The Value of Logic, Reason and Truth In Discussion and Debate

Logic - Image depicting the central methods and problems of logic.
Logic - Image depicting the central methods and problems of logic. | Source
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Putting a High Value on Logic, Reason and Truth

It has occurred to me in the last several years and many times recently, that some people appear to be devaluing logic, debate and reason more and more. What I mean is that they would not admit this outright, but it comes out in their discussion, dialogue and even debate. You can observe it in areas where you would often be least likely expect it. This caused me to pause and consider what I was observing. I thought it was just randomly occurring with maybe particular people in particular places. I have come to a different conclusion now.

For instance, we are seeing other things valued over logic, reason and facts. One can see it almost everywhere, from Capital Hill to University campuses, to discussions on the internet. Up until recently, you only saw this kind of behavior in places like on line chat rooms and discussion boards or forums. It seemed pretty isolated to particular venues, but obviously it was more widespread than that. It seems to have gained some traction, sadly.

So it occurred to me that this mentality was definitely spreading. One can see it in the workplace, schools, town halls, and newspapers and almost everywhere people discuss ideas in any fashion. It sometimes takes a trained eye to see what I am referring to. See if this idea jogs your own memory. Have you ever seen a discussion or dialogue back and forth where it occurs to you that someone is sounding like they know what they are talking about, yet something is really off? Something just isn't right or doesn't sit well with you. Well, there is a reason for that kind of red flag,and I mean more than just you are taking an opposing side to the person that you are beginning to question. Keep in mind that I could be wrong in my observations, but am sharing what seems to be repeated behaviors in many different settings.

What is happening is that people are getting more and more clever, or so they think, at using tactics to win over winning by merit alone. It would be the equivalent to cheating in a sports game to win, to put it simply. Lets talk about some finer details and possible scenarios. When did it become alright to "cheat to win" in debates and discussions about the things that are the most important to us? Why would people even do such a thing?

People Have Always Disagreed

People have always disagreed, and tactics are nothing new. Where my surprise comes in is the level of what used to be more professional roles, engaging in this playing of games or tactics in their debate or discussion. I am speaking of journalists, news anchors, movie stars and politicians, teachers and professors, etc. It is especially alarming to see it in courtrooms across the nation when we do, and even more alarming if it happens to be the judge.

You see, what hasn't changed is that we have diametrically opposing views like we always have. What has changed, or so it seems to me, is our response to reality, and facts of matters. What also seems to have changed are usually intelligent people that ought to know better, engaging in these tactics to win.

For instance, in a formal debate hall, you have a situation where truth, logic and reason reigns supreme, or are supposed to. In these cases you often have moderators trained in looking for such sleight of hand tactics going on. Or at the very least, you would have moderators and staff that would support you pointing out such things. I think this is still very much the case for the most part, or that is my hope. It just seems to be dwindling quickly. I am talking about the true eyebrow raising of what people will countenance just to win a debate.

Photo taken in Greece, a place where many philosophers loved to debate the most important topics of the day, so long ago.
Photo taken in Greece, a place where many philosophers loved to debate the most important topics of the day, so long ago. | Source

The Best Tools For Winning Debates

As long as humans have been around, and the laws of nature, we have seen what value logic, truth or facts and being reasonable has played in the survival of mankind. If you happened to disagree with these things, you often just found out the hard way, and if you survived well at least you know what to expect the next time. Being foolish isn't free, and very costly indeed! So why are people acting more and more foolish, and seeming to value more and more foolish things and ideas? Can you think of anything that would explain this phenomenon, especially when we are more educated and have more mistakes to learn by in our human history than ever before? I can think of some.

Regardless, the truth of the matter is this. Logic, reason, and facts still reign supreme when debating. Perhaps a few more words could be thrown in there like morality or rationality. For instance morality wins over something immoral. Being rational wins over what is irrational. Or at least this used to be the case! This is a good case in point that I can go into more later. Times are definitely changing, and this includes morals. It used to be safe to say that we could assume we all generally had the same morals. Do you see a shift in this regard also?

For now, in debates and discussions, find out if the person you are in dialogue with also values reason, logic and truth, and perhaps morality. This may seem odd to ask, but I have found that sometimes after engaging with someone, I have to back track to this point anyway and actually ask them the question. "Would you say you are a person that highly values reason, truth and logic?" Or something like that. They most always will say, "Why of course I do." This should go without saying, they might be thinking.

Truth is, however, that often they may not actually value those things as you get into the finer details of a discussion where two or more views are being held. If you personally value these things, and have found out that the other party also values them, then you can go back to this as an anchor to the whole discussion, or better yet a plumb line or mediator.

Ideas matter, and people hold ideas as their basis for thinking about things. Everyone has a worldview and a philosophy. Even if they don't admit or think they do, they do. It is formed over the course of their life. Any of us can choose to defend whatever ideas we want to defend, and act as if ideas are something to just be picked off of a smorgasbord because they look good to us. They seem immediately appealing, especially before much thought is put in. The decline of critical thinking skills is partly to blame for this. It is as if people never played a game where they need to think one or two steps ahead. They don't consider the cost to their seemingly favorable idea that looks so "yummy" at first glance. Bad ideas, and I mean poor ideas that are bad in their core, will be much tougher to debate and win on a rational level. Things brings me to the next point.


Why Some People Resort To Using Poor Tactics

More often than not, people that resort to tactics over the use of logic, reason and truth or rationality, is because they are defending bad ideas. There are good ideas, and bad ideas, and everything in between. I am a firm believer that the best ideas win. These include anything that usually is backed by the three things I keep repeating over and over. A good idea is logical, reasonable or more reasonable than another, and based in facts or truth. These ideas are the easiest to defend without the use of tactics. The most polite and mentally stimulating discussion are had when these are all valued. Here is where things break down with human beings, that I have observed.

Often the people holding onto lesser or bad ideas very often don't want to give them up for personal reasons and sometimes beliefs or their philosophy. They aren't often thinking it through to this degree, but the point becomes clear, or would at least explain what is being observed as a cause and effect. What seems ideal to people, for instance, isn't practical or logical when something plays out.

Politicians engage in this kind of thing all the time. A policy may sound wonderful, for instance. It would be desired by all involved, very likely. The side that is voting against it and their reasons given are that while it sounds nice, doesn't play out practically or logically. In other words, more harm is done in the long run than good is achieved in short run. We then see name calling sometimes come in at this point, or character assassinations, etc. It would be a good example of conflict erupting and name calling because the person that is actually valuing truth, reason and logic is seen as a bad guy for not having compassion or love of their fellow man. I am speaking in general here. You get the idea.

This plays out in discussions of worldviews, philosophies, religion and politics, etc. My point in writing this is to encourage all of us to seek to defend truth and reason over illogical ideas and irrationality unless we continue to be the undoing of ourselves in our societies. What will happen is that if there is a greater number of those that value the opposite, we will decline, and almost as a matter of fact. Or if not matter of numbers, a matter of who is in power to push bad ideas through. Let us all be careful to challenge ourselves in our thinking and especially critical thinking.

If when challenged, we feel the need to resort to tactics and put downs, let it be a red flag to ourselves of what might explain that. If someone is doing that to you, ask them why. If they had good ideas or points to rebut your points they disagree with, wouldn't they surely give those instead of put downs? Of course they would. I have found that if you find groups of people that routinely resort to put downs, these are likely the reasons. Assuming they are not immoral people at their core, which is also possible, but less likely. People in general would rather share their good ideas for winning reasons, not poor ones.

To those that are unable to deal with the realities that come with their poor views and take that out on you, consider if you want to engage in that format of discussion and debate in the future. If you enjoy it and want to continue, encourage them with the biggies, by asking if they value things like reason, logic, facts and rationality. Then gently remind them that they are continuing to defend what is turning out to be a poor idea with things that turn out to be illogical, unreasonable, or not factual, as it applies. If you can pull this off with grace, then you are indeed a friend and care about the other party to take such time and effort to do so. If it were you, wouldn't you want someone to do the same? Tell them you welcome the same in return, if you truly do. Ask them to point out how you are wrong or embracing a less reasonable way of thinking if you are, compared to their idea.

The bottom line is this. Do people care about truth anymore? Do they really? Let us hope for the sake of all people, that they still care about truth. It is part of our human survival.


Do We Value Truth, Reason and Logic? Poll

Do you personally put a high value on things like truth, facts, reason, rationality and logic?

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Getting Back to Respecting Our Fellow Human Beings and Ourselves

Do we respect other humans and other views anymore? Is that not a good idea? I bring this point up last to get you to think about this from a different angle. When someone is trying to share an idea, or get you to be won over by an idea, if they engage in low tactics to do so, what does that mean they think of you? Do they not think you are intelligent enough to pick up on something, or at least to detect something smells fishy?

Consider that the person trying to win you over on what may not be as popular an idea, but an actual working idea for all parties involved, is actually respecting you and your family more. Do consider what would explain someone having to fall back on ideas that are not supported by the biggies like reason, logic, truth and rationality? In other words, respectfully hear the points as they are raised, take note if need be, and go and do your own research. Take no ones word for just anything anymore, especially if it almost sounds too good to be true. That is a point, by the way, many of us were brought up with, that I think is somewhat lacking in our current day. Perhaps it isn't, but is just being ignored.

Life isn't easy no matter how you try and tweak it. The best things in life are not free, and the best things are worth working hard for. Don't let anyone tell you different. Research the points made to see if others are taking you for a fool or not. If it turns out they must have been taking you for a fool, kindly correct their misconceptions and be bold to kindly share why you would rather go with winning ideas over poor, unsupported, or less reasonable ideas. Mind you, something doesn't have to be perfect, to be a better idea than another. Something doesn't have to have all the points answered perfectly to our satisfaction to be a much better idea than the possible alternative being offered.

My hope is that our nation, world, and each of us as individuals get back to esteeming and defending the best ideas. These are sometimes tougher, but often better ideas. That is not true across the board, but it often seems to be true for a good idea that doesn't seem so at first blush. Let us all desire to be a part of allowing the ideas that win, to be winning ideas in and of themselves. It could just be, that civilizations rise and fall accordingly, as we see in history. I would welcome your thoughts below.

© 2014 Paula

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Comments 2 comments

Edward J. Palumbo profile image

Edward J. Palumbo 2 years ago from Tualatin, OR

The very process of organizing information or opinion and presenting it persuasively is a lost art, especially in panel discussion. Truth is often undermined my motive (e.g., profit motivation, self-interest) cloaked in clouded rhetoric. It has been a great while since I've had to present a point in business but, as I review it, I was often overridden by corporate priorities, so cost and convenience seemed consistently to lose in favor of the "bottom line". If it didn't generate revenue, it wasn't acceptable unless it was an easily marketable selling point. Time is seldom granted to present the components of a rational argument. Briefly, society's attitude toward the exchange of ideas and the time required to engage in argument, in point and counterpoint exchange, are no longer compatible with society's priority of reaching the best conclusion; we want quick answers or results.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hello Edward, you make an interesting point about truth is often undermined by motive, and how true. One can see it if they look for it, to the point that it is almost very obvious except for the person engaging in such a thing. "Cloaked in clouded rhetoric, " is something else I observe. As if lot of words and even if speaking over another person is allowed to be a point of merit in a discussion?

I am glad another sees some of what I have, and you bring in an interesting angle. A lot comes down to priorities of the person or people in charge and the power. I do have to say that I mind this a tiny bit less or can handle it when it is my employer, even if I totally disagree, as I feel this is their "baby" to make decisions with, for better or worse. That is a side note, but I totally hear what you are saying. People do want quick answers or results.

I am currently making some big changes and decisions in my own life regarding my employment due to some of these very things, it is my way to respond to some of what you describe, while leaving with my head held high. If I can change my situation, I will and am taking it into my own hands.

Time is the other thing, how true. we don't even have the time so often to engage in real discussion, or don't make it. They do want quick answers and results, while not seeming to consider some larger points, so often. There is definite cause and effect to play out at that point. Thanks for your comment and insight on the topic, and point of view.

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