Karl Popper - Debating

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Speaker Responsibilities: How to Follow and Evaluate Them?

      Designed to promote teamwork, the three-on-three style of the Karl Popper Debate, encourages debaters to work together both before and during their debates. While individual excellence is not to be discouraged, success in debate should be measured based on how well a team works together. In making your decision, you should consider the quality of the team as a whole. At the same time, each member of the team does have certain unique responsibilities.

Affirmative Constructive

      The First Affirmative Speaker should present the whole of the affirmative case. All the arguments that the affirmative team would like to make in support of their side of the resolution are to be offered in this speech. Since no new constructive arguments are permitted in the first and second affirmative rebuttals, it is imperative that the First Affirmative present the affirmative case in its entirety.

      Because it is the First Affirmatives responsibility to set the parameters for the debate, it is customary for this speaker to offer definitions of the terms of the resolutions. You should probably note these definitions down on your flow paper. Keep in mind that while a definition from a credible source is often useful, the definition that the affirmative offers need not come from a dictionary. The definitions that the affirmative offers must be fair. That means they ought to be relatively unbiased, generally conform to the ordinary meaning of the words, and be sensitive to the spirit of the resolution. For instance, suppose the teams debating the resolution that “euthanasia is justified”, the affirmative should not be defining the word euthanasia in such a way that the negative would be asked to argue against a farmer putting to death an old and sickly livestock. For this resolution to be debatable, it must be assumed that the resolution is asking about the mercy killing of humans and not some flea bitten old cow suffering from mad cow disease. Even though a farmer putting a lunatic cow out of its misery is euthanasia, the resolution clearly was not designed to encourage students to debate whether insane cows ought to be put to a merciful death.

      If the affirmative team offers definitions that you feel are unreasonable and unfair, you should note this on your ballot but keep in mind when making your decision that it’s negative job to challenge affirmatives definitions and to offer new ones. Unless the negative team challenges them, the definitions offered by the first affirmative speaker should be accepted by you when making your decision. When negative challenges the affirmatives definitions, then the definitions will become a debatable issue in the round. In those instances, it is worth keeping in mind that it is the reasonableness and not the source of the definition that determines it suitability for the debate. Given that some words and phrases take on a more specific meaning when presented in the form of sentence, it will often happen that a definition drawn from a dictionary or encyclopedia will prove less reasonable than one that a team prepares itself.

      In a Karl Popper Debate, the affirmative team might be said to have a “right of definition”. This means that if the affirmative team offers fair and reasonable definitions, that these are the definitions that ought to be used by both sides in the round. What this implies is that the negative team, if it wishes to introduce new definitions into the round, has the burden of proving the affirmatives definitions to be unfair or unreasonable.

      The affirmative may also offer a “criterion” for the round. The criterion should be noted on your flow as it may become the subject of debate. As you will soon discover, the criterion can be many things. Some affirmatives will offer you a measure against which you ought to judge the round. For instance, a team may offer that you decide who won the round by determining which team best promotes equality. In these cases, unless negative were to challenge the criterion, you ought to accept it. In those cases where the negative team challenges the affirmatives criterion, it will be up to you to decide whether the negatives arguments against the criterion make sense. For instance, negative may challenge the ideal of promoting equality and argue instead that the side that wins ought to be the side that best promotes individual liberties. At this point, it will be up to you to decide which team has best defended the criterion they have offered. Sometimes the teams may agree on the ultimate goal to be achieved, but not on the best means of achieving it. For instance, affirmative may propose that the side which wins be the side who best upholds democracy and claim that the best indication of the health of democracy is to measure the number of people who vote in a given election. Negative may rightly challenge this criterion by arguing that while democracy is noble ideal, it means more than just casting a vote. Instead, negative may offer that the health of a democracy be measured by considering the protection of minority rights and interests. If the teams disagree on the criterion for a round, it will be up to you to decide which of the two teams have offered a more reasonable criterion for the round.

      After presenting the affirmatives definition and criterion, the First Affirmative will usually present the various arguments that the affirmative team wishes to offer in defense of the resolution. You should note each argument on your flow paper. The quantity and quality of the arguments presented will vary, but in the end the First Speaker’s main responsibility is to present you with sufficient reason to accept the resolution as true pending negatives attempt to show why it is not. At the same time, it is affirmatives responsibility in constructing their case to insure that they leave room for debate. Consider, once again, our poor demented cow. In arguing in support of the resolution “euthanasia is justified”, it is important the affirmative offer arguments that prove more than that one sick cow ought to be put to death. The affirmatives responsibility is to show us why we ought to affirm the resolution in its entirety, not just some small part of it. That a single act of euthanasia may be justified does not prove that euthanasia is on balance justified. It is crucial that the affirmative team accepts the burden of attempting to defend a controversial position. However, while the affirmative team must interpret and support a position that is truly debatable, it is up to the negative to challenge an interpretation of the resolution that they find to be unworkable. For instance, suppose a negative team decided to argue that rather than emphasize lunatic old cows that, instead, that society should instead let lunatic cows live for the sake of entertaining those who find the exploits of insane cows amusing. While you would want write on the ballot your why affirmatives interpretation of the resolution was skewed and question the negatives strategy, in the end the winning team would be the team who in your opinion best decided the fate of our sick cow.

      One last thing to keep in mind is that because the First Affirmative begins the round, the First  Speaker will often rely more on notes and previously prepared material than the other speakers in the round. Because the Karl Popper Debate program is committed to promoting critical and independent thinking, it is expected that the material presented by the debaters be prepared the debaters working together as a team. It is the debaters and not the coaches who ought to have prepared the arguments for the round. As a judge, if you suspect that the First Affirmative is not familiar with the ideas and arguments offered, you should not that on the ballot. However, even if you suspect that a team is working with material prepared by others, you should refrain from penalizing the debaters. Debaters usually struggle to defend cases they have not prepared themselves and often fail in rebuttal to adequately rebuild their cases. Also, teams often work together with other members of their club and, for that reason, teams from the same club may have similar cases. Since the program encourages cooperation among club members, teams who may present similar cases should not be penalized.

First Negative Cross: Examination

      After the First Affirmative has presented the affirmative constructive, the Third Negative speaker gets to ask questions for three minutes. The Negative team may want to take some of their preparation time before asking questions. It is perfectly acceptable and even expected that the team members will speak with one another and exchange ideas.

     The line of questioning that the negative may wish to pursue is entirely up to them. The only requirement is that respect be shown for the First Affirmative. The Third Negative should not ask questions in a belligerent manner or ask obviously inappropriate questions.

     The Negative should not prevent the Affirmative from fully answering the question being asked. For instance, the Negative may not insist that the affirmative only respond with “yes” or “no” to a question. At the same time, affirmative should not try to waste the negatives Cross-examination time by giving unnecessarily long answers to relatively simple questions. The Affirmative should try to the best of her ability to answer the questions asked clearly and precisely. You should count it against the affirmative team if the First Affirmative debater refuses to answer what you believe are perfectly reasonable questions.

      The questions asked in the Cross-examination generally have one of three different purposes. First, the questions may just be meant to help clarify for the negative what exactly the affirmative is saying. For instance, the negative may ask the affirmative to clarify an argument that the negative team had trouble understanding. The negative may also ask the affirmative to repeat a definition or an argument. Second, the negative may attempt to ask question which will help the negative team refute the affirmatives case. Finally, the negative may ask questions which are designed to help lay the foundations for negatives own case.

      Because the negative may choose to use their Cross-examination time to set up their case, the questions that the Negative asks need not be limited to the Affirmative case. For instance, the Negative may wish to present a hypothetical situation and ask the Affirmative what they believe ought to done in that situation.

     In general, teams should be held accountable for the concessions they make under Cross-examination. That is, if negative pursue a line of questioning that reveals a weakness in the affirmatives case and the First Affirmative answers in a way that hurts their positions, you ought to count this against the affirmative when making your decision. At the same time, it the opposing teams responsibility to capitalize on the questions answers they get in cross. If the First Negative does not bring up the issues discussed in Cross-examination, they should not weigh too heavily in your decision.

      Normally, you will not flow the Cross-examination since it is the cross examining team’s responsibility to explain the importance of concessions made by their opposition during the speech that follows the Cross-examination. You may, however, want to take notes of important points raised in the Cross-examination.

      After the Cross-examination is complete, the negative team is free to use more of their preparation time if they so choose. Don’t forget to keep a running total of the time that the team has used.

Negative Constructive

      Like the First Affirmative, the First Negative should present the whole of the negative case. However, besides offering all the arguments that the negative wants to make against the resolution, the First Negative must also offer the all the arguments that the negative team would like to make against the affirmatives case. Since no new constructive arguments are permitted in rebuttals, it is imperative that the First Negative present both the negatives case against the resolution as well as address all of the affirmatives arguments in favor of the resolution. After the First Negative, the entire negative strategy should have been made clear to both you and the affirmative.

      It is the responsibility of the negative to argue with the affirmative team. A debate would be a rather dull affair if no one disagreed with anyone. In a Karl Popper Debate, the burden of establishing clash rests with the negative team. As mentioned above, the responsibility of the affirmative team is to take a controversial position and defend it. It is negatives obligation to dispute the affirmatives position. The negative must attempt to refute the affirmative case. Now, this does not mean that the negative must challenge each and every argument that the affirmative has offered. In fact, there may be some instances where this is impossible. For instance, in a case where the negative feels that the affirmative has offered unfair definitions and based their whole case on those definitions, all negative really can do is argue against the affirmatives definitions. What the negative would have to point out, in this case, is how the affirmative case rested on this definition and how those definitions were unworkable or unfair. Needless to say, these can be very boring debates since there may end up being very little for you to do other than to act as a dictionary. However, what you need to keep in mind in judging the negative team is that while it must negate the resolution, it must do so, in part, by refuting the affirmative case. In deciding which team wins the round, one thing you will need to determine is whether the negative has, in fact, adequately accepted this burden of refutation.

      In a Karl Popper Debate, negative must show why the resolution should be rejected. To do this, the negative should refute the affirmative case in support of the resolution and offer arguments against the resolution. Sometimes the arguments negative offers against the affirmative case will be the same as those that it offers against the resolution itself; sometimes the negative will offer arguments against the resolution independent of the arguments offered in response to the affirmative case. It is important to keep in mind that, logically, there is no reason to assume that just because the negative team has refuted the affirmatives case that it has necessarily negated the resolution. Of course, more often than not, if negative successfully refutes each of the affirmatives argument, it will prove the better team in the round. However, there is no reason to presume that just because the affirmative has not convinced you to affirm the resolution that you must necessarily negate it. It is for this reason, that you should expect the First Negative to offer a set of arguments designed to explain to you why, regardless of what the affirmative may have said, the resolution ought to be negated.

      The negative, if it wishes to challenge the affirmatives definitions or criterion ought to do so at the beginning of the First Negative Constructive. If the First Negative does not challenge them at all, they are to be taken as given for the remainder of the round. It is also important that the First Negative introduce into the round whatever information the negative feels to have been important from the First Negative Cross-examination.

      The negative is not obligated to refute each and every argument that the affirmative presents in the Affirmative Constructive. The negatives responsibility is to refute the affirmative case as a whole, not each and every individual point that the affirmative makes. There may be times when the negative may choose to concede some part of the affirmatives case or to question its relevance. The affirmative may prefer not to waste its time attempting to argue against the affirmative on some given point and instead concede. However, once an argument has been conceded or ignored by the First Negative, neither the Second nor Third Negative may then go back and argue against it. The time for negative to decide its strategy is before the First Negative offers the Negative Constructive. If negative chooses either to concede or ignore an argument, it should be accepted as true for the remainder of the round.

     The affirmative team may choose to take some preparation time before the first affirmative cross examination in order to decide on their best course of action.

First Affirmative Cross: Examination

     There is not much of a difference between this cross-examination and the first negative cross-examination. Since after the negative constructive the affirmative should be aware of negatives strategy for refuting the affirmative case, the Third Affirmative may pose questions designed to help reestablish the affirmative case.

      Once again, it is important that the cross-examination be conducted in a civil manner. It is easy for debaters, in the heat of dispute, to forget that they must show respect for their opponents. It is your job to remind them of this fact if they forget.

First Affirmative Rebuttal

     This may be the most difficult speech in the round. The Second Affirmative must not only reestablish the affirmatives case but also offer all of the affirmatives refutations of the negatives case. It is important the the Second Affirmative try to extend the logic of the affirmative case and not to contradict it. You should not, when listening to the Second Affirmative, be wondering if the Second Affirmative had ever made the acquaintance of the First Affirmative. While it is reasonable for the Second Affirmative to try to shift the focus of the round away from some arguments in the round, the Second Affirmative cannot start the round anew. No new constructive arguments are allowed in rebuttal and the Second Affirmative ought not contradict the arguments made by the First Affirmative. Once again, you should keep in mind at all times that you are judging a team of debaters and not three individual speakers.

     The Second Affirmative should address each argument the First Negative made in the negative constructive and attempt to reestablish the affirmative case. Not only should the Second Affirmative address each of the arguments in the negative case, the Second Affirmative should also address each of the arguments that the negative has offered in response to the affirmative case. If the Second Affirmative does not respond to an argument in this speech, these arguments are effectively conceded to the negative team.

     As mentioned above, the Second Affirmative may not offer new constructive arguments. You should consider a new constructive argument any argument not introduced in the affirmative constructive and not made directly in response to an argument presented in the negative constructive. If you feel that one of the Second Affirmatives arguments is a new one, you should not note it on your flow or consider it when making your decision. You should also note on your ballot that you discounted the argument because you believed it to be a new argument. Since by offering a new argument the Second Affirmative wasted precious time, there is no need to further penalize the affirmative team any further than this.

     While the Second Affirmative may not offer any new constructive arguments, the Second Affirmative may offer new evidence, examples, analogies or narratives. That is, the Second Affirmative may attempt to better illuminate and support the arguments already introduced into the round by the First Affirmative.

     Because so much needs to be done in the first affirmative rebuttal, the Second Affirmative may rush. However, it is the speaker’s responsibility not to speak more quickly than you can listen. While you should make every reasonable attempt to follow the speakers, it is important that the debaters keep in mind the need not to leave their audience behind.

      Along the same lines, it is important that points made in the First Affirmative rebuttal are not  presented in such an abbreviated fashion that the negative not have any reasonable ability to respond to them. That is, the Second Affirmative cannot just mention a point in passing with the expectation that the Third Negative will explain the point so that it makes sense. It is not fair for the Second Affirmative to try to introduce a point into the round in the first affirmative rebuttal simply so that the Third Affirmative can develop it to the affirmatives advantage in the second affirmative rebuttal. The Second Negative should have the ability to address all the key arguments in the round.

      Like the First Negative, the Second Affirmative need not attempt to refute every argument that the negative team has offered. Similarly, there may be arguments in the affirmative case that the Second Affirmative may be deciding to abandon. For instance, the affirmative may have offered an argument in the affirmative constructive that the negative successfully refutes in the negative constructive. The affirmative team may recognize that attempting to rebuild this point is an exercise in futility and simply admit the error of their ways. What they might try to do, instead, is shift the focus of the debate away from the arguments they have lost. What they will try to show is that even though they may have lost this one argument, that you should still vote affirmative because their other, stronger, arguments are sufficient to justify you siding with them.

      While it is the Second Affirmatives responsibility to address each issue on the flow, by the end of the first affirmative rebuttal you should already be able to identify the key issues in the round. In choosing which points to emphasize and which points to spend less time, the Second Affirmative implicitly begins a process of narrowing the debate. As this rebuttal draws to a close, the speaker may even decide to offer a conclusion that more explicitly identifies the key issues in the round. since it is the quality and not the quantity of arguments that in the end should determine the winner of the debate, the Second Affirmative should try to make clear to you those issues on the flow which you should give the most weight to.

Second Negative Cross: Examination

      There is no difference between this cross-examination and those that preceded it.

First Negative Rebuttal

      The Second Negative should, like the Second Affirmative, address each and every issue on the flow. Once again, however, addressing every argument does not have to mean refuting every argument. It is perfectly reasonable for the Second Negative to decide that an argument offered by the First Negative is no longer relevant and concede it to the affirmative team. Of course, once an argument is conceded by the Second Negative, this is done once and for all.

      Because the First Negative had the opportunity to refute the affirmative case, the Second Negative may not introduce any new arguments in the first affirmative rebuttal. Where the Second Affirmative is the first member of the Affirmative team can offer new rebuttal arguments in the first affirmative rebuttal, the Second Negative may not offer any new arguments whatsoever. Instead, the Second Negative should address each point on the flow and extend the arguments presented in the negative constructive. Like the Second Affirmative, the Second Affirmative may offer new evidence, examples, analogies or narratives.

      Other than this, there is no difference between the responsibilities of the Second Speakers on both sides of the resolution.

Second Affirmative Cross: Examination

      There is no difference between this cross-examination and those that preceded it.

Second Affirmative Rebuttal

      The goal of the Third Speaker is to guide you in your decision making process. Unlike the Second Affirmative, who wants to address each and every argument on the flow, the Third Affirmative may choose to be a bit more selective. Because the Third Affirmative can offer no new arguments, what this speaker should try to do is assist you in a process of weighing the various arguments that have been presented. Like the Second Speakers, the Third Affirmative may offer new evidence, examples, analogies or narratives. However, what the Third Affirmative should be most interested in doing is helping you to identify the key issues in the round and trying to show you how these arguments were won by the affirmative team.

     Because the second rebuttal is a summarizing speech, the Third Affirmative may choose to address only a selected number of key argument and identify those as the main “voting issues” in the round. It will be up to the negative team to decide whether to accept the issues that the affirmative team offers as key voting issues. They may choose to do so and argue that their position on these issues is stronger or they may argue that affirmative has misidentified the key voting issues.

      There is no cross examination following this speech.

Second Negative Rebuttal

      Like the Third Affirmative, the Third Negative should attempt to help you weigh the key issues in the round. The only significant difference between the second affirmative and second negative rebuttal is that the Third Negative needs to respond to the affirmative teams representation of the key issues in the round.

      It will often happen that the negative team will offer different voting issues than the ones that the negative team offered. This is bound to make you job a little more difficult as it will be you who, in the end, will have to decide which side in right in this regard. At the same time, you should keep in mind that if the negative does not accept the voting issues that the affirmative has offered you, the Third Negative should offer you some good reasons for rejecting or adding to those voting issues. On the other hand, your job is made much easier if both sides agree on the key issues in the round and all you must do is decide which of the teams won these issues. You should try to decide the round based on the voting issues offered by the two teams. Even if you happen to think that there was some other point in the round that was more important than any that either of the two teams identified as being key, in making your decision you should limit yourself to the voting issues presented by both sides. Of course, on your ballot, you might want to explain to both teams why you thought they both were mistaken in identifying the more important issues in the round.

      Unfortunately, there will be times when neither side give you a clear set of voting issues and you will be left to your own devices in deciding who won. In those cases, you should probably focus your attention on the issues the two sides spent the most time arguing.