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Reply to Klein re topic
Received the following...my replies included...
>To: IN%"CEDA-L@cornell.edu" "Issues concerning CEDA Debate"
>Subj: re:meany reply to klein
>John Meany writes:
>>To begin, there is no singular interpretation of the resolution. There are
>>multiplicities of interpretation that simultaneously overlap and cross
>>interpretive boundaries. As a consequence, many arguments, well beyond
>>the _knowing_ of any interpretation of the resolution, are available for
>>negative in a debate. As I noted in my example, even a restricted
>>interpretation of the resolution opened the floodgates for argumentation
>>from other >policy spheres, despite the limitations of a list that failed
>>provide a comprehensive accounting of >disadvantages and completely
>>excluded consideration of counterplans and critiques...
>right, these considerations are useful if you're content to draw overlapping
>circles on the blackboard. the more important question is whether these
>issues are relevant to the debate that will occur in the round, with the
>intent to pick up a ballot or two. and if your nice little circles are
>devoid of useful argumentative options, as contextualized above, then there
>is a problem of equitable ground if the negative circle doesn't relate to
>the affirmative one.
Other information in your posting indicates that our positions on topic
interpretation are incommensurable. But your commentary here indicates that
you are still unaware of my position on interpretation...
My position re interpretation stands in _opposition_ to the familiar and
inadequate "circles on the blackboard" topicality map. This special-purpose
debate map has, in fact, functioned to identify and center the issues of
"ground" and "equality" in topicality theory for some time. This seemingly
simple sketch has helped to produce the sort of topicality disinformation
that I noted as implausible and untenable...
You reference to "the" negative circle and "the" affirmative circle posits a
singular understanding (and a clearly demarcated boundary) of a resolutional
or non-resolutional space. As I noted and practice has certainly
demonstrated, this understanding is false. There are multiplicities of
interpretations of the resolution: some similar, some complementary, some
dissimilar, and some contradictory. As noted, many arguments are available
for the negative beyond the _knowing_ of any interpretation. I used an
example of Mahoney's posting, but experience on dozens of topics also reveals
the same thing, namely, that many policy systems and literatures are
implicated in negative preparation for affirmative interpretation of the
resolution. It is inevitable that the negative, with access to arguments that
overlap, cross, transcend, erase, alter, decode, and recontextualize
interpretations of the resolution, will have "useful argumentative
Once again, you presume that the negative is "devoid of useful
argumentation". It is not, as revealed by the example from Mahoney's posting
and current practice. You also claim the goal of "equitable ground"; an
unnecessary and hopeless endeavor re topic construction...
>again, the utility of the possible negative land is measured relative to
>that of possible affirmative ground. the literature need be fairly
>balanced, with compelling arguments for and against possible affirmative
>plan actions. and the topic ought be constructed in such a manner that
>balances that literature as equitably as possible. and what exactly do you
>mean by the distinction between the "division of ground within the topic
>area and division of ground for the debate?" unless the ground defended by
>the negative relates in some way, either through jurisdictional claim, disad
>links, counterplan construction, etc., what utility is just picking any
>possible ground? an affirmative debating a specific mechanism to reduce
>carbon dioxide emissions with the negative choosing to defend the
>appropriateness of sdi deployment seems a easy win for the affirmative.
>yes, sdi is thoeretically negative ground outside of the topic, but absent a
>relationship to the affirmative advocacy, that ground is worthless to the
The first half of this paragraph concerns "ground", which I will address
Regarding your question on division of ground within the topic area and
division of ground for the debate, you have suggested a need for an
examination of the literature, "equitable ground", and a relationship of
negative argumentation to the affirmative interpretation. But which
literature(s) and argument(s)? I have suggested that the negative options sit
well beyond the literature, ground, and argumentation of the topic area (in
this case, the environment). Negative literatures include a range of _other_
policy systems and disciplines. If committed to a concept of ground, these
other issues provide sufficient ground for the debate (as you agreed, re the
literature on regulation, later in this posting). As I noted earlier, an
examination of these literatures reveals that the balance is arguably
weighted toward the negative. If committed to the concepts of immediacy and
relevancy, these arguments are available for use against a broad range of
affirmative interpretations of the resolution...If committed to play the
literature examination game, there is more than enough for the negative, well
beyond interests in equity...
My point is that the demand for ground within the topic area is a demand for
more than "equitable ground". It is an attempt to distort the ground for the
negative. (Again, Mahoney's posting is instructive. He offered plenty of
arguments for consideration by the negative without even considering
counterplans, critiques, or case turns).
>>Not only is "absolute equity" an implausibility, but the concept of
>>relative ground or equity as well. It is not possible to anticipate the
>>range of topic interpretations, related and seemingly unrelated policy
>>systems and subsystems, or the prospective changes in economic, legal,
>>political, technological, or scientific circumstances, to begin to
>>construct a meaningful balancing scale for the purpose of selecting the
>>language of the topic...The topic selection committee has no special
>>responsibility in this regard ("ground"). It is precisely because of the
>>impossibility of this method that topic committees typically recycle the
>>language and argument choices of past >resolutions...
>then what is the fundamental purpose of the resolution? seems like
>division of ground is one such purpose.
I have argued elsewhere that the resolution does not have a purpose. At its
most purposeful, I believe that the resolution functions to announce that a
debate will occur. I obviously disagree with your claim re ground. Here, you
take "division of ground" as an act of faith re the resolution. There is no
reply as to how one could ever construct a meaningful scale for the type of
balancing that you suggest...
>that absolute equality is not possible is
>not an argument against attempting to provide the most equitable outcome.
I agree. That is why I have _never_ made the argument re absolute
equality...I have consistently argued that relative "equality" is a myth and
devices to construct "equitable ground" are suspect...The claim of "more"
equity is disingenuous. There isn't sufficient information to determine if a
choice is more or less equitable; there isn't sufficient predictive ability
re topic interpretation, negative options, and policy changes during the
debate season to bring meaning to this claim either...
>last semester's ceda topic displayed the difficulties in a poorly worded
>topic (which i do not believe the proposed topics are) that fail to divide
>ground relatively equitably (a result i believe would be enhanced by a harms
>phrase.) the clinton counterplan/disad got exceptionally old real fast.
>and the dearth of literature for alternative agents, such as the un or oas,
>acting in the united states place made many counterplan options weak in
>comparison to the possible affirmative plan actions. again, simply
>recognizing that possible ground exists is not the same as concluding that
>equitable ground exists.
I did not find the wording of the resolution to be problematic. I agree with
you that the selection of arguments by debaters did a disservice to the topic
area, but that is not a problem with the construction of the resolution. The
fact that debaters made poor choices re argumentation or that debaters were
relatively uninspired re counterplan options is not a problem with the topic,
but with the practitioners...I believe that argument creativity is negatively
influenced by demands for narrow resolutions, requests for argument
predictability, argument lists constructed from literature surveys, grail
searches for ground, etc. In other words, these restrictions that you have
endorsed help construct a community that is not sufficiently creative and
dynamic. Problems with ceda practice are an inevitable consequence of
insidious content control in the community.
It is also interesting that you support restrictions on the topic language
and cite these issues re last year's ceda topic. After all, the choice of the
term _Mexico_ was an attempt to narrow the resolution from the
"impossibility" of discussing Latin America (although the larger geographical
region had been previously debate in college and high school policy debate).
For example, the counterplan literature (re UN and OAS) is more available for
the broader topic. This is yet another example of the limits of topic
language as problematic for the negative, not for the affirmative...
>there are limiting functions served through the literature in plans and
>counterplan options. from the posts of kate and others, as well as the
>limited research i've done on the topic, i would agree that this literature
>is vastly superior to the past several resolutions. and it may very well be
>the case that sufficient counterplan actors exist to provide a good deal of
And, as I noted, this meets your goal of "equitable ground". You now seem to
want more than fairness...But additional limiting language attempts to
undermine the goal of "equitable ground" and biases the ground for the
>however, the why is still relevant to the issue of ground
>division. as you chhose to ignore the reasons previous provided for a
>phrase along the lines of "one or more of the following: x.." i will not
For the third time, I did not argue that "why" is entirely irrelevant; I
argued that it is subordinate...I argued that the fundamental issue in policy
debate is the _policy _...(I can't believe this is so controversial, but I
have repeated this comment endlessly on ceda-l on a number of threads with
individuals who continue to approach policy action from the perspective of
the primacy of the case. I believe that you have continued this tack. That is
why you are insisting for the inclusion of language that promote case turns
despite the fact that you readily acknowledge that, from a policy
perspective, there are sufficient limits on the affirmative interpretation of
the resolution. This is detailed later in this posting)...
I hardly ignored the arguments for "one or more of the, etc." I argued that
the underlying assumptions of language "limits" in the topic were off-base,
that a comprehensive consideration of negative options undercuts any support
for language limits, and that the environmental policy literature re
regulations offers a sufficient limit for the topic models extant.
>>This question presumes that the negative chooses the option of
>>with the impact claims of the >affirmative. This question focuses on case
>>issues and ignores the fundamental feature of policy debate, the >plan...I
>>argued that there were sufficient limits on regulations to provide ample
>>"ground" for the negative on the >environmental issue, regardless of the
>>nature of pollutants or harms. In other words, the topic is strictly
>>even if there are no limits on pollutants and harms. You still achieve your
>>end (debatable resolution) without your >means (inclusion of "narrowing"
>>language)...And, yes, the counterplan is a negative option that can
>>successfully >balance affirmative interpretations on a broad resolution. If
>>more attention was paid to counterplan strategies and >less to case presses
>>and impact turns, many would identify the arguments that could balance
>>affirmative options >under an ambiguously worded topic. This is the very
>>point that I originally made re the need for a focus on the >primacy of the
>>policy in policy debate...
>counterplan options do serve to divide ground, and the in the discussion
>above i concede that this literature is excellent. but the topic ground
>afforded the negative ought extend beyond counterplans. disads are good.
>case turns are good. and i advance the notion that a harms phrase would
>facilitate providing such ground.
Here, you have abandoned the reason for your inclusion of additional language
in the topic, the need for "equitable ground". As I noted and you agreed, the
"topic is strictly defined even if there are no limits on pollutants and
harms". The environmental literature provides a "balance" re the issue of
regulations...You are no longer arguing for "equitable ground" but for the
specific inclusion of particular negative argument strategies in the language
of the resolution (e.g., "case turns are good")...You have not offered a
reason why they are "good", nor have you explained why their inclusion ought
to overturn the claims that you have tried to establish re "equitable
If topic construction means that one should simply write the topic to include
a personal argument agenda, your language is no more persuasive than the
language of any other. If topic construction is designed to support a
concept, bankrupt though it may be, of "equitable ground", then your position
on case turns and disadvantages may be doing considerable damage to this
conceit of fairness...
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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