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  1. #1

    Default Intellectual Intimidation

    I consider reasoned debate an essential way to keep from fooling ourselves. It is also a way to hear many different sides of an issue without being "so open-minded that our brains fall out."

    It is essential in a technical design process (especially in defining project scope). It is essential in policy making. It is essential in the court-room. I think it is essential in any context where we don't want to fool ourselves, collectively.

    However, many bright people are intimidated by debate. I used to be much more so, when just I got out of college. I am trying to remember what I found so intimidating....

    Sometimes by sheer-volume, of data or information, I was afraid to enter debate or some form of intellectual discourse.

    Sometimes, the debates turn technical and I feel I have so little notion of what is being talked about that I cannot contribute (even if I have some intuition that people are fooling themselves).

    Sometimes, I get the feeling that people are more interested in "winning" than exploring the merits of a particular viewpoint.

    Sometimes, I think people take the debate as personal attacks on themselves. Sometimes, people do attack others personally.

    What causes it, and how can it be avoided?

    From the standpoint of a person who doesn't make the rules of order in a debate, how can we reduce our intellectual intimidation of others, and become more resistant to intellectual intimidation ourselves?

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    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I consider reasoned debate an essential way to keep from fooling ourselves. It is also a way to hear many different sides of an issue without being "so open-minded that our brains fall out."

    It is essential in a technical design process (especially in defining project scope). It is essential in policy making. It is essential in the court-room. I think it is essential in any context where we don't want to fool ourselves, collectively.

    However, many bright people are intimidated by debate. I used to be much more so, when just I got out of college. I am trying to remember what I found so intimidating....

    Sometimes by sheer-volume, of data or information, I was afraid to enter debate or some form of intellectual discourse.

    Sometimes, the debates turn technical and I feel I have so little notion of what is being talked about that I cannot contribute (even if I have some intuition that people are fooling themselves).

    Sometimes, I get the feeling that people are more interested in "winning" than exploring the merits of a particular viewpoint.

    Sometimes, I think people take the debate as personal attacks on themselves. Sometimes, people do attack others personally.

    What causes it, and how can it be avoided?

    From the standpoint of a person who doesn't make the rules of order in a debate, how can we reduce our intellectual intimidation of others, and become more resistant to intellectual intimidation ourselves?
    I think that if you really want to enter a serious debate, you'll refuse to take comments personally, learn all the technical aspects of it, and be open to but carefully scrutinizing of all suggestions. If you try to simplify it, focus on winning, or ignore controversial/offensive perspectives, the quality of the debate will be lessened.

    What do you think?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    ...From the standpoint of a person who doesn't make the rules of order in a debate, how can we reduce our intellectual intimidation of others, and become more resistant to intellectual intimidation ourselves?
    It is a very interesting question, but the reason why someone might avoid debate range far and wide, depending on personality and past trauma. (For example, fear of being rejected, fear of being found out to be stupid, fear of having one's viewpoint be shown to be false, fear of having to consider an alternate point of view honestly, and so on...)

    Many people go through fear of debate. It's not easy. Sometimes even you do not think a particular conversation will be bothersome, after you enter it, you discover that part of you feels emotionally unsettled about the whole thing and you observe yourself acting in testy or pointed ways unexpectedly.

    I think the bottom lines are:
    1. Not attaching your self-worth/respect to your knowledge or always having to be correct in every situation. (There is no shame in not being omniscient. There is only shame, to me, in being unwilling to admit when you could be wrong and not learning from someone else.)
    2. Trusting that other people can detach their own personal acceptance of you from the debates you might have with them.
    3. Faith/confidence in your own value as a person, so it no longer matters how others perceive you or what mistakes you might make.
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    Furry Critter with Claws Kiddo's Avatar
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    The greatest flaw with debate is debate. It's argument, pure and simple. No matter how it is shaped or what rules are placed on it, it won't change the fact that it's argument. And just like in any argument, it eventually comes down to a difference of opinion where both sides are trying to prove that what they are arguing for is the truth. Where we ultimately fool ourselves is by believing that anything is accomplished by debate. To the contrary, we divide and polarize ourselves by doing so. When we charge it by showing we know more about the topic at hand, then we just drive an opponent into a corner, but in no way further their understanding or improve our own. Everyone just ends up frustrated.

    By contrast, the best way to discuss something is to listen and patiently question. Not question aggressively, as in trying to stump the opponent, but with the sincere and open minded approach of trying to understand the other side's view. People love to talk about why they believe what they believe. This will work and keep us from "fooling ourselves" as long as there are always different points of view and we allow ourselves to question not only alternative views, but our own. However, if your goal is to change someone else's mind, then you will fail. That is only achievable through exemplifying your belief by living it yourself. Be what you believe and others will see the truth and follow.

    Of course, I'm young and love to argue for the sake of arguement, so what do I know?

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    I was on a debate team for a season back in high school, and our team even took second place in the state finals.

    It was nice to see "debate" framed that way--with formal rules and a standardized, commonly-accepted concept of the purpose it was supposed to serve.

    As a result, I tend to see debate as a process rather than a personal grudge match. So if I don't debate, it tends to be because I don't feel the process is right for me at the moment (for example, I'll decide that the topic is too vague and I don't have time for it). Also, if I'm in a debate and the debate turns personal, I'll bail out of it rather than get invested in it personally too. Again, for me it's just an intellectual process and not an emotional stake or investment that I have to defend.

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    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiddo View Post
    The greatest flaw with debate is debate. It's argument, pure and simple. No matter how it is shaped or what rules are placed on it, it won't change the fact that it's argument. And just like in any argument, it eventually comes down to a difference of opinion where both sides are trying to prove that what they are arguing for is the truth. Where we ultimately fool ourselves is by believing that anything is accomplished by debate. To the contrary, we divide and polarize ourselves by doing so. When we charge it by showing we know more about the topic at hand, then we just drive an opponent into a corner, but in no way further their understanding or improve our own. Everyone just ends up frustrated.

    By contrast, the best way to discuss something is to listen and patiently question. Not question aggressively, as in trying to stump the opponent, but with the sincere and open minded approach of trying to understand the other side's view. People love to talk about why they believe what they believe. This will work and keep us from "fooling ourselves" as long as there are always different points of view and we allow ourselves to question not only alternative views, but our own. However, if your goal is to change someone else's mind, then you will fail. That is only achievable through exemplifying your belief by living it yourself. Be what you believe and others will see the truth and follow.
    That doesn't work for certain matters, and I believe you're missing a fine distinction between a matter of opinion, and a matter of fact. Also, you shouldn't just be staunchly arguing "for" a specific thing, but should be suggesting something as potentially true, and listening to/addressing criticisms of it, as well as listening to/critiquing other suggestions. Does that make sense?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiddo View Post
    The greatest flaw with debate is debate. It's argument, pure and simple. No matter how it is shaped or what rules are placed on it, it won't change the fact that it's argument. And just like in any argument, it eventually comes down to a difference of opinion where both sides are trying to prove that what they are arguing for is the truth. Where we ultimately fool ourselves is by believing that anything is accomplished by debate. To the contrary, we divide and polarize ourselves by doing so. When we charge it by showing we know more about the topic at hand, then we just drive an opponent into a corner, but in no way further their understanding or improve our own. Everyone just ends up frustrated.
    It depends on how you define debate.

    When it comes to learning, I love to listen to two people who totally disagree with each other "debate" an argument. That's the easiest way for me to learn where the flaws in both sides of an argument are. Just asking questions leaves me at the mercy of my own ignorance, and I can also be misled if the other person knows more than I do about their viewpoint.

    I do not consider debate as enabling "consensus," it runs counter to it usually, but it still serves its purpose.

    Another flaw with debate as a method is that, really, it's almost more about who is the better "debater" than who is "more correct." That has been my largest disillusionment with debate. It usually proves nothing except who can argue their point more convincingly.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200 View Post
    That doesn't work for certain matters, and I believe you're missing a fine distinction between a matter of opinion, and a matter of fact. Also, you shouldn't just be staunchly arguing "for" a specific thing, but should be suggesting something as potentially true, and listening to/addressing criticisms of it, as well as listening to/critiquing other suggestions. Does that make sense?
    Darn it! You changed what you had to say. Good thing I checked before I posted. That will teach me to make edits while people are replying. But so you know, I'll debate you any day.

    Fact is often an illusion. When you get down to it, we see things for how we want to see them, and never exactly for how they are. That is just part of being human. The best we can do is approach it from many different angles and try to understand it from many different points of view. But sadly, one of my hardest learned lessons is that eventually everything really does come down to opinion.

    As far as not trying to "prove" something. How exactly does one debate and not do so? Maybe you can make the internal decision that you aren't trying to make a point, but debate by it's very nature is asserting one point of view over another. But that is probably just splitting hairs, because as you suggested, it should come down to listening.

    I was assuming that the OP was talking about debate in general life. If he was talking about a debate between two intellectuals who have no emotional investment whatsoever in what they are discussing then perhaps it would have value for the participants. However, if he was talking about debate in the universal sense, then chances are very good that you will encounter mostly people who argue for what they believe to be true, not just for what they "know" to be true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Another flaw with debate as a method is that, really, it's almost more about who is the better "debater" than who is "more correct." That has been my largest disillusionment with debate. It usually proves nothing except who can argue their point more convincingly.
    And that is pretty much exactly the same argument that Socrates made in the Gorgias. Which is fantastic to read because Plato writes that piece with such a beautiful style of debate, where Socrates doesn't try to refute his opponents, but presents who own views openly and invites them to refute him, while never pursuing to prove his opponents views as incorrect. Sadly, modern debate really does come down to who is the better master of rhetoric.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiddo View Post
    The greatest flaw with debate is debate. It's argument, pure and simple. No matter how it is shaped or what rules are placed on it, it won't change the fact that it's argument. And just like in any argument, it eventually comes down to a difference of opinion where both sides are trying to prove that what they are arguing for is the truth. Where we ultimately fool ourselves is by believing that anything is accomplished by debate. To the contrary, we divide and polarize ourselves by doing so. When we charge it by showing we know more about the topic at hand, then we just drive an opponent into a corner, but in no way further their understanding or improve our own. Everyone just ends up frustrated.

    By contrast, the best way to discuss something is to listen and patiently question. Not question aggressively, as in trying to stump the opponent, but with the sincere and open minded approach of trying to understand the other side's view. People love to talk about why they believe what they believe. This will work and keep us from "fooling ourselves" as long as there are always different points of view and we allow ourselves to question not only alternative views, but our own. However, if your goal is to change someone else's mind, then you will fail. That is only achievable through exemplifying your belief by living it yourself. Be what you believe and others will see the truth and follow.

    Of course, I'm young and love to argue for the sake of arguement, so what do I know?
    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    It depends on how you define debate.

    When it comes to learning, I love to listen to two people who totally disagree with each other "debate" an argument. That's the easiest way for me to learn where the flaws in both sides of an argument are. Just asking questions leaves me at the mercy of my own ignorance, and I can also be misled if the other person knows more than I do about their viewpoint.

    I do not consider debate as enabling "consensus," it runs counter to it usually, but it still serves its purpose.

    Another flaw with debate as a method is that, really, it's almost more about who is the better "debater" than who is "more correct." That has been my largest disillusionment with debate. It usually proves nothing except who can argue their point more convincingly.
    If I'm watching or participating in a genuine debate, I personally would prefer that the two sides both be strong partisans of their sides. I don't see the process of debate necessarily being about learning from each other and reaching a consensus. I see it more as both parties making a strong statement of their sides, i.e., being "mouthpieces" or advocates for a point of view. If the material is new to me in any way, then I want to hear a strong representation of each side. That often best happens in an adversarial atmosphere. From there I can make up my mind or do my own research.

    Of course, debate isn't the right format for everything. In many circumstances I would prefer an collaborative, consensual approach to common problems.

    But if a true debate format is chosen and the material is new to me, then I would prefer to hear the sides expressed in an adversarial manner so that I can hear the strongest possible expression of the views and maybe see things from a different perspective. Sometimes I really need to be shaken hard from a preconception. If the debate is short-circuited and two people representing differing views are too quick to work out their differences and reach consensus, then I sometimes I wonder if I haven't heard the whole story.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiddo View Post
    And that is pretty much exactly the same argument that Socrates made in the Gorgias. Which is fantastic to read because Plato writes that piece with such a beautiful style of debate, where Socrates doesn't try to refute his opponents, but presents who own views openly and invites them to refute him, while never pursuing to prove his opponents views as incorrect. Sadly, modern debate really does come down to who is the better master of rhetoric.
    Debate isn't necessarily about "the win." Someone can present their side poorly but still intrigue me as to why they feel so strongly about their side. They can make me want to hear more and delve deeper.

    IOW, win or lose, the airing of differences has value in and of itself.

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