Dialogue versus debate

From The Embassy of Good Science

Dialogue versus debate

What is this about?

Dialogue is a vehicle for reaching understanding and learning from each other. Dialogue is to be distinguished from debate. Dialogue focuses on listening to the other and being open to the other’s perspective, whereas debate aims at convincing the other through argumentation.

Why is this important?

Research integrity issues often require thorough consideration, as it is not always simple to apply rules and to know what is the right action given a code of conduct. A dialogue can help to find ways to deal with such issues. A dialogue can take place within the research team, or in a group aiming at reflection on research integrity issues.

The idea of dialogue is not only being nice and friendly. The aim is to come to a better view of the situation, gaining knowledge and understanding. This requires that one seriously investigates the relevance of the perspective of the other. Being open to the perspective of the other does not mean simply giving up one’s own point of view, but being prepared to learn from the other’s point of view. By exchanging perspectives, dialogue can result in a fusion of horizons.[1]

It is important to distinguish dialogue from debate. In a nutshell, the most relevant differences are the following :[2][3]

  • Dialogue focuses on learning from differences; debate focuses on finding the one right answer
  • Dialogue focuses on understanding the other; debate focuses on convincing the other
  • Dialogue focuses on listening and questioning; debate focuses on speaking and arguing
  • Dialogue focuses on looking for strengths in the position of the other; debate focuses on looking for weaknesses in the position of the other
  • Dialogue focuses on exploring and considering; debate focuses on attacking and defending
  • Dialogue focuses on thinking slow; debate focuses on thinking fast
  • Dialogue focuses on reflection and learning; debate focuses on concluding and deciding
  1. Gadamer, H-G (1989), Truth and Method, 2nd edn, Sheed and Ward, London
  2. Bonnemann, T. Quick Comparison: Debate and Deliberation, 2007. Accessible at: http://www.intellitics.com/blog/2007/11/18/quick-comparison-debate-and-deliberation/.
  3. Bonnemann, T. Dialogue and Deliberation 2007. Accesible at: http://www.intellitics.com/blog/2007/07/13/dialogue-and-deliberation/

For whom is this important?

What are the best practices?

The philosophical importance of dialogue has been elaborated in philosophical hermeneutics. [1][2]

Moral Case Deliberation is an example of group reflection on moral issues through dialogue.[1] In MCD, a morally troublesome situation is investigated by a group, guided by a facilitator. During the investigation, the conflicting values in the situation are examined in dialogue.

  1. 1.0 1.1 Widdershoven, G. A., & Metselaar, S. (2012). Gadamer's Truth and Method and Moral Case Deliberation in Clinical Ethics. In Hermeneutics and the Humanities (pp. 287-305)
  2. Gadamer, H-G (1989), Truth and Method, 2nd edn, Sheed and Ward, London

Other information

Virtues & Values
Good Practices & Misconduct