The Tao of Debate: Words from Calvin and Master Lin

This post is a shout out to MLQ3, whose blog will always be an area — and topic — for debate. What won’t be up for debate is that all the time you’ve invested in your blog has inspired a lot of us to invest in ours. Thank you!

In his blog, Tao Master Derek Lin was asked:

Derek, you have “Those who are good do not debate / Those who debate are not good” in your translation of chapter 81. Are you sure “debate” is the right word? I do not see debate as a bad thing. Historically, rigorous debates have always been the basis of our scientific advances as well as our democracy. Other translations use “argue” instead of “debate.” Wouldn’t that be more correct?

Here is an excerpt from his response:

In theory, debates seem like they can be a very constructive thing. However, when Tao sages observe personal debates in practical, everyday reality, they notice much more harmful effects. Instead of achieving consensus, both sides become ever more entrenched in their beliefs. The participants expend a tremendous amount of effort, but accomplish no particularly useful results.

This is usually how things work because we are human as opposed to perfectly rational beings. In a debate, we tend to become defensive, mocking, and combative. Ego rears its head and clouds our judgement. In order to win, we’ll do anything – cut the opponents off in mid-sentence, twist their words, manipulate the facts… anything at all. Thus, far from helping us improve ourselves, debates only seem to bring out the worst in us.

Generally speaking, when people get together in a meeting, their interactions range from discussion to argument. Debate is between the two in this scale, and represents the starting point of the downward spiral. This means things start to go wrong as soon as people transition from discussion to debate. If they fail to do something to reverse course, the debate is likely to degenerate into an all-out argument. At that point, they can forget about making any meaningful progress.

Read the entire article over at!


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