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Do I understand semantics properly?

MouthWash
Posts: 2,607
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5/18/2012 10:12:08 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Some may consider this shameless self-promotion and it probably is, but I recently debated the topic "Obama is Celebrity President." When I started this debate, I was planning on an easy semantics win because Pro did not give any definitions. I considered the possibility of saying that all presidents were automatically celebrities, therefore Obama was not more of a celebrity. When Stephen_Hawkins suggested the same thing in the comments, I felt certain of victory (though I'm not blaming him for anything that happened).

So I accepted, and provided definitions that Obama would have to be a "celebrity president" by having his presidency be much more famous than other presidents. Pro did not dispute the definition and began saying Obama was a celebrity in other ways other than the president (example Forbes list). Her argument was clearly flawed, as being a celebrity in other ways was not the definition.

Regardless, people voted for her because of the original resolution said a celebrity president (it did not provide specific definitions, whereas I did). So what is important? The definitions? Or the original resolution? I assumed it had to be the definitions, because I have seen debaters provide "full resolutions," which are extended versions of the resolutions too big for the main title. For this reason I feel I may be missing something in the debate.

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

My definition: "Since all of the Presidents have been celebrities (fullfilling the definition), Pro must prove that Obama has a much greater prominent profile and commands a higher degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media than other Presidents, thus making him a "Celebrity President."
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
caveat
Posts: 2,137
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5/18/2012 10:30:35 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Neither party agreed to any definitions so there isn't even a point in analyzing this. However, a semantics argument only works if on some level your opponent unknowingly agrees with or aids said argument.
There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. " Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.
MouthWash
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5/18/2012 10:45:07 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 10:30:35 AM, caveat wrote:
Neither party agreed to any definitions so there isn't even a point in analyzing this. However, a semantics argument only works if on some level your opponent unknowingly agrees with or aids said argument.

Yes she did (silence is consent). And even if she didn't, I don't deserve to lose because she ignored it.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
caveat
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5/18/2012 10:54:49 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Perhaps I wasn't clear.

The resolution put forth that you accepted along with the debate was that "Obama is a Celebrity President".
You specifically defined Obama, celebrity, and president.
You did not however, define celebrity president, but rather attempted to modify the resolution and continued to argue this modified (and irrelevant) resolution.

Given the original resolution, you were arguing pro's position the entire debate.
There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. " Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.
MouthWash
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5/18/2012 11:10:44 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 10:54:49 AM, caveat wrote:
Perhaps I wasn't clear.

The resolution put forth that you accepted along with the debate was that "Obama is a Celebrity President".
You specifically defined Obama, celebrity, and president.
You did not however, define celebrity president, but rather attempted to modify the resolution and continued to argue this modified (and irrelevant) resolution.

Given the original resolution, you were arguing pro's position the entire debate.

I did indeed define "celebrity president" in the second round. I thought it would have been obvious. If I said Obama was a bad president, would you assume he was a bad person (bad in ways other than his presidency) or a bad president? "Celebrity" was used as an adjective, she didn't understand, then I defined it for her.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
caveat
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5/18/2012 12:04:37 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 11:10:44 AM, MouthWash wrote:
At 5/18/2012 10:54:49 AM, caveat wrote:
Perhaps I wasn't clear.

The resolution put forth that you accepted along with the debate was that "Obama is a Celebrity President".
You specifically defined Obama, celebrity, and president.
You did not however, define celebrity president, but rather attempted to modify the resolution and continued to argue this modified (and irrelevant) resolution.

Given the original resolution, you were arguing pro's position the entire debate.

I did indeed define "celebrity president" in the second round. I thought it would have been obvious. If I said Obama was a bad president, would you assume he was a bad person (bad in ways other than his presidency) or a bad president? "Celebrity" was used as an adjective, she didn't understand, then I defined it for her.

Debates would be quite interesting if one could alter resolutions and definitions at the drop of a hat!
There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. " Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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5/18/2012 12:17:39 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
If the Instigator does not give a definition of a word, then the definition to be used in the debate is the ordinary meaning that makes the most sense in the context of the debate. If the meaning is truly ambiguous, usually because the Instigator doesn't say in the challenge what the debate is about, then the challenger can make a reasonable interpretation. If the resolution is "Squash is great." and the Instigator doesn't say, then the challenger get to pick whether it's the racket sport or the vegetable. Best to ask in comments rather than waste time but sometimes misunderstandings occur.

The people judging the debate get to decide if the original resolution was clear. If the resolution was clear, then failure to debate the resolution is a conduct violation. Arguments will be lost as well since the resolution was not argued.

Every word in the resolution is subject to interpretation. President Clinton argued the famous, "It all depends on what the meaning of is is." So if the challenger gets to make up definitions for every word as he chooses, he would win every time. He can redefine "up" as "down" or whatever it takes to get a win.
drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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5/18/2012 12:24:14 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
"celebrity president" simply means "a president who is a celebrity"

Now, if you implicitly define a president as being a celebrity, then "celebrity president" is redundant unless you explicitly defined it as meaning above and beyond the usual criteria for celebrity.
Stephen_Hawkins
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5/18/2012 1:03:13 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Saying a celebrity president is a president who is a celebrity is a tautological fact, due to the fact that a president is intrinsically famous for being a president, therefore the definitions of this form would be pointless. A celebrity president must either:
a) Be more of a celebrity than other presidents in general, disregrading time bias (the fact that he is currently a president).
b) Be a celebrity for reasons other than politics e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger's fame.

If I did a topic I knew more about, "Blair was a celebrity Prime minister", I would be able to argue and plausibly win on the grounds of 'Blair had used contemporary music to promote his campaign: "things can only get better".' for example. This was a first for other prime ministers, and no-one else did it.

That would work, I think, because it shows Blair used non-political tactics to get famous.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

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drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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5/18/2012 1:23:41 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 1:03:13 PM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
Saying a celebrity president is a president who is a celebrity is a tautological fact, due to the fact that a president is intrinsically famous for being a president, therefore the definitions of this form would be pointless.

Being pointless doesn't preclude it from being a resolution presented for debate on DDO.

A celebrity president must either:
a) Be more of a celebrity than other presidents in general, disregrading time bias (the fact that he is currently a president).
b) Be a celebrity for reasons other than politics e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger's fame.

If I did a topic I knew more about, "Blair was a celebrity Prime minister", I would be able to argue and plausibly win on the grounds of 'Blair had used contemporary music to promote his campaign: "things can only get better".' for example. This was a first for other prime ministers, and no-one else did it.

That would work, I think, because it shows Blair used non-political tactics to get famous.
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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5/18/2012 3:47:28 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/18/2012 12:24:14 PM, drafterman wrote:
"celebrity president" simply means "a president who is a celebrity"

Now, if you implicitly define a president as being a celebrity, then "celebrity president" is redundant unless you explicitly defined it as meaning above and beyond the usual criteria for celebrity.

I read your debate, and I think the semantics were not much of an issue. One key is the reference to "day-to-day media" in the definition of "celebrity." Obama is regularly associated with A-list celebrities like Oprah and George Clooney. that was not true of Bush, Clinton, Bush Sr., or even Reagan. Pro cited the links that make Obama a standout from other presidentsn in terms of stardom.

I think JFK was another celebrity president. (There is a famous incident of Marilyn Monroe singing, "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to JFK.) Probably none of the other presidents would qualify.

I think your best approach would have been to dig up celebrity associations of other recent Presidents --they all have some-- and then argue that Obama is really nothing special in the celeb department. Your rebuttals were too passive, just claiming that what was offered was not enopugh.