The Little-Known Debate Format That Oozes Empathy

Naive or genius? You be the judge. 

pong flickr user schmarty.png
Flickr / Schmarty

Courtesy of Robin Sloan, a succinct description of a debate format I'd love to see tried in a Congressional race somewhere:

Take two debaters, Alice and Bob. Alice goes first, presenting her argument. Then Bob stands up, and before he can present his counter-argument, he has to summarize Alice's argument to her satisfaction. So it's basically an exercise in empathy and good faith. If Alice agrees that he's got it right, then Bob proceeds with his argument--and when he's done, Alice has to recapitulate it to his satisfaction.

Then, they respond to questions.

She says that "I'd read a whole magazine of this: people truly grappling with the very best representative of some philosophy, some belief, utterly opposite their own. Or even orthogonal to their own. At any weird angle to their own, really."

What if that was how political essayists saw their role?



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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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