463: Debating

A Thousand Things to Talk About
463: Debating

What topic do you find yourself debating most often?

Full episode script

I have a particular personal fascination with the differences- however minute – between “debate” and “argue” — even if, in practice, the two things are very similar. Heck, even the official denotative definition of debate is to have a formalized or wide-audience argument.

This is something that bothered me for quite a while, but when I read through the textbook Arguments and Arguing by Thomas Hollihan and Kevin Baaske, I fell in love with this particular passage :

“Argumentation is not merely a problem-solving capability. Argumentation is a very basic social and communication skill, and has profound importance for the quality and character of our interactions with others. Many people have been taught and have come to believe arguments are unhealthy, destructive of human relationships, and thus should be avoided. […] We believe that arguing can be — and often is — healthy both for relationships and for societies. People argue to negotiate their social perspectives with others and to enhance their understanding of complex problems. They argue to resolve their disagreements and problems and make tough decisions about how to move forward.”

That’s one of the things that I totally adore about debate — and sure, argument — is that it’s a way to sort things out. When something goes uncontested, then it becomes very difficult to identify exactly what it is about that thing is beneficial, and what about that thing is stronger or needs to be adjusted. Muscles that are never used never have a chance to develop, and eventually atrophy. Ideas are like muscles – they shift and move and improve with use.

However, that’s not to say that debate and argument are always going to be easy, or always going to be this ideal. We often end up debating and arguing things that are not world-changing, identity changing questions. Sometimes they are… and sometimes they are about the minutiae about sci-fi characters. So big or small, problem-solving or soul-enriching communication…. What do you end up debating?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.