Rappaport’s Rule

Rappaport’s first rule of any constructive dialogue that aims to increase knowledge is:

You should attempt to express your interlocutor’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that they say “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way myself.”

Clearly, it’s an extreme version of understand-before-disagree and maybe life’s too short to expect to fully comply, but it puts the emphasis in the right place by shunning rhetorical tricks like straw-men as well as avoiding simple but important misunderstandings. Together with hold-your-definition – where Dennett suggests we don’t get too hung-up on objective definitions too soon in any discourse, since it’s unlikely we’ll interpret and understand them the same way anyway – Dennett’s “Intuition Pumps and Other Thinking Tools” captures Rappaport’s four rules and many more constructive ways of thinking and arguing.

Also published on Medium.

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