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Zelda Theory Rules and Guidelines (Read Before Posting)


Site Staff
Nov 24, 2009
Redmond, Washington
Zelda Theory Rules (REQUIRED Reading)​

0) All Zelda Dungeon Forum Rules apply.

1) Respect Others - No ad hominem attacks. Not only is this a logical fallacy (thus harming your own argument), but it is also against ZD rules. The subject of this section is theories, so theories are fair game, but you have no business passing judgement on a theorist.

2) Contribute to the Discussion - Give people a reason to read your post. Simply stating that you agree does not help the case of any argument. Instead, expand your post to include such things as on which points you agree, why you agree, other things you thought of, and potential counterpoints.

3) Stay On-Topic - We have a whole section of the forum dedicated to theory so that different topics can be separated into different threads to better facilitate focused discussion. Try to limit the thread to one topic. Some topics may have many facets and/or be integrated with other topics, but keep the spirit of the original post in mind when replying. If discussion starts to drift toward another topic, make a new thread for it. Special note for timeline theory threads: The timeline is a common and varied topic, so any user may start a thread dedicated to discussing his or her timeline. Just because this is a timeline thread doesn't mean you can post your own timeline theory, except when using it to demonstrate counterpoints. Post your theory in a new thread.

4) Support Your Claims - In the Theory section, we expect some level of factual and logical backing to proposed theories. Before posting a theory, make sure you've done some research and explored alternatives. Better yet, do the research before even forming the theory. Unsupportable 'theories' (such as speculation about future games or about events that aren't canonically mentioned) will be moved to the World of Zelda section for more casual discussion. For more information on supporting theories, continue reading the guidelines below.

With the release of Skyward Sword, we will undoubtedly see an influx of Skyward Sword theories; however, we want to make sure that everyone has their facts straight before posting them. Before you post a Skyward Sword theory, it is absolutely essential that you have beaten the game beforehand. If you post a Skyward Sword theory with only limited knowledge, it is almost certain that someone who has progressed further in the game will have to reveal spoilers to you from later on in the game to either affirm or refute your theory. It is also quite likely that your question or theory could easily be answered by progressing through the game further.

It is in everyone's best interest to not post Skyward Sword theories unless they have beaten the game; those that do not abide by this rule may risk having their threads closed if it becomes apparent that you have not beaten the game, yet you persist to theorize.

Please abide by this rule, and happy theorizing!

Zelda Theory Guidelines (Encouraged Reading)​

Theory vs. Speculation

Depending on which definition you look at, the difference between these may not be clear. These definitions may be of use in seeing if your post/thread is appropriate for this section:
Speculationthe contemplation or consideration of some subject
This is just thinking about possibilities, perhaps with some bits of evidence to guide this consideration, but without any sort of coherent argument. When posting speculation, consider how much of it is based on evidence from existing lore as well as what sort of discussion it promotes: discovery and analysis of evidence and counter-evidence, or merely opinions and intuition? Speculation on what happens during the little-mentioned time period between OoT’s ending and the flood in WW’s backstory can become an analysis of the state of affairs in WW and its backstory and how events in OoT could lead in to that. On the other hand, musings on what other sorts of parallel or alternate worlds might exist in the Zelda multiverse is merely a display of participants’ imagination and has no arguable points from what we know of existing worlds. Threads like the latter with no discussion value in a theory setting would fit better in World of Zelda or Zelda Games.

Hypothesisa proposition, or set of propositions, set forth as an explanation for the occurrence of some specified group of phenomena, either asserted merely as a provisional conjecture to guide investigation (working hypothesis) or accepted as highly probable in the light of established facts.
This is similar to speculation, but with a “specified group of phenomena” which it explains and with the intent to become a serious discussion point and eventually form into a well-constructed theory. You could call it an “incomplete” theory of sorts. Threads based on hypotheses are acceptable, but if you really want to get your point across, it would be best to put in the additional effort to establish the facts and show that it can really be used to explain whatever class of phenomena.

Theorya coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena
In the case of Zelda theory, “tested” means “supported by available evidence.” Most discussions in Zelda Theory are – or should be – theories (obviously). So how to you transform your hypothesis into a theory? How do you test it? Read on.

However, it may be easier to categorize ideas into inductive or deductive arguments. Robert Arp and Dennis Milarker define these in their chapter of the book The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy: I Link Therefore I Am:
There are two basic types of arguments, deductive and inductive. With deductive arguments, the speaker intends the conclusion to follow from the premise(s) with certainty so that, if all of the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true without any doubt whatsoever. ...with inductive arguments the speaker intends the conclusion to follow from the premises with a degree of likelihood or probability only so that, if all of the premises are true, then the conclusion likely or probably is true.
Notice that both types of arguments involve premises, and that neither of them deal with conclusions that are possibly true. In the Theory section, we care about probability and certainty, not possibility. The latter is in the realm of speculation and, as stated earlier, is best posted in a different section.

Constructing an Argument

Arp and Milarker have this to add to their introduction of inductive and deductive arguments:
The goal for any rational creature--Ganon or gaming geek--isn't simply to form arguments. We need to form good arguments, and we need to evaluate the arguments of others. In both the deductive and inductive realms, there are good and bad arguments. In either realm, a good argument has to meet two conditions: the conclusion must logically follow from the premises, and all of the premises must be true. If either one of these conditions (or both) is missing, then the argument is bad and should be rejected.
There are two main parts to an argument: the conclusion and the premises. In a valid argument, the premises support the conclusion and the conclusion is the only one that can be drawn given the premises. To demonstrate the two conditions described above, I'll provide two examples, each missing one of the conditions. The first demonstrates the second (as stated) condition. The problem should jump out right away.

Premise 1: The hero's shade uses the same sword and shield that Link did in Majora's Mask.
Premise 2: Two characters using the same equipment can be assumed to be the same.
a. The Mirror Shield and Razor Sword are unique items.
b. Using Occam's Razor, we can assume that there is no other character who used them.
c. It is, temporally speaking, possible for the two to be the same, given the hero's shade's state.​
Conclusion: The hero's shade is the same character as Majora's Mask-Link.

This may not be the best example since we now know the conclusion to be true. Nevertheless, the argument itself is invalid. Although the conclusion does follow logically from the premises, premise one is false (or is unsupported, if you like). Looking at graphics alone, there is no such connection. If one is to argue that there is, one would need to present more evidence, like there is for premise 2. It is usually very easy to identify when an argument fails to meet this condition. When it does, it is not an excuse to demand counter-evidence from others. The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim, and the argument cannot be accepted until valid evidence is presented.

Premise 1: Sound arguments consist of true premises.
Premise 2: This argument consists of true premises.
Conclusion: This argument is sound.

Well it turns out the above argument is not sound. It fails to address the possibility that the conclusion doesn't follow its true premises (they are indeed true). Strictly speaking, it commits a logical fallacy known as confirming the consequent. Yes, sound arguments consist of true premises, but just because an argument has true premises does not make it a sound argument.

With the above examples, we see an argument that is logically valid but whose premises are not true, and one whose premises are true but is invalid. It is important for both the premises to be true and the conclusion to follow them in order for an argument to be sound.

How to Argue

For the sake of brevity, I will only list a few of the arguing tips I've found most useful.
  • Listen first, then respond. Before trying to counter someone's theory, make sure you understand it fully. If something doesn't make sense, ask about it. The author can then either clarify or realize that it indeed doesn't make sense and concede that point. This is much more effective than attacking unclear points, which easily leads to straw man arguments (see the next section, Logical Fallacies).
  • Look for areas of agreement. If you can find some common ground, it's much easier to communicate why one person went one direction while another went the other direction. Agreement also puts your opponent at ease, improving his or her reception of your points.
  • Get the Other Person Saying "Yes" Immediately
    • "No" causes a physical response. People who say "no" first, even to themselves while reading your argument, are brought to a defensive state of mind. Pride demands they remain consistent with their initial response, and it is very difficult to get people to become agreeable again.
    • Lead your opponents through your argument with questions they'll respond "yes" to and facts they will agree with. If you first lay down the evidence in terms they can easily accept, and then use valid logic to connect the dots, there will be no choice but to agree with your conclusions.
    • Let the other person think the idea is his or hers. People prefer to come up with their own ideas rather than having them forced upon them. Instead of saying "You're wrong - here's the truth," allow them to consider the evidence and come to the conclusion on their own. Ask questions to see if you can get them to come to the same conclusion and desired outcome.

Logical Fallacies

I feel that summarizing these doesn't do them justice, so here they are in full. I've put them inside a spoiler tag to cut down on the visible length. If this section is too long, at least read about Circular Logic and Burden of Proof.
Circular Logic

Misuse of assumptions is probably one of the most common flaws in arguments I see at ZD. It usually invalidates arguments and can often lead to circular logic. Recall that "If A, then B; A; Therefore, B" is a valid argument structure. First you can support the hypothesis, then support that A is true, which leads to B being true. Circular logic generally takes the form "If A, then B; If B, then A; Therefore, B." This is invalid, because the only way to prove B is by proving A, and the only way to prove A is by proving B. Neither can be proven without the other first being true, so the conclusion can never be reached. For example, if we replace A with the statement "Link left Great Bay on a boat after MM" and B with "LA is a direct sequel to MM," some may try to argue thusly:

If Link left Great Bay on a boat after MM, then LA is a direct sequel to MM.
If LA is a direct sequel to MM, then Link left Great Bay on a boat after MM.
Therefore, LA is a direct sequel to MM.

Of course, written this way it is obviously false. This argument may just be represented in the form of the statement "I think LA is a direct sequel to MM because Link must have left Great Bay on a boat after MM." The assumption that Link left Great Bay on a boat is invalid because it is based on the as-of-yet unproven theory that LA is a direct sequel to MM, and therefore the conclusion that LA is a direct sequel to MM is invalid because it is based on an invalid assumption.

Other Logical Fallacies

There are two other common invalid logical forms that come up in modus ponens, dealing with incorrect use of the conditional premise (If A then :cool:. An argument in the form "If A, then B; not A; therefore, not B" commits a formal fallacy known as denying the antecedent (recall that 'A' is the antecedent). The best way to show this is wrong is by using an example whose premises are obviously true but leads to a false conclusion:

If it is raining, then it is cloudy.
It is not raining.
Therefore, it is not cloudy.

This is false because it fails to account for the possibility of it being cloudy without rain. The opposite case, affirming the consequent (consequent being 'B'), takes the form "If A, then B; B; therefore A." The conditional premise only implies a one-way relationship between A and B. That is B depends on A, but A does not necessarily depend on B. So proving B adds nothing to your argument. As an example of this case:

If I am the administrator of this forum, then I can moderate posts.
I can moderate posts.
Therefore, I am the administrator of this forum.

Burden of Proof

Arguments are guided by the burden of proof, an obligation on a party to provide sufficient reason to accept its claim. This is why you need to show valid support for your theories. If I state that something is true, I cannot rely on others to "prove me wrong." It is my duty to provide the evidence that led me to my conclusion. On the other hand, if after you've conveyed your argument someone makes a contrary claim, it is then up to that person to provide contrary evidence. The goal of an argument is to provide enough evidence to shift the burden of proof to the other party, which will have to claim an opposing position toward your evidence or argument, and this may continue back-and-forth until one party is willing to accept the other's claim.

Unduly reversing the burden of proof ("prove me wrong") is known as an argument from ignorance, or appeal to ignorance, and is not good practice. It is named so because the party tries to use its ignorance of the truth (or falsehood) of an issue to assume that since the opposing view cannot be proven, theirs must be true. For example, one might observe that no one can provide any counter-evidence to the claim that Zelda sends Link back in time again after MM to create a third timeline, and assume the claim must be true and proceed to base theories on it. This is an invalid assumption, because what we understand of the truth does not directly reflect what the truth is. The fact that we can't prove the claim to be false does not mean it is true, only that we don't know how true it is. The same can be said for negative claims. "You can't prove that this is true, so it must be false" is an incorrect assumption.
These are both heuristics - general rules guiding the formation of theories.

Occam's Razor

As a heuristic - a general rule guiding the formation of theories (not a proof) - for dealing with lack of evidence, William of Ockham proposed that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity." That is, if an occurrence can be explained using known entities ('entity' being a very general term which could refer to an event, a person, an item, a rule, or many other things), then it should be, and no new entities should be created. This is used in many arguments regarding the Seal War, for example. If OoT and the SW can be the same story, then they should not become separate events, as that would multiply the number of entities unnecessarily. Of course, this can be countered by the fact that LttP conflicts with WW, possibly making such a multiplication necessary. It is at this point that an anti-razor is invoked. Many philosophers since Ockham have stressed that one should not rashly diminish the number of entities, or "entities must not be reduced to the point of inadequacy." If multiplication of entities becomes necessary, then such multiplication should be considered. Otherwise, things should be as simple as possible.

Straw Man Arguments

This last one is another fallacy. When responding to someone's claim, one must make sure to fully understand the argument and not disregard any key points. If one instead refutes a similar yet unequivalent claim, one is said to be attacking a "straw man." Refuting a straw man does nothing to refute the actual claim, and only leads to confusion. Exaggerating a claim or making it too specific are both ways to create straw men. For example, one person claims that the Happy Mask Salesman in MM is the same as the one in OoT, and another tries to refute this by saying the portal between Termina and Hyrule is too secluded for all the MM characters to be the same as their OoT counterparts. Though this counter-argument may be easier to support, it is an invalid generalization and fails to deal with the specific case of the HMS.

For more information on constructing and communicating arguments, I encourage picking up the book The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy: I Link Therefore I Am edited by Luke Cuddy and look at the chapter "Legend and Logic: Critical Thinking in the Gaming and Real Worlds". (Though I don't think the chapter on the timeline in the same book is very good.) I also go into more detail in my blog series on this subject.

If you have any questions about these rules and guidelines, please post them here or PM me or DuckNoises.
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