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  • The Scholastic Disputations Subforum

    I mentioned, on the old forum, that I've been thinking of opening a scholastic disputations subforum. I don't have time for an involved write-up right now, but those who are interested in what this would look like are directed to pages thirty-one to thirty-seven of Fr. Cotter's ABC of Scholastic Philosophy.

    Please post whether you would be for or against opening such a subforum, or whether you're undecided.

  • #2
    I would love it, but of course I am more of a 'consumer' than a 'contributor' on this forum. I doubt I would be able to muster up the consistency to engage in this sort of sustained, set-piece debate, but I would most definitely enjoy seeing such a forum. And yeah, maybe I would be able to join from time to time.

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    • #3
      I like it. I think the scholastic form cuts through a lot of the time-wasting garbage (posturing, hotheadedness, etc.) that otherwise sometimes crops up in these kinds of discussions.

      (Another pro of this forum, apparently, is that it saves our comments as we write them, so we're that much less likely to lose them due to sudden computer shutdowns. I write most of my comments in Word, anyway, but it's still nice.)
      Last edited by John West; 01-10-2019, 07:45 AM.

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      • #4
        Such a subforum should not be instituted because somebody wants it, majority or not, but because experience on the internet at large, including in our old forum, has shown that it is a sensible thing to have.

        On issues religious, political, and philosophical, disputes arise. Sometimes things devolve into low bickering. It's all over Dr. Feser's blog, for example, and cannot really be escaped. Occasionally, some odd personality in the combox of Dr. Feser's blog may find this forum and start baiting, and then he can be directed to the debates subforum where he has free rein, and anyone may follow him there to keep him busy.

        When any of us members (and admins as participants) have a dispute, the debates subforum would serve as a neutral-ish ground where both sides lay out their cases in roughly equal length and nobody should feel shut down or jumped on. On that subforum, one would hardly be motivated to submit a one-line reply like "lmao" or "BS" (as it occasionally occurs in the old forum), because it would mean a major loss of opportunity to refute the opponent's case and to present one's own. In a more or less formal and restricted debate environment a breach of standards would automatically give a point to the opponent, so wilful breaches are unlikely.

        The ordinary practice is of course that moderators do not declare winners of debates. Onlookers may present their scorecards as they wish.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by seigneur View Post
          On issues religious, political, and philosophical, disputes arise.
          I distinguish between political philosophy and politics. The former is a theoretical enterprise and aims at truth; the latter is a form of action we engage in. The philosopher is “a spectator of all time and all existence” (Plato); the political activist, however, is part of that which is being spectated. I think that the scholastic method of disputation is suitable for political philosophy, but not for politics, for it aims at truth. I think that it's suitable for other philosophy as well (and religion).

          I'm open to a more contemporary style of debate forum for politics (with scorecards, and the like). I, however, will express doubts about whether we should open a politics forum when I post about it in the near future. All our bitterest and most pointless conflicts on the forum and a great many of our worst comments come from politics posts.

          I realize, however, that many of you think politics is a worthwhile subject to discuss and, for that reason, will start a thread later (perhaps not later today).

          When any of us members (and admins as participants) have a dispute, the debates subforum would serve as a neutral-ish ground where both sides lay out their cases
          I agree about the scholastic format providing a neutral ground for members (which I take to include administrators) to hash out disputes.

          Onlookers may present their scorecards as they wish.
          I'm not a fan of scorecards in the scholastic method. I think they would encourage people to aim to sway onlookers.
          Last edited by John West; 01-10-2019, 04:01 PM.

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          • #6
            I'm a little worried that people will find staying “in form” (see the above links) much too dull to bother with scholastic disputations.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by John West View Post
              I'm a little worried that people will find staying “in form” (see the above links) much too dull to bother with scholastic disputations.
              I think that's a fairly reasonable concern.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by John West View Post
                I distinguish between political philosophy and politics.
                You distinguish too much, as if the subdivisions you are seeing were somehow things in themselves. From the point of view of organising this forum, such distinctions are impractical.

                For example, the main sections on this forum are labelled Religion and Philosophy. But what is classical theism? The very nature of classical theism is the intersection of religion and philosophy. When somebody new comes here and has a question about classical theism, he would be puzzled about finding the correct section to post in, because most issues in classical theism touch both religion and philosophy at the same time.

                Keeping to the mindset that yielded the current two main sections, we should also have at least Theology, but I am sure you see why that would be a bad idea from a newcomer's point of view. The issues here revolve around classical theism whose core points involve philosophy, religion, and theology (and more, such as ethics, social order, etc.) all together, and many people want to talk about the core principles that have implications to all of those different areas of life, without having to be restricted to one particular area.

                Anyway, I hope the Debates section would greatly alleviate many issues. Among other things, it would be a useful "shame corner" for some guys who tend to litter the combox of Dr. Feser's blog.

                Originally posted by John West View Post
                I'm a little worried that people will find staying “in form” (see the above links) much too dull to bother with scholastic disputations.
                It's too dull and from the links you gave, we cannot even download the book (without signing up). A better link is here https://archive.org/details/1949A.Co...BWOCR/page/n49

                But if you expect people to actually follow those rules, the rules must be incorporated somewhere in the forum, i.e. somebody has to copy and re-publish them here.

                For the internet era that we live in, appropriate rules would be few, simple, and easily accessible. The benefit of few, simple, and easily accessible rules is that they can also be easily modified and expanded for each specific debate.

                On another forum where I participated earlier, when a formal debate thread began, the starter of the thread (which was sometimes the moderator) laid out the set of rules to be followed in the thread. Usually the specifics had already been consulted and agreed upon by the participants behind the scenes, and this was stated in the opening post. And the other participant then confirmed this in his first post.

                The debate rules in Cotter's book should be optional. Cotter says, "At times, it may be necessary to put a question or to ask for an explanation. But as a rule, syllogism follows syllogism." Sorry, but in our times it's exactly the other way around.

                Disputes most often arise when somebody calls out somebody else, claiming that the other one overstated or misstated something. Modern debates are dense with references to fact-sources and authorities, dense with explanations and with calls to explain and define, and they are very thin in syllogisms. Syllogisms are a necessary thing to have of course, but they are not the normal rule. Syllogisms are something most people need to patiently evolve towards with practice. Hopefully our Debates section provides such a space.
                Last edited by seigneur; 01-11-2019, 09:45 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by seigneur View Post
                  On another forum where I participated earlier, when a formal debate thread began, the starter of the thread (which was sometimes the moderator) laid out the set of rules to be followed in the thread. Usually the specifics had already been consulted and agreed upon by the participants behind the scenes, and this was stated in the opening post. And the other participant then confirmed this in his first post.
                  This description already counts as something very formal, almost overly formal, with the side-effect that there are additional discussion threads about the debate running in parallel with the actual debate thread. The additional discussion threads would be the participants discussing the format and onlookers making suggestions prior to the debate and commenting the ongoing or past debate.

                  In my view, the Debates section should be able to accommodate:

                  - formal debates
                  - immediate spillovers of formal debates
                  - barely-formal disputations

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You distinguish too much, as if the subdivisions you are seeing were somehow things in themselves.
                    Yes, that's right. The meanings of terms have objective differences between them.

                    For example, the main sections on this forum are labelled Religion and Philosophy. But what is classical theism? The very nature of classical theism is the intersection of religion and philosophy.
                    Classical theism is theism with the added thesis that God is absolutely simple. It has been traditionally discussed by philosophers, theologians, philosopher-theologians, philosophers doing theology and theologians doing philosophy. But there are still clear divisions between the topic matter of philosophy and religion.

                    When somebody new comes here and has a question about classical theism, he would be puzzled about finding the correct section to post in, because most issues in classical theism touch both religion and philosophy at the same time.
                    Which is why we don't enforce a strict boundary between the two forums. In other words, we've never been sticklers about people posting in the “right” forum. (Broadly, matters pertaining to natural theology go into the philosophy forum and matters pertaining to sacred theology go into the religion one. People seem to have adhered to this without any explicit instructions over the last three years.) But there are still lots of topics that get discussed here that are clearly either philosophy or religion.

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                    • #11
                      I too am part of other, larger philosophy forums and groups, by the way. They typically have even fewer rules than we do, without any problems. Like I said, the only person who seems to be having a problem is you.

                      Now, I'm fine with having a formal debates forum. I've seen it work on Reasonable Faith. (I didn't have RF in mind in my previous paragraph, but I used to check there from time to time as well.) I personally don't have much desire for it. I typically come on here to relax after spending the whole day doing philosophy, but I realize that the situation is quite different for some other members.* So here is what I propose: write up a formal proposal (for a debate forum) with a set of rules, and then we shall briefly discuss it, and then we shall have a vote on it. If the people want it and think they will use it, we'll implement it. (Is everyone okay with that?) I only ask that the proposed debate forum doesn't encompass all adversarial conversation (which would render the rest of the forum largely unnecessary).

                      The fact is that the majority of users are coming from the apologetics circuit and would probably be interested in something like this, and perhaps I'm being a bit too much of a philosopher in my above proposal.


                      *Sorry if that sounds like I'm putting on airs: I just mean that most of my heavy philosophizing goes on offline, and that by the time I come on here I'm usually looking for lighter philosophical fare.
                      Last edited by John West; 01-12-2019, 03:57 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by John West View Post
                        ...But there are still clear divisions between the topic matter of philosophy and religion.
                        True. Similarly, there is another clear division to theology, and another clear division to science. I, for one, would mostly like to post about history, science, and current news. But when the two main sections are Philosophy and Religion, then where will I put my history and science posts?

                        Originally posted by John West View Post
                        Which is why we don't enforce a strict boundary between the two forums. In other words, we've never been sticklers about people posting in the “right” forum.
                        Which confirms that the two main divisions do not make sense in the first place. And this was only a side point to my main point: Are you ready to accommodate people's expectations when these demonstrably add to the quality of the forum? If you are not really ready, then why does this thread exist?

                        Originally posted by John West View Post
                        I too am part of other, larger philosophy forums and groups, by the way. They typically have even fewer rules than we do, without any problems. Like I said, the only person who seems to be having a problem is you.
                        You are completely misreading the "problem" thing.

                        For example, I have no problems debating any topic. I do it freely, without any problem. I can easily debate with you right now the issue of a debate forum to death, too.

                        The problem is on the part of a mod who locks debate threads, which implies that debates are not tolerated. At the same time, there is no rule about locking threads, so locking threads is over and above rules. As a matter of principle it is a pretty sinister thing for a mod to go over and above rules.

                        Or maybe debates are not tolerated the way I do it. This is why I asked if debates are tolerated and, if yes, in what form. This should not be too difficult to answer. If you already have experience from elsewhere, then you know what a debate section looks like and what reasonable rules look like, so what is taking so long? Why are we still discussing this and nothing is getting done?

                        If my suggestions are reasonable and nobody has anything better to offer, then what prevents accepting my suggestions? Is it the fact that they are *my* suggestions?

                        ETA:
                        Originally posted by John West View Post
                        The fact is that the majority of users are coming from the apologetics circuit and would probably be interested in something like this...
                        If so, then the Debates section should allow for emulating real-life apologetic situations, like addressing militant atheists and fundies of other denominations or religions. Right? Otherwise there would be not much point.
                        Last edited by seigneur; 01-15-2019, 08:39 PM.

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