What is the Difference Between Dialogue (which we aim for in TOK) and Debate?
- Dialogue is collaborative: multiple sides work toward shared understanding.
Debate is oppositional: two opposing sides try to prove each other wrong.
- In dialogue, one listens to understand, to make meaning, and to find common ground.
In debate, one listens to find flaws, to spot differences, and to counter arguments.
- Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participant’s point of view.
Debate defends assumptions as truth.
- Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.
Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.
- In dialogue, one submits one’s best thinking, expecting that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than threaten it.
In debate, one submits one’s best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.
- Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one’s beliefs.
Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one’s beliefs.
- In dialogue, one searches for strengths in all positions.
In debate, one searches for weaknesses in the other position.
- Dialogue respects all the other participants and seeks not to alienate or offend.
Debate rebuts contrary positions and may belittle or deprecate other participants.
- Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of answers and that cooperation can lead to a greater understanding.
Debate assumes a single right answer that somebody already has.
- Dialogue remains open-ended.
Debate demands a conclusion.
- Dialogue is characterized by:
- suspending judgment
- examining our own work without defensiveness
- exposing our reasoning and looking for limits to it
- communicating our underlying assumptions
- exploring viewpoints more broadly and deeply
- being open to disconfirming data
- approaching someone who sees a problem differently not as an adversary, but as a colleague in common pursuit of better solution.