Debates are fascinating human activities that are a mixture of logic, strategy, and show. Not everybody shares this fascination. The German author Emil Ludwig considered debates to be the death of conversation. Jonathan Swift regarded debates as the worst sort of conversation, and debates portrayed in books as the worst sort of reading. Public debates pose various interesting dilemmas. A debate between two positions gives an impression of symmetry, and engaging in a debate against an obscure or illegitimate position gives it some legitimacy and emphasis. On the other hand, ignoring obscure or illegitimate positions may also pave the way to getting them public legitimacy or to making them mainstream. A common form of debate is one in which an uninformed decision-maker extracts information from two (or more) informed debaters who hold contradictory positions on a certain issue. Weblog debates are especially interesting, as they allow an unusual amount of interaction between the debaters and the uninformed audience. Common debate practices include ample repetitions, not giving up on seemingly small issues, never admitting a mistake, trying to undermine the professionalism and integrity of an opponent and not just his logic. We can ask ourselves if these debating practices are rational and optimal in terms of influencing the audience. They probably are.
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