Monday, March 23, 2009

What Is A Debate?

Verbal discharge, disambiguation, and incindiation.


Anonymous said...

Speaking the truth in love?

Christopher said...


I'm not sure if you're asking in reference to the question posed by the title of the thread, or if you're asking me if I'm speaking the truth in love. Would you mind to clarify? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

What does the Word teach about the tongue and its use?
If we are searching for truth, discussing truth, shouldn't we be doing that in love?
Perhaps that is obvious.
I am trying to understand, myself, how debate fits into that and the only thing I can think of is that whatever else it might look like, love should be evident in it.

Anonymous said...

Love is always a good foundation for any discussion, though there does not need to be affection or even gentleness towards the other as rules for the engagement. Love, and I think in the context of St. Cynic we are talking about a love grounded in the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, aught to be the foundation of all our human experience. Debate being one of those experiences. So it should be without saying that any discussion between followers of Christ, and even with one who does not believe as we do, should be rooted in love. However, this love should not be confused with acquiescing for the sake of brotherly peace. You have used a lovely word in the title of this thread: disambiguation. For me, that word helps to define what a debate is; a clashing of mind and thought towards a destination of certainty of meaning, if such certainty is possible.

Sarah said...

The issue I have with the idea of love being evident is that it is more often than not less likely to be received than given and more-so even, completely un-loving communication (as in judging) masquerading as love by pulling out the 'bible card.'

I find it sickening to be told that someone is just telling me something in love, when even their intention isn't to love. I have found that most people think that judging and loving are synonymous, and so if evidence of love is necessary for debate to occur properly, there is going to have be an enormous amount of terms agreed upon before its outset.

A debate is simply a discussion that includes two or more distinct and/or opposing premises. Once you go further to define it, you are placing sanctions, which may be fine if all parties agree, but to consider all debate proper only if it conforms to what one person might consider to be evidence of love makes it very difficult if not impossible. Should we then never discuss anything of value or only if there is only viewpoint? That's impossible for me too!

I can personally decide that whatever I express will be in love and that I will check myself for judgment before I claim to be loving someone with my evaluations, but I cannot do that for or on behalf of anyone else.

This is a main reason that I don't often engage in debate. I have not often found others with opposing views who are capable of discussing without taking personally what isn't and then ending up belittling, name-calling, threatening, publicly flogging, ostracising, etc.... My opposing views tend to bring out the worst in people. I do see that this is very common between people though, and not special treatment for me. ;)

There is no reason why debate, like dancing or consuming alcohol should be viewed as un-loving or 'un-biblical'. There are many people who should refrain from participating because they cannot separate subject/topic from personal evaluation/judgment and worse. There are many people who refrain from drinking or dancing too because they cannot do so in a salutary way.

So, imo, when evidence of love is a requirement for debate, the one for whom the evidence is required firstly must be capable of and willing to look for it and recognise it; secondly, be capable of and willing to concede that evidence doesn't always look the same; and thirdly, that evidence has no meaning without interpretation, so the perception of a lack of evidence may only be that- and not an actual lack.

I personally usually have to go back through my writing to add in the cushion words and phrases that will make my message less likely to offend. With a few people, I can just deal with the topic and not have to cushion at all, given that the relationship is secure. This is so rare, but such a treasure to me. It's not that I mind cushioning, it's just that sometimes it's nice to be able to just go to a task without all the fluff (that's what it is for me ).

Debate is supposed to be the venue for that sort of discussion, but the less people genuinely connect with one another and trust one another, the more often debate is impossible and reduces to petty bickering and finger-pointing, and then of course, hurt feelings.

I do not think that feelings are inferiour to intellect, but debate is an outlet for the intellect, not emotions, even though they still come to the fore (can't separate the intellect from emotions entirely).

Imagine desiring to give someone a hug to show them your affection for them and then instead, standing across from them and saying:

"My left and right arms will soon extend from their rotator cuffs and find the closest point to contact around your torso toward your back, causing me to reach both around and toward you and away from my own torso. Then as I close my arms in toward you, you will feel a tightening and warmth as my torso touches yours. I will retain this position for approximately 15 seconds because I have a special affection for you, which you will intuit from the length of my squeeze. When you are ready, I will begin."

Then the other person just reaches out and smiling, says, "Come here, ya big dufus!" and proceeds to hug the breath out of you and you flip out that they didn't take due consideration for your intellect in their brash and out-of-line hug.

It's absurd! Debating emotions is like that, and excruciating for those who don't need the fluff but are expected to provide the coddling that others need to feel safe in debate.

I feel safe in debate until I am personally attacked- that is, when I am actually being attacked, not when my perspective is being challenged, which is not a personal attack. Being challenged and challenging others to grow is precisely why debate is so interesting to me. I never grow weary of that. I grow weary of ad hominem attacks, though.

It is exhausting the amount of prefacing that I have found necessary to not offend some/most people. I cannot be expected to account for the delicate balance of sensitivities in others. I know that I try my best to consider the variables and I try to not seem curt in my writing, but if I do, it's not because I'm not acting out of love, it's because I didn't go back and input the cushions, which is another thing altogether. Even without the cushions, I have genuine love for people, and the lack of feel-good words in my expressions then used to determine that I am not loving is more disconcerting to me than the personal attacks I usually endure when I missed a particularly gooey-sweet preface-word.

I hope this is not offensive. There are just so many different sorts of people and just like all of the years people have tried to fix my introversion have been frustrating, so have all of the years people have insisted that I am not loving because I missed their favourite/most recognisable cushion words in discussion.

I'm not unloving or a jerk or arrogant or rude because my style of verbal/written communication doesn't feel like 'Chicken Soup for the Debater.

There, I've done it, and I've only used minimal cushions... I'm bracing for the worst.

Sarah said...

Oh, and kudos to the people who brought us emoticons. My prefaces were about double what they are now before widespread availability of those little unrealistic representations of the facial expressions I likely wouldn't have even in face-to-face conversation...

Umm, :)


Anonymous said...

Yeah ... I can see how the "mushy, gushy" stuff would not be helpful for a debate.
I guess it is love that is expressed not so much in feel-good terms as it is in mutual respect and understanding (however that is shown by individuals) and, as has been mentioned, without the perceived personal threat and resulting lash-back.
It comes from character and character is something that is never stagnant, nor should it be.
Having said this, I don't know that I've ever really been involved in debate.
I prefer to think of it as discussion for exploration sake.
I have seen "hurt feelings" in a blog when people have had no relationship with each other.
But that is why a discussion like this is good. Not that there need to be a bunch of ground rules or that you must verbally bow to your "opponent" before engaging.
But it is good to hear what people think about debate.
Sarah, I love (there's that word again!) your description of love as being mechanical when it should be a natural thing.
That is too funny, but true.
I agree with you: I do not feel unsafe when my perspective has been challenged. That has led me to some life-changing realizations about God. I am thankful for those friends in my life who wanted to engage in such discussions.
When people go into attack mode, I remind myself that it is something in their life -- their issue -- and not about what i have said.
I know what you mean about the amount of prefacing that you sometimes need to do not to offend. It is wearisome.
I was in a place where others probably felt that about me. Sometimes it is necessary, when dealing with fragile situations ... but would become cumbersome in a blog like this.
"Chicken Soup for the Debater": sounds like a great book idea.
I think I have a pretty good idea when things get unloving ... but I tend to equate that with blatant disrespect for the differences of others and with harsh language, putdowns -- not with good-natured ribbing or challenging or disagreeing with what is said.
I disagree with a lot of what is said. I hold my tongue most often, because that is prudent.
But I have never shied away from discussion.
By the way ... no editors and no evaluation of grammar and punctuation allowed here, OK.

Anonymous said...

"Chicken soup for the debater"
Very funny. I too rarely engage in debate for the very reasons you so thoughtfully laid out, complete with several "cushion" words. To be fair, I am a bit of an introvert and would honestly rather sit quietly and listen. As a student in high school, a fellow classmate, a bit of a mentor really, would drag me into the library to engage anyone in a discussion on Christianity. The library was kind of like our Mars Hill, and every Wednesday we would bring our Bibles and wait for the "atheists" to show up. We ran the gauntlet of everything that was a hot button topic in the 70's. Despite feeling intellectually inadequate, I loved it, and no one appeared to be offended regardless of the outcome of whatever topic we were mashing through. I miss those days.