Lincoln Douglas Debate Theory
What is debate? How does it differ from discussion? How does it differ from an argument?
Debate is organized argumentation directed toward a third party for a decision. It differs from discussion
because debaters do not seek to compromise their positions; debaters maintain their position throughout the debate. It differs from an arguments because the debaters try to convince a third party, not each other.
Format of a Lincoln Douglas Debate:
1st Affirmative Constructive 6 minutes
CX 3 minutes
1st Negative Constructive 7 minutes
CX 3 minutes
1st Affirmative Rebuttal 4 minutes
1st Negative Rebuttal 6 minutes
2nd Affirmative Rebuttal 3 minutes
Each debater gets 3 minutes prep time
Argues in favor of the resolution
Argues against the resolution
The subject for debate; Llso known as the proposition, topic, question
Divides ground evenly
Worded affirmatively (so that the affirmative answers “yes” and hopefully
without “not” words)
The first speech given by each debater - used to build all the major arguments that support
the debater’s position
Speech used to summarize and analyze
Refute opponent’s arguments
Rebuild by answering your opponent’s attacks
- Cross Examination
A questioning period designed to clarify issues, expose weaknesses, and set up arguments
Contains the major reasons for supporting a particular position
- Prep Time
The time allowed between speeches to prepare
Sheets of paper set up to take notes of the arguments made in a debate
Types of Resolutions
Propositions of Fact -
Argues that something exists, occurs, or is related to something else in a specific way.
Examples: Illegal drugs exist on campus.
Drug abuse occurs among students.
Abuse of illegal drugs harms students.
Propositions of Value -
Requires a value judgment such as
is better than
is more important than
Example: Random testing of students for illegal drug use is justified.
Propositions of Policy -
Advocates a course of action
Example: All high schools in the United States should adopt a policy to randomly test
students for illegal drug use.
Values and Value Hierarchies
What is a value?
An ideal toward which people strive
Will be used to determine comparative worth of ideas in relation to social preference
Values are judgments based on our experiences - they are neither right nor wrong
What are some common American values?
Equality Justice Privacy Happiness Life
Freedom Progress Safety Knowledge National Security
Freedom of Expression Individual Rights Quality of Life
What is an intrinsic value?
Something has intrinsic value if it is valuable for its own sake and not merely as a means to other values.
It is a terminal or ending point value.
-Happiness, Life, Peace
What is an instrumental value?
Something is an instrumental value if it helps us achieve a terminal value.
-Equality, Justice, Cooperation
What is a value hierarchy?
An ordering or ranking of values
In placing one value over another in decision making, we do not eliminate a value; we merely give it
a less important standing.
Can you debate whether or not something is a value? No
The issue of whether or not something is a value is NOT debatable.
How a value’s worth is weighed in relationship to other values (value hierarchy) is debatable.
What are some current issues in our society that involve a clash of values?
Universal health insurance; school prayer; adoption; abortion; welfare; flag burning;
ANALYZING A RESOLUTION
1. Find the object of evaluation, evaluative term, and context of evaluation.
Object of Evaluation - the subject of the resolution; the “thing” that determines the value
Comparative Judgment - evaluates one thing relative to another
Non-Comparative Judgment - evaluates something on its own merits
(Evaluative Term) - method by which you are to judge the object of evaluation
[Context of Evaluation] - a phrase that places limits on the object of evaluation of the
Examples: Resolved: That U. S. military interference [in the internal affairs of other countries]
Resolved: [In the criminal justice system,] truth seeking (ought to take precedence over)
Resolved: Liberty (is more precious than) law.
2. Define the terms of the resolution.
Specialized Dictionary such as Black’s Law Dictionary
Field Context such as Supreme Court decisions, journal articles
3. Determine perspectives from which one could view the evaluative term.
Legally, morally, economically, politically, educationally, intrinsically, extrinsically
“Is more important than”
Produces better consequences
Preserves intrinsic values
4. Determine the values that could be affected by the resolution.
What values would be enhanced, protected, promoted, or preserved by the resolution?
What values would be undermined or diminished by the resolution?
5. Brainstorm contentions that could support your position.
Contentions are major arguments. They are like the topic sentences in an essay.
They must then be supported with reasoning and evidence.
Ways of Comparing Two Values
1. The value that applies to more of humankind is the best value.
A value that affects all societies (equality) is greater than a value that affects only selected societies
Development of natural resources may allow for the value of progress, but only for the present generation.
In contrast, if present and future generations are given the value of safety (from pollutants), safety is of
greater value than progress.
2. The value that fits the resolution in context will ultimately be the better
“National security” and “quality of life” are both important values. When questioning genetic
engineering’s worth, however, quality of life fits the resolution is better.
3. The value that enhances other values is greatly advantageous.
Upholding individual rights is even greater when we consider that it enhances liberty, equality,
and quality of life.
4. The value that limits or destroys other values is not as advantageous.
Progress may be important, but it would be considered a lesser value if it diminishes safety and liberty.
Why Study Ethics?
Every society has a set of moral rules or guidelines that set the boundaries of acceptable behavior
Behavior that might harm other people
Behavior concerned with the well-being of others
Actions that touch on issues of respect for other persons
Moral codes are seldom completely consistent. Our everyday life raises moral questions that we cannot answer immediately.
Contradictions among different values
Uncertainty about which value should be given priority
Traditional values do not cover new situations
Ethics is the conscious reflection on our moral beliefs.
On what basis do we make moral decisions?
Divine Command - Being good is equivalent to doing what the Bible or some other sacred text tells you
Ethical Egoism - One’s only duty is to promote one’s own interests - to do what is really in his best interest
over the long run
The Ethics of Duty - Begins with the conviction that ethics is about doing what is right, about doing you duty
The Ethics of Rights - Establishes minimal conditions of human decency
Utilitarianism - Seeks to reduce suffering and increase pleasure or happiness
The Ethics of Justice - What is fair for one should be fair for all
How is Ethics useful in debate?
Some value resolutions ask us to weigh one value in relation to another value
Some value resolutions as us to determine the rightness or wrongness of an action
Some value resolutions ask us to determine which action is preferred in relation to another action
Ethics gives us the moral theories we can use to make these determinations - the criteria we use as a yard stick to measure values
A moral theory tells you what you should do (what is right, what is good, what you should do)
This is an independent question from the question of what people WILL do
It is irrelevant to the moral question whether it is actually likely to be done
Any position in ethics which claims that the rightness Any position in ethics which claims that the
or wrongness of actions depends on their consequences. rightness or wrongness of actions depends on
whether or not they correspond to our duty.
The ends justify the means. The ends cannot justify the means. The
means must be moral themselves.
Consequentialism Deontological Ethics
Utilitarianism Categorical Imperative
Cost Benefit Analysis Judeo-Christian Ethic
Rights Based Theories (social contract)
Common Philosophies Used as Criteria
Actions are right to the degree that they promote the greatest good for the greatest number.
John Stuart Mill - On Liberty
Actions are judged right or wrong solely by their consequences
Right actions are those that produce the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness
Each person’s happiness is equally important
Promotes human well-being One person’s good can be another’s evil
Attempts to lessen human suffering Hard to predict accurately all consequences
2. Cost Benefit Analysis
A “real-world” method for weighing ethical and pragmatic decisions by simply weighing the costs of an action versus the benefits
Costs can be in terms of lost values
Benefits can be in terms of values gained
3. The Ethics of Duty
Motivation, not effects, determine moral worth
Most of us live by rules - these rules are called imperatives by Immanuel Kant
Kant divides imperatives into two categories: hypothetical and categorical
Hypothetical imperatives result from our desires “if. . .then”
Categorical imperatives result from our duty which we can determine through reason - they are
unconditional - they apply at all times
“Always act in such a way that you will that the maxim of your action should become a
universal law” (the Golden Rule)
“Act so that you treat humanity, both in your own person and in that of another, always as an
end and never merely as a means” (respect for persons)
Doing the right thing because it is the right thing Yields only absolutes - moral dilemmas are
because it is the right thing to do - duty created when duties come into conflict
What’s fair for one is fair for all Excludes emotions from any positive role in
the moral life
Respect for humans as autonomous beings Consequences do count
capable of reasoning
4. The Ethics of Rights
Many of the greatest documents of the last two centuries have centered around the notion of rights
The Bill of Rights
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights
Many of the great movements of this century have centered around the notion of rights
The Civil Rights Movement
Equal Rights for women
Rights express a certain kind of relationship between two parties:
The rights holders - a right is permission to act or an entitlement to act, exist, enjoy, demand
The rights observers - the right imposes a correlative duty or obligation upon them
Negative Rights - to refrain from interfering with the rights holders exercise of the right
Positive Rights - to assist in the successful exercise of the right
Negative Rights - simply impose on others the duty not to interfere with your rights (right to life,
right to free speech, right to freedom of religion)
Positive Rights - impose on others a specific obligation to do something to assist you in the exercise
of your right (to provide health care, to provide income, to provide education)
John Locke, Ronald Dworkin, Robert Nozick
Political Philosophies used as Criteria
Social Contract Theory
John Locke - Second Treatise of Government
Jean Jacques Rousseau - Social Contract
Thomas Hobbes - The Leviathan
John Rawls - A Theory of Justice
Natural Rights (human rights) belong to everyone by nature or simply by virtue of being human
Legal Rights (social contract rights) belong to people by virtue of their membership in a particular political state
Morality consists in the set of rules, governing how people are to treat one another, that rational people will agree to accept, for their mutual benefit, on the condition others follow those rules as well
For example - John Locke
The social contract is a unanimous agreement among all free members of the state of nature to join together to become a civil society. The population agrees to allow the majority to create a governing body which will in turn make and enforce society rules.
Researching a Topic
1. Read for understanding and background information.
2. Mark ideas that would help develop a case.
3. Highlight specific quotations that would support your contentions.
Rules of Evidence #1
1. Have available a full source citation.
Author, author’s qualifications, date, title, page.
2. You do not need to read the full citation.
3. Give enough of the citation to give the quote credibility.
Rules of Evidence #2
1. Make available the entire quote.
Internal ellipses are not allowed
Quote may be read in paraphrased form
2. Be certain the quote is not taken out of context.
3. Be faithful to the author’s intent.
“Quotable” Evidence should be
From a reliable source
Concise - short and to the point
Making a persuasive point
Supporting of itself
not dependent on other sentences to make sense
vague words or pronouns identified in brackets
Use of Evidence in Debate
Background - any and all evidence that helps your understanding of the resolution
Evidence to Prove a Point - statistics, quotes, examples
Evidence to Clarify and Explain - examples, definitions
Evidence to Impress & Persuade - short quotes, examples, statistics that drive a point home, dramatic
Use at least one quote to support each major idea in your case.
Have available evidence to refute arguments you expect your opponent to use.
Have available evidence to support your arguments against the refutation you expect from your opponents.
Constructing an Affirmative/Negative
A. Attention Getter - quotation, story, historical example which outlines general position
B. State the resolution - “I stand resolved. . .”
C. Define key terms - use mainstream, accepted sources; try defining phrases together
D. Establish value/criteria - state and give a brief explanation
E. Preview Contentions - lists contentions in order
F. Observations (optional) - states what should be accepted facts not favorable to one side
A. Use clear contentions
B. Use short contentions (7 words or less when possible)
C. Use evidence and your own reasoning to support contentions/sub points
D. Tie contentions to value/criteria
Contentions are arguments
Each argument contains three parts
The Claim is a statement of the argument (the main idea)
“Nuclear weapons testing harms innocent people”
The Warrant is the analysis that explains why the claim is valid and may include evidence
“Innocent people are affected by nuclear weapons’ testing due to radiation fallout.
People living near testing sites during World War II’s Manhattan Project evidenced
increased rates of cancer and other diseases as a result of exposure to radiation during
The Impact is the analysis telling us why the argument is important.
“The supposed need for nuclear weapons does not justify putting innocent people at risk.
A government is not justified in putting its own citizens in danger. Such a government
would not only be illegitimate, but also immoral, thus rendering nuclear weapons’ testing
A. Summarize key points
B. Conclude persuasively
2. Return to attention getter
3. Persuasive rhetoric
Note: Negative Constructive will refute the affirmative as part of the body
before going to the conclusion.
Example Case Structures
Resolved: The benefits of genetic engineering outweigh the harms.
V = Life
C = Consequentialist
I. Genetic engineering prevents genetic diseases.
II. Genetic engineering leads to cures for diseases.
III. Genetic engineering can wipe out hunger.
Resolved: That an oppressive government is more desirable than no government.
V= Order (Social Order)
C= Cost Benefit Analysis
I. The Order created by the Social Contract is the most fundamental value
II. Governments must oppress the individual to maintain order.
III. Without government, we lose both human rights and justice.
The Purposes of Cross Examination:
1. Clarify Issues
2. Expose Weaknesses
3. Set Up Arguments
Cross Examination Basics
BE DON’T BE
The questioner controls the time.
This is not the time to make speeches.
This time is not recorded by the judge.
The most important aspect of CX is creating Image.
Both debaters face the judge.
Both debaters should be courteous.
Both debaters should prepare ahead.
Tips for the Questioner:
Ask questions that are short and to the point.
Avoid drawing a conclusion; leave that for your next speech
Refrain from arguing or pressing for an answer you obviously can’t get.
Politely control the tone and pace of the period.
Realize that your goal is obtain information which can be used later to attack your opponent’s position
The more threatening you are, the more you increase the witness’ defensiveness
The best way to obtain information is to relax the witness
Be friendly and non-threatening
Begin with easy questions
Avoid the temptation to impress the witness with your debate ability
Use a short series of questions rather than open-ended questions
Use admissions you get in your next speech.
Tips for the Respondent:
Answer questions directly and confidently.
Avoid evasive responses because they suggest you have something to hide
If you don’t know the answer, admit it.
If you need to qualify an answer, do so before answering “yes” or “no.”
Refuse demands for “yes” or “no” answers when they are not possible by stating that such an answer is not
Never answer a question you don’t understand
Don’t respond to a question by asking a question
Comply with reasonable requests to limit answers.
Staging Cross Examination
Maintain eye contact with the judge
Do not be upstaged by your opponent
Preparing for Cross Examination
Anticipate areas of attack on your case
Anticipate areas of attack on cases you may meet
Prepare lines of questioning on anticipated areas
Ask team members to both ask and answer questions
Seek to reduce ambiguity in both questions and answers
Using Cross Examination Strategically
Most judges do not flow CX
An observation at the beginning of your next speech is good if there has been an important gain
Use information gained in CX in developing arguments in your speech by reminding the judge,
“In CX, my opponent told us...”
Ways to Attack an Argument
1. Is there a contradiction within the case?
2. Does any argument assume that something is inherently good?
3. Is the argument realistic?
4. Is the argument supported by a quote from a credible source?
5. Is more harm produced than good?
6. Are there impacts to the argument your opponent has failed to recognize?
7. Can your side of the resolution actually do a better job of achieving the value or benefits your opponent
8. Is your opponent guilty of using fallacies of reasoning?
Fallacies of Reasoning
Appeals to Tradition
An argument that claims something is preferable because it has always been so
References to the Supreme Court’s decisions or the Constitution
Faulty logic because to argue that we always have doesn’t justify the action. The Supreme
Court often reverses itself. Another problem is assuming the Constitution or Supreme Court
decision is applicable world-wide.
A conclusion based on incomplete evidence.
One of the most common fallacies in debate.
Example: An argument based on the belief “democracy is the best form of government” - cannot
fall back on childhood impressions - must justify democracy in today’s world
Bandwagon (Popular Opinion)
An argument is based on how many people believe in or do something.
Ad Hominem (Against the Man)
Means “against the man.” The argument is made against a person instead of against the person’s
Begging the Question (Circular Reasoning)
Circular reasoning. The claim and the reason for making the claim are the same.
Example: Arguing that something is the moral and correct thing to do because it is moral.
Morality is left unproven.
Introduces an irrelevant issue to divert attention from the subject under discussion
Comes from an old trick used by farmers in England to keep fox hunters and their hounds from
galloping through the crops by dragging a smoked herring with a strong odor along the edge of
Forces listeners to choose between two alternatives when more than two alternatives exist
Sometimes called a “false dilemma”
Statements often oversimplify a complex issue
Assumes that taking a first step will lead to subsequent steps that cannot be prevented
Speaker should provide evidence or reasoning to support the claim
Five Steps of Refutation
State position you are refuting in your opponent’s language, making sure to sign-post.
My opponent’s first contention states that nuclear weapons’ testing harms innocent people.
Summarize the idea to get at the key meaning
What this means is that danger is involved in nuclear weapons’ testing
State your response or counter argument – CLAIM
A government must defend its own citizens.
Provide support for your counter-argument with analysis and possibly evidence – WARRANT
Part of a nation’s self-defense may require owning and maintaining nuclear weapons. For the weapons to
be reliable, they must be tested. Therefore, nuclear weapons must be tested for a nation to adequately
defend its citizens.
Give IMPACT to your response . . .
Citizens rely on their government for protection from outside attack. A government must use any means
necessary, sometimes even dangerous means to defend its citizens. Conversely, a nation that puts its
citizens at risk of nuclear attack is not only not a legitimate government, it isn’t moral either.
. . . And weigh it against opponent’s argument.
The potential harms of weapons’ testing must be weighed against the real danger of nuclear annihilation.
Thus, nuclear weapons’ testing doesn’t harm but in fact protects innocent lives.
This creates CLASH and is important to winning the round
Organization of a Rebuttal
1. Begin with a strong overall statement of philosophy
2. Clash with definitions as needed
3. Clash with Value/Criteria
4. Refute opponent’s contentions
5. Rebuild your own contentions
6. Conclude with a strong persuasive statement. Do not simply ask for the ballot.
Clashing Value and Criterion
Show why your value ought to rank higher in priority than your opponent’s value.
Show how you better achieve your opponent’s value that he does.
Show how your value is better upheld by your opponent’s criterion than his value
Show why your opponent’s criterion is less appropriate for this debate than yours
Secrets to a Great Rebuttal
1. Extend arguments - provide new logic, analysis, or evidence.
2. Do not repeat evidence
3. Stay organized - use the flow
4. Group similar arguments
5. Cross-apply arguments when appropriate
6. Watch time carefully
7. Signpost clearly - let the judge know where you are
Dress for success
Be on time for rounds
Shake hands at the end of the round
Don’t “bad mouth” opponents and judges
Pre-flow before the appointed time for the round to begin
How a Tournament Runs
Generally there are four preliminary rounds
You will debate two affirmative and two negative rounds
Advancing to elimination rounds is based on wins and speaker points
Most tournaments “flight” LD rounds
Don’t purposely misquote or confuse
Don’t steal cases
Return cases or evidence at the end of the round