Non-aggression in debating.

     It is difficult to address this subject without, well, inviting aggression. Many people have embraced the principle of non-aggression in their physical lives, and quite a few have also done so in their financial lives, but how many are willing to do so when it comes to debating their philosophies?
     This is an area where the natural tendency of a person is to believe that their position is correct, and all others are somehow lacking. This can lead to the unfortunate temptation of viewing others as being somehow inferior to yourself in their understanding of the subject of the debate, and frequently it is a subconscious temptation of which you are not even aware. This can easily result in taking an overly defensive stance in arguing your position, and engaging in either overt or subliminal attacks on your debate opponent.
     When you strengthen your position and weaken your opponent’s in this matter, whether consciously or not, it may well appear to you that you are prevailing, but you should remember that your opponent probably has the same impressions regarding their efforts. What is the probable result? Either an endless disagreement, or a cessation of communication leading to…..nothing. A wasted effort on both sides.
     Here is how I try to apply the non-aggression principle to my debates. Rather than staunchly defending my own position while denigrating that of my opponent, I first try to find out what my opponent believes, and why. I must be able to understand my opponents position to be able to properly refute it if I believe it to be incorrect. I also keep in mind my own fallibility and prepare myself for the possibility that my opponent has found a better solution or idea than I have. I have discovered that if both of us can enter the conversation with this mindset, and maintain that attitude though out, we will gradually acquire each other’s correct strengths and shed our own incorrect weaknesses. The result will be that both of us will together move one more step towards the true solution to the problem we are debating.
     Although this is a time consuming way to engage in a debate, I propose that if continued to its conclusion it is generally the best way to approach the truth of the matter, and to maintain a friendship at the same time.
     Those who know me, especially those who have debated me, can attest to the fact that I do not always adhere to this principle very well myself, and my only answer to that is that we are all, even and especially myself, equally fallible at times.


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