Don’t Make This Argument: ‘X’ is Subjective and Undefinable

Individual Rights are subjective. We don’t know what they are! Anybody can define anything to be individual rights!

Popular Sovereignty is subjective! We don’t know what it is! People can make any government fit “Popular Sovereignty!”

Thus far in the debate season, I’ve seen my share of arguments that ‘X’ is subjective and is either bad or should be voted down as a result. That’s not an argument you want to make.

Here are several reasons you shouldn’t make those arguments, which are also several arguments you can make against anybody who runs this type of argument.

1. Consensus is impossible.

Everyone has different views and opinions on everything. Type of chocolate, cell phone, religion, politics, style, and yes, even popular sovereignty and individual rights. So why is it a surprise that people have differing definitions of the terms in the resolution? It’s not.

Consensus is impossible, and their standard thus impossible to meet.

2. Debaters must define.

Because consensus is impossible, it is written in the rulebooks (NCFCA, pages 2-3; STOA, page 1) that definitions by the debaters are not only acceptable (STOA), but also required (NCFCA).

As long as the debaters in the round agree on the definitions, it doesn’t matter what other people think. That is the basis of debate: if the debaters don’t agree on the definitions for a debate, no debate can happen. Most of the time, that agreement isn’t too hard to get. But if we have to consider the opinions of the billions of other people in the world, no debate will ever happen.

(By the way, if you want to quote the NCFCA/STOA rules when arguing in a debate, it’s a good idea to print a copy out and point to the section you’re referring to as you make the argument. It’s also useful for refuting blatantly false claims of “it’s in the rules” by your opponents.)

3. Debating about consensus is bad.

a. it’s against the rules.

If the only thing we are arguing about in the debate is whether other people have formed a consensus on the subject, we are debating a question of fact. Problem is, both NCFCA and STOA rules require that Lincoln Douglas debate be a value debate, not a fact debate. (NCFCA, page 1; STOA, page 1)

b. it’s a boring and superlame debate.

Seriously people. Facts are facts. They’re dead. Values are living. They’re debatable. They’re fluid. It impacts our worldview and general philosophy and daily life. A fact debate turns debaters into number-crunching automatons, not recognizing that we are living, thinking beings.

4. Not a reason to reject.

If both sides are just as subjective, it’s not a reason my arguments are wrong, and much less a reason I lose.

5. Reciprocity.

If this standard of having a consensus applies to me, it should apply to my opponent as well. We see that s/he hasn’t met that either. Since s/he brought it up in the first place, my opponent is more guilty of it because s/he had prior knowledge that subjectivity is a bad thing.

6. I get to define.

It’s totally fine that my opponent couldn’t come up with a good definition for X. It’s hard to find good definitions. I’ll provide one. (make it slightly unfair!)

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