Decision by Debate

Decision by Debate

Decision by Debate

Decision by Debate

Excerpt

Viewed in a social context, this book is in the great tradition of public address. The free societies of the Western world—from Plato to the present—have drawn upon the theory and practice of discourse to help nourish public thought and discussion and to sustain representative government. For men who are willing to make up their minds—or who must make up their minds—in the formal interplay of intellect upon intellect, the processes of debate have ever been indispensable to efficient deliberation. Viewed in an educational context, this book is for young men and women who wish to use their brains and their unique talent of language to acquire those habits of critical thought that are always revealed when a responsible person freely submits his resolution of a problem to the candid and public test of other minds.

The authors, in my opinion, have not written merely another book in argumentation and debate. They see clearly that debate is an instrument of critical thought, that it requires its practitioners to think reflectively and calls upon the audience as judge to weigh and consider. Its methods are self-critical and self-correcting of error because the form of debate demands that contending ideas be systematically examined. Indeed, the habit of the debater is no less self-critical and self-regulative than the habit of the scientist. Both expect and invite rigorous judgment from their fellows.

The authors are fully aware of the classic relationships between thinking that is directed to theoretical ends and thinking that is intended to influence conduct and behavior. They recognize, accordingly, that the mathematical logic appropriate to scientific thought is not directly useful in discussing those social problems upon which men must come to decision and take action. So in presenting the modes of logical analysis, proof, and evidence they have adopted the point of view of certain modern philosophers. These are the men who bring together logic and ethics and who have identified processes of reasoning held to be more appropriate to action and its values than the logic of science and of the categorical syllogism. For the layout of argument the authors have drawn specifically upon Stephen Toulmin. As a consequence, this book may make a major contribution to the methods of practical argument.

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