Please Don’t Debate Like This…

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Something I often think when reading the Sunday paper’s editorials: One of the hallmarks of an intellectually honest person is that in a debate, he or she can frame the opponent’s position in such a way that the opponent could say, “Yeah, that’s a fair restatement of what I believe.”

You should be able to state the opinion of the person you disagree with in the way they would, and then explain why you think that position is wrong. If you can only explain his belief in ways that you would think of it in your anger, then you may not be ready for a mature, honest attempt at persuading mature adults to your side.

Scoring applause is not the same thing as persuasion.

It isn’t good logic, good arguing, and it isn’t honest to paint the person you disagree with or what they say in the worst possible light, to knowingly use exaggerations or make up words or statements he never actually said, and then mount an argument against that. It is called building a straw man. (Wikipedia tells me in the UK it’s called an Aunt Sally. Thanks, Wikipedia.)

And while it may win you Facebook likes from those who agree with you, it’s a childish substitute for reasoned, truthful, loving debate.

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