Just look at Plato's depiction of the dialogues of Socrates. While probably somewhat construed and artificially enhanced, Plato's work describes very clearly a mode of reasoning and dialogue that might have permeated societal life: taking sides temporarily to further an argument on a specific topic, using reasoning and dialectical techniques to try to approach the "truth" of the day.
Where I think we fail in some Western societies today (and here I speak mainly of the Swedish societal structure of which I'm most intimate) is in the reluctance of people to take the uncomfortable side in the interest of furthering the argument. We feel this uncomfort due to our inability to separate our sense of "self" from the side of the argument we are temporarily making, leading to the fundamental conviction and fear that we become what we argue, like we become what we eat.
This is an inability of seeing one's self — in an intellectual debate of any kind — as two persons, separating the mental self-conscious "me" from the other kind of "me", which is — as must again be specifically stressed — temporarily acting as a tool in the service of furthering a debate, resulting in a society where the easy or popular side of the argument — the one where most people already
think alike (and often without too much reflection) — is the argument that will most likely prevail. This to the detriment of many a societal, humanistic, philosophical and moral advancements.