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What is the meaning of "Burden of Proof"

F-16_Fighting_Falcon
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3/25/2013 11:25:20 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
There has been a similar thread like this before (I think) but it didn't really accomplish anything.

The context for this thread is that I am in a debate with a member who is well-versed in the art of debate and we disagreed on who has the Burden of Proof before we started. My intention was to have a shared burden of proof wherein both sides have to prove their case equally. My opponent responded that having a shared burden of proof was impossible. Clearly he didn't take "Burden of Proof" to mean that if both sides are equally competent, the better side wins. So, I ask, what is the true definition of burden of proof. If you believe a shared burden of proof to be impossible, can you explain the rationale for that conclusion?
larztheloser
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3/25/2013 11:30:01 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think I may be that member. I'll quote from another debate I'm in where another person tried to do the same thing you did.

"The burden of proof rule exists to resolve situations where either both sides have made a compelling argument or neither side has made a compelling argument. If both sides have made a compelling argument, the side with the "burden of proof" wins, and if neither side made a compelling argument, the side without it wins. In all other instances, debates are judged according to who, on balance, made the better argument. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to say that burden of proof does not rest on a single debater in this context, nor does it have any bearing on who needs to make a case in the debate. I'm absolutely happy to make a constructive case, however, this does not affect burden of proof in any way. Convention dictates that the side bringing the claim has the burden of proof, and debate convention further stipulates that this is almost always pro, so I think it's safest for voters to presume pro has the burden of proof in this debate. Given that this is the semi-finals of a big tournament, this actually works in pro's favor, so I can only assume pro will be alright with this."

In other words, the rule about burden of proof only applies when the debate cannot be judged on balance for one reason or another. As such, a "shared" BOP is impossible because it makes such situations impossible to judge.
Smithereens
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3/25/2013 11:32:02 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
When one party accepts their burden of proof, and the other party attacks their case, if the first party responds by asking questions, is that shifting the BoP?
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larztheloser
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3/25/2013 11:33:36 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
By the way, the "both sides were convincing and I can't decide" alternative seems to be ignored a lot on this site. It's annoying when people just vote arguments as a tie in such instances because one of the principles of debating is that it has an end - a winner must be eventually decided.
larztheloser
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3/25/2013 11:36:47 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/25/2013 11:32:02 PM, Smithereens wrote:
When one party accepts their burden of proof, and the other party attacks their case, if the first party responds by asking questions, is that shifting the BoP?

It's shifting their onus, not BOP. "BOP" can't really be shifted unless one team redefines the motion in some way. It is, however, a stupid tactic both because it buys into the other party's narrative and because it ignores the burden they have accepted. You don't lose BOP just because of the nature of your case.
bladerunner060
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3/26/2013 1:34:48 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
BoP is the person who must actually make an argument.

For example:

In a debate where I have posted the resolution "X exists", the Burden is on me to show that X exists, as in general the nonexistence of something is assumed unless proven otherwise. i have to define what I mean by X, and give some reason for folks to think X exists. If my opponent shows that all my reasons are bad ones, he wins; he doesn't have to show that X does NOT exist, as it would be nigh-impossible for him to do so, he only has to show that I have not shown that X does exist.

In general, the one making the assertion is the one who has the BoP; the only time it can really be presumed that there's a shared BoP is when we're talking about relative things, such as "X is a better system than Y". Even then, since the one asserting the claim is saying X is BETTER, technically the burden is on them: if their opponent destroys every argument they make for why X is better, then in principle the argument should be a tie. In practice, most people will assume a shared BoP, and the opponent will have to show either why Y is better, or why they are equal.

Larz's argument, that shared BoP is "impossible", is (no offense, Larz) one with which I disagree. One could argue that it's more precise to say that there is no holder of the burden of proof, but it's quite clear what the phrase "shared burden of proof" means from the context of this website, and it's clearly not impossible. Now, there are some debates where it is UNFEASIBLE, such as an existence debate; it is unfeasible for someone to definitively prove that Unicorns do not exist anywhere in the universe.

However, the obvious intention is for both parties to make a constructive, as Larz noted in your debate, and for neither side to simply deconstruct the others' arguments, which is all one must technically do in a one-sided BoP situation.

"Shared BoP" is really just a shorthand to make clear that each side will be defending their own resolution.

For example, if your assertion is "X should be taught instead of Y", and you indicate Shared BoP, in general your opponent is tasked with actually defending either "Y should be taught instead of X", or at least "There is no reason to prefer the teaching of X or Y".
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larztheloser
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3/26/2013 2:48:48 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
"BoP is the person who must actually make an argument."

In some debating styles this is true, in others this is not. There is no hard and fast general rule about this at all. BOP simply relates to judging, but in some styles it also has an impact on constructive material (in others, constructive arguments are required of both sides). Personally I don't think that makes a lot of sense either when you think about it but encouraging more constructive is probably generally good.

"One could argue that it's more precise to say that there is no holder of the burden of proof"

That still leaves situations in which a debate has no definitive outcome, which is why I called it impossible - you can't judge certain debates without burden of proof. As an example, what if both sides forfeit every round. Who wins? With burden of proof there is an obvious and clear answer, and that is why the rule exists. Without it you have no clue.

"there are some debates where it is UNFEASIBLE"

"Proof" is not taken in a logical context here, but simply for the lesser standard of "evidence". Burden means that this side needs to carry the evidence to win. That doesn't mean they're guaranteed to win, nor does it mean their opponents are off the hook. Of course if the other side has better evidence, then that wins instead. Think of it historically. BOP was introduced to debating to resolve a very specific conflict. Feasibility had nothing to do with it, and I don't think anybody ever intended for BOP to substitute "who made a better case" as a judging standard - indeed, it complements it.

""Shared BoP" is really just a shorthand to make clear that each side will be defending their own resolution."

In that case why not say "no straight negative cases allowed"? That's the way it's done at many tournaments like Australs. Most importantly it avoids the abuse of the term "burden of proof".
wiploc
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3/26/2013 2:34:58 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/25/2013 11:25:20 PM, F-16_Fighting_Falcon wrote:
The context for this thread is that I am in a debate with a member who is well-versed in the art of debate and we disagreed on who has the Burden of Proof before we started.

Link?

My intention was to have a shared burden of proof wherein both sides have to prove their case equally.

If you said that explicitly in your OP, then your opponent had to agree to it to accept the debate.

My opponent responded that having a shared burden of proof was impossible.

It happens all the time. Things that happen all the time are not impossible. :)

If he didn't agree to the terms, he shouldn't have accepted the debate.

Clearly he didn't take "[Shared] Burden of Proof" to mean that if both sides are equally competent, the better side wins. So, I ask, what is the true definition of burden of proof. If you believe a shared burden of proof to be impossible, can you explain the rationale for that conclusion?

Here's one test: If neither side said anything, who would win? If it would be a tie, that's a shared burden of proof.

larztheloser wrote, quoting:
The burden of proof rule exists to resolve situations where either both sides have made a compelling argument or neither side has made a compelling argument.

To quote Inigo, I don't think that word means what you think it means.

If both sides have made a compelling argument,

That's a linguistic impossibility.

the side with the "burden of proof" wins, and if neither side made a compelling argument, the side without it wins.

That's strange and new. A unique and personal interpretation.

The side with the burden of proof has to do better than tie. That's what the burden is.

... presume pro has the burden of proof in this debate. ... this actually works in pro's favor,

Some burden! I've never heard anything like that in my life.

a "shared" BOP is impossible because it makes such situations impossible to judge.

It makes it possible to award a tie.

Here's another test of where the burden lies:
Suppose Pro argues that X is true. Con can win by proving that X is not true, obviously. But can Con win merely by showing that Pro failed to prove X is true? If so, then Pro has the burden of proof.

bladerunner060 wrote:
the only time it can really be presumed that there's a shared BoP is when we're talking about relative things,

Presumptively, the first person to argue has the burden. You can share or reverse that burden if you are explicit in the OP: "Burden of proof is shared," or, "Burden of proof is on my opponent."

I used to say that the burden was on Pro, but so often people try to avoid that burden by initiating a debate as Con. If you initiate as Con, and you still argue first, then you still have the burden of proof.

"Shared BoP" is really just a shorthand to make clear that each side will be defending their own resolution.

For example, if your assertion is "X should be taught instead of Y", and you indicate Shared BoP, in general your opponent is tasked with actually defending either "Y should be taught instead of X", or at least "There is no reason to prefer the teaching of X or Y".

Well said.

But, still, If your OP says, "I'll argue that X exists, and he'll argue that X doesn't exist," I'll hold that the first-to-argue has the burden of proof unless the OP explicitly says the burden is shared. Otherwise, we get vagueness. We get debates in which the debate centers around who has the burden of proof rather than about whether X is true.

To avoid that confusion and waste, I think that if the OP wants to shift the burden of proof, the OP has to do so explicitly. "Con will argue that X does not exist," doesn't get it. "Con has the burden of proof," does the job.

Larth wrote:
you can't judge certain debates without burden of proof. As an example, what if both sides forfeit every round. Who wins? With burden of proof there is an obvious and clear answer, and that is why the rule exists. Without it you have no clue.

Without a burden of proof, that's obviously a tie.
larztheloser
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3/26/2013 4:37:30 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
"If you said that explicitly in your OP, then your opponent had to agree to it to accept the debate."

I always challenge that in the comments before accepting.

If it would be a tie

There are no ties in debating. This is where I think we differ mostly. This is true even in American debating - see http://www.urbandebate.org...

I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Would you like to debate that?

If both sides have made a compelling argument,

That's a linguistic impossibility.

Not at all. Consider if a debate goes on about the existence of God. Pro advances the ontological argument and con advances the problem of evil. No team does any rebuttal. Both sides have made a compelling argument.

That's strange and new. A unique and personal interpretation.

Not my personal interpretation at all. I think you're talking about BOP in a legal sense, or a philosophical one, where debating has its own rules regarding it. See: http://debate.uvm.edu... (I'm sticking to American sources so you see this is not just some strange New Zealand thing)

The side with the burden of proof has to do better than tie.

That's not a problem because THERE ARE NO TIES IN DEBATES.

Some burden! I've never heard anything like that in my life.

It's an advantage because it's so easy to meet, forcing me to go on the attack and possibly weakening my case. A lot of debating terms like this don't actually make a lot of sense - but then again, a lot of normal terms don't make a lot of sense either.

It makes it possible to award a tie.

There are no ties in debates
wiploc
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3/26/2013 5:42:29 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 4:37:30 PM, larztheloser wrote:
"If you said that explicitly in your OP, then your opponent had to agree to it to accept the debate."

I always challenge that in the comments before accepting.

Do you get the instigator to change the rule before accepting? Because if you just post a comment that says you disagree with the rules, and then accept the debate anyway, you're being a jerk.

There are no ties in debates

It's a point of view.
larztheloser
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3/26/2013 5:50:41 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 5:42:29 PM, wiploc wrote:
At 3/26/2013 4:37:30 PM, larztheloser wrote:
"If you said that explicitly in your OP, then your opponent had to agree to it to accept the debate."

I always challenge that in the comments before accepting.

Do you get the instigator to change the rule before accepting? Because if you just post a comment that says you disagree with the rules, and then accept the debate anyway, you're being a jerk.

Never assume that I'm being a jerk. Of course I either get them to change the rule or receive their permission to clarify it.

There are no ties in debates

It's a point of view.

It's a rule that exists in almost every debate style around the world.
wiploc
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3/26/2013 6:10:54 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 5:50:41 PM, larztheloser wrote:
Never assume that I'm being a jerk. Of course I either get them to change the rule or receive their permission to clarify it.

Cool. And that's a good rule: Never assume he's being a jerk.

It's a rule that exists in almost every debate style around the world.

Okay, that I can accept. It's news to me, but I can accept it. Here at DDO, we have a column for ties, but that doesn't mean your rule doesn't apply to almost every style of formal debate around the world.

It does seem to me an artificial construct. I don't know that it applies to dorm-room debates or presidential debates. And there are debates here at DDO in which the OP shares the burden of proof and the person accepts that. Those debates exist, and they can result in ties.
Daktoria
Posts: 497
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3/26/2013 11:35:03 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Shared BoP is basically a race.

Say you have a bag of marbles and a marble is taken out.

The bag has red and blue marbles inside.

Shared BoP would entail two sides proving that the marble is whichever color they choose to advocate.

Basically, it's appropriate when you have multiple competing hypotheses.

Otherwise, negative should just leave BoP on the affirmative.

The problem is when people shift this to "BoP is on whoever makes the claim." This is highly problematic because often, a status quo claim won't prove itself, and a counter-claim will become necessary out of self-defense. If the counter-claim fails, the status quo claim can continue to engage in (potential) abuse.
Daktoria
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3/26/2013 11:42:22 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/25/2013 11:33:36 PM, larztheloser wrote:
By the way, the "both sides were convincing and I can't decide" alternative seems to be ignored a lot on this site. It's annoying when people just vote arguments as a tie in such instances because one of the principles of debating is that it has an end - a winner must be eventually decided.

That doesn't mean a winner has been decided in the time allotted.

One of the reasons I don't like debating here is the finite limits on debate. Granted that's what formal debate is about, but formal debate is hardly applicable in real life. Even courthouses operate on indefinite grounds with regards to cross-examination and redirection.
Daktoria
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3/26/2013 11:44:19 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 2:48:48 AM, larztheloser wrote:
"Proof" is not taken in a logical context here, but simply for the lesser standard of "evidence". Burden means that this side needs to carry the evidence to win. That doesn't mean they're guaranteed to win, nor does it mean their opponents are off the hook. Of course if the other side has better evidence, then that wins instead. Think of it historically. BOP was introduced to debating to resolve a very specific conflict. Feasibility had nothing to do with it, and I don't think anybody ever intended for BOP to substitute "who made a better case" as a judging standard - indeed, it complements it.

What you're saying about evidence isn't necessarily true. People can provide rational proofs as much as empirical proofs.
wiploc
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3/26/2013 11:49:15 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 3/26/2013 11:35:03 PM, Daktoria wrote:
The problem is when people shift this to "BoP is on whoever makes the claim." This is highly problematic because often, a status quo claim won't prove itself, and a counter-claim will become necessary out of self-defense. If the counter-claim fails, the status quo claim can continue to engage in (potential) abuse.

I don't understand. If you don't have a reason for your belief in the status quo, why are you debating it?

I believe in gravity, and most people do; does this count as a status quo? But if I challenge someone to debate, assuming the burden of proof that gravity exists, I'd better have a good argument to back up my belief. Otherwise, it was stupid to issue the challenge.
larztheloser
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3/27/2013 12:03:32 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Daktoria, debating is like a game of Monopoly. It's a nice, fun simulation of the property market but it's not supposed to BE the property market. When somebody has a debate about whether God exists, they're basically playing a game based on real philosophical points. The object of this game is to convince a neutral judge that they are better than their opponent at making their case.

A winner must be decided in this game. Debates usually happen IRL as part of competitions, and debate is one of those games that doesn't give people "first equal" place. The game does give people skills for real life, but it is not exactly the same as say, a debate in a legal or a philosophical sense. There are rules to the game - finite limits, much like how you can't go off the board and score table points in Scrabble.

Rational and empirical proofs are both evidence. I would argue that logic is evidently true. Sorry if that was not clear.

Shared BoP would entail two sides proving that the marble is whichever color they choose to advocate.

That's OK for the debaters but it doesn't help the judge one bit. BOP is a tool for judges to judge, not debaters to debate.

Otherwise, negative should just leave BoP on the affirmative.

The problem is when people shift this to "BoP is on whoever makes the claim."

Like I said, standard debate convention defines the side that's bringing the claim as the affirmative to avoid the issue. They're not mutually exclusive.