I was looking at suttas on the subjects of discussion and debate, and I came across the following texts, which (on face value, at least) seem as if they are potentially at odds, somewhat.
When talking about "the bases of talk"... we read the following.
Note, the bolded portion above... "he should not overwhelm and crush his opponent".Kathāvatthu Sutta, AN. ii. 198-9
Those who speak with quarrelsome intent,
settled in their opinions, swollen with pride,
ignoble, having assailed virtues,
look for openings [to attack] one another.
They mutually delight when their opponent
speaks badly and makes a mistake,
[they rejoice] in his bewilderment and defeat;
but noble ones don’t engage in such talk.
If a wise person wants to talk,
having known the time is right,
without quarrelsomeness or pride,
the sagely person should utter
the speech that the noble ones practice,
which is connected with the Dhamma and meaning.
Not being insolent or aggressive,
with a mind not elated,
he speaks free from envy
on the basis of right knowledge.
He should approve of what is well expressed
but should not attack what is badly stated.
He should not train in faultfinding
nor seize on the other’s mistakes;
he should not overwhelm and crush his opponent,
nor speak mendacious words.
Truly, a discussion among the good
is for the sake of knowledge and confidence.
Such is the way the noble discuss things;
this is the discussion of the noble ones.
Having understood this, the wise person
should not swell up but should discuss things.
Yet, then we come across sutta accounts of the Buddha doing precisely this in debate with others. See the following extract from MN 35: Cula-Saccaka Sutta, again noting the bolded portion...
for which the one defeated in debate later expresses remorse...In the same way, Aggivessana, when you are interrogated, rebuked, & pressed by me with regard to your own statement, you are empty, void, mistaken. But it was you who made this statement before the assembly in Vesālī: 'I see no contemplative or brahman, the head of an order, the head of a group, or even one who claims to be an arahant, rightly self-awakened, who — engaged in debate with me — would not shiver, quiver, shake, & break out in sweat under the armpits. Even if I were to engage a senseless stump in debate, it — engaged with me in debate — would shiver, quiver, & shake, to say nothing of a human being.' But now some drops of sweat coming out of your forehead, drenching your upper robe, are landing on the ground, whereas now I have no sweat on my body." And the Blessed One uncovered his golden-colored body to the assembly. When this was said, Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha-son fell silent, abashed, sitting with his shoulders drooping, his head down, brooding, at a loss for words.
Then Dummukha [BadMouth] the Licchavi-son — sensing that Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha-son was silent, abashed, sitting with his shoulders drooping, his head down, brooding, at a loss for words — said to the Blessed One, "Lord, a simile has occurred to me."
"Let it occur to you, Dummukha," the Blessed One said.
"Suppose, lord, that not far from a village or town was a pond. There in it was a crab. Then a number of boys & girls, leaving the village or town, would go to the pond and, on arrival, would go down to bathe in it. Taking the crab out of the water, they would place it on the ground. And whenever the crab extended a leg, the boys or girls would cut it off, break it, and smash it with sticks or stones right there, so that the crab — with all its legs cut off, broken, & smashed — would be unable to get back in the water as before. In the same way, whatever Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha-son's writhings, capers, & contortions, the Blessed One has cut them off, broken them, and smashed them all, so that Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha-son is now unable to approach the Blessed One again for the purpose of debate."
What do you think? Is there a conflict in these passages, or do they just show "both sides of the coin" as it pertains to the activity of debate.When this was said, Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha-son said to the Blessed One, "It is we, Master Gotama, who were insolent, we who were reckless, in that we construed that Master Gotama could be attacked statement by statement. For there might be safety for a person who has attacked a rutting elephant, but there is no safety for a person who has attacked Master Gotama. There might be safety for a person who has attacked a mass of fire, but there is no safety for a person who has attacked Master Gotama. There might be safety for a person who has attacked a fanged snake, a poisonous snake, but there is no safety for a person who has attacked Master Gotama. It is we, Master Gotama, who were insolent, we who were reckless, in that we construed that Master Gotama could be attacked statement by statement.
Comments, and explorations (mindful of the topic, of course) are welcome.