A neologism would be fine. I was thinking of “ruglifter”, as in someone who is wont to sweep dirt under the rug.

edit: I was aware that using "from first principles" would render the question ambiguous, but I thought my run-on would clarify it. I was partly trying to avoid using a Latinism ("ab initio"), but I guess it is appropriate, so I've edited to use it.

closed as not a real question by Daniel, user2683, RegDwigнt Mar 8 '12 at 15:13

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  • is stubborn a wider term than you are after? – Rory Alsop Mar 7 '12 at 9:14
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    It is unclear what direction you're taking this in. Is it in the direction of stubborness (is too arrogant to think opinions are worth arguing or 'knows' he's already right), meekness (doesn't like confrontation), or something else? – Mitch Mar 7 '12 at 14:08
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    Depends what we are talking about. Say, Prof Smith has already debated with ten people (cranks) who wanted to convince him their "revolutionary" theories are right. They failed. Now when the eleventh one comes in, Prof Smith refuses to start the debate again... Of course that eleventh guy calls him "stubborn" and "dogmatic" and such. – GEdgar Mar 8 '12 at 1:06
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    From the disparity of the answers, it seems that your question is not clear enough. Can you expand and clarify your question with examples, so we have a better idea of what you're looking for? Are any of the answers in the right ballpark? – Mitch Mar 8 '12 at 15:07
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    The "neologism would be fine" part is off-topic. – RegDwigнt Mar 8 '12 at 15:12

I suggest dogmatist or dogmatic. These imply stubborn refusal to acknowledge facts or others’ opinions, as well as an inclination to lay down their own principles as incontrovertible.

  • "dogmatist" comes closest to what I was fishing for, so far, but I'm going to wait a bit longer before accepting any answer. – Hexagon Tiling Mar 9 '12 at 22:47
  • Well, since the question has been closed, and nothing better has shown up in the comments, I'm up-voting and accepting your answer. Thanks. – Hexagon Tiling Mar 12 '12 at 23:15

I'll venture "unreasonable":

not reasonable or rational; acting at variance with or contrary to reason;

Someone who does not debate properly would be dubbed "unreasonable" immediately by me.

  • They may simply consider an insistence on debating from first principles unreasonably reductive. Is it unreasonable not to conduct language discussions in terms of neurochemistry or quantum mechanics? – Useless Mar 7 '12 at 19:56

Since debating from first principles relies heavily on being able to reduce a controversy to a primary issue, you might say the person is myopic, impolitic, headlong, or imperceptive if they are otherwise unable to see the primary issue as the antecedent or in some way central to the controversy. Phrases like 'can't see the forest for the trees' comes to mind if you wish to address the person as unable or unwilling to see the root cause, the first principle.


There are lots of words (dogged, stubborn, bullheaded, obstinate, etc.) for someone who resists changing their mind, but mostly those same words can also be used (in certain circumstances) of people who are resolutely sticking to a fundamental position (i.e. - they might well still hold that position even if the argument went right back to first principles).

But I suggest perverse - obstinately persisting in an error or fault; wrongly self-willed or stubborn implies the person would have to change their mind if they discussed the basic issues rationally.


It may be a loaded term, but it's so widely applicable in these benighted times: denier.

  • The term you are offering – “denier” – is backwards. If I claim that Martians invaded Earth in 1938 and you want to question me closely (i.e., debate with me) about that, but I don’t want to debate it, I will brush you off by calling you a Martian-Invasion denier. – Hexagon Tiling Mar 10 '12 at 12:47
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    In normal usage, those who bear the burden of proof, but can only offer spurious responses, are the deniers -- climate change deniers, Birthers, 9/11 truthers, and their ilk. – Gnawme Mar 12 '12 at 5:18
  • Hmmm. Good point, but I would insist the widespread acceptance does not constitute proof, and what appears to be a spurious/heretical/blasphemous response may in fact be the spot-on answer. For example, Copernicus has a “spurious” answer to Ptolemy. – Hexagon Tiling Mar 12 '12 at 23:13

Based solely on the tone of the question, that is, the somewhat derisive sound of "rug lifter", might I offer "Kool-Aid drinker"?

That said, the other party is equally welcome to refer to you identically. After all, the Christian, the scientist and the Buddhist have accepted vastly different first principles.

Related aside: I have never heard "first principles" used outside the scientific community. Is it in more common usage?


Principled, incorrigible, noble, high-minded: those are all words that come to mind.

One note about your question, though. If someone refuses to debate "out of first principle," that implies adhering to some sort of moral conviction, at least to me. In contrast, "sweeping under the rug" implies wanting to avoid the debate out of fear, in hopes that the problem will go away, or take care of itself (much like "sticking one's head in the sand"), or else because they have something to hide, such as a scandal. (After all, there's a reason it's dirt being swept under the rug).

Footnote: Funny how many seem to be interpreting the O.P.'s premise as a negative. When I read it, I immediately thought of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire. If I've been misled by my positive connotation to the word "principle," you might try close-minded or obstinate.

  • Noble? Really? Somehow it doesn't strike me that way. Please explain? – Bidella Mar 7 '12 at 11:38
  • @Bidella: Just did, in my "Footnote." Perhaps the O.P. should issue a clarification? I don't think this is a matter of who's write and who's wrong, more like an example of how words can be construed in multiple ways, and how sometimes English can be inherently ambiguous. – J.R. Mar 7 '12 at 11:45
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    I understand now! Interesting how you provided a new perspective. And it's "right and who's wrong":) – Bidella Mar 7 '12 at 11:56
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    I think JR has completely misunderstood the question. Not "refuses to debate 'out of first principle,'" but "refuses to debate FROM first principles". The key being understanding the meaning of "first principles". Not why the person won't debate, but rather, from what point in the chain of logic they are willing to start the debate, and what assumptions they bring into it. – mickeyf Mar 8 '12 at 14:56
  • @mickeyf: No argument from me; I may have misinterpreted the question. (I'm not the only one who has hinted that some clarification might be in order). But I appreciate your interpretation - more for me to mull on and consider. – J.R. Mar 8 '12 at 15:47

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