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It is possible for any forensics organization or other body to center its activity upon public debates. Academic institutions have done so and will continue to do so on the basis that audience debates constitute an appropriate training for citizenship in a democracy and for participation in the economic world. The public debate before real audiences provides three important benefits: accountability; revitalization of the public sphere; and connection with a rich rhetorical heritage for standards and criticism. General interest has been renewed in human judgment as a contributor to academic epistemology as well as in the reconstitution of the political sphere. Ronald Beiner, in "Political Judgment," provides the clearest picture of the functions of judgment: "Judgment allows us to comport ourselves in the world without dependence upon rules and methods, and allows us to defeat subjectivity by asserting claims that seek general consent." In practical terms, a distinction between human judgment and "technical rationality," or disembodied adherence to external rules, will be a useful touchstone. The ways in which public debates validate and contribute to consensual meanings and decisions may be divided into four categories: (1) context; (2) knowledge; (3) intuitive thinking; and (4) human interests. The manifest values of public debate with live audiences suggest the possibility that they might somehow be reflected in competitive tournament debate as well. (Contains 11 references.) (TB)

Descriptors: Audience Response, Cultural Context, Debate, Debate Format, Evaluative Thinking, Higher Education, Public Speaking, Speech Communication

Autor: Weiss, Robert O.


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