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p.85-86, Jnana 56
56 -- When, O eager disputant, thou has prevailed in a debate, then art thou greatly to be pitied; for thou hast lost a chance of widening knowledge.
What is the use of discusisons? What is the best way to make other people understand what one feels to be true? (Oral question and answer.)
In general, those who like to discuss things are those who need the stimulant of contradiction to clarify their ideas.
It is obviously the sign of an elementary intellectual stage.
But if you can "attend" a discusson as an impartial spectator -- even while you are taking part in it and while the other person is talking with you -- you can always benefit from this opportunity to consider a question or a problem from several points of view; and by attempting to reconcile opposite views, you can widen your ideas and rise to a more comprehensive synthesis.
As for the best way of proving to others what one feels to be true, one must live it -- there is no other way.
How is it that we lose a chance to widen our knowledge by prevailing in a debate?
A debate is never anything but a conflict of opinions; and opinions are nothing but very fragmentary aspects of the truth. Even if you were able to put together and synthesise all opinions on a given subject, you still would not achieve anything but a ve ry imperfect expression of the truth.
If you prevail in a debate, it means that your opinion has prevailed over the opinion of another, not necessarily because yours was truer than his, but because you were better at wielding the arguments or because you were a more stubborn debater. And you come out of the discussion convinced that you are right in what you assert; and so you lose a chance to see a view of the question other than your own and to add an aspect of the truth to the one or the ones you already possess. You remain imprisioned in your own thought and refuse to widen it.
17 March 1961
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Last modified on Aug 11, 1995