"The Lost Art of Debate"

Posted on July 2, 2013 by richardgoulter
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Argument is something I’ve a wee fascination with, in a love/hate kind of way.
I think I can say, without being prejudicial or snobbish, that I never like listening to a poor argument.

So worth watching in this area in Michael Sandel’s video at TED, “The Lost Art of Democratic Debate”.

For those who haven’t encountered Sandel, he’s the fella who lectures in Harvard’s Justice online videos. (They’re probably a fair investment in time, but they’re absolutely fantastic).

The aforementioned TED video features a butchered-down version of one of his lectures, wherein Sandel gives a response for the question “Give the best flute to whom?”.
The typical audience to this was “Give the best flute to the best flute player, for the greatest good (to the greatest number)”.
Sandel says the philosopher Aristotle would agree with the answer, but disagree with the reasoning.

Ari would’ve said, instead, that the whole point of a good flute is to be played by a good player; it would be a waste of purpose if the flute were not played to its best.

Sandel then brings up an example about a dispute in golfing.
More/less: A golfer with disability in the legs contested he was at a disadvantage to play golf if he wasn’t allowed to use a golfing cart; the rules made out, however, that walking between courses was an important part of the game.

This all relates to Aristotle going on about the purpose of things in that, whether a golfer should be able to make use of a golf cart relates to the purpose of the sport.
(The dispute about walking as physical exertion is important for golf since, as Sandel quips, golfers are a little touchy about the status of golf as an athletic sport).
Sandal discusses that the rulings of the courts were about just that: the purpose of the sport.

Sandal’s wider point, then, is a bit more focus could be brought about in debates when we discuss the purpose of things.

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