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More on evaluating arguments
First of all, I think this is a valuable discussion taking place.
Second, my original post obviously covers similar ground to K Riggenberg's,
and the threads are mixing. I will always accept what I perceive of as "an
argument" if it is dropped by the opposition; the question is, what is an
argument, and how can we communicate to debaters what we as individual
critics will accept as an argument?
I can certainly see the point made by a number of critics that it is
problematic to disregard a factual claim based on my personal knowledge
(e.g. the 6th amendment question) when making a decision. If I can recap
some of the arguments made on CEDA-L & in my head:
I want to vote negative because:
1. I don't want to teach the aff team that it is safe to ignore these claims.
(this one doesn't bother me that much; certainly, if the Aff _assumes_ I
will beat an argument for them, they are taking a risk. But if they get
away with a coverage mistake a few times, I don't see that as a harmful
2. I might sometime use my knowledge but be wrong...
(this is certainly problematic, and worries me more. With the bail
question I had the constitution in front of me, although as I said, I was
not the judge in that round.)
However, I want to vote affirmative because:
1. I don't want to teach the negative that it's OK to assert untruths (or
be woefully uninformed) either.
(this is the key issue to me -- I feel like I am "rewarding" the negative
for making false assertions. It is entirely possible to envision a round
in which if they didn't make the assertion, the would have lost, but by
making the clearly false assertion, they can win. If judges do _not_
intervene, aren't they sending a dangerous message? And what happens is
the affirmative _does_ refute the argument, but without citing an authority
(e.g., "yes there is!"). Isn't it still intervention if the judge accepts
2. Do I completely ignore reality, and the issue of credibility?
(is debate still about reality at all, or only about evidence files?)
1. If it's not OK to render a decision based on my knowledge (rather than
accepting the debaters' arguments), why is it OK (as some critics have
suggested) to set speaker points based on my knowledge? Speaker points also
affect results & seeding. Many people (including myself) have said in the
past that we would reward/punish activities we liked to see through speaker
points, not decisions. Is this only a question of degree (a loss is
"larger" than a speaker point deduction), or is there another justification
for this practice?
Finally, in the case of the untrue claim, the unproven case press, the
blipped standard/rvi/whatever, I am concerned that without some clear
minimum standards for what can be a debate-winning argument, I reward
_only_ quantity over quality. I was a debater and I know that 1AR is a
tough job in any case, but it seems to me that the lower the minimum
standard of what is an argument the tougher 1AR gets. As a competitor, if
I had a judge who would vote on anything labelled a voter that was not
answered in the next speech, I would be tempted to make 8 mins of 1-line
undeveloped false "arguments" in 2NC. It's a can't-loose technique, esp.
if the judge would be willing to consider a 1AR argument that sets out
minimum argument/credibility standards as a new argument (if argued as such
Finally, a number of critics have split on the two situations, saying that
they would not use their own knowledge to contradict a factual claim, but
that they would refuse to vote on an incomplete position. This interests
me -- some critics would have minimal standards for argument structure, but
Are people are getting a bit too caught up in the structure of the event,
when that structure becomes more important than the quality of the content
within the structure? What about the issue of internal links, or coherency
of argument -- is this a middle ground? What if there is a subpoint in the
HG argument that is entitled links, thereby fulfilling the structural
obligation, but after reading "B: link" there is no body, or there is a
body that is irrelevant to the discussion ("the sky is blue." "HG is bad."
"most cover a large % of the topic" "pre-trial detention does not meet HG
standards" [when the aff is running SDI, not pre-trial detention])?
What about unsupported theory claims that disagree with the common wisdom
and/or illogical theory claims that don't make sense ("plan must involve
tomatoes, it doesn't, we win" "plan must be at least 3 planks to meet prima
facia burdens" "negative has presumption" "no new arguments in 2NC" "T is
not a voter")? Is there any reliable way to distinguish between arguments
that are illogical and those that are just not explained (enough)? Should
we throw out all such arguments, accept all such arguments, or *try* to
distinguish between them?
OK, last one. For the purpose of argument (again), I want to slightly
clarify/modify my original scenario #2, to see if poeople have a different
1NC provides an incomplete HG shell (def & voting issue). Thereafter, no
violation is shown (or asserted, really) in extensions, but is _assumed_ by
the negative, when they extend the voting issue with a point such as "HG is
a VI therefore we win the debate". Here, we have an argument that could be
considered incomplete (as I say I will not vote for in my philosophy).
However, we also have a claim that the negative wins the round, which is
not answered. How is this different from a 1-line RVI w/o a justification
given on T?
This question may boil down to how well I can communicate standards for
minimal argumentation to the participants in my philosophy. However, the
discussion has been very enlightening, and I hope it continues.
Just stirring the pot,
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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