Monday, February 05, 2007

On the Purpose of Debate: Part 1

I feel like apologizing for the length of this post, but I have a lot on my mind. I will break it up into pieces so that it's bit more readable.

A commenter on another blog said that it would be impossible to debate the abortion issue with me because I'm a religious "fundamentalist", and I think all other positions are wrong.

Not like the legalized-abortion crowd. No. They're entirely open-minded to the notion of fetal equality. [:rolleyes]

Notwithstanding this situation, I do think debate between people of contradictory views, over the long term, can be very productive and fruitful. But maybe not in the way most people think.

In my view, the purpose of holding a debate is not to convince the purpose you're talking to.

The psychology of debate is such that your opponent is so emotionally invested in his stance, that he closes himself off to any suggestion he might be wrong.

This is not a question of "right" or "wrong". This is just the way people are, the way we are wired. When they come to debate, it's because they think they are right, and they want to put in a good show.

So the chances of one's opponent changing his mind are close to zero.

Sometimes debate provides one's opponent with useful information that may help him see things a different way. It may not change his stance, but it may help create a small degree of rapprochement. It also arms a person for the next time the argument comes around, so that one is better able to adress the subject.

Debate, therefore, can provide new data and sources of information, and can be a means to spread your own information.

Go to the next section:

On the Purpose of Debate: Part 2.

On the Purpose of Debate: Part 3.