Bo Seo, Harvard’s former debate coach, explains a good argument.
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If our ancestors could see modern society, odds are they would be impressed with our technology and horrified with how we use it — particularly when it comes to debate.
Debate is crucial to a healthy society. After all, having productive debates is how people have learned, resolved conflicts, and generated new solutions for thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, it was even considered a kind of civic duty to be able to persuasively argue your point about the various issues of the day.
There are plenty of skilled rhetoricians around today. But as two-time world debate champion Bo Seo told Big Think, it has become rare to see thoughtful, productive, and smart debates broadcast on a large scale to the general public. We more often encounter short video clips or tweets featuring people whose main goal is to “win” the argument instead of trying to understand and refute the opposing side’s ideas in good faith.
A major part of the problem is that we have outsourced our debates to avatars we see in media: politicians, pundits, and celebrities.
So, can we develop better models of disagreement to help us become better debaters? Seo thinks the answer is yes, and that the process starts with polishing our skills offline.
Read the video transcript ► https://bigthink.com/series/great-question/how-to-have-good-debates
About Bo Seo:
Bo Seo is a two-time world champion debater and a former coach of the Australian national debating team and the Harvard College Debating Union. One of the most recognized figures in the global debate community, he has won both the World Schools Debating Championship and the World Universities Debating Championship. Bo has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, and many other publications. He has worked as a national reporter for the Australian Financial Review and has been a regular panelist on the prime time Australian debate program, The Drum. Bo graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University and received a master’s degree in public policy from Tsinghua University. He is currently a student at Harvard Law School.
Read more of our stories on the art of arguments:
Five ways to tell if someone is an expert, or just confident
Which philosopher had the strongest arguments?
Why changing your mind is a feature of evolution, not a bug
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