The purpose of a debate is to arrive at a decision. The point of arriving at a decision is to review options. And the reason for reviewing options is to attain clarity around the problem or issue that you’re trying to resolve. Essentially, a decision is like a vote.
The reason that you engage in debate is to explore options, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. So when you debate, you are evaluating multiple options in order to determine what the best course of action is. You could do this in your head. But ideally, if you pull a group of people together and they can think through a common problem and understand that they want to come to the best possible solution in the least amount of time, then the debate is going to get you there the quickest.
You are harnessing the collective brainpower of your friends, experts, common people who experienced the problem, authorities, and lots of other folks who would have relevant input.
A debate has structure.
There’s a structure to the debate. Imagine a piece of paper with a series of boxes or steps on it descending from the top. You start with the initial problem or the issue and that becomes one specific thing that you are trying to resolve. The next thing is you’re defining the goal, which is really what is your position?
So in any case, let’s say your issue is taxes and your position (listed in the box below) is you want to make a change to that. You want to decrease taxes. That’s your position.
Then you start gathering facts around the situation. The facts you gather have to do with the impact the tax reduction would have, how high taxes might have hurt people in the past, the unfairness of certain kinds of taxes or whatever the specific part of the issue is that you’re trying to address. But you’re basically looking at the whole issue.
You’re not trying to solve the problem in the first step. You’re just trying to pull together as many facts from many different perspectives as you can. This is where you don’t have all the answers or the facts and you want to bring in other people to help you with the debate. It’s that simple.