Wednesday, June 18, 2008

impermissable debating I

It seems quite often on the internet we have debates where two peopel who have some knowledge of the literature repeat a much more sophisticated debate that was held in the literature.

An example of this would be the average internet debate regarding Zombies where the arguments of Dennett and Chalmers are repeated.

What tends to happen is each side pompously repeats the arguments that they found convincing ignoring any counter arguments from the other side that are not specifically raised in that debate. So what is the problem?

First, it seems to be on the face of it an inferior strategy - as soon as you throw the argument to the literature you can substitute your of the cuff theories for hundreds of well thought out arguments and direct the debate to the most productive areas.
Secondly, this part of the debate is a waste of air, at best - between equal opponents it amounts to wasting time reinventing the wheel, at worst there is a Locke (Ender's game) strategy going on here where one uses their superior knowledge of the literuature to debate dishonestly.

So a well read physicalist might argue - "the causal theory of reference disproves zombies." knpowing full well that Chalmers has a couple of defenses to that argument most obviously the denial of a causal theory of reference. But an uneducated person might just accept the argument.

My question here is if someone utilizes such a strategy should we consider it an impermissable strategy?


Blogger Scott said...

My question here is if someone utilizes such a strategy should we consider it an impermissable strategy?

I'm not sure what the strategy is you're speaking of. My best guess is this: knowing that there are counterarguments out there that the other side doesn't know, but nonetheless not revealing those counterarguments so one can win the debate.

That's not impermissible, but it does seem, as you suggest, inefficient.

Of course, it depends what one wants out of the debate. If all you're looking for is a chance to win, or a chance to impress others with your superior (compared to your opponents) knowledge of the area in question, then it's legitimate to withhold knowledge you know if it's damaging to your case.

However, if what you care about is getting closer to the heart of the matter, then of course you should mention strong counterarguments.

My interests are in the latter, and so I typically ignore those who ignore possible defenses, whether they do so out of ignorance or a desire to show up the other side.

12:52 PM  

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