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So I have a few comments about LD debate in South Dakota. I only judged one round of varsity LD this weekend, but I noticed this same thing when I was a debater.

 

It seems like a lot of LDers are really policy oriented and are sort of missing the point of value debate. I understand that some topics don't permit much value debate, but a topic such as this one that include words like "ought" seem to me to pose a moral question. "Felons ought retain the right to vote."

 

I'm not attacking anyone I judged, but it just didn't seem like I was getting a value or moral theory as to why the resolution is or is not true. It seemed that the debaters were citing "empirical evidence" as a reason to affirm or negate the resolution. My question is why is this? Why are debaters not upholding a value through some sort of moral theory or idea that would give reason to the notion of felons retaining the right to vote.

 

I guess I'm curious as to what others think. I really enjoy policy debate, but I also enjoy LD. I know that when I was a debater I was guilty of the same style of debating. But looking back and now judging, it seems that many of us are missing the points.

 

I welcome other thoughts.

 

Jordan

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So I have a few comments about LD debate in South Dakota. I only judged one round of varsity LD this weekend, but I noticed this same thing when I was a debater.

 

It seems like a lot of LDers are really policy oriented and are sort of missing the point of value debate. I understand that some topics don't permit much value debate, but a topic such as this one that include words like "ought" seem to me to pose a moral question. "Felons ought retain the right to vote."

 

I'm not attacking anyone I judged, but it just didn't seem like I was getting a value or moral theory as to why the resolution is or is not true. It seemed that the debaters were citing "emperical evidence" as a reason to affirm or negate the resolution. My question is why is this? Why are debaters not upholding a value through some sort of moral theory or idea that would give reason to the notion of felons retaining the right to vote.

 

I guess I'm curious as to what others think. I really enjoy policy debate, but I also enjoy LD. I know that when I was a debater I was guilty of the same style of debating. But looking back and now judging, it seems that many of us are missing the points.

 

I welcome other thoughts.

 

Jordan

 

As an LDer, I have had the same discussion with people about the topic.

 

1. if you look to a dictionary, ought implies a duty or obligation, but it doesn't tell you what type of obligation the resolution uses.

 

2. I think that a lot of LDers, just like non-K policy debaters, DO present a moral framework in the round, if only implicitly. It's some sort of consequentalist/pragmatic framework which evaluates the desirability of the two worlds (assuming we're not operating in a pure truth-testing paradigm, which I think is a relatively safe bet on this topic).

 

3. I kinda disagree with you. From what i've seen so far, most negatives impose some sort of means based moral theory. I also see a lot of good negatives either use off case positions or go top heavy to refute the AC.

 

4. Empirics, to some extent, are necessary on the affirmative. The negative has all sorts of theoretical options to negate, but unless you want to make your case 6 mins of tautologies good, you really can't affirm the resolution with using some sort of empirical claims. This resolution is talking about a group of people and how they interact with society, which will require you to at least look at how it works in the real world.

 

5. In south dakota? Really? I know that a lot of the bigger local tournaments in MN are just as intense and progressive as big natl circuit tournaments, but I wasn't aware that south dakota was like this. I guess it's not that shocking, considering that's how the rest of the Ld community is going.

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I think that, when theoretically done right, LD and "values" debate should be a lot harder than what most people assume it to be, since ethics philosophy is much more complicated and less accessible than typical policy arguments are. In spite of this, LD is widely considered to be the less involved debate format, and this is probably why the quality of actual ethics arguments is lower and the reliance on policy-esque arguments comes about. I'm not saying that mastery of ethics debate in LD isn't possible, obviously; it's just less realistic to expect that a novice debater is going to be able to understand Kantian morality as easily as why a nuclear war might outweigh biodiversity loss.

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I appreciate the comments. I want to make one thing clear, though. I'm not saying that debaters need to master ethics before debating. I'm just saying that they could at least present some sort of moral theory to either affirm or negate the resolution.

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As an LDer, I have had the same discussion with people about the topic.

 

1. if you look to a dictionary, ought implies a duty or obligation, but it doesn't tell you what type of obligation the resolution uses.

 

2. I think that a lot of LDers, just like non-K policy debaters, DO present a moral framework in the round, if only implicitly. It's some sort of consequentalist/pragmatic framework which evaluates the desirability of the two worlds (assuming we're not operating in a pure truth-testing paradigm, which I think is a relatively safe bet on this topic).

 

3. I kinda disagree with you. From what i've seen so far, most negatives impose some sort of means based moral theory. I also see a lot of good negatives either use off case positions or go top heavy to refute the AC.

 

4. Empirics, to some extent, are necessary on the affirmative. The negative has all sorts of theoretical options to negate, but unless you want to make your case 6 mins of tautologies good, you really can't affirm the resolution with using some sort of empirical claims. This resolution is talking about a group of people and how they interact with society, which will require you to at least look at how it works in the real world.

 

5. In south dakota? Really? I know that a lot of the bigger local tournaments in MN are just as intense and progressive as big natl circuit tournaments, but I wasn't aware that south dakota was like this. I guess it's not that shocking, considering that's how the rest of the Ld community is going.

 

 

1. I think it's safe to say that the word "ought" suggests some sort of moral duty. If you "ought" do something, why else except for a moral reason?

 

2. I'll admit I'm not sure what the truth-testing paradigm would do. I guess I've never been asked for a paradigm when judging LD. But I would argue that the moral arguments should be explicit rather than implicit. Isn't that the point of value debate?

 

3. Well, you are from Minnesota so I'm not sure if you have judged in South Dakota this year. If you havn't, that might be the reason you disagree with me.

 

4. I'm not saying that empirics are not necessary. But when the aff says that x happens in the real world so we must affirm the resolution, that doesn't do it for me. There needs to be a reason as to why x is good. Right?

 

5. I'm not sure what you're implying. South Dakota is conservative in its style of LD debate. We don't run counter plans or solvency. It's straight up value debate on the resolution. As far as "more progressive" tournaments, I would argue that LD doesn't need to progress. How do you run a counter plan against a case with no plan text? I've never understood that. Do you just run a different value/criterion? I think LD in South Dakota, when done right, can be the best value debate one can find anywhere.

Edited by jfeist6
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As an ex-LDer whose criterion was more often than not "pragmatism" or some variation thereof, I figure I will throw my hat into the ring on the issue of empirical evidence vs. moral theory in Lincoln Douglas Debate.

 

I agree with the postulate that LD is at its heart a debate over values (often abstract ones, but not always). Often this boils down to a question of justice - the old LD standby value. However, I feel that pragmatism and emperical application are also values that can figure prominently in a debate (and rightfully so).

 

Of course, what is pragmatic is not by default just, but pragmatism is also a necessary component to the application and legitimacy of any moral theory. Thus, if a Lincoln Douglas debater advocates a course of action as being right or just (which is very often the case in an LD debate), as a judge I would expect that, if the practicality of said action is in any way questionable, the debater advocating it would provide some emperical evidence - or if emperics on the topic are sparse, logical reasoning - that proves it to be practical.

 

By the same token, if the negative uses emperical evidence to prove the affirmative's moral theory to be impossible, unreasonable, or counterproductive in its real-world application, I would reject the affirmative's moral theory even if it is theoretically pleasing. As a debater, if my moral theory is that everyone should stop building nuclear weapons and dismantle any they already have, because that would lead to peace, it may be justified in the theoretical sense, but my opponent would have a field day attacking it in the practical sense.

 

To recycle a metaphor I used many times last spring, my Ford Taurus may indeed be washed, waxed, oiled, gased up, and completely fun and stylish to drive in (it's not any of these things), but if it's missing an engine, all that doesn't matter. It doesn't work.

 

Remember, "ought" implies "can." If the resolution says that I "ought" to tame unicorns, but the negative proves emperically that I "cannot" tame unicorns, then I "ought not" tame unicorns.

 

In summary: pragmatism is both valuable and necessary for a legitimate moral theory. Emperical evidence is often the best (and sometimes the only) way to adequately prove or disprove the value of a moral theory, and is therefore a vital part of Lincoln Douglas Debate. Now, I'm not saying we should capitulate to policy-style Ks, CPs, or spreading, but emperical evidence should not be frowned upon solely on the grounds that it is somehow "out of place" in an LD round.

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Nice job taking my post out of context. Find a place where I said that empirical evidence has no place in an LD round. I simply stated that it should not be a substitute for a value or for reasoning.

 

Additionally, pragmatism is valuable? That's laughable. So because it's practical that makes it moral or good?

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1. I think it's safe to say that the word "ought" suggests some sort of moral duty. If you "ought" do something, why else except for a moral reason?

 

2. I'll admit I'm not sure what the truth-testing paradigm would do. I guess I've never been asked for a paradigm when judging LD. But I would argue that the moral arguments should be explicit rather than implicit. Isn't that the point of value debate?

 

3. Well, you are from Minnesota so I'm not sure if you have judged in South Dakota this year. If you havn't, that might be the reason you disagree with me.

 

4. I'm not saying that emperics are not necessary. But when the aff says that x happens in the real world so we must affirm the resolution, that doesn't do it for me. There needs to be a reason as to why x is good. Right?

 

5. I'm not sure what you're implying. South Dakota is conservative in its style of LD debate. We don't run counter plans or solvency. It's straight up value debate on the resolution. As far as "more progressive" tournaments, I would argue that LD doesn't need to progress. How do you run a counter plan against a case with no plan text? I've never understood that. Do you just run a different value/criterion? I think LD in South Dakota, when done right, can be the best value debate one can find anywhere.

 

1. Not really. For instance, I can have a civic duty, a personal duty, etc. Judges can be obligated to judge one round past when their last debater is eliminated, but that probably has no moral implications.

 

2. A pure truth-testing paradigm is where the judge views the resolution as a statement of fact, and the debaters have to show why it's true, not why it's better/desirable.

 

3&4. agreed, although I think that it's a bit bizzare that after the last topic, there isn't more framework debate

 

5. My bad, I thought you were implying that South Dakota was becoming a more progressive LD circuit.

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Jordan, I'm confused, are you saying that you would like to see more value clash or that you would like to see more value debate framed in the concepts of ethics and morality?

 

I personally see nothing wrong with framing a value debate in terms of pragmatic arguments. I think you're trying to separate ethics from real world arguments when it is impossible to do. The real world implications and the ultimate feasibility/attainability of your core contentions should absolutely, I believe, factor in the decision the judge makes at the end of the round. I really don't see how we can successfully separate real-world implications for debates of ethics without exceeding the 45 minutes offered to us in every LD round.

 

If you mean that you'd just love to see more actual value clash and not see debaters debate ONLY about the feasibility of the value, then I wholeheartedly agree. Definition debates and example wars are fun for no one and addressing the examples but not the idea is a great way to lose a round. I think part of the problem, though, are the types of topics we have been given. For a topic so steeped in legalism like eminent domain or felon voting rights, I really don't see much diversity of ethical thought.

 

I'd love to be wrong, however.

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Rhino,

 

Thanks for posting. Let me clarify what my point is. I am absolutely not at all opposed to empirical or pragmatic arguments. But pragmatism as a criterion in my opinion would be a stretch. I don't see how proving that something works makes it right or wrong. For example, if you say that allowing felons to vote because it is practical and it works would not convince me that felons should retain the right to vote.

 

Let me give you an example from the round I judged Saturday. The affirmative used an argument like this, "It would not be hard to allow felons to vote. There is evidence that shows voting could take place in prisons relatively easily." My argument here is, just because it is easy and could be done does not mean that felons should retain the right to vote. Sure voting could take place in prisons, but does that mean it should? I'm concerned more with why that is. I think that the debater would have a better chance getting me to vote in his favor if he gave me a moral theory as to why even a felon should retain the right to vote. Do I need to clarify further?

 

I would like to see more value clash in debates. In the same round there was also a huge debate over the definition of democracy and what it was and what it was not. Although it is probably important to clarify, I think that the round would have been better served if there was more debate over why or why democracy should be valued or not valued.

 

Comments?

Edited by jfeist6

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In summary: pragmatism is both valuable and necessary for a legitimate moral theory. Emperical evidence is often the best (and sometimes the only) way to adequately prove or disprove the value of a moral theory, and is therefore a vital part of Lincoln Douglas Debate. Now, I'm not saying we should capitulate to policy-style Ks, CPs, or spreading, but emperical evidence should not be frowned upon solely on the grounds that it is somehow "out of place" in an LD round.

 

I believe that this is absolutely false and that empirical evidence often prove nothing than what has already occurred, and is frequently not indicative of what will happen.

 

Moral and ethical thought is really framed in the idea of the norms that often govern are actions. It is up for the debater in question to prove that the empirical evidence is a reflection of the norms and not an exception to them. To assume that the correlation between the two is absolute is a great way to lose sight of the bigger picture, which, I think, is the general point of Jordan's post.

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I just thought of another argument that was used. "There is evidence that shows in states where ex-felons are allowed to vote, those who do vote are less likely to recommit a crime." Should this be a reason to allow felons the right to vote? Is the reason that these felons stopped committing crimes because they are given the right to vote? I doubt it. These are the types of arguments that have brought me to the conclusion that empirical evidence is taking the place of reason and value debate. I hope this helps make my position a little clearer.

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I hope you don't mind an outsider from Colorado joining your conversation.

 

We tend to have very value oriented debate here and haven't adopted some of the "progressive" options of the National Circuit.

 

I wanted to comment on your last argument you referenced. The idea that felons who vote are less likely to re-offend, if isolated, probably isn't a great argument. However, it can be linked to some very important values. It can be argued in the context of the value within and underneath the prison system: rehabilitation vs. retribution. If we as a society value rehabilitation and are not in it just to punish wrong doers by getting our pound of flesh, then an option which fits that framework of rehabilitation is seen as positive. Furthermore, if it is "true" that somehow felon voting leads to less recidivism, then it creates a better society and benefits societal welfare: it creates less crime (or prevents additional crime). If a government is to be judged by how well it benefits its people (Mill), then a government which creates less crime is good.

 

I wonder if part of the problem you are wrestling with is how kids at different levels of development debate and think. Younger kids (freshmen and sophomores and some juniors) can be really concrete thinkers. Their brains focus on the practical realities and don't quite grasp theoretical and ethical considerations. Their first thought is to look at concrete details, get a handle on those, then advance to the more abstract. This topic is fairly concrete at first blush. Felons -- voting. Very concrete. It takes some time for some kids to get the point that there's more to it than just "can it work" or "is it practical". Your better debaters will understand that LD is more than just the obvious and the practical. And they understand how to read John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, John Rawls, Ayn Rand, etc. etc. (This is the same problem some younger CXers have with kritiks -- they read them because their coach, summer camp leader or older student said to, but then they can't explain the foundational concepts.)

 

That's not to say the we coaches aren't trying to pull them along and get them to think more philosophically. But I can tell you, having worked with my freshmen this year (and even one slow-ish junior), it's a long process to get past those concrete thinking patterns. We've only had 2 weekends on this topic. My guess is that you will see some more advanced thinking in December.

 

As an aside, I wish this topic had been the Sept/Oct topic. That's when we have our novice season. This very concrete topic would have given them something to grab onto. The topic about killing an innocent to protect other innocents, while extremely value based and LD-ish, was VERY abstract and extremely difficult to get younger kids to understand, let alone debate.

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Thanks for your comments! I agree wholeheartedly that the arguments presented in that round could have been linked to values. I just think that on the varisty level (which this round was), there needs to be that analysis made. The connection between the practical and valuable needs to be made to the judge. Perhaps these debaters are just green because it was the first tournament of the season. However, it seems a prerequisite to have value analysis in your case before ever entering a round.

 

I apprecaite the information about Colorado's LD circuit. I'm considering graduate schools in Colorado and it is nice to know there is value deabte if I decided to stay active with judging.

 

Thanks again,

 

Jordan

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I just thought of another argument that was used. "There is evidence that shows in states where ex-felons are allowed to vote, those who do vote are less likely to recommit a crime." Should this be a reason to allow felons the right to vote? Is the reason that these felons stopped committing crimes because they are given the right to vote? I doubt it. These are the types of arguments that have brought me to the conclusion that empirical evidence is taking the place of reason and value debate. I hope this helps make my position a little clearer.

 

That is just a bad argument. This is not really an example of empirical evidence as much as it is the lower level of debate that has people arguing "I have a card..." The flaw is the competator's evaluation of WHY this has happened (as I think you point out well.) That crime went down with no reasoning or causality that attaches that outcome to the voting is superficial; showing that cauasality/warrant and then arguing that causality can be applied more broadly with a retention of the right to vote is better. Upholding the value of public safety (the reason I would want crime to go down) seems to be the best approach.

 

So, public safety (value) that is achieved through the re-enfranchizing of felons (criteria) by allowing them to vote (resolution) seems to be the argument you are looking for.

 

..or have I misunderstood your position?

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So I have a few comments about LD debate in South Dakota. I only judged one round of varsity LD this weekend, but I noticed this same thing when I was a debater.

 

It seems like a lot of LDers are really policy oriented and are sort of missing the point of value debate. I understand that some topics don't permit much value debate, but a topic such as this one that include words like "ought" seem to me to pose a moral question. "Felons ought retain the right to vote."

 

I'm not attacking anyone I judged, but it just didn't seem like I was getting a value or moral theory as to why the resolution is or is not true. It seemed that the debaters were citing "empirical evidence" as a reason to affirm or negate the resolution. My question is why is this? Why are debaters not upholding a value through some sort of moral theory or idea that would give reason to the notion of felons retaining the right to vote.

 

I guess I'm curious as to what others think. I really enjoy policy debate, but I also enjoy LD. I know that when I was a debater I was guilty of the same style of debating. But looking back and now judging, it seems that many of us are missing the points.

 

I welcome other thoughts.

 

Jordan

 

 

Well I know in Louisiana a big shift towards policy style happened when policy debaters decided that it would be easier to do policy in an LD setting, and many of them have come over to LD and started shitting all over it, I love policy, but I also love LD, and think that the two are suppposed to be distinctly different, and at the point where those that shifted over are now teaching the novices they are kind of ruining LD, but thats why myself and several people from different teams have gotten together and decided to coach our novices, and guide them towards theory rather than empiricisms, though I do have to admit that we have been getting some really shitty resolutions since last year.

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Well I know in Louisiana a big shift towards policy style happened when policy debaters decided that it would be easier to do policy in an LD setting, and many of them have come over to LD and started shitting all over it, I love policy, but I also love LD, and think that the two are suppposed to be distinctly different, and at the point where those that shifted over are now teaching the novices they are kind of ruining LD, but thats why myself and several people from different teams have gotten together and decided to coach our novices, and guide them towards theory rather than empiricisms, though I do have to admit that we have been getting some really shitty resolutions since last year.

 

I think that policy cross-overs bring with them a different style of LD that I wouldn't say is necessarily contradictory to what LD is. I think that depending on the topic, empirical claims might be better than theoretical claims. Lets look at the first three topics of the past three years:

 

Sept/Oct 06 - Resolved: A just government should provide health care to its citizens.

 

This topic relies on a combination of both empirics and theory. Obviously, since the topic is hypothetical, it necessarily requires that we use some theory. However, since it is talking about a very specific governmental policy (universal health care) empirics can be effective as a means to both complement and reinforce the claims made by a moral theory.

 

Nov/Dec 06 - Resolved: A victim’s deliberate use of deadly force is a just response to repeated domestic violence.

 

This relies on pyschological and empirical claims more than it does theoretical claims. Theoretical claims cannot get you very far on this topic since it deals with a very specific interaction between two individuals.

 

Jan/Feb 07 - Resolved: The actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as the actions of individuals.

 

This topic demanded a lot of theory more than it did empirics, although empirics were necessary to support the theoretical claims.

 

Sept/Oct 07 - Resolved: A just society ought not use the death penalty as a form of punishment.

 

This was just a bad topic. This topic, just like the current topic, could be as philosophical or empirical as you wanted. I don't think you can claim it fits into one category or the other.

 

Nov/Dec 07 Resolved: In the United States, plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust.

 

obviously empirical

 

Jan/Feb Resolved: It is just for the United States to use military force to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by nations that pose a military threat.

 

This topic is actually really theoretical. It deals with IR, which to some extent is based on empirics, but also functions as a theoretical description of how states should act within the international community. Even if you look at the TOC final round, there was a lot of philosophy. Becca Traber's AC was based around nuclearism (although it deals with empirics, the implications are theoretical) and the idea of how to resolve the issues of nuclearism and proliferation, which had very philosophical/deontological impacts. Chris Theis responds with contracts, which is no doubt philosophical.

 

Sept/Oct 08 Resolved: It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people.

 

This topic was intriguing. There were virtually no limits on what was topical, and it lead to a lot of interesting theoretical cases, from kritiks and kritikal affs, to positions dealing with catholicism and its philosophy (if you did your reading you'll realise this is true), and cases that argued that both options were morally permissible, or even Nietzsche. This topic gave you access to empirical arguments/policy args (Terrorism, Natl Security, etc.) or even an empirical view of morality (Jonathan Glover's book made for interesting aff and neg arguments). Even things like preventing nuke war became topical under this resolution.

 

As for the current resolution, I just attended a much more traditional tournament. I was expecting to hear a lot of more theoretical arguments, but there were a lot of empirical cases. Three authors who I've heard alot are Michael Cholbi and Jeff Manza & Christopher Uggen, and Roger Clegg. All three authors are writing about felon disenfranchisment as a concept, yet even they still base their arguments to some degree around the US.

 

My conclusion about this topic as of now is as follows:

 

The resolution is two questions. The first is a meta-resolutional question, which is "what constitutes a democracy to begin with"? The second question is "given the answer to the first question, what would this society look like?" The reason why even the most general arguments refer to the US is because once we have theoretically determined the answer to the first question, we still have the second question to deal with, which in most cases can only be determined by examining empirical examples.

 

To use tpeters example, you cite the statistics people give about how give felons the right to vote reduces crime empirically. I would say not only does the terminal impact of this argument rely on the value/criterion debate, but also, I would say that it's impossible to affirm this topic without some empirical analysis. The aff has to show why felon disenfranchisement is contrary to democratic values. How can you make a claim about a legal policy without first establishing that the policy has empirically led to these harms, otherwise their opponent can just say their arguments are empirically denied.

 

I realise that I kinda ended up just ranting, but I think that my point is why do we have to draw this line between what is "LD" and what is "Policy" and say that to use any features of the other activity is harming the other activity? Why can't both forms use elements from the other form depending on the topic, but use the evaluative framework (straight impact calc in policy, and whatever the hell you feel like using in LD) that makes the most sense as a distinction between the two forms? I've had this discussion with a friend of mine who is more traditional, and my coach, who fits somewhere in between the two of us, but I just don't really understand why this interpretation of LD is so "progressive"?

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Just a few thoughts...

 

You can have a criterion act as a stepping stone to your value and/OR serve as a lense through which to view the round. Pragmatism, if ran correctly, can serve as the latter (possibly both).

 

Empirical evidence is almost unaviodable in any type of debate. Why is this a terrible thing? Why shouldn't one looked to the only indicator we have to predict the future or retroactively evaluate the past with: centuries of history? (It is also important to note that most of the real-world evidence used in rounds has been written by those who are in the best position to evaluate those centuries of history.) You don't think history and the surrounding environment shaped even the most introverted philosophers views? I think some of you guys don't have a beef with the empiricism but rather how its applied. Its easy to hate any arguement or group of arguements if they're ran poorly. If its used correctly almost anything can have its time and place. In fact I'd argue that the best cases usually use some kick ass empirical evidence in their contentions and connect it flawlessly with their specific value/moral theory.

 

Lastly, Mearsheimer's offensive realism was the best framework for the Jan-Feb 2008 topic concerning nuclear proliferation.

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Just a few thoughts...

 

You can have a criterion act as a stepping stone to your value and/OR serve as a lense through which to view the round. Pragmatism, if ran correctly, can serve as the latter (possibly both).

 

Empirical evidence is almost unaviodable in any type of debate. Why is this a terrible thing? Why shouldn't one looked to the only indicator we have to predict the future or retroactively evaluate the past with: centuries of history? (It is also important to note that most of the real-world evidence used in rounds has been written by those who are in the best position to evaluate those centuries of history.) You don't think history and the surrounding environment shaped even the most introverted philosophers views? I think some of you guys don't have a beef with the empiricism but rather how its applied. Its easy to hate any arguement or group of arguements if they're ran poorly. If its used correctly almost anything can have its time and place. In fact I'd argue that the best cases usually use some kick ass empirical evidence in their contentions and connect it flawlessly with their specific value/moral theory.

 

Lastly, Mearsheimer's offensive realism was the best framework for the Jan-Feb 2008 topic concerning nuclear proliferation.

 

For the aff it was, Realism is kinda hard to argue on the neg for that topic considering the resolution is a key feature of realism

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Particular philosophies require empirical information. John Sturt Mill judges the "goodness" of a government by measuring whether it creates "the greatest good for the greatest number." The only way to demonstrate or challenge whether a governmental action is "good" using Mill is through empirical evidence. Likewise, the Social Contract would require some evidence that either the individual or the society/government has neglected its part of the contract. A framework of ethical egoism would require some evidence of what is truly in the individual's best interest.

 

Of course, some philosophical approaches reject empirical evidence, especially Kant. Thus the choice to use such facts and historical situations are not always appropriate.

 

I think the problem is not so much the use of empirical or pragmatic evidence. It is how it is used. If used within a philosophical framework that requires some sort of empirical test, such research makes lots of sense. On the other hand, to not use any sort of philosophical or value framework sort of violates the basic premises of LD debate. If a debater uses only empirical reasons/evidence, like a traditional CX round, then there is a problem.

 

 

One note to Poneill: Some of those topics which you claim were very empirically based didn't have to be. Take for instance the topic regarding plea bargaining. Sure, some practical, real-life evidence about valuable testimony a DA was able to get through plea bargaining might have been useful. But since the topic required the Aff to demonstrate such an action is unjust, that meant the Aff (and Neg) needed to present a framework of justice. Within the court system, is it "just" to NOT punish someone simply because that person has information. Does it promote justice to go after the "big fish" and let the "little fish" go? What is the purpose of our justice system -- is there a black/white quality of punishing all who have violated the law, or are there shades of grey in order to get some bigger sense of justice? The same sort of questions come up regarding the domestic abuse topic. Is vengeance ever just? Is it just to excuse certain criminal behavior because of a history of abuse? What exactly does excuse an individual from the norms of society?

 

While some topics do point more toward empirical, real-world evidence, none of them should stop there. I know the individuals on the LD topic committee, and they try very hard to phrase topics in such a way as to require theoretical and philosophical thinking. Sure, the topics are "ripped from today's headlines," and are topical in the sense of being "in the news," but the specific wording of the topics is meant to get the students to think more deeply than "does it happen" or "will it work."

Edited by tpeters

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I think that policy cross-overs bring with them a different style of LD that I wouldn't say is necessarily contradictory to what LD is. I think that depending on the topic, empirical claims might be better than theoretical claims. Lets look at the first three topics of the past three years:

 

Sept/Oct 06 - Resolved: A just government should provide health care to its citizens.

 

This topic relies on a combination of both empirics and theory. Obviously, since the topic is hypothetical, it necessarily requires that we use some theory. However, since it is talking about a very specific governmental policy (universal health care) empirics can be effective as a means to both complement and reinforce the claims made by a moral theory.

 

Nov/Dec 06 - Resolved: A victim’s deliberate use of deadly force is a just response to repeated domestic violence.

 

This relies on pyschological and empirical claims more than it does theoretical claims. Theoretical claims cannot get you very far on this topic since it deals with a very specific interaction between two individuals.

 

Jan/Feb 07 - Resolved: The actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as the actions of individuals.

 

This topic demanded a lot of theory more than it did empirics, although empirics were necessary to support the theoretical claims.

 

Sept/Oct 07 - Resolved: A just society ought not use the death penalty as a form of punishment.

 

This was just a bad topic. This topic, just like the current topic, could be as philosophical or empirical as you wanted. I don't think you can claim it fits into one category or the other.

 

Nov/Dec 07 Resolved: In the United States, plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust.

 

obviously empirical

 

Jan/Feb Resolved: It is just for the United States to use military force to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by nations that pose a military threat.

 

This topic is actually really theoretical. It deals with IR, which to some extent is based on empirics, but also functions as a theoretical description of how states should act within the international community. Even if you look at the TOC final round, there was a lot of philosophy. Becca Traber's AC was based around nuclearism (although it deals with empirics, the implications are theoretical) and the idea of how to resolve the issues of nuclearism and proliferation, which had very philosophical/deontological impacts. Chris Theis responds with contracts, which is no doubt philosophical.

 

Sept/Oct 08 Resolved: It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people.

 

This topic was intriguing. There were virtually no limits on what was topical, and it lead to a lot of interesting theoretical cases, from kritiks and kritikal affs, to positions dealing with catholicism and its philosophy (if you did your reading you'll realise this is true), and cases that argued that both options were morally permissible, or even Nietzsche. This topic gave you access to empirical arguments/policy args (Terrorism, Natl Security, etc.) or even an empirical view of morality (Jonathan Glover's book made for interesting aff and neg arguments). Even things like preventing nuke war became topical under this resolution.

 

As for the current resolution, I just attended a much more traditional tournament. I was expecting to hear a lot of more theoretical arguments, but there were a lot of empirical cases. Three authors who I've heard alot are Michael Cholbi and Jeff Manza & Christopher Uggen, and Roger Clegg. All three authors are writing about felon disenfranchisment as a concept, yet even they still base their arguments to some degree around the US.

 

My conclusion about this topic as of now is as follows:

 

The resolution is two questions. The first is a meta-resolutional question, which is "what constitutes a democracy to begin with"? The second question is "given the answer to the first question, what would this society look like?" The reason why even the most general arguments refer to the US is because once we have theoretically determined the answer to the first question, we still have the second question to deal with, which in most cases can only be determined by examining empirical examples.

 

To use tpeters example, you cite the statistics people give about how give felons the right to vote reduces crime empirically. I would say not only does the terminal impact of this argument rely on the value/criterion debate, but also, I would say that it's impossible to affirm this topic without some empirical analysis. The aff has to show why felon disenfranchisement is contrary to democratic values. How can you make a claim about a legal policy without first establishing that the policy has empirically led to these harms, otherwise their opponent can just say their arguments are empirically denied.

 

I realise that I kinda ended up just ranting, but I think that my point is why do we have to draw this line between what is "LD" and what is "Policy" and say that to use any features of the other activity is harming the other activity? Why can't both forms use elements from the other form depending on the topic, but use the evaluative framework (straight impact calc in policy, and whatever the hell you feel like using in LD) that makes the most sense as a distinction between the two forms? I've had this discussion with a friend of mine who is more traditional, and my coach, who fits somewhere in between the two of us, but I just don't really understand why this interpretation of LD is so "progressive"?

 

 

Ok a few things

 

1. on all of last years topics I was able to avoid empiricism,.

 

2. Also I dont not mind when people utilize statistics, doesn't particularly bother me. Though when these statistics can lead to nuclear war, or some other ridiculous impacts its bullshit, or when I go into a round and some asshole only runs some bullshit plan or counter plan, and there is no value debate, or when the run a critique, and the whole thing is just some empirical bullshit, with no logical warrants, its just some professor says this, and in the end all it does is muddle the debate.

 

3. gotta go but will add later.

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2. Also I dont not mind when people utilize statistics, doesn't particularly bother me. Though when these statistics can lead to nuclear war, or some other ridiculous impacts its bullshit, or when I go into a round and some asshole only runs some bullshit plan or counter plan, and there is no value debate, or when the run a critique, and the whole thing is just some empirical bullshit, with no logical warrants, its just some professor says this, and in the end all it does is muddle the debate.

 

Isn't that true about all philosophy? A lot of K authors are no more empirical than any other philosopher. In fact, I'd say that the more "traditional" LD Debate involves less clash and fewer warrants than the more "progressive" debate. Muddled debate rounds aren't the fault of plans, or CPs, or Ks, or empirics, or statistics, or any of the "bullshit". Muddled debate rounds are the result of debaters who are not good at debate, and don't understand what their opponent is saying, nor do they really understand their original position. To blame "muddled" debate on Ks/empirics/plans/CPs is absurd. In fact, I'd say that good "progressive" LD results in clearer rounds than more "traditional" LD rounds, mainly b/c "progressive" kids brought with them clash and line by line debate from policy.

 

Also, why are plans/Ks/CPs "bad" for LD? The Value/Criterion model was once considered "progressive". It wasn't until years after LD was created that the V/VC structure came to be, yet for some reason, that's "legit".

 

What is a plan? A plan is just a specific implementation of the resolution. For instance, on this topic, one could run a "plan" saying the USFG should establish a policy that gives universal suffrage to all of its citizens over the age of 18. You'd say that's "too policy", but my question is why? Would it be ok if I ran an aff with the V/VC structure saying that a democratic society should give all citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote, would that be "LD" enough? Yet aren't both of these considered "plans"?

 

What is a CP? A CP is just an alternative to the resolutional action. In fact, I'd say that a key question in this debate is whether or not giving felons the right to vote back after they get out of prison is aff or neg ground. Why does the negative have to show that the opposite of the resolution when thy can show that doing something else would be better?

 

What is a K? A K is attacking the assumptions/framework/reps that their opponent (or the resolution) makes. I said the n word in round, is that objectionable? What if I appeal to stereotypes about a certain group of people? What if I endorse a particular philosophy that is objectionable/bad/whatever? What if I portray an event/action in an objectionable way? What if I endorse something else objectionable? These are all Ks, and the argument they make is that something the other person did is bad. It's challenging the framework that a debater endorses/uses (explicitly or implicitly), and saying that we ought prefer a different framework in the round. That's a K. The definitions/spikes/Value/criterion read in the first speech are not the only frameworks/standards presented in the round. Theory/T has it's own framework clash(competing interps/aff reasonability, and there's the possibility that a debater could object to the judge's framework that endorses T/Theory as an exclusionary mechanism), and it's own standards (fairness/education/competitive equity, ground, limits, predictability, topic literature, grammar, etc.). Your contention appeals to a framework/standard (util/deon/virtue ethics or even something different like nietzsche or queer theory) to evaluate your impacts, as does the method in which you present your side of the resolution relies on a framework (see Ankur's spratlys AFF from the oceans topic, Heidegger, tommy's/tferg's k/framework/case turn in the VD tournament, or even people who do performances). The rate at which you read your case appeals to standards, as does the method you researched your position/cut your evidence. These are all frameworks/standards that debaters appeal to, and the purpose of the K is to say that (at least) one of these is wrong. Ks don't normally function under the Value/criterion framework becaue they propose their OWN framework for the debate.

 

EDIT: Also, policy debaters implicitly use a value/criterion framework most of the time. the value is societal welfare, and the criterion is util/consequentialism/pragmatism/net benefits

Edited by Poneill

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I'm afraid this topic has gone so far away from my original intent. I'm very sorry about this everyone. I never meant to bash empirical evidence. I just meant to say that I feel many times they are being substituted for actual reason or moral theory. I feel that empirical arguments are usually necessary, but the debate in LD should not be focused around a value/criterion that is similar to a policy-type plan. I hope nobody assumes I hate empirical arguments, because I don't. I just want this to be clear. Thanks for everyone's thoughts!

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I'm afraid this topic has gone so far away from my original intent. I'm very sorry about this everyone. I never meant to bash empirical evidence. I just meant to say that I feel many times they are being substituted for actual reason or moral theory. I feel that empirical arguments are usually necessary, but the debate in LD should not be focused around a value/criterion that is similar to a policy-type plan. I hope nobody assumes I hate empirical arguments, because I don't. I just want this to be clear. Thanks for everyone's thoughts!

 

My questions still stand. Why are Ks/CPs/Plans/heavy empirical positions too "policy" for LD?

 

Also, what makes something a "value" or a "criterion"? my policy example still stands

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because debating values is a lot different from debating public policy. the question in ld is what should happen and in policy it's what could happen and what makes for the best public policy, not what is right and good and moral, etc.

my thing about ld is that it's kind of hard to run a cp on something with no plan. i've never heard and ld case with a plan. but if you have one i'd like to see how it works. i havn't read your whole post yet because i don't have time, but i will soon.

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