Tuesday, October 18, 2011

LD - Kritiking the 2011 Nov/Dec Resolution - part 2 Kritiks

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The Kritik / Theory of Resolved : Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need - part 2

Adapting Kritiks
Most kritiks used in LD debate have their roots in policy debate and were optimized for that genre of debate.  In Lincoln-Douglas, many debaters have simply carried these arguments complete with their policy-disad-like structure directly into LD.  The basic shell, of a kritik has been adopted but I am a firm believer there is a decided advantage to be realized if a debater (or a team) is willing to adapt the kritik to a specific resolution or class of resolutions.  In fact, very rarely can one jump over to the policy debate world, pull out a kritik, and run in Lincoln-Douglas.

Kritiks Centered on the Individual
Anthropocentrism Type Kritiks
As I pointed out in part 1 of this series, the resolution is very non-specific about who the "individuals" in the resolution are and from what group they belong.  Affirmatives that run a case specifying humans as the moral-agents are making an assumption about who the "individuals" must be.  This "human-centered" assumption is anthropocentric.  The anthropocentrism kritiks attack the assumption that humans need to be the "center" of the debate universe and thus question the underlying assumptions of affirmative.  It is not difficult to find cards which state that anthropocentrism is bad and has negative impacts on the human attitudes in dealing with the environment and other living creatures. The key to making this kritik work is the link. In my opinion, the link must attack the assumptions that only humans can provide assistance for people in need and must cover the assumption that only humans are capable of carrying out moral acts or be bound by moral obligation.  Is it possible to provide such links to an anthropocentrism bad argument? In my experience, it is possible to find evidence which says about anything one desires.

A related argument is the Ontological Kritik which questions our relationship with nature. Many of these are based on the work of Vogel and are usually directed toward human efforts to fix the environment so making links will be much more challenging. My suggestion would be, look to the work of Gideon Calder. He published a paper called, "Ethics and Social Ontology" in 2008 which may provide a satisfactory basis for the Ontological Kritik specifically directed toward this resolution.

Kritiks Centered on the Obligation
Coercion Type Kritiks
Obligations can be viewed as social pressures which restrict our freedoms or natural rights. We are coerced into fulfilling duties which are often placed upon us by the expectations of societies, cultures and religions and so the Coercion type kritiks address these issues.  The link should address the idea that moral obligations (or any kind of obligations) restrict the choices or people or limits their freedoms through various coercive mechanisms.  If the implication addresses the idea that such coercion is immoral the clash with the resolution and affirmative case is apparent.  Impact cards can usually be cut from policy debate coercion kritiks using authors such as Ernest Hemingway or David Hume which establish freedom as a supreme value that must be defended vigorously.

Kritiks Centered on the Exploitation of the Needy
Biopower and Exploitation Type Kritiks
On a certain level, it can easily be argued that people in need are in some way weaker than those who assist them and the benefactor exercises a measure of power over the beneficiary by inducing a return obligation, feelings of guilt or shame, and the knowledge of forever knowing he was aided by the benefactor.  There are many kritiks which can be used to attack the strong-weak relationship created in assisting the needy.  The Gift Kritik, for example was a policy debate kritik typically run against affirmatives advocating legislation which provides aid to foreign countries. While not directly linking to the current LD resolution, the underlying work of Arrigo and Williams entitled, "The (Im)Possibility of Democratic Justice and the "Gift" of the Majority" should be examined.  The paper addresses legislated equal rights for minorities, but it is rich with cards which illustrate the power of the benefactor over the beneficiary, labeling it "narcissistic hegemony". 

The Heidegger Kritik is another possibility but somewhat remote. Most of the Heidegger kritiks deal with some aspect of modern society, usually the technical, industrialized aspect and shows how it exploits the world around us.  Much of the premise of Heidegger can be retained if the link can be made that individuals under moral obligation are in such a position because of their technical, industrialized, modern society. Otherwise, I think one would need to discard many of the policy debate-type links in the Heidegger shells in favor of analytical links.

The Nietzsche Kritik tackles institutional biopower which, like Heidegger, will require substantial work to link to this resolution and expected affirmative cases.  Lovers of Nietzsche kritiks, however, are probably already aware Nietzsche wrote "On The Genealogy of Morals". His treatises on Good/Bad and Guilt/Bad Conscience are well suited to this resolution.

Kritiks in Lincoln-Douglas debate are controversial in many districts and in some cases may be a sure path to defeat if one is read during a round. Nevertheless, their impact on debate in general has been seen to be positive in some regards.  While I think some debaters see kritiks, with their often convoluted and complicated reasoning as a way to tally wins against less prepared opponents, I think a well-reasoned kritik with clear implications can be evaluated by most judges. Its really a matter of preference, whether they choose to allow the kritik.  Others have pointed out, and I agree, that many of the points presented in the kritik can be presented equally as well in a conventional case structure, argued within a traditional value/criterion framework.  The ideas presented in this series are starting points for the adventurous.

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