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Debate Forum Rules

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  • Debate Forum Rules


    1. If you wish to issue a debate challenge, please post the challenge here.

    2. If you wish to issue a debate challenge to a specific person or people, please contact them and arrange everything privately and then post a challenge in the previously linked challenge thread.

    3. Both parties must agree to the topic.

    4. Both parties must agree to:

    a. A thesis to debate. This thesis should be a single proposition (e.g. "God exists."). One disputant should be prepared to argue for the proposition and the other(s) against.

    b. A set number of replies (if disputants desire a set number of replies).

    c. A maximum word length for each reply.

    d. A time frame in which disputants must reply (if disputants desire a set time frame).


    People can find an example of a contemporary debate format here and a scholastic debate format here to here. We will leave it up to them to figure out which style they want to debate in. Regardless of format, a Q&A thread about the debate will be set up after or towards the end of debates for people who wish to ask questions about them.


    The debate forum is a place for highly structured formal debates between (typically two) individuals. As such, there are rules that pertain to the debate forum that don't pertain to other parts of the forum. Those who wish to merely disagree should post in other parts of the forum. Those who wish to have any kind of discussion but a structured formal debate should post in other parts of the forum.

    1. Follow all Classical Theism Forum rules
    • You can find a list of the rules here.
    2. Summarize your sources
    • If you're citing another author's argument, you should develop it enough that your interlocutor can grasp and respond to the argument without consulting the source directly (as would be necessary in a live debate). The goal should be to persuade a hypothetical audience of neutral onlookers.
    3. Actually post an argument or something that can be responded to and advances the discussion
    • This comes up a lot and it's sort of ridiculous. If you don't believe in something that's fine; however, you need to make a post that actually advances the dialectic.

      The scholastics typically allowed eight kinds of reply in their debates. (i) defining a term; (ii) drawing a distinction; (iii) making an argument in the form of a syllogism (or, as we will also allow, a longer argument, laid out premise by premise, in logical form); (iv) explanations of any premises in one's argument; (v) conceding one's position and presenting a new, alternative position that if true refutes or proves the debate's main thesis; (vi) requesting clarification of something one's interlocutor previously said; (vii) assertions of disagreement (which the disputant must be prepared to prove or clarify immediately after); (viii) requests for an argument proving an assertion of disagreement or a clarification of it or one its terms' meanings. Those who make the same assertion of disagreement more than once or ignore requests for proof or clarification will be penalized.
    • Personal attacks are never acceptable and will be penalized severely. Pay close attention, however, to what constitutes a personal attack. If someone says that "x is blinded by y affiliation", he is making a point (though one he had better be prepared to clarify and prove really quickly). But typically even these sorts of comments should be unnecessary.
    • Depending on the specifics disputants agree on for their debate, emotional appeals and witty remarks will be permitted in limited amounts as long as they're given along with the above kinds of replies; but they should never be made to do the work of an argument.
    4, Don't ignore your opponent
    • We're not going to penalize you if you just happen to forget to respond to a post or something. If, however, you're intentionally dodging points because you simply don't have a reply and don't want to admit it, or something, we will penalize you.
    • People who abuse this rule by gish galloping or sealioning will be penalized. (Administrators reserve the right to decide the point at which a post exits the realm of the reasonably replied to and enters into gish gallop or sealion territory on a case by case basis.)
    • Finally, we understand that sometimes people slip up and unintentionally ask loaded questions and will be correspondingly lenient, but we reserve the right to penalize people who appear to us to be abusing our leniency (to, e.g., force their opponent to waste valuable limited words unpacking the false presupposition in their reply). Just make an effort to properly understand your opponent's position. It's not that hard. We can tell when they're being obscure or when it's an honest mistake.
    5. Source your empirical claims
    • Obviously there are certain kinds of common sense empirical claims that needn't be sourced (e.g. you have a head on your shoulders), but there are also more complicated empirical claims about demographics, natural science, history, etc. The former kinds of empirical claims don't need to be sourced; the latter kinds, however, do need to be sourced. If someone feels that a claim presented as of the former common sense sort is actually of the latter complicated sort, please say so and explain why in your follow up reply. If there are further difficulties, please notify an administrator and we will rule as impartially as we can over whether the claim is of the former or latter sort.
    6. Policy regarding the use of sources
    • Please follow standard university guidelines when selecting sources for claims. If you feel that a source is disreputable, please contact an administrator in private and let him know.
    7. Policies regarding the issuing of penalties
    • Administrators reserve the right to decide the appropriate penalty for an infraction on a case by case basis.
    • Administrators who issue penalties for infractions during a debate will not be participating disputants in that debate.
    8. Policy regarding changes to the rules
    • We reserve the right to change, remove, or add any rules at any time as we see fit. Debates that are ongoing at the time of a rule change will follow the rules as they were at the time that debate started.