Iter­at­ive Ar­gu­ments: Al­tern­at­ive to Ad­versarial Collaboration

I’ve been toy­ing with an idea of de­vel­op­ing two com­pet­ing the­or­ies in par­al­lel in an it­er­at­ive man­ner:

  1. writes an ini­tial thesis

  2. does the same

  3. re­vises their thesis to ad­dress ‘s thesis where it con­tra­dicts that of ’s

  4. does the same

  5. and so on un­til both parties feel they have noth­ing to add

This would be dif­fer­ent from ad­versarial col­lab­or­a­tion, as it’s com­monly un­der­stood, in that both sides would work on their own ar­gu­ments in­stead of try­ing to agree on a com­mon sum­mary (which is very hard!).

It’s worth em­phas­ising that the idea is not to cor­res­pond with the op­pon­ent. In­stead, one would keep up­dat­ing one’s thesis to meet the chal­lenges presen­ted by the com­pet­ing thesis so that it re­mains co­her­ent and stands on its own after every it­er­a­tion.

I wrote a little Clo­jureScript lib­rary to go with a Pan­doc tem­plate to fa­cil­it­ate it­er­at­ive ar­gu­ment­a­tion of this kind. The lib­rary makes it easy to nav­ig­ate between the sides of the ar­gu­ment en­sur­ing that fol­low­ing local links will switch con­text when ap­pro­pri­ate, etc. Ad­di­tion­ally, it provides bi­d­irec­tional links by way of high­light­ing bits on both sides of the ar­gu­ment. Hot load­ing is also sup­por­ted to make writ­ing the doc­u­ment more con­veni­ent. Cur­rently it’s very much work in pro­gress, of course. I didn’t want to com­mit to too many fea­tures at this point not know­ing if any of this would be use­ful.

Would someone here be in­ter­ested in try­ing out this sort of thing either with their own “arch­nemesis” or with me? For starters, I think it would be best to pick a prop­erly con­ten­tious topic but not one in­cit­ing too much pas­sion.