The Flawless Debate
|The form of deliberative discussion known as "debate" has a contributed much to Western knowledge. The participants and subject matter of the first debate have long been lost to us, but it was Socrates and his eponymous method that are credited with popularizing the art of back-and-forth. This, of course, is common knowledge to most. What is less familiar to Western audiences is the little-known fact that the Socratic dialectic was originally conceived not as a mechanism for achieving insight, but rather as a drinking game.
Socrates had, at one point, been the greatest warrior in all of Athens. In his later years, he was known chiefly as the town's social antagonist, with his short, fat build, piggish beady eyes, and clutching, arthritic fingers. Still, the haughty young men of Athens, weary of their riches and intercrural intercourse, were more than happy to join Socrates when he suggested they go off into a cave to play a new game of his own devising. The rules were simple. One of the young men would put forth a proposition. Socrates would then ask a question. The man would then take a shot and try to answer it. Socrates would then question that answer. Drink and repeat. As the ouzo warmed their bellies and befuddled their brains, the young men disrobed into a naked cave of distraught, confused manhood. Socrates would then promise them backrubs if they listened to his answers to the questions that had been asked. In the throes of inebriation, it became clear to them that he was the wisest man who had ever lived. One of them began to transcribe the conversations in a twitchy, drunken scrawl. Several hours and 900 pages later, Plato had written The Republic.
There have, of course, been many debates since then. Sadly, all have been fatally poisoned by some procedural flaw. Our own nation's history is littered with examples. The Webster-Hayne debates were corrupted by Daniel Webster's chronic pantlessness. The Lincoln-Douglass debates were compromised by Abe's long, spindly fingers, which he would dance through the air to distract the judges while making his points. In more recent years, the Goldberg-Beinart debates have been debased by the fundamental indignity of grown men yelling about libertarianism on Skype in their basement.
Thankfully, that did not stop one brave goon from venturing forth to propose what he called "The Flawless Debate", valuing substance and style, procedural rigor over glitz and glamour, and integrity above all else. He called upon his fellow forum members to join him in a debate for the ages. The subject matter was unimportant--all that mattered was conducting a perfectly formed debate. And his brothers answered his call mightily, with peerless aplomb. In fact, they engaged in the finest debate ever conducted in the history of man, which, like Plato, drunken and intellectually molested, I transcribe for you now.
Atomic Number 42
Even though I take great joy in all forms of debate and logical arguments, I take particular interest in studying one fascinating character trait of modern human beings: "Being very poor at logical and intellectually honest debates."
I've spent much of the last few years of my life focusing less on the substance of what people are debating, but more on the structure of how they debate, and how they construct logic for use in debates.
This forum is a wonderful place to do such observing, and in general this is one of the best, if not the best, place to find above-average logical debate.
However, as we can all see, with the prevalence of partisan politics, science, religion, etc... in everyday modern life, the art of debate has become more common than ever. This is not to say it has been done well. In fact, I think we can all agree that modern "debate" is a sickening ghost of what proper and logical debate should be.
The fact is, regardless of whether or not a particular side of an argument is "wrong" or "right", the people in todays society will debate the issue without any semblance of logical thought or intellectual honesty.
If you went out on the street corner, and asked a random stranger to debate you about something entirely simple and easily defensible, they will still somehow find a way to circumvent the logical line of thought and needlessly bring up Hitler or Liberals/Conservatives.
The point is, people are smarter than we can tell, many times. The problem, however, lies in the fact that they do not, or cannot, relay their arguments or logic in any sort of reasonable fashion. Debate is the key to education, and without proper debate in society, we lose all hope of securing truth.
So, here is my proposal for you, fine people of D&D. Let us have our first round of "FLAWLESS DEBATE", in the spirit of practicing logical debate, and learning to spot logical fallacies and intellectual honesty.
We shall choose a debatable topic, probably one of a controversial nature (in order to stir the embers of argument), and once we settle upon one, we shall formally begin "THE FLAWLESS DEBATE".
At this point, you guessed it...we debate. However, the main thing I want most observers to keep notice of is NOT what is being debated, per se, but more importantly the logic that is accompanying it. If someone argues their point in a way that is logically incoherent, they shall be called out on it, and we should all understand WHY that argument was improper and incorrect, regardless of our opinions about their side of the argument. I want everyone to take time and really filter through what you are arguing before you post it, and my hope is that if you do not, then you will be reminded of your error immediately. Hopefully, by the end of the first subject, we can have a debate that is perfectly logically consistent, pertains exactly to the issue at hand, and backs up its beliefs with cold hard facts.
It is my hope that, through exercises like this, with children especially, we can teach this generation of people to be better debaters, and therefore better thinkers overall.
What do you say? What shall we debate? Someone give me a topic, pick a side, and I will hold the opposite. Doesn't matter what that side is, I just want to exercise my brain for today. So, lets go.
Who do you think would win in a fight, Goku or Superman? We will assume a silver age Superman and a Goku from near the end of Dragonball Z. My personal choice would be Superman, but as this is simply a debate I am willing to argue either side. I leave the choice up to you.