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Is twisting semantics valid?

1Devilsadvocate
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3/3/2013 6:19:10 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
If the instigator is careless & doesn't define terms, nor do they state "no semantics".
Can the contender win by using a definition which was obviously unintended?
(I'm not talking about wild sophistry, where you change the entire meaning of the sentence, so that it has nothing to do with the intended sentence, &/make the resolution totally incomprehensible.)
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bladerunner060
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3/3/2013 6:35:58 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/3/2013 6:19:10 PM, 1Devilsadvocate wrote:
If the instigator is careless & doesn't define terms, nor do they state "no semantics".
Can the contender win by using a definition which was obviously unintended?
(I'm not talking about wild sophistry, where you change the entire meaning of the sentence, so that it has nothing to do with the intended sentence, &/make the resolution totally incomprehensible.)

Think you'd have to give an illustrative example, because there's a difference between "That's clearly not what they meant" and "They clearly haven't actually thought through their position".
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F-16_Fighting_Falcon
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3/3/2013 8:22:00 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I don't think contenders should be able to exploit the resolution in a way that it clearly wasn't intended. I've seen a lot of people do this. A more specific pet peeve of mine is when contenders twist the debate resolution so that they have as little burden of proof as is humanly possible despite that not being the intent of the instigator. Contenders should attack the instigator's core ideas.

For instance, if the resolution is "X is bad," I'd hate to see a contender say "Since Pro says X is bad, he is implying that X is ALWAYS bad and so if I can prove even one instance where X is good, I win the debate."
Ore_Ele
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3/3/2013 8:58:37 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/3/2013 8:22:00 PM, F-16_Fighting_Falcon wrote:
I don't think contenders should be able to exploit the resolution in a way that it clearly wasn't intended. I've seen a lot of people do this. A more specific pet peeve of mine is when contenders twist the debate resolution so that they have as little burden of proof as is humanly possible despite that not being the intent of the instigator. Contenders should attack the instigator's core ideas.

For instance, if the resolution is "X is bad," I'd hate to see a contender say "Since Pro says X is bad, he is implying that X is ALWAYS bad and so if I can prove even one instance where X is good, I win the debate."

Agreed. While there are some cases where semantics can be used. Like when someone is stretching their conclusion. Such as saying there is no god, but their OP is only arguing against the Christian God without defining it as such (in other words, they are trying to disprove the concept of a creator, by only defeating a single religion, which would be a logical fallacy). That would be a case where I'd support semantics.
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Raisor
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3/3/2013 9:05:16 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/3/2013 8:22:00 PM, F-16_Fighting_Falcon wrote:
I don't think contenders should be able to exploit the resolution in a way that it clearly wasn't intended. I've seen a lot of people do this. A more specific pet peeve of mine is when contenders twist the debate resolution so that they have as little burden of proof as is humanly possible despite that not being the intent of the instigator. Contenders should attack the instigator's core ideas.

For instance, if the resolution is "X is bad," I'd hate to see a contender say "Since Pro says X is bad, he is implying that X is ALWAYS bad and so if I can prove even one instance where X is good, I win the debate."

So how do we determine what was intended by the Resolution? Is Con supposed to read Pro's mind to determine "what Pro meant?" All Con has to go on is what is written in R1.

Why does Pro get to decide how the Resolution is interpreted after the round begins anyways? Pro had plenty of time to think the Resolution through and write it to her liking, why does Pro get the right to "clarify" after Con has made arguments based on a certain interpretation?

Who decides if Con is twisting the Rez to unfairly shift BOP? What standards are used?

The example you give is an excellent example- If Pro says "X is bad" he should be prepared to defend that wording. If Pro meant "X is bad in almost all instances" or "X is generally bad," that should have been the Resolution.

The only fair way to resolve these issues is in round. If Con makes an interpretation Pro finds to be unfair or disingenuous, Pro should point it out in round. The judge can then evaluate the arguments in round to evaluate abuse etc.

Once the debate starts, both participants have equal access to defining and interpreting within whatever was posted in the opening. Anything else skews fairness.
FREEDO
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3/3/2013 9:20:29 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/3/2013 8:58:37 PM, Ore_Ele wrote:
Agreed. While there are some cases where semantics can be used. Like when someone is stretching their conclusion. Such as saying there is no god, but their OP is only arguing against the Christian God without defining it as such (in other words, they are trying to disprove the concept of a creator, by only defeating a single religion, which would be a logical fallacy). That would be a case where I'd support semantics.

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fnord
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
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3/3/2013 9:24:23 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/3/2013 9:05:16 PM, Raisor wrote:

So how do we determine what was intended by the Resolution? Is Con supposed to read Pro's mind to determine "what Pro meant?" All Con has to go on is what is written in R1.

Why does Pro get to decide how the Resolution is interpreted after the round begins anyways? Pro had plenty of time to think the Resolution through and write it to her liking, why does Pro get the right to "clarify" after Con has made arguments based on a certain interpretation?

Who decides if Con is twisting the Rez to unfairly shift BOP? What standards are used?

The example you give is an excellent example- If Pro says "X is bad" he should be prepared to defend that wording. If Pro meant "X is bad in almost all instances" or "X is generally bad," that should have been the Resolution.

The only fair way to resolve these issues is in round. If Con makes an interpretation Pro finds to be unfair or disingenuous, Pro should point it out in round. The judge can then evaluate the arguments in round to evaluate abuse etc.

Once the debate starts, both participants have equal access to defining and interpreting within whatever was posted in the opening. Anything else skews fairness.

In the example I've given, it is clear that Pro wants to argue that X is generally bad as opposed to winning just by proving a single instance where X is good. Using common sense to understand the instigator's intent is fairly easy most of the time. As for voting, I would suggest that if the voter's interpretation matches up with Pro's interpretation, it is a good indicator that Con is being abusive. The voters should decide and the standards used should be common sense.

I don't think that Pro should obviously be able to clarify if Con's argument isn't to Pro's liking - just in cases where it the interpretation is obvious yet Con interprets in a way where he gets all the advantages and it is clearly not what Pro has intended to debate.
Chicken
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3/3/2013 9:26:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/3/2013 9:20:29 PM, FREEDO wrote:
At 3/3/2013 8:58:37 PM, Ore_Ele wrote:
Agreed. While there are some cases where semantics can be used. Like when someone is stretching their conclusion. Such as saying there is no god, but their OP is only arguing against the Christian God without defining it as such (in other words, they are trying to disprove the concept of a creator, by only defeating a single religion, which would be a logical fallacy). That would be a case where I'd support semantics.

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Raisor
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3/3/2013 9:42:03 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/3/2013 9:24:23 PM, F-16_Fighting_Falcon wrote:
At 3/3/2013 9:05:16 PM, Raisor wrote:

So how do we determine what was intended by the Resolution? Is Con supposed to read Pro's mind to determine "what Pro meant?" All Con has to go on is what is written in R1.

Why does Pro get to decide how the Resolution is interpreted after the round begins anyways? Pro had plenty of time to think the Resolution through and write it to her liking, why does Pro get the right to "clarify" after Con has made arguments based on a certain interpretation?

Who decides if Con is twisting the Rez to unfairly shift BOP? What standards are used?

The example you give is an excellent example- If Pro says "X is bad" he should be prepared to defend that wording. If Pro meant "X is bad in almost all instances" or "X is generally bad," that should have been the Resolution.

The only fair way to resolve these issues is in round. If Con makes an interpretation Pro finds to be unfair or disingenuous, Pro should point it out in round. The judge can then evaluate the arguments in round to evaluate abuse etc.

Once the debate starts, both participants have equal access to defining and interpreting within whatever was posted in the opening. Anything else skews fairness.

In the example I've given, it is clear that Pro wants to argue that X is generally bad as opposed to winning just by proving a single instance where X is good. Using common sense to understand the instigator's intent is fairly easy most of the time. As for voting, I would suggest that if the voter's interpretation matches up with Pro's interpretation, it is a good indicator that Con is being abusive. The voters should decide and the standards used should be common sense.

I don't think that Pro should obviously be able to clarify if Con's argument isn't to Pro's liking - just in cases where it the interpretation is obvious yet Con interprets in a way where he gets all the advantages and it is clearly not what Pro has intended to debate.

I agree that common sense usually makes the meaning of the Rez clear. However, it is still the debater's jobs to defend their interpretations; a judge should decide the interpretation of the Rez based only on the content of the round. If Con is being unreasonable with his interpretations, Pro ought to argue the point in round and the judge's ballot follows accordingly. However, if Con makes a stronger case for Con's interpretation, the judge ought to evaluate the round per Con's interpretation.

Relying on whether the judge's interpretation matches with Pro's is arbitrary- maybe both just are inclined to read a resolution a certain way. The example you give demonstrates this- I read "X is bad" as implying X is categorically bad and one counter example disproves. You apparently think otherwise. If we were in a debate and simply relied on a judge using "common sense" to determine who was right, the round would hinge simply on whoever the judge happened to agree with. Such a ballot would otherwise be called a vote-bomb.

The more fair and reasonable way of resolving the issue would be for each of us to present a defense of our interpretation and for the judge to determine who made the best case for their interpretation.

In other words, treat semantics the same as any other point of contention in a debate. Bad semantic arguments will lose because they are bad; legitimate confusion of terms and disagreements on BOP will be hashed out as any other point of disagreement would be.
RoyLatham
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3/4/2013 12:23:27 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
My view is that special definitions are allowed if they are made explicitly as part of the posted challenge. So if the Instigator says "For this debate, a cat is defined as a large gray animal with a trunk and huge ears," then accepting the debate equates a cat with an elephant for the rest of the debate. However, any word not explicitly defined is then the standard dictionary definition that fits the context of the debate.

The Contender cannot properly accept the debate and then redefine the terminology stated in the challenge.

Context is extremely important for definitions. Words may have several definitions, and some have dozens of definitions. The word "set" has over a hundred definitions. To pick the correct one, enough must be said in the challenge to determine the context. If not enough is said to pick out which dictionary definition applies, then the contender can argue what was intended. Whoever is reading the debate then has to judge what is most reasonably implied by the challenge.

I think "bad" implies "overall having bad characteristics that predominate." Usually, people speak in general. We usually do not say a movie is "bad" if only one aspect of it is bad, we are making an overall judgement. Generalities are usually what are implied-- well, generally.
The_Chaos_Heart
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3/4/2013 1:36:25 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/3/2013 6:19:10 PM, 1Devilsadvocate wrote:
If the instigator is careless & doesn't define terms, nor do they state "no semantics".
Can the contender win by using a definition which was obviously unintended?
(I'm not talking about wild sophistry, where you change the entire meaning of the sentence, so that it has nothing to do with the intended sentence, &/make the resolution totally incomprehensible.)

Technically yes, but it's (at least from my perspective and in my eyes) frowned upon. Not a moral or intellectual evil of a kind, but it's very pedantic and annoying, and really only serves to stifles conversation, not encourage it.
1Devilsadvocate
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3/4/2013 12:25:36 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
k.
I took this:
http://www.debate.org...
With the intention of defining "integrity" as:
"firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values "

I probably won't take advantage in the end, just wondering what people thought since I have seen it done by others.
I cannot write in English, because of the treacherous spelling. When I am reading, I only hear it and am unable to remember what the written word looks like."
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RoyLatham
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3/4/2013 12:54:38 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Pro gave very little context to the debate topic, so you should find a web dictionary definition that reasonably fits the debate and assert that definition.
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
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3/4/2013 12:58:40 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
The best and most optimal thing to do in circumstances like this is post in the comments or PM the instigator. I usually never accept debate challenges without a full discussion on exactly what the debate is going to be about.

What is the point of accepting a challenge and spending your rounds debating about the definition than the actual topic at hand?

As a response to Raisor, if something is unclear, asking in the comments is best as well. Then you are on the same page as the instigator and know exactly what the debate is going to be about.
Citrakayah
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3/4/2013 3:40:13 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Depends.

For instance, in my debate with RM, I argued that he existed based off the fact that he existed as information within the reader's mind. That isn't necessarily what he meant, but I believe that if you create a debate that is impossible to win except by very slightly taking something in a different light, semantics are perfectly fine.

Similarly, in my debate with John, I argued Michael Savage wasn't a bigot based off a definition that included the terms 'viewing one's own kind as superior'. It would have been improper for me to do so if John hadn't given that as the definition in the first round though.
Double_R
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3/5/2013 2:47:56 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/4/2013 3:40:13 PM, Citrakayah wrote:
Depends.

For instance, in my debate with RM, I argued that he existed based off the fact that he existed as information within the reader's mind. That isn't necessarily what he meant, but I believe that if you create a debate that is impossible to win except by very slightly taking something in a different light, semantics are perfectly fine.

That's pretty much what I was going to say. Ultimately whether semantics are accepted comes down to whether the voters determine that the instigator was "asking for it". The best way to open yourself up to it like Citrakayah said, is to create an unwinnable debate for the challenger.

There is a big difference between semantics and a misunderstanding of the resolution. In that case, it sadly comes down to who does a better job arguing their interpretation. The grey area in this is when the challenger argues their interpretation right away, showing that they had no real concern for understanding the resolution before accepting. I think this will count against them most of the time, it certainly will with me.
bladerunner060
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3/5/2013 10:16:57 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I also think that if someone uses semantics, and is making a right interpretation (like categorical bad instead of generally bad), that it should be up to the instigator to clarify next round, rather than simply whining about "semantics".

For example this:

Pro R1: X is bad
Con R1: X is good in circumstance Y, thus Pro loses.

Pro R2: I concede and agree that there are some circumstances where X is good. However, in general, X is bad


Is better than this:

Pro R1: X is bad
Con R1: X is good in circumstance Y, thus Pro loses.

Pro R2: Con's using semantics!
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