Debate as a Dialectic
Thu Feb 22 17:44:36 CST 2001
I see several problems with the dialectic theory for debate.
1. It presumes a 2 dimensional intellectual universe in which every debate
is decided on the basis of hegemony v. counterhegemony, so that a synthesis
could be established between the two. unfortunately (and fortunately)
debate does manage to be more hetergenous than that. (this does not deny my
claims of homogeneity. debate tends to be the same in its differentness).
2. the idea of the "thesis" works to preserve the canon. the process is
less "synthesis" and more the thesis "incorporating" the anti-thesis in
order to take away its power.
3. It assumes a false binary between thesis and anti-thesis. Most things
in debate are not "pure" thesis or antithesis. In order to preserve the
distinction, all affs would have to run the exact same aff and that aff
would have to be repugnant. The negatives would all have to run the exact
same negative strategy and it would have to be the opposite of the aff.
4. It really is not appropriate in a competitive forum. If the aff gets
the thesis and the neg gets the antithesis, who gets the synthesis? And if
the synthesis is really the best, why not take it right away?
5. I believe our aff is critical to maintaining a way to have any sort of
synthesis. Since many rounds will be sure to only be the thesis form of
debate, an antithesis form of debate needs to be maintained on the aff.
6. we believe our aff to be at the heart of the topic. it is a thesis.
> I am at a loss why Topicality doesn't help critical arguments. I.e. it
> guarantees that certain critical arguments link. While I concede at the
> outset that I voted that Ft. Hayes' performance "out-weighed" the impacts
> of Topicality, I think a clever case can be made that the need for
> Topicality captures their "discursive violence" impacts, because the
> absence of Topicality does discursive violence to their opponents, and
> then the Disad the other way is the damage to other forms of ground and
> the benefits of dialectical role-playing. So the overview is: "We solve
> the case with our Topicality Counterplan; we'll outweigh with a risk of
> our other arguments good disad."
Um, this is exactly the way we encourage people to argue and judges to
adjudicate T. Weigh it.
> One major premise that I haven't seen Ft. Hayes engage is why debate isn't
> better when its a dialectic: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. If Ft.
> Hayes' thesis is one that people aren't prepared to debate because it
> discursively alters the frame from which the Negative was prepared to
> debate then the "antithesis" is gone. Specifically, I'll cite the
> Negative's ability to run arguments that Ft. Hayes probably wants to run.
> I can't run Normativity on the Negative because you didn't role-play the
> USFG. I can't run how Western development assistance policies colonize
> Africa. Here I came, ready to prove that Western led development
> assistance by the people who work in the Capitol building in Washington,
> D.C. is bad, and y'all WOULDN'T LET ME. Discursive violence to the
> antithesis side of the equation. I've been waiting for Andy and Parch to
> make this argument, but Topicality is critical for NEGATIVE KRITIK GROUND.
> Without it, the Negative Kritiks are silenced, coopted by the Aff., and
> the dialectic needed to engage in the debate process is gone.
Just because our aff denies some specific ground doesn't deny the ability of
the negative to function as the "antithesis." There is plenty of other
ground. There is negative kritik ground (in fact, thats mostly the ground
> Second, dialectics are more persuasive than one-sided "preaching to the
> choir." Stefan was making this argument earlier, "you should be prepared
> to defend arguments you don't believe in." Why? Because it might better
> help you beat those arguments later on in life, maybe even in debate. Why
> should you have to "role-play" the USFG when you're Aff. in a debate?
> Because role-playing the USFG might help you learn how the USFG functions
> and operates to maintain its hegemony. It might also "teach" you that not
> everything the USFG does is bad, and the state has some positive,
> beneficial effects. But, holding up the side of the radical that remains
> cloaked within me (don't laugh, check my historical voting on K record),
> if we want to dismantle governmental policies, why not pretend to be the
> government and go through the government iterations of its defense. I
> think "forcing" the Affirmative to do this better provides for the
> discourse and counter-discourse needed to provide a deeper challenge to
> the arguments one is likely to hear in defense of these policies. I see a
> rapid "hegemony of the left" occurring in debate. We're so automatically
> persuaded by the radical left that we refuse to engage the
> counter-arguments. Well, guess what: more people in the world are
> persuaded that the center, perhaps even right are right. We're doing no
> favors to ourselves to never engage the arguments that most people find
> persuasive to their justify the Status Quo if we just pretend they don't
> exist or aren't worthy of consideration. Debate is a dialectic, and its
> also a "laboratory." We're doing ourselves no good if we rig the
> experiment and then say "We've found cold fusion! Viva le Revolution."
Most of this is handled in the OV. Defending arguments you dont believe in
is educationally valuable, but its not the only way to approach education.
You presume that since one side is valuable, the other must not be. The
resolution is set there to give guidelines for a debate, not to say that one
must argue against themselves. If my aff fits within the resolution and
provides fair and predictable ground, then thats education. Besides, you're
assumption that we only argue what we believe isn't accurate. What I
believe has been shaped by what I argue in a mutually reinforcing ...
dialectic. I'm not ashamed to admit that I ran and believed in Objectivism
in the past. Our first year and the beginning of last year, we ran an
Israel Consultation PIC and many other arguments like that. Just because
we've found a strategy that is consistent with alot that we agree with
doesn't deny its educational value. Or do you want to stop Berkeley from
running their aff? What about last year when lots of debaters joined
movements against sanctions on Iraq? Should we disallow that for those
individual's own good? The funny thing about rigging the experiment is that
its a double edged sword and I think it helps me more than attacks me.
> Pre-empt: "I've been forced to be Affirmative! I'm so oppressed." This
> is the Counterplan solves the case argument above. You've discursively
> trapped the Negative too.
The problem with this argument is that you presume that the arguments that,
for instance, we make on the aff are designed to negate the resolution.
They're not. They are in support of the resolution and thus function as
your thesis. Beyond that, its an ideological bias in the way that the
topics are formulated that pushes traditional debate. By maintaining this
bias, negative kritik strategies are always reactionary rather than
proactive or foundational (not in the traditional sense, but foundational in
that they are first and situated at the center of the debate). That
situational move serves to reinforce the synthesis at the disservice of the
> I suspect y'all have a lot of one sided debates--you get up,
> say your performance, and all the work the Negative has done that year
> against the topic goes "Poof."
Actually, not a performance. dont falsely equate us with what texas does.
And the only reason that all of the research would possibly go "Poof" is
because they saw the topic in a unidimensional way.
> 1st being Negative isn't just being reactionary. I felt nothing
> "reactionary" about voting for Texas on the Negative at last year's NDT,
> or voting Negative for what I felt was a "better performance" at Kentucky.
> I think we've de-mystified (to use what I recently learned was circa 1994
> Kritik lingo) the notion that the Negative should have to defend the
> Status Quo. Voting Negative can be PROGRESSIVE. Vote to have the Nordic
> countries do this, vote to start a political project that challenges the
> state. This is reactionary? Hardly.
I dont know what you mean that you "didn't feel reactionary." Running
arguments on the negative is not bad, but forcing arguments (without
considering other factors) to the negative merely because you feel they
should be there does force them to be reactionary. Under your
interpretation, one would walk into a round knowing that no matter what,
they would see some representation of the hegemony (and likely only the
hegemony). The way that the canon stays the canon is that it is taught as
the canon. Keeping the hegemony on the aff is that teaching.
> Further, diversity is good. The idea that people run other projects they
> believe in is good too. It' s not bad that everyone doesn't do Ft. Hayes'
> project. There are other performances/plans/advocacy that's good too.
> There are also other kinds of arguments that are beneficial. I think a
> Bush disad has a place in the radical world-view--we should analyze and
> assess the ways the USFG tries to justify not taking action in order to
> find ways to exploit inconsisities and ambiguities inherent in the system
> in order to mount an effective challenge.
> The best way to do this is to
> "role-play" what if I was asked to be the USFG? What would I say or do?
> Then explore those inconsisties and ambiguities in order to create
> resistance to the project. Even if you think the project is bad, being
> forced to defend it in a "lab" may help us craft arguments against it on
> the outside, and perhaps better ones, because we've tested these arguments
> thoroughly, all sides of various theses/antitheses/syntheses all year
> long. But the only way to test them is to make sure both sides are
> adequately prepared. Rigging the game and saying "Eureka its E=MC CUBED"
> doesn't do us much good.
I didn't understand anything you said here. If you're just saying the lab
is good, then yeah. If our aff is bad, then formulate arguments to test it
and beat it in that lab.
> Ft. Hayes wants to have an Affirmative that exists to deny teams the
> attacks they have created vs. core, predictable elements of the topic, and
> run "Jason and Joe" bad disads and Kritiks. Well, those two seem like
> nice guys to me, and I refuse to engage in the nasty practice of
> personally insulting them.
Not true. We provide plenty of ground that doesn't break down to ad homs.
And if you believe that we coopt, then run the arguments that beat those
kritiks. for instance, if you can't run normative since we examine the
nature of the subject, run arguments that that examination is bad. or if
you can't run your kritik of objective value structures because we reject
them, then run your arguments that subjectivity is bad.
> Plus, you can run critical Affs. and be topical. I think $777 trillion in
> reparations as development assistance to the Greater Horn is Topical. So
> is giving refugee assistance to challenge the stability of the concept of
> "borders." So is giving development assistance to perform the irony of
> development assistance.
If these are topical, then I fail to see how we aren't. Particularly irony.
Weigh T like a disad. I'm not saying that anything and everything should be
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