On Why Debaters Should Make Deductive Arguments Analytically

Terrence Lonam

As many people know, most of the cases I ran my senior year were largely or entirely analytic in nature, i.e. I didn’t really use cards. I think that, although I’m obviously biased, this is a trend that should spread throughout the debate community, at least at the framework level.

I acknowledge that there are some arguments that debaters are just simply not qualified to talk about, i.e. our current foreign policy with respect to Syria and the likely effects that intervention could have in the Middle East. The reason that we aren’t qualified to talk about these sorts of arguments is that their warrants don’t come from a process of deductive reasoning but from the qualifications and expertise of the author. However, any argument that is deductively justified can be made and defended by anyone because the whole notion of a deductive argument is that its conclusions should follow from its premises by the rules of logic, not some transcendental authority.

I believe that choosing to make deductive arguments analytically allows debaters freedoms that carding these arguments simply doesn’t for two reasons:

First, debaters are able to make dense arguments clearer by using language that flows well for them and by manipulating the warrants of these arguments so as to make them more debate functional.

When philosophers write their arguments, they don’t do so thinking they are going to be dissected down to paragraph long chunks spread at 300 words a minutes. The entire notion of reading a lined-down card as opposed to reading a full quote speaks to this; debaters feel strategically obligated to twist and manipulate the evidence (hopefully just the wording, not the meaning) they are reading down to the smallest and most concise chunks possible instead of reading the entirety of what an author originally wrote. Writing arguments analytically allows debaters to use words and phrases and jargon that make their arguments more intelligible to their judges and opponents, which can make arguments that are presented through the use of metaphor or complicated rhetorical strategies more palatable and accessible.

The strategic value in writing arguments in this way is obvious. Judges generally try not to vote on arguments they don’t understand and so any debater must always be trying to make their point more clearly to the judge. Failures here are obvious, take K debate: nearly every paradigm has at least a sentence devoted to explaining how debaters need to be really clear when reading continental literature, mine included. Debaters can avoid this hurdle by synthesizing these arguments in clearer and more conventional language. Additionally, analytic arguments are generally much shorter and so debaters who can effectively write analytics will be able to better explain and develop their arguments, making analytics an obvious strategic choice.

Second, writing arguments analytically allows debaters to synthesize arguments from various philosophical doctrines in a natural progression without being forced to waste time reading a card to explain each point, i.e. I used largely continental arguments about how our identity is defined in terms of the “other” as warrants for why we need a state that provides for equal freedom and independence in much the same way that Arthur Ripstein does. I think this is largely the most valuable skill I learned as debater; I was forced to do rigorous research, and find parallels between different philosophies that would allow me to present the best possible versions of my arguments possible. This is the same sort of skill that any good framework debater has to develop in round, i.e. how am I going to defend my Kantian framework against the challenges of emotivism or contractarianism or empiricism, but gives debaters the freedom to more constructively and adequately think through the various parallels by giving them the time to make these arguments outside of the 45 minutes of a debate round.

Additionally, even if coaches and students choose not to read analytics in round, writing arguments out analytically is one the best tests of true understanding. It’s easy to not think about the nuances of every step of every argument as you are carding an article, but writing out analytics doesn’t afford that same comfort. In order to write a cogent and effective analytic, debaters have to be able to think about the logical flow of their argument and find the best way to present it in order for it to make sense at all. This is a great tool for helping to teach debaters to find the missing holes in arguments (i.e. if you can’t figure out how to write the warrant for a card analytically, chances are there isn’t a warrant there in the first place). This skill translates no t only into better and more developed cases, but into the ability for debaters to quickly pick up on the logical connection between arguments so that they can better compare between arguments, a skill that can often make or break rounds.

As a final note, many people who saw me debate with largely analytic positions last year claimed that this strategy was academically dishonest because it appropriated an authors argument as my own, but I don’t think that this was the case. Running an argument in a debate round does not claim to represent that argument as yours in the way in the way that turning it in for a paper does. When students turn in papers or represent arguments as theirs, they claim that they originate some idea and so have some sort of creative license. It seems nonsensical to apply that same level of ownership to a debate case because debaters don’t generally claim to be the origin of any of their arguments, this seems to be the reason we don’t need to read cites for our fairness voters and logical truisms.

Special thanks to Bryan Wilder for his advice and general badassery.