Debate should rely on logic, not personality

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One thing I enjoy about Philosophers (and Philosophy majors) is that they are open minded during a debate; a debate becomes more of a conversation and less of an argument.

The whole concept of the debate has befuddled me for so long.

I watched them on TV, I have watched them in person and I have argued in one.

In fact, I have argued in debates since my junior year in high school.

However, not once during these discussions did I enter with an open mind.

Never was I willing to understand what the other side had to say. No matter what their opinion, I was going to be right.

But what good is that? A debate loses its purpose when it turns into a competition.

If all goes well, one side will persuade the other into their line of thinking. If all fails, the two sides will fight until the bitter end, often ending in physical altercations, name calling and the inevitable damage in pride.

Last semester, I took part in multiple classroom debates and as soon as one side started “winning,” the other side stopped taking it seriously and just made jokes the whole time.

What good is that? What is the purpose of a classroom debate if by the end of the discussion, nothing has been resolved?

The only way I can see someone winning an in-class debate is by having just one person swallowing their pride and joining the opposing side.

If you can get one person to abandon their preconceived notion that they are the superior arguers, then you win.

Also, a debate shouldn’t be a popularity contest. In fact, it’s the one place where a small group of people should be able to defeat the larger group with nothing but pure logic.

Often times the smaller groups are timid because of their size and are overshadowed by the other groups’ snide remarks and laughter.

Another flaw I see in the classroom debate is the subject matter chosen. Debating on whether or not abortion should be legal, if the death penalty is justified or which religion is the right religion is completely idiotic.

These topics have been beaten to death. Don’t you think if someone had the all-knowing perfect and overwhelmingly persuasive argument on these dead horse topics, we wouldn’t continue arguing about them?

Let’s not argue about topics that will never be defeated.

Let’s talk about something real, something like “What should replace Wendy’s in the Union?” or “Do you believe participation should be weighted more heavily than test grading?”

In the matter of the real world, I feel a debate should be more than just a shouting match, and it should be more about the substance of their message, not just the way they compose themselves.

Take the 1960 debate between Kennedy and Nixon, for instance. Because Nixon stumbled over his words and was remotely nervous, he was automatically at a severe disadvantage. I’m not arguing that Nixon won the debate, by no means, I’m just stating that he was not taken as seriously because of his nervousness.

Give him the swagger and confidence of Kennedy, and I feel it would have been a closer fight.

As I previously stated, I enjoy discussions with philosophers because, as I learned in an Aesthetics course, keeping an open mind and being willing to change your viewpoint/admit defeat is a key role in being a philosopher.

If someone else’s agenda or idea is better than yours, accept it and embrace it. I see no shame in embracing a stronger opinion.

You don’t have to admit that your stance was weak, just that your opposition’s argument carried fewer flaws.

After all, if you have a rock solid thesis, wouldn’t you want someone to set their pride aside and be swayed your way?

Defend yourself, but don’t make yourself invincible.

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