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Why i quit debating

Updated on March 10, 2016

Introduction:

The art of rhetoric has been prevalent in many cultures. The great thinkers Aristotle, Socrates, Augustine, Rene Descartes, and others helped establish the fundamentals of Philosophy. They would engage in rhetorical discussion or debates in their time over many matters. Despite their contributions to human knowledge, debating in my view is vastly obsolete. I've been told by former more experienced debaters that debating was useless but i ignored them. After holding alot of debates over various topics, i've come to realize that they were right. Debating is nothing more arguing over which person has superior reasoning skills. I've heard it all before “Oh but it's a great way to exchange ideas! It's for intellectuals! It's for people who want to think! Etc.” That's what it's intended to be, but instead i see many logical fallacies such as Ad Hominem, strawman, and argument from ignorance.

Dinesh D'Souza
Dinesh D'Souza

Several flaws in debating:

1) Debates are mostly black and white – Your either pro or con. There's no other way around it. You either represent one side or the opposing side. Open-minded thinkers seeking knowledge don't restrict themselves to such short possibilities. They expand their minds beyond those limits. If you look up any scientific peer reviewed journal, you will notice various factors taken into account: definitions, bias, other possibilities, other explanations, flaws in experimental design, etc. However debaters will ask that you momentarily take one side and construct an argument. If knowledge depends on your logic then the knowledge that you gain is quite limited compared to other fields like science.

2) There are better ways to reason than in debates – I've read Hugo Mercier's paper on “The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning” in which he explains that humans work best when collectively evaluating the quality of arguments (1). Discussions are more suited for ideas since every person involved can contribute their understanding, knowledge, ideas, and judgments. There's an endless array of possibilities but most are easily dismissed in debating for time's sake.

3) Debates are fights disguised as reasoning – I've tried being respectful focusing only on reason but it's difficult to do with all the backbiting, insults, belittling, bullying, gossip, and drama. Debating is competitive but that's exactly the problem. Because of competition, reputations are at stake. What's worse is that people in their arrogance refuse to admit their faults. I've had fights break out over who voted for who, what i did wrong, why him/her should've won, the list goes on. I am just as guilty for personally attacking other debaters over insults directed at me. Some are accustomed to disrespecting your beliefs as the proper way to instigate a debate. As a younger man, i proudly sought to silence anyone who insulted my religion in a debate. Why all the negative energy if reason is the sole purpose of debating?

You can see it all in the media. Just look at the drama unfold in this video.

4) Debates are counter-productive – You could be doing so much more than debating online in particular. I have friends who debate in real life and although i don't agree with it, it's surely a great way to socialize and get involved in the community. I have friends who dig up excavations. I go to my local museum and interact with research scientists along with new findings. There's so much to see in the world and so much you could be doing with your dreams than writing up another argument or opinion. The Truth is never settled in a debate. The quest goes far and beyond our imagination. It's how we grow and learn as thinking individuals.

5) Debates are for anything but the Truth – According to the Argumentative Theory of Reasoning, debating was designed for social persuasion and not the Truth. If you take a certain position, you are going to be occupied with only finding reasons to support your view. Of course anyone can make the condition that if a position can be justified, he/she will re-adjust their beliefs. This is a very misguided view of knowledge because that's not how humans work. We are thinking, feeling, and social creatures. We're not machines hard-wired for logic. Cognitive dissonance theory explains how people rationalize new information to resolve contradictions with our beliefs rather than accept them (2). If it's so easy for people to “explain away” facts, what makes you think debating will change their minds?

My mind is made up:

In summary, This is my perspective after much thought and reflection. I have vastly left the arena of debating. Even if i do engage in debates, it is very casual and non-competitive. I still however engage in scientific debates but only when important contributions can be made to Science. Even if you disagree, my hope is that you would at least consider where i'm coming from. My opinion like others is nothing short of giving a word of inspiration.

Sources:

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/arts/people-argue-just-to-win-scholars-assert.html?_r=0

2. http://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html

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