Against Framework Ks
By Dino De La O
This article draws a distinction between two types of Ks. The first, which I will call post-fiat Ks, critique the affirmative’s advocacy. The second, which I will call method Ks, critique the affirmative’s practices. It is not uncommon to see negative debaters read method Ks. Possible points of clash include using a specific representation or role playing as policy makers. One type of method K that has gained popularity is the “Framework K”. These Ks argue that the affirmative’s framework is bad and they should be voted down for reading it. Some Ks critique both the affirmative’s framework and advocacy. This article will argue that Ks should not include any links to the affirmative framework in favor of understanding framework as a conditional argument. Instead, these arguments should be read as reasons the framework is wrong, but not a reason to vote negative.
The appeal to Framework Ks has not been exclusive to a specific type of debater. The following are examples of Framework Ks from a range of different philosophical styles common in debate.
A) Critical Race Theory
Critical race theory influences one of the most popular styles in debate and attracts debaters to Framework Ks. An example is the Anti-Ethics K1 which criticizes western or abstract philosophy. Instead of criticizing the affirmative’s advocacy, the K derives its link from the affirmative’s choice over their framework. Another version of this K2 argues that the affirmative’s trust in the state is incompatible with the alternative’s anti-ethical stance. This version would qualify as a post-fiat K since it competes with the affirmative’s advocacy. On a flip note, Arlo Weiner’s (Oakwood) K against Curry3 also qualifies as a Framework K since it only competes with Curry’s philosophy.
B) High Theory
“High theory” has increased in popularity within the last two years and a plethora of Framework Ks have followed. One of the most common is Lake Highland’s Deleuze K of politics of recognition. Instead of criticizing the affirmatives advocacy, the K competes by criticizing static frameworks. The trend has been to have at least two Ks4, one against symmetrical recognition like Kant and another against social recognition like Butler. Both positions could easily derive links from the resolution. For example, Ari Azbel from Lake Highland read a version of his Deleuze recognition K with topical links to reparations.5 Also, Katherine Fennell from Stuyvesant often read a Deleuzian K6 against politics of recognition with topic links concerning legal personhood. Other examples of Framework Ks with high theory content include Grant Brown’s (Millard North) Sentimental Victimhood and Pragmatic Ecology Ks7, respectively read against Butler’s politics of grievability and pragmatism.
C) Western Philosophy
It is less common to see Framework Ks with western philosophy since most of these frameworks adopt the traditional NC structure. However, debaters have run western philosophical positions with a similar function. For example, Neal Kapoor from Lake Highland read a Gobsch Method K which argued for rectifying oppression through Hegel’s account of the ethical community. These Ks are not pervasive but they help us understand the scope of Framework Ks.
This article will provide a range of angles to attack Framework Ks from. Depending on your style, judge, opponent, and the type of Framework K you are facing, the 1AR should use a combination of the following arguments.
A) Philosophical Testing
The basic concept is that we don’t have perfect knowledge over ethics. This is partially due to the idea that we don’t know the future so we can’t perfectly calculate the results of our actions. We are not transcendental or possess God-like knowledge so we always act under some level of uncertainty. Thus, the ethical project is necessarily one that requires reinvigorating ethical inquiry, one that is willing to accept that its current way of thinking could be completely upside down. Think about it as “x is my current ethical belief + I might be totally wrong”, implying a level of ever present conditionality to our ethical beliefs. In the real world, if a philosopher gets called out for supporting an oppressive theory, the correct response is to seriously evaluate the objection, rethink one’s ethical commitments, and make a final choice over whether one should maintain such belief. One is responsible for their previous commitments but they should not be bound to continue defending such beliefs. The best we can do is learn from our mistakes to genuinely improve with the idea that improvement never stops.
Some will object, “but we know that oppression is always wrong.” Such statement is empty of content and amounts to saying, “we know that being immoral is always wrong”. Anyone can think oppression is wrong but the harder task involves giving an account of oppression and a corresponding strategy to disrupt its tactics. There are too many internal disputes between accounts to make any single one authoritatively convincing. Oppression is incredibly complex and solutions require moving beyond just thinking that oppression is bad in favor of rigorous inquiry into specific accounts of oppression. In fact, most of these “oppression frameworks” defend an implicit view and code it as the general definition for oppression. For example, the average critical race debater will tell you that oppression deals with arbitrary material violence and they tend to be heavily centered on identity politics. Once they can define oppression as material violence or the suppression of an identity, they are able to rhetorically attach the “you are oppressive/you are immoral” indict against any other framework. My belief is that the negative is not simply defending that oppression is wrong. They commit themselves to a specific account of oppression, one that emphasizes materiality and identity politics, which competes with many others. For example, some afro-pessimist who argue for the intrinsic positionality of blackness as outside of civil society object to identity politics and material accounts of oppression as they are both bound to the logic of humanism.9 For the afro-pessimist, humanism replicates anti-black violence, flipping the “you are oppressive/immoral” claim on material or identity politics. In response, the 1AR might claim that the K is oppressive for reproducing material violence. Neither debater is simply defending that oppression is wrong. They are both battling between specific accounts of oppression.
Thus, the fight against oppression and justice also requires a reinvigorating commitment to inquiry, one that is willing to accept that it can’t have it all and that there are many more questions left than answers. We should be concerned of anyone who claims to have the final answer. Such positions amount to perfect calculations of the future and permanent exclusion of voices. Personally, I think this is currently going on in the debate community and it’s seriously concerning. We have a bunch of privileged kids presenting themselves as having solved the ethical dilemma. The ongoing theorization over oppression becomes framed as completely useless because “obviously, oppression is wrong” equivocating the obvious wrongness of oppression with the obvious justice of material strategies. They become the defenders of final justice with a hidden agenda for a specific solution which categorically becomes prioritized above the rest. Frankly, this often leads to ignorant bullying. If other people don’t agree with the trending account of oppression, they become framed as enemies and stigmatized. Personally, I find many objections against identity politics convincing and I generally agree more with less static accounts of oppression. But, the average critical race debater would respond with “you are not solving material violence and thus are oppressive”, reaffirming that “no one cares about your strategy if it’s not ours.” Grandstanding is not revolutionary and only replicates ideology.
If your flavor of arguments tends to be more centered around fairness, there are compelling reasons to object to Framework Ks. The first involves a reciprocity argument which claims that Framework Ks are not reciprocal since the affirmative must prove their framework is good and that it affirms the resolution while the negative can simply win by proving the affirmative’s framework is bad. This is what makes Framework Ks so appealing. Negatives can simply say “Link-they read x framework, Impact- x framework is bad, Alt- endorse y as the counter framework, Rob- vote against bad frameworks”. The role of the ballot effectively makes the reading of a wrong framework a voting issue. Ironically, this could potentially justify a response to reciprocity, but not one that is to the advantage of the negative. If the negative can win by proving that the affirmative’s framework is bad and that we have an obligation to reject bad frameworks, the affirmative can win by proving that the negative’s framework is bad. According to the logic of the K, voting simply off the framework would follow. For example, we have seen Anti-Ethics and Deleuze Framework Ks on the negative, so if the affirmative read a Deleuzian AC and the negative read an Anti-Ethics Framework K, the 1AR should be able to win by proving that the Anti-Ethics K is oppressive and we have an obligation to reject oppressive frameworks. So, the options are a) framework is not a voting issue but simply a framing mechanism for the advocacy b) framework is a voting issue but only for the negative, killing reciprocity c) framework is a voting issue for both debaters, but then why have a topic or waste any of the affirmative on substance? If you are fishing for a reciprocity standard, it is best to ask in CX if the 1AR can win by proving that the negative’s framework is oppressive. If they answer yes, the 1AR has earned an easier route for offense and should be prepared to defend their framework against the negative’s.
A second fairness argument concerns a strategy skew abuse story. The affirmative is bound to defend a framework that affirms the resolution, so they are limited in their selection since not all frameworks will affirm. If the negative is not bound to tying their framework to the resolution, they have a strategy advantage since they are able to select from a wider range of options to ideally critique the affirmative. For example, Anti-Ethics might not be a great negative framework on certain topics, but it could universally be used against Western philosophy. This argument could also be framed as a ground loss argument since the negative can effectively steal affirmative ground. If Anti-Ethics affirms but the affirmative is bound to defend their framework, the negative functionally prohibits the affirmative from topical offense. There is also a possibility for the 2NR to articulate the alternative as a PIC out of the affirmative. They might say something like “we endorse the affirmative policy minus their representation”. This bolsters the ground loss argument and makes for a compelling 2AR collapse on theory.
C) Substance Education
If you are looking for more skill oriented standards, there are good arguments against Framework Ks that are concerned with the benefits of substance education. As mentioned above, Framework Ks functionally collapse the debate to a framework question, effectively killing substance education. At minimum, Framework Ks make no attempt to link their criticism to the resolution. A good way to impact this argument out is to claim that the alternative becomes abstract absent of a concrete application which turns Ks like Anti-Ethics or provides a more compelling abstraction warrant against high theory Framework Ks. If you choose to not read it in a shell format, you could always frame this as a disadvantage to the alternative. There are many more applications to substance education that you can pick from like real world education or advocacy skills to get you ahead on the skills debate. The negative may potentially argue for philosophical education, but the two models of education are not mutually exclusive and applications of philosophy to the real world captures a unique benefit.
Framework Ks are strategic because they are abusive. Affirmative debaters will need to craft strategies to overcome the challenge. This article provides a range of options to assist. Some of these arguments could be formed as a theory shell, responses on the K itself, or as net benefits to “permutation: endorse the negative’s alternative of [insert framework] as a reason to vote for the affirmative’s advocacy”. The last option is specifically strategic if you have offense under the Ks framework but are denied the ability to sever out of your framework.
 If you haven’t seen the Anti-Ethics K, here is an example from Greenhill Bennet Eckert’s wiki: https://hsld15.debatecoaches.org/Greenhill/Eckert+Neg  Here is an example of a topical Anti-Ethics K from Newark Brianna Aaron’s wiki: https://hsld.debatecoaches.org/Newark+Science/Aaron+Neg  Oakwood Arlo Weiner’s Curry K: https://hsld.debatecoaches.org/Oakwood/Weiner+Neg  The K’s referenced are “Kant and the Desire for Fascism” and “Recognition and The Politics of Majoritarianism” from Lake Highland Ari Azbel’s wiki: https://hsld.debatecoaches.org/Lake+Highland/Azbel+Neg  The K referenced is called “Reparations Recognition” and can be found in Lake Highland Ari Azbel’s wiki: https://hsld.debatecoaches.org/Lake+Highland/Azbel+Neg  Here is Katherine Fennell’s Habeas Viscus K: https://hsld16.debatecoaches.org/Stuyvesant/Fennell+Neg  Grant Brown’s Ks could be found here: https://hsld15.debatecoaches.org/Millard+North/Brown+Neg  Not disclosed  Here is an example of an afro-pessimist who argues against identity politics and materialism: http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/no-selves-to-abolish-afropessimism-anti-politics-and-end-world