straw person and context
Wed Oct 21 14:20:49 CDT 1998
and well taken 2 cents. again... one of these things was something that I noticed (and have come to learn that the team has subsequently went back to the footnote and gotten the original--good for them), and the other was one that was not really challenged, but pointed out by the negative team.
anyway, interesting possibilities. thanks for all the input.
Frank Paul Irizarry wrote:
> I think Mike brings up an interesting point. I've seen quite a few rounds this year where the "straw person argument" is read as an answer to an Affirmative claim. I think it all comes down to how the debaters debate it in the round. An example that comes to mind immediately is the Calloway article in the Stetson Law Review. In my opinion, Calloway sets up a straw person argument but does a lousy job of answering the straw person. The straw person argument (once again, in my opinion) is much stronger than the answers to it. If I'm watching a round and the negative reads Calloway cards and argues that "Calloway concludes with us," I think they are dead wrong but if they get into a debate over the merits of the straw person argument versus the way Calloway answers the straw person argument and they can win the debate that although they are not advocating that Calloway agrees with them but they are on the right side of the argument, I don't see anything wrong with that. Just my .02 cents worth.
> frank irizarry
> pace debate
> p.s. - congrats to King Maxwell!!! A great friend and colleague, I couldn't be happier for him.
> Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 10:00:13 -0500
> Reply-To: Krueger <mkrueger at FRANK.MTSU.EDU>
> From: Krueger <mkrueger at FRANK.MTSU.EDU>
> Subject: straw person and context
> To: EDEBATE at LIST.UVM.EDU
> Interesting thread. Another bit of fuel to the fire.
> Two debates this past weekend at the U of Alabama had
> straw person
> arguments argued by one side or another....
> One round, the affirmative is debating horizontal
> jurisprudence and the
> negative reads a bunch of "case turns" and "solvency
> take outs" from the
> affirmative author. I am pretty sure these are all
> answered by the
> affirmative author.
> Another round, the negative is reading a bunch of
> "solvency take outs"
> and "solvency comparisons" and the affirmative answers
> all this in the
> 1AR with one card from the negative author... again I
> am pretty sure
> from the context of all the negative cards a straw
> person argument.
> Let me ask the community...
> What is a critic to do?
> Michael Krueger
> Director of Debate
> Middle Tennessee State University
> Box 43
> Murfreesboro, TN 37132
> (615) 898-5607 (office)
> (615) 898-5826 (fax)
Director of Debate
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
(615) 898-5607 (office)
(615) 898-5826 (fax)
>From Wed Oct 21 15:26:46 1998
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Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 15:26:46 EDT
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From: Alfred Snider <DRTUNA at AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: Foucault & Context
Comments: To: pjg154 at psu.edu
This is why we make sure that the students and the faculty members behind our
evidence packets are identifiable and known. They can explain context issues
If and when people have any issues about WDI evidence at any point in the
future, please make sure to get in contact with the debater who cut the card
and the faculty members who sponsored the position. Assuming things might be
"out of context" ignores our extensive student and facultu review procedures.
I would like to think that you can trust WDI evidence. This example seems to
bear that out.
In a message dated 10/21/98 8:29:49 AM, pjg154 at psu.edu wrote:
<<Funny stuff, this thread. I think Andy's anger is quite understandable. If
critics are telling debaters their evidence is out of context, they need to
be absolutely certain they can 100% back that claim up. There is a rather
large difference between that claim and the claim that the interpretation of
that author on that issue is unsettled.
We checked every card in the WDI Foucault packet very carefully, actually
holding the packet back from its original release time. We spent more time
on issues of context and bracketing, leaving less time for polish at the
end. The perm cards were a topic of tight discussion for more than one
meal. I stand by the context of the cards in that packet.
Now, as to what Foucault "really meant." Let us note, briefly, that
Foucault changed his mind a great deal while he was alive. He considered
the contradictions between his earlier writings and his later writings to be
one of the best elements of his work. To paraphrase an interview with him
in the '80s, why work and write for thirty years just to come to the same
As a result of this, and his sometimes complex style (check out the first
half of Foucault/Blanchot for a good example), he is interpreted in
substantially different ways. For example, Foss & Gill interpret Foucault
to be a humanist in his later writings, which I think is totally unsupported
by the texts. Others read Foucault to be all about liberation from power,
which more than one essay seems to definitely refute. Others argue that
Foucault is opposed to government or working for governmental change, which
a host of interviews and Foucault's own political activism seem to
contradict. The bottom line is, these are not simple issues of context, and
a critic or debater who claims them to be so has a particularly naive
reading of Foucault. As my dear freind and once coach, Joe Corcoran, has
already quite lucidly pointed out, these issues of interpretation do not
make for ethics challenges, but are substantive issues in the debate. They
are not issues of context, but issues of what interpretations can be most
solidly grounded in the texts. Remember, it's not grounding it in the
author, it's grounding it in the text at hand.
Now, what did Foucault mean when he said that to work with a government
implies neither subjection nor total acceptance?
A tough one, but I will give you another passage that I think clarifies his
particular brand of political action and sets it apart from humanism:
"Local actions which are well-timed can be quite effective. Consider the
actions of the G.I.P. (Information Group on Prisons) during the past year.
The ultimate goal of its interventions was not to extend the visiting rights
of prisoners to thirty minutes or to procure flush toilets for the cells,
but to question the social and moral distinction between the innocent and
the guilty. And if this goal was to be more than a philosophical statement
or a humanist desire, it had to be pursued at the level of gestures,
practical actions, and in relation to specific situations. Confronted by
this penal system, the humanist would say: 'The guilty are guilty and the
innocent are innocent. Nevertheless, the convict is a man like any other
and society must respect what is human in him: consequently, flush toilets!'
Our action, on the contrary, isn't concerned with the soul or the man behind
the convict, but it seeks to obliterate the deep division that lies between
innocence and guilt." Foucault, Michel. "Revolutionary Action: 'Until
Now.'" In Donald F. Bouchard (Ed.). Language, Counter-Memory, Practice.
Cornell U P, 1971/1977. p. 227
On the next page, Foucault answers those who take this to mean only
"You have badly misunderstood me. If it were a question of raising
consciousness, we could simply publish newspapers or books, or attempt to
win over a radio or television producer. We wish to attack an institution
at the point where it culminates and reveals itself in a simple and basic
ideology, in the notions of good and evil, innocence and guilt. We wish to
change this ideology which is experienced through those dense institutional
layers where it has been invested, crystallized, and reproduced. More
simply, humanism is based on the desire to change the ideological system
without altering institutions; and reformers wish to change the institutions
without altering the ideological system. Revolutionary action, on the
contrary, is defined as the simultaneous agitation of consciousness and
institutions that function as their instruments, armature, and armor."
What do I take this all to mean?
It seems plain to me that Foucault believed in political action. He even
believed that in some cases strategy required that revolutionary action work
in/through/with governmental bodies in order to achieve the kind of
agitation he describes above. Let us note that institutions, for Foucault,
are not most importantly This Government, or This Hospital, or the FBI, but
the asylum as an institution is something more than simply its structural
Ok, so in terms of the perm and the debate, how do we take the WDI perm card
#1 on page 104 of the packet? My interpretation of Foucault is that he does
not consider it impossible (and he may even consider it necessary) that
revolutionary action achieve its agitation by working with existing
government bodies. What revolutionary action, for Foucault, can clearly not
be about is achieving humanist ends (flush toilets, cleaner work
environment, less police brutality, etc.). Such action fails to agitate the
ideology and the institution sufficiently. For Foucault, revolutionary
action, politics, must be about a greater agitation of those things taken as
given. This is why Foucault found merit in Genet's claim that the Judge at
the Soledad trial and the tourists in the plane hijacked by Palestinians
should not be considered innocent. Just like the G.I.P. (which Foucault was
active in) and the student rebellions in France (which Foucault was not
present for, he was in Algeria), Foucault saw the possibility of a
revolutionary action that was neither defined as "against" nor "for" and yet
did not also locate itself "outside" the institutions. It was an attempt at
transgression (which is never escape or destruction). It was an attempt at
agitation. It was an attempt at decentering. It was an attempt at
deconstruction, which is never destruction and can never occur from the
My conclusion? Foucault is very interested in politics and political
change. Blanchot once said that Foucault seemed to want to be more of a
politician than a philosopher. Foucault even took great interest in French
elections and talked about them as possibilities for change (see "Practicing
Criticism," and interview with Didier Eribon). However, Foucault would not
be keen on most of this year's affirmative cases. He would not support the
kind of humanist and reformist moves that most affirmative cases put
forward. (The quotes above come from an article that gives very clear
definition of his use of the term humanism, by the way.) It is conceivable
that someone could (is) run(ning) an aff case that Foucault would argue the
perm for. The card is in context. The application of it is not now a
question of context, but of whether Foucault would buy this specific form of
action with/in/through the government as being agitation of both ideology
and institution. For almost all the aff cases I have seen thus far, the
answer is no. However, let me be clear that this is an issue of whether the
case links to the perm. This is _not_ an issue of context, but of
application. The problem here is no different than the thousands of rounds
we will hear where the disad link card does not assume the aff's case.
The perm is not a good answer if the advocates of the Foucault position know
what they are doing, but it is definitely not out of context.
Ok, so I've ranted about my reading of Foucault long enough.
Take care all,
Pat J. Gehrke
Director of Forensics
234 Sparks Building pjg154 at psu.edu
Pennsylvania State University (814) 865-7751
University Park, PA 16802
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