The word oppression is a ‘hot potato,’ that’s frequently batted back and forth between the political left and right like a worn-out tennis ball, leading to some highly charged and toxic debates, where everyone is shouting at one another and no one is listening.
As you may well be aware we don’t pick political sides at The Standup Philosophers for the simple reason that we don’t want to alienate any part of our audience so the rights and wrongs of either the political left or right are not the subjects of this article. Only an idiot declares his political leanings at the risk of 50% of his readers, viewers, revenue stream or fanbase.
If you participate in a debate and when it’s over your position hasn’t changed in the slightest then you’ve done it wrong. The purpose of debate is to eliminate falsehood and find the truth, via a process of dialectics even if that truth is something uncomfortable! A harsh truth is always better than a pleasant fiction on any given day of the week, because only when something is agreeably true can a plan be put in place that has any chance of solving the issue at the heart of the debate or improving the circumstances of those affected by it.
Both sides are meant to enter the debate in a spirit of ‘good faith,’ honestly and sincerely advocating their point of view with supporting arguments, good rhetoric and a willingness to change their minds should the opposition’s evidence be convincing. If you know that you are advocating for something false then you are acting in ‘bad faith,’ and as such, shouldn’t even be participating.
The most important part of any debate is the audience, who should be polled after the event to determine whose arguments won the day. A good debate is a rational example of ‘The Logos,’ in action.
In the spirit of our modern times, how often have you seen the above play out in the political arena? How often have you seen both sides cling to a position even when it’s clearly untenable? In such cases do not make the mistake of thinking that you’ve witnessed a debate, all you’ve actually been exposed to is blind sophistry, in which case the political players use evocative language and clever but often specious arguments to crush the opposition and win the day.
To sum up, the difference between debate and sophistry is that one is dedicated to discovering the truth, the other merely advances a position at all costs. ‘Sophisticated,’ rhetoric is often dirty, full of logical fallacies and character assassination and if used in ‘good faith,’ reveals the advocate to be ideologically possessed which is a state of being in which the ‘possessed person,’ unquestionably accepts their beliefs as correct and true, with only the slightest, almost non-existent possibility that they could ever be wrong or subject to modification; In contrast, if the advocate can be shown to be behaving in ‘bad faith,’ you can conclude that he or she is a liar and only interested in the fulfilment of their own agenda, such individuals must be kept away from sources of power at all costs!