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RFD for Cultural Relativism Debate
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9/17/2016 3:53:30 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
This is an RFD for the debate between bsh1 and famousdebater that can be found here: http://www.debate.org...
I had wanted to spend more time going through the strategy of both debaters in this RFD, but I'm rather short on time this morning and I figured it was worth focusing more on the decision in that case. If you guys want more feedback, and I can provide more at a later date.
Pro had a lot of work to do in this debate, particularly as he had 4 points that he had to defend in order to be successful in the debate. It's not that it can't be done, but the burden placed on Pro was clearly much higher than the burden placed on Con. Con can focus his attention on any of the 4 points he wishes and shift attention if he chooses to do so. Pro cannot drop a single one of the 4 issues.
Maybe that's the reason Pro starts off the debate doing scant little work supporting any of them. The single paragraphs Pro writes under the first 2 accomplish scant little from my perspective, mainly because they just take the truth of these points for granted. Admittedly, some of this requires proving a negative, as with point 2, which is inherently difficult, but I think there were nonetheless missed opportunities on these points. For the remaining 2, Pro relies heavily on syllogisms, neither of which get a whole lot of explanation or support.
So I could understand if Pro's goal was to poke and prod on each of these, provide the beginnings of arguments against Con's presumptive points, and then flesh out the ones that matter rather than spreading himself out in the first round. At the same time, it's pretty clear that Pro didn't even come close to the character limit in the opening round, which makes meeting his burden that much harder. I get that you don't know what's coming, but in a debate where you know you're going to be spread out in trying to respond to everything, you want to be as prepared as possible. That doesn't necessarily mean making more points, but it does mean explaining everything you have as solidly as possible. You don't want to be doing what you engage in later and going into depth on what you meant by certain points when you need that space for rebuttals.
Con's opening round is more strategic, and I'll get into that shortly. But first, ethical theories vs. cultures.
I feel like this becomes a major distraction in the debate, and maybe that's because Pro's points are so reliant on different ethical theories being relevant to the debate, but I think opportunities were missed to have a reasonable discussion regarding what is and is not a culture. Instead, I feel like we're splitting hairs on an issue that was clearly decided by both the topic and the framing of the debate. Pro mainly tries to push his view that ethical theories are relevant on the basis that people believe them and one of the points he must affirm has some semantics that might lead one to include ethical theories, but I'm not getting responses to Con's logic that cultures represent something larger than individual peoples or small groups within societies. What does the "ethical theories are relevant" point in for me, though, is the point that even if we do consider these other groups, they are still required to adhere to a basic set of moral codes, both by the pressures of maintaining their cultures and by existing within a larger culture that requires them to do so. I never get a substantive response to this point. Pro does argue that this isn't a part of the moral code of these groups, but even if it isn't, it is nonetheless an abiding principle that it appears every culture must have in order to maintain itself. These cultures may reject the principle theoretically, but they are nonetheless forced to incorporate it into how they act, which means that at some level they must recognize its basic value.
That's really all I need to negate, as Con gives me plenty of analysis on actual societies and how moral codes of those societies overlap for reasons that go beyond personal preference. He gives me the example of the Eskimos to show that there are shared moral values even in distinctly different cultures with distinctly different ways of perceiving the elderly, chiefly on the basis that those cultures must function within the same consequentialist framework to come to those decisions. The drive to survive further explains this, examining the reasons why these fundamental values persist. Either of these points could be enough, but the common biology point stands strong in the end as well, with Pro's only response being that not everyone has mirror neurons. Again, this seems to miss the point that we're talking about societies and not about individual ethical theories.
My percpetion is that Pro just didn't give himself any outs to win this debate other than people agreeing that ethical theories are relevant. And it wasn't like Con didn't have any points on that level, either " this wouldn't have been a cut and dry debate if I bought Pro's argument on the relevance of these theories. Nonetheless, as I don't buy it, much of the arguments Pro made just lose their relevance to the debate as a whole, and Con's stay solidly relevant. There's almost no argumentation on the societal level coming from Pro, and thus there's only one side with anything for me to pick them up on, and that's Con. He clearly undercuts at least Point 2, and that's sufficient to net him the debate. So that's where I vote.