Head To Head: Does AFC Bad Need a RVI? Yang Yi Versus John Scoggin

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This is Head to Head! Each week two people will argue back and forth on a controversial debate topic. They are presented with word restrictions and limits on time for when they must submit their responses. Each week the winner will be declared upon the posting of the next “Head to Head.” Vote and let us know who you thought won!

Question: Does AFC Bad Need a RVI?

Yang Yi will argue that AFC Bad does need one, and John Scoggin will argue that it does not.

Yang Yi: 

First off, I’d like to thank JScogg for taking the time to have this discussion with me. Not only will I think the discussion will benefit the community at large, I also appreciate the opportunity to hear and consider arguments from the opposite perspective.

Recently, there has been a lot of controversy as to whether theoretical arguments against affirmative framework choice, or AFC, are independently offensive or require an RVI. But I think its nonsensical to tailor the issue to just AFC or CX checks; rather, I think its more productive to question whether the concept of “offensive” counter-interps in general is legitimate or fall into the same category as traditional counter-interps (that is, they need an RVI to be legitimate). I believe that the use of the word “offensive” is misleading and that these counter-interps, like their traditional counterparts, do require RVIs in order to be truly offensive.

Now what differentiates a traditional counter-interp from an offensive one? Other than the replacement of the word “may” with “must” there doesn’t seem to be a discernible difference. For example, “the neg. MAY be allowed to contest the 1AC ethical framework” has simply been reworded into “the aff. MUST allow the neg. to contest the 1AC ethical framework.” For the most part, the standards level arguments remain stagnant as debaters read the same philosophical education or clash or ground arguments under either interp. Not to mention, the violation and voters certainly don’t change.

So, if all that changes is the interpretation, why is this problematic for “offensive” counter-interpretations as a whole? This comes down to one of the basic tenets of theory debate; that the standards must justify the interp. For instance, no one would argue that reading a shell stating that the aff. must defend implementation with standards justifying why presumption triggers are bad is a legitimate strategy (he reasons why presumption triggers are bad do not necessarily justify the aff. having to defend implementation). Thus, if the original standards justify the original interpretation (the neg. may be allowed to contest the 1AC ethical framework) and we change the interpretation to “must” without any change at the standards level, then the word “must” is just an unwarranted plank of the interpretation. The actual interpretation still operates under “may” which would require an RVI to be offensive.

Second, I think that it’s important to recognize the distinction between saying an argument that a debater reads is bad versus saying that a debater’s practice is bad. In the first scenario, one indicts the argument that the other debater is making, rather than the fact that that debater made said argument. For instance, if the aff. in the 1AR reads necessary but insufficient burdens bad and I counter with “debaters may read one necessary but insufficient burden,” then what I’ve criticized is his argument, that debaters should not read necessary but insufficient burdens. If I win my counter-interp in the end, the end result is that I get access to my arguments, but I think that very few people would think that the judge ought to vote neg. without winning an RVI.

Thus, in order for theory to be offensive, it needs to indict the practice of the other debater. It is insufficient to say that the other debater’s argument is bad, rather one needs to prove why the fact that the other debater made the argument was bad. That seems to be the definition of an RVI; his practice of reading theory was bad because it skewed the round for (insert argument for RVI here) reason. So either a) the “offensive” counter-interp. is meant to solely criticize the argument, say AFC, at which point it falls into the same problem that the “neg. may read one necessary but insufficient burden” shell fell into or b) it’s meant to criticize the other debater’s practice of reading a bad theoretical argument which is exactly what an RVI is meant to do.

 

John Scoggin: 

I want to offer Yang a similar thank you for participating in this discussion. In addition I want to thank Ben Koh and NSDupdate.com for spearheading this really cool initiative. I think that hearing both sides of an issue like this will really help readers come to an informed opinion on these types of issues and hopefully promote more in depth discussion of these issues in round. Additionally I think that hashing out some of these more nuanced theoretical discussions in public will help debaters that don’t have a lot of experience with theory see how these types of issues are thought out. Theory is unlike most substantive issues where one can simply look to the Internet for further information, so having some public stuff available should be a helpful resource.

It may surprise you to read that while I have the opposite view on the particular issue at hand, I agree with much of what Yang has to say on the issues regarding counter interpretations. I have slightly different reasoning on some of the issues but that is not pertinent to the matter at hand. The most relevant issue is whether or not the debater initiating theory against AFC is actually running a counter interpretation. I will argue that this is not the case, and that there is a growing school of thought that has negatively influenced our understanding of theory debates through incorrect labeling practices.

The start of the misunderstanding comes from a procedural understanding of theory being applied conceptually in unconventional ways. People learn in theory that the first argument in the theory debate is an interpretation, and the second argument is naturally a counter interpretation. Deciding what is the interp and what is the CI is not purely a matter of the order in which they were read but rather how they function in the round. Debunking the idea that ‘order read’ is the rule for labeling something the Interp or CI is easily done if we think of some examples of how this could be used. For example the aff could easily circumvent any topicality debate by saying something like “only X definition can be used in the round.” By adding a few words and using the order rule all topicality debates could be avoided, this functions as a good start to my line of argument because of how unintuitive that practice seems to be. Simply placing something in the AC doesn’t make it the interpretation, especially when you consider that the exact same argument could be made in the 1AR and the order rule would call that the CI.

The second pertinent point is that Yang correctly identifies a critical notion that underlies theory debate. He argues that offensive theory must indict a practice of the debater rather than an argument that they make. However reading AFC is a practice, identical in form to other practices that are legitimately criticized by theory, which is susceptible to theory. By default the negative has many strategic options available to them, one of which is to read a framework that is different from the aff’s framework, win that framework, and then win offense back to that framework. The aff substantively changes the burden structure of the round by limiting out the negative’s ability to read a different framework. Just like an unfair definition or burden in the round the aff has substantially altered negative ground in the round and it can be argued that alteration is severe enough to warrant dropping the debater. It is not difficult to determine the real ground loss that occurs when someone prevents a debater from running framework arguments. Now I should add that I think that there are legitimate reasons that outweigh the ground loss in some circumstances but that is not relevant to our discussion here.

In summation, I think that Yang makes a lot of really good points about the ideas behind what has been termed “offensive counter-interpretations.” However I think that AFC is not an example of an OCI and I think that the order rule of determining what is an interp and what is a counter interp is improper. I think if we use Yang’s own criteria for determining when theory should be offensive, it can be clearly seen that theory against AFC is offensive. Additionally I the ground loss is clear and easily definable, and that is the hallmark of where offensive theory comes from.

 

Yang Yi:

Being that John agrees with me on the fact that counter-interpretations cannot necessarily be “offensive,” I think the crux of whether AFC bad requires an RVI or not will depend on whether its necessarily an interpretation or a counter-interpretation.

While I agree with John that ordering may not matter, I think the reading of AFC in the 1AC is not the reading of a counter-interpretation, but an actual interpretation. Just because a theoretical argument is read in the AC and is preemptive in nature doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a counter-interpretation. For instance, if the aff. reads in the AC “all burdens must be necessary and sufficient,” or NIBs bad for short, I think few would argue that that is a counter-interpretation and that the reply, “debaters may read one necessary but insufficient burden,” is the interpretation. Other times, I agree with John. If the aff. gets up and reads “the aff. may run a plan,” I believe that just because they read it first doesn’t mean they are the interpretation.

So why is reading “the neg. must concede the aff. ethical framework,” more synonymous to the former rather than the latter case? I think an important concession John makes is that he states that the same AFC argument can be made in the 1AR. In this scenario, the aff. would get up and read their AC normally without AFC, the neg. would get up and refute the AC framework, and then the aff. in the 1AR would claim that practice of contesting the AC framework was unfair by introducing AFC in the 1AR. I don’t think that it’s reasonable to say that this 1AR theory is a counter-interp. because it directly indicts a neg. practice, that of refuting the aff. framework. But also, under the alternate scenario, we’d have to consider the new 1AR theory, “the neg. must concede the aff. ethical framework,” defensive and call the 2NR reply the interpretation. I think that this is extremely counter-intuitive because the neg. is the one defending their practice of contesting the 1AC framework whereas the aff. is the one indicting that practice. And under theory debates, the one who indicts a practice is the interpretation while the one that defends is the counter. I think that the same logic applies when AFC is read in the 1AC instead of the 1AR; all the theory debate has done is shifted over a speech so the 1AR is the 1AC and the 2NR becomes the 1N. The aff. is still the indicter, preemptively arguing that the neg. cannot contest their framework, and the neg. is still the defender, justifying their practice.

Second, I don’t find John’s argument, that reading AFC bad indicts a practice of the other debater rather than the argument itself compelling. I simply don’t think this is the case. The standards that come attached to a lot of AFC bad theory shells are reasons why AFC are bad, not reasons why my reading of AFC is bad. Standards such as philosophical education or ground are reasons why AFC is a bad interpretation for debate, not reasons why the other debater should not be allowed to defend that interpretation. It may be intuitive to assume that proving AFC is bad argument proves why reading AFC is bad, but I think its fallacious to assume one implies the other.

To illustrate my point more clearly, pretend the aff. in the 1AR reads “necessary burdens must be sufficient,” and the 2N counter with “debaters may read necessary but insufficient burdens.” I don’t think anyone would argue that the aff. is not the interp and the neg. is not the counter-interp. in this scenario. Now assume the neg.’s standard is that of philosophical education and that he/she convincingly wins the theory debate on that standard. If simply proving a theoretical argument is bad was sufficient to justify why the practice of the debater reading it was bad, then we’d have to drop the aff. even if the neg. provides no RVI

But this answer is deeply unsatisfying because it seems to undermine all the reasons the RVI was introduced in the first place, to indict the practice of the other debater. Reasons why someone’s theory argument is bad is not a reason why them reading it is bad. To indict a theory argument, one can read counter-standards such as ground or philosophical education. But to indict a practice, one needs to prove why the round was skewed by the reading of that theoretical argument, i.e. reciprocity (theory is no-risk), time skew (neg. spreads out the aff.), etc. And I believe that the reasons for AFC bad (philosophical education, ground, etc.) fall under the former, rather than the latter, category which is why absent an RVI, a judge should not pick them up on it.

 

John Scoggin:

If reading thousand word arguments regarding AFC is not your thing I encourage you to read the bolded portion of this response. First and foremost I want to remind the reader that the debate centers on whether or not theory in response to AFC in the 1AC is offensive and not whether it is theoretically possible for AFC to be offensive theory. Because of this Yang’s example regarding a situation in which AFC in the 1AR could be a voter is irrelevant to the issue at hand. But regardless of the relevance his example actually illustrates the point I am seeking to make perfectly.

We start from the counterintuitive position that AFC read in the 1AR would be an offensive issue. In this circumstance the argument that he is reading much more naturally results in drop the argument, because the ground of the affirmative remains unchanged in this scenario it seems like the most fair set of recourse would be to just get rid of the framework arguments. Additionally the 1AC was already read by the time the negative answered the framework and the aff merely has to win their case as they normally would in the round. This is distinct from many 1NC theoretical arguments because when the negative was choosing how to develop their strategy prior to the 1NC they were forced with the strategic choice of whether to operate under the unfair interpretation or to read theory on that interpretation. This is the logic of a standard theory voter, an argument skewed the objective evaluation of arguments on the flow and so the judge cannot determine who did the better debating on that level. The 1AR argument is conceptually distinct because dropping the arguments in this case reverts the round completely back to a fair state. The affirmative would then need to argue that just the fact that they had to spend time on the issue is a reason to drop the other debater, or other justifications along those lines. If that argument sounds familiar to you it is because that argument is the most commonly forwarded argument for an RVI. So again, any theoretical argument can be made offensive using this type of argument, the fact that there is a conceivable form of offensive response to a theory argument does not mean that initial theory argument is not offensive.

More importantly however Yang disputes that reading AFC bad indicts a practice. This is where the reader should decide what they think is correct, if AFC is a practice reading theory in response to it is legitimate, both of us have agreed to that. I will reiterate here that AFC is clearly a practice; it is the practice of preventing the negative from responding to the framework. It is a practice like anything else theory indicts it restricts the ground of the negative. Responding to the framework is something every debater is taught and knows how to do and is obviously default negative ground; AFC gets rid of that. While I think Yang brings up an interesting point regarding the philosophical education standard, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because I clearly demonstrated above how it is a practice. Additionally while this may apply to philosophical education I think it does not apply to philosophical ground, saying that a burdens level argument alters ground is the most obvious and accepted form of offensive theory argument in existence.

Additionally if Yang’s argument is that simply reading things in the 1AC does not constitute a practice that would lead to absurd and undesirable theory practices. An affirmative debater could stand up and read arguments such as, “neg can’t read an off case,” “neg can’t read a counterplan,” “neg cant run theory,” “neg can’t run a case,” “neg can’t try to win,” “skep flows aff,” “only aff can trigger skep,” with 0 accountability. In reality this view implicitly invokes the order rule which I’ve already debunked. The example that Yang gives about NIBs is also somewhat misleading. The example that he gives is not absurd in form but rather in content. Obviously saying no NIBs restricts negative ground, but there are compelling reasons to restrict that ground. In this way the argument he forwards is not flawed in form but in construct. Under any view of theory bad arguments can be made, we both agree that T is legitimate, but just because I can think of some horrible T arguments does not mean that T as a concept is flawed.

In summation I urge readers not to forget the question, “Is theory read against AFC offensive.” Yang and I have agreed on how we determine if theory is offensive, and I have clearly shown that these arguments meet that definition. It can be clearly seen that if we applied Yang’s logic of what is and what is not a practice it would lead to illogical and undesirable outcomes. My view of theory provides a neat definition for what is and is not offensive and allows theory to be used for its function as a check on abuse. If we start from the intuitive position that it is legitimate to respond to the framework it is clear that ground loss has occurred in this instance and it is legitimate to run theory to rectify that ground loss. Additionally Yang’s examples don’t apply to the situation at hand and I have offered compelling reasons why that is the case. I urge readers to carefully consider the arguments that I have forwarded here and use that understanding to construct more coherent theory debates in the future.

Yang Yi: 

Again I’d like to thank JScogg for having this discussion with me and Ben Koh for organizing it. Fantastic job guys. For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep this and the rest of my response as a whole as concise as possible. John’s first argument states that AFC bad in the 1AR is not an offensive theory argument, that is just a reason to reject the argument, but I fail to see why AFC is incompatible with reject the debater. Under his logic, if a debater were to read multiple aprioris, then any theory indicting that practice too would also be grounds to reject the aprioris. I don’t understand why we allow other theoretical arguments, even marginally abusive ones, be offensive and a reason to reject the debater and deny that to AFC when the abuse from answering the aff. framework could far outweigh. If the above is true, then I don’t see why this can’t be applied in the 1AC; as previously mentioned, all we do is shift the theory debate over a speech. If the aff. preemptively reads AFC as a shell in the 1AC with a fairness voter and drop the debater the neg. drops it while answering the AC framework, and the aff. fully extends it in the 1AR how is AFC not offensive? How is it any different than if the 1AR reads it and the 2NR drops it? Is AFC the counter-interpretation still when there is no response from the neg.?

More importantly, John himself states with regards to his strategy skew argument that “this is the logic of a standard theory voter, an argument skewed the objective evaluation of arguments on the flow and so the judge cannot determine who did the better debating on that level.” The key word is “voter” and the fact that its not “standards.” My thesis is that the standards level arguments such as ground and philosophical education do not justify why the practice of reading AFC is bad; I’ve already justified in my last speech why arguments specific to why the reading of the theory was bad would because those are functionally RVIs.

Finally, I think that Johns last point regarding the practice of AFC is not responsive to mine. He states that “I will reiterate here that AFC is clearly a practice; it is the practice of preventing the negative from responding to the framework.” Under that logic, NIBs bad is also a practice; it prevents the neg. from reading NIBs. I don’t deny that AFC is a theoretical practice, my contention is that there is a distinction between saying something is a bad theoretical practice and saying its bad to read that theoretical practice. Refer to my previous post; just because a theoretical argument is bad doesn’t mean the practice of reading it is bad. If the aff. gets up and reads “debaters may not read NIBs,” and the neg. reads a CI stating “debaters may read NIBs,” and the neg. wins that CI, then we have reason to believe that “debaters may not read NIBs” is a bad theoretical argument. As previously noted, that’s not a reason to justify the aff. without an RVI. Just because the aff. read a “false” theoretical argument doesn’t mean the practice itself was bad. I cannot stress this enough: a theoretical argument being bad does not imply the reading of it was bad. Thank you to everyone who has had the patience to wade through our thoughts. I think I speak for John here when I state that we intend to reciprocate, to consider your thoughts (should you choose to comment) just as much patience and consideration as you have given ours.

John Scoggin: 

I could delve further into the is AFC in the 1AR offensive but recall from my previous post that it does not matter to the argument at hand. Although Yang and I had previously agreed that all that matters is if AFC is a practice he now claims, “I don’t deny that AFC is a theoretical practice, my contention is that there is a distinction between saying something is a bad theoretical practice and saying its bad to read that theoretical practice.” Yang has never done enough to explain this distinction and recall that I gave powerful examples of the type of things that could be read in the AC if you have this definition of practice. Under this definition of practice debaters could read as many ridiculous interpretations in the aff as they wanted with no accountability. Ultimately I have successfully shown that AFC alters negative ground and that is a sufficient criterion for whether or not theory should be offensive.

Remember that I also dealt with the NIBs argument in my previous post. Yang tries to make his position sound intuitive by claiming the negative could run arguments like NIBs good offensively. I have already stated that this argument is not flawed in form, obviously it restricts NIB ground, but there are compelling reasons to do so and this is just a horrible argument. Remember every form of argument allows for horrible arguments to be made but that isn’t a reason that the model itself is flawed. We still use logic even though people can make really stupid arguments that are technically in compliance with rules of logic.

At the end of the day this argument is easy to decide, you can run theory on a practice that alters ground; AFC takes out the absolutely standard ground of the negative to engage the framework. Every debater is taught that framework refutation is basic strategy of the negative and this argument prevents you from doing that. Accordingly reading AFC bad can be offensive and it is offensive in the same way that any stock theory argument you can think of is.

I again want to thank Ben Koh for organizing this; as I said in my first post I think this could really be a helpful resource for those desiring to gain a deeper understanding of theoretical issues. I know that Ben has been recruiting people to participate in these discussions and I really would encourage people to take part for a few reasons. First and foremost I really do think that this could be the start of a very useful resource for younger debaters or lone wolf type debaters who are not exposed to this type of discussion in practice settings, and secondly I think that the process of community consensus building will go a long way to improving theory debates in the future. Lastly I want to give major thanks to Bob Overing, who has been immensely helpful not only with this particular article, but in helping to improve my general understanding of theory debate.

 

Who Won? 

 

Think they made all the right arguments? Did they miss something? Are they wrong? Are they right? Let us know in the comments down below!

Want to suggest topics or go head to head with somebody else? Email nsdupdateheadtohead@gmail.com or better yet message Ben Koh on facebook. 

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  • Paras Kumar

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  • PlazaMexico

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  • Paras Kumar

    Awesome to read a conversation about something I’ve been struggling with for years. Question for jscogg, jeff, bob, yang etc:

    Do you guys find the plans good/bad interp/CI at all similar to AFC good/bad interp/CI’s? In the sense that: a) aff chooses to run a plan or AFC, b) neg reads a theory shell saying aff cannot do that, and c) aff responds saying aff may/must run a plan/AFC.

    Would you guys characterize those two scenarios as analogous or do you see relevant differences between the scenarios?

  • John Scoggin

    Jeff,

    First and foremost I have serious questions about the underlying concept of theory you seem to be forwarding here. Honestly from my perspective, most of your definitions concerning counter interpretations “OCIs” and interpretations seem to have been invented on the spot. Theory debates were introduced to LD borrowing from policy debate in the early 2000s. My understanding of theory and why theory should be offensive comes from seeing years of these arguments play out in LD debate. Additionally my vision of theory debate, lets call it the abuse model, seems to flow from the most intuitive and commonly accepted traits regarding theory: you should drop someone when they have engaged in an activity that results in unfairness towards their opponent. There can be disagreements as to the gravity of the offense triggering the voter, but at the end of the day that is what theory is about.

    This notion of “Its not what you do its what you justify” in my opinion has been one of the most toxic notions to pervade the LD community and has had severe deleterious effects on the quality of theory debate. Consider the plans good/plans bad debate. If I run a plan that predictable, present in the literature, disclosed, etc. why am I being held to account for a possible plan that someone could read that isn’t those things? What value is gained by discussing potential advocacies that I could have run and didn’t being bad? I think Bob makes an extremely compelling argument below for how we should view potential abuse in LD rounds. The abuse model is especially persuasive because it satisfies a simple criteria: it makes theory offensive when in fact the debater has done something that puts the other debater at a disadvantage. Nowhere in your post do you warrant why the “WYJ” model is a good thing, you just assert its existence. I would like to openly challenge you to an NSDupdate head to head regarding the issue of “its not what you do its what
    you justify.”

    The next problem is the “may not/must” v “may” rule, I’ll refer to it as the semantic model, is flawed in both conception and implementation. In terms of conception it makes no sense to define the character of a theory shell by the particular words in the interpretation. There are verbs that exist that mean the opposite of one another, so any interpretation that can be made with the positive version of the verb can also
    be made with the negative version of the verb meaning the exact same argument
    can function as both a CI and an interpretation under your rule. I assume you
    will attempt some sort of clarification on this issue, which brings me to
    another flaw; this rule is not in fact a rule at all. I can find no reference
    to this type of rule in any of the old policy theory articles, nor anything
    from any of the LD websites. Judges have no basis for implementing the rules,
    and the fact that it needs to be further clarified through discussion means it
    is a very poor baseline from which to start our evaluation of theory arguments.
    When you clarify your advocacy in a new post that clarification will be the
    most current publicly available version of the rule, I think that if you want
    people to accept this view of theory (as well as terms like OCI) its incumbent
    upon you to outline this view of theory in an article so people can have a
    better idea of what these rules are and if they are valuable. On the other hand
    the abuse model of theory has been in practice for years, most judges are
    familiar with theory as determining abuse, there are articles concerning the
    implementation of these issues from the policy community, and plenty of
    discussions on the various LD forums over the years. The theory is easy to
    grasp in its most simple form, and accords with our basic understanding of
    punishment present in the legal system; you are not guilty of an offense you
    might commit or could commit, only one you do commit. To move into
    implementation consider a few examples of arguments that are considered
    “offensive” under your view.

    1. “Neg may not run arguments”

    2. “Neg may not respond to the framework”

    3. “Neg may not trigger presumption”

    All of these arguments limit negative ground, the affirmative gets a strategic advantage just by winning the argument, what then warrants the step to go beyond dropping the argument and to dropping the debater? What has changed in the aff’s strategic calculation by the negative running any of these bad arguments? The negative has not spoken yet so it is impossible to alter 1AC strategy by running any of these banned arguments. It seems extremely counterintuitive to me that merely winning that a restriction on negative ground exists should ever be a reason to vote for the aff. On the other hand if, as the negative, I win that responses to framework are clearly negative ground, that seems like a worthy abuse claim: the aff prohibited me from doing something on a definitional level excluding my ground before I had a
    chance to formulate my strategy and that skew in the round is a reason to vote
    them down. Further none of these arguments rely on RVI argumentation, you are
    not arguing that running theory limited your strategic option, you are arguing
    that the burden placed upon you unfairly limited your ground. This is
    conceptually the exact same model as a T debate, except rather than the
    definition in question being a word in the resolution, it relates to the
    procedural statement that dictates on how the judge should vote in the round.
    The default view of the round as ‘who did the better debating?’ (via showing
    their side of the resolution more true/desirable) is altered by a theoretically
    justified change to that statement. Who did the better debating excluding
    negative framework refutation?

    The discussion of whether it makes sense to use an abuse
    model vs. a semantic model becomes even clearer when we discuss example #1. The abuse model allows for the simple dismissal of #1, what ground loss occurs for
    the aff when the negative makes an argument? None, this is merely an issues of
    negative ground. Under the semantic model #1 is clearly and decisively
    offensive, it uses the words may not.

    It seems pretty obvious to me that we would want to endorse a model that clearly delineates between offensive/defensive based on the merits of the particular arguments rather than the form of the claim, Yang and I agreed about that throughout our discussion. Now I will admit the abuse model does allow for some pretty marginal sounding theory arguments, but it also has clear procedures for easily dismissing those arguments that flow from the rule itself. The ground model would say that the negative could run “multiple a prioris good” and claim a priori ground. The model also builds an emphasis on quality ground that makes this debate quickly and neatly
    resolvable: if you allow a priori’s then any of those arguments are no risk
    issues for the neg, meaning all of those arguments are significantly higher
    value for them. Additionally they probably moot the entirety of the aff, which
    constitutes significant ground loss. The semantic model seems to provide little
    guidance on what to do after we have used it to label arguments offensive.
    After we have done the labeling we still need to use the same theory standards
    as in the abuse model, except they have no relation to the higher-level rules
    of what is offensive and what is not by design. I don’t see a really good
    reason why this sort of disconnect should be present.

    The only real advantage I have been able to identify from your posts is that it conforms to our intuitions regarding interpretations and counter-interpretations. However these points are just flat out wrong. The most obvious one is that CIs cannot be violated. I will note that any example here disproves your argument, you are saying that ALL CIs take the form “Debater answering theory may do X,”

    1. Debater A reads a plan about Syria. Debater B says plans bad. CI: “all arguments must relate to Syria”

    2. Debater A reads governments are not moral actors as a side constraint style NC. Debater B says NIBs bad. CI “Aff must prove the resolution true under TT”

    3. Debater A reads a generic aff. Debater B says must run a plan. CI “Debaters must run arguments about inherent features of CV regardless of implementation.”

    These arguments all have pros and cons, but it can hardly be argued that they are not CIs. And they all can be violated by one debater and met by the other. However the semantic rule would say that not only are none of these arguments CIs, all of them are in fact offensive theory arguments. However none of these arguments are naturally offensive in character, they are not saying that the negative somehow altered their strategy; they are all just definitions of how their cases functioned in the
    first place. Voting on such an argument absent an RVI is not discouraging unfairness, but rather rewarding fairness with a ballot. That is ridiculous and commonly rejected notion in theory debates. Unfairness is a reason to drop someone, but fairness is merely a reason to prefer an interp. If someone could win just for being fair all the aff would do is try to select the best definitions for the debate and try to win by justifying those definitions.

    Additionally your example about two people being on the offensive side of theory is not a problem, this is addressed in my ‘a prioris’ example. While in practice both debaters can make offensive claims, the nature of those claims are such that there can only be one winner. On the other hand the semantic rule regularly allows for the occurrence of both debaters to be on the offensive via simple word games, and the only way to resolve that tension is to do exactly what the abuse model asks you to: look to the standards debate.

    Overall I find that your model of theory is arbitrary and counterintuitive. The abuse model cleanly fits with our intuitions, and all of the pieces from labeling to execution relate to the same basic principles. The account of ground loss in my previous posts show clearly why I am thus on the correct side of the issue in the AFC debate.

    • Jeff Liu

      It might surprise you that I in fact agree that “it’s not what you do, it’s what you justify” has in fact “had severe deleterious effects on the quality of theory debate.” I don’t warrant why this view is a good thing, because I don’t think it is. But the reason I think that has nothing to do with my view on what makes a debate rule an interpretation or a counter-interpretation.

      I made this point already in a response to Bob, but this is worth re-iterating because I think it is where you fundamentally go wrong. A theory rule can be offensive in two ways: 1) it has **the capacity** to be offensive, i.e. the capacity to be a voting issue, without the introduction of an RVI or 2) it is **in fact** offensive in the particular debate round, i.e. it is a voting issue. The dispute about whether potential abuse (in the strong sense) is a voting issue is a dispute over 2). The dispute about what makes a debate rule an interpretation or a counter interpretation is a dispute over 1).

      In your initial post, your confusion on this point led you to argue that a necessary and sufficient condition for making a theory rule an interpretation, as opposed to a counter-interpretation, is demonstration of in-round ground loss. What I think you in fact meant is that a necessary and sufficient condition for voting on a theory **interpretation** is demonstration of in-round ground loss. But before the in-round ground loss condition can be applied, we must first determine whether the theory rule in question is a rule of the sort that the condition could even be applied to – we have to first determine whether the rule is in fact an interpretation or a counter-interpretation, because the answer to that question will determine whether the rule even has **the capacity** to be a voting issue without the introduction of an RVI. The mistake you made is that you mistook a litmus test for 2) – a dispute about whether an interpretation is offensive in any particular debate round – as a litmus test for 1) – a dispute about whether the theory rule in question is an interpretation or a counter-interpretation.

      Here’s another reason for thinking that your litmus test is really a dispute over 2), and not 1): in all of your examples, you assume that the nature of the theory rule as an interpretation or a counter-interpretation cannot vary from round to round (for instance, you claim that the theory rule “all arguments must relate to Syria” is always a counter-interpretation). But you have repeatedly failed to address the following argument:

      “John’s view makes it such that if a debater cannot demonstrate in-round ground loss, then his/her theory argument is just a counter-interpretation. If the exact same interpretation is read in two different debates, one in which a relatively strong debater establishes in-round ground loss, and another in which a weaker debater fails to establish in-round ground loss, John is committed to thinking that the theory rule is an interpretation in the former case but a counter interpretation in the latter.”

      This conclusion is unacceptable, even on your view, because you too assume that the fundamental nature of a debate rule as an interpretation or a counter-interpretation cannot change round-to-round.

      There is nothing strange, however, about thinking that an interpretation (once it has been shown to be an interpretation, as opposed to a counter-interpretation) could act as a voting issue in one round and not a voting issue in another. Let’s return to the plans bad example to make this point perspicuous. The interpretation “Debaters may not run a plan” is always an interpretation, not a counter-interpretation. But in some rounds, the negative will be able to prove in-round abuse – for instance, that the affirmative plan is unpredictable. In others, the negative will not be able to prove in-round abuse – the affirmative will win that their plan is predictable. In one round, the interpretation’s offensive capacity is actualized; in another, it is not.

      With this distinction in view, I hope you understand why the abuse model of theory is not incompatible with the view that what makes something an interpretation is the form of the statement. Let’s use your examples for the sake of clarity.

      1. “Neg may not run arguments”

      2. “Neg may not respond to the framework”

      3. “Neg may not trigger presumption”

      All of these debate rules are interpretations, not counter-interpretations. They have the capacity to be offensive, because if the affirmative proves that, for instance, the negative triggering presumption leads to in-round aff ground loss, then the aff’s theory argument is offensive. It might surprise you, however, that I think you are right that in most instances, judges should not vote on these theory arguments! But I don’t think that *because* of a misguided belief that these theory rules are counter-interpretations—I think that because I agree that a good rule of thumb is that judges should only vote on an **interpretation** when there is in-round ground loss. Much of your post attempts to answer a view that I do not hold.

      Next, let’s consider your argument for why counter-interpretations can be violated. Here’s what I understand what your argument to say:

      1. Assume that in-round ground loss is a necessary and sufficient condition for making a debate rule an interpretation, rather than a counter-interpretation.

      2. The rules “all arguments must relate to Syria”; “Aff must prove the resolution true under TT”; and “Debaters must run arguments about inherent features of CV regardless of implementation” do not cause any in-round ground loss.

      3. Therefore, the rules “all arguments must relate to Syria”; “Aff must prove the resolution true under TT”; and “Debaters must run arguments about inherent features of CV regardless of implementation” are counter-interpretations (from premise 2 and the contrapositive of premise 1).

      4. The rules “all arguments must relate to Syria”; “Aff must prove the resolution true under TT”; and “Debaters must run arguments about inherent features of CV regardless of implementation” can all be violated.

      5. Therefore, counter-interpretations can be violated (from premise 3 and premise 4).

      This is a paradigm case of a circular argument.Without premise 1, your argument is invalid. But premise 1 is just the statement of your model for what makes a theory rule an interpretation—you assume the very thing you set out to prove. Circle!

      If you don’t understand my formalization of your argument, here’s another way of putting it: you assert that these theory rules are counter-interpretations, because under these rules, there is no in-round ground loss. But that just begs the question – under my view, the reason why these rules can be violated is BECAUSE they are interpretations, not counter-interpretations.

      Now, I think we both agree that counter-interpretations do not have the capacity to function as a voting issue without an RVI (if this weren’t true, there would be no reason to ever have an RVI at all). Your view cannot explain this fact, because your view can only explain why a counter-interpretation is not a voting issue in a PARTICULAR round (there is no in-round ground loss). It cannot explain the general feature of a counter-interpretation’s inability to function as a voting issue without an RVI. What explains why a counter-interpretation does not have the capacity to count as offense without an RVI is because a counter-interpretation cannot be violated by the debater initiating theory. If counter-interpretations could be violated, then a counter-interpretation could have the **capacity for** offense alone, without an RVI. So it is a basic fact about counter-interpretations that they cannot be violated by the opposing debater.

      Two other nitpicky points I’d like to address:

      1. On your three examples—“neg may not run arguments,” “neg may not respond to framework,” “neg may not trigger presumption”—you claim that these arguments merely restrict negative ground, and thus cannot be voting issues. This is non-sense – all theory interpretations are just restrictions on ground. Plans bad excludes plans; a prioris bad excludes a prioris; and so on. It is in fact what is constitutive of an interpretation, on my view. And you say that defeating these interpretations is in fact a reason to vote for the negative, because “the aff prohibited me from doing something …” and “none of these arguments rely on RVI argumentation, you are not arguing that running theory limited your strategic option, you are arguing that the burden placed upon you unfairly limited your ground.” This response is self-defeating. To say the “aff prohibiting you from doing something” or to say “the burden placed upon you” is unfair is just to say that the RUNNING OF THEORY is unfair. After all, the deployment of the initial theory argument is what both prohibits certain negative arguments and what places a specific burden on the negative.

      2. You say “In terms of conception it makes no sense to define the character of a theory shell by the particular words in the interpretation. There are verbs that exist that mean the opposite of one another, so any interpretation that can be made with the positive version of the verb can also be made with the negative version of the verb meaning the exact same argument can function as both a CI and an interpretation under your rule.” Honestly, I am not sure what you mean here. But let me take a stab at responding to what I think you mean. In general, you severely over-emphasize the semantic element of my view. My view is really this: interpretations are statements of obligation or prohibition—they obligate you to run certain arguments at the expense of others (must), or they prohibit you from running certain classes of arguments (may not). Counter-interpretations answer interpretations by claiming that the debater answering theory is not obligated to run the arguments that the debater initiating theory claims he must, or that the debater answering theory is permitted to run the arguments that the debater initiating theory prohibits. So I’m not sure how the type of verb used affects my view at all.

      What the failure of your earlier argument for why counter-interpretations can be violated illustrates is that any attempt to prove the correctness of either model on the basis of particular example rules is bound to fail, because any particular examples we use will require us to assume the correctness of a particular model. We need to start from general principles that demonstrate which model is more plausible. So let me conclude with a brief summary of the three general arguments in favor of my view:

      1. The dispute about whether a theory rule is an interpretation or a counter-interpretation is logically prior to a dispute about what the conditions under which a judge should vote for an interpretation. Because it is a logically prior question, the resolution of this dispute cannot be tethered to other theory questions in the voter or the standards. The question of whether a theory rule is an interpretation or a counter-interpretation must be resolved based on the form of the rules themselves (obligation/prohibition vs. permission / “must/may not” vs. “may”).

      2. The nature of a debate rule as an interpretation or a counter-interpretation cannot change round to round. If we understand your view as being about the dispute over 1), then it allows for that possibility. So your view is not about a dispute over 1), but a dispute over 2). And if this is correct, then your view is in fact compatible with mine. It is not a true alternative.

      3. Counter-interpretations do not have the capacity to function as voting issues without an RVI. The only way to explain this is by appealing to the fact that counter-interpretations cannot be violated by the opposing debater. And this lends credence to the idea that counter-interpretations are just statements of what the debater answering theory may do.

      Last, I want to address your “you just made this up on the spot” assertion. My understanding of counter-interpretations, interpretations, and offensive counter-interpretations is simply an attempt to make explicit what I understand most judges to already implicitly assume in their adjudication of theory debates. If you understand the distinction I am drawing above between the two ways in which a theory argument is classified as offensive (in fact offensive vs. capacity to be offensive), then I think you will realize that there is in fact no true alternative to my way of understanding the issue of what makes a debate rule an interpretation as opposed to a counter-interpretation. And for at least one reference that is in agreement with my understanding of theory interpretations, see Ryan Lawrence’s article “Offensive Counter-Interpretations on Theory.” (http://nsdupdate.com/2011/offensive-counter-interpretations-on-theory/).

      • John Scoggin

        Jeff it is somewhat difficult to fully engage you on this issue because you claim something as truth in one post and then abandon it in the next one. Just to make this clear lets look at the following sections of your post.

        Post #1: “A statement is an interpretation when it states what either debater may not or must do; it is a counter-interpretation if it states what the debaters may do.”

        Post #2: “It can be the case that a theory rule must be an interpretation to qualify as a reason to vote without an RVI, where the form of the rule (“may not/must” vs. “may”) determines whether it is an interpretation or a counter-interpretation”

        Post #3: “My view is really this: interpretations are statements of obligation or prohibition—they obligate you to run certain arguments at the expense of others (must), or they prohibit you from running certain classes of arguments (may not). Counter-interpretations answer interpretations by claiming that the debater answering theory is not obligated to run the arguments that the debater initiating theory claims he must, or that the debater answering theory is permitted to run the arguments that the debater initiating theory prohibits.”

        It is pretty easy to make it seem like other people are not properly responding to your view of theory when NOBODY KNOWS WHAT IT REALLY IS! I mean you literally say “my view is really this” in your most recent post. At the end of your post you provide a single link to a 2011 article that does not work. I am pretty sure that if we look at that article an articulation of the rule that you are now shifting to is not there. I will respond in greater depth later this afternoon, but I think that you should confirm that the view in post #3 is the one that you are really defending.

        The most obvious problem with your new view is that it is a definition without reference that cannot account for the simple and accepted form of theory in T. On your view the definition in the aff would be the interpretation because it could just as easily be phrased “debaters must run arguments related to definition X.” When someone is responding to that definition they could just as easily respond with an argument of similar form “debaters must run arguments related to definition Y.” which is also an interpretation. The problem is that your labeling model doesn’t account for the voter story that I thought was basic common knowledge on theory debates, unfairness is a reason to drop a debater but fairness is not a reason to pick up a debater. The aff debater on T is merely saying that their definition that grounds the aff is fair, but your view would say to vote for that person. Again I will go into more depth on issues of this nature when it is clear to me what you are actually defending. If your argument is what I think it is the following is going to be a big problem with your view, pretty much any negative theory argument that is currently considered legitimate can be preempted in the 1AC with an argument that follows the form you suggest and would be offensive for the affirmative. I encourage you to include a few examples of arguments you think are legitimate interpretations for the negative and I will illustrate why I think that’s the case in my next post.

        • Jeff Liu

          John, my views in posts 1, 2, and 3 are all equivalent restatements of one and the same view. To say that you are obligated to do something is just to say that you must do it. And to say that you are prohibited from doing something is just to say that you may not do it. In response, a counter-interpretation will establish that you are not obligated to or not prohibited from doing the thing that the interpretation indicts (you are permitted to, or may, do it). Sorry if that was unclear, but I certainly haven’t “claimed something as truth in one post and then abandoned it in the next one.”

          Now let’s address the topicality issue. Topicality, as I understand it, is a debate about what the meanings of the words in the resolution are. Since T is purely a debate about the definitions of words, it is not a debate about what the affirmative or negative must/may not/may do. The affirmative cannot violate a negative interpretation that says “X is defined as Y,” and by the same token, the negative cannot violate an affirmative interpretation that says “X is defined as Z.” On my understanding of topicality, in a T debate, neither debater advances a true interpretation or
          counter-interpretation. But if this is true, you might be thinking, how can either side ever have offense on topicality?

          I’ll explain. In every debate, as a matter of jurisdiction, the judge implicitly holds the following assumption: “The affirmative must be topical.” When the negative argues that “X is defined as Y,” he is arguing that by defining X as Z, the affirmative has violated the theory interpretation “The affirmative must be topical.” So what is really going on in a topicality debate is just a big **violation debate** (is the affirmative topical or non-topical?) to a theory interpretation that the judge takes for granted, as a matter of jurisdiction (the affirmative must be topical). On the other hand, few judges assume that the negative has the burden to be topical (this is why non-topical counterplans are often a legitimate strategy). The assumed interpretation “the affirmative must be topical” explains why the negative is always on the offensive side of a topicality debate.

          With that in mind, let’s consider the special case that you mention, where the affirmative recasts his definition of X in the form of a true interpretation: “Debaters must relate all arguments to the definition, ‘X is defined as Z.’” What the affirmative has really done in introducing the plank “Debaters must relate all arguments to …” is introduce a new theory argument that is independent of the debate about which definition is correct. He has just introduced a theory argument that says **both debaters** have the burden of being topical!

          You’re right that merely proving that “X is defined as Z” is the correct interpretation—that the definition that grounds the affirmative case is fair/educational—is not alone a reason to vote the affirmative up. The affirmative must also prove that it is unfair or uneducational for the negative to be non-topical (he must give reasons to prefer the plank of the interpretation that says “debaters must relate all arguments to…”). This is because, unlike the case where the negative introduces topicality, the judge often will not just automatically assume that the negative must be topical.

          However, if the affirmative wins the theory debate over whether the negative must be topical, and if he wins that the negative is not topical (by winning his definition), then the affirmative should win the debate. He has shown that it is unfair/uneducational for the negative to be non-topical, that the negative is non-topical by winning that ‘X is defined as Z’ is the better interpretation of the word X, and that the negative has failed to relate his arguments to X. And this goes to show that my view of what makes a rule an interpretation or a counter-interpretation is not inconsistent with the fact that unfairness should be punished, but fairness is not a reason to vote a debater up.

          I’d also like to make a brief aside about topicality, while we’re on the issue. I take it that jurisdiction is the most basic reason that judges assume that the affirmative must be topical (we think that no amount of fairness or education arguments could override the constraint that it is not within the judge’s jurisdiction to vote for non-topical affirmative arguments). In other words, the most basic reason to exclude non-topical arguments is not that it is unfair or uneducational to read non-topical arguments, but that the judge has no jurisdiction to vote on such arguments. If a debater makes non-topical arguments, he has not *necessarily* done anything unfair or uneducational—he has simply said things that are irrelevant to the judge’s ballot. And in policy, jurisdiction alone is a sufficient reason to vote the non-topical debater down. If the affirmative must show that a topical plan is more desirable than the status quo or a counterplan, then showing that the affirmative plan is not topical denies the ability for the affirmative to ever meet their burden. This is not the case in LD. If all the affirmative must do is prove the resolution true as a general principle, then the negative’s re-defining of a word in the resolution does not absolutely deny the affirmative’s ability to meet their burden of proving the resolution true. So in LD, in order to show that topicality is a reason to reject the debater rather than just the non-topical arguments, further considerations (besides jurisdiction) must be brought to bear on the issue. Fairness and education arguments can be used to show, for instance, that the affirmative’s non-topicality in a particular round commits sufficiently substantial abuse that the affirmative should be voted down, rather than merely having his irrelevant arguments excluded. Norm creation and deterrence arguments serve a similar function. In policy debate, none of these considerations – fairness, education, norm creation/deterrence – are necessary to show that a non-topical affirmative should be voted down. In LD, they are.

          Now, before we continue to other objections you may have, I’d like to know if you have any replies to the three general arguments I made in favor of my view of what makes a rule an interpretation or a counter-interpretation. My view is one that I take to be implicit in the way every judge adjudicates theory debate. And if you accept my earlier arguments, then you must accept that you no longer even have an alternative view. My view that the form of a statement determines whether a rule is an interpretation or a counter-interpretation is not incompatible with your view that there must be demonstrated in round ground loss in order to vote for an interpretation (once it has been shown to be an interpretation, rather than a counter-interpretation)–they answer different questions. So what view are you even defending at this point?

          • Bob Overing

            “The affirmative cannot violate a negative interpretation that says “X is defined as Y,” and by the same token, the negative cannot violate an affirmative interpretation that says “X is defined as Z.” On my understanding of topicality, in a T debate, neither debater advances a true interpretation or counter-interpretation.”

            Where do you get this stuff? I’ve literally never heard anyone argue such a thing. This is probably a reason for judges/debaters reading these posts to be extremely skeptical of your claims. Newness isn’t always bad, but newness about topicality, a widely-accepted and century-old practice, should be resisted. Nonetheless, there are pretty good reasons to reject this view. You say:

            “What the affirmative has really done in introducing the plank “Debaters must relate all arguments to …” is introduce a new theory argument that is independent of the debate about which definition is correct. He has just introduced a theory argument that says **both debaters** have the burden of being topical!”

            Yes, this is a problem. On your view, it is legitimate to impose a T burden on the neg. This would mean T arguments for both debaters are offensive, which is nonsense. Worse is something I discussed earlier, which is that the aff could read a definition from which it does not necessarily garner offense in the AC. This would make it possible, on your view, for ONLY the neg to violate a T-interp such that any neg response would simply be defensive. This is something most of us would want to reject.

            Just adding “must” should not be the determining factor.

      • Bob Overing

        Regarding your three arguments–

        1 is unjustified. Your argument for why the interpretation/counter-interpretation comes logically prior begs the question because John’s model is that the two are connected; you’ve simply asserted the opposite. (Here’s the tail-end of his argument on the question: “After we have done the labeling we still need to use the same theory standards as in the abuse model, except they have no relation to the higher-level rules of what is offensive and what is not by design. I don’t see a really good reason why this sort of disconnect should be present.”) The intuitions argument below will serve as further justification.

        2 is that the nature of interps/counter-interps cannot change round-to-round. This is far more likely to be true under John’s view. The Syria case proves that the same argument can be read as an interp or a counter-interp on your view (Interp: The affirmative may run a Syria plan vs. Counter-interp: The negative must relate all arguments to Syria).

        I think you’re right that there is a conflation of the interp discussion and the potential for a theory argument to be offensive, but that’s precisely John’s argument. When we say “interpretation,” we mean “a theory argument that can be voted on,” i.e. one that demonstrates the type of abuse we’re discussing (that’s 1 above). This does not mean that a poorly argued “plans bad” shell that does not demonstrate abuse in the round is not an interpretation. Of course it’s an interpretation; it just didn’t win in that particular debate. This also answers your 3, since it relies on the faulty must/may distinction.

        Finally, you haven’t answered that our position best accords with our intuitions on this issue. When an aff alters neg strategy via a practice such as a plan or a burden, that’s grounds for a neg to make an offensive theory argument. There is no categorical distinction between an argument like “the neg may not read x, y, and z disads” and an argument like “the neg may not read framework.” Both are potentially unfair. You have not dealt with this.

  • Jeff Liu

    On a theory debate, a counter-interpretation is a statement of what the debater answering theory may do. An “offensive counter-interpretation,” on this understanding of a counter-interpretation, is not really a counter-interpretation at all. An OCI is just an offensive theory argument, where the offense for the plank in the interpretation that says “may not prohibit” or “must allow” derives from the fact that it is unfair or uneducational for the debater initiating theory to indict a theoretically legitimate practice (those are the same arguments that one would make for an RVI). I think John agrees with this point.

    Now, with this definition of a counter-interpretation in view, it should be clear that the dispute between Yang and John over whether “AFC bad” indicts a practice is neither here nor there. What makes a theory argument an interpretation as opposed to a counter-interpretation is neither whether it indicts a practice nor whether it is read first or second. A statement is an interpretation when it states what either debater may not or must do; it is a counter-interpretation if it states what the debaters may do.

    How does this apply to AFC, then? I take any debater making an AFC argument to be advancing two claims, one defensive and one offensive: first, that the affirmative may choose the standard for the debate (defense); and second, that the negative may not contest the affirmative’s choice (offense). The first plank is obviously a counter-interpretation — it is a statement of what the affirmative is allowed to do, and it is the conventional assumption in a debate without AFC. Only the second plank is unique to AFC. And obviously that is an offensive theory argument. The counter-interpretation to the second plank will state that the negative may* contest the affirmative’s framework, for reasons like “it is good for philosophical education” “good for negative strategy,” etc. Sure, these are arguments in favor of the negative’s debate rule (you might call it a practice, who cares), but it does not change the fact that the rule the negative is advancing is just a counter-interpretation.

    As a more general point, I think most of the confusion on this issue and others derives from the shorthand we use in debate theory. When someone says, “A debater may not run AFC” it seems obvious that it is an offensive theory argument. You might think, as John and Bob do, “AFC is a practice, and the interpretation indicts that practice. Offense!” But if we unpack what is contained in the idea of the three letter acronym AFC and if you accept my earlier explanation of what a typical AFC interpretation entails, then we really have the following interpretation: “A debater may not run [the interpretation that says the negative may not contest the affirmative’s choice of framework].” That is just the OCI version of the counter-interpretation, “the negative may contest the affirmative’s framework.” So if John agrees that OCIs in general require arguments for an RVI, then he must agree that AFC bad, too, requires arguments for an RVI.

    • John Scoggin

      My version of when theory is offensive seems way more intuitive and likely to be correct. While a more comprehensive definition of all instances theory can be offensive may be harder to define, there is a very simple litmus test: theory is offensive when it causes in round ground loss to the opponent. Framework contestation is a basic a critical component of negative refutation, AFC takes this away.

      The rule for interpretations you propose is also unintuitive and leads to problems that I brought up in my post that no one has answered. If all it takes for an interpretation to be offensive is that it says “may not” or “must” affirmative debaters could circumvent any possible theory arguments by having preemptive interpretations in their 1AC. “The negative must accept X definition.” gets you out of any T debate. Obviously the ground loss criteria for arguments being offensive is much more intuitive and compelling.

      • Jeff Liu

        I’ll start by addressing your second point first, because I think the response here is relatively straightforward. You say, “If all it takes for an interpretation to be offensive is that it says ‘may not’ or ‘must’ affirmative debaters could circumvent any possible theory arguments by having preemptive interpretations in their 1AC. ‘The negative must accept X definition’ gets you out of any T debate.”

        The interpretation “the negative must accept X definition” is just an offensive counter-interpretation of the statement “X is defined as…” Reading an offensive counter-interpretation does not circumvent the T debate, because in order to win an offensive counter-interpretation, one must win both that X is the better definition and that it is unfair for the negative to contest that definition. Winning that X is the better definition is just a matter of winning the T debate, and winning that it is unfair for the negative to contest that definition is just a matter of winning arguments in favor of an RVI. What is counter-intuitive here? Reading an offensive counter-interpretation in your AC simply builds the RVI into the T debate; the negative can still challenge both the arguments in favor of the RVI and the definition itself.

        Now, you propose the following litmus test for when a rule counts as an offensive theory argument: theory is offensive when the practice it indicts causes in-round ground loss to the opponent. I understand you to mean that causing in round ground loss is both a necessary and sufficient condition for making a theory argument offensive. I think this view is not only incorrect – it is insane.

        First, it tethers the nature of whether a statement is an interpretation or a counter-interpretation to the arguments made in the standards of the theory shell. And this means that the exact same theory interpretation can be read word for word in different rounds and count as offense in one, but as defense in another. Suppose a debater reads the interpretation “The affirmative not run a prioris.” On your view, if the only argument read in favor of “a prioris bad” is strategy skew (no ground argument), then the theory argument must be defensive (ground loss is necessary for the theory argument to count as offensive). But if a ground argument is read in the debate, then the interpretation magically becomes offensive.

        As a related point, your view builds in-round abuse into the very concept of whether a theory argument is offensive or defensive. If in-round ground loss is a *necessary* condition for making a theory argument offensive, then whenever a judge votes on a potential abuse argument, he is just voting on defense. Do you really believe that?

        To be clear, my point is not that potential abuse is a voter, or that it’s counter-intuitive to think that potential abuse is not a voter. My point is that whether potential abuse is a voter or not CANNOT DETERMINE whether the interpretation counts as offense or defense to begin with. They are independent issues.

        I am also concerned that your view arbitrarily privileges ground at the expense of other theory standards. Why is in-round ground loss the litmus test? Why not predictability? Or strategy skew? Most fundamentally, I don’t think there’s any clear rationale behind your categorization of what makes a theory argument offensive. The “may not/must”/”may” distinction has a very clear motivation: what we’re after is a method of categorizing interpretations against counter-interpretations that evaluates the statements on their own merits. We need a way of determining whether a debate rule counts as offense or defense that is independent of the content of the practice that the rule indicts. That is what the “may not/must” vs. “may” distinction of delineating between interpretations and counter-interpretations provides.

        There are many more problems with your view that I’ll just mention in passing. Your view cannot account for basic facts that most of us take for granted about interpretations and counter-interpretations. Interpretations can be violated; counter-interpretations cannot. The reason why counter-interpretations cannot be violated is because they take the form “Debater answering theory may do X,” and the debater initiating theory cannot violate a rule about what the debater *answering theory* may do. Under your view, it somehow becomes possible to violate a counter-interpretation. And furthermore, if both allowing the practice and prohibiting it would cause some in-round ground loss, i.e. in a case where both sides make ground arguments–a fairly common scenario, then it could be possible that both sides are on the offensive side of the same theory issue, with no RVI necessary. And that seems absurd.

        • Bob Overing

          I’ll let John clarify further, but obviously the distinction is not about whether someone literally said the word ground as the name of their standard…

          • Jeff Liu

            Well, it’s a good thing I never said the distinction is “about whether someone literally said the word ground as the name of their standard.” I said that John’s view requires a debater to win a ground argument in the debate. It does not matter to me what the standard is called. I think most philosophical education standards, for instance, are just ground arguments that are impacted to education (under your interpretation, I lost access to my Kant ground, which is key to education).

            John’s view makes it the case that if a debater cannot demonstrate in-round ground loss, then his/her theory argument is just a counter-interpretation. If the exact same interpretation is read in two different debates, one in which a relatively strong debater establishes in-round ground loss, and another in which a weaker debater fails to establish in-round ground loss, John is committed to thinking that the interpretation is offensive in the former but defensive (that it is really just a counter-interpretation) in the latter. That can’t be right.

            One more question I have for you, John (and Bob): Isn’t it true that any theory causes in-round ground loss? Plans bad excludes plan ground; a prioris bad excludes a prioris; and so on. On your view, wouldn’t every counter-interpretation really just be an offensive theory argument?

          • Bob Overing

            Exactly – why would you vote on a theory argument if there’s no “in-round” abuse? If a debater ran a plan that is completely fair, you would vote on a theory argument that says, “well, someone else could run this really unfair plan?” That makes no sense.

            I think you’re confused about “in-round” abuse. Potential abuse is “in-round” abuse. It is the abuse that occurs when an argument could be used abusively in later speeches such that it alters the opponent’s strategy IN THIS ROUND. That’s a ground loss, and that’s also “in-round” abuse.

            Your last question is answered by the division of interpretations and practices, which you tried to avoid earlier, and is clearly relevant.

          • Jeff Liu

            I am not confused about potential abuse. There are two ways that debaters commonly use the phrase “potential abuse.” The first way that debaters use the term is in the way you assume in your first paragraph — debaters can make an appeal to potential abuse when they claim that their opponent’s interpretation justifies other unfair practices that are not instantiated in this debate round. This is embodied in the familiar mantra “It’s not what you do, it’s what you justify!” Let’s call this the strong sense of potential abuse. The second way that debaters use the term is in the way that you describe in the second paragraph of your post. Call this the weak sense of potential abuse. I agree that in most instances when debaters appeal to the weak sense of potential abuse, what debaters typically describe as “potential abuse” is just actual abuse.

            Now, it might be the case that judges ought not vote on potential abuse (in the strong sense). But surely the reason you think that isn’t because the argument, just by its very nature, is defensive in character (I made this point in my earlier post as well). Instead, as you say in your post, the reason you think that judges should not vote on potential abuse (in the strong sense) is because it would involve voting on an argument that the opponent has disproven — the opponent has shown, by proving that there is only the potential for abuse, that the “the debate is completely fair.”

            Take the following case as an example:
            Debater A: The affirmative may not run plans. He violates because he reads a plan. Plans are unpredictable because…
            Debater B: My counter-interpretation is that the affirmative may run plans. Now go to his shell. He says plans are unpredictable — that may be true in general, but my plan isn’t unpredictable. So there’s no in-round abuse. You cannot vote on theory.
            Debater A: It’s not what you do, it’s what you justify. Since his counter-interpretation says the affirmative may run plans, even if he didn’t run an unfair plan in this debate, my interpretation is a better rule for debate because his counter-interpretation allows for potentially abusive plans that are not predictable. Potential abuse is a voter because…

            I can see why you might side with Debater B in this case, but surely it isn’t because Debater A’s interpretation isn’t offensive. Debater B can refute Debater A’s argument by denying that the potential for abuse (in the strong sense) is a voting issue, but refuting Debater A’s argument doesn’t deny that Debater A’s interpretation is offensive in character. An analogy to substance: suppose Debater A “nuclear proliferation leads to nuclear accidents” and Debater B responds by saying “nuclear accidents are impossible.” Would Debater B’s successful refutation of Debater A’s argument change the fundamental fact that Debater A’s argument is offensive and Debater B’s is defensive?

            I’ll address your last point in a separate post.

          • Bob Overing

            Yeah, it’s just a difference in naming. I won’t call the “it’s what you justify” approach “potential abuse” because I don’t think it’s abuse.

  • Bob Overing

    I voted for John and would like anyone who voted the other way to answer these 3 objections:

    1) T ground good. I have a hard time accepting any notion of theory that would mean Topicality is not a negative voter. On Yang’s view, if a definition in the aff doesn’t pertain to a practice of the aff but simply excludes neg ground, then the neg can’t run T. That strikes me as nonsense, and maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see a response.

    2) AFC is a practice. The nuance that Yang doesn’t respond to is the temporal element. He says under John’s view, 1AR “NIBs bad” is also a practice because it prevents the neg from reading NIBs, but that’s not true, because by the time the 1AR reads theory, the neg has already made the choice to read a NIB, so that strategy could not be altered. “NIBs bad” in the AC is a practice because it alters neg strategy. Similarly, AFC alters neg strategy.

    Yang would agree that “Plans Bad” is a voter for the neg, but under his view, I could just argue “Interpretation: X disads don’t link to the aff” and then I’m no longer susceptible to theory. As he concedes in the “may”/”must” discussion, the semantic distinction is not good grounds for a theoretical distinction.

    3) Yang’s “thesis” is wrong. The standards do justify the interp for an AFC bad shell. The main abuse on an AFC shell is that the practice in the aff is bad. The standards just qualify how bad, e.g. ground loss, and philosophy education are arguments for why that strategy skew is particularly harmful.

    • Adam Bistagne

      I still haven’t voted because I’m not sure on these issues, but I still have responses.

      1) I’ve always thought the issue with T is not that the aff has a definition they are using, but that they utilize the definition in the advocacy of the 1AC. Yang’s position still seems consistent with T ground for the neg, because the violation is the aff advocacy not the aff definition.

      2) I don’t think we want pre-emptive theory shells to be a practice that can be critiqued. “NIB’s bad” in the AC, while it may alter the neg strat, should not be a practice that the neg can read theory against. You seem to be saying that the neg can read theory against the practice of “NIBs bad” in the 1AC, which is unintuitive.

      I may agree with 3. I’ll wait for Yang or someone who agrees with his position to argue against the point.

      • Bob Overing

        Adam,

        Regarding 1) That’s why I said “if a definition in the aff doesn’t pertain to a practice of the aff but simply excludes neg ground,” i.e. it’s not a central part of the advocacy for the aff. You can imagine an aff that functions under two different definitions but picks one just to exclude some neg position. Still unfair.

        2) Yes, we do. That’s unfair. See: John’s argument about the aff that has an infinite number of unfair interps in the aff that are all no-risk. Unfair. (And to pre-empt “neg can do that now,” no, that’s not true because the aff already picked its position. The difference is that the aff doing it alters neg strategy uniquely.)

    • DanAlessandro

      1. T is different theory when determining legitimate ground because it appeals to a notion of jurisdiction that isn’t true on the theory debate. When the neg runs T, they aren’t saying the aff should lose because the aff read an unfair definition that skewed neg ground. Rather, they are saying that for purposes of fairness, a certain definition should be used in debate and because the aff doesn’t affirm under the legitimate interpretation of the resolution, they have not met their burden. The aff has a prima facie burden to be topical in order to win the round and the neg is saying a) we determine whether the aff is topical through my definition for theoretical definitions b) under my definition, they aren’t affirming the topic and thus haven’t met their burden.

      2. “The affirmative may not read AFC” is distinct from “The neg may read a framework”. The former is an offensive counter-interpretation/meta-theoretical claim and the latter is a true counter-interpretation. A true counter-interpretation makes a claim that certain ground is permissible, and an offensive counter-interp or meta-theoretical arg has warrants for why the denial of that ground is abusive, which is distinct from that ground being good. An interpretation that “The affirmative may not read AFC” requires arguments on the standards-level for why the aff reading AFC in the first place was abusive, rather than reasons AFC is a bad practice for debate. As Yang has said, these are the exact arguments that an RVI would make- something along the lines of “It’s unfair for him to make me spend time answering this argument”. It’s a claim that the initial act of running theory was unfair, irrespective of the substantive merits of the theory shell. An RVI says that the initial act of running theory was unfair. Here’s an example to make the distinction more clear- 1N reads plans bad and skep triggers bad. 1AR reads multiple theory shells bad. This 1AR is distinct from skep triggers good or plans good because rather than contesting the substantive merits of the theory shells, it says the practice of running theory in such a way is abusive. Counter-interps such as skep triggers good and plans good would require an RVI because they justify a practice that is being indicted, just like the neg saying they should be able to read a framework when the aff indicts the fairness of them doing so.

      RE: NIBs bad- I don’t see how this is distinct from AFC- both arguments make claims about negative ground. NIBs bad says the neg shouldn’t get NIBs and AFC says the neg shouldn’t get framework ground.

      RE: alteration of strategy- This is precisely the claim an RVI would make. You’re saying AFC is unfair because it alters negative strategy. An RVI says that it was abusive to run the theory argument in the first place, as I’ve explained above. As Yang states, any arguments for why the initial reading of AFC are unfair beg the question of an RVI, and phrasing the interp as “Aff must let neg contest framework” rather than “Neg may contest framework” is adding that unwarranted plank about the alteration of strategy rather than justifying it at the standards level.

      RE: Plans Bad- You bring up an interesting point about arguing an interpretation of “X disads don’t link to the aff”- but 1. As John said, proving one absurd example, doesn’t deny the validity of the general use of a practice (the logic example) and 2. The implication of this argument would be that you reject the disads, which is the same thing a counter-interp without an RVI of “aff may read a plan” would do.

      3. I think the example of a mult-shells bad argument in my response to the #2 point answers your argument here. There’s a distinction between claiming your opponent is running theory abusively, and arguing that the rule they advocate for is illegitimate.

      • John Scoggin

        1 – T is just an example but I think its legitimate to vote on T for fairness. If the example doesn’t help you it doesn’t help you.

        2 – I think that my arguments about the ‘order rule’ and accountability for theory arguments read in the 1AC are especially pertinent here.

        3 – I think that you are conceptualizing this incorrectly, the debater saying AFC bad is not decrying your use of theory, but the effect that the theoretical claim has on ground in the round. If you don’t think that ground loss is a reason to vote on theory then I don’t think we are going to agree here.

        • DanAlessandro

          2- I don’t think AFC being offensive relies on the order rule. Yang responds to this in the second paragraph of his second post. Also, AFC is offensive because it makes a claim that the neg may not make certain arguments. A counter-interp is what justifies a debater engaging in a certain practice and an interp says that a debater may not engage in a certain practice. In this instance, AFC says the neg may not make arguments that contest the affirmative framework, which is why it’s an offensive interpretation. Further, accountability for running theory arguments is what an RVI says, so I don’t see how that argument helps your case.

          3. I agree that ground loss is a reason to vote on theory when the ground loss results from a substantive argument. However, if an illegitimate ground loss due to somebody running theory on you is a voter, this justifies offensive counter-interpretations, which you and Yang have agreed are not voters.

          • John Scoggin

            You have it backward, ground loss from burdens level (or theoretical) arguments are reasons to vote on theory. If I just have a really good criterion (substantive argument) that makes a bunch of arguments irrelevant that isn’t a reason to vote on theory. Your view would justify the aff being able to sprinkle a million unfair burdens in the round and have zero accountability on those issues, that would be bad.

          • DanAlessandro

            I think we agree, but I was unclear in what I meant by theoretical arguments. I think a burdens level argument such as “aff must do these 5 things to win” is certainly unfair and that the judge should vote on NIBs bad theory against such a strategy. What I meant by “ground loss due to somebody running theory” is when somebody says something like “my opponent should lose for running NIBs bad against me because that takes away my NIBs ground” or “my opponent should lose for running AFC which took away my framework ground” (losses of ground due to theory arguments) which I don’t think is legitimate.

            By “substantive arguments” I meant non-theory arguments and was including necessary and insufficient burdens such as skep. I would consider a NIB such as skepticism to be a substantive argument even though it affects the burdens in the round. I didn’t mean for the implication of my post to be that “really good criterions” are unfair.

      • Bob Overing

        1) You might think that T is a jurisdictional issue, and sure, it might also be that, but there’s no reason why T arguments don’t/can’t impact to fairness and/or other voters.

        Yang’s definition would still be exclusive on your view because it would say that you can only question the judge’s jurisdiction to vote on a practice of the aff, and T is not a practice; it’s a theoretical interpretation.

        2) I’m going to try to make this more clear.

        You say:
        “An interpretation that “The affirmative may not read AFC” requires arguments on the standards-level for why the aff reading AFC in the first place was abusive, rather than reasons AFC is a bad practice for debate.”

        My 3) answers this because I argue that the standards for an AFC shell justify why READING AFC IN THE FIRST PLACE is a particularly bad strategy skew. Everyone concedes that AFC harms negative strategy. Arguments why neg framework is good are reasons why that strategy skew is really bad – you can think of them as weighing arguments against the aff claim that reading AFC is good for strategy.

        You say:
        “these are the exact arguments that an RVI would make”

        My 2) answers this because an RVI comes after the initial strategy choice was made. When you read an RVI in the 2N, you can’t say that the theory shell skewed your strategy because you already chose to read a NIB in the NC. However, a theory shell in the AC skews the 1N’s strategy because (s)he has not yet chosen to read a NIB, to read theory, to read both, or to read neither.

        RE: Plans bad. I’m not sure why this example would be insufficient. I can provide a multitude more if you’d like. Yes, clearly winning plans good from the AC is not a reason to vote aff. The difference, however, is under our view, the neg can read “plans bad” and win, and on Yang’s view, the neg can’t. That makes no sense and is far more counter-intuitive than anything we’ve argued.

  • John Scoggin

    Yang and I had a lot of fun doing this, I hope that if you have ideas or comments on the back and forth you share your opinion below and we will do our best to engage as many posts as we can!