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Debate or debating is a formal method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than logical argument, which only examine the consistency from axiom, and factual argument, which only examine what is or isn't the case or rhetoric which is technique of persuasion. Though logical consistency, factual accuracy as well as some emotional appeal to audience are important elements of the art of persuasion, in debating, one side often prevails over the other side by presenting superior "context" and/or framework of the issue, which is far more subtle and strategic.

In a formal debating contest, there are rules for people to discuss and decide on differences, within a framework defining how they will interact. Informal debate is a common occurrence, but the quality and depth of a debate improves with knowledge and skill of its participants as debaters. Deliberative bodies such as parliaments, legislative assemblies, and meetings of all sorts engage in debates. The outcome of a debate may be decided by audience vote, by judges, or by some combination of the two. Formal debates between candidates for elected office, such as the leaders debates and the U.S. presidential election debates, are common in democracies.

A rule-based competitive debate is often encouraged in high schools and colleges. Often, it takes the form of a contest with explicit rules. It may be presided over by one or more judges. Each side seeks to win, by following the rules, and even by using some rules to break other rules, within limits. Each side is either in favor ("for, 'Affirmative' "), or opposed to ("against, 'Negative' "), a statement (proposition, moot or Resolution) which if adopted would change something with the exception of some high school and college debate where moots may hold no outcome ie. the moot "ignorance is bliss". Some of the rules are broad and must be followed in a general way. For example, those in favor of the proposition are

  • required to show the need for it to be adopted as it is written, and yet are
  • allowed to define the scope of the proposition; i.e. they choose what it will mean if adopted.

To further illustrate the importance of rules, those opposed must destroy these arguments, sufficiently to warrant not adopting the proposition, and are not required to propose any alternative solutions.

The major goal of the study of debate as a method or art is to develop one's ability to play from either position with equal ease. To inexperienced debaters, some propositions appear easier to defend or to destroy; to experienced debaters, any proposition can be defended or destroyed after the same amount of preparation time, usually quite short. Lawyers argue forcefully on behalf of their client, even if the facts appear against them. However one large misconception about debate is that it is all about argument; it is not.

Competitive Debate is an organized activity with teams competing at the local, national, and international level. It is popular in English-speaking universities and high schools around the world, most notably in South Africa, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Many different styles of debate occur under a variety of organizations and rules.[1]

See Also


  1. FDA's Web Page - Pectus est quod disertos facit (Quintilien)

External Links