Rational Discussion Flowchart

Infographic on How to Have a Rational Discussion.

Simolean Sense passes along an infographic on How to Have a Rational Discussion.

I’m amused by two things.

First, this is exactly the opposite of the typical blog comment thread.

Second, the original was posted two days ago and has thus far generated zero comments.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Humor
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. john personna says:

    I try. In fact, keep a link and try to catch me on any of them. That will be fun.

  2. Hello World! says:

    I love this. This is the best thing you’ve ever posted. I am printing it and hanging it on my wall!

  3. ALP says:

    This should be the outline of all discussions when disagreeing on certain topics.
    On other disagreements, people who cannot come to an agreement, should just
    agree to disagree, without all the vitriol and name calling.

    But I don’t think it will work with TL’s (Totalitarian Liberals).

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    without all the vitriol and name calling.

    But I don’t think it will work with TL’s (Totalitarian Liberals).

    The irony is absolutely beautiful.

  5. michael reynolds says:


    It’s so perfect it has to be a set-up. Doesn’t it?

  6. M says:

    This flowchart strikes me as quite problematic for a number of reasons:

    –The question “can you envision anything changing your mind on the subject?” seems to me overly simplistic. I think, in philosophy, this is a concept known as the “significant opposite”, that one isn’t rational in holding a belief unless they can envision the evidence that would disprove this belief. For instance, a person would be irrational to claim that people are influenced by their upbringing unless they can envision what a person who ISN’T influenced by his upbringing would be like and can prove that this person doesn’t exist. I’d suggest that this is not a useful idea, that it can only be used in certain situations, and that I believe meaningful statements can be made without a significant opposite or an example of what kind of evidence would change your mind. Also, if you have an idea of what might change your mind on a subject, in many cases that’s the same as having changed your mind already. For instance, if you can conceive of the interpretation that a tornado killed your mother out of coincidence rather than out of God’s will, you’re already close to having changed your mind. Someone telling you that it was coincidence rather than God’s will is less meaningful if you already conceived it yourself. In other words, envisioning something that could change your mind is not a sign of rationality. One comes across things that changes one’s mind. You don’t have the burden of coming up with them yourself before the discussion.

    –There is an issue here in definition. The author uses terms like “faulty”, “reasonable”, “evidence”, “inaccurate” without definition. I would suggest that these terms are defined by perspective. Some people consider mainstream science to be evidence. Some consider mainstream science corrupt, a mouthpiece for corporations, and depend on more outsider science for evidence. Some scientists consider psychology pseudo-science. Others do not. So, would one be able to quote a psychology experiment as evidence? I don’t see why a psychology experiment is any more or less evidence than the Bible. To my chagrine, more people believe in the Bible than psychology. Scientists don’t even believe in psychology. However, corporations do (they depend heavily on methods devised by psychology to manipulate people with commercials). So, does a psychology study count as evidence? What one defines as reasonable is entirely based on perspective. Outside of mathematics (which some even find debatable), we have only internal logic and relative logic. One must agree on a basic assumption to even determine a logical path from there. All men are mortal and Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is a mortal. Believe me, whatever you’re arguing about is probably not simple enough to work out with actual proper logic like that. Most political or religious arguments don’t fit comfortably into syllogisms.

    –If you really want to push rationality in argument, I’d suggest calling yourself and others on the Greek logical fallacies which you can find here http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ It’s virtually impossible to argue anything without depending on the fallacies. “Appeal to authority” is really the biggest problem because most “evidence” is really just blind appeal to alleged authority. Once you’ve studied the fallacies, I think you’ll feel freed of the need to consider yourself and your ideas rational. Acceptance of the beauty of subjectivity is a wonderful thing. It’s freeing to accept that we believe what we want to believe and that we want to believe what we do because of the world that raised us and what examples and experiences we’ve had. Whatever small amounts of rationality we have available to us are insignificant in the face of the blindness of subjective perspective. We can’t see outside ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

    –So, the question to ask yourself: do you see any possibility of changing your mind about the possibility of rational argument?


  7. “do not move on to another argument if it is shown that a fact you have relied upon is innacurate”.

    Err, why? Surely that’s exactly what you should do in a rational discussion: “Okay, you’re right about X. But it still seems to me that Y is a valid reason to disagree with you…”