Monday, February 23, 2009

Cave & Nugent vs. O'Mahoney & Cowper in Cork, Ireland

This debate was certainly original, sporting a number of unusual features.  Firstly, it was done in a grand tradition of an ancient philosophical society with a formal resolution to be either carried or defeated.  Secondly, it was done with two speakers on either side, two for and two against the proposition.  Thirdly and finally, it generally eschewed modern apologetics and counter-arguments in favor of more venerable arguments. 

While there were plenty of rhetorical stingers in this back-and-forth, there was nothing really resembling a formally valid deductive or inductive argument given on either side.  While this is all too common, I still find it frustrating to, as it is impossible to point out where exactly your opponent goes wrong if he doesn’t bother to elucidate his premises and show how his conclusions follow therefrom.  If you cannot even tell whether someone has made an argument that is valid and sound, then you will tend to agree or disagree with his views not because they are persuasive but because of your own predispositions.  At that point a debate becomes a bit of a farce rather than a process for finding the truth.

All told, this event was mildly entertaining but ultimately underwhelming, unelucidating and unsatisfying  — a  bit like reality television.





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