''Winning'' Debates


Forum Staff
Apr 2010
T'Republic of Yorkshire
When I wrote the OP I was thinking of real debates, but now that you mention the internet ones I'm wondering about them too.
An "internet debate" is one populated by keyboard warriors who basically want to have the last word, instead of people who want to actually discuss things.

Of course, what they really want is to get the other party to admit that they are wrong, but that almost never happens on an internet debate.


Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
The problem with this is it equates "changing your mind" with "losing". That is a stupid and destructive thing to do.
You are right , that's why I put "winning" in parenthesis
the concept of winning imply a looser , this is wrong , both should be "winners"


Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
San Diego
"Winning" a debate is when your interlocutor is convinced by your proposition
this is a common error.

Debate doesn't change minds. At least, not in the actual process of debate.
The function is to expose people to reasoned discourse. And make a sound argument.

They will not decide to agree with you as they are in a defensive posture... but they can not walk away without those good arguments going with them.

Over time, years perhaps, they will have other experiences or be exposed to other arguments that support the argument they heard. And gradually, often without realizing any individual moment of change, their minds will have been changed. Their position will have evolved.

This is how the contest of ideas results in social evolution.

In just a handful of years the US went from believing that Gay marriage was abhorrent... to it being legalized.

And that was simply the effect of the persuasion of sound arguments gradually beating down the arguments that were unsound.

You win your debate when you have made an argument that your opponent can not counter without resorting to fallacy.

But that technical knockout most often takes months or years to actually change the opinions of those who witnessed the debate.
A person whose mind can be changed in the midst of a debate, because of a sound argument, is a very rare thing.


Ad Honoris
Feb 2011
Perambulating in St James' Park
"Winning debates" is just an immature willy-waving competition. I'm far more impressed by a poster who admits to not knowing something than a poster who tries to blag it and continue arguing to try and save their virtual face - how sad is that? To stand corrected is to show confidence and is not a weakness imho. It must be some psychological issue where they dislike being corrected or informed by their peers, they may also be quite narcissistic and mentally deranged too.


Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
Interestingly enough, some people believe that even fact-checking websites themselves are biased. Seriously.
Unfortunately, it is a fact ;) (for some of them at least) .... some of them act like the "ministry of truth".... a give away is when they check only certain facts (those they deem inconvenient) but not others or they try too hard to "debunk" certain claims by making opposite claims which themselves are as incorrect as the ones they try to debunk


Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
There is not a single answer to the question... This is because "winning a debate" entails that the person who "won the debate" reached the goal he/she had set for himself/herself.... There are different types of goals / combinations of goals... For example:

  • becoming famous/ more famous
  • getting more voters
  • preventing the opponent from getting his message across
  • getting one's own message across
  • creating an image for oneself
  • getting opponent(s) to do/say what the debater wants them to say
  • eliciting sympathy / pity

this list is obviously not a complete list

Sometimes it may appear that one has lost (or won) the debate.... but if one has reached (or failed to reach) their goals that impression could be misleading.... A common mistake is striving to "win the debate" whilst losing sight of one's end goal in the process (this happens because people get caught up in the discussion and tend to want to be "right".... a wily opponent will not care about being "right" if he reaches his goal)

in the below example Monica and Rachel become so caught up in their bickering that they lose sight of their goal to date doctors



Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
At least when it comes to this issue, we won't get "back in the good ol' days" posts, since we aren't dueling over hurt feelings anymore.