Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Debate is essential

Debate is the confrontation of points of view between 2 persons (or more) whose opinions differ. Their knowledge will also certainly differ, and the discussion will allow for the sharing of knowledge-based information, as opposed to mere belief-based opinions. If the debate is carried out honestly, which is necessary, the debaters can have their points of view enriched by the additional knowledge their debater brought to the table.

Each debater can surrender totally his opinion to adopt that of their opposition or he can simply amend details of his initial opinion. And this way, both debaters can turn mere beliefs into knowledge and certainties.

I find the following picture (which might find its origin in the following article) to be an incredibly powerful illustration of the various levels on which debates are often taking place on Internet forums, and this picture has been a game-changer for me in the way I participate to debates online, as it often reminds me that I should strive for a discussion of high quality.



The lower levels of this pyramid are certainly the easiest to achieve. They're also the ones that deserve the least pride. If you have read my previous article about the Bayart scale, these lower levels reflect the attitudes of "grumblers": Internet users who are starting to share their opinions but focus on complaining with very little consideration for the answers addressed to them by other Internet users.

Reciprocally, the higher levels of this pyramid correspond to the kind of answers provided by "Commentators": the more seasoned debaters who actually care about what they say and what is replied to them, and who also care about finding out the truth, the sources of information, the reasonings behind their own or their opposition's arguments.

Achieving the highest level in the pyramid is very hard and often requires very thorough knowledge and understanding of a topic discussed. It may also require a good sense of what makes a sound, scientific, logic argument. From time to time, I have also observed that producing a comment or an article of that level requires some mathematical sense for creating models where figures and numbers will be understandable to other people.

Conclusion:

This article may be a little short or somewhat clumsy. But I felt it was important for future reference to create such an article, embedding the picture of the pyramid. It may also be useful to discuss about epistemology or about the Theory of Knowledge and the differences between knowledge and belief. I think these will be better discussed in their very own, dedicated article.

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