Shift in purpose of arguments has been detrimental to debate

obie fernandez-unsplash
obie fernandez-unsplash

photo editor

Arguing to win rather than to understand has become the norm, and this will be detrimental to our society going forward.

Debate is an irreplaceable pillar of a functional society. It’s a multipurpose tool that can bring light to facets of the public sphere that can be changed for the better. However, in the past 15 years, it seems the most important aspect of an argument isn’t the pride in being able to educate, but instead, the vindication in being able to classify the argument as a “win.”

This victory-oriented mindset is poison to a productive argument. When you approach a debate with the same amount of mental armor you’d use to go into actual combat, you’ve already lost. How can any understanding or even a counter-argument get past that impenetrable barrier of your own stubbornness? When two swords cross, there’s no give, just the clashing of rigid principles with sparks flying around, ready to ignite a flame.

This inflexible reaction to hearing constructive criticism is ridiculous because it’s through evaluation that we can grow and better ourselves. We need to keep these disputes in the realm where we can listen to each other, or else we will scream ourselves hoarse trying to be heard over one another.

When someone believes they are attacked in an argument, they won’t hear any of the words said after the strike, instead, because of what arguments have become, they will bristle and immediately lash back. How can you expect them to listen and understand if the conversation is started with an air of hostility?

We as a society must overcome our knee-jerk technologically-driven reaction to retaliate when questioned so that we can take a step back and analyze when possible.

The ability to learn and grow from disagreement has become a rarity in popular culture. Our social media platforms create extreme material to garner extreme reactions so it can generate better ad revenue. Any time you look on Twitter for more than five minutes, you can find threads of people screaming at each other over a minor disagreement. 

Now, this on its own, if it’s restricted to the online space, would be fine, but now we’re seeing the same thing happening in public spaces. Arguments have become hot flashes of half-baked statements that would fit the Twitter count without the depth needed for constructive conversation. Instead of a consensus we are now only believing that you can either have a right or wrong opinion, so we’ve damned ourselves.

How can you hope to reach common ground if you’ve already dug yourself into a ditch for the sake of your pride? How can I have a meaningful argument with a wall of stone? Why should I even try?

That’s the state we find ourselves in as a society. We would rather avoid confrontation altogether. Debating has lost its purpose, the meeting of separate opinions presented and then analyzed all for the sake of helping the other side gain a better understanding of how to make a stronger argument.

Confrontation has taken precedence over comprehension in the public realm, and I truly believe through our obstinance, we will contribute to the downfall of public discourse.