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The Price of Constant Debate

Not only is debate useless for getting at the nature of reality, but it isn’t always good for you, or for communities where debate is fetishized. As I was looking for my previous words on debate, I came across this, originally published here. It seemed like a good time to repost it. “PTDD” is not intended to be remotely taken as a serious mental illness. It shares the element of hyper-vigilance with PTSD, and that’s about it. This is about what consistent debate trains you to do.

You may have Post-Traumatic Debate Disorder if:

  • Nobody really disagrees with you.
  • People who claim they disagree with you are being dishonest.
  • People who claim they disagree with you are out to get you.
  • You argue that someone (else) getting mobbed online “deserved it.”
  • You find yourself not understanding a lot of things but don’t ask any questions.
  • You consider accounting for differing situations to be hypocrisy.
  • You don’t know what your goal is in an argument, but that doesn’t stop you.
  • You view all discussions that consist of more than, “Yeah, me too,” as arguments.
  • All disagreements have a right and a wrong.
  • All disagreements must have a winner and loser.
  • Wrong = evil, unforgivable, delusional.
  • You alone understand what everyone “intends” by what they say. Better than the speaker.
  • You consider sympathy for both sides in a disagreement to be the same thing as no sympathy for either.
  • You crave real-world consequences for things said online, but not for you.

These are but a small sampling of the symptoms of PTDD. If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, it is highly recommended that you log off the internet immediately. Further treatment may consist of quarantine to avoid denialists of all stripes, lots of face-to-face and eye-to-eye conversation, and outdoor exercise.

Comments

  1. Menyambal says

    I particularly like the one about knowing what other people intend by what they say. It is close to knowing why they say what they do, and how they feel to make them say it.

    I took debate in high school. We carried boxes of cards with references both for and against the question of the year. It wasn’t about arriving at truth, it was about who sounded better.

  2. says

    It’s trivial to point out that many atheists understand and can describe in detail the flaws of (and their objections to) debating when a skeptic/atheist/scientist and apologist/fundamentalist clash over a topic they consider more or less settled, such as creation v. evolution. Change the topic to one seen as “less-settled”, such as social equality or bodily autonomy, however, and debate is suddenly not only justified but crucial and the requirement for it is perpetual.

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