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Samus
27th August 2003, 08:50 AM
This is something I have been pondering for a while. We always talk about various methods of having a debate, and the logical fallacies that can exist in a person's argument. Then there's the whole facet of argumentative style, and bad behavior that can exist there as well (for example, ad hominem).

Is there such a thing as a perfectly logical and balanced argument? Furthermore, is there such a thing as a perfectly reasonable debate, where the best argument is what "wins"?

I expect that a couple people are thinking "well, I think my arguments are well constructed, but it's those other stupid people that don't get it..." I would call that a failure on your part, for not articulating your position in a clear fashion, and not being able to successfully contrast it against competing arguments.

I've also noticed that many forum veterans take an accusatory tone rather quickly, especially for those that purport to be critical thinkers and open minded. In the last week alone, I've been called a Bush apologist*, because I gave an alternate point of view to the Bush critics, and I've also been accused of supporting pedophilia, because I don't agree that dating a 16- or 17-year-old is the same thing as wanting to have sex with a 9-year-old. Perhaps I have been unsuccessful in clarifying my own position, but it seems to me that jumping to conclusions is a cause of a significant amount of animosity around here.

So anyway, can a perfect debate exist? Can we, as alleged skeptics, acknowledge when someone else has a legitimate point of view, even if we don't agree with it? Some can, some just can't. I'm willing to concede when someone has a valid point, and have said so before. However, I somehow get the feeling that leaves me in the minority around here.

A while back, we had a thread going in the [then] Banter about hazing, and if it has a place anywhere, such as in the military. That thread was probably the most engaging and enjoyable discussion I've ever had here, and kudos to Diezel for introducing it. That, in my opinion, was a well-run thread in a forum such as this. Just thought I'd point out what I consider to be a good debate. Perfect? No, but it was a lot of fun.

* I should note that the apologist accusation was retracted, which I appreciate, but I'm left baffled that I have to either be a critic or an apologist, there doesn't seem to be anything in between.

Wile E. Coyote
27th August 2003, 09:23 AM
Skeptics, like all humans, have emotions that sometimes get in between their beliefs and the truth. We all have ideas and philosophies that define us and make us who we are: to ourselves and to others.

Most people will join a debate when they feel most strongly about the subject. These are the people that have the most to "lose" when their philosophies are challenged. So this defensive posture that debaters take is quite natural.

Overcoming ones own emotions and conceptions about a topic and examining the actual reasons for that particular stance is a very difficult thing to do.

It takes a great amount of humility to acknowledge another person's opposing position. I, personally, am lacking in that facility. Humility is my only weakness. :wink:

In short: No, a perfect dabate is very improbable, if not impossible.

elliotfc
27th August 2003, 10:49 AM
Hi dwb.

I've been in the forum/discussion game for several years.

I find, with each passing year, my expectations shrink.

Jaded cynic that I am, I guess I would say that, with a debate, the key is minimum expectations.

When I debate (I hate the word argue) I hope that I am reflecting my opinions and beliefs and thoughts as coherently as possible. I try to be honest about my premises, my belief system, and my doubts. I try to be charitable and generous and understanding with the *other*. I do get annoyed it a few instances:

1-When what I say is blatantly misrepresented
2-When I *feel* that someone can understand me quite easily, yet would prefer to misunderstand me. As in "OK, you said that, but you really think this".
3-People bring negative attitudes to the discussion.

I start with the premise that I am engaging someone who is intelligent, honest, and reasonable. I understand that not everyone thinks as I do. I never expect to change anyone's opinions.

If the point is to come to an agreement and achieve a capitulation, then this is an exercise in futility. Obviously I don't think this is futile since I am here.

Hearing how other people think helps me to think. We should all be content with that.

And at the conclusion of a debate, it would be ideal if you can say to yourself something like, "well, I understand that position/person better", or, "well, I can tweak this part of what I say in this way". Debates can be productive in every instance this way. But the winner/loser thing, you'd have to get an unbiased mediator or observer or something. Like you ever could, right? If the fixation is on winning/losing all you'll have is more vitriol and ill-will and the like, and then this would be the complete antithesis of fun, unless you're into that stuff.

-Elliot

elliotfc
27th August 2003, 10:53 AM
Originally posted by dwb
I've also noticed that many forum veterans take an accusatory tone rather quickly, especially for those that purport to be critical thinkers and open minded. In the last week alone, I've been called a Bush apologist*, because I gave an alternate point of view to the Bush critics,

That stuff really bugs me. I'm the kind of person who can hear two sides of an issue and admit that both sides have a point. I can't stomach those who see one side to every story.

and I've also been accused of supporting pedophilia, because I don't agree that dating a 16- or 17-year-old is the same thing as wanting to have sex with a 9-year-old.

Big difference between a post-pubescent and a pre-pubescent. Big difference between dating and sex. It's out of order to accuse someone of being a pedophilia apologist for differentiating a 16 year old from a 9 year old. Having said that, grown men should not be having sex with 16 year olds.

-Elliot

Eos of the Eons
27th August 2003, 11:28 AM
I start with the premise that I am engaging someone who is intelligent, honest, and reasonable. I understand that not everyone thinks as I do. I never expect to change anyone's opinions.

If the point is to come to an agreement and achieve a capitulation, then this is an exercise in futility. Obviously I don't think this is futile since I am here.

Hearing how other people think helps me to think. We should all be content with that.
.


Exactly. I hate it most when people make assumptions like you hate religion if you stand behind the evolutionary process. Or you're an idiot if you 'just don't get' that vaccines are harmful or whatever their stance is.
Sure, I don't think there are multiple universes, but it doesn't mean I don't understand the theory behind it. People seem to think you'll change your opinion if you know all there is to know about something. That's not the point and not the reason for my opinion.

I'm sure some religious folks know all there is to know about evolution and still think it's all bunk.

It shouldn't be a matter of who is right or wrong. It should be a discussion on the 'facts' and not so much on point of view. I want people to back up their stance, not to try to convince me I'm wrong.

When people argue their side with obvious mistruths, then I simply refute each mistruth. Drives them crazy for some reason. Then they start in on the insults or sarcasm instead of finding 'proof'. That's just immature.

Simply agreeing to disagree and just discussing the subject in a civil manner is best.