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 Understanding How Resolutions Work

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lpnelson

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Number of posts : 4
Age : 27
Location : Chapel Hill, NC
Registration date : 2010-10-31

PostSubject: Understanding How Resolutions Work   Sun Oct 31, 2010 11:08 pm

Here are the relevant portions of a short article I wrote for Ethos Debate about the purpose of the resolution in academic debate. The purpose of this article is to help explain how the resolution functions in relation to arguments/examples presented in a round, and how that function should be utilized in analyzing arguments.

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One of the major questions that every debater needs to know the answer to is: “what is the purpose of the resolution?” Interestingly enough, that question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think.

There are two schools of thought on this – one is that the purpose of the resolution is to be affirmed/negated by the two teams debating (Lincoln Douglas). The other is that is the resolution exists solely as a parameter for the debate (Team Policy). Now you might be thinking to yourself “well isn’t it both?” but if you get into how these thoughts begin to work out when applied in a round, you will begin to see why they are mutually exclusive.

What these different schools of thought do for us is pose the question of whether we should have resolution centered debate or “parametric analysis” debate. Parametric analysis when applied to debate makes the resolution a parameter for the debate and is what allows the affirmative team to choose one example of reform/change (thus creating the plan-focused debate we see in team policy) within the bounds of the resolution. Can an affirmative team can, say, pass CAFE standards reform, and somehow then say that the entire resolution is true because CAFE standard reform is a good idea? Not exactly. One plan doesn't really prove the resolution, as a whole, to be true. It’s kind of a part-to-whole fallacy, because something like CAFE standards are not necessarily typical of the resolution as a whole, yet we all never really hear arguments like this within debate rounds because parametric analysis is kind of an unspoken presupposition within policy debate.

Resolution centered debate, however, is what you will see if you participate in things like Lincoln-Douglas debate. This is where instead of having plan-focused debate, ALL of the argumentation in the round is about whether or not the resolution as a whole should be affirmed or negated – meaning that all examples in the round need to be typical of the resolution in its entirety (which is why occasionally you will hear LDers accusing each other of “parametricizing” the resolution). This is also why you will never see any "plans" in Lincoln-Douglas debate. So if for some reason you debate someone trying to pass a plan, you can argue that plan doesn't prove the resolution as a whole to be true and it therefore isn't as strong as your arguments which are typical of the resolution. Additionally, you should make that other debater PROVE AND SUPPORT with warrants why parametric debate is to be preferred in LD if he's going to try to run a plan (you also should be prepared to answer at all times why LD is, and should be, resolution focused instead of plan focused).

Parametric analysis springs from the idea that the resolution establishes parameters for the debate, while, conversely, resolution centered debate comes from the idea that each side must be either affirming or negating the resolution.

There are also two other important implications that come along with these two schools of though: Negation theory and Counterwarrant theory.

Negation theory, in its most basic sense, is just the idea that the burden of the negative team is not to refute the resolution, but merely to refute whatever the affirmative team presents. This, clearly, is an offshoot of parametric analysis and what is most common in NCFCA Team Policy rounds. (Sidenote: this is also how negative teams can justify things like conditional positions.) Where this gets interesting for LDers is if Negation theory is connected to parametric analysis, or plan centered (policy) debate, does that mean the negative debater in an LD round has to do more than just refute the affirmative team? There are lots of disagreements about this in the debate community, so it's really something you will have to figure out and learn how to defend for yourself. So is the negative burden for refute the affirmative team or the resolution? Something to chew on.

“…Negative counterwarrant strategy claims that the Affirmative case is a single atypical example of reasoning under the resolution. The Negatives further suggest that considering other examples would lead to rejecting the idea that the resolution was generally true. Finally, they then present several alternative examples…and demonstrate that each of these cases is, indeed, a bad idea. Each of these alternative [examples] gives a reason why the resolution should be rejected: a counterwarrant.”

If you’ve ever watched an LD round then you’ve seen counterwarrants in play (though, they may not be identified as such). What happens in those rounds is that the affirmative speaker gives a number of affirmative applications and the negative speaker then provides additional applications, which prove the resolution to be false/not preferable in alternative situations. With poor debaters this turns into example-stacking or a race to see who can provide the most examples, but when you get a couple of LDers that really know what they’re doing you will hear them arguing, usually with some kind of resolutional analysis, about which examples should be weighed the most in evaluating the resolution as a whole.

So what does weighing examples actually mean? When a debater is trying to use analysis to weigh arguments essentially what he’s doing is trying to figure out which example is the most important, or should be given the most weight in the judges decision. There are a number of different ways to go about this – you could prove your opponent’s example doesn’t apply to the resolution at all, you could prove that your example has a more broad application to the resolution while his is atypical and isn’t generalizable (the scope is too narrow), or that yours simply outweighs his via its impacts (which is where value/criteria systems come into play, but that’s another topic for another day).

Chances are VERY high that you will never talk about “parametric analysis” or “resolution centered debate” or “counterwarrant theory” or "plan focused vs. resolution focused" debate explicitly in a round, but it will give you a significant edge to understand them and understand how to explain them. You never know when your opponent might pull out something crazy and put you in a situation where you will need to explain this to a lay judge. Additionally, understanding the fundamentals behind the different interpretations of the function of a debate resolution will help you tremendously if you find yourself flipping back and forth between multiple kinds of debate (policy, LD, public forum, etc).
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