The Five Most Common LD Myths (Part 1)

We’re breaking down the most common myths in LD value debate. Here’s part 1.

Myth 1: No Evidence is Required

Proof is required for any claim that falls outside common sense and common knowledge. The most popular kind of proof in a value debate is an application.

Many claims about the real world need evidence. For example, a few years ago, many Stoa debaters were making this claim: “3rd-party military intervention is not effective.” All the logical analysis and speculation in the world can’t do what one card from a qualified expert can.

If you want to avoid reading evidence, earn it by running a purely idealistic case. If you didn’t do that – for example, if you ran an application – you forfeit the right to say you don’t need evidence. If you DO run an idealistic case, say you don’t need evidence by focusing on how your case rests on common sense and philosophy in a way that can’t be proven or disproven by the real world.

Bottom line: you probably do need evidence in value debate. Even in the rare event that you don’t, saying “this is value debate” is never okay.

Myth 2: A Value is the Highest Goal for the Round

Let’s try a quick test.

My value is Human Rights. Well Justice is higher than and includes Human Rights. Well General Welfare is higher than and includes Justice. Well Human Goodness is higher than and includes General Welfare. Well Will of God is higher than and includes Human Goodness.

If you believe in God, and you believe that a value is the highest goal for the round, running any value other than Will of God is blasphemy. So why don’t we run it? Because Will of God is useless in most value debates. We don’t know what God wants in a specific situation, so we run a more specific value that can give us some insight into what is good and what isn’t.

“My value is more desirable than my opponent’s” is relevant, but is far from the end-all of value clash and is rarely enough to win on its own.

A value is an external measure for the resolution. All else being equal, the most specific value should be selected, because it gives the judge confidence that his decision is accurate to that resolution.

[P.S. Some resolutions don’t measure things on a metric of being good/better than/ought to take priority over. There are amoral and even immoral resolutions that have totally different relationships.]

Myth 3: A Criterion is a Limit for the Value

Why do we say these words? Instead of Value, why not call it Measure? Instead of Contention, why not call it Connection? Instead of Resolutional Analysis … well, you get my point. Argument classes are selected to try to reflect an idea, but beyond that, you’re not objectively wrong if you use a word like Criterion in a way that isn’t standard, as long as it’s coherent.

A limiting criterion says: “My framework is the value, within the limits set forth in the criterion.” Example:

Value: Utilitarianism
Criterion: Justice

Now I uphold Utilitarianism as long as it is just, meaning I avoid some of the troubling arguments about happiness maximization.

This is a coherent way to present a framework, so unlike the previous myth, this isn’t just plain wrong. But it’s still a bad idea, because it’s an enormously confusing and inefficient way to present an idea. It means you present, explain, and defend your value, then go on to a completely different argument that continues to explain what your actual value is. Messy!

Instead of limiting criteria, it is always best to make your value statement more precise. Use whatever terms you need, and define it however you like. It’s your argument, no one can tell you what it means. In the above example, “Just Utilitarianism” would have been a simpler and faster value.

A criterion is a means and a measure for the value, not a limit.

Next time, we’ll look at the last two, including the most common myth in all of value debate. Come back soon!