An Argument for Reasonability Pt. 2

Simran Gandhi | Aug 02, 2021
3 min read

The Opinions Expressed In This Blog Post Are Solely Those of the Author And Not Necessarily Those Of DebateDrills


In part 1, I described three primary reasons why competing interpretations is a bad paradigm for resolving theory debates. I now want to address some counter arguments and continue to write in favour of reasonability. 


  1. “Reasonability justifies debaters being as abusive as possible and thus theory proliferation is justified.” Reasonability doesn’t mean debaters get to be “infinitely” abusive, just a little bit abusive. If a debater reads three conditional plan inclusive counterplans, they are unlikely to win a reasonability argument. If they disclose 29 minutes before a round instead of 30, they are likely to win reasonability. On the flip side, theory proliferation directly trades off with substantive debate. Theory proliferation thus outweighs marginal  abuseon  magnitude. 


  1. “Reasonability is subjective - how much unfairness is permissible?” Weighing can answer this question very easily. The debater responding to frivolous theory should argue that the education lost from reading theory vastly outweighs the minor abuse that occured. A full minute of substance lost definitely outweighs the few seconds they spent looking for the spikes because they were on the bottom. There are also several brightlines that can solve the problem. One of the best ones is reasonability with the brightline of no structural abuse. This means judges must not evaluate theory based on substantive abuse. Structural abuse occurs when a debater reads arguments that prevent the judge from impartially evaluating the round. An example is when the negative reads a PIC that non-uniques six minutes of the 1AC’s offense. Substantive abuse occurs when one debater reads an argument that creates “inequality”. For example, the aff read a solvency advocate with no qualifications and the neg read one with a PhD. In this scenario, the aff could read a theory shell saying “the neg may not read solvency advocates with PhDs because it’s irreciprocal and gives them an advantage.” Sure, it gives them an advantage but it’s not abusive. Theory shells regarding substantive abuse discourage better debating and are even more arbitrary than reasonability since there’s no way to draw the line between “abusive” and “good at debate.” Clearly there are many ways to ameliorate the problem of reasonability being subjective. 


  1. “Reasonability invites judge intervention.” This is similar to the second counter argument but it’s important to understand that reasonability is no different to other arguments in debate. If the 2AR goes for impact defense against a disadvantage, the judge has to decide if it’s enough to reject the disadvantage. If the 2AR goes for link defense against a pessimism kritik, the judge has to decide if it’s enough to disregard the 2NR’s ontology explanation. Additionally, we can never read the judge’s mind. We make reasonable assumptions on what might or might not be convincing but if we make an error of judgement, we shouldn’t jump to blaming the judges for having their own beliefs. The onus is on the debaters to adapt. So even if reasonability invites judge intervention, it’s non-unique and inevitable. For those who dislike theory, especially frivolous theory, a bit of judge intervention might even be welcome. 


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