Sunday, November 15, 2009

Debate vs Criticism

One of the key ingredients of creativty and innovation is the willingness to offer - as well as to accept - an alternate viewpoint, however ridiculous that alternate viewpoint appear at the time. Without this alternative viewpoint, we have nothing but the same old view which we are comfortable about.

To create and maintain a healthy atmosphere of debate, there must always be that courtesy and respect that one party bestows on the other party. Without that basic courtesy and respect, we shall reduce ourselves to nothing but hooligans who think that those who shout the loudest and have the strongest muscles will win the end; indeed, hooligans have won but there are some of us who may wish to contribute to society but engaging with each other at a more civil manner.

The purpose of debate is to arrive at the truth - whatever we may imagine truth to be.

Most of the time, we do not know the truth. So, we examine each other's arguments to make sure that we do not end up in circular argument - using logic to justify a prejudice.

It is easy to be inadvertently prejudiced but of the paradigm that we are caught - caught in The Matrix, so to speak.

We should therefore watch our thoughts and guard our mouths - lest we fall into the senselessness of a barking dog.

Of course, to aid debate, we may wish to point out errors in logic or unconscious prejudice that we find in other's arguments - from our own perspective. A criticism becomes constructive in this manner.

If there is no room for alternate views or arguments, then all that we are doing in blogs is nothing but reinforcing old prejudices. That is dangerous.


walla said...

A key ingredient for rational debate is transparency.

It's like chess. Everything is placed on the chessboard. There is no hidden ace card. Only creativity and innovation in designing the best sequence of moves to achieve the desired objective in the shortest time and with the most economical strategic measures.

If deeds are hushed up on the one-stroke whims of man-made laws, then rational debate cannot take meatier forms for lack of facts.

A lot of ire is often generated because it is also seen that the man-made laws are made by the very people who had performed those deeds later found to be deleterious to the interest of the citizens whom those people had been voted to serve.

For instance, how can state governments blanket close their proceedings? How can municipal councils not disclose their accounts completely? How can criteria not to issue certain permits be not debatable? How can people be asked to accept that no further action need be taken when the evidence to arrive at the decision has not been disclosed?

It is when trust in institutions of state has eroded that transparency must prevail at all times. Else blame will be shot at messengers of bad tidings which in turn will generate more mistrust causing a spiraling down of the situation to no one's benefit in the end.

Truth should not be garroted otherwise it will cause inbreeding of more mediocrity and mayhem.

Minds should be open and fearless. It is said of the jews that they will carry an argument to its logical conclusion, whatever that may turn out to be. Thus they make good scientists borne on the wings of creativity refreshed by new insights. They push off the envelope of ignorance.

We need a more scientific approach to debate about matters of the state. That will have to come from facts. Which will have to come from transparency. Which is absent today. Because the institutions which can produce them have been compromised by political expediency by people who think people should not know the truth which would compromise their positions.

How can the country progress healthily then when the people are not trusted to think by the very people who, assuming the leadership mantles, who themselves can't think?

It would have been blind leading blind but for a few brave souls who have pierced the veil to prod all to think harder. Even they are hamstrung by a lack of facts. If facts and figures are made available, all matters of state would have been crunched out with econometric precision by now by your next chicken rice aficionado down the street.

That this has not been done must be by conspiratorial design. Which is interesting. Only because there is nothing on tv tonight. Again. And nothing of any interest in blogospheres.

Ho hum. Back to Thurow.

Anonymous said...

There is a dearth of intelligent debate because people, especially middle class Msians, are not only intellectually lazy, they are intellectually dishonest in many ways.

I believe part of the problem stems from living for decades in the shadow of the Mahathir/Lee Kuan Yew regimes which practically suffocated the media and put the search for material progresss as the highest priority.

In ancient China and perhaps in Classicial education of the West, scholarship and intellectual discourse are highly valued in the search for truth. I presume this was also true during the Islamic renaisance period which was a peirod of religious tolerance far from today's realities.