True. The word brings up some unfortunate connotations. But English doesn’t have a single word for a wise method of gathering and considering different ideas and concerns with the goal of making much better, more skillful, wise, and compassionate decisions.
In the EBT I perceive the traces of a debate type thinking process.
NM96 / NM 96 / To the Brahmin Esukari appears to me as a refined or summarized report of what gives hints of coming from a more extended dialog with considerations of various differing views.
Esukari lays out a viewpoint and asks
Good Gotama, the Brahmins appoint these four kinds of services. What has good Gotama to say about that?’
The first response is a clarifying question - a recommended tool of constructive debate.
“Brahmin, does all the world acknowledge, this appointment of services by the Brahmins?’
The next response “I do not say … should be done … [or] should not be done” anticipates the thoughts / objections of an listener / interlocutor (one who takes part in dialogue or conversation). The form of expression in NM96 implies that the speaker perhaps has listened to previous debate or discussion on the topic or perhaps possesses the skills of a accomplished debater.
Brahmin, I do not say all services should be done. I do not say, all services should not be done. When doing those services if there is evil, that service is not good. I say it should not be done. When doing those services, if there is no evil, that service is good. I say it should be done. Brahmin, the warriors, should be questioned.
Or again when I read the monastic rules there is a subtly, completeness and consideration of various contexts and responses that rarely emerge all at once, fully formed formed from the mind of a single person.
Thus it seems to me very plausible and probable, that the dialogs recorded in the EBTs represent summaries or refinements of longer dialogs. It’s easy for me to imagine (based on historical accounts of capable leaders) that the Buddha listened to the discussions of others for some time before before speaking himself. In either case it seems to me that a natural reading of the EBT’s can assume that some ‘debate style’ dialog preceded the statements recorded in the EBTs.
Examples of Constructive Debate type Decision Making Processes
This one from https://www.holacracy.org/governance-meetings
Present Proposal — proposer describes the problem that she saw and the solution she proposes
Clarifying Questions — anyone can ask clarifying questions. Proposer can answer. No reactions or dialog allowed.
Reaction Round — each person can react to the proposal as they see fit. No discussion or responses.
Amend & Clarify — proposer can optionally clarify the intent or amend the proposal based on reactions. No discussion allowed.
Objection Round — The Facilitator asks each person in turn: ”Do you see any reasons why adopting this proposal would cause harm or move us backwards?” (an “Objection”). Objections are stated, tested, and captured without discussion; the proposal is adopted if none surface.
Integration — The goal is to craft an amended proposal that would not cause the Objection, but that would still address the proposer’s problem. Focus on each Objection, one at a time. Once all are integrated, go through another Objection Round.