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Fragmented Refutation and Shitty Judging

YYW
Posts: 36,282
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6/19/2014 10:55:01 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
The fragmented refutation style is something that's very popular among those who partake in Public Forum, Policy and Lincoln Douglass debate on the national circuit is structurally and practically at odds with the value of the exercise of debate. It renders worthless the cultivation of coherent and sound lines of argumentation, and reduces debate to an activity not unlike that Dr. Frankenstein employed in constructing his monster. Debating, then, becomes an exercise of assembling fragmented ideas rather than structuring logically coherent arguments and victory is, as such, contingent less on the quality of any individual argument and more focused on ensuring that the specific arguments offered by one debater or the other are "responded" to. And yet, responses are not necessarily refutation and the confusion between the two comes at the expense of the exercise of debate itself.

The reason for that style of refutation is clear. As a result of the emergence of a particular judging style that manifests in national circuit tournaments which lends equal deference to all arguments without regard to their quality. While I understand that 'some' judges do that, it's an idiotic practice that ought to be rightfully abandoned and one in which competitors have an ethical obligation to renounce. Renouncement of that style of debate and judging requires only that rebuttals, in the context of DDO, be structured less as isolated ideas and more as paragraphs which actually "rebut" in a logical way. Merely saying something in 'response' to an argument -or the fragment of an idea standing in the place of an argument- does not serve that purpose.

What delineates a "response" from a "rebuttal" is clash. If there is no clash, then an opponent has merely responded to their opponent and the dialogue is insignificant; it is the logical equivalent of dark ships passing one another by in the night. If there is clash, then the debate is actually a debate, and not two contrasting perspectives juxtaposed by one another. In that the style of voting to which I refer encourages the kind of wannabe "argumentation" I'm talking about, it is repugnant to the sprit of and antagonistic to the value of the exercise of debate. It is a pity that on the national circuit, certain college kids (some from elite universities on the West Coast and East Coast alike) judge rounds in that way. The problem runs deeper than that, but the extent of its relevance to DDO ends here.

Debate is fundamentally not an exercise of mere response, but of argumentation and rebuttal. To judge all arguments without regard to their quality on an equal basis is to slight those who invest the time to develop a coherent thought and offer undue deference to scattershot rhetoric lacking in tantamount intellectual depth. While consistent with the postmodern critique of reason as a worthwhile activity by which things can be known and meaningfully communicated, that framework for approaching communication is devoid of merit or value. It makes judging arbitrary, and debate a worthless enterprise of inconsequential rhetoric.

The origin of this problem takes form in the differences between "possibility" and "probability" such that where possibility is a lesser burden than probability and possibility requires less, if any proof at all and where probability absolutely requires that claims be sufficiently warranted. Implicitly, "possibility" rather than "probability" that something is the case is the standard in that 'kind' of judging. In employing 'possibility' rather than 'probability' as the standard, judges thusly reduce the intellectual burden placed on debaters to ground their claims because mere possibility requires only that an idea make a meaningful impression. Possibility does not require debaters to show that their claims are 'the case' or that their opponent's claims are 'not the case' whereas probability demands it.

Using possibility rather than probability as a standard for proof, as such, leads to arbitrary decisions in that rather than evaluating the totalizing strength of arguments posited, possibility requires only "that" arguments be made in that possibility mitigates the impact that argumentative warrants on how judges score rounds. Judges, then, have more liberty to vote -consciously or not- on the basis of their own whims rather than what actually transpired in the round and so as a categorical disservice to what actually transpired in any given round. Possibility rather than probability is the intellectual permission for a judge saying "fvck it, I do what I want!" to debaters they may judge.

I take judging seriously because I know the amount of work that debaters put into their debates. Using possibility rather than probability as a standard of proof unethically disturbs the principle/agent relationship between debaters and judges, and therefore has no place on DDO or in any form of debate whatsoever. This is the case because of what incentives such a standard creates for debaters, and how those incentives actually impact the exercise of debate itself. There are judges on DDO who use possibility rather than probability as a standard, and some of them are smart enough people. They're terrible judges. That is why I continue to be relieved by the new debating system: I can preclude those people from ever voting on my debates. I encourage all of you to do the same.
Tsar of DDO
whiteflame
Posts: 1,378
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6/19/2014 1:15:45 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I spent 4 years in NPDA, watching it transform from an enjoyable impromptu style of debate into policy junior, and this was one of the biggest problems. "Rebuttals" came as scattershot responses to full fledged arguments, meant to provide so many points of response that no one could feasibly hit them all. Few if any of those responses had warrants, and yet they would often turn into confusing voting issues by the end of the debate. Of course, it wasn't limited to response. I can't tell you how many times I saw people provide positions with only the barest of link structures just to have a tremendous impact (nuke war, global warming, genocide, etc.) on the flow.

Much to my chagrin, as both a debater and a judge, I have had to award teams who use these strategies with wins. They certainly weren't guaranteed those wins with me, and in each case I gave the opposing team pointers about how to handle this type of argumentation after the round. Frankly, the practice is subversive to our basic concept of building an argument of any sort. The number of arguments a person makes should have no bearing on the quality of their argumentation.
bsh1
Posts: 27,503
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6/19/2014 1:18:51 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I certainly judge with a fragmented style, as you describe it...but that definitely doesn't mean that I am a tabula rasa judge. I mean this in the sense that a competitor could not get up there and argue anything--esp. something clearly beyond the bounds of reason--and I would just accept that argument as valid within the debate space.

I would also assume that I am a fragmented debater, in that my cases are almost always structured in subdivided (fragmented) parts, and it is more of a bullet-point approach than a coherent, essay-like format you tend to employ. I think fragmented =/= incoherent, as long as things are carefully tied back to some unifying framework through which the round can be evaluated.

That said, I largely agree with you that the SOP of many judges is faulty, in that they are too accepting and uncritical of arguments presented to them, and too much emphasis is placed on covering the flow (as evidenced by spreading/speeding) than on actually presenting logic.
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Raisor
Posts: 4,459
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6/19/2014 2:41:25 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 6/19/2014 1:15:45 PM, whiteflame wrote:
I spent 4 years in NPDA, watching it transform from an enjoyable impromptu style of debate into policy junior, and this was one of the biggest problems. "Rebuttals" came as scattershot responses to full fledged arguments, meant to provide so many points of response that no one could feasibly hit them all. Few if any of those responses had warrants, and yet they would often turn into confusing voting issues by the end of the debate. Of course, it wasn't limited to response. I can't tell you how many times I saw people provide positions with only the barest of link structures just to have a tremendous impact (nuke war, global warming, genocide, etc.) on the flow.

Much to my chagrin, as both a debater and a judge, I have had to award teams who use these strategies with wins. They certainly weren't guaranteed those wins with me, and in each case I gave the opposing team pointers about how to handle this type of argumentation after the round. Frankly, the practice is subversive to our basic concept of building an argument of any sort. The number of arguments a person makes should have no bearing on the quality of their argumentation.

The style you describe is bad debating, good policy debaters don't do it. If you aren't able to beat a bad link structure, then you should lose the round.

I really don't understand this idea people have that policy debate encourages a large quantity of bad arguments over a few well developed ones. Sure some people do take that strategy, but it's only successful at lower levels of debate and All debaters should know how to respond to that strategy.
whiteflame
Posts: 1,378
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6/19/2014 3:10:31 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 6/19/2014 2:41:25 PM, Raisor wrote:
At 6/19/2014 1:15:45 PM, whiteflame wrote:
I spent 4 years in NPDA, watching it transform from an enjoyable impromptu style of debate into policy junior, and this was one of the biggest problems. "Rebuttals" came as scattershot responses to full fledged arguments, meant to provide so many points of response that no one could feasibly hit them all. Few if any of those responses had warrants, and yet they would often turn into confusing voting issues by the end of the debate. Of course, it wasn't limited to response. I can't tell you how many times I saw people provide positions with only the barest of link structures just to have a tremendous impact (nuke war, global warming, genocide, etc.) on the flow.

Much to my chagrin, as both a debater and a judge, I have had to award teams who use these strategies with wins. They certainly weren't guaranteed those wins with me, and in each case I gave the opposing team pointers about how to handle this type of argumentation after the round. Frankly, the practice is subversive to our basic concept of building an argument of any sort. The number of arguments a person makes should have no bearing on the quality of their argumentation.

The style you describe is bad debating, good policy debaters don't do it. If you aren't able to beat a bad link structure, then you should lose the round.

I really don't understand this idea people have that policy debate encourages a large quantity of bad arguments over a few well developed ones. Sure some people do take that strategy, but it's only successful at lower levels of debate and All debaters should know how to respond to that strategy.

I realize that I stated the comparison poorly. What I meant is that Parli debaters try to be like policy debaters, but without cards or evidence of any kind. Link structures, thus, suffer dramatically, since the idea is that there's no need to support your argument due to not having to provide said evidence. The idea of providing a strong link story exists, but it seems that too often the responses are just meant to spread out the opponent. I've seen it in policy too, but it's less common among the better debaters.
YYW
Posts: 36,282
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6/22/2014 4:31:31 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 6/19/2014 1:15:45 PM, whiteflame wrote:
I spent 4 years in NPDA, watching it transform from an enjoyable impromptu style of debate into policy junior, and this was one of the biggest problems. "Rebuttals" came as scattershot responses to full fledged arguments, meant to provide so many points of response that no one could feasibly hit them all. Few if any of those responses had warrants, and yet they would often turn into confusing voting issues by the end of the debate. Of course, it wasn't limited to response. I can't tell you how many times I saw people provide positions with only the barest of link structures just to have a tremendous impact (nuke war, global warming, genocide, etc.) on the flow.

Much to my chagrin, as both a debater and a judge, I have had to award teams who use these strategies with wins. They certainly weren't guaranteed those wins with me, and in each case I gave the opposing team pointers about how to handle this type of argumentation after the round. Frankly, the practice is subversive to our basic concept of building an argument of any sort. The number of arguments a person makes should have no bearing on the quality of their argumentation.

This, dude, is why you are one of the best judges on here.
Tsar of DDO
whiteflame
Posts: 1,378
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6/22/2014 5:26:26 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 6/22/2014 4:31:31 PM, YYW wrote:
At 6/19/2014 1:15:45 PM, whiteflame wrote:
I spent 4 years in NPDA, watching it transform from an enjoyable impromptu style of debate into policy junior, and this was one of the biggest problems. "Rebuttals" came as scattershot responses to full fledged arguments, meant to provide so many points of response that no one could feasibly hit them all. Few if any of those responses had warrants, and yet they would often turn into confusing voting issues by the end of the debate. Of course, it wasn't limited to response. I can't tell you how many times I saw people provide positions with only the barest of link structures just to have a tremendous impact (nuke war, global warming, genocide, etc.) on the flow.

Much to my chagrin, as both a debater and a judge, I have had to award teams who use these strategies with wins. They certainly weren't guaranteed those wins with me, and in each case I gave the opposing team pointers about how to handle this type of argumentation after the round. Frankly, the practice is subversive to our basic concept of building an argument of any sort. The number of arguments a person makes should have no bearing on the quality of their argumentation.

This, dude, is why you are one of the best judges on here.

P thanks