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jwright

A "baseline" approach to topicality

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http://www.jasonline.net/debate/?p=94

 

I was randomly thinking the other day about judge paradigms and why some judges refuse to vote on topicality as long as the aff attempts to relate to the resolution. With this in mind, I pondered under what circumstances such a judge would vote neg on topicality. In particular, can the aff still win a T debate using generic, defensive arguments even if they read a case that has literally nothing to do with the resolution?

While you are free to disagree, we can certainly agree that the answer should be no. With this and my previous post about theory arguments as universal frameworks in mind, we can begin to conceive of topicality as a one-dimensional metric, with certain defensive arguments justifying certain “levels” of topicality. See the figure below, and more comments after the break.

topicality_metric.png

 

I’ve crafted this metric such that there is a range that is definitively topical, a range that is “reasonably” topical, and a range that is probably not topical but is close enough to potentially win topicality debates. You can imagine bars on this metric representing aff and neg interpretations of the topic, such that each interpretation allows any aff from “core of the topic” to where the bar lies on the topicality metric. Since topicality debates focus on various subsets of the resolution, using only one metric is obviously a simplified way of looking at things. We could theoretically define a metric for almost every word in the resolution, and each interpretation could be placed at a different point on each metric.

Next, think about placing defensive arguments on the metric instead of interpretations. To make this clearer, this example is a metric for the term “social services” on next year’s poverty topic, with some possible interpretations and common defensive arguments. All positions are subjective and just estimates of about where the division of ground is.

topicality_metric_2.png

This figure attempts to convey that each given argument can be represented as a point on a topicality metric, indicating that the argument justifies all possible affs that fall somewhere to the left of the point. In this case, saying “You have politics links” justifies all but a few affs, but saying “You have PICs” justifies a couple fewer because it requires having some more specific evidence that could only be found by doing research on the topic. One other point to note is that general arguments like “Our interpretation is key to aff ground/you overexpand neg ground” relies on another point on this metric which would represent where equal division of ground/fairness lies. This is obviously very contestable. But, in this context, making the argument that the neg interpretation overlimits means that the neg interpretation would be left of the point of fair division of ground.

What this attempts to convey is that a lot of generic aff defensive arguments are bad not necessarily because they are untrue, but because even if they were true they justify a larger range of affs on the topicality metric. A key component of this is that you should force the aff to justify their defensive arguments as a “baseline” for a range of topical affs. Even if the aff has a reasonable interpretation of the topic, if they expect the judge to vote on “you had politics links” as a reason why they’re topical enough, they’ve effectively pushed back the “baseline” for their interpretation. Here’s an example of how this argument might be phrased:

“Making the argument that we were prepared/had the ability to run generic arguments like agent CPs and politics is a waste of time - even if this were true, it vastly expands the range of topical affs to a degree that is horribly unfair to the neg because there are very few affs against which we can’t run these generics. Because of this, they are effectively defending this overly broad view of the topic AS their interpretation - means their counter-interp is just a cloak for the entirely unfair view of the topic they are choosing to defend by making such arguments.”

If you have questions, comments, or criticisms, feel free to discuss in the comment section.

Edited by jwright
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not re-posting the text here is kind of lame

 

i don't think anyone legitimately uses ground to determine t baselines. that's begging the question of which ground you have a right to. 'only our case' and 'anything improving life' are off in that chart. the key part of limits is the predictability of the definition and list definitions as well as only our case are while limiting, still upredictable which makes the limits useless

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not re-posting the text here is kind of lame

 

i don't think anyone legitimately uses ground to determine t baselines. that's begging the question of which ground you have a right to. 'only our case' and 'anything improving life' are off in that chart. the key part of limits is the predictability of the definition and list definitions as well as only our case are while limiting, still upredictable which makes the limits useless

 

Since there were images I wasn't sure if they would carry properly, but I'll try to edit my post and put it in.

 

I think you're misinterpreting much of what I was trying to say, though there are some things I could have worded clearer. The metric only attempts to define topicality by ground - meaning a certain "range" of ground is topical, a certain range is questionably topical, etc. Your concerns with the interpretations I listed aren't related to the metric because it (intentionally) doesn't take predictability into account. That's why "only our case" is so far to the left. It doesn't mean it's a good interpretation - just that it represents a limited interpretation of the topic.

 

You can't use the "baselines" approach to answer everything nor can you use it to defend everything. But in some situations, it's a good way to explain why generic defensive arguments like the ones I provided are stupid.

 

as for "begging the question of which ground you have a right to", that's why I wrote that finding a point on the metric that represents a completely fair distribution of ground is very difficult (though perhaps I should have wrote "impossible"). It's obviously not feasible to try to win a T debate by defining fair ground as some point on a metric and definitively saying that the aff's interpretation surpasses it. But, you can use it to explain why arguments that justify extremely large portions of the metric - like "you have politics ground" - means you lose even if you have an otherwise reasonable interpretation. for more on why I think that's true, read the other article I linked to in the beginning of this one.

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also known as generic ground isn't good ground...

 

you're missing the point - if you explain it that way the aff can fall back on their more reasonable interpretation of the topic AND attempt to justify their aff by saying it provides generic, although bad, ground. if you argue things in the way I described, the aff loses their interpretation and they're forced to defend the most unlimiting view of the topic they've presented. Or at least that's the goal. It would be interesting to see someone argue things this way in a debate.

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how's 'only our case' the best ground then?

 

I did another version of the graphic to try to make this a little clearer.

 

topicality_metric_3.png

 

Moving towards "only our case" is good for the neg because it limits aff ground. I think you may be under the impression that the "fair ground" point means aff ground on one side and neg ground on another, but the metric ONLY defines the bounds of aff ground, not neg. I think we can agree that limiting aff ground is good for the neg.

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i think there's almost universal consensus that 'only our case is t' is an arg that the aff can sometimes win on, but it doesn't help the neg at all. if this is still missing the point, then maybe the methodology needs readjustment..

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i think there's almost universal consensus that 'only our case is t' is an arg that the aff can sometimes win on, but it doesn't help the neg at all. if this is still missing the point, then maybe the methodology needs readjustment..

 

I am in agreement with you. It doesn't help the neg because it's unpredictable/arbitrary. This article explores a metric for ground, not predictability.

 

This isn't a weakness of the methodology because it's not meant to apply to arguments like "only our case is topical". In fact, "only our case is topical" is really more of an argument why ONLY relying on limits based debate vis-a-vis this metric is bad. Again, the purpose of this is really only to quantify aff interpretations by the amount of ground justified by defensive arguments. That is all.

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I am in agreement with you. It doesn't help the neg because it's unpredictable/arbitrary. This article explores a metric for ground, not predictability.

 

This isn't a weakness of the methodology because it's not meant to apply to arguments like "only our case is topical". In fact, "only our case is topical" is really more of an argument why ONLY relying on limits based debate vis-a-vis this metric is bad. Again, the purpose of this is really only to quantify aff interpretations by the amount of ground justified by defensive arguments. That is all.

That makes almost no sense then. predictability and ground have to be tied together in order for either of them to make any argumentative sense...

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This isn't a weakness of the methodology because it's not meant to apply to arguments like "only our case is topical". In fact, "only our case is topical" is really more of an argument why ONLY relying on limits based debate vis-a-vis this metric is bad. Again, the purpose of this is really only to quantify aff interpretations by the amount of ground justified by defensive arguments. That is all.

 

so essentially, it quantify's something that doesn't really matter and is easily beaten?

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That makes almost no sense then. predictability and ground have to be tied together in order for either of them to make any argumentative sense...

 

not in cases where the aff makes arguments that justify their aff based on the amount/type of ground it provides - for example, when they say "you have generic politics/agent CP ground".

 

You and synergy are both trying to apply this idea to an unrelated facet of topicality debates and then criticizing it because it's insufficient in that particular area - which is really missing the point of what I'm trying to say.

 

so essentially, it quantify's something that doesn't really matter and is easily beaten?

 

in the context of what you quoted, I have no idea what you're talking about. it doesn't quantify "only our case is topical" accurately because the merit of that interpretation is affected by its predictability.

 

if you're referring to the "generic defensive aff arguments" I wrote about earlier, then sure - they're bad and there are many ways to explain this - but this argument is kind of a launching pad into making the argument that if they go for those arguments they have to defend them as part of their interpretation - NOT just what they labeled as their counter-interp, and that an interpretation that includes broad justifications for a large number of affs is bad.

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not in cases where the aff makes arguments that justify their aff based on the amount/type of ground it provides - for example, when they say "you have generic politics/agent CP ground".

 

You and synergy are both trying to apply this idea to an unrelated facet of topicality debates and then criticizing it because it's insufficient in that particular area - which is really missing the point of what I'm trying to say.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh. Wow. I'm sorry. i thought we were assuming good and logical topicality arguments. Doh. My b.

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Oh. Wow. I'm sorry. i thought we were assuming good and logical topicality arguments. Doh. My b.

 

rofl.

 

may I direct you to some gems from this 2AC?

 

A. Predictability is practice—there is no objective view of the resolution. This is true because according to him nuclear energy is not topical even though every camp produced the affirmative. Means debates are key, not interpretation.

B. Not having a negative strategy is not my fault—there are lots of arguments he could have run. To name a few: Nuke Power good, Cap Good, Hegemoy good, Leadership good, economic growth good, Zizek bad, zizek is stooped, revolution bad.

 

people make these sorts of arguments as blippy & random defensive arguments all the time. the idea of using them as a "baseline" for topicality is to force them to defend what they justify as part of their interpretation.

 

for example, if the "good and logical" arguments you presented are true, your interpretation justifies every aff produced at a decent number of debate camps and any aff that provides links to "heg good", "economy good", etc. - regardless of whatever arguments you made previously on the flow (as long as you continue to extend this argument)

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lol. aren't you a tricky bastard. there's a difference between making those arguments in a 8 minute T-only speech and making concrete arguments when time is more limited.

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lol. aren't you a tricky bastard. there's a difference between making those arguments in a 8 minute T-only speech and making concrete arguments when time is more limited.

 

yeah, but the idea is that in a situation like yours the neg can say something like "if you go for this argument you lose - you just defended a vision of debate in which any aff that provides a miniscule amount of generic ground is topical - that delimits any other counter-interp you go for"

 

this is not supposed to be a super-amazing trick capable of winning any debate. it's just a random thought.

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yeah, but the idea is that in a situation like yours the neg can say something like "if you go for this argument you lose - you just defended a vision of debate in which any aff that provides a miniscule amount of generic ground is topical - that delimits any other counter-interp you go for"

 

this is not supposed to be a super-amazing trick capable of winning any debate. it's just a random thought.

ladies and gentlemen - i introduce you to the devastating argument of 'no, you're wrong'.

 

Counter-argument - in your framework of topicality, RVI"s suddenly gain legitimacy since the opposite, if the aff proves the neg's interpretation is bad they should lose, would demand the judge vote against the neg on topicality.

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ladies and gentlemen - i introduce you to the devastating argument of 'no, you're wrong'.

 

Counter-argument - in your framework of topicality, RVI"s suddenly gain legitimacy since the opposite, if the aff proves the neg's interpretation is bad they should lose, would demand the judge vote against the neg on topicality.

 

no, not what I'm saying. You probably got confused since I wrote "you lose". It's not an RVI-style voting issue - it's just a reason why you would probably lose the T debate because you're stuck defending a really, really dumb interpretation.

 

likewise, if the aff made this argument (though I don't really see how you can make a baselines argument on the aff, since negs rarely make arguments more limiting than their initial interpretation), it would just be a reason why the neg's interpretation is bad.

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no, not what I'm saying. You probably got confused since I wrote "you lose". It's not an RVI-style voting issue - it's just a reason why you would probably lose the T debate because you're stuck defending a really, really dumb interpretation.

 

likewise, if the aff made this argument (though I don't really see how you can make a baselines argument on the aff, since negs rarely make arguments more limiting than their initial interpretation), it would just be a reason why the neg's interpretation is bad.

 

you can't have it both ways - the phrase you used indicated that they've presented a framework for evaluation for topicality (only our case is topical, reasonability is practice, etc.) and should have to defend that world and the debates that would actually result from that world (the affs arguments are no longer conditional counter-interps, they are frameworks for topical evaluation of the resolution). likewise, the counter to that argument is the same threshold should be applied to the negativev - instead of providing a conidtional limit/view of the resolution it should be unconoditional and the aff should be able to garner offense from their view of the resolution thusly an rvi.

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you can't have it both ways - the phrase you used indicated that they've presented a framework for evaluation for topicality (only our case is topical, reasonability is practice, etc.) and should have to defend that world and the debates that would actually result from that world (the affs arguments are no longer conditional counter-interps, they are frameworks for topical evaluation of the resolution). likewise, the counter to that argument is the same threshold should be applied to the negativev - instead of providing a conidtional limit/view of the resolution it should be unconoditional and the aff should be able to garner offense from their view of the resolution thusly an rvi.

 

OK, I see your confusion now. The argument I'm making is only true if the defensive arguments are extended (like reasonability, though that is not a great example). If they make the args in the 2AC and kick them, the aff is free to just go for their stated counter-interp. I tried to make this clear when I wrote:

 

your interpretation justifies every aff produced at a decent number of debate camps and any aff that provides links to "heg good", "economy good", etc. - regardless of whatever arguments you made previously on the flow (as long as you continue to extend this argument)

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Jason, this is kind of interesting but I think your application of it would make debates messier without really gaining anything.

 

If a team deploys this as impact defense by saying "you get politics and heg good which means there's no ground impact to topicality," this is probably a flawed approach, in the same way that "you have a case neg so there's no abuse" is a flawed approach, but your metric doesn't respond to it, because your offense is "you justify new affs (and go to the right)" but since all of those affs are guaranteed to link to the politics disad, the "impact defense" still applies - the negative still has the same politics ground, so it's fine that you justify all those affs.

 

In other words, the impact to your "aff defensive arguments bad" argument is taken out by those same aff defensive arguments.

 

There are two ways to get around this

1) Answer their defense. "You get politics disads" is not great defense against a good ground argument, and if you do that, then you get to weigh your "you justify affs that only link to politics disads" argument. But if you can do that, you might as well just answer the defensive argument in the first place and not get into this whole secondary debate.

 

2) Win an external impact. Obviously there are also external impacts, like justifying all these stupid affs unlimits and means stupid debates, but it seems like those arguments apply to the counter-interpretation already and so arguing that "their defensive argument that we get politics is a link to our underlimiting/education argument" seems to be confusing and a waste of time.

 

It's like reading a politics disad with a link to an add-on they read instead of to the plan itself. It probably works but its messier and unnecessary.

 

I don't understand why you wouldn't just say their original interpretation unlimits the topic and justifies all these bad affs, and then answer their "you get politics ground" argument with "politics disads are dumb ground and they aren't about the topic."

 

As a side note, I think the better defensive argument would be to say something like "you get politics links based off the perception of the aff as social services"

 

Edit: I just read some more of the thread so it makes sense to make your argument in a situation where they have a reasonable counter-interpretation and make this defensive argument that you try to use it as a way to expand their interpretation and generate more offense, but first of all, teams that have more reasonable counter-interpretations should have better defensive arguments (so for example, they should be saying you get social services based politics links), and more importantly, I think you're artificially constructing this justification argument - just because one reason their interpretation isn't terrible is that you get generic ground does not mean that they are forced to defend everything that generic ground links to - and if it does, this is a flawed way to look at topicality, and messes up the neg too, because every ground argument they make can then be used to artificially expand their interpretation and generate offense - so for example, if they say something like "our interpretation is key to ensure ground to oil price disads" then it seems like the aff could argue that the negative interpretation would allow every aff which linked to an oil price disad.

Edited by The Spork

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Jason, this is kind of interesting but I think your application of it would make debates messier without really gaining anything.

 

If a team deploys this as impact defense by saying "you get politics and heg good which means there's no ground impact to topicality," this is probably a flawed approach, in the same way that "you have a case neg so there's no abuse" is a flawed approach, but your metric doesn't respond to it, because your offense is "you justify new affs (and go to the right)" but since all of those affs are guaranteed to link to the politics disad, the "impact defense" still applies - the negative still has the same politics ground, so it's fine that you justify all those affs.

 

In other words, the impact to your "aff defensive arguments bad" argument is taken out by those same aff defensive arguments.

 

There are two ways to get around this

1) Answer their defense. "You get politics disads" is not great defense against a good ground argument, and if you do that, then you get to weigh your "you justify affs that only link to politics disads" argument. But if you can do that, you might as well just answer the defensive argument in the first place and not get into this whole secondary debate.

 

2) Win an external impact. Obviously there are also external impacts, like justifying all these stupid affs unlimits and means stupid debates, but it seems like those arguments apply to the counter-interpretation already and so arguing that "their defensive argument that we get politics is a link to our underlimiting/education argument" seems to be confusing and a waste of time.

 

It's like reading a politics disad with a link to an add-on they read instead of to the plan itself. It probably works but its messier and unnecessary.

 

I don't understand why you wouldn't just say their original interpretation unlimits the topic and justifies all these bad affs, and then answer their "you get politics ground" argument with "politics disads are dumb ground and they aren't about the topic."

 

As a side note, I think the better defensive argument would be to say something like "you get politics links based off the perception of the aff as social services"

 

Edit: I just read some more of the thread so it makes sense to make your argument in a situation where they have a reasonable counter-interpretation and make this defensive argument that you try to use it as a way to expand their interpretation and generate more offense, but first of all, teams that have more reasonable counter-interpretations should have better defensive arguments (so for example, they should be saying you get social services based politics links), and more importantly, I think you're artificially constructing this justification argument - just because one reason their interpretation isn't terrible is that you get generic ground does not mean that they are forced to defend everything that generic ground links to - and if it does, this is a flawed way to look at topicality, and messes up the neg too, because every ground argument they make can then be used to artificially expand their interpretation and generate offense - so for example, if they say something like "our interpretation is key to ensure ground to oil price disads" then it seems like the aff could argue that the negative interpretation would allow every aff which linked to an oil price disad.

 

a few things:

 

1) this is really most applicable in the event that the aff has a reasonable "counter-interp", but also makes & extends more delimiting defensive arguments. the idea of using a metric is to try to prove that an interpretation should be judged by its most delimiting component. that should hopefully clarify things when you say "I don't understand why you wouldn't just say their original interpretation unlimits the topic and justifies all these bad affs" - because in this case, the original interp alone doesn't justify the bad affs - only the defensive args do.

 

2) yes, you would need to answer the argument that granting politics ground is sufficient to be topical - that shouldn't be too hard and isn't the crux of what I'm trying to say. this is a way of sticking them to these bad arguments - because if they go for them their interpretation is functionally that any aff granting politics link ground is OK. you can argue that a) this is not OK, and B) this moots their original, more reasonable counter-interp because under their vision of topicality it's still possible to read affs that don't fall within the bounds of that counter-interp.

 

here's why this is better than just saying "Politics ground is not sufficient to be topical": it means that if they continue to go for these bad args they can't just fall back on their original counter-interp. all the reasons why that interpretation is limiting are now moot.

 

as for making debates messy - I'm not entirely sure how this would play out. It's just an idea. There are obviously much more condensed ways of expressing this than the wordy paragraph at the bottom of the article.

 

also note that the strategic applications of this are quite limited. the aff can kick their defensive arguments and fall back on their counter-interp anyway (surprised nobody mentioned this yet). But, this argument goes into a level of detail that I don't think a lot of teams would pick up on fast enough to change their strategy, but that a judge should understand.

 

one last thing - it seems a lot of people's initial reaction is just that "we give you politics links" is such a bad argument that it's a waste of time to even address it this way. sure, you can probably win the debate if the other team just goes for that argument anyway - but, if the other team has a stronger counter-interp you can still lose. this method is like attacking at the weakest point of a shield.

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Edit: I just read some more of the thread so it makes sense to make your argument in a situation where they have a reasonable counter-interpretation and make this defensive argument that you try to use it as a way to expand their interpretation and generate more offense, but first of all, teams that have more reasonable counter-interpretations should have better defensive arguments (so for example, they should be saying you get social services based politics links), and more importantly, I think you're artificially constructing this justification argument - just because one reason their interpretation isn't terrible is that you get generic ground does not mean that they are forced to defend everything that generic ground links to - and if it does, this is a flawed way to look at topicality, and messes up the neg too, because every ground argument they make can then be used to artificially expand their interpretation and generate offense - so for example, if they say something like "our interpretation is key to ensure ground to oil price disads" then it seems like the aff could argue that the negative interpretation would allow every aff which linked to an oil price disad.

 

"teams with good counter-interps wouldn't make bad arguments" - I don't think this is true. Teams make blippy, random bad arguments to fill up time like this all the time even if they better weapons in their arsenal. See Tommy's 2AC in which he had 8 minutes to make whatever argument he wanted and still said that generic ground justified his aff.

 

"justification is artificially constructed" - Subject to debate, but this kind of goes into a different theory tangent that I explained more in the previous article. You're only considering defensive arguments as a justification of an interpretation. I'm asking you to think of them independently. If the aff says that providing generic ground means they shouldn't lose on T, that means they've justified any aff that provides generic ground independent of their interpretation or any other argument they've made.

 

"applies to neg" - This isn't true. Think of it like this - consider "oil price disads" a point on the metric such that all affs to the left grant links to oil DAs and all affs to the right don't. If the neg says "our interp key to oil price DAs", it means they're arguing that the aff's interp is to the right of the oil DA mark and that the neg interp is to the left. So, even if the aff successfully wins that the neg justifies any aff that links to oil price DAs (though I don't think this argument is set up in the same way that "you still have generic ground" is), that small amount of delimiting is still theoretically better than the aff interp.

 

You're right, though, that this could screw you over on the neg if you make an argument like "our interp is key to agent CPs which is key to ground" or something stupid like that, and the aff's interp is obviously within those bounds - it means you have effectively delimited your interp as well. Thanks for the insight.

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i think this begs a greater question. why do most judges under the age of 30 look for every excuse to not vote on topicality? why do judges default to a reasonability paradigm?

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Tommy, where you screwed up was in interpretation. Jason was taking "only our case is topical" from the theoretical stand point of it being true. In a theoretical world of only ONE (the aff's) case being topical the neg is given the MAJOR upperhand in the debate. They get the most predictable ground. Whenever Jason said it wasn't "predictable and arbitrary" he was saying the argument was unpredictable, not that the cases it justified were unpredictable. Almost every team says "only our case is T" which is what makes it unpredictable. However, if we were to assume the world of only 1 topical case, well then the neg has the greatest predictability ever.

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