Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Morality of No Holds Barred Arguments

Is it proper to debate aggressively with someone when the person you are debating is not necessarily debating you on purely intellectual grounds.

For example, say you are having a debate with someone about the efficacy of prayer or the existence of the Afterlife, and you discover that they are terminally ill. On a purely rational level, this realization should not affect your argument, but is it the right thing to do from a human perspective. Or is it better to either acquiesce or just drop it altogether?

Another example. Say that you are arguing about some aspect of the Holocaust, and you find out that the person is a survivor.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a similar situation. Obviously it is basic human decency to be sensitive to the person you are debating with. I would certainly be very careful debating the afterlife with someone terminal (even though we are all 'terminal' in reality). Thats also why I will rarely debate Judaism with a certain well known blogger. He has too much emotional investment in the whole thing.

March 15, 2007 11:08 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Yeah, but there's a difference between someone who just gets emotional and upset, and someone who has a 'profound' reason for being hurt or emotional...

March 15, 2007 1:10 PM  
Blogger Baal Habos said...

I see everyone as being terminal. I started my blog without any debating OJ at all. I got sucked it into for a while. But to answer your question, I try to stay away from debating when someone's very emotional about it.

March 15, 2007 1:28 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

The question is how much value do you really assume the debate itself to have. I mean, let's face it, debating is fun and it may sometimes lead us to think of things from a different angle, but how much does anything get accomplished? Are you really going to gain something from the emotional pain that you cause the other person? And what if you do convince them- you're going to make them happier? I think from a purely cost-benefit analysis it's better sometimes to drop the subject.

March 15, 2007 3:08 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

with a Holacaust survivor, I would just keep my mouth shut. personally, I just don't feel like I have the right. how can I argue with a person who's lived through such horror? even if I disagree with them, they are far more entitled to their opinion than I am to mine. they earned theirs, while I fabricate mine out of scraps.

as to someone who is terminal...I don't neccessarily know that it's fair not to argue with them if they want to. someone in a situation like that might be desperately and honestly seeking answers which it may be cruel to deny them. but of course these things need to be approached with sensitivity, and a knowledge of the individual involved.

March 18, 2007 3:02 PM  

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