Reflections on debating

I have been attending a debating group once a week since I started ALMS. I have always considered myself to be a natural debater. I love to reflect on my own thoughts and see how others react to them. I often find myself debating with my friends and even sometimes with new acquaintances. This is not always beneficial for me, since not everyone wants to get to the bottom of things or discuss the meaning of life after meeting someone five minutes ago. I am not afraid to voice my opinions since I have always believed that conflicting ideas don’t have to lead to conflicts between people. I have also found out that in real life this is not always the case. In relationship to truth, I find this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche inspiring and relatable:

“The strength of a person’s spirit would then be measured by how much ‘truth’ he could tolerate, or more precisely, to what extent he needs to have it diluted, disguised, sweetened, muted, falsified.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Nietzsche did not believe that we could discover universal truths, since we are only capable of observing the world through a human perspective. He however believed that we should live with brutal honesty and align ourselves with what we call ‘truth’. Otherwise, we will live a life of self-deception.

Participating in the debating group has been an eye-opening experience for me. I consider myself a seeker of truth and knowledge at heart. This of course doesn’t mean that I hold huge amounts of knowledge of truth, I am just passionate about the search for them. Therefore, I am not afraid of taboo subjects or arguments, even in debates. During our debating sessions I have realized that in order to win a debate, it is not always necessary to present the most truthful argument. Sometimes you just have to present the most persuasive one. My style of debating can seem emotionally cold and off-putting to many. Like I stated earlier, I believe that the facts and arguments should have a fair chance to really battle it out and see which one comes out as a winner. In our sessions I have found out that a good debate doesn’t have to lead to a discovery of what is the most truthful argument. A good debate can also reveal a greater understanding of the subject at hand through the different arguments presented.

In our sessions I have also had to present arguments for statements I don’t personally believe in. In these cases, I have often relied on persuasion and imagination rather than solely on facts or reason. I have received compliments in these occasions for my poetical and imaginary use of language. I have written lyrics and performed music since my teenage years, and this has turned out to be helpful in debating. Due to this newfound skill, I have discovered a new side of myself. A sort of a populist side. Thanks to the gods I am not interested in a political career.

All joking aside, I have learned a lot from participating in our debating group. I have learned to listen to others more carefully. In order to have a good debate, you must really listen to what the other person is saying and respond directly to what has been said. Otherwise, you may end up straw manning your opponents argument very easily. I have also learned a lot about my own believes. When you are faced with opposition, you really must think through your own thoughts and see how deeply they are rooted. In defending believes that are not your own, you really have to use your intelligent and place yourself in another person’s shoes. Debating really is gymnastics for the brain.