It is frustrating to note the lack of proper argument, debate and the epidemic of disrespect shown to others.
We all can use a reminder as to how we should conduct ourselves when we engage in a debate on issues.
<center>THE PURPOSE OF DEBATE</center>
An understating of why we argue is critical to proper debate; we argue in order to persuade those holding differing opinions to conform to our own. We think we are right and others are wrong. We argue our positions to prove the validity of our views.
It is frustrating when we find ourselves clashing with opponents while making no headway towards our goal of changing their minds.
Here are three steps to improve debating skills:
- • Step One: Remember your opponents have reached their conclusions using the same rational process you did. The difference is not due to their intellect, but rather the information they had at their disposal and the values they hold.
• Step Two: Understand this means your opponent feels just as confident about the accuracy of his or her position. This requires that you prove that their information or values are deficient or incorrect in order to persuade them to change their views.
• Step Three: Realize that successful debate can only take place when you inform and persuade by supplying added information and by addressing the values behind your opponent's conclusions.
<center>Eight Principles for Logical and Respectful Discussion</center>
The key to meaningful debate is to respect others as you wish to be respected. You respect others by acting civilly and arguing reasonably. You cause others to respect you by maintaining civility, decorum and politeness in presenting your arguments. Here are eight principles that allow you to do both:
PRINCIPLE ONE: Understand the `classical' view of tolerance.
The classical view of tolerance teaches that while we may strongly disagree with opposing opinions, we must treat the person behind those opinions with respect.
- • DO disagree, even strongly, with other people, and say so!
• DO demolish opposing arguments and viewpoints.
• DO NOT attempt to demolish opposing "people."
Nothing turns a debate into a brawl more quickly than attacking those making the arguments rather than refuting the arguments themselves. Remember that the beliefs, character, circumstances, or political ideology of the person has nothing to do with the validity of the position they hold.
- • DO NOT stoop to name-calling (moron, idiot, etc.)
• DO NOT imply negative monikers onto people simply because they disagree.
The use of inappropriate language and shocking statements is a sure sign that the author lacks the ability to argue their position in a calm and reasonable manner. Respectable debate does not allow this disdain for others.
- • DO NOT be upset when inappropriate language results in post deletion.
• DO NOT be upset when multiple offences result in a ban.
This is one of the most critical aspects of proper debate and requires that you carefully guard yourself from making groundless statements. Logic or evidence must support every proposition you make.
Logic includes everything from complex arguments to cause-and-effect. Evidence can take the form of examples, statistics, and quotations from authorities in the field. Supported arguments stand until refuted. Unsupported arguments do not deserve a response and might as well not exist.
- • DO confirm other people's points without provided additional support.
• DO NOT make additional arguments or publicize your disagreement with someone else's position without providing adequate support.
There is no surer sign of inadequacy on the part of a debater than when he or she takes issue with some small "error" on the part of their opponent while ignoring the main points their adversary has made.
If you are unable to refute your opponent's position, do not insult his or her spelling, grammar, or insignificant deviations from fact. Your opponent is most likely correct and their small error has nothing to do with the overall truth of the proposition they defend. Do not make a fool of yourself by being a sore loser.
- • DO point out significant errors that effect the validity of a claim.
• DO NOT point out errors to embarrass your opponent.
A common tactic adopted by inexperienced debaters is to ask a long series of questions that place an enormous burden on their opposition, without actually making any particular point. Such an approach is unfair to your opponent and is not argumentation. No one can respond to a "question avalanche" in the confines of a post and the tactic will create animosity.
The same is true of those who present far too many arguments at one time in hopes of "burying" their opponent under supposed "empirical" weight. Both of these abuses inhibit true debate.
Respect yourself and your opponents at all times by using moderation in your argumentation and questioning.
- • DO ask pertinent and probing questions about your opponent's position.
• DO make powerful and relevant arguments against your opponent's position.
• DO NOT ask loaded questions.
• DO NOT expect answers for loaded questions.
• DO NOT write 5 page tomes.
• DO NOT expect answers to your 5 page tome.
Remember that your opponents are busy people who are taking time out of their day to discuss relevant issues with you. Do not place an excessive burden on them by requiring them to go "off-site" to read lengthy articles or study ancient philosophers, scientists, etc. If Aristotle makes "your" point then "you" should be able to make the argument. Your opponent certainly will not (and should not) have to make it for you.
- • DO provide links to outside sources for your opponent's consideration.
• DO support your arguments with outside resources. Summarize what the resource says. Otherwise, your opponents will consider your argument unsupported.
• DO NOT expect your opponent to read outside sources unless you can make them want to.
PRINCIPLE EIGHT: The fallacy of the majority.
When the majority of participants in a discussion hold your position, it is common to start acting as if the last seven principles no longer apply. You feel you can destroy the dissenter, along with his or her position, since you have so many like-minded peers.
However, the majority has no more right to silence the opinion of a minority through disrespectful, improper argument than the minority would has to engage in the same tactics.
Victory by means of respectful, logical argument is true victory. Victory by any other means is no victory at all.
- • DO destroy dissenting opinions using respectful, logical argument.
• DO NOT silence dissenting opinions by “swarming” or "piranha attacks."