits or harm connected with the consequences of suspending judgment and decide the issue on those grounds.

The Resolution Principle

As issue should be considered resolved if the argument for one of the alternative positions is a structurally sound one that uses relevant and acceptable reasons that together provide sufficient grounds to justify the conclusion and that also includes an effective rebuttal to all serious criticisms of the argument and/or the position it supports. Unless one can demonstrate that the argument has not met these conditions more successfully than any argument presented for alternative positions, one is obligated to accept its conclusion and consider the issue to be settled. If the argument is subsequently found by any participant to be flawed in a way that raises new doubts about the merit of the position it supports, one is obligated to reopen the issue for further consideration and resolution.

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