Successful Debating - Transcript


0:00 - Introduction
0:39 - The Essence of Debating
3:03 - The Importance of Methodology
6:58 - Teaching How to Think
10:00 - Helping Others Learn to Think
12:52 - Questioning Reality and Thoughts
14:40 - The Danger of Inflicting Conclusions
18:57 - Teaching Methodology Over Conclusions
22:35 - Encouraging Curiosity in Debates
25:04 - Importance of Curiosity in Learning
27:32 - Understanding Psychology in Debates
29:58 - Ideal of Productive Debating

Long Summary

In this engaging and thought-provoking conversation, I delve into the art of debating and the deeper purpose it serves beyond just transmitting ideas. I highlight that debating is about communicating methodology, not simply convincing others of one's ideas or conclusions. Instead of focusing on getting people to agree with specific viewpoints like anarchism or atheism, I emphasize the importance of teaching individuals how to think critically and discern truth from falsehood. By shining a light on the methodology of truth-telling and encouraging curiosity and rational thinking, I aim to empower individuals to become independent thinkers rather than followers of predetermined conclusions.I illustrate the power of the Socratic method in fostering genuine understanding by emphasizing questions over assertions. By guiding individuals to question their beliefs, examine their reasoning, and explore the underlying methodology of their conclusions, I seek to instigate a deeper level of introspection and critical thought. I stress the significance of patience, humility, and curiosity in facilitating productive debates that encourage self-reflection and intellectual growth.Furthermore, I discuss the importance of not imposing conclusions on others but instead equipping them with the tools and methodology to arrive at their own informed decisions. By encouraging individuals to think for themselves, question assumptions, and evaluate evidence objectively, I advocate for a transformative approach to debating that prioritizes intellectual exploration over persuasion. Ultimately, my goal is to foster a culture of independent thinking, rational inquiry, and open dialogue that transcends ideological divides and promotes a robust exchange of ideas grounded in reason and evidence.

Transcript[0:00] Introduction[0:00]

 Good afternoon, everybody. It's Steph. It is noon on the 5th of September 2007. And my tasty little Gold Plus donators, I certainly do appreciate past donations. I certainly look forward to current and future donations. And thank you once more to those fine and kind people who have seen their way clear to doing the amazingly positive and benevolent thing of subscribing. I had a number of subscriptions that came in this morning after a lean day or two, and I really do appreciate that. It lights up my day, if that is meaningful to you at all.

[0:39] The Essence of Debating[0:39]

 Now, a question has arisen, and it is a most excellent question, with regards to debating and how we can get people to look at the world more philosophically, more rationally, more curiously. And I know I've spent a little bit of time on this before in Scattered Podcast, but I thought I would do a short burst of what it is that I have learned over the years, and perhaps you could find some of it to be of use in your debating practices. Now, the first thing to really understand when it comes to debating is that debating, in its sort of fundamental essence, is not about the transmission of ideas.[1:23] Fundamentally, debating is not about convincing other people of your ideas. It's not even convincing people about the truth. That is not fundamental to debating. Okay? And this may sound surprising, but I really will stand by this until, of course, somebody proves me wrong, which would be great. But debating is not about the communication of ideas or conclusions. And, of course, those who are wise to the ways of Free Domain Radio will know what comes next.[1:56] Debating or debate is the communication of methodology. methodology, right? Debating, in its finest form, is a communication not about the content or result of an idea, but it's about the methodology, or it's a demonstration of the methodology of truth-telling, of determining truth from falsehood. In other words, it is not about two plus two is four. It is about arithmetic. It is not about the world is round or gases expand or rocks fall. It is about the scientific method. And that is a very important distinction to grasp when you are talking about the truth with people. So I attempt not to illuminate the world, but to turn people into searchlights. I don't attempt to teach the truth.[2:57] I attempt, as best I can, to teach how to perceive the truth.

[3:03] The Importance of Methodology[3:03]

 What is important in everything that we do in this conversation is not anarchism versus statism, or agnosticism versus atheism, or rationality versus... Any of those sorts of things. The conclusions there are not what is important.[3:21] What is important is how to separate truth from falsehood. In other words, debating in its fundamental and finest form is really about not what to think, but how to think. Not conclusions, but methodology. You know that old thing, you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. You teach a man how to fish, he eats for a lifetime. That is the essence, I would submit, of productive philosophical debate, or any debate, really. What you want to get is not you don't want to get people to agree with you about anarchism, you don't I mean that doesn't really mean anything I mean you could probably train a parrot to say anarchism is correct give me a cracker but that's not the same as a conceptual understanding and it's not the same as a self-sustaining process of thinking so that really is the challenge that is the most exciting thing to take on I believe when it comes to debating with people, which is the challenge of how to get them to learn how to think rather than to get them to accept particular conclusions.[4:30] We're so used as children and as blood-brain-deprived drones in public school, we're so conditioned to simply parroting conclusions. And with our parents, we are so used to obeying orders or conclusions that when it comes to debating...[4:56] It becomes that kind of win-lose interaction, right? So if you had skepticism about God as a kid, as I did, and you had to go to church because that was just what you had to do, damn it, then this was the infliction of a conclusion upon you. And if you try to ask people, this is, of course, what the book on Truth, the Tyranny of Illusion is all about, but still buy it and read it, is when you ask people to step you through the methodology that they use to arrive at their conclusion, They get irritated because, of course, they know that there isn't any, but they don't want to admit that because that would interfere with their authority.[5:32] So implicit in the statement, son, you must go to church, is the statement, God exists and is real and so on. And that you should go to church is presented as the conclusion of a methodology. But when you ask your parents or other people to explain to you what it is they mean by God, how they know that God exists, how they know that a Christian God is valid and so on, then you very quickly find out that... They are simply attempting to inflict conclusions on you, which they claim is the result of a methodology. But when you ask them about the methodological steps they have taken to reach those conclusions, they get mad, right? Because they know that there isn't any. They're claiming rationality when really they're just imposing bigotry. So this is how we all experience ideas. It's a dominant infliction of bigotry, which is the imposition of conclusions without methodology. Methodology and greg of course has had recently a great example of the value of stepping through the methodology with his brother and you step through the methodology and then so you don't have to inflict any conclusions right on people if you teach them the methodology like all roads lead to rome right all rationality leads to the correct positions rationality plus evidence is the correct position because that's what is defined as the truth right is concepts that that accurately describe reality.[6:55] So, you never have to inflict anarchism on anyone.

[6:58] Teaching How to Think[6:58]

 You never have to inflict atheism on anyone. And this is, of course, the key of the Socratic method. See, one of the reasons that the Socratic method is so powerful is that Socrates claimed to know nothing. And this, of course, while I consider this to be premature, though, of course, quite right for the time, this is the fundamental power of the Socratic method. He can't impose beliefs upon you, old Socrates, because he has no beliefs himself.[7:25] And that's why the Socratic method is about the communication of methodology, rather than the infliction of conclusions, right? So you're all fired up, as I have been and continue to be, by the truth. And so what you want to do is you want to go out and get people to accept the truth, which is to accept the conclusions that a rational methodology provides. Provides, but that itself is not good. To inflict conclusions on people is not good, right? That's ideology. That's ideology, which is sort of philosophy without psychology to some degree, but ideology is when you inflict conclusions on people rather than provide them with a methodology that allows them to think for themselves, because that's what we want, right? We don't want to turn people from statist robots into anarchist robots, or from religious robots into atheist robots.[8:26] I mean, if we want to be fair, just, and humane, compassionate, and wise, we don't want to inflict conclusions upon people. We don't. That's why I consistently maintain that the DRO theory is a theory. It is a possible way of things working out, right? I just want to teach people how to think. So there's quite a difference in saying to everybody, stop smoking for God's sakes, or saying to people, if you smoke, these are the results, right? It's one thing to say, stop smoking because smoke gets in my eyes and bothers me. It's another thing to say, stop smoking because smoking is bad to you and kill you. So I think that is very, very important to understand that you don't want to be in a position of inflicting conclusions on people. Either they'll agree with you, right? In which case, nothing of value has been added. They haven't learned how to think. They've just agreed with an opinion that appeals to them. But you haven't really helped anybody. You haven't taught anyone nutrition. You've just taken away their candy bars. They'll change their mind tomorrow. Somebody more persuasive comes comes along somebody more, that you haven't defended them against error. You haven't given them the weapons and the tools they need to defend themselves against error. You don't want to conquer people. You want to arm people. You don't want to beat them. You want to give them the capacity to think.[9:52] Don't want to conquer them, you want to give them the capacity to perpetually, and in an ever-escalating manner, conquer the truth, or conquer error.

[10:00] Helping Others Learn to Think[10:00]

 So fundamentally, what it is that you want to do when you're debating with people, and please, don't email me examples where I haven't done this, because I'm fully aware that I don't always achieve this in the way that I want, or even in an approximation of what I want, but this is the ideal that I struggle towards, and which I I think is worthwhile. The way that you help somebody learn how to think is that you help them to understand that they have not thought yet. The way that you help somebody to find the right destination is to, first of all, help them to understand that they're lost. So, when you ask questions using the Socratic method, what you're doing is you're helping people to understand that what they think of as thinking is not thinking. Thinking, that they are parroting, that they are going with what worked or was successful in the past, that they are going with what feels better, that they're going with whatever causes the least conflict, that they're going with whatever supports their negative views of the world, or their depression, or their desire to nitpick. You help them to understand that what they think of as the rational fruits of thinking is not the rational fruits of thinking, but merely prejudice, it is. Habit. Fear. That's where the psychology aspect of it comes in.[11:28] So I was recently having a debate, a very brief one, because it got pretty abusive pretty quickly, with another libertarian group, wherein, as you may have seen the video of Does the Government Exist?, where they were saying that the government owns property and can evict immigrants. And I was saying, well, the government can't own property any more than a unicorn can own property, because concepts can't own things, and the government is not just a concept, but an invalid concept. And, of course, people kind of freaked out, right? And I can sort of understand this. I mean, I can sort of understand this at a kind of a certain level. I don't really respect it very much, but I can understand how.[12:08] If you have been fighting the state for 20, 30, or 40 years, and you don't even know that it's a fictional entity, that would kind of freak you out. Plus, of course, when you start dealing in terms of social fictions, you're dealing with family fundamentally, and even more fundamentally, you're dealing with identity or the self, right? If a lot of what you believe in is false, then you yourself are false or do not exactly. If the things that you believe in are real or not real, then the self that you believe in that believes these things is also largely not real. So it's very emotionally upsetting for people to be confronted with this. So when people are talking about the government and so on, you can just say to them that the government doesn't exist. And that is a conclusion. And that, of course, was my problem when I sort started out this debate.

[12:52] Questioning Reality and Thoughts[12:53]

 So I did a video which talked in more detail about the famous whiteboard about existence versus non-existence. So that sort of raises the question, what is real and what is not real? And what is the relationship between thoughts and reality? And so this is all basic metaphysics and epistemology, which is not what a lot of libertarians are into, right? The deficiency of philosophy and psychology in the libertarian movement is the root cause of of its futility and actual support of the state in many ways for many, many decades, sadly. But what it does do, what the Socratic method also does, what the communication of methodology rather than conclusions does, is it also helps you to avoid dealing with people who don't want to think.[13:38] Whose psychological barriers or sociological barriers are too strong for them to overcome in order to get to that process of thinking from the ground up, which is enormously difficult. And it's mostly difficult emotionally, though it's also very difficult intellectually. It's easy to catch a ball. It's hard to calculate where the ball is going to land. So from that standpoint, it's a very effective way of helping you to see people who will debate with you or people who won't debate with you in a productive way.[14:11] And of course, the corruption of philosophy is so great in the modern world that very few people will actually engage in the question how to think in a productive way, because it's terrifying. It's absolutely, completely, and totally terrifying. At least it was for me. And I think those who've gone through this process of learning how to think. It's easy to recognize, I think, if those people can let me know if this is not the case, but it's really terrifying.

[14:40] The Danger of Inflicting Conclusions[14:41]

 It's really terrifying because not only does it detonate a goodly portion of what we consider ourselves, but also it exposes a near bottomless vacuity of hypocrisy in society around us, in those around us, right, who claim that their beliefs are drawn from a methodology called reason and evidence, even faith, right? Faith takes belief as its own evidence, right? And so when people say to you something like the free market is bad or, you know, government is required and so on, then as I sort of talked about from the beginning of this conversation you say okay well is that your opinion like government is required like, you like Val Valour or is that something that is true it's like oh that is something that is true it's like wow well see I have a different methodology I think.[15:40] And I certainly have a different conclusion but that's not particularly important because if you and I come to opposite conclusions like I think the government is both unnecessary and bad and you think that the government is both necessary and good.[15:55] So we either are using completely different methodologies, like I think it's an objective truth and you think it's a subjective opinion, which you've just said is not the case, or we are using different premises or we are using different logic. It can't be that we're both right, that the government is both evil and good, that the government is both necessary and unnecessary, that the government is both good and bad, practical or impractical or whatever. So we must be using different reasoning. So either the methodology that we're using is different, but you say that it's not because it's reason and evidence that you say has gotten you to this point, or our reasoning is false. So That has gotten you to your position. And if they have strength and humility, I don't mean fear, I mean humility, then they will start to step through that and realize that they have conclusions without methodology. They believe they have methodology because it seems to make sense. The world seems flat. It seems to make sense. Ban guns, crime will go down. It seems to make sense. Get rid of drugs, make them illegal, and you will reduce their usage. It seems to make sense. But of course, if things that seem to make sense were actually true, we would scarcely need philosophy. If everything tasted good and was good for us and everything which was bad for us tasted bad, we would scarcely need nutrition.[17:21] So to ask people about their methodology is very important.[17:25] And what happens then is sort of one of two things. You will either get some sort of interesting answer, which you can begin to debate further, or you will get hostility. Hostility can be active, like, I can't believe you're asking me this question, how ridiculous, go read these 12 books, Jesus Christ, I can't believe you even asked that.[17:45] Or it'll be passive, which will be, well, you know, that's just one perspective of many, and I just brought this up to, you know, recognize or mention a certain point, and, you know, this and that and the other, and you'll get an obscuration, right? You'll get a passive-aggressive form of attack, which is not punching you, but, you know, spraying fog in your eyes. Anyways, and if you're patient, right, and you sort of come back and say, well, but you, as I sort of had this guy on the board said that you can't, there's no self-contradiction in the deistic conception of God, right? So I've been asking him now at least two or three or four times to justify that statement. I said, okay, well, if you don't, like, if I can prove to you that the idea is self-contradictory, will that change your thinking? And he said, no, no, I just put it forward as an example. It's like, but you didn't say it as an example. You said it as a fact. That there's no self-contradiction in the deistic concept. But he just kept changing things and would never commit to his own statement, nor retract it. So, I mean, you don't bother, right? It's so important to maintain your optimism and joy. And I make mistakes. I've been Joe-engaged this week, sort of trying to figure out why. We'll figure this out as we go forward. Or I'll figure this out as I go forward.

[18:57] Teaching Methodology Over Conclusions[18:57]

 But in debating, the important thing, if you want to really help someone and not just sort of win and not just sort of change their mind to conform with yours. But to teach them how to think, right? So, if somebody is fishing in a well, like a water well with obviously no fish in it, somebody's fishing in a well, you can either tell them, what are you doing? Yeah, I did. Go fish in the river. Then they may go and fish in the river or they may fight against, but either way, they haven't learned anything, right? They're just obeying you now or fighting you now, but there's still no methodology, right? Whereas if you sit down with them and say, you know, help me understand why you think there's fish in this well, and have you had any success with this in the past, and have you heard of anybody fishing in rivers that has had more success? You have to be more patient, for sure, and you have to be willing to be corrected, right? You have to surrender your ego. You have to surrender your ego, as I keep talking about in The God of Atheists, right? It's people who get rid of God, erect themselves in his place, usually. But you have to surrender your ego. I am just the messenger. I am just the messenger.[20:08] So I am curious about your thinking. I am curious about your thinking. Help me understand how you think. Because otherwise, people won't know that they're not thinking. And if they don't know that they're not thinking, what do you have to sell them? What do you have to sell them? What is it that you'll be providing to somebody, you're offering five bucks to a billionaire. So you really have no particular value in the conversation if it's about your conclusions and that your conclusions are correct and other people should accept your conclusions. It's even worse if they are correct and you have pursued a proper methodology for establishing your conclusions, The validity of your conclusions.[20:54] A scientist doesn't go to the Amazon and talk with the illiterate pygmies, learn their language, and scream at them that the world is in fact round. Or yell at them, or even say calmly over and over again, the world is round. That's going to be meaningless to them. Because even if they believe it, so what? They can't reproduce that in any other context. They can't reproduce that in any other context. and it is about the extrapolation of these principles to all contexts in life that is what I believe has the greatest value.[21:26] If the scientist really wishes to educate the pygmies, then he goes down and asks them, he doesn't go down and say, this is the scientific method and this is what you should use. Because then they'll pray to their, or they'll go and ask their witch doctor if they should believe the scientific method, and the witch doctor, having a keen eye on his own self-interest, will tell them, no, it is evil and let's eat the scientist. Which is the case when you teach people conclusions, like anarchism or atheism, they run to their families and get shit on, get stomped on, right? Don't send people into the ring ill-equipped. Don't send them out of the green zone without Kevlar and without weapons. Teaching people conclusions, right? And I know, I get emails, countless emails about this, and people say, well, you know, Steph, I've been listening to your podcast, and I went out and started to have this debate, and I got stumped by this, and then I got stumped by that, and then I I got stumped by the other? Help me, help me, help me. And I try to give them answers that will stimulate thought in themselves, rather than just be things that they can go and parrot. Or, of course, I ask them to have this person debate me, which never really seems to happen.

[22:35] Encouraging Curiosity in Debates[22:36]

 But you want to have people cock their heads, right? You're the pygmy. Say, well, if the world is flat, or the world sits on the back of a turtle, what's underneath the turtle, and what's underneath that and, you know, the turtles all the way down thing, you want to ask them those questions. So they go, huh, you know what? I hadn't thought of that, or that doesn't really make sense, does it? And that sort of stuff, right? So that there's a gap, right? So that there's a gap. You can't sell a diet to a man who thinks he's thin. I remember reading a story, and it sort of blew my mind. It was a real story. Somebody was writing into a magazine about health issues and said, you know, kind of weird. I said to myself, I'm not overweight. And I said to other people, I'm not overweight. And I said, at some party, this issue came up. And I said, but I'm only 170 pounds. And I've weighed 170 pounds since college.[23:27] And somebody said, no way. No way. You're not 170 pounds, brother. And he said, so, you know, we got on the scale. I was 230 pounds.[23:37] Somehow 60 pounds, like a third of what I thought was my body weight. And I didn't even know it. So then I started dieting, right? But as long as he thinks he's thin, he's not going to diet, right? And there's a lot in that story, which we can learn from, right? We say that that's not true. But you don't just say you're fat to someone. You say, if you believe that you're 170 pounds, the methodology for determining the truth from the falsehood of that statement or that belief is to get on a scale, objective evidence. We don't need to argue. We don't need to argue. Just get on the scale. And then once somebody gets on the scale and looks down and realizes that they're somehow, they've misplaced, that's like one huge right buttock cheek, they somehow misplaced 60 pounds of fat on their body or missed it accumulating, then they say, oh, heavens, I've really got to go on a diet. And in the same way, when you're curious about people's thinking, it's very easy if they're curious and willing and have integrity. And if they don't have integrity, then, of course, don't debate with them, right? If they're just assholes out to prove that they're right, or if they're just manipulators out to try and gain the veneer of science and philosophy on their own bigoted prejudices, then don't waste your time, right? man. It's the lesson I have to keep learning. But if they're curious, it doesn't really take them very long to figure out that they don't know what is true and what is false. Now, then they need to figure out how they got there and so on, right? But.

[25:04] Importance of Curiosity in Learning[25:05]

 Important to simply be curious. I mean, that's why curiosity is not a defended state. Therefore, there's no defense against it. People can get angry, but then it just becomes very clear, right? That if you're curious or polite or persistent, you know, in a positive way and somebody gets really angry, it's clear that this has nothing to do with you, right? They're just jerks. And so you can sort of walk away. There's closure there, right? There's no uncertainty. But when people do do have curiosity and integrity, but don't know that they're fat, put them on the scale. Somebody says, I'm thin, say, don't look thin to me, you could be right, but why don't we get on the scale? Somebody says, government is good and necessary. It's like, well, it doesn't seem right to me, but you step me through your thinking. Explain this to me. Step me through this logic, because I don't see it. Then they step you through the logic, and it's very easy to find the gaps. It's very easy to find where things don't work. And then you will be very tempted to give them the answer. You will be, as am I, as I do sometimes. But I think that the ideal is to give them a methodology. Reason and evidence and things should be consistent and you got to work from first principles and so on. Like UPB is not what is morality. UPB is not what is moral.[26:23] UPB is how do we define morality. Now, UPB doesn't say stealing is wrong. UPB says moral rules must be consistent, right? Those are two very different things. Now, I'm working on a book that takes UPB and puts it to particular instances. But UPB is powerful, I believe, it's so powerful, because it is simply a methodology where we ask questions of people about what they say is the The good.[26:49] Then they can very quickly find out that what they think of as the good is not objective. It's not rational. It's not, there's no evidence. It's just their cultural bias or what they were praised for or punished for as children. I mean, it's not, it's not true. And then if they retreat to, well, I don't care. I'm still going to, this is true for me, right? Well, then fine. Then they're just not interested in philosophy, right? And you can walk on without any concern about, well, I should have done something different or, you know, maybe I came on too strong or whatever, right? But if they genuinely are curious, then just keep asking them questions. And then, I would suggest, before telling them the answers or giving away all the conclusions, you have to ask about the psychology. If you really want to help someone. If you really want to help someone.

[27:32] Understanding Psychology in Debates[27:33]

 So, if this guy who's fishing in a pond, let's just say he's part of some evil clan or group or tribe or cult, and the leaders make a fortune selling him fish. Right? And so they say fishing in the lake is evil, and fishing in the pond is good. And they do that because they want to profit from selling him fish rather than having him catch his own, which is, of course, a matter for family and society, the state, the church, the whole shebang. bang. So, if you just tell him that it's not true and this and that, so he's going to go back and say to people it's not true, right? Fishing in the pond will never get you anything and they're just doing it to exploit us and blah, blah, blah. Well, he's going to get killed. I mean, this is a dramatic way of putting it, but...[28:17] Fear rejection from their family almost worse than death. So, it's important to understand, right, once people understand that what they thought of as thinking is not thinking, I think it's quite important to talk to them about why it is they would have been told that it was thinking when it's not. Why was it that his teachers and his priests and his governments, his politicians, and his parents all put forward these things as if they were true when they're not true. Why would they do that? That's teaching somebody how to think, right? I think this is true. Oh, it turns out that it's not true, but everyone tells me that it's true. The next step in that is not what is true, but why would people lie to me? Because if you give people what is true, then they're going to go around to people who lie to them and talk about it and get attacked, which is going to cause them to drop the truth like a very hot potato.[29:10] You teach the slave Kung Fu before the uprising. So you have to, I think, productively, I think it's productive, to look at the man who's been lied to and have him process and understand why he was lied to. Because if he doesn't process and understand why he was lied to, he's going to take his truth to the people who will attack and punish him for any shred of that truth. And then, by golly, he's going to be attacked, he's going to be put down, he's going to be humiliated, which evokes all of the early defenses, and he's just going to write all of the things that happened for him when he was a kid, and he's going to run away from the truth then. Or he's just going to become sort of mindlessly pugnacious and fight everyone and everything at all times for whatever, whatever, right? Which is not exactly going to serve the cause of the truth.

[29:58] Ideal of Productive Debating[29:59]

 So I hope this makes some sense in terms of how I sort of have this ideal of debating, which I'm sort of trying to move towards. And I look forward to your donations. Please do what you can to help spread the word. This is, I think, the most important conversation, as I've mentioned, in the world today. More and more people need to hear it, which means more advertising, which means more, hopefully, public appearances.

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