Web Project Manager,

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Prerequisites for a debate

I have noticed that in many debates, so much time is wasted in things such as semantics. I think the best way to start with a debate is to define the words you will be using, and the assumptions you are making. I think that will bring so much clarity, and will stop debates from getting sidetracked.

You can debate the assumptions and definitions, but if they are clearly outlined, then it's all on the table at the beginning. We all have assumptions, and at times different definitions, this is fine, but we need to recognize these to have intelligent and respectful dialog.

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    Jun 26 2011: This really comes down to the person organizing the debate. If a host want a narrow focus they should include definitions of words in their statement. If people go about adding their own meanings, they should be ignored. However if this is not done why would we not be able to squeeze as much meaning out of words as they have. This is not done to waste time, but to add perspective to the debate ( which no one is forced into). Also we should keep in mind TED attracts members from many different cultures, all of which will bend words to fit there culture.
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    Jun 22 2011: On this one point I couldn't agree with you more Steve. Some people on TED here build their whole reputation on playing around with semantics. I think it's because it makes them feel more sophisticated. Really it detracts from the debate at hand.
  • Jun 22 2011: Step 1: do not debate with people who spend too much time over semantics, unless you feel that the extra time and lower utility of the debate for anyone else who reads it is worthwhile to you.

    Aaaand just because, see http://pastebin.com/Q86Zhgs9 line 59. People worry over semantics because they feel other people care, because they do even if it is irrelevant to the facts of an argument. An obsession over surface details is part of the environment in which people are forced to operate, but one's environment can be modified to cause further goal completion beyond the scope of any single argument.
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    Jun 21 2011: What do you mean by debate?

    Only kidding. I'm all for this. I have myself had to clarify some definitions and assumptions in debates on TED so aiming for more initial clarity can only be a good thing.