Learning how to write a rational debate policy

Project Summary

I want to learn about debating, paths forward and then eventually create my own rational debate policy.


What’s your goal? Why do you have that goal? How will you judge success and failure? What bigger picture goals or values are you pursuing? How is this relevant to CF?

My goal is to learn to be an advocate for rational debate policy. I got this idea from Elliot’s post about improving the world:

I have this goal because I think the world would be a better place if people were more open to debate.

I also think that I don’t know enough about debate or paths forward. I think it will be valuable to learn more about those topics before I continue learning other parts of CF. That way I’ll (hopefully) know how to deal with any future disagreements in a rational way. Right now, I don’t have any plan for how to deal with disagreements in a rational way.

I think creating my own debate policy would be a successful completion of this project. I could have future projects for updating/editing my debate policy.


What’s your plan? How big is the project? What resources do you expect it to require and what have you allocated for it? How confident are you about succeeding? What sort of errors or error rate do you expect and how will you deal with that? Got any error correction mechanisms? What are the risks of not finishing the project or failing and do you have any plan to address those risks?

My plan is to learn about some key topics in a series of mini-projects. For example:

-Learn about paths forward.

-Learn about debates and debate methodology

-Learn about impasses and impasse chains

Each mini-project will involve reading relevant articles written by Elliot. I will post any questions or feedback I have about each article. After reading all of the relevant articles I will write a summary of the key ideas in my own words.

Successfully writing a summary will be the completion criterion for each mini-project. Once I have completed the necessary mini-projects I will work on writing my rational debate policy.

I have allocated three hours per week to this project.

I think that my completed debate policy will contain some bad ideas and errors. I don’t have a lot of practical debate experience. I’m not sure what kinds of issues and problems are common in debates. Knowing those issues and problems in advance would probably be helpful for writing my policy.

I also don’t have a great method for detecting and correcting errors. I can read through my own work and check it for errors, but I won’t catch them all. That’s why I plan to post my learning activity here, so that other people can point out errors they notice.

Failing this project would mean I definitely couldn’t be an advocate for rational debate policy. And it would likely hamper my overall progress in learning CF. I think the biggest risk to the project’s completion would be losing my desire to make progress. I’m not sure how to plan for something like that. I don’t know why I would lose my desire to make progress.

Other People

What help are you asking from others? What value are you offering to others? Will you complete the project independently if no one else participates? Why are you sharing this with others? What sort of criticism do you want?

I would appreciate if others point out any errors they notice in my writing. Or unbounded feedback on my plan in general.

I will complete this project independently, even if no one else participates.


What’s the context? What’s your relevant background and track record? Why are you prioritizing this over alternative projects? Why are you doing it right now? What have you already done?

I’m prioritizing this project for two reasons.

-I think paths forward, rational debate, etc. will be valuable tools on my journey of learning CF.
-I would like to make the world a better place by advocating for rational debate methodology.

I’m going to use the list of resources at the end of this summary for my paths forward mini-project. It includes articles on paths forward as well as an article about debates and impasse chains.

(I’m going away for the weekend and won’t be able to work on learning CF. I have time booked on Tuesday to work on my mini-project.)

You posted Learning how to write a rational debate policy 21 days ago. You’ve now read and talked about part of one essay. This doesn’t appear to be working. It looks like – best guess – you just don’t really know how to do the things you’re trying to do. As I’ve written about in many essays, I’d suggest working on some projects that you could succeed at in under a day and incrementally building up instead of starting with things that are too difficult for you.

Big goals can be divided into smaller, easier sub-parts – it’s not necessary to do really hard steps to achieve them. Having a hard time is a sign that you should consider other approaches, such as dividing the project into smaller parts. But before trying to do small projects as steps within big projects, you should just do small projects at all, and focus on figuring out what productive things you can currently succeed at before deciding on next steps.

Thank you very much for taking the time to review my projects and to provide your feedback. It honestly made my day. I consider your time to be very valuable and knowing that you spent time trying to help me means a lot.

Your guess could definitely be right. I agree it would be consistent with the available evidence.

I do feel conflicted at your suggestion to put my project on hold though. I’m very invested in the idea of writing a debate policy. Not just to write it, but also to put it into practice and stand by it for the rest of my life. I don’t have a high level of interest in pursuing other goals related to CF at this time, relative to my interest in writing a debate policy. Not that I would be opposed to doing smaller CF projects, I just can’t think of any that would take priority over my current project.

Unfortunately, I’m leaving on a work trip soon where my calendar is fully booked (days and evenings) so I won’t be able to make much progress on anything. I’m not in a rush though. I’d rather take my time and end up with a debate policy that I can actually put into practice and use reliably. Rather than be one of the people who writes a debate policy and then doesn’t honour it. At the same time, I don’t want to be the Fyre festival guy who goes bigger each time a project fails. If I encounter difficulty in this project I will happily eat a slice of humble pie and do something less difficult.

Thanks again for your feedback.

I’ve been thinking about the outcome I want to achieve by writing my debate policy. And I realized I don’t have much desire to have individual, one-off debates with people where we talk (or write) back and forth to each other.

I think my ideal outcome would be to have a collection of detailed debate trees for issues that interest me. If someone would like to collaborate on a tree (by pointing out errors, adding new arguments, etc.), then I would be open to hearing their ideas. But how will I know if they successfully pointed out an error? Or if they have a worthwhile argument to contribute to the tree?

I think that’s where my debate policy should come in to help. I have biases, and those biases could cause me to discard or ignore ideas that should be in my tree. So I want to have an objective policy that allows me to determine when something should be added to the tree (or removed from the tree).

A potential issue I could run into is disagreeing with someone on whether an idea meets my requirements to be added/removed from a tree. Ideally, my requirements for updates to the tree should be objective. I should be able to offer a clear explanation for why an idea does or doesn’t meet the requirements to be added to the tree. But someone could dispute my explanation, even if it seems clear and objective to me. In that case, I would like to engage in a structured debate regarding their dispute. If my policy is incorrectly excluding/including ideas in trees, then this would provide a path forward for the person to explain the error in my policy.

I think this entire process needs to be described in my debate policy. People should have a path forward if they disagree with my tree. There should be an objective process for them to submit proposed changes to the tree. If we have a disagreement on the process for submitting changes, they should have a path forward for this disagreement as well. We can have a structured debate to (ideally) determine whether the policy needs to be changed.

I’m closing this project because it was too hard for me. I didn’t start from a place of having done many similar practice activities successfully where writing a rational debate policy would be a logical next step. In the future I want my projects to have a high rate of success and for them to be finished quickly. I think focusing on successfully accomplishing small goals and then building from there will be a faster and more efficient way for me to write the rational debate policy I want.