thảo luận Thảo Luận Topic Thảo Luận

harold posted on Jul 12, 2009 at 08:05AM
This month's debate (starting July 2009):

Can every topic be debated?

A PRO or YES position will argue that "Yes, every topic can be debated."

A CON or NO position will argue that "No, not every topic can be debated."

Choose a position and state it in your comments, along with your arguments and counter-arguments, please.

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hơn một năm qua harold said…
So depressing.
hơn một năm qua bri-marie said…
Yes, I think every topic can be debated, since there is no topic in which everyone shares the same opinion. And, in a debate, one of the biggest things you need is differing opinions, no?
hơn một năm qua harold said…
But stating opinion is not debate; it actually quashes debate, as opinion cannot be (reasonably) argued. "I feel this way." "No, you don't!" Assertions are needed in debate, not opinions.
hơn một năm qua bri-marie said…
I know stating an opinion is not a debate - I never said it was. I said it was needed for a debate.

If you don't have an opinion, what are you going to assert?
hơn một năm qua harold said…
I would make a distinction between opinion (necessarily personal) and a position (not necessarily personal). One does need to take a position in a debate, but one does not need an opinion on the thesis or the position to debate it.

If people only debated topics for which they had opinions, then there'd be a lot of empty debate topics in the world and in this club. Oh, wait, there are a lot of empty debate topics in this club...

In any case, I think that opinions are a great example of something that cannot be debated, as are emotions.

"I feel happy right now!"
"I posit that you don't feel happy right now."
"Grrr...I'm beginning to agree with you."

Continuing a debate in that vein requires a Socratic dialog, and nobody would let Socrates go on the way he did in real life.
hơn một năm qua bri-marie said…
Again, as I said, you would need more than just an opinion. I also think that positions and opinions are interrelated. You're position is against something - your opinion is that it's bad. If you're opinion is that something is good, your position would not be against it. If you didn't have an opinion, you wouldn't have a position.

For me, debating is like a pyramid. The base is opinion. It's the strongest, the widest, the most important, but it's not the pyramid. Facts and position would make up the next two levels, as they are the next most important things. And so on and so forth.

There's a difference between being able to debate something and being able to debate something well. The debate "Which is better: pens or pencils?" would not be a very good debate. Nonetheless, it could be debated.
hơn một năm qua harold said…
I mostly agree with you. My difference may simply be a semantic one: I don't think that opinion is a requirement or base for a position at all. Opinion works as a good motivator, but it is entirely possible and often desirable to debate a position without having an opinion on the subject first. In fact, I don't see how debate teams could operate otherwise.

Debate moderator: "Good evening. Tonight we welcome the Sage Team from Yellowknife and the Celadon Team from Edmonton. Each team will have five minutes for opening remarks, then each team member will have up to ten minutes to present arguments. The opposing team will have three minutes to rebut following each argument. Finally, each team will have ten more minutes to present their closing statements. Is that clear?"
Sage and Celadon teams: "Yes, that is clear."
Moderator: "Tonight's topic is: Mechanical pencils are superior to all other pencils."
Sage team captain: "Madam moderator, I will have to withdraw myself from this debate."
Moderator: "On what grounds? Your team will forfeit."
Sage team captain: "We cannot debate this topic, as we have no opinion on it."

One's opinion on a topic also does not (and should not) dictate whether one can debate the topic. Any debater of any real value could and should be able to debate a topic from a position contrary to his/her personal opinion. In the example above, the Sage Team ridiculously withdraws because they have no opinion on the topic. Just as ridiculous would be the Celadon team withdrawing because they were assigned to argue the "con" position but they believe that mechanical pencils ARE better than all others.

A statement such as "I can't argue against the death penalty because I believe in the death penalty!" is a failure on the part of the speaker to be a debater.

Belief is NOT at all a requirement for good debate. I agree with your statement that "There's a difference between being able to debate something and being able to debate something well." because how well a person debates is dependent on their ability. It does not, however, have much to do with the topic. The pens vs. pencils debate of your example could be a very good debate - it's entirely dependent on the skill of the debaters in presenting good arguments and counter-arguments (regardless of whether the debaters have any opinion on one over the other). On the other hand, a lot of really bad debate happens in the world (and in this club in particular) where people are emotionally invested in their position instead of presenting good arguments (or indeed any arguments). Some examples of debates where opinion has interfered with debate in the past: the existence of God, the legality of abortion, the desirability of eating meat. Opinions about these questions fuel a strong desire to debate, which is good for debate, but statement of opinion often replaces the presentation of clear arguments, which is not.

(2011.05.11 16:19:59)
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