Why Not Pre-Debate Talk?

Reading this (poor) debate between Steven Pinker and George Lakoff in the May Public Policy Research reminded me of a complaint I’ve long had about debates: the parties usually don’t seem to have talked much ahead of time to try to iron out their differences.  They arrive to the debate knowing at most the other side’s previous published positions and arguments, and haven’t bothered to privately ask clarifying questions.  I suspect this is because such debates function more as duels; the spectacle of combat is intended more to reveal relative mental abilities than to illuminate which conclusion is right.

I speak today on disagreement at a workshop here at Oxford where I’ve been visiting; here is the audio file.

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