Wednesday, July 25, 2012

CWIL - Breaking Links - Part 1

A Better Flow
I wish there was a better way to flow debates.  Not so much for judges, rather for competitors.  An ideal flow, in my mind would allow the debater to quickly identify the components of the debate arguments being used by the opponents.  The debater would be able to identify the claims, warrants, impacts and links; the CWIL.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Please review part 1 and part 2).  Not only would this be useful in understanding how to attack the opponent's claim, it would be useful in understanding the logical structure of the opponent's case or lack of logic as the case may be.  The problem is, it is not easy to flow a case while doing the deeper analysis of what is the warrant, link, impact, claim because often the opponent is pouring through the case like there are only a few minutes in which to make points.  Oh wait...there is.

Actually, in policy debate, it may be slightly easier mainly because of the way the cases are structured and even though the opponent reads the case at 180 words per minute or faster, one has the opportunity to look at the cards and in general, the typical case structure identifies the claims, impacts and links and of course the cards themselves are the evidence supporting the warrants.  In traditional LD or PF, cases are far from being consistently structured and typically links and such are not necessarily identified as such.  Nevertheless, I really believe there are benefits to be gained if the debaters can train themselves to automatically discern the components of the arguments being made.

The All Important Links
Links are one of the most important parts of the case structure and often the most overlooked (Impacts are the most important part of the case argumentation).  Typically the claims are fairly evident and the warrants and evidence which support the claims are exposed to examination and the impacts; that is the advantages and disadvantages are enumerated plainly and forcefully.  Its those darn links that seem to fly under the radar and yet, without links, the case could potentially collapse like a house of cards.  I bet right now, experienced policy debaters are snickering.  They know all about links.  The word "link" is embedded in their vernacular.  They literally have cards in their case files labelled "link".  Advantages have links, disads have links, kritiks have links.  Links are everywhere.  But I think policy debaters can still benefit from this because I am going to talk about links which are not so obvious and yet still crucial to holding a case together. I want to talk about links that are not labelled on the header of cards.

So let me say from the outset, my terminology in keeping with my debate theories may not be exactly what you are used to hearing.  I may call something a link and you may not know that it is a link. I may say link and you may use another term so I will try to be as clear and consistent as possible so as to reduce the opportunity for confusion.  Once again, I will mention three kinds of links, only one of which is most familiar to policy debaters.

  1.  Impact Links - those which connect advantages and disadvantages (or other kinds of negative arguments) to claims. In policy these are well known and usually link to the plan or counter-plan.
  2.  Warrant Links - these are typically logical links which connect the warrant to the claim and are often unknown to policy debaters or they do not realize they are links.
  3.  The Implicit Link in policy disadvantage scenarios, which I exposed in the essay on Uniqueness in Disadvantages.  We will not specifically talk about these here because they are really another kind of impact link.

Breaking Impact Links
Policy debaters are typically taught about link turns and impact turns when facing advantage or disadvantage scenarios.  There are specific ways to turn impacts which basically means one wants to prove the claimed impact will not occur or will be mitigated, diminished or pushed out into the distant future. We don't want to explore those kinds of arguments here.  Instead will discuss what is commonly called the link turn in policy debate.  A link turn is a way of breaking the relationship between the claim / plan / cause and the impact / disadvantage / effect. It does not so much address the effect as it does the cause and for me, at least, keeping to idea of a cause-effect relationship is an easy way to try to understand how to break the link.

Causality is a very interesting study because debaters are making claims that certain events arise uniquely due to a preceding event and whether or not it is true is really not what we must concern ourselves with.  We are concerned about the perception of causality.  In other words, we want the judge to believe that some event arises uniquely from a preceding event.  If the judge believes it, we can win the case.  If the opponent can somehow disconnect the relationship between the two events, we could lose the case.  Again, debate does not try to discover absolute or categorical truth.  We try to establish a relative truth within the mind of the judge which is presumably open to such influence guided by the persuasive skill of the debaters. As a general principle, therefore, we can realize that certain requirements should be in place before there is a degree of certainty the judge will perceive causality.  Generally speaking:

  1.  The cause and effect should have proximity in time and space.  If the gap in time becomes too great between cause and effect or if the distance between the locations of the cause and effect is too great, the judge may not perceive the link.
  2.  The cause must precede the effect in time.  I think that one is obvious.
  3.  The effect must uniquely arise from the cause.  If there are other possible causes for the effect, it diminishes the strength of the connection in the judge's mind.
  4.  The cause must always produce the same effect.  For example, if economic collapse causes war it better always cause war otherwise, a few examples of when it didn't diminishes the strength of the link in the judge's mind.

There are other relations we can identify but these are the principle ones which are simple to deal with and provide plenty of opportunity for exploitation.

The first relationship is a spatial relation and is not given much thought by debaters and the fact that it is not given much thought is a signal you should think about it if want to find ways to reduce the impact of an opponent's case.  For example, a claim that some event in the U.S. affects the quality of life in central Asia better have a very good link to explain how that causation bridges the 1000s of miles to a rural village in Asia and if it's not clear, exploit it so as to blur the judge's perception of causality.

An Answer to the Question: What Is Uniqueness?
The next three relations are all some form of what is commonly called uniqueness and attempt to establish a one-to-one relationship between the cause and event (although a true one-to-one relation is not easy to establish, if the judge sees uniqueness, the job is done).  What we establish above, are three distinct ways a debater can attack the uniqueness of a cause-effect.  Obviously, if the effect already exists prior to the passage of the plan or the establishment of the claim, the cause is non-unique. This violates the second relation.  If there are alternative causes for an event, though you may not of thought of it as such, the particular plan or claim is non-unique. And finally if it can be shown the that sometimes the effect does not arise from the cause, the causation is empirically denied, which is really one more way of saying it is non-unique.

By keeping the above four relations in mind, there are four possible ways to turn the link and thus break the causality in the mind of the judge.

In part 2 we will explore the concept of Warrant Links, show their relationship to the premises of a syllogism and realize additional opportunities to break case links.

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