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Synthesis may be useful and desirable, but not always. It may be relevant, it may not. It may be possible, it may not.

Reductio ad absurdum:

I am in favour of chopping rg into tiny bits.

My opponent thinks rg should remain whole.

Synthesis? OK, let's cut rg into quarters.

It's admittedly desperate as an example, particularly for rg, but there are positions that don't admit synthesis.

Oppositional debate can also serve as a means of setting out the arguments for and against, of adducing evidence, in other words, of providing information.

On the other hand, endless argumentativeness and logic-chopping, sophistry, eristic...

eristic a & n  (art or exponent) of disputation; (of argument or arguer) aimed or aiming at victory rather than truth [f. Gk eristikos (erizo wrangle f. eris strife)...] (Concise Oxford Dictionary)

is tedious and unproductive. (Meaning <scream raaaarggghh enough stop!>)

And it would be good if we developed other ways here of being productive in the way ideas are shared. Maieutics is one way; collaborative work towards a position and/or a text is another... Though it has to be said that these don't "draw" like a big fight; and that they suppose a fairly high degree of like-mindedness. And there we will get accusations of "groupthink" and "comfort zones", and calls for openness to contrary points of view... And therefore disputation and strife... The good ship ET has navigated between this Scylla and this Charybdis since the beginning.

So: when ideas are antithetical or at least very different, how do you discuss them productively without confronting them? Propositions welcome.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:32:28 AM EST
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