Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Debate, Discussion and Deliberation

I enjoy learning. I enjoy thinking. I enjoy teaching. What I don't enjoy is arguing. In my experience, there are 3 main methods for creative thought: Debate, Discussion, Deliberation. The 3 D's.


Debate is an extremely good way of inspiring creative thought. By having someone refute your ideas, and you defend and refute theirs, you must think on your toes. There has been many an occasion where I've come upon sudden realisation because of having to point out flaws in a well constructed argument. On several occasions, this realisation was the flaws of my own arguments.
I don't like debate. It's easy to let emotions run high, and lose sight of what your point is. For example, I was once discussing how evolution works. I decided to use the bird as an example. By the end of my argument I was pointing out that radiometric dating was therefore justified. I remember little of my argument, only that afterwards I felt foolish.

My advice to debaters, whether formal, or just amongst friends, is keep your cool. In the heat of passion, your arguments may seem valid, but upon later reflection, they were off the mark.


Discussion of a topic, whether it be as important as the existence of God, or as silly as the theme to your next party, is a good way to figure things out. It doesn't work well for extremely outspoken people, as most will try to prove their idea correct, rather then try and adapt theirs in the light of others. This is not to say outspoken people shouldn't discuss their ideas, just that they should be careful when they do.

I enjoy discussion, it allows for me to add my 2 cents in such a way that it helps others learn. By listening to others explanations and examples, I can grasp ideas that were until then completely unintelligible. It was through discussion that I first came to understand the concept of Natural Selection. From the above example, I later tried again at using the bird to explain evolution to a christian, with the help of a friend. Questions I couldn't answer my friend did, and ones he couldn't answer I did. We both started with a very basic concept (mutation causes advantages change), but during the discussion we reasoned out a strong explanation.

My advice to those wanting to discuss, find others with an interest in the topic, and ask questions of one another. Or do like I did, and try to teach it to someone, even if they know it better then you, they may have some pointers.


Deliberation is basically thinking about a topic. This is a direct approach, and as such can help quickly, provided you have a rational mind, and can look at a topic objectively. It has a varying amount of success, because you either don't grasp a concept, or your not hindered by the flaws in others ideas. It is also the most difficult for those not used to thinking. I don't mean to sound cruel, but most people I've met are sheep. They just do like everyone else, and never think for themselves.

I LOVE deliberation. I constantly do it. At any given time, my head is trying to figure something out. Sometimes it's important (like the evolution of the butterfly), sometimes it's not (why'd my mate put on that skirt). Because of this, I usually have an answer to questions asked of me. Whether or not the answer is correct is based mostly on whether my original understanding was good. Creativity is a vital ingredient to the reasoning recipe. Lateral thinkers are adept at thinking creatively.

My advice for people trying to think of the answer is, realise that there may be more then one way towards the answer. Don't assume the first way you think of is right. If it isn't working, try a new approach. Above all, ENJOY IT! If you're getting stressed about it, relax, take a break and get back to it later, you may find that after a break, your mind is ready to find the answer.

I'm fairly sure that these three avenues of thought are the three main "kingdoms". Although, they could be lumped into personal and public deliberation. In any case, the 3 I've listed here shouldn't be used alone to solve a problem. Thinking privately about a debate you've had is a great way to prepare for next time. Discussing what you thought with friends and colleagues will further hone your ideas, until you have a solid understanding.

Until next time, Fui fides tantum in testimonium.


  1. And I was hoping this would spark a discussion about learning or thinking. Damn.

  2. Hm, I agree in some part to what you're saying here. But you forget the random variable, you might say that the random variable is part of Discussion, but the fact is that the random variable stands alone, contributing somewhat to a conversation without picking either side.

    I believe in Debate, while sometimes debate can get aggressive; I prefer to keep a level head at all times. It helps to differentiate the riff-raff trolls, to the truly educated debaters. Ground rules need to be set, when you enter a debate with an individual it is usually mutually understood that one's opinions are their own, and are therefor just as important as the formers. If you enter a debate with a troll, expect a troll response; but most importantly, don't get offended. Being offended, while it's easy to be in Debating, can quickly derail a perfectly calm and informative debate into a furious defensive action. In the end it boils down to rage and all debate is gone in an instant.

    So my advice when debating is to 'always' have a level head. Remember before you enter the debate to be ready for anything that you may find offensive, and deal with it in the appropriate way, whether that be with passive-aggressive commentary, or a pause in the debate to inform the other that they have been offended.

    It's all very rigid and formal, but it needs to be, otherwise it can quickly boil down into an argument, rather than a debate.

    What people refer to when they say they got into a debate about something that riled them up, isn't a debate at all. It's an argument, the curse of the debate. Recognizing the difference is the difficult part; and choosing a debating partner is even harder.

  3. From what I've seen, waht starts as a debate rarely ends as one. I blame for this a lack of awareness and understanding. An argument can also be useful, but is usually just spurting crap, and personal attacks. A debate is a case of point and counter-point. There are a few different types of debate, but all follow this formula.

    I personally try tto debate things I have a strong belief in, because I have a greater understanding of it. While this is good is some ways, it does leave me rather vunerable to anger, which in turn leads to mistakes, and a quick defeat.

    As for random variable, it is true that I left it out. I did because of it's very nature. It's random, and therefore unreliable. Whilst important, and helpful it's hardly crucial, and had no firm place in my post.

  4. What is a troll?