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Old 02-20-2007, 01:17 AM   #1
Emperor Devon
@Emperor Devon
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Arrow How to Structure Your Arguments and Discussions to Maximize Effectiveness

Mod note: Just to clarify you do not need to hold a formal debate to post your thoughts in this forum. This thread is just meant as a guideline for those who are interested in partaking in such debates. ~M

As some of you already know, I enjoy formal debate in my spare time. In my experiences with that, I've come across quite a few things that I've not noticed employed at LF. Other people probably have as well, so I thought I'd start this for us all to share any debating tips and whatnot we know.

So, without further ado...

One of the ways to argue an issue the most efficiently is to structure it efficiently. A typical LD format is almost always enough for that. (FYI, LD is short for 'Lincoln-Douglas debate')

For starters, there must always be a resolution. Without one, you're not really debating. If the topic was the use of lethal force in the face of domestic violence, your resolution would be 'lethal force is acceptable in the face of domestic violence'. From there, you have two sides. One that negates the resolution, and one that affirms it.

Let's continue the example with the affirmative side. In order to affirm the resolution, the aff side obviously needs one key thing to prove why his side is correct. This is called a value, which is usually something very broad and/or philosophical. It's best when it's something hard to disagree with, too - in this instance, we'll use morality.

The case so far is:

Resolution: lethal force is acceptable in the face of domestic violence -->

Value: morality (ie because it's moral)

To prove why lethal force is moral, you have another thing called a criterion. This is something more specific, and down-to-earth. Let's use 'because it saves lives' for an example.

The case so far is:

Resolution: lethal force is acceptable -->

Value: because it's moral -->

Criterion: it's moral because it saves lives

Now you'll have to prove that your criterion is true. This is called a contention, and is usually proven by data, statistics, or something that's undeniably reasonable. For an example, let's use a statistic that says 'a survey performed in La La Land showed that 1,000 lives a year were saved by using lethal force'. Keep in mind that you'll always want more than one - this is the bulk of your arguments.

To review the case again:

Resolution: lethal force is acceptable -->

Value: because it's moral -->

Criterion: it's moral because it saves lives -->

Contention 1: in La La Land it saved 1,000 a year
Contention 2: another contention (you should have more than one)
Contention 3: at least one more contention (again, you should have more than one!)

Structuring debates like this can be incredibly handy at times. You can adopt a certain 'cut the top vine and let the lower ones wither' approach, by disproving some of the upper parts of your opponent's case. For instance, if you said "That survey in La La Land was done a year ago, and recent trends have shown in results 2,000 extra deaths", you would have disproven your opponents contention about La La Land. But if you proved that lethal force doesn't save lives anywhere, you would negate their criterion, and thus all their contentions.

Organizing a debate like this can be quite helpful. It can help clear up what justification your opponent has for their beliefs, it can allow you to systematically disprove their case without having to address all their arguments... It's been immensely helpful for me when debating.

I'll add more stuff later, but is there anything anyone else wants to share?

Originally Posted by Sabretooth
We will be great failures one day, you and I

Last edited by stoffe; 02-20-2007 at 04:01 PM.
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