Debating: Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks

In debating there are a lot of different situations you can think of. Our reporter Srdjan gives some tips and tricks. Most people involved in debating faced at least one of those situations, so it’s useful for everyone!

Note: these views do not necessarily reflect the views of the entire debating community, but only those of one person.

By Srdjan Miletic

Style

  • You’re not in a debate.
  • Be calm. Avoid hysteria like the plague.
  • Speak for yourself. “I don’t buy this argument” is always more persuasive than “We don’t buy this argument”.
  • Control your hands.
  • Drop filler words. Comparative, analysis and clash can have meaning. Too often they don’t.

Pro-Amming

  • Your partner is never dragging you down. You’re just not good enough to pull them up.
  • You can Pro-Am to win or you can Pro-Am to teach. Be clear on which you’re doing.

Debating

  • Counter-Props are a thing. Ignore them at your peril
  • Don’t win clashes. Win the debate.
  • Rebuttal is constructive
  • Constructive can be rebuttal.
  • Examples can be arguments.
  • Consequentialism is nigh impossible to challenge. Utilitarianism is not

Judging

  • The Average Informed Voter is neither left-wing nor a feminist.
  • Argumentative sophistication is not persuasiveness.
  • Truth is not binary.
  • Persuasiveness = Truth(%) * Importance
  • Rebuttal is as good as constructive
  • Metrics are important

CA’ing

  • Counter Props are a thing. Either have a clear position on them OR take a position on a motion by motion basis
  • “THW do X as opposed to Y” is an effective way of excluding counter-props on a motion by motion basis

Being a Good Person

  • If someone is worse at debating, that doesn’t mean they’re less intelligent.
  • If someone is less intelligent, that doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.
  • If someone is a bad person, that doesn’t mean you should treat them badly.

THW ban X? Why counterpropping nationalization is an easy win

This article is written by Srdjan Miletic and can be found on his blog.

In most debates about banning a good, the main clashes should be whether access to the good is desirable and whether a black market will arise. Often, a major tenet of the Government case is that market failure occurs as markets have incredibly perverse or damaging incentives, meaning that the good should be banned to prevent the existence of an abusive market. This argumentation is incredibly flawed as it is not specific to banning. There are other ways to be rid of an abusive market while still allowing the consumption and production of a good. Namely, nationalization.
As opposition, counter-propping nationalization has a number of advantages. One, it at a stroke makes irrelevant all of a PM’s analysis on why markets are bad. Two, it throws off Gov teams, especially IoNA or Israeli teams who are by and large exceptionally unused to counter-props. Three, it’s really fun.

 

Open CA application should be the norm

By Srdjan Miletic

CA’s are usually chosen based on who the conveners know. I’ve always thought that closed CA selection gives worse CA’s chosen less based on ability than on popularity.  That’s why for Maastricht Open 2015 we opened CA applications to anyone willing to fill in our online form. The result was a world class CA team and fantastic motions.

Why open CA application is great.

The simplest reason for an open application process it that it gives more candidates as both those the conveners approach personally and convince to apply as well as others who apply of their own volition can be chosen from. Another reason is that it minimizes the impact of personal biases on choosing CA’s, a problem I think is widespread. I don’t mean so much racial or gender bias but rather reputation bias, where people with better connections, more exposure or from more respected institutions are given undue preference.

How to run an open CA application?

The application process used for Maastricht Open was simple and should work for most tournaments. We:

  1. Created a google form asking prospective applicants for their personal details, required travel funding (preferred and minimum), judging experience, speaking experience, other experience and a final question asking them what makes them a great CA.
  2. Posted the form online in debating facebook groups with an explanation of what Mass Open was and why it would be awesome, advertised Maas open and how to apply to CA at tournaments we went to.
  3. Once the application deadline had passed, weighed up the applicants based on their debating CV’s and required funding.

Non-Issues

Running open applications isn’t difficult or time consuming. The only objections I’ve heard deal with the selection processes rather than with anything inherit to open applications. While we chose our CA’s based on ability, it would have been equally possible to select based on reputation, gender/race, development potential, ability to bring judges or any other criteria imaginable.

Stylistically necessary conclusion

When firms look for employees, they cast their nets as widely as possible, making available positions public and applications as open as is practical. We expect the same of virtually all areas of society. I don’t see why the same shouldn’t apply to debating.

Motion balance at the Wageningen Open

By Srdjan Miletic

As usual, I won’t write about the social side of the tournament because, frankly, that’s not my area of expertise. What I will write about is the motion, which were as follows:

 

Motions (as posted by Micheal Dunn):

  • R1: Given the scarcity of donor organs, THW deprioritise substance abusers on organ recipient lists
  • R2: THBT the punishments for murder and manslaughter should be equal
  • R3: This House regrets The Euro
  • R4: TH regrets monogamy
  • Final: THBT the acquisition of wealth, above that needed to meet one’s basic needs, is immoral

 

I believe that the motions for round 1 and 2, while interesting, were probably unbalanced, favouring Prop and Opp respectively. Here’s why:

Round 1:

This motion requires current substance abusers (A.K.A: addicts from any decent Gov) be given lower priority than non abusers. The basic, obvious arguments I would expect to see from gov are:

 

  1. (Very Weak) Drug users are less deserving  of organs
    1. Drug users chose to use drugs
    2. Drug users harmed society
  2. Drug users are helped less by organs
    1. Organs should be distributed in such a way as to maximise either [(tenuous claim) life years/(acceptable claim) lives saved]
      1. Justification
        1. We have to adopt some position, neutrality is impossible
        2. We already do this in all other resource allocation problems, i.e:
          1. police
          2. economic subsidies
          3. etc…
        3. Intuitively appealing
          1. Intuition is the only source of morality, no independent grounding is possible
          2. Case: two people. One has a 99% chance of rejecting an organ, the other a 2% chance. All else is equal, I intuitively would give the organ to the person it is more likely to save.
    2. More likely to die earlier, and hence gain less years of life from the organ
      1. More likely to become addicted again
      2. More likely to have serious health problems resulting from addiction.
    3. More likely to reject organ than non-users
      1. Less likely to stick to diet and drug regime required to avoid rejection
      2. Less healthy

 

The problem with the motion, and the reason I suspect it is unbalanced, is that these arguments are easy to make, intuitively appealing and hard to rebut. Moving to Opp, there are far fewer obvious arguments and even rebuttal of the Gov case, while by no means impossible, is far from simple.

First, rebuttal. Obviously, it is easy to rebut argument 1, drug users being less deserving of life, by pointing out that drug addiction is not a choice or through other means. The real difficulty comes with argument 2, that drug users are less likely to benefit from the organs and that we should allocate organs so as to maximise the amount of lives saved/extended. There are two options here, opp can argue that:

  1. We should not allocate organs so as to save the most lives
  2. Drug users do not benefit less from organs than non-users

The issue with the first line of argument is that I struggle to see an alternate system of allocation that is anywhere near as appealing as allocating to maximise lives saved. The problem with the second argument is that it does not seem possible to entirely rebut the fact that drug abuse leads to a higher risk of organ rejection. While it is possible to frame out certain health risks, for example, by pointing out that STD’s or immune problems acquired due to drug use are already accounted for by the health check’s done to determine rejection risk, it is not possible to frame out the risk of re-addiction and consequent rejection as that is a risk a doctor cannot know of without taking into account past history of substance abuse. Also, framing out the health risks of drug addiction by shoving them into the “general health” requirements can be a bit iffy if Gov are smart enough to argue that certain health risks associated with addiction are not possible to independently verify/discover. Hence, my belief that the motions is likely unbalanced
Round 2:

While this is a round I personally find much more interesting, it is one which seems to be even more unbalanced. This time, I’ll start with the possible opp lines (many of which are lifted from other people in the tournament)

  1. The purpose of the justice system is to provide restitution and closure to victims
    1. victims of intentional crime are, all things equal, more offended than victims of accidents. The same applies to victims families.
  2. The purpose of the justice system is to  punish people who do evil
    1. Intentional harm to another is more evil than unintentional harm
      1. i.e: What’s more evil? 1: carelessly leaving medicine where a child could find it, drink it and die. 2: forcing the same medicine down the child’s throat because you want to kill it.
  3. The purpose of the justice system is to protect society from dangerous people
    1. Man-Slaughterers are less likely to reoffend than those who made a decision to take a life

 

I find these arguments to be, generally speaking, quite obvious, easy to argue and persuasive. On the other hand, I struggle to see what Gov can argue and most of the obvious lines are comparatively weaker. i.e:

  • (depending on mech) [Longer/Shorter] sentences are better because deterrence/prisons are bad]
    • Rebuttal: Just make sentences generally longer/shorter but not the same
  • Victims are equally offended in both cases
    • Rebuttal: False, intentional crime is more offensive
  • Both crimes are equally evil as both show a disregard for human life
    • Rebuttal: Murder = intentional = far greater disregard
      • i.e: What’s more evil? 1: carelessly leaving medicine where a child could find it, drink it and die. 2: forcing the same medicine down the child’s throat because you want to kill it.
  • There is no free will and morality does not exist?????
    • Rebuttal:
      • Crazy
      • no moral culpability
      • not intuitively plausible
      • (advanced but devastating): no free will = no personhood

 

Note that this is not to say that it is impossible to argue for Opp. I would be glad to do so and I think many philosophy students or high-level debaters would be capable of doing so. My point is that it seems to be far easier to argue for prop, especially for the average debater in the average room, which leads me to believe that the motion could be unbalanced.

The strongest argument against vegetarianism

By Srdjan Miletic

This post outlines an argument against vegetarianism. I originally used it in a workshop to show how arguments can be convincing without being one sided or overly aggressive, a problem which I find many debaters arguments fall into. I repost it here in case anyone else is interested.

Lees Verder

Het NK Debatteren 2015: winst voor Leiden

De tab: Tab NK Debatteren 2015

Winnaars: Devin van den Berg en Menno Schellekens (team Devin en Menno, Leiden Debating Union)

Beste spreker: Luciën de Bruin (Erasmus Debating Society, 322 punten)

Door Céleste van der Togt

Afgelopen zaterdag 11 April werd het NK Debatteren gehouden in het Stedelijk Gymnasium Nijmegen. Trivium was de organiserende vereniging en al om acht uur ’s ochtends waren de eerste vrijwilligers bezig om er een succes van te maken. Lees Verder

Knowledge: A few sources

By Srdjan Miletic

Whether you want to do well in debating or in life, it helps to know things. There are many articles out there on knowledge in debating and how to get informed, what I write here is my personal take on what is worth reading and a few choice sources I doubt are very widely known. Enjoy.Lees Verder

A report on the Leiden Open 2015

By Simon Martina-Perez

With a great number of participants, a full program, and great venues to offer, the Leiden Open 2015 commenced on a splendid Saturday morning. The enthusiasm of all participants, some of which coming from hind and far, would turn out to be completely grounded. This tournament combined a fantastic atmosphere, a healthy amount of competition and above all great debates into a an experience that was awesome for both the new novice and the skilled veteran (and more importantly, everybody in between).

Lees Verder

How not to judge: Part 1

By Srdjan Miletic

Over the past six months I’ve heard regular complaints about the quality of judging on the Dutch circuit. This isn’t to say that the quality of judging is bad, just that it could be better.This article contains a few choice issues people have come to me with and how they should be resolved.

Lees Verder

The Rotterdam Open 2015: impressions and motion analysis

Srdjan Miletic provides us with a report and motion analysis of the Rotterdam Open 2015. This is different from other tournament impressions, but we hope it will help debaters at future tournaments.
Lees Verder