Debates & Discussions

As a student and also later in life you will often get into debates and discussions. They are a great way to exchange ideas. They can help you improve your knowledge and your reasoning skills. However debates and discussions can end up being closed minded long talks. With little real give and take of ideas. You should consider why and how you discuss and debate. Here are some suggestions.

Purpose of a debate or a discussion

It should be focused on an exchange of information and views. It should not be focused merely on trying convince the other person. A quality exchange will also lead to generation of knowledge. Attempts to convince usually are highly inefficient in exchanging information. They lead to hardening of positions and little else.

Manner of debate or a discussion

A deliberate and sincere attempt should be made to understand the other persons:

  • Standpoint
  • Premises
  • Deduction and reasoning
  • Use of intuition, faith & other non-deductive inputs to reach the conclusions
  • Conclusions

Being heavily biased, stifles the exchange of information. Being biased mildly also makes the information exchange quite inefficient. Being neutral should be acceptable but can still lead to prolonging things. A slight positive bias that does not cause serious loss of neutrality is good. With it the information exchange can be fast and deep. One should try to understand the other person’s view.

Outcome of the debate or a discussion

It should lead to a heightened understanding of the viewpoints of others. Our own view point may change dramatically or marginally or not at all. That will vary with individual debate. The success should be seen in terms of:

Information exchanged

  • How efficiently was information exchanged.
  • To what depth was information exchanged.
  • In how much quantity was information exchanged.

Knowledge generated

  • New insights
  • New conjectures
  • New approaches
  • New beliefs

Good debates will ultimately help generate new knowledge for all.

(content courtesy IIT Kanpur)