Does any one recall the philosopher who stated that in order to truly debate a subject one must first give up the idea that their opinions on the subject are valid? I don't remember who he was, but I recall he was either Russian or Eastern European.

Basically if an atheist and a Christian wanted to debate the existence of God, both parties would need to suspend their beliefs and start off with a blank slate. The idea is that if you go in to the debate with the assumption that the subject is valid in your mind, you aren't really debating.

Can you name the philosopher and give your views on this theory?


I don't know what philospher said this, although Edmund Husserl sounds like a reasonable candidate. With that said, here are some philosophers/schools that may be candidates:

  • Under one interpretation, Socratic dialogues can be interpreted as ways of unknowing so that real knowing could take place. Many of the dialogues after all ended in an indeterminate state, with no positive assertion put forth, only the demolition of the opponent's views.

  • The previous poster mentioned the Pyrrhonists (Ancient Greek Skeptics). However, their goal was a state of freedom from worry -- Ataraxia. Their methods were less about finding the truth, and more about reaching this state.

  • Descartes' thought experiment (that culminated in "I think, therefore I am") can be seen as a method for going back to a blank slate, but I don't recall him engaging in debates with this method.

  • Husserl did something similar in his phenomenological project, but again I don't recall him engaging in debates.

I don't think we can practically start from a blank slate when arguing a point. How could we build on prior knowledge -- how far would we get? Even the rules of debate require some experiential structure (for instance, valid rules of inference, or that the person making the claim must provide the evidence).

Now keeping an open mind is another thing, and that's good, but even that is simply suspending judgment about a claim, rather than going back to a blank slate, and even suspending judgment grants nothing to the other party.

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In the classical / German "Epoche" we are asked to suspend belief in "existence" if not actually validity.

I don't know any eastern european philosophers, and I can't think of anyone who would use the term "validity" in their suspension of dis/belief.

Of course Buddhists might ask us to suspend belief in Being, but it's not always clear what this term means. It may be that you are asking whether a philosopher can demonstrate non validity of someone's argument without assuming the validity of his own. This is important in the Prasangika / Svantantrika debate, in Buddhism. There s A LOT of scholarly work on this, though I would suggest avoiding wikipedia, cos the literature there is heavily skewed toward Tibetan analysis, which unfortunately is not IMO anyway reliable in scholarly terms.

Candrakīrti criticized that approach and advocated for being content to show the unwelcome consequences (prasaṅga) of all possible positions on any given philosophical issue

i.e. "reductio ad absurdum" of some form.

If you think it was this, and I know tonnes about buddhism and it's your best bet from that thought. aside from maybe "zen", then you could ask here

Happy hunting

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