Instigator / Pro

Modern Debate Is Abused


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So much for "Short Description" XD. I will continue here. This debate, about debate, is not meant to be a win or end up in a smoking pot of #$E# type of debate. It should be more of a conversation, as debate used to be.

We talk about rules on these sites. (they are important for obvious reasons :) I only propose three:
1. BOTH sides have a burden to prove their positions. (I have noticed this kind of burden swinging in far too many debates. It is a tactic to merely win a debate, not to find truth.)

2. Sources are NOT everything. (Something that is also misunderstood is the nature of facts. Facts are NOT automatic guarantees that what you say is true. Facts can be: 1. Wrong 2. Misinterpreted 3. Misapplied to your argument. Lastly you can have a fallacious argument, which is one consisting of logical fallacies, such as contradictions, and are unable to be defended by mere facts)

3. Basic etiquette. (No character/ad hominum attacks,... etc)

Now I made three rounds for this debate. I am hoping to debate based on common understanding and evidence based on popular beliefs/debates (the presidential debates for example). I would also like that we keep this debate within the context of the U.S, but if you have been dying to defend debate in North Korea...well go ahead.

Please do not pick up this debate if you are simply trying to debate as many of these as possible. The end goal is truth, not biting someone's tooth. (not "winning")

To Truth!


Round 1
Round 2
Hello RationalMadman,

thanks for accepting this debate. I hope we can figure out something about the great art of debate and hopefully figure out where our society is headed. 

Such a debate topic is not easy to answer. In order to make it more objective I will ask all that view to set aside all bias and experience in order to get a clearer view of the arguments presented.

I wish to have 2 main arguments, one from popular wording and views of debate and two that political debates have abused it. Remember that both sides must provide reasoning for and against debate's abuse. 

To make this debate short I will start with my first argument:

Contention (1) Popular opinion

My argument relies on a misinterpretation of the art of debate. If debate is the organised exchange of ideas with the intent to figure out the truth of a controversial matter, then a deformed view of debate would necessarily not to find the truth. Instead it would be to win others to your side regardless of the truth of your position. 

Remember this: Win = deformed. If all I am focused on is winning, then I fail to find what really matters: The Truth.

Now let's preform an experiment. Since I cannot get the opinion of everyone, a simple understanding of modern culture is to use the internet to figure out what we tend to focus on about debates. 

The internet is a dead give away, as an old saying goes: "Debating politics on the Internet is like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how skilled you are at the game, the pigeon is going to knock over the pieces, crap on the board, and then strut around like he’s won."

We can simple search google and find numerous headlines about whether someone "won" a debate. Example: For the recent democratic debates, headlines dot the internet such as: (Who won the Democratic debate? - NBC News) (Who won the Democratic debate?-CNN) (Who Won Night 1 of the Democratic Debate? NYT) etc...

Impact: If all we are worried about is who "won" (whether it means gained voters/in the polls), we will never examine the truth about what these politicians are saying in these debates. 

It is also telling when you examine the language we so often use for debate such as Winning and Arguing.

This leads to my second argument: 


Contention (2) Political Debates

First why the political debates? They are the most talked about and most popular debates, as they directly affect us. 

The website psmaq sets up this argument well when it said,

"Because political beliefs are connected to deeply held values, information about politics can be very threatening to your self-image. Imagine coming across information that contradicts everything you've ever believed about the efficacy of Medicare, for example. If you're wrong about such an important policy, what else might you be wrong about? And if you're wrong about a bunch of things, you're obviously not as smart or as good or as worthwhile a person as you previously believed. These are painful thoughts, and so we evaluate information in ways that will help us to avoid them."

I highlight the last part because our beliefs tend to get the best of us. Politicians know this and use this in their debates. If you have watched the recently aired democratic debates for example you would see each candidate attack each other with logical fallacies and outlandish promises (as politicians do) in order to convince us without real argument, instead of outlining a rational position and defending it. They are like the pigeon above and will stop at nothing to ruin the great art of debate for their political gain.

In the end, and to conclude, I think I have made what we might already understand about the status of debate mainstream quite clear. That debate is indeed being misused. Take care to understand I do NOT mean everyone. You as the viewer, my opponent as well, might understand the art of debate, but to the unfortunate majority, they do not. 

To Truth!


Forgive me if I'm wrong but isn't that just Pro outlining what debates are? Debates encourage you to outwit, outcharm and outmaneuvre the opponent via logic, emotional appeal and anything to get the votes that doesn't break the rules.

If an environment is severely competitive, it is not abusive then to dodge points that you believe the audience won't catch onto from your opposition; it's just good strategy. Equally, it's not abusive to strut around like you won if the debate has no clear win-condition (forum debating). Instead, it's not debating that's being abused at all, it's debating itself that is conducive to harsh and cunning behaviour as a necessity to correctly engage in it.

To put this simpler, it would be like highlighting the techniques, damage to the body and stress both mentally and physically that's involved with being a professional boxer and then saying 'modern boxing is being abused'. It's not being abused, what's actually true is that the sport is such that you cannot engage in it without being harsh and/or very damaging to the opponent.

The focus here is on what is being abused not that abuse is happening. It is not debating itself that's being abused rather my opponent has a romantic view of debating and then is shocked that it's so harsh and corrupt in reality.

I think the most pertinent thing to do here is to define 'debate' in the context of the resolution.

A debate is a formal discussion, for example, in a parliament or institution, in which people express different opinions about a particular subject and then vote on it.

If you don't like that one, let's look to another:

  • 1A formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote.

    1. 1.1An argument about a particular subject, especially one in which many people are involved. this is Oxford Dictionaries' new website.

If the aim of debating is to convey ones view in the face of opposing ones and especially since we are discussing 'modern debate' we are more so referring to the refined competitive sport such as that which we are engaging in right now, the aim of debating is to 'win' in part for sure. It's true that we also should be aiming to understand the opposing view but is that really abusing to not do? When you 'abuse' the opponent you are not abusing debate, you are if anything abusing yourself if you do it wrong as it's more likely you'll get exposed, out-debated and the audience as well as your opponent will agree you lost the debate. On the other hand, if your opponent is too weak or their side is up against a high-up conspiracy that falsifies data but is well-respected, you will find that the abuse you use is the only way to win at all and to express the truth in the latter scenario of a well executed conspiracy being what your opponent is backing up.

The issue is that when Pro says that we are deceiving, insulting, dragging our opponents' ego through the mud etc, what should be realised is that unless you do that in a very skilled manner, you end up the loser in debating. Rudeness gets you conduct marks down, or in forum debating makes others dislike your opponent more and gang up on them or at least think 'what an a**' right? Muddying the waters and giving false facts is nothing to do with debating; that's the very thing that we'd all be completely susceptible to if it wasn't for aggressive debaters fighting against it and opening our minds.

The crux of my case is that the one abused in debating is only done so either to win the debate (which is the correct thing to do in one spirit of debating) or to encourage the opponent to fight back harder and better (to 'lose the debate' but 'win' as you change your mind and realise how wrong you were). Nothing motivates opponents like a rude and deceitful opposition, after all.
Round 3
“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.”
-Joseph Joubert (English writer)

Truth is undeniably the most important thing that we aim to grasp in our lives. Regardless of who we are, truth runs our lives.

For an army, the true position and state of the enemy
For a teacher, the true teachings of Math, English, Science, etc
For a scientist, the true scientific laws, methods, and facts

When we again approach our subject of debate, this understanding of truth stands firm. 

Before I respond and make some final remarks, I want to ask RationalMadman one question: 

Ultimately, why debate? Why not simply discuss a major issue, or if you only want to win over people to your view, simply give a one-sided speech to convince them?

I noticed that in your opening statement you use very familiar language to someone aiming only to convince people to their views:

“Debates encourage you to outwit, out charm and outmaneuver the opponent via logic, emotional appeal and anything to get the votes that doesn't break the rules.”


1.Yes these are commonly used tactics today that are abused. You have not answered or rebutted the primary goal of debate.

2. If we gather to debate each other to find out who is wrong on an issue, then our goal is to find truth. These tactics then do not deal with the true goal of debate.

3. Further your insistence that debate is merely a game to trick others to vote for you, as long as it is within the rules, is simply the cherry on top of my previous argument that “winning” is what most people think debate to be now.

“If an environment is severely competitive, it is not abusive then to dodge points that you believe the audience won't catch onto from your opposition; it's just good strategy. Equally, it's not abusive to strut around like you won if the debate has no clear win-condition (forum debating).”

Abusive to what? If our goal is truth, then it is indeed abusive to dodge arguments just because you want to win. If I was a flat earther dodging an astronaut’s main argument for a round earth in a debate, I would remain ignorant of the truth of his argument, thus abusing the goal. 

“Instead, it's not debating that's being abused at all, it's debating itself that is conducive to harsh and cunning behavior as a necessity to correctly engage in it.”

R: All you have done is reiterate your past point. You must redefine the goal of debate to be winning in order for this statement to be true. But once more you have missed the goal of debate as the pursuit of truth. 

“The focus here is on what is being abused

R: Once more: Truth


At this point RationalMadman brings in two definitions of debate. These definitions are myopic or narrow minded, as they focus only on small aspects of debate such as certain procedures and certain places where we see debating such as in Parliament. These definitions do not tackle the overarching theme and goal of debate. (refer back to my question for RationalMadman)

I would also like to do a little history study of the constitutional debates to see why debate was used and the goal associated with it. 


The Constitutional debates

We all know that our early colonial government was not enough to keep our nation together. Some form of government was needed, but at what cost to the liberties and freedoms we had just recovered from the tyrannical British? 

Our founding fathers had an immeasurable amount of pressure to find the right system of government, and so they debated. Why? Because they wanted to find the right balance between these two competing issues. We might ask: Why not have a discussion on the topic, why debate it?

The answer comes to the core issue of debate. Debate was never meant to be a mere discussion, but one in which great amounts of information was needed to be discussed to find the true conclusion for an issue of great magnitude. Well, the survival of our nation was certainly an issue of great magnitude and the amount of views were endless. 

The amount of thought that went into our founding documents is miraculous, but understandable. Debate was strong and everyone wanted to find the right system and answers to our early problems. 

You know what comes next?

Modern Day August 14, 2019 

Refer back to my points on debate today. Everyone just wants to “win”. Political deadlock is almost unavoidable. The majority of people are closed books, sticking to their political camps like oil and water. This point, I think we can all agree, is quite clear. 



In conclusion, we understand that the point of debate is to figure out who is right and wrong. Nothing simpler could be said for it. RationalMadman made the case for ways debate can be twisted to garner “wins”. This is a sad testimony for my side, as it presupposes that debate is simply a tool used to swindle or fool others into siding with the debater. 

To the viewer.

This debate about debate may be seemingly confusing, or maybe you understand both sides.
I think we can learn something from it though, that our views are nothing without being examined for truth.
As the great Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living.

Perhaps no statement is truer, 

To Truth!


Truth is being abused apparently, I didn't know you could abuse it. Trust is not debate, so if truth is being abused, that is not proof that debate is, if anything debate is the means/weapon.

Nonetheless, I don't even stand for that. Truth being obtained is only true for a very small niche of debates; scientific, mathematical or historical-fact ones. Pretty much all other debate revolve around ones interpretation of truth and how one wishes to go about processing that. This is not a new point in the last Round, feel free to disregard it, I am expanding on something I stated in Round 2: Debate is designed around battling to convince others or to bring out the full wrath of the other debater in order to open one's own mind to theri side.

Both scenarios result in optimal play revolving around some tactics that can be called 'abusive' but this is a natural, necessary and dare I say healthy part of debate. Voters will punish it if the opponent exposes it well and doesn't do it back (or if the opponent does it back just as much/well, the voters will maybe pick a side, bias does exist). In less official win-styled debating, you can have others on the forum upvoting, downvoting, backing up and all kinds of 'approval' but if your motive is to find truth and not to 'win' then you cannot be abused after all, because all means of abuse won't get in the way of you finding that truth.

So either debating is about winning, and the 'abuse' is a natural part of it and not 'abusing debating' or you want to find truth via debating and the harshness of the opponent is simply them at their most motivated to prove you wrong, which then will most likely reveal truth you hadn't come across before to you (or affirm to you, you had the truth all along).