Studio 42 is a forum for friendly, respectful and productive discussion about contentious and consequential topics. Our goal is to improve our discussion skills including clarity of thought, persuasion, conflict resolution and active listening, and to learn more about these topics by hearing diverse and contradictory viewpoints. All participants are expected to attend events with the goal of learning, supporting each other, and overcoming intellectual disagreements. When you attend our events, we ask you to respect these principles and try to live up to these ideals.
Intellectual courage is part of having an open mind. A person who possesses intellectual courage is not afraid to hear opposing viewpoints and have their beliefs challenged. With intellectual courage, you can listen with an open mind, and are prepared to change your opinons when new evidence or reason comes to light.
Intellectual humility is part of having an open mind. A person who possesses intellectual humility recognizes that they don't know all that there is to know. You recognize at all times that you might be missing critical facts, that you might be missing important context for your facts or that you might be basing your conclusions on flawed reasoning.
Intellectual humility strikes a balance between the vices of intellectual pride (thinking that you know everything or could not be mistaken) and intellectual diffidence (not caring about a topic). With intellectual humility, you have done your best to inform yourself on a topic and to formulate a strong opinion, but you always recognize the possibility that you might be mistaken.
Skepticism is when you form beliefs based on evidence, and your confidence in those beliefs is proportional to the weight of the evidence. It is in opposition to invalid belief-forming methods such as:
- Assertion (I just know that X is true)
- Faith (I believe X because I have faith that X is true)
- Revelation (I have special knowledge that X is true)
- Tradition (We've always believed X)
- Wishful Thinking (I believe X because there would be unpleasant consequences if X were not true)
Principles of Discussion
Principle of analysis:
criticize how a person thinks, not what they think or who they are.
The Principle of atomicity
You should put forth one main argument at a time. You should not try to make multiple points within the same speech. The audience has a limited attention span, and when you say multiple arguments, it becomes more difficult for others to reinforce or coutnerargue all of your points after you have spoken.
Principle of brevity
Brevity is the soul of wit and many other virtues in conversation. It helps to add some humour and rhetorical flourish to your speaking, but try to say your point in as few words as necessary, and do not repeat your point redundantly.
Principle of charity
Assume that other participants are well-intentioned and intelligent. Give the best possible interpretation to their arguments.
Principle of clarity
Clear communication keeps the discussion productive and satisfying. Try to speak clearly by:
- Using plain language that everyone can understand
- Not making your arguments more complex than they need to be
- Using concrete examples to ilustrate your points
- Immediately stating your thesis or main argument when you speak
Principle of collectivism
We are here to discuss ideas as a group. Questions should only be directed to a particular person in the interests of receiving further explanation on a point that they previously spoke on. Questions should not be directed to particular people based on their race, religion, sex, lifestyl choice, or other personal charactersitics.
Principle of continuity
The discussion should have a smooth thread where one person's contribution is a thoughtful response to the contributions of previous speakers. In order to avoid hijacking or derailing the discussion, you should always respond to a previous speaker, or if you find the discussion uninteresting or unproductive, you should preface your speech by stating your intent to propose a new direction.
Principle of curiosity
Questions are more powerful than statements. When you disagree with someone, ask questions to better understand their perspective.
Principle of comprehension
You should be sure to understand what a person means before arguing against them. See Rappaport's rules.
Principle of defeasibility
As a critical thinker, you should always be ready to change your opinion on a given topic and you should have a clear concept of what evidence would be required to change your mind. If you hold an opinion, but you do not know what would change your mind, or there is no evidence that would change your mind, then you are not thinking critically.
Principle of detachment
We should discuss ideas without discussing whether people live up to those ideas in their personal lives. e.g. If a person claims that it is unethical to eat meat, we should not ask whether they do in fact abstain from eating meat. The discussion should remain philosophical and avoid appeals to hypocrisy.
Principle of fair game critique
All ideas are open to contention and criticism. If you don't want someone to criticize a belief that you hold, then don't bring it up. Once you speak, you may be spoken to.
Principle of literalism
When speaking, you should have a clear sense of whether you are speaking in literal or metaphorical terms. If you are speaking in metaphorical terms, you should be able to rephrase your point in clear, precise and literal terms. If you cannot do this, then you are probably committing a fallacy of misplaced concreteness.
Principle of objectivity
Arguments and evidence should be objective. They should be based on verifiable facts that anyone can observe and confirm. They should not be based on opinions, feelings, faith or revealed truth. Analogies and metaphors should be used to illustrate points; they are not objective and are not valid as evidence.
Principle of reason
Arguments should be based on reason. They should be epistemologically valid, free of fallacies and open to scrutiny.