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Debate vs Dialogue

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The difference between debate and dialogue is the process by which a person(s) argues. Debate is about proving your opponent wrong, while dialogue is more about expressing a viewpoint and trying to get your opponent to agree. In both cases you are trying to get someone to agree with you, but the method is different. Some writing situations will ask you to debate with an opponent, and some will have you attempting dialogue. In other situations you will have to chose your solution. While this course will not recommend one or the other, consider the following:

Taken from specific parts of an essay written by Richard Gunderman Associate Professor,Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy at Indiana University

Is debate upstaging dialogue? In popular culture, the answer seems to be yes. When talk radio and cable news programs feature issues of the day, they increasingly seek out colorful individuals of diametrically opposed points of view. Why? Perhaps because conflict boosts viewership. In the ratings race, heat trumps light.
The participants in such contests often have little interest in promoting a comprehensive or balanced perspective. Instead, each attempts to shift the balance of opinion by presenting a radical and uncompromising extreme. In such an environment, civility and good sense suffer, and talking heads tend to morph into shouting heads.
The ascendancy of debate threatens the thoughtfulness that should characterize a liberally educated person. The word debate is derived from the Old French debatre, meaning to fight or contend. Debate implies conflict. Broadcast media did not create it. They have merely magnified it to a new level. What do the combatants seek? Not mutual enlightenment. They seek victory.
Dialogue may not produce as much heat as debate, but it generates a good bit more light. Our word dialogue is derived from the ancient Greek dialogos, which in turn derives from the roots dia-, meaning through, and logos, meaning word or reason. A dialogue seeks truth by and through words.
The parties to a dialogue aim not to defeat one another, but to enlighten one another. It is not a conflict, but a shared inquiry. In contrast to the debater’s zero-sum game, in which every victory must be accompanied by a loss, dialogue permits both parties to emerge from their discussion enriched. Both can benefit from a shared pursuit of enlightenment. 1


Is Debate Upstaging Dialogue?

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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factcouraud. (2007, May 22). Debate vs Dialogue. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License