Saturday, September 10, 2011

Proper Perspective On Debate And Argumentation

"I love argument, I love debate. I don't expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that's not their job." - Margaret Thatcher

"I don't debate with liars." - Evo Morales

"Winning an argument in the Internet is like running in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded." - a Youtube comment

There are people who are wary to argue.  Even if they know they are right or have a point, they would rather passively keep their mouth shut.  They think it’s inconvenient.  They think debating and arguing are forms of conflict.  Since they dislike conflicts and/or inconveniences, they avoid debate as much as possible. 

Then, there are people who love to argue everything.  I mean everything.  They would always take the opposing side of what your preferences or opinions are.  It doesn’t matter if they actually believe or feel strongly about the subject matter.  They will just argue for the sake of arguing.    

These people have the wrong idea on what debating and arguing are all about.

Debate or argumentation, if done right, is actually a pretty worthwhile and productive activity.  It’s a great way to exercise one’s mental prowess on logic, knowledge, and wit.  Valuable skills, like grammar, speech, and writing, can be developed as well. 

And it can actually be quite enjoyable. 

Indeed, there is quite a good feeling when you own your opponent.  Winning is sweet, and winning an argument is one of the sweetest victories you can experience in your life.  However, if your prime motivation for beginning or joining a debate is the desire of wanting to win it, or to show how smart or right you are – or, worse, to show how dumb or wrong your opponent is – then it’s better not to debate at all.  For me, debate is a tool of logic, and logic’s objective is to find truth.  Therefore, your main motivation for deciding to argue or debate should be for the TRUTH – to defend, promote, or find what is true. 

That’s why I think the type of debating we encounter in our academic lives misses the point.  I mean a random topic to debate on is given. Then we are assigned – oftentimes, we can’t choose what side we will belong in – on the negative or affirmative side.  Now, what if I don’t concur with the side I am assigned on?  Why would I exert my effort on defending or pushing something I don’t believe in or agree on?  Isn’t that ridiculous?  You might say it’s all for the sake of exercise or learning the proper mechanics of debate.  Well, you know what, I still call it absurd!  No matter how brilliant or excellent the skills, effort, articulation, and organization that I use for that argument, if it’s all for arguing something as ridiculously false like the Earth is flat, they are all meaningless and inutile.  All of those things used for arguing for something that is not true or right are wasted. 

In fact, I would rather “lose” a debating contest as long as I am in the side of truth.      

Of course, there are times that a debate has no objective truths involved, but subjective ones that are dependent on opinions, like “Who will win in a fight?  Batman or Superman?”  It’s still going to be a productive debate but participants should understand the fact that, though objective points can be presented, there is no objective truth to be established as a result and that, in the end, personal opinion and preference would still be the actual determinants, and not how good the arguments are.   However, good arguments still impress and might at least make your opponent respect or acknowledge the merits of your preference.

Debates do not always end in establishing the truth (especially if the parties are not applying the proper philosophy of debating).  Sometimes it can even end with a compromise.  Usually it ends with an “agree to disagree”-result (human beings are stubborn creatures).  And sometimes, you just have to stop, like for instance: a) when after you have already completely exhausted your points and made a concrete case, your opponent still hasn’t agreed with you because you haven’t convinced him or his bias and pride made him stubbornly unyielding, b) you feel the debate is going nowhere since your opponent is just using the same arguments over and over again, or c) your opponent becomes unreasonable or displaying “troll” behavior. 

Debates can easily become emotional.  And when one is debating without the proper philosophy and discipline, he will tend to debate ineffectively when he gets emotional.  He will commit fallacies in his arguments.  His points will be irrelevant.  And he will attack you with insults.  You should be careful from falling into extreme obnoxiousness and rage when debating.  Sure, aggressiveness, sarcasm and humor can be used on debates.  But always keep in mind to be reasonable and civilized.  Attack the issues at hand, attack the points, attack the flaws in the argument, but never ever commit the mistake of attacking your opponent directly. Such low blow won’t prove any point.        

A worthwhile debate is that of a discussion for truth.  That is why we should debate.  Not using the glory of winning as an incentive.  There is no “winner” or “loser”, but the goal of establishing what is true.  Thus, when sometime during the debate you finally realized you are actually wrong and the other side is right, you should humbly and graciously admit you are wrong.  Do not let your pride get the better of you and stubbornly holding on and arguing for what you now know to be wrong.  Do not think that if you yield and admit that you’re wrong, you are the “loser” of the debate.  Again, there should be no “winners” and “losers” in a debate.  If the debate ends in establishing the truth, then the debate is a success.  Truth wins.  Always remember these whenever you decide to argue on something. 
By the way, no matter how strong or powerful Superman is, I sincerely believe that Batman can beat him in a fight.  Want to argue about this?  Bring it on.       

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