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Re: Racism in debate
On Sun, 02 Feb 1997 21:16:23 -0500 (EST) you said:
First, I have to clear up a misreading. This is my definition of
argument critic, and the emphasized part is important.
>> * Judges who identify themselves as argument critics are interested
>> in evaluating a dialectic. Where two teams have presented
>> countervailing arguments, ^^^^^ ^^^ ^^^^^ ^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^
>> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^
>> the judge evaluates the interchange and decides which
>> side is more persuasive, more coherent, etc. If one team makes an
>> argument and the other team declines to answer it, then the one
>> team's argument gets its full persuasive force.
*the part where I talk about percentages of persuasiveness snipped*
>I have never really figured that out I guess. I guess my teams will
>just experiment around with arguments until we find one that is 99-100%
>persuasive to you and we'll never lose, no matter what the other team
>says, right? That isn't Critic of Argument. That is forcing the
>debaters to debate you.
Umm, did you notice that I placed "Rocks fall when dropped" at 98%? I
originally put "100%" but then went back and changed it. I *could*
conceivably be convinced that gravity doesn't exist, but it would take a
Lovitt/Repko hybrid combined with an act of God. What I was attempting
to describe was the projected likelihood that I could be convinced of
various things, and I did so to make a point. I'll get to the point in a
moment, but isn't that the kind of info you'd like to know if you were
coaching a team to debate for me? That I think people need especially
good cards and coherent explanations to win Malthus or Bipartisanship,
and either mind-blowing cards, the speaking skills of Cornel West, or a
pathetic mishandling by the other team to win Wipeout?
I was careful at the top to point out that in my view, Argument Critics
evaluate arguments only in pairs: arguments that aren't answered get
their full persuasive force. 1% above zero will sway me in the absence
of an answer. But that doesn't mean that any noise that comes out of a
debater's mouth will help them to win a debate. Non-sequiturs are 0%. A
belch followed by "voting issue" is an infield fly. Arguments that turn
my stomach get a negative rating, meaning they also do nothing even if
dropped. That's not at all the same as requiring debaters to figure out
what arguments I agree with -- the 98%ers are arguments that you may be
wasting your time trying to argue, such as "Gravity False" "Earth Flat"
"David Heidt still debating" etc. Still, it *could* happen.
>I think your sprinter analogy perhaps applies better to the issue of
>speed in a debate round than argument selection. Sorry, don't see the
>connection. The "persuasiveness" that you speak of should be evaluated
>more along the lines of how the position is defended, rather than how
>closely it meshes with your personal schemas.
I actually agree with you. While I was standing in line at the grocery
store tonight, I thought of a better one: five sprinters show up to
compete in the hundred meter spring. They are joined by a gymnast, a
synchronized swimmer, and a clog dancer, who argue that if they can put
on a better display of athleticism than the sprinter who wins the race,
then they deserve the medal. The people running the meet explain that
there's an element beyond mere athletic prowess that they're measuring:
*fast running*. Similarly, I think that there's an element that you
can't divorce from the assumptions of a debate: *persuasive force*. The
managers of the track meet don't tell the runners how to run, but they
insist that they run. I don't tell the debaters what the content of
their speeches must be, but I do think persuasive force is a baseline
requirement. It's not a communication contest: it's an *argument*
contest. Out-talking the other side, adducing more reasons than the
other side, aren't enough. If that were the case, we really could decide
debates with a calculator. Their reasons have to be *better*, and that
entangles them with my beliefs. "Racism is no sweat" is not going to
mesh with my beliefs. Period.
>I think stating blanket rejections of certain types of positions,
>before the round even begins certainly meets the criteria for the
>unwarranted interference you discuss above.
And I think that's the type of reductionism I criticized earlier. It's
wrong in general to rule classes of argument out of bounds: "No T" or
"No political disads" or whatever. But nearly every general claim has
its specific exceptions. Any team who is dismayed that reading their
"Rape Good" arguments in front of me will be a waste of time has bigger
problems than the crimp that my "intervention" has put in their weekend.
>I think it is possible for all arguments, once they meet the initial
>criteria for "what is argument", i.e. it has a claim, warrant, backing,
>etc. to be "created equal" as you state above. Where they grow unequal
>is how they can withstand scrutiny, or clash. That is why I said in an
>earlier post that I don't think arguing racism is cool is a very
>strategic move. As a critic, I would presumptively want them to lose,
>and as you said, it is impossible to divorce yourself from your
>predilections. However, if the other team couldn't give me a reason to
>vote against it, then shame on them. If they cannot defeat an
>"argument" with as many problems as the one we are speaking of, in
>front of a critic that is presumptively against it, then they deserve
There is damage in letting a team win a debate despite their inability
to overcome the absurd. There is damage in letting a team win a debate
on arguments that are revolting. I find the former damage to be less
than the latter damage. I avoid the former with my 1% standard. If a
debater claims that the case harm is untrue because he heard on a Mighty
Mouse cartoon that Mighty Mouse stands ready to head off any and all
evil at the pass, and anything you hear on TV is true, then I would
gleefully subject a 2AC who couldn't defeat such hogwash to the
indignity of losing to it. It's neither repulsive nor a complete
non-sequitur, silly though it is. But letting someone win an abominable
argument in order to teach the one who couldn't answer it a lesson is a
cure worse than the disease.
By the way, when you speak of having enormous presumption against an
argument, but still reserving the "possibility" that you could be
persuaded, how exactly does that achieve the goal of leaving the debate
in the hands of the debaters? It seems like they're debating you 99% as
much as they're debating me. That 1% of difference is a sop to a
principle that has very little non-pragmatic value. The marketplace of
ideas is such a cool setup because of the results it produces. If
"racism OK" survives a run through the marketplace unsquashed, then
it's time to rethink laissez-faire, not punch "racism OK"'s ticket just
because it survived the system. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.
>I think it is possible to separate yourself from the debate round a
>little more than that. While I would be much more receptive to 2AC's
>"racist language critic" than to 1NC's "racism is good" case turns, I
>think it is possible to evaluate them both based on what happens in the
Didn't say it wasn't possible. Said it was bad. No, not even that: said
*I* chose not to do so. 99% of this controversy is about individual
aesthetic preferences, anyway.
>My understanding of you perspective is that you wouldn't. And I think
>that holds true with positions like wipeout as well, right?
Nope. Wipeout was at 10%, remember? Signifying a big uphill battle, but
not a lost cause. Are *you* telling me that Wipeout is as easy a sell as
more substantive arguments? Like well thought out on-point solvency
>I just want to get this straight then. My team has you in the back and
>somebody wipes them out, my team can just stand up and say "wipeout is
>stupid", or as you put it "cough loudly", and then sit down?
"Cough loudly" was a hyperbole for affect. I do think that argument can
be beaten with some simple unevidenced answers. I do think my internal
resistance to the argument would mean that the debaters would have to be
rhetorical Schwarzeneggers to suspend my disbelief in the face of *any*
coherent answer from their opponent. You, by the way, expressed similar
differences in receptivity to various arguments above in your talk about
"overwhelming presumptions," meaning that the sarcasm in your comments
seems to bite your perspective as well.
>Just want to get this straight...I'm not really sure what the
>educational value of that debate is. I subscribe to the notion that
>making debaters learn how to beat stupid or, in this case, repugnant
>arguments has a lot of educational value. I think forcing debaters to
>say things I agree with, and preventing or proscribing them from saying
>things I don't agree with has very little if any educational value.
The arguments are easier to answer when you redraw them as strawfigures,
aren't they? This paragraph bears no relation to anything I said
Your option is the strikesheet. Anyone out there who is heartbroken that
I won't listen to arguments that advocate direct, personal degradation
of individuals for no reason, *pleeease* strike me. We'll let Mike judge
<Huh huh, I said "Mike Judge"> those rounds and facilitate *that*
particular educational experience.
University of Georgia
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (email@example.com)
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