Shoot without a Target

There is a situation that I have trouble dealing with in teaching debate to beginning students. It is the situation when a student demands absolute rules for how to debate the “right” way.


This comes from high rationality and the enlightenment mostly, and is also found in a highly scientific and absoutist worldview. This si the result of a system of teaching and learning that instists on the removal of pobability in favor of certainty as the end of education.


So it becomes hard to teach such students who are very comfortable and insistent upon such standards to do well (or to act at all) to embrace probability as not only an inevitable condition, but a positive good.


I didnt have much luck today engaging with a student like this on this issue and it made me realize the necessity of having a good strategy for proving this to students who want certainty and a list of rules for how to debate well.


The one thing that I was reliant on in the past was how archery is taught in Japan, or how it is done along the lines of traditional zen thinking at least – how the target isnt given to the student at all until after the student has shot wihtout one often times for many years. Students express the same frustrations about this sort of thing in those situations.


The target must be removed so that argumentation can improve or a t least be taught well. But can this be done? The modernist sentiment and deep track of argumentation theory would say no. So this leads us to the possibility of abandoning argumentation theory from the modernist tradition. But without that, argumentation theory loses great gains (burden of proof, presumption, evidence standards, etc). In fact you could argue that it wouldnt be recognizable as argumentation theory at all.


We could turn to Burke and go for identification/division, but again this is a target. How does one shoot without a target in argumentation?


I suppose the idea of the universal audience is where we are left, but again one has a target. Maybe distnquishing the idea of Target and target might be productive? Perhaps this is the distinction that Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca make between demonstration and argumentation is exactly the distinction I want between targeted and non-targeted argumentation.