Over the years I have found debates about abstract principles can be greatly enhanced by self-disclosure. I will use two up-coming posts on Pacifism and Suicide to illustrate this point. If your debating-partner discloses their experiences with violence or suicide, it could greatly help you understand you their position even if you don’t agree with it. This seem like common sense but I find many bloggers who feel personal details are immaterial and want to keep their debates limited purely to the argument’s unadulterated logic — and of course, there is not such thing.
I find that when people argue opposing positions on controversial issues, they can enhance their dialogue by sharing their personal experiences. This may not resolve issues but hearing your dialogue-partner’s experience may give you empathetic insight into their position such that you can restate your position with caveats that capture their concerns, thus changing both your position and possibly theirs. Or, if nothing else, you will feel for the other person and realize that their decision is not just bad logic but, as in all of us, tied together with strongly, understandable emotions. For thought never occur in isolation but always tied to emotion.
Self-disclosure does, however, come with obvious problems. You risk that your dialogue-partner may take your personal information and employ it against you using the genetic fallacy. And though the genetic fallacy is illogical, it can be persuasive to others listening in on your debate. So then you would loose the argument. But do you blog to win or to grow in understanding? Another danger is that your debate-partner may not show any empathy and leave you feeling vulnerable and hurt after a self-disclosure. Thus the decision to risk vulnerability is complicated. But if one feels confident enough for the vulnerability of self-disclosure, it can be a very healing and useful technique in building healthy relationships and community. It is for this reason that I value self-disclosure and vulnerability though I think they should be used judiciously.
Religious debate is a good place to experiment with self-disclosure. The pure logic of religious person who debates religious philosophy or theology may not budge an atheist, but if the religious person shares their religious conversion or shares how their faith has changed their life, the atheist may be able to listen with a different heart. Likewise if the atheist shares their negative experiences with religion and how reasoning and empiricism have greatly benefited them, the religious person may be better able to share a few mutual concerns with the theist.
Thus, on blogs, I suggest that self-disclosure pages may help readers understand the arguments of the blogger. On my site, I have done this on my “About Author” tab. Take a look if you are interested. I have found the vulnerability to be nothing but helpful when discussing controversial issues with my readers.