A debate is a multi-level dispute, i.e., an argument structure in which there are both reasons and objections to a single claim, and where the reasons and objections are themselves disputed.
|These first-layer reasons and objections ("pros and cons") make the argument structure a dispute.|
|These second-layer reasons and objections make the argument structure a genuine debate.|
This diagram illustrates the simplest possible argument structure which would count as a debate in the current sense.
In ordinary conversation, the term debate is often used quite loosely to refer to just about any argumentative disagreement. Here, we are giving it a more precise technical definition. It is an argument structure of a certain sort.
A debate in this sense is, roughly, where each side actually responds to the (top level) moves made by the other side. It is not enough for you to provide your reasons to accept the conclusion and for me to provide my objections to it. Rather, I must actually respond to your reasons - and you must respond to my objections. In other words, in a genuine debate, each side takes the other side's arguments seriously, not just their position.
The concept of a debate is important because, all too often, people concentrate on mounting their own arguments, and fail to challenge what the other side says, even if the other side has very powerful arguments.
For example, the Hoax Believers tend to focus all their attention on their own arguments that the Moon landings were a hoax, and neglect the powerful arguments that the Apollo Moon landings really happened.
A debate is a dispute in which the first-level reasons and objections are themselves disputed.
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Last updated 28-Nov-2006