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Semantics

000ike
Posts: 11,196
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9/24/2011 9:01:49 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
I think people abuse the accusation of semantics very often. Semantics are necessary in a coherent debate, because certain words call for certain tactics and evidence. Words have connotation and denotation, you cannot ignore one or the other. If a resolution uses the word "fair" then the instigator cannot follow by declaring "NO SEMANTICS". That makes no sense since fair is a highly relative and nearly blanket statement.

Ex. 1 a. The United States should abolish the death penalty
b. The United States will abolish the death penalty
c. The United States can abolish the death penalty
d. The United States may abolish the death penalty

Ex. 2 a. All Muslims are not terrorists
b. Not all Muslims are terrorists

Res.: "Capitalism does not work"
Contender: Define "work", because as I see it, something works if it fulfills its purpose and intent. We would need to agree on the purpose and intent of capitalism, then debate if the execution of capitalism meets this requirement. Or, are we debating if capitalism is good economically and socially? Then we must agree on what constitutes "good".


We often have debates where both the instigator and contender aim at completely different paths, and neither really addresses what the other was trying to say. This is due to the lack of clarity in the resolution. If a resolution is faulty, and the contender takes note of that, the instigator calling "semantics" does not actually make it a bad thing.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
quarterexchange
Posts: 1,549
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9/24/2011 9:28:06 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
Semantic arguments are largely seen as a cop out from actually debating the entire scope of the resolution, but sometimes they are needed.

For example, I joined Speech and Debate for the first time this year and my partner and I were both novice's in Public Forum. The resolution was : Post 9/11 Security measures outweigh the harm to personal freedom.

We had a hard time debating for the Affirmative because the Patriot Act was brought up quite frequently and we couldn't find much evidence to justify the Patriot Act.

So what we did was define "Security Measures" as "Measures in place to protect the lives and property of U.S. citizens, particularly airport securty".

We won every round we had to argue Aff.
I don't discriminate....I hate everybody.
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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9/24/2011 10:56:59 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
Words are defined according to context. The word "set" has over a hundred meanings, and people rarely have trouble picking out which meaning is intended. The caveat "no semantics" means "don't take the word out of context and apply a different meaning than intended." Having no semantics at all would require not using any word that has multiple meanings, and that's impossible in English.

If someone presents a bare resolution and then says, "I'll let my opponent go first." then sometimes there is not enough context to fairly determine what the resolution really means. It's important to either present in R1 an opening case, definitions, or background to define the resolution. Sometimes the Instigator will have awkward wording in the debate title. If so, the explanation or context presented in the opening round should determine the meaning. The title is only allowed to be 40 characters, so it's unreasonable to expect it to always be a perfect summary.

I think national debate topics are deliberately left broad so that various aspects of the topic can be debated. It's fair to narrow the scope because that was what was intended.
Lasagna
Posts: 2,440
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9/24/2011 11:16:41 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
I think that semantics is a huge problem in these debates. Two sides start a debate with the intentions of meeting each other head-on, but what usually happens is that each side veers off slightly from what the opposite side intended and each ends up insisting that the other one is saying something they aren't. One gets the sense that the nature of disagreement lies not in values but merely in semantics and this entire endeavor is just a struggle of how we express ourselves properly.
Rob
DetectableNinja
Posts: 6,043
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9/24/2011 11:27:10 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/24/2011 11:16:41 AM, Lasagna wrote:
I think that semantics is a huge problem in these debates. Two sides start a debate with the intentions of meeting each other head-on, but what usually happens is that each side veers off slightly from what the opposite side intended and each ends up insisting that the other one is saying something they aren't. One gets the sense that the nature of disagreement lies not in values but merely in semantics and this entire endeavor is just a struggle of how we express ourselves properly.

Gah! Every time I see a post of yours, I'm met with Elizabeth Warren's icy stare of death...
Think'st thou heaven is such a glorious thing?
I tell thee, 'tis not half so fair as thou
Or any man that breathes on earth.

- Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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9/24/2011 11:27:18 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/24/2011 11:16:41 AM, Lasagna wrote:
I think that semantics is a huge problem in these debates. Two sides start a debate with the intentions of meeting each other head-on, but what usually happens is that each side veers off slightly from what the opposite side intended and each ends up insisting that the other one is saying something they aren't. One gets the sense that the nature of disagreement lies not in values but merely in semantics and this entire endeavor is just a struggle of how we express ourselves properly.

The problem is not semantics itself, the problem is the inaccurate expression of ones own position which brings about semantics. Take the resolution "Capitalism does not work." That really says nothing of the instigators position, and the debate can go a million different directions from a statement so vague.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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9/24/2011 11:44:31 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/24/2011 11:37:38 AM, FREEDO wrote:
Aw, semantics. My favorite form of debate.
http://www.debate.org...

http://www.debate.org...

Wow, when I do something like that, I always lose. http://www.debate.org... Bias people -___-
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
Man-is-good
Posts: 6,871
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9/24/2011 11:48:56 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/24/2011 11:44:31 AM, 000ike wrote:
At 9/24/2011 11:37:38 AM, FREEDO wrote:
Aw, semantics. My favorite form of debate.
http://www.debate.org...

http://www.debate.org...

Wow, when I do something like that, I always lose. http://www.debate.org... Bias people -___-

Maybe because the fact that the debate was already semantical in nature, especially the second one...
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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9/24/2011 11:51:01 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/24/2011 11:48:56 AM, Man-is-good wrote:
At 9/24/2011 11:44:31 AM, 000ike wrote:
At 9/24/2011 11:37:38 AM, FREEDO wrote:
Aw, semantics. My favorite form of debate.
http://www.debate.org...

http://www.debate.org...

Wow, when I do something like that, I always lose. http://www.debate.org... Bias people -___-

Maybe because the fact that the debate was already semantical in nature, especially the second one...

That explains the second one. Now what is your explanation for the first?...
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
DetectableNinja
Posts: 6,043
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9/24/2011 11:52:09 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/24/2011 11:51:01 AM, 000ike wrote:
At 9/24/2011 11:48:56 AM, Man-is-good wrote:
At 9/24/2011 11:44:31 AM, 000ike wrote:
At 9/24/2011 11:37:38 AM, FREEDO wrote:
Aw, semantics. My favorite form of debate.
http://www.debate.org...

http://www.debate.org...

Wow, when I do something like that, I always lose. http://www.debate.org... Bias people -___-

Maybe because the fact that the debate was already semantical in nature, especially the second one...

That explains the second one. Now what is your explanation for the first?...

He said that the second was ESPECIALLY semantical, implying that the first was semantical in nature as well.
Think'st thou heaven is such a glorious thing?
I tell thee, 'tis not half so fair as thou
Or any man that breathes on earth.

- Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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9/24/2011 12:01:57 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/24/2011 11:52:09 AM, DetectableNinja wrote:

He said that the second was ESPECIALLY semantical, implying that the first was semantical in nature as well.

An instigated debate cannot be "semantic in nature"...semantics is called when you deviate from the instigators intentions.

The first debate was TECHNICAL in nature, not semantic because it is impossible for the instigator to make a semantic argument if the accusation of semantics is entirely dependent on what the instigator intended.

Extend the question, is there a valid explanation for the first debate?
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
Double_R
Posts: 4,886
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9/24/2011 12:15:43 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
It is true that the instigator has a responsibility to be clear, but when someone accepts a debate that is blatently unclear and uses semantics, it is in my opinion a low blow victory (if the voters accept it). There is nothing wrong with accepting and asking for further clarification (as your example appeared to show) but accepting and using the lack of clarity against the opponent is not a respectful tactic.
Raisor
Posts: 4,459
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9/24/2011 12:57:08 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
I think semantics are always a valid tactic. They are often needed.

When someone says "no semantics" in their OP I think that just means that the judge should be highly biased against arguments about semantics by Con. It means the judge should be looking for substantive arguments, and if Con is arguing semantics he better have an exceptionally convincing reason for doing so.
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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9/24/2011 12:59:31 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/24/2011 12:57:08 PM, Raisor wrote:
I think semantics are always a valid tactic. They are often needed.

When someone says "no semantics" in their OP I think that just means that the judge should be highly biased against arguments about semantics by Con. It means the judge should be looking for substantive arguments, and if Con is arguing semantics he better have an exceptionally convincing reason for doing so.

Someone accused me of semantics when I took and disproved a resolution of "all terrorists are not muslims". His reasoning was that, it was apparently obvious that the instigator meant to say "not all muslims are terrorists".....you see this BS?
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Posts: 18,324
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9/24/2011 1:02:58 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/24/2011 12:59:31 PM, 000ike wrote:
At 9/24/2011 12:57:08 PM, Raisor wrote:
I think semantics are always a valid tactic. They are often needed.

When someone says "no semantics" in their OP I think that just means that the judge should be highly biased against arguments about semantics by Con. It means the judge should be looking for substantive arguments, and if Con is arguing semantics he better have an exceptionally convincing reason for doing so.

Someone accused me of semantics when I took and disproved a resolution of "all terrorists are not muslims". His reasoning was that, it was apparently obvious that the instigator meant to say "not all muslims are terrorists".....you see this BS?

Okay, before you accepted the debate, this was what you could see:
"All the terrorists in the world are not muslims. Their names are used for suppressing the rumours. Being an Indian and an Hindu, I strongly say that not all the muslims are terrorists and vice versa. The terrorist activities happen all over the world due lack of love towards the society, those antipathic people turn unfortunately into terrorist as to show the outcome of their anger towards the society. I also want to stress a fact that every terrorist will definitely hurted by the people or government or some politicians."

Are you seriously saying you didn't know what the instigator was talking about?