Part 2: What is to be done?

Guidelines for a fair debate

PHOTO © Heikki Nummi
Written by Editors

Ethical guidelines

 
1.

Do not distort your opponent’s opinions. Do not slander.

 
2.

Defend those whose opinions are distorted and who are slandered. Otherwise, you give your support to violations against another persons’ freedom of opinion. Act to ensure that freedom of opinion and expression is truly equal to everyone. 

3.

Credit actively those who are capable of admitting their mistakes.

4.

Credit actively your opponents if they deserve it either because of their exemplary debate culture or if there is something right or relevant in their statements.

5.

Start from the fact that humans are capable of truthfulness, but as individuals and groups, they are, by nature, still inclined to subjectivism, irrationalism, and power games when their material, social psychological, etc. interests are in play. Start from the fact that it is easier for you to see this in your opponent than in yourself.

 

Recommended Quotes

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. - Evelyn Beatrice Hall as an illustration of Voltaire’s beliefs

Intellectual guidelines

1.

Seek to look at each topic (a historical event, current political controversy, new scientific discovery, etc.) as a whole and in its context.

2.

Avoid one-sidedness in evaluating your opponent’s statements or opposing currents of opinions.

3.

Try to know what you mean by the concepts you use and what your opponent means by them.

4.

Stay on topic! The topics of debates ought to be delineated as precisely as possible. Otherwise, one demagogue may mislead the discussion quicker than ten honest debaters are able to rectify.

5.

Try to distinguish the main issues from the side issues and the most important ones from the less important ones. In the Debating Encyclopedia, you can set up new panels to discuss subtopics and side issues.

6.

Justify your claims. However, you cannot require the opponent to delve into a wealth of source material. Do not refer to sources to which others do not have access.

7.

Remember that you don’t have to convince your opponent. Once disagreements are clearly mapped, the discussion on the topic can be closed. It will remain in the service and can be returned to later. However, maybe you and your opponent have got to know each other during the debate and can set up cooperation regardless of your differences of opinion. An  honest discussion may unite more than opposing views separate.

FEATURED IMAGE

Members of the New History Association discussing ideas for the Human Path Debating Encyclopedia (DE). Ilja Toivainen (left) and Veera Vepsäläinen. PHOTO: © New History Association.

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