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> The Philosophy Of Debate, How do you argue your position?
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stevenpd 
  Posted: 11-Mar-2005, 07:26 PM
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We all argue about something, whether its politics, religion or philosophy. Arguments come in many forms. It can be physical (fist fight), emotional (feelings) or logical (yes/no or black/white). What do you do to argue your point? Do you make things up or do you have a basis for your position? Can you be persuaded to change your position?

Do you try for clarity or to be fuzzy? Do you try to use facts or anectdotal evidence. Do you base your argument on your experience?

Does anyone out there formally debate issues?

As long as I have been involved with BBS's it seems that some try to win arguments through "15 second sound bites". Is this appropriate? Is this sufficient?



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erickbloodax 
Posted: 12-Mar-2005, 02:14 PM
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As I have grown older I try to base my opinions on facts. Facts based on my experience and arguments based in logic. When I was younger, I based more of my opinions on emotion, "Its just not fair that some people should have to live on the street."
Now we have a person who lives on a freeway on ramp. He has been here about two years, just sitting in a folding chair day and night, rain or shine. He has been arrested twice, when the garbage gets too high and he refuses to pick it up. The protester come out of the wood work then! Last time one even posted his bail! He didn't offer him a job as a night watchman, or even a spare room in the garage, just set him back out on his corner.
I know this problem needs more than just "feel good" solutions. It does not help this guy to give him a happy meal, he needs treatment. In a proper environment we may be able to banish the demons that torment him and then discover he is a great artist.
Now we have a debate, at what point do we commit an individual? How much are we willing to pay in taxes to support a mental health system for the destitute?
The protesters like to keep the argument to 30 second sound bites that play well on the news. A few comments about "jackbooted thugs" in law enforcement and "A man has the right to live free as he sees fit." I don't think this is fair, it does not address the issue, I guess I can respond in kind, "Teach a man to fish, and you have a job for the day. Give a man a fish and you have a job for life."


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stevenpd 
Posted: 14-Mar-2005, 02:58 PM
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QUOTE (erickbloodax @ 12-Mar-2005, 11:14 AM)
As I have grown older I try to base my opinions on facts. Facts based on my experience and arguments based in logic. When I was younger, I based more of my opinions on emotion, "Its just not fair that some people should have to live on the street."
Now we have a person who lives on a freeway on ramp. He has been here about two years, just sitting in a folding chair day and night, rain or shine. He has been arrested twice, when the garbage gets too high and he refuses to pick it up. The protester come out of the wood work then! Last time one even posted his bail! He didn't offer him a job as a night watchman, or even a spare room in the garage, just set him back out on his corner.
I know this problem needs more than just "feel good" solutions. It does not help this guy to give him a happy meal, he needs treatment. In a proper environment we may be able to banish the demons that torment him and then discover he is a great artist.
Now we have a debate, at what point do we commit an individual? How much are we willing to pay in taxes to support a mental health system for the destitute?
The protesters like to keep the argument to 30 second sound bites that play well on the news. A few comments about "jackbooted thugs" in law enforcement and "A man has the right to live free as he sees fit." I don't think this is fair, it does not address the issue, I guess I can respond in kind, "Teach a man to fish, and you have a job for the day. Give a man a fish and you have a job for life."

In this situation two questions come to mind.

1) Does socitety have the right or the responsibility to direct this individual?

2) Does the individual have a right to be left alone?
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Swanny 
Posted: 17-Mar-2005, 09:45 AM
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I rarely look at this particular forum, but the topic of this thread caught my attention. I'm politically active, often involved in debate, and am constantly trying to learn more about the science of logic. It's been my experience that a logical argument, well presented and free of common fallacies is more likely to prevail than an illogical or fallacious argument. I'm no expert on the subject, but most attorneys are.

This thread has barely started yet it already demonstrates one of the most common fallacies,a form of misdirection. Dodging the issue by changing the subject.

Very few people debate logically, because very few people study logic these days. Logic is much more than oxymoronic "common sense". The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines logic as "the science of reasoning, proof, thinking, or inference."

Here is a website that will provide a great deal of information on the subject in a reasonably concise manner. http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/logic.html

If you'd like to see many more examples of logical fallacies, just check out the "politics" forum. You'll be treated to some very well presented logical arguments, and many, many logical fallacies.

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stevenpd 
Posted: 17-Mar-2005, 01:48 PM
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QUOTE (Swanny @ 17-Mar-2005, 06:45 AM)
I rarely look at this particular forum, but the topic of this thread caught my attention. I'm politically active, often involved in debate, and am constantly trying to learn more about the science of logic. It's been my experience that a logical argument, well presented and free of common fallacies is more likely to prevail than an illogical or fallacious argument. I'm no expert on the subject, but most attorneys are.

This thread has barely started yet it already demonstrates one of the most common fallacies,a form of misdirection. Dodging the issue by changing the subject.

Very few people debate logically, because very few people study logic these days. Logic is much more than oxymoronic "common sense". The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines logic as "the science of reasoning, proof, thinking, or inference."

Here is a website that will provide a great deal of information on the subject in a reasonably concise manner. http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/logic.html

If you'd like to see many more examples of logical fallacies, just check out the "politics" forum. You'll be treated to some very well presented logical arguments, and many, many logical fallacies.

Swanny

I have found that in discussing any issue, misdirection, ad hominum attacks, or just a lack of common definitions for used words, fail to create a worthwhile discussion. Most people prefer to argue emotionally rather than logically. One of my favorite subjects had been Euclidean Geomtery. Having to prove a geometric shape through the use of theroms, postulates and accepted assumptions was quite invigorating. But the implicatioins of mathmatical clarity applied to an argument can be quite daunting.

Logical argument with prepositions followed by a logical conclusion is difficult and not readily grasped (complex though process?) by a majority of people. This is not to say that it is a skill that can not be learned either.

My hope for this thread was to explore the thought processes of participants to learn and understand how that I may be clearer in my arguments. Hopefully everyone could learn a little something by this. Whether it be political or moral. I think that there are plenty of subjects to be discussed.

What do you do when you come upon an argument that the pros and cons are equal? What tips the scale one way or the other for you? Are arguments black and white (logical) or are there grey areas in every argument?
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Swanny 
Posted: 17-Mar-2005, 10:17 PM
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Several contemporary debates can fall into this class. Perhaps the most obvious and decisive is that of life vs. choice (the great abortion debate). Since I don't happen to own a uterus and have no moral concerns regarding the issue it is entirely an academic argument from my perspective and I am relatively dispassionate about it.

In cases like this I tend to side with reason over emotion.

That isn't to say that emotion should be discounted. Those who are willing to do the necessary research to formulate well reasoned, logical arguments are often those who feel so passionately about the issues that they are willing to dedicate time and effort toward supporting their positions.

Swanny
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reddrake79 
Posted: 18-Mar-2005, 12:43 AM
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Quick question, do most people reason in the same way?

I ask this question because it is important towards understanding and forming an argument for a debate. Two people can argue the same topic and use reason and still come up with opposing views. I would debate with my mother much differently than I debate with my students. part of it is just familiarity, my mother and I have been debating topics for several years whereas my students and I have only been debating 1 year. What is the target audience? I have some students that respond to an argument based off emotion, that doesn't mean that I do not give them facts, I have others that respond only to facts. Should emotion be checked at the door of a debate? I don't think so. I think it is important to keep the emotion in check and not to make personal attacks. Some arguments are going to need solid facts, scientific arguments, mathematical arguments, etc. some need appeals to morality, abortion, eugenics, euthenasia, etc. Now there are facts concerning each of these, but the majority of people make decisions about them based on their understanding of morality. In some people, the morality argument leads to an understanding of the facts. Very few question that the holocost was a bad thing, the argument though usually appeals to morality.
I think it is important to adjust your argument to how your opponent is arguing. If they are attacking the morality of a situation and you are only attacking the facts then you appear cold and disspationate, yet if you only attack the morality and not use facts you seem like a nutjob and your argument appears weak. A good debator is one who can adjust to the argument, providing solid facts and still keep it emotionaly charged. In my freshman (highschool) science class we have had a couple of debates. The hardest part is to keep the emotion down to an acceptable level.
My debating style also differs with my students in this, I am trying to get them to think, I will use arguments that have blatent problems in the hopes that 1 of them will pick up on it. I try to get them to clarify their statements. I try to get them to use facts and personal experience (isn't personal experience fact?) Now obviously with 15 students they can't each have 30 min of class time. I encourage them to keep their arguments, concise and clear. If I am having trouble understaing their argument repeat it back, as I understtod it, and ask if that is what they are saying. Before each debate I tell them to be respectful. The most important part of a debate is listening to your opponent, even if you think you are right, and responding to his argument. I can remember back to the debates before Bush's first term as president. In one of the debates the moderator asked Al Gore a question, Gore completely ignored the question and used the time to respond to a question from earlier in the night. Bush was then asked the same question and his response was along these lines, not an exact quote Im afraid, "I'll answer the questions that are asked of me." The entire audience laughed and Al gore looked like an idiot for a few minutes simply because he hadn't listened to the question.


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Swanny 
Posted: 18-Mar-2005, 04:40 PM
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QUOTE (reddrake79 @ 17-Mar-2005, 08:43 PM)
Quick question, do most people reason in the same way?


I think it is pretty obvious that not all people reason in the same manner. Humans are not instinctively logical creatures. We must be taught to think critically and clearly, to examine and interpret evidence and to express ourselves in a logical manner. Philosophy, logic and ethics are not included in the curriculum of many primary or secondary schools. Subjects which may require students to think critically and to use logic in presenting their results or their arguments are underemphasized or even discouraged in many schools.

Because we are not instinctively logical, we need to be taught how to use logic and reason, but I fear this is an aspect of education that is largely ignored.

Swanny
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stevenpd 
Posted: 18-Mar-2005, 05:38 PM
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I agree that humans are not logical creatures to begin with. It is a skill to be learned but not taught. to any significant degree.

I have a tendency to simplify an argument down to its essence. Then apply various layers of thought to it, each to be tested. Each layer's test examines an argument from various angles, including opposition. Emotional layers are part of that process. In the end, it is possible to come to a multi-faceted conclusion with a greater understanding of not only the original argument but also the various implications for conclusions reached.

Reason is most certainly influenced by someone's life's experiences. I believe that's the rub in most arguments. One's life experiences color, not only the reasoning, but the commonality of element definition. A good example of this are colors. One person's green may anothers sea-green, etc.

Another aspect of debate is the personal impact of the argument. Certainly, anyone may argue about anything, but the proximity to the elements of the argument will determine the passion of the participants. That passion is the emotional element of the argument. Swanny pointed this out quite admirably.

Teaching someone to think and reason is very difficult. I do not equate the two. Thinking is natural, but the application of sound reasoning is an art.

Where do most people fail in their reasoning? How important are common definitions in an argument? Is it possible change your position from a sound argument? What is necessary to change your position?

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Swanny 
Posted: 18-Mar-2005, 11:50 PM
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QUOTE
I agree that humans are not logical creatures to begin with. It is a skill to be learned but not taught. to any significant degree.


I think this statement can be argued. During the "age of reason" (18th and 19th centuries) one was not considered properly educated unless one had studied the "clasics" (classic literature of ancient Rome and Greece) and philosophy. The word philosophy meant much more than it does today. Here is the definition as published in Webster's 1828 dictionary. As you read the definition, please remember that Noah Webster was a minister, and his dictionary often reflected his personal beliefs:

PHILOS'OPHY, n. [L. philosophia; Gr. love, to love, and wisdom.]

1. Literally, the love of wisdom. But in modern acceptation, philosophy is a general term denoting an explanation of the reasons of things; or an investigation of the causes of all phenomena both of mind and of matter. When applied to any particular department of knowledge, it denotes the collection of general laws or principles under which all the subordinate phenomena or facts relating to that subject, are comprehended. Thus, that branch of philosophy which treats of God, &c. is called theology; that which treats of nature, is called physics or natural philosophy; that which treats of man is called logic and ethics, or moral philosophy; that which treats of the mind is called intellectual or mental philosophy, or metaphysics.

The objects of philosophy are to ascertain facts or truth, and the causes of things or their phenomena; to enlarge our views of God and his works, and to render our knowledge of both practically useful and subservient to human happiness.

True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle.

2. Hypothesis or system on which natural effects are explained.

We shall in vain interpret their words by the notions of our philosophy and the doctrines in our schools.

3. Reasoning; argumentation.

4. Course of sciences read in the schools.

The bottom line is this. If logic and reason could be successfully taught in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, why can it NOT be taught in the 21st?

Swanny

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stevenpd 
Posted: 19-Mar-2005, 04:58 PM
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Swanny,

Two points here.

First, my apologies for not being clear on this point: Logical thinking is a skill to be learned. This goes to the thought that "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". The same with education. You can present new ideas and new ways of thinking, but if someone is predisposed not to think or absorb the material presented, all the teaching in the world will not help. Thus, the idea that no one actually teaches, but one learns or absorbs the material presented, more accurately refers to an "educator/student" relationship. My comment "It is a skill to be learned and not taught" is erroneous. It was not meant to indicate that the skill should not be taught, rather, it is a skill that can only be learned.

Second, you stated "one was not considered properly educated unless one had studied the "clasics"". Education is a process involving outside influences to transfer or expose knowledge to someone without that knowledge. This supposes that a human being must be exposed to a different thought process in order to learn or grow beyond what they already know, regardless of time period, yesterday, today or tomorrow. The education experience may change, dependant upon subject matter, but the core of the process remains the same: the presentation of knowledge for the absorbtion by someone that does not have that knowledge.

As part of our discussion in this thread, this is a good example of not being clear.

Is it possible to have an inate ability to think logically but not have the ability to communicate that ability? Isn't one of the aspects of an education to provide a commonality for communication?

Why must "True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle."? What is "true religion"? What is "true philosophy"?

Isn't reasoning a thought process? Given specific facts, should the conclusion still be the same despite the time period? Granted, modern times provide a different set of facts, but shouldn't sound reasoning come to the same conclusion?

This is the crux of this thread. If the facts are the same for everyone, how are different conclusions arrived at?

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Swanny 
Posted: 19-Mar-2005, 06:36 PM
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Why must "True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle."? What is "true religion"? What is "true philosophy"?

Isn't reasoning a thought process? Given specific facts, should the conclusion still be the same despite the time period? Granted, modern times provide a different set of facts, but shouldn't sound reasoning come to the same conclusion?

This is the crux of this thread. If the facts are the same for everyone, how are different conclusions arrived at?


That quote came out of Noah Webster's original 1828 dictionary, to show how the definition of "philosophy" has changed over the past couple of centuries. I included the caveat regarding Noah's status as a Christian minister because of that particular phrase. Noah Webster was a very religious man living during difficult times. The "Age of Reasoning" coincided with "The Great Awakening", a time of tremendous evagelical furor throughout the English speaking world. So, we have a very religious man trying to reconcile his spiritual beliefs, which were being challenged by tremendous advances in science and reasoning. He was neither the first, nor the last, to allow his spiritual beliefs to creep into his non-fiction work. In fact, we still see many very brilliant people whose spiritual beliefs are challenged by scientific facts.

For example, we have the creationism vs evolution controversy. The best available scientific evidence, including DNA studies, clearly shows that homo sapiens evolved from at least homo erectus, who evolved from even earlier species. Those studies have also shown Neanderthal "Man" was NOT actually a human specie), yet many, many people are still absolutely convinced that the universe and everything in it was created in only six days (on the seventh day God rested) and that Adam and Eve were literally created in moments as fully-formed modern humans.

When reason collides with deeply held beliefs it creates a form of stress, known as "dissonance". Dissonance is psychologically uncomfortable and most of us will do whatever we must to ease the discomfort. Many, maybe even most of us, react to dissonance by dismissing the conflicting data. Thus no matter how fantastic the original belief may be, many humans will ignore the facts in order to preserve those deep seated beliefs.

Few controversies are so clearly defined. Many controversies are a result of incomplete data, or even conflicting data.

Even when everyone involved has access to the same data, we may interpret it differently, based on our individual life experiences, education, spiritual beliefs or even emotional state. We also may disagree on the accuracy or applicability of the data. It is not at all unusual for two or more scientists, looking at the same data, to draw different conclusions regarding cause and effect. For example I would cite the controversies surrounding "global warming" and other environmental issues.

Swanny
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stevenpd 
Posted: 22-Mar-2005, 07:42 PM
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In asking what "true religion" and "true philosophy" are, I was referencing your intrepretation of the phrases. This is an attempt to glean a common dictionary of terms for a discussion without misinterpreting anything in a dialog. Definitions, just by their very nature, have personal influences induced into those definitions. A simplified example is the slang term "bad". Are we to use the dictionary's definition or the slang?

What I believe you are refering to as "dissonance" is the psycological term "cognitive dissonance" as identified by your definition. Yes, the argument of evolution vs. creationism is a valid one for the conflicts experienced during cognitive dissonance.

QUOTE
Even when everyone involved has access to the same data, we may interpret it differently, based on our individual life experiences, education, spiritual beliefs or even emotional state. We also may disagree on the accuracy or applicability of the data. It is not at all unusual for two or more scientists, looking at the same data, to draw different conclusions regarding cause and effect. For example I would cite the controversies surrounding "global warming" and other environmental issues.


Then you would agree that anyone that looks at set of data and, dependant upon their view of the world, could return with their own interpretation which is diametrically opposed to another? Then what is the solution for two people being correct? Does this nullify an argument? Isn't the scientific method of investigation intent on supplying repeatable answers, independant of who does the investigation?

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sorbus 
Posted: 11-Aug-2005, 09:11 AM
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