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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some thoughts on previous post

I've watched the first ten minutes or so - Catherine's introduction to the session and my own statement of my position (remember, we were asked not to treat this as a debate but simply to state our positions in 4 to 6 minutes ... then have a conversation led by Catherine).

I've learned a bit from watching it. I actually thought it was pretty good, probably better than I expected, although I rushed phrases at times, and lost their full effect. I'm not yet ready to debate someone as skilled as, say, William Lane Craig or Christopher Hitchens (on a subject where I disagree with him). But it's not a bad start.

Of course, I shouldn't pretend to be a complete novice at debating, since I have years of courtroom experience behind me. But the kinds of debates that we see Hitchens, etc., involved in are very different from what happens in a courtroom; they are much more dependent on concise claims, persuasive rhetoric, a confident demeanour, an attractive personal style, etc., rather than presenting and analysing evidence, possibly over days. What suits one format will not necessarily suit the other. I admire Hitchens, but I'm sure that he "wins" many debates just from his assertive demeanour and his wonderful, resonant voice.


Parrhesia said...

You're a braver (wo)man than me. I would rather die than watch myself on video. Photos are bad enough!

But I was at the debate, and I think your assessment of yourself is fair. You probably could have arranged your material and presented yourself in a more deliberately persuasive manner, while still seeming relaxed and chatty as per the order of the day. As someone who had previously encountered you on the net, it was very interesting to see you in real life as compared to a few pixels and some paragraphs of text.

Brian said...

I think Debates that the likes of Dwayn Gish or Lane Craig engage in are just style over substance. Neither guy is interested in presenting truth or cogent arguments but appealing to the prejudices and ignorance of the audience.

Hitch too is style over substance. Though I'd give him points for honesty. But I wouldn't put it past him to twist the truth to score points.

Do you want to be the rhetoric king debater? I reckon it takes a certain personality type. Then again you did say you were a lawyer...:P

Russell Blackford said...

Meanwhile, in the discussion over on Facebook it's become clear that my hair is the popular element of the video.

At this rate I could become the Matt Nisbet of the south, as opposed to the PZ Myers of the south.

Brian said...

Facebook? You hipster you.

Matt Nisbett, isn't he a framer or fatheist? How does hair tie in with that?

Russell Blackford said...

Dude, haven't you seen Nisbet's hair? He's famous for it.

Brian said...

Sorry Russell. I wouldn't know Nisbett from a roo in a mob of 100's. I'm only familiar with the name due to the framing stuff on Pharyngula.

Anonymous said...

Hitchens sounds like Richard Burton.

Steve Zara said...

I really hope you don't become the PZ of the South. There is barely enough room for one PZ in the whole globe.

Brian.. not on facebook yet?

Wonderist said...

Hmm, a trial, eh?

Maybe we should do something like this. Imagine instead of a debate over the existence of God, we have a trial, complete with judge, jury, plaintiff and defendant. We could collect all the evidence on both sides over days or weeks or however long it takes, present both sides of the case, cross-examine, and then reach a judgment.

Could do it over the internet, rather than taking up everyone's time in a court. Of course, it would just be for show, but it would sure beat a measly 2 hour debate.

Brian said...

Steve, not on facebook. Some members of my family with whom I'd rather not engage are on facebook so I figure it best not to be. :)

Janet's Dad said...

I think you have to give Hitchen's huge credit for being able to reel off extremely cogent and complete references - often quoting at length - and seemingly without any prior preparation - it is not just style, he often stuns his opponents by crushing them in substance or relevant citations for which they are too floored to retort.

For instance in Sydney, recently, he recited the entire Pythons Australian philosopher song and correctly cited "University of Woolloomooloo" ... as their alma matter ... no small feat.

What you need Russell is to be written into the song:

Russell Blackford, was ready to pour
but the priest said he knocked on the wrong door.

ok ... ok ... that needs work