When I teach the method in this way, I always have students who question it. They look at me, almost stunned, and want to know why in the world a person should create a better argument for their opponent. Isn’t that the opponent’s job? This way of viewing arguments is, as Appel and others note, entirely defensive.
However, there's more to it. The defensive strategy views the argument, and the thinking behind it, as complete. As a result, there’s nothing more for the holder of the argument to learn. All that remains is the job of occasional defense and the need to adjust the argument when one’s opponent is successful. The contrary method (call it the offensive strategy) sees one’s position as essentially incomplete and so constantly under development. As a result, it doesn’t adjust only in defense. It adjusts as it seeks out its opposition and creates better arguments for the opposition position.
Perhaps for some (students and others) committed to the defensive strategy, all that exists is rhetoric, dogma and arrogance. Argument is a zero-sum game of winners and losers competing for finite goods. With the offensive strategy, participants are motivated by truth, greater understanding and humility. Argument is not zero-sum, and the goods of the practice are available to both sides in the exchange.
I'm wondering what reactions people here at ISW have about this. Do you teach the offensive strategy yourself? How do you teach it? How do you frame the worth of this approach? Do you find from time to time that you, against your better instincts, reward defensive strategy thinking in students (I know I do)? What do your students say to the offensive strategy? How do they view the function of good argumentation?