If 6 Turned Out To Be 9: Fiat and Ambiguity

Kenneth Broda-Bahm broda
Mon Sep 8 07:16:38 CDT 1997


This post will probably not be as good as its title.  My summer
has been an exciting one, but one regret is that I have not been
able to jump into this listserve's traditional 'Big Summer Theory
Debate.'  As is also traditional, the current BSTD centers on
Korcok, this time on an attempt to ground negative fiat in
opportunity cost theory.  A bunch of posts from Mike, Gina,
Jessica, have been browsed but wait patiently on my hard-drive
for a closer read.  But based on what I've read I wanted to add a
tangential thought that captures my own frustration more than it
criticizes the debate.

The one thing that I am struck with at this point is that once
again we seem to be seeking _logical_ answers to questions of
'what do we mean?' and 'what do we want?'  As much as many folks
tried in the late 80's to find a logical answer to the question
of the resolution's function, the answer ultimately related to
community wishes, the answer ultimately became 'we want to run a
case, we don't want to prove the resolution generally true.'

The case is similar with the question of fiat: what do we mean
when we hypothesize an alternative to what currently exists?
What do we want to be talking about?  Do opportunity costs
include a comparison of all excluded options or merely those with
propensity?  The answer seems to relate more to function (or to
the standard practice of economists) than to logic   what do we
want to compare?  The search for a template for drawing up the
relevant boundaries of fiated worlds seems to be fraught with
ambiguity.  Nicholas Rescher does a good job of saying this in
1961
          "Belief-contravening suppositions lead us into a mire
          of ambiguity from which no road map of logical revision
          or mechanical manipulation can extricate us.  If such
          suppositions are viewed as a sort of 'make believe,'
          then we must recognize that the problem of where to
          'draw the line' between make-believe on the one hand
          and the 'real thing' upon the other is a subtle one
          that cannot be solved in any automatic way whatever."
What this means is that whenever we use "if" (as in the case of
affirmative fiat) or "if not" (as in the case of negative fiat)
we have an incomplete picture of what we are leaving in and what
we are leaving out.  The picture is made more complete by the
purposes of the discussants, but our function in using 'if.'  The
question is, "what do we mean by 'if'?" or "what do we mean by
'if not'?"  and the dismal answer is "well, what do we _want_ to
mean?"

I agree that we should try for a better answer than that.  Even
if we cannot get a complete answer by interrogating the logic of
a statement, we can at least ask a question about relevance.  I
feel that as the 'Servant of Relevance' fiat should be grounded
not in a game rule, nor in reciprocal rights, nor in the caprice
of literature, but in a palpable argumentative need to assume
some antecedent into being.

I'm hoping that we hear more about this in the future.

 _______________________________________________________
|o                                                     o|
|o     Kenneth T. Broda-Bahm, Asst. Prof.,             o|
|o     Director of Forensics                           o|
|o     Towson University,                              o|
|o     Towson MD, USA, 21252-7097,                     o|
|o     410-830-2888 (office) 410-830-3656 (fax)        o|
|o     KBrodabahm at Towson.Edu                           o|
---------------------------------------------------------

>From  Mon Sep  8 07:37:51 1997
Message-Id: <MON.8.SEP.1997.073751.0500.>
Date: Mon, 8 Sep 1997 07:37:51 -0500
Reply-To: tshuman at CCP.COM
To: Team Topic Debating in America <EDEBATE at LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Terrance Shuman <tshuman at CCP.COM>
Subject: Aff Bias Update: ans Tauber
In-Reply-To: <199709080213.TAA12115 at gladstone.uoregon.edu>

In <199709080213.TAA12115 at gladstone.uoregon.edu>, on 09/07/97
at 07:05 PM, Alan Tauber <atauber at GLADSTONE.UOREGON.EDU> said:

>I do not believe that you can legitimately claim that the skill
>levels of the competitors is the same.

I made no such claim.  I said that the teams *in the sample* (i.e.,
the top 10% or so of those competing) have approximately comparable
skill levels.  Not all teams in the tournament....

>I aggree with Mr. Bryant that the TOC is a much better tournament to
>look at because a team must do well at three major tournaments.  I
>personally didn't make it to TOC (a further endorsement) but from
>what I understand, it is a much tougher tournament than NFL
>Nationals.

As indicated elsewhere, I would be tickled to death to see the TOC
data, but I don't have it at present.  In the meantime, I have some
concerns about how representative such data would be; it would seem
safe to say that TOC outcomes would probably more closely parallel
the collegiate-level experiences related by Prof. Bryant, but that is
just a supposition on my part....

>A final note,  the judging pool at nationals is so varied that an
>affirmative bias, if one exists, would be nullified.  After all the
>final round was judged by 3-4 experienced HS/Collegiate judges while
>the other 5-6 were everyday members of society.

I would very much like to see evidence in support of the claim that
"varied" (what an odd word to use) judging tends to vote Neg.  In
the meantime, this is an interesting hypothesis:

    "There is an Aff bias, but it goes away when non-specialists
     are doing the judging."

Wouldn't this tell us more about the proclivities of "specialized"
judging pools than it would about intrinsic biases in the format?

Terrance Shuman
Bishop LeBlond Memorial High School
St. Joseph, Missouri




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