Lincoln Douglas Debate Resolution

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sandor
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 09:58 am
Okay, so here it is. "Competition is superior to cooperation in achieving excellence." I am supposed to coach our high school debaters in this Lincoln Douglas Debate resolution. I have never debated and have no formal logic training. Still, this resolution troubles me in two areas.

1. I believe that there is a logical fallacy in the resolution itself. I might want to challenge the league organizers as I don't believe an affirmative case can win. I hold that competition is dependent upon cooperation, primarily evidenced in the tacit agreement to abide by rules. If I can compete without regard to rules, chaos/anarchy results ("I shoot my free throws from one foot from the basket."), certainly not the higher value that LD requires Without the cooperation of rules and, therefore, not a level playing field, one competitor can obliterate the others and drive them out or take over the competition itself (Teddy Roosevelt had to restore competition by breaking the trusts and, thus, end the reign of the robber barons).

Even if the league doesn't agree that the resolution is logically flawed, I don't see how a specific affirmative case can win.

2. High school debaters will most likely see this resolution as an attempt to elevate capitalism/democracy above socialism/communism/fascism. The financial markets, personal freedoms, decisions to go to war, etc. are all based on a set of rules. Without adherence to the rules, the competitor is thrown out or jailed.

Since, therefore, I contend that competition is dependent on cooperation, is there a rule of logic that states, "if a is dependent on b for its existence, then b cannot be superior to a"? Since a bridge is dependent on each of its supports to function, can the bridge be superior to any of its supports?

Many thanks for reading this.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 10:44 am
@sandor,
Much will center upon how the affirmative defines the terms in the proposition, most importantly "superior" and "excellence," since both imply valuation, as well as what competition and co-operation mean.

If competition means unrestrained war of all against all, then the argument will take a different turn that if competition means "within established limits or following the rules." And is competition only on an individual level, or is there such a thing as "team competition" (building the first atomic bomb, for example, or debates themselves or college bowls)? This applies for co-operation as well, because who is co-operating is important for a "successful" outcome.

To complete your logical argument, since there is no "rule" for such a condition, you would have to prove that, somehow, the cause is superior to the effect (in this case existence), a dubious metaphysical or even scientific proposition.

The affirmative, I should want to add, has the luxury of defining the terms of the resolution; at the same time, they must defend their definitions against charges of unreasonableness from the opposite side. I should think that your qualms about the wording being slanted might be alleviated by careful definition, and by drawing clear boundaries about the range of the discussion at the beginning. One of the problems I see for the affirmative is that, without such boundaries, the opposite side can bring up all sorts of different counter-examples that would be difficult to argue against. It is the difference between asserting "all" instead of "some" instances meet the resolution's position.
 
Emil
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 12:08 pm
@sandor,
There is no such fallacy as you talk about. You should learn logic before trying to use logical terminology, don't you agree? Otherwise you may come off as a pseudo, akin to "alternative" medicine/science people that use scientific jargon to convince people. They too should learn the correct usage of the jargon first, and then use it afterwards.

As for the resolution. It is extremely vague and can mean a number of quite different things. What use is it trying to prove/disprove such a vague claim? None AFAIK.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 12:09 pm
@sandor,
What in the world is "excellence", sandor, and in what context are they using this term? Political excellence, economic, social, spiritual, moral, etc.? I would be just as clueless on how to respond to this prompt for this reason. What type of excellence are they talking about? This is the first thing you need to establish.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 02:43 pm
@sandor,
sandor;94269 wrote:


Since, therefore, I contend that competition is dependent on cooperation, is there a rule of logic that states, "if a is dependent on b for its existence, then b cannot be superior to a"? Since a bridge is dependent on each of its supports to function, can the bridge be superior to any of its supports?


I don't think so. Suppose that a person who is a well-known professor of physics, and is also a fine pianist, is held captive by a criminal who is also a fool, and knows nothing. But the captive depends on the criminal for his existence, since if the criminal wishes, he can kill the captive at any time. The professor and pianist is dependent on the criminal for his existence, but he is superior to the criminal. But I think you must have misstated your principle. Don't you mean to say that if a is superior to b, then a cannot depend on b for his existence, and not the other way round, as you stated it? If not, then I really don't know what you mean. So could you state your principle again?
 
sandor
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 06:11 pm
@Emil,
As I stated, I have no formal logic training. This is my attempt at learning about it.
 
Emil
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 06:13 pm
@sandor,
sandor;94334 wrote:
As I stated, I have no formal logic training. This is my attempt at learning about it.


I find that the best way to learn something, well, most things, is to read a textbook. Why don't you do the same? It really is the best way to learn logic. After having grasped the basic terms, the best way to move forward, in my experience is practice, practice, practice... And then read more textbooks. Not all textbooks cover the exact same material. Reading more of them will get you a better overview.

There is a good one -supposedly I haven't read it - by written by a Copi. Kennethamy can give you the specific reference.

Good luck.

"Trying to reason about anything sophisticated without knowing logic is like trying to row a boat without any oars."
 
sandor
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 06:24 pm
@Emil,
Thanks. You are probably right.

---------- Post added 09-29-2009 at 05:27 PM ----------

I will try to re-state. If a bridge is dependent on its welded supports to achieve its purpose, can it be superior to it welds?

---------- Post added 09-29-2009 at 05:37 PM ----------

I think, in terms of the debate resolution, excellence would have to mean the achievement of higher ideals - a stronger economy with more jobs and a higher standard of living for all; greater scientific progress; a higher level of success in athletics; etc. Should competition be unbridled by rules (which to me is the essence of cooperation), the resulting free-for-all would diminish excellence due to either the anarchistic quality of the activity or the unscrupulous co-opting of the system by the strong (rich, connected, powerful, etc.) taking unfair advantage of the weak, who may however be able.

I do understand the vagueness of the resolution. Winning the definition portion of the debate does seem to be key. But in the arena, for example, of finances, we all seem to acknowledge that insider trading is forbidden, that monopolistic practices are bad, and that market makers are necessary to keep the flow of trading moving. All these acceptances of regulatory rules seem to be, to me, indications that cooperation is necessary.
 
Absolution phil
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 08:18 pm
@sandor,
To help with understanding what logical fallacies are, this website may help Logical Fallacies . The interesting thing about debates is that some philosophers believe they are inherently irresolvable, as they say one always has to eventually assume what they are trying to prove. This has been a criticism of Kant's analytic statements that they can't extend beyond the definitions they assume. I know from personal experience with political debates, people assume the winner is the person who got elected to office, but if you ask the other side of the political spectrum they say the one out of office won the debates and give a different reason why their opponents made it into office.

In general many debates do have decent logic to them. But it is under question whether the assumptions they make are shared with the audience. I think in this case the appeal for competition is motivation for innovation. So that side would have to establish that competition provides rewards that cooperation does not, that people in the audience would agree to. In a capitalist society, that reward might be money. So they would assume that money is what people want, and they would have to connect to that competition provides positive motivation through extra money and negative motivation through lack of money. And they would have to argue that money makes no difference in either case.

As you see each side of the debate team would have to argue for the benefits only and either hide or bury the non benefits. So in a way all debates reach an "equipollence" where either side can be equally heavy, and this has resulted in skepticism on both sides since ancient times.
 
sandor
 
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 09:02 pm
@Absolution phil,
I agree and completely understand your post. However, the wording of the resolution itself seems flawed. Since competition presumes, especially in the achievement of excellence, a level of cooperation that, at least, adheres to rules, competition is a sub-set of cooperation. An alternative form of cooperation would have to be named. I believe the league needs to step in before debating begins.

Right now, the resolution says thusly: "Handball is superior to a ballgame in the achievement of greater fitness".

I believe the resolution's attempt was, "Competition is superior to non-incentivised(?) cooperation in the achievement of excellence."

I have just been wondering on the forum whether there is a rule of logic that would give me fodder to support my claim. Can a subset of a concept be superior to the concept itself?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 05:49 am
@sandor,
sandor;94334 wrote:
As I stated, I have no formal logic training. This is my attempt at learning about it.


Yes, I understand. But, still, you can answer my question, don't you mean to say that if a is superior to b, then a cannot depend on b for his existence, and not the other way round, as you stated it? You need know no logic for that.I am merely asking you what you meant to say.

Actually, I think that what you would like to learn, and transmit to your classes, is not so much logic as traditionally understood, but rather, critical thinking, which is a kind of applied logic, or informal logic. I think you would find that much more useful than learning formal techniques. That is, logic as applied to things like debates or arguments.
Here is a useful site to look at. There are others. You certainly would be doing your students a great favor by getting them to think critically.

Sitemap
 
jgweed
 
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 07:08 am
@sandor,
The resolution is so clouded by loaded and imprecise words, that one wonders whether its author decided to make a debate about it hinge on arguments about definitions rather than upon something more precise that would allow appeals to experience and expert authority.
In this instance (and I duck to avoid being hit by spoiled vegetables from logicians), formal logic will be far less important (and useful) than a knowledge of informal fallacies, since the former will only help manipulate given definitions (content), and the definitions will be what the debate is about.

Some general questions that might help your team:
How does nature exemplify competition leading to "excellence" in individuals (survival of the "fittest")and species?
How does competition in sport (individual and team) lead to "excellence?"
How does competition in artistic endeavors (musical contests)?
How does competition in economic areas (the "invisible hand")?

Conversly, how does co-operation lead to mediocrity in these, and other areas?

The affirmative need not defend extreme competition (Hobbes' "war of all against all"), but could argue for a "softer" definition.
 
richrf
 
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 08:53 am
@sandor,
The way I would approach this question would be so:

1) Show that cooperation is necessary in human life. That is one cannot live without cooperating with other people in some way.

2) Show that undo competition within cooperative environments (which we live in) can lead to poor results - e.g. the military, sports teams, office politics, etc.

Therefore, the overriding theme must be cooperation with some amount of competition introduced in order to encourage innovation.

Rich
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 09:11 am
@richrf,
You have to have cooperation to have competition. Where does cooperation come from? Weren't there competing ideas about how to form the rules?

The formation of the government of the US is an example. The parties involved wanted to slit each other's throats. The result was a cooperative hybird government.

The Communist Party started out refusing to allow competition of ideas. They thought they had it all figured out, so no further debate was necessary. So as Stalin took over, those who disagreed with him just walked away. One in particular said he knew that in another world he would be the beginning of a party opposed to Stalin, but this was counter to the Communist assumptions. So he walked away. The USSR became an unsustainable "mountain of lies."

What I'm saying is that cooperation and competition depend on each other for existence in a healthy functioning group. Arguing about which is better is like a mental gym requiring those involved to learn mental flexibility and innovation (as was already mentioned:))
 
sandor
 
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 09:31 am
@kennethamy,
Yes, your wording of my proposition is correct. And yes, formal logic is probably not necessary to determine the hole(s) in the resolution's wording. Thanks.
 
 

 
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