Tuesday, October 18, 2011

LD - Kritiking the 2011 Nov/Dec Resolution - part 1 Theory

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The Kritik / Theory of Resolved : Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need - part 1

Affirmative Theory Arguments

An interesting case could probably be made the November/December 2011 Lincoln-Douglas debate resolution is not debatable for the affirmative. The implications for this are remarkable in that it leaves open the possibility of a theory argument which is aimed toward the assumptions built into the resolution as to the way it is worded.  I personally have never seen a kritik originate in the affirmative but theory arguments possibly could.  Typically a kritik is a negative argument (although it need not always be so) aimed toward the resolution or some characteristic of the affirmative constructive which questions the assumptions and points of view enjoined by the affirmative or inherent in the resolution. Theory and kritiks raise issues which demand answers before the debate can be continued and there is much to be critical of when looking at this resolution.  I will discuss specific kritiks which can be applied to this resolution in part 2 of this discussion.

I think at the outset, I should note NFL rules specifically forbid debates aimed specifically at the resolution and its suitability for debate.  However, each district takes its own approach to the NFL guidelines and toleration of certain kinds of arguments varies from locale to locale.  Having made that disclaimer, let’s examine some of the specific problems with the resolution.

The word, individuals is not qualified in any way. Since an individual is a single member of a group we are forced to assume the implied group is a set of human beings as opposed to a set of assistance animals such as seeing-eye dogs.  We make that assumption based on a prior assumption that only humans are capable of moral acts.  However, the assumption that only humans are moral-agents is disputed and controversial.  One need only look at the previous LD topic as an example.

Secondly, looking at the use of the word “individuals” in the resolution, one must assume, logically, the implied modifier is ALL individuals. That of course leads to the assumption, AFF has the burden to prove that all (assumed human) individuals have the moral obligation to aid the needy.  In principle, NEG need only show there is one individual who is not under the obligation in order to win, such as the needy person herself.  There can be no fairness is such a burden.

Moral / Moral Obligation
The discussion of what is moral has burdened philosophers for centuries and continues to this day.  The definition of moral is all important in this resolution and how moral actions are evaluated tends to lock the affirmative into one of a small collection of frameworks which are easily attacked by the negative.  It can be argued this is typical of many resolutions in LD and so it would be difficult to assert there is something patently unfair.  Nevertheless, in looking at the generally accepted definitions of morality as a determination of the rightness or wrongness of an action, it now becomes potentially problematic because there is no ground to limit what constitutes “rightness”. And if it can be shown under some set of evaluation criteria, that one is morally bound to perform an action, what are the conditions and bounds which limit the obligation?  The resolution does not specify any boundary conditions.  This means that at a given time, in a given place, under a given set of circumstances, one is morally bound to perform an action. But potentially, in a different time, place or circumstance, the moral duty is nullified.  So we can see, without boundary conditions negative need only show that a moral duty is inconsistent under another set of circumstances to win.  For example, what if, by giving aid, it hurts or endangers me or if I give to one, must I give to two, or three, or a million people?

People in Need
Once again affirmative must very carefully choose a definition for need. Need may or may not be synonymous with desire. In fact a need may be a very specific kind of desire even if one does not always desire what one needs nor need what one desires.  Need is not always directly related to the state of poverty (which itself is very time/place dependent).  Once again, the idea of need is not limited to time or place.  So, affirmative is under a very strong burden to universalize the meaning of need in order to avoid defeat by a single circumstance which changes the definition of need.

It is possible, I suppose, to make the assumption that one has a moral obligation to aid the needy any time or place they are in need and if the time or place changes and one is no longer in need, it does not change the principle that when need does exist the obligation to relieve it is present.  Need itself is a very subjective and vague concept apart from its dependencies.  Failure to establish a workable definition will make the affirmative burden just as vague and consequently difficult to debate.

One could make a very valid argument the resolution is impossible to affirm given the basic problems mentioned in the foregoing remarks.  Perhaps the affirmative, in some districts could create a winnable theory argument which addresses the fairness of assumptions.  I find the possibilities so compelling I may work out such a case just to study the plausibility.

For specific kritiks, see part 2 of this discussion.

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