[eDebate] ans Neal/Strait/Eliott

Michael Korcok mmk_savant
Fri May 12 22:48:41 CDT 2006


Sort of.   One idea from that paper was particularly important here:
 
The idea of a universal decision-maker is incoherent.  That is, whether or not a course of action is endorsed depends on the particular entity making the decision:  a specified decision-maker is necessary to evaluate a proposed action.  
 
An example motivates this idea.
 
Let's consider the plan: "Bill and Ted should take the team to Berkeley."
Let's assume that we will endorse the plan if and only if it is better than the best legitimate competitive alternative.
 
Assume Bill and Ted, graduate assistants, are making the decision and that the best competitive alternative they can choose is to stay home and play San Andreas instead.  We compare Berkeley to San Andreas and decide to affirm because the plan is better than the counterplan.  AFF.
 
Now assume that Jenny, the DoF, is making the decision and the best competitive alternative she can choose is to have Bill and Ted take the team to Wyoming instead.  We compare Berkeley to Wyoming and decide to affirm because the plan is still better than the counterplan.  AFF.
 
Now assume that Eric, the Dean, is making the decision and the best competitive alternative he can choose is to increase the team's funding and send the team with Mike to Hawaii that weekend.  We compare Berkeley to Hawaii and decide to affirm because... well ... just because.  AFF.
 
Now assume that Sandra, the Chancellor, is making the decision and the best competitive alternative she can choose is to fund a trip for the whole squad to Amsterdam that month.  We compare Berkeley to Amsterdam and vote NEG without thinking very long.
 
In this example, whether or not a plan is endorsed depends on who the decision-maker is simply because each decision-maker has a different scope of authority over potential competitive alternatives to the plan.  
 
The general case now becomes clear.  Given that we endorse a course of action if and only if that course of action is preferred to the best "legitimate" competitive alternative and given that the best "legitimate" alternative will depend on the scope of authority over alternative courses of action available to a given decision-maker, then evaluation of action requires that the decision-maker is specified.
 
returning to the example, if someone asked me "Should Bill and Ted take the team to Berkeley?" I would have to answer:  that depends on who will make the decision because the best competitive alternative available to that decision-maker will be the reason NOT to take the action.  Will Bill and Ted or will Jenny or will Eric or will Sandra be deciding whether or not the plan should be enacted?  Oh, Sandra?  then NO because Sandra should fund a trip for the whole squad to Amsterdam that month instead.
 
and that is why a universal decision-maker is incoherent.
 
That's not to say that a debate critic either roleplays or takes the perspective of a given decision-maker.  It only concludes that a critic can't evaluate a policy without knowing what decision-maker will be deciding whether to enact the policy and in particular the critic needs to know that decision-maker's scope of authority over competitive alternatives to the plan.
 
hoping that doesn't make things even less clear,
 
Michael Korcok
 
 
 
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