[OPE-L:6625] an idea for possible future debates

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 11:55:50 EST

Following-up on my [6623] which was a reply to Nicky's [6622]:

Amended below is an abstract procedure for how questions of this
order might be discussed. In thinking about this more,  I suggest the
following procedure for how we could more concretely have this form
of debate on OPE-L.

[NB: the following is _ONLY_ a suggestion for debates which focus
on questions where the debate is not primarily about interpreting

FIRST:  we would need at least two volunteers advocating different
theories who would commit themselves to the following.

SECOND: it would be very helpful in order to maintain focus during the
subsequent debate if the volunteers could get agreement beforehand on
*precisely* what is being debated.  It might help if Y could put forward
a claim for what position is being defended which is not simply labeled
as  "Marx's  theory" (since that would almost certainly get us back into the
never-ending debate about what Marx's theory was).

THIRD (the debate begins):  The volunteer (Z) with the less generally
accepted claim  (B) writes a fairly lengthy post explaining why that theory
is superior to the alternative (A).   For a period of  *one week*, no one on
the list comments other than to ask brief clarifying questions. This allows
listmembers to think about the  post written by Z (of course, a team of
like-minded listmembers could jointly author a post) and it *slows* the
debate such that the advocates for each position aren't overwhelmed writing
responses (after all, maybe they have other things in their lives that they
have to do as well).

FOURTH: The other volunteer (Y) then puts forward arguments for why A
is superior to B in another fairly lengthy post. Z doesn't respond until the
*next* week.

FIFTH: each week afterwards, Z and Y take turns answering the other's
arguments and engaging in critique and counter-critique (this would mean
that after the initial round, Z and Y would write follow-up posts
approximately once every two weeks.  This would give each sufficient time
to gather her/his thoughts and modify and deepen their arguments.

While all of this is going on, of course, all listmembers could participate
in other threads -- i.e. this debate need not be the _only_  subject
discussed on the list.

SIXTH (end game): the debate ends when the two volunteers jointly agree
that it has gone as far as it can go and any further discussion would be
repetitive and non-productive. Perhaps there might even be some
agreements. Perhaps some arguments will be rejected in favor of others.
Perhaps there will be an agreement to disagree on some questions.
Perhaps some of the rest of us who aren't lead figures in the debate will
modify our positions and change our arguments -- in any event, it
should be a learning process for all.  And, at least the issues themselves
will have been meaningfully debated -- and that would be an accomplishment
of and in itself.

What subjects could be debated?  I can think of a bunch. One that comes
to mind immediately would be a debate over whether value-form theory
(VFT) is a *better* theory than the 'standard theory' (however that is
defined).  If both had the time, I think that a debate between Geert and
Fred around this question (although, Fred no doubt would choose some
description other than 'standard theory', like 'macro monetary', to
summarize his position).  Nicky and others: don't you think that would be a
good debate for us to have?  Nicky and others:  what other subjects for
debate about which is the better theory would you like to see engaged?
(maybe Fred would like instead to have a clearly-focused debate about the
causes of the current world economic crisis; maybe Paul Z would like to
lead a debate about Rosa L;  maybe we could debate surplus approach
theory or 'labor embodied' theories; Alan could debate non-linear dynamics
vs. the usefulness of comparative statics and linear models etc, etc, etc).
Or, do others think the above procedure is unworkable and/or undesirable?
If so, why?

In solidarity, Jerry
> Suppose that the advocates for Theories A and B (developed originally by
> Y and Z) have arguments for WHY they think that their respective theory is
> BETTER THAN the alternative.
> Let them begin by LISTING those arguments.
> E.g. advocates for Theory A might list the following arguments: A1, A2,
> A4, A5. Advocates for theory B might also have arguments for why their
> theory is better: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 .  (I am assuming equal quantities of
> arguments as a simplifying assumption).
> In listing and EXPLAINING A1-A5 or B1-B5 each group has the opportunity
> to CLARIFY -- and perhaps MODIFY -- their own arguments. This is a
> very useful exercise in itself since it gets each group to think more
> about WHY they consider their theory to be a superior explanation for C
> subject matter).
> THEN -- the next step -- is for each group to CRITIQUE the arguments put
> forward by advocates of  the other theory and to ANSWER THE CRITIQUE
> from advocates of the counter-perspective of their own arguments. In so
> doing,  either or both sides may be forced to abandon one or more of their
> arguments: e.g. if  A1 states that A is a superior theory since Y  was a
> 'great person' (indeed even a 'genius') then A1 must be rejected by all
> since it is really an appeal to authority (and also irrelevant) rather
> a real argument.
> NOW we get to the question you ask: can we, assuming there is still
> disagreement (a safe assumption, I would think): can the advocates of A
> and B jointly develop criteria with which the outstanding questions can be
> answered? This is indeed a "knotty" issue, as you suggest, but my point is
> that AS A PRACTICAL MATTER I don't see how one gets to that issue
> until one has gotten past the above steps in the discussion of A and B.
> In other words, the FIRST issue isn't so much how one ultimately resolves
> differences in perspective (if that is possible) but rather to get
> of A and B to recognize what is "the more important question" and to
> begin in good faith to attempt to answer that question.  Until that
> is answered then the realm of discussion might very well be limited to the
> SECONDARY question -- what was Y's perspective? (Q1).  In
> other words if you don't begin by recognizing that Q2  *IS*  the more
> important question then you may never really get around to
> discussing it!

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat Mar 02 2002 - 00:00:05 EST