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Defining Terms in a Debate

kasmic
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8/6/2015 4:41:42 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I recently issued a challenge (http://www.debate.org...)

It seems in the comments that there is a disagreement over the concept of defining terms in a debate. I was under the impression that the purpose of defining terms was to be as clear as possible what is being asserted. Thus squaring the debate on whether or not the assertion is valid rather than spending the debate on what is being asserted. It seems though I am in the minority holding this view.(At least so far as this debate shows.)

Am I wrong to define some terms in round one? Is it unfair? Unreasonable? etc...
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ShabShoral
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8/6/2015 5:19:23 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 4:41:42 PM, kasmic wrote:
I recently issued a challenge (http://www.debate.org...)

It seems in the comments that there is a disagreement over the concept of defining terms in a debate. I was under the impression that the purpose of defining terms was to be as clear as possible what is being asserted. Thus squaring the debate on whether or not the assertion is valid rather than spending the debate on what is being asserted. It seems though I am in the minority holding this view.(At least so far as this debate shows.)

Am I wrong to define some terms in round one? Is it unfair? Unreasonable? etc...

It's literally impossible to debate over definitions, since definitions are just mutually-agreed-upon meanings. You can't "prove" a definition. Defining your terms in the first round makes sure that both debaters know what the debate is actually about.
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Kozu
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8/6/2015 5:37:19 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 4:41:42 PM, kasmic wrote:
I recently issued a challenge (http://www.debate.org...)

It seems in the comments that there is a disagreement over the concept of defining terms in a debate. I was under the impression that the purpose of defining terms was to be as clear as possible what is being asserted. Thus squaring the debate on whether or not the assertion is valid rather than spending the debate on what is being asserted. It seems though I am in the minority holding this view.(At least so far as this debate shows.)

Am I wrong to define some terms in round one? Is it unfair? Unreasonable? etc...

To a degree its "unfair" because you get to make up the definition (in your favor if you wanted) and it cannot be contested, but if your opponent doesn't like it he doesn't have to accept, or you can change it to something you both agree on. In any case, if the definitions are going to be debated, its going to detract from the arguments made for the resolution. You may never even get to the resolution.

I make it a point to define terms in R1 because my arguments rely on those definitions. My definitions are usually from the Oxford dictionary (google) anyway so it seems fair.
Zaradi
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8/6/2015 6:34:08 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
When I did debate IRL for high school, definitions were part of the debate. This was mostly because debaters also pulled definitions from experts and philosophers as well as from dictionaries. These definitions vary more and include different wording and different implications, so part of a debate could very well be a definition debate to get your preferred definition.

I think part of the reason why defining terms in round one is part of the "meta" of the site is because people don't want to have those definition debates, and would rather just debate the topic rather than spend in-round time debating the definitions which is fair, but the idea that people can't contest definitions is silly and wrong.
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kasmic
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8/6/2015 6:37:25 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I think part of the reason why defining terms in round one is part of the "meta" of the site is because people don't want to have those definition debates, and would rather just debate the topic rather than spend in-round time debating the definitions which is fair, but the idea that people can't contest definitions is silly and wrong.

Im not saying that people shoulnt be able to contest what the definition being accepted is... that is not what has happened in this debate. No one has offered an alternate definition, which I think would be reasonable to do. Rather the contention is made that no words should be defined in round one.
"Liberalism Defined" http://www.debate.org...
"The Social Contract" http://www.debate.org...
"Intro to IR An Open Discussion" http://www.debate.org...

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Zaradi
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8/6/2015 6:39:40 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 6:37:25 PM, kasmic wrote:
I think part of the reason why defining terms in round one is part of the "meta" of the site is because people don't want to have those definition debates, and would rather just debate the topic rather than spend in-round time debating the definitions which is fair, but the idea that people can't contest definitions is silly and wrong.

Im not saying that people shoulnt be able to contest what the definition being accepted is... that is not what has happened in this debate. No one has offered an alternate definition, which I think would be reasonable to do. Rather the contention is made that no words should be defined in round one.

That's fine, it just means that all the definitions are part of the debate. What's the problem?
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debatability
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8/6/2015 9:00:27 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 4:41:42 PM, kasmic wrote:
I recently issued a challenge (http://www.debate.org...)

It seems in the comments that there is a disagreement over the concept of defining terms in a debate. I was under the impression that the purpose of defining terms was to be as clear as possible what is being asserted. Thus squaring the debate on whether or not the assertion is valid rather than spending the debate on what is being asserted. It seems though I am in the minority holding this view.(At least so far as this debate shows.)

Am I wrong to define some terms in round one? Is it unfair? Unreasonable? etc...

Formal debate often contains a certain degree a lot of argument over definitions. There are some words that can have contradicting definitions that end up being fundamental to the outcome of debate. A good example would be a word like "Justice." Some debaters get so picky they will spend large amounts of time arguing over a word like "should."

There are a few reasons why definitional debate has to be part of irl debate:
1. Some definitions are fundamentally better. Last year there was a topic over the UN's use of offensive operations. Some people had vague definitions of offensive operations that I chose to contest because my definition was more pertinent to the situation with the UN. @Kasmic I think we actually debated this topic together.
2. Some definitions merit philosophical debate. If a debater uses a definition of justice that points towards a consequential outlook and I'm running a deontilogical framework, I would naturally contest their definition.

I think DDO debate is a lot different though. I'm not a huge fan of semantics so I like to decide the definitions with my opponent prior to the beginning of the debate. I love R1 definitions because I can talk to my opponent about the definitions before I accept. As long as your definitions are left open to be contested, there's nothing wrong with putting them out R1.
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
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8/6/2015 9:21:18 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Everything said in Round 1 is uncontestable if you want to make it so. That's because if the opponent has an issue with the way you defined anything in that round, they can back out and not debate you at all. But once the debate is accepted, any new definitions you later bring up are all up for debate.

Instigating a debate can be time-consuming if you don't want the possibility of it being derailed and want to stay on topic. Make sure to exclude Kritik-type arguments by pointing out any underlying assumptions that both debaters must assume to be true before the debate starts.

If you are the contender, don't accept debates where definitions are unclear. Ask in the comments. Debates are most productive when all the definitional stuff is agreed upon before the debate starts.

For example I once read a debate between Wylted and bluesteel where Wylted argued that the USFG should legalize child pornography. bluesteel argued that it is the states that legalize it and not the feds, and also that it should be de-criminalized in place of legalizing. Those are the types of nonsensical avenues the debate can go down if both debaters don't come to a clear agreement on what is to be debated.

Before you instigate, have a decent idea of what your opponent intends to argue. Discuss the topic with them in the forum so you have an idea of where you disagree on. Nothing is more tedious than a debate where the debaters don't have a substantive disagreement but rather just one on semantics.
ShabShoral
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8/6/2015 9:34:57 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 6:34:08 PM, Zaradi wrote:
When I did debate IRL for high school, definitions were part of the debate. This was mostly because debaters also pulled definitions from experts and philosophers as well as from dictionaries. These definitions vary more and include different wording and different implications, so part of a debate could very well be a definition debate to get your preferred definition.

I think part of the reason why defining terms in round one is part of the "meta" of the site is because people don't want to have those definition debates, and would rather just debate the topic rather than spend in-round time debating the definitions which is fair, but the idea that people can't contest definitions is silly and wrong.

How, exactly, can one definition be "more valid" than another? The only way to really debate definitions is to appeal to authority over and over, which isn't really a valid method of argumentation.

If you debate which definition the resolution intended to use, then there's obviously a pre-set definition anyway, even if it isn't explicitly stated.
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Wylted
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8/6/2015 9:39:58 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Yeah, I get lazy when instigating a debate too often, and it goes down roads I don't intend, which can be infuriating. More people suffer from that laziness and I careful thinking, as opposed to the opposite problem.

A few instigators go beyond what is fair when instigating a debate though and it usually isn't with defining terms, they're more likely to be unfair with the rules and numbers of them as opposed to definitions of terms.

Your definitions seem fair Kasmic, though the definition for rational or whatever equivalent of that word you were using (been a while since I looked), the definition could essentially mean anything or nothing. Con can use the definition however he likes, so it seems more than fair.
Zaradi
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8/6/2015 9:43:08 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 9:34:57 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 8/6/2015 6:34:08 PM, Zaradi wrote:
When I did debate IRL for high school, definitions were part of the debate. This was mostly because debaters also pulled definitions from experts and philosophers as well as from dictionaries. These definitions vary more and include different wording and different implications, so part of a debate could very well be a definition debate to get your preferred definition.

I think part of the reason why defining terms in round one is part of the "meta" of the site is because people don't want to have those definition debates, and would rather just debate the topic rather than spend in-round time debating the definitions which is fair, but the idea that people can't contest definitions is silly and wrong.

How, exactly, can one definition be "more valid" than another? The only way to really debate definitions is to appeal to authority over and over, which isn't really a valid method of argumentation.

Say we're debating how we ought to define what a "moral obligation" is. You quote merriam webster. I quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You could argue that your definition should be preferred because it's more accessible and more commonly known (far more people would look at a dictionary before they look at SEOP), making it more indicitive of common usage and thus should be preferred. I could argue that my definition comes from a peer reviewed philosophy encyclopedia, thus has a better connection to the actual lit of the subject and thus more indicative of what the term actually means.

Those are just two examples off the top of my head. Neither are appeals to authority.

If you debate which definition the resolution intended to use, then there's obviously a pre-set definition anyway, even if it isn't explicitly stated.

Why is that necessarily true?
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ShabShoral
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8/6/2015 9:44:42 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 9:00:27 PM, debatability wrote:
At 8/6/2015 4:41:42 PM, kasmic wrote:
I recently issued a challenge (http://www.debate.org...)

It seems in the comments that there is a disagreement over the concept of defining terms in a debate. I was under the impression that the purpose of defining terms was to be as clear as possible what is being asserted. Thus squaring the debate on whether or not the assertion is valid rather than spending the debate on what is being asserted. It seems though I am in the minority holding this view.(At least so far as this debate shows.)

Am I wrong to define some terms in round one? Is it unfair? Unreasonable? etc...

Formal debate often contains a certain degree a lot of argument over definitions. There are some words that can have contradicting definitions that end up being fundamental to the outcome of debate. A good example would be a word like "Justice." Some debaters get so picky they will spend large amounts of time arguing over a word like "should."

There are a few reasons why definitional debate has to be part of irl debate:
1. Some definitions are fundamentally better. Last year there was a topic over the UN's use of offensive operations. Some people had vague definitions of offensive operations that I chose to contest because my definition was more pertinent to the situation with the UN. @Kasmic I think we actually debated this topic together.
2. Some definitions merit philosophical debate. If a debater uses a definition of justice that points towards a consequential outlook and I'm running a deontilogical framework, I would naturally contest their definition.

I think DDO debate is a lot different though. I'm not a huge fan of semantics so I like to decide the definitions with my opponent prior to the beginning of the debate. I love R1 definitions because I can talk to my opponent about the definitions before I accept. As long as your definitions are left open to be contested, there's nothing wrong with putting them out R1.

Language is inherently fluid, though... if one person was to say that, by the word "justice", he means "the result of following utilitarianism", it's necessarily true that, to him, justice = what he defines it as. The only way for a debate to occur over his definition is for one person to start equivocating and attempting to use "justice" in a way that the definition the first person made doesn't lend itself to, in which case it's really just two people asserting that "justice" should be granted different arbitrary meanings.

There's no way to say that one is better than the other since the word itself is irrelevant - definitions only describe the synonymy between a word and a concept. The actual word chosen can't be "wrong" without begging the question.

You can debate the concepts the words refer to, sure, but you're not really debating what "justice" means - justice is just a placeholder. You're just debating over which side's theory doesn't contradict a mutually accepted framework.

For example, I can say that when I say the word "Clairon", I mean "table". How is it possible for this to be "wrong"?
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ShabShoral
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8/6/2015 9:52:56 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 9:43:08 PM, Zaradi wrote:
At 8/6/2015 9:34:57 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 8/6/2015 6:34:08 PM, Zaradi wrote:
When I did debate IRL for high school, definitions were part of the debate. This was mostly because debaters also pulled definitions from experts and philosophers as well as from dictionaries. These definitions vary more and include different wording and different implications, so part of a debate could very well be a definition debate to get your preferred definition.

I think part of the reason why defining terms in round one is part of the "meta" of the site is because people don't want to have those definition debates, and would rather just debate the topic rather than spend in-round time debating the definitions which is fair, but the idea that people can't contest definitions is silly and wrong.

How, exactly, can one definition be "more valid" than another? The only way to really debate definitions is to appeal to authority over and over, which isn't really a valid method of argumentation.

Say we're debating how we ought to define what a "moral obligation" is. You quote merriam webster. I quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You could argue that your definition should be preferred because it's more accessible and more commonly known (far more people would look at a dictionary before they look at SEOP), making it more indicitive of common usage and thus should be preferred. I could argue that my definition comes from a peer reviewed philosophy encyclopedia, thus has a better connection to the actual lit of the subject and thus more indicative of what the term actually means.

Those are just two examples off the top of my head. Neither are appeals to authority.
If, when I say "moral obligation", I mean "x" (where x is what merriam webster says), then "moral obligation" is unshakably linked to "x". If I mean "y" (what the SEOP says), then "moral obligation" means "y". Language merely assigns arbitrary words to concepts so that the concepts can be referred to - a word means whatever the person speaking intends it to mean. By saying "My definition is used by a more credible source", you're effectively saying "Because people who can be trusted used the word in this way, you should too", which is essentially an appeal to authority.


If you debate which definition the resolution intended to use, then there's obviously a pre-set definition anyway, even if it isn't explicitly stated.

Why is that necessarily true?

In your example, the definition that should be used is the definition which refers to what the maker of the resolution was referring to, which implies that the resolution *is* referring to something in particular in the first place. Before you can even compare two definitions against each other on the basis of which one is more applicable to the resolution, then you must know what the resolution actually means, which implies that you have knowledge of a fixed definition that should be used anyway. The definition would already be in place at the outset, else you couldn't debate definitions at all.
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Zaradi
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8/6/2015 10:00:31 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 9:52:56 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 8/6/2015 9:43:08 PM, Zaradi wrote:
At 8/6/2015 9:34:57 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 8/6/2015 6:34:08 PM, Zaradi wrote:
When I did debate IRL for high school, definitions were part of the debate. This was mostly because debaters also pulled definitions from experts and philosophers as well as from dictionaries. These definitions vary more and include different wording and different implications, so part of a debate could very well be a definition debate to get your preferred definition.

I think part of the reason why defining terms in round one is part of the "meta" of the site is because people don't want to have those definition debates, and would rather just debate the topic rather than spend in-round time debating the definitions which is fair, but the idea that people can't contest definitions is silly and wrong.

How, exactly, can one definition be "more valid" than another? The only way to really debate definitions is to appeal to authority over and over, which isn't really a valid method of argumentation.

Say we're debating how we ought to define what a "moral obligation" is. You quote merriam webster. I quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You could argue that your definition should be preferred because it's more accessible and more commonly known (far more people would look at a dictionary before they look at SEOP), making it more indicitive of common usage and thus should be preferred. I could argue that my definition comes from a peer reviewed philosophy encyclopedia, thus has a better connection to the actual lit of the subject and thus more indicative of what the term actually means.

Those are just two examples off the top of my head. Neither are appeals to authority.
If, when I say "moral obligation", I mean "x" (where x is what merriam webster says), then "moral obligation" is unshakably linked to "x". If I mean "y" (what the SEOP says), then "moral obligation" means "y". Language merely assigns arbitrary words to concepts so that the concepts can be referred to - a word means whatever the person speaking intends it to mean.

The problem with this is that if this is true then actually debating anything is impossible. If you make an argument that says X is true, therefore Y, and I say that you misinterpret what X means and X actually means something entirely different, by your logic I can't necessarily be wrong because X is just whatever I say it is for me and whatever he says for him, which makes actually debating over X impossible. That's why there *has* to be clash over definitions and what things mean so that we can have a singular concept to debate.

By saying "My definition is used by a more credible source"

Except that's not exactly what you would argue, and even if you want to simplify it that far down to the watered down five year old level, that's not inherently bad. You don't argue "Merriam-Webster says it means this, so it means this because they say so." but rather you argue that the Stanford Encyclopedia has a better connection to the philosophical implications of terms and has a better connection to the literature of the resolution, thus is more indicative of what the spirit of the resolution is supposed to be. Sure you can simplify that down to "Stanford says this so it means this", but the "so it means this because" has a better warrant behind it then "well they say so". There's an actual warrant behind the argument.


If you debate which definition the resolution intended to use, then there's obviously a pre-set definition anyway, even if it isn't explicitly stated.

Why is that necessarily true?

In your example, the definition that should be used is the definition which refers to what the maker of the resolution was referring to

IRL debate neither of the debaters are the creator of the resolution. What do.
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ShabShoral
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8/6/2015 10:26:04 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 10:00:31 PM, Zaradi wrote:
At 8/6/2015 9:52:56 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 8/6/2015 9:43:08 PM, Zaradi wrote:
At 8/6/2015 9:34:57 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 8/6/2015 6:34:08 PM, Zaradi wrote:
When I did debate IRL for high school, definitions were part of the debate. This was mostly because debaters also pulled definitions from experts and philosophers as well as from dictionaries. These definitions vary more and include different wording and different implications, so part of a debate could very well be a definition debate to get your preferred definition.

I think part of the reason why defining terms in round one is part of the "meta" of the site is because people don't want to have those definition debates, and would rather just debate the topic rather than spend in-round time debating the definitions which is fair, but the idea that people can't contest definitions is silly and wrong.

How, exactly, can one definition be "more valid" than another? The only way to really debate definitions is to appeal to authority over and over, which isn't really a valid method of argumentation.

Say we're debating how we ought to define what a "moral obligation" is. You quote merriam webster. I quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You could argue that your definition should be preferred because it's more accessible and more commonly known (far more people would look at a dictionary before they look at SEOP), making it more indicitive of common usage and thus should be preferred. I could argue that my definition comes from a peer reviewed philosophy encyclopedia, thus has a better connection to the actual lit of the subject and thus more indicative of what the term actually means.

Those are just two examples off the top of my head. Neither are appeals to authority.
If, when I say "moral obligation", I mean "x" (where x is what merriam webster says), then "moral obligation" is unshakably linked to "x". If I mean "y" (what the SEOP says), then "moral obligation" means "y". Language merely assigns arbitrary words to concepts so that the concepts can be referred to - a word means whatever the person speaking intends it to mean.

The problem with this is that if this is true then actually debating anything is impossible. If you make an argument that says X is true, therefore Y, and I say that you misinterpret what X means and X actually means something entirely different, by your logic I can't necessarily be wrong because X is just whatever I say it is for me and whatever he says for him, which makes actually debating over X impossible.
Pretty much, yeah... I don't see why that's a problem, unless you're arguing that equivocation isn't a fallacy.
That's why there *has* to be clash over definitions and what things mean so that we can have a singular concept to debate.
It's not a debate over the validity of defintitions - it's a debate over who's straying from a mutually-agreed-upon definition. Using a word in multiple ways isn't a problem unless it goes against an already established way of using it, and, even then, one isn't "wrong", just inappropriate.
By saying "My definition is used by a more credible source"

Except that's not exactly what you would argue, and even if you want to simplify it that far down to the watered down five year old level, that's not inherently bad. You don't argue "Merriam-Webster says it means this, so it means this because they say so." but rather you argue that the Stanford Encyclopedia has a better connection to the philosophical implications of terms and has a better connection to the literature of the resolution, thus is more indicative of what the spirit of the resolution is supposed to be. Sure you can simplify that down to "Stanford says this so it means this", but the "so it means this because" has a better warrant behind it then "well they say so". There's an actual warrant behind the argument.
Which only works because there's such a "spirit of the resolution" to defer to which already assumes a certain definition. In the abstract, you can't favour one defintion over another.

Can you debate definitions if a definition has already been chosen (for example, by the resolution-setter)? Sure. Can you debate definitions if someone asked you to "define x"? Not at all.


If you debate which definition the resolution intended to use, then there's obviously a pre-set definition anyway, even if it isn't explicitly stated.

Why is that necessarily true?

In your example, the definition that should be used is the definition which refers to what the maker of the resolution was referring to

IRL debate neither of the debaters are the creator of the resolution. What do.

Rely on probability?
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debatability
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8/6/2015 10:33:55 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 9:44:42 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 8/6/2015 9:00:27 PM, debatability wrote:
At 8/6/2015 4:41:42 PM, kasmic wrote:
I recently issued a challenge (http://www.debate.org...)

It seems in the comments that there is a disagreement over the concept of defining terms in a debate. I was under the impression that the purpose of defining terms was to be as clear as possible what is being asserted. Thus squaring the debate on whether or not the assertion is valid rather than spending the debate on what is being asserted. It seems though I am in the minority holding this view.(At least so far as this debate shows.)

Am I wrong to define some terms in round one? Is it unfair? Unreasonable? etc...

Formal debate often contains a certain degree a lot of argument over definitions. There are some words that can have contradicting definitions that end up being fundamental to the outcome of debate. A good example would be a word like "Justice." Some debaters get so picky they will spend large amounts of time arguing over a word like "should."

There are a few reasons why definitional debate has to be part of irl debate:
1. Some definitions are fundamentally better. Last year there was a topic over the UN's use of offensive operations. Some people had vague definitions of offensive operations that I chose to contest because my definition was more pertinent to the situation with the UN. @Kasmic I think we actually debated this topic together.
2. Some definitions merit philosophical debate. If a debater uses a definition of justice that points towards a consequential outlook and I'm running a deontilogical framework, I would naturally contest their definition.

I think DDO debate is a lot different though. I'm not a huge fan of semantics so I like to decide the definitions with my opponent prior to the beginning of the debate. I love R1 definitions because I can talk to my opponent about the definitions before I accept. As long as your definitions are left open to be contested, there's nothing wrong with putting them out R1.

Language is inherently fluid, though... if one person was to say that, by the word "justice", he means "the result of following utilitarianism", it's necessarily true that, to him, justice = what he defines it as. The only way for a debate to occur over his definition is for one person to start equivocating and attempting to use "justice" in a way that the definition the first person made doesn't lend itself to, in which case it's really just two people asserting that "justice" should be granted different arbitrary meanings.

There's no way to say that one is better than the other since the word itself is irrelevant - definitions only describe the synonymy between a word and a concept. The actual word chosen can't be "wrong" without begging the question.

You can debate the concepts the words refer to, sure, but you're not really debating what "justice" means - justice is just a placeholder. You're just debating over which side's theory doesn't contradict a mutually accepted framework.

For example, I can say that when I say the word "Clairon", I mean "table". How is it possible for this to be "wrong"?

Okay fair. I mean, you can just consider both definitions valid and debate whether one definition is better than the other. I think the question comes down to what definition is better within the context of the debate.
bsh1
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8/7/2015 12:17:24 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I think it's perfectly acceptable to define opening terms. It provides clarity in the round, and prevents people from doing a "Poop has DNA" like tactic in your debate (see the HOF link for more).
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bsh1
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8/7/2015 12:23:33 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 6:34:08 PM, Zaradi wrote:
I think part of the reason why defining terms in round one is part of the "meta" of the site is because people don't want to have those definition debates, and would rather just debate the topic rather than spend in-round time debating the definitions which is fair, but the idea that people can't contest definitions is silly and wrong.

I disagree. I think that it should be obvious that some terms ought not be contested. If I was debating the topic, "Life has inherent moral worth," and my opponent defined the term "life" as a "boardgame in which players simulate a transition through adulthood from college/career to retirement," clearly their wrong. However, some judges may be more than willing to accept this troll definition just because they think it's funny. Some things should NOT be debatable.

I would say that there are 3 reasons why people define terms in round one: (1) to prevent a definitions debate, (2) to ensure in-round fairness, and (3) to make sure everyone clearly understands what is being debated and what the topic is about. Now, I rarely think that ALL definitions should be provided, but I do think clarifying key terms beforehand is very useful, and not wrong.
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Blade-of-Truth
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8/8/2015 4:24:33 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 8/6/2015 4:41:42 PM, kasmic wrote:
I recently issued a challenge (http://www.debate.org...)

It seems in the comments that there is a disagreement over the concept of defining terms in a debate. I was under the impression that the purpose of defining terms was to be as clear as possible what is being asserted. Thus squaring the debate on whether or not the assertion is valid rather than spending the debate on what is being asserted. It seems though I am in the minority holding this view.(At least so far as this debate shows.)

Am I wrong to define some terms in round one? Is it unfair? Unreasonable? etc...

I think you're in the right. It's the debaters responsibility to provide clear definitions if need be, that way, as you said, the debate won't get bogged down with misunderstandings of key terms. Also, as the instigator, you have the right to lay down the definitions that are to be used throughout the debate - with the best place being in the 1st round.
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