Where the Argument Leads by Jake Nebel


I try to judge debates fairly. This means that I don’t decide who wins or loses based on arbitrary factors — e.g., how much I like someone’s coach, which debater would be a better matchup for my students, how smart I would sound by giving some RFD, pre-arranged bribes, evening out my aff-neg distribution to appear unbiased, or promoting the sum of happiness in the universe. Most of us think that these would be bad reasons to decide a debate, and that judges ought not to decide rounds on such grounds. While we may disagree about what good judging entails, or the reasons why good judging is important, I think we can all agree that judges have some kind of duty to judge rounds fairly.

But some arguments seem to deny that judges have this duty. Thinking about the implications of these arguments leads to interesting questions.

Suppose the aff argues that individuals have a moral obligation to help people in need. The neg argues that individuals do not have this obligation because there are no moral obligations. Suppose the following CX occurs:

Aff: Do I have a moral obligation to limit my 1AR to four minutes, or not to make new arguments in the 2AR?

Neg: No, but you shouldn’t do those things. Otherwise, the judge would (rightly) ignore new arguments and arguments after the timer.

Aff: Would the judge have a moral obligation to do those things?

Neg: I guess not. But she still should do it.

Aff: Why? What reason does she have to ignore new arguments and arguments after the timer?

Neg: Well, it would be unfair of her to consider those arguments.

Aff: But why does she have to judge the round fairly?

Neg: It’s not a moral obligation. It’s just something she should do, as a debate judge.

Aff: What sense of ‘should’ are you using that avoids the objections to the existence of moral obligations?

Neg: Um, some kind of hypothetical imperative. Like, if the judge wants to evaluate the round fairly, then she should ignore new arguments and arguments after the timer. But I guess she has no moral obligation to evaluate the round fairly. She just wants to do so, or doing so is necessary to achieving her other ends (e.g., her desire to avoid confrontation, or to seem like a ‘good’ judge).

Aff: Okay… And if she doesn’t have those ends? If she no longer cares about evaluating the round fairly, or the other things that the perception of fairness helps her achieve?

Neg: Well, these things are in her paradigm, so that won’t happen. Or, if it does, she’s being dishonest.

Aff: Whatever. I concede skepticism. No one has any obligation to be honest, or to do anything else. Judge, just vote for whomever you want to vote for. [Sits down.]

Imagine you’re the judge in this debate. You probably do care about judging the round fairly. But suppose you realize that you only care about judging fairly for reasons that would be undermined by the neg’s skeptical arguments: you only care about judging rounds fairly because you think you ought to care about judging rounds fairly. If you discovered that you have no such obligation, then you would no longer care about judging rounds fairly, except when doing so would help achieve your other goals. And suppose that, in this case, your personal goals would be best served by voting aff because, say, you like the aff better, or you know that the aff will pay you a large sum of cash just in case you vote aff.

Is it permissible to vote aff? Here’s a reason to think Yes: fair judging requires you to follow the arguments where they lead, as developed by the debaters. But, in this case, accepting the conclusion means that you are freed of any obligations to either debater. So it’s not wrong to vote aff, since nothing is wrong by the neg’s own lights.

Do you have a reason to think No? Or a different reason to think Yes? If your decision depends on some particular detail of the above CX, say what that detail is and what you would do if something else happened instead.

Different answers to these questions have interesting implications for other issues in debate. I hope to discuss those in a future post.

  • JacobN1

    I'm glad to see this article has provoked so much discussion. Since my original post, I've been moved to think that these arguments *can* be accommodated under a tabula rasa paradigm. However, it still seems to me that allowing the sort of real-world argument outlined in the article would be very bad for the activity in the long term. If I am right, then the best option would likely be to adopt a more restrictive interpretation of tabula rasa judging that doesn't extend to out-of-round implications.You might be right to think that no consistent completely tabula rasa view can exclude "take it where it leads" argumentation. If that is the case, then it might be necessary to insert an additional premise into an otherwise tab paradigm that excludes these arguments. This minor loss of consistency doesn't seem to have far reaching implications besides precluding the arguments that it aims to preclude (at least, that seems to be true in the case of "I won't vote on AFC/disclosure theory" judges). In any case, I think the main goal is first to consider whether these arguments are good for debate and then after that to choose a paradigm accordingly. I have two examples that illustrate my concerns, and I'd like to know how your view would resolve them:1. AC is act util. Neg reads a short off-case position: "First off, vote neg because my parents are watching, and they'll be happy to see me win. Outweighs his happiness by 3 people to 1 on scope." That's only 5 seconds, and it puts the 1AR in a tough position. He can explain the util benefits of voting on the flow and then proceed to answer the other 6:55 of the NC. I think it would take at least 25-30 seconds to shut this down as an NR option for the neg. He's now at a bad time skew and no better off for it. Or, he can take the probably more strategic route and just go for his own pre-fiat impacts, ignoring the topic and just trying to outweigh the neg. Now any benefits of topical debate are lost. This is what I had in mind earlier when I mentioned spikes that would trade-off with substantive debate.2. Neg says "vote for me because I'll donate $1 to charity if I win" (with more analysis, of course). 1AR drops it. You are now compelled to give the neg the win and take the bribe. The negative ramifications here (probable community backlash at bribery) certainly outweigh the $1, but your paradigm commits you to voting neg on the obviously false premise that you'll be maximizing utility. There might be flaws in this specific example, but it is easy to imagine cases where the paradigm commits you to causing very bad real world consequences with your decision (imagine a "suffering good" + "I'll kick a puppy if I win" NC). Do you selectively ignore these arguments in round? If not, how do you justify the paradigm?

    • I would warn against arbitrary insertions into tab paradigms. The cost of adding random planks to a paradigm, or having an inconsistent paradigm in general, is broader than the one thing you add. It's hard to identify the precise effects, but I think one identifiable loss is intellectual virtue — if you're doing it, you're probably just not being rational about either your general principles or the particular example. Even if you don't know what that something is, you should accept the inconsistency or arbitrariness as a sign that you are wrong about something, and rethink it accordingly until you reach equilibrium between principles and particular judgments. (This is what I think is going on with "tab" judges who say they will vote on ANYTHING except AFC or disclosure theory. Oppose those ideas all you want, but reconcile your solution to it with the rest of your paradigm.) And I think a loss of intellectual virtue is a big impact in the debate community, despite the soft-sounding label I've given it.Regarding your examples: I'll start by saying that I think people should gradually move away from act utilitarianism as a decision procedure in LD. Most contemporary consequentialists do not accept act util as a good decision procedure. If LDers stopped that, then they wouldn't be vulnerable to those objections. You can avoid this by (a) defending non-act util, (b) defending non-util consequentialism (so fairness could be an intrinsic good), or (c) defending util as a decision procedure for policymakers but not necessarily for individuals. But, in any case, I think the best strategy in Case 1 is a very short combination of (a) the expected benefits of voting for one side are so uncertain/low that the benefits of fair adjudication outweigh, and (b) pre-fiat benefits of voting for you. The only purpose of (b) is to leverage (a). So you just give a quick warrant for (a), a quick warrant for (b), and a quick underview explaining that uncertainty on that pre-fiat level means you accept (a). Unless the other side had really good evidence for the pre-fiat argument, I can't see myself rejecting (a) as a judge. This may take awhile, but it's probably better than for any other pre-fiat issue because the odds of losing on it are so low. In any case, I think almost everyone would be deterred from doing this by a lack of evidence, fear of embarrassment, and strategic calculations not to lose on a turn. On Case 2 — I think this raises a harder question, but it's one that applies to way more issues than the one I'm raising. For instance, in theory debates, I think a tab paradigm commits judges to voting on obviously false premises. And I think that often has bad consequences, since patterns of voting on theory do tend to set norms. Any solution to this problem seems unsatisfying, but it's one where tradeoffs must be made. I'm inclined to say that judges should require validity, so even tab judges should not vote on invalid arguments. This doesn't solve the problem of false premises, but it does solve the problem of poor inferences. For instance, just because the aff claimed that she would donate a dollar to charity does NOT imply that voting aff maximizes utility. And even if she claimed that, she would need a warrant. And if she had a warrant, the conclusion would have to follow from it. But I can imagine the best version of this argument persuading me to vote aff — e.g., if you showed me a cheque addressed to Against Malaria Foundation for $1600 (enough to save a life), which you would hand me to send personally (http://givewell.org/international/top-charities/AMF), and I'm supposed to have an act utilitarian decision procedure… I would do it. One human life for one round? Hell yes, util requires it! The suffering example seems like a more general problem of repugnant arguments. This problem doesn't just arise for the issue I'm raising. I can foresee people objecting, "But if you just draw the imaginary line between debate and reality, it's no problem in general!" But voting on repugnant arguments has bad effects, so you can't take bad effects to be a reason to be less tab on the issue I'm raising but not take them to be a reason in general. The interesting solutions to the suffering counterexample are going to be ways to draw the line for what you take to be a reductio vs. what you take to revise your assumptions. But, again, you can't have it both ways. If you abandon tab and use your prior beliefs, then you can make the suffering example a reductio ("Yeah, I can't let you kill a puppy, so your criterion must be wrong"). If you stay tab and maintain consistency, then you may have to vote for the puppy killer — IF the argument is valid and the premises are appropriately warranted. But I think tab is not the way to go, as I'll argue in another article.

  • I loved this discussion guys. I hope you don't mind me jumping in, but I noticed a few things that I think should be mentioned.Especially in Clay's posts I noticed that even though he was searching to non-moral reasons to justify fairness, all of his reasons in some way relied on what is good for people (even if was only one person; the judge). In my view, humanity, or all rational beings in general are the bedrock of morality. The point of morality is to find the best arrangement for the flourishing of all morally relevant beings. So to say that education is something we should foster because it makes better citizens, critical thinkers, etc., essentially making debaters better people, to me sounds a lot like a moral justification. Even the idea of making tournaments run or being accepted int the debate community have a moral function in that they maintain a social structure in which humans can interact for mutual benefit. As for the idea that judges act as good judges because that's the purpose of a judge, that seems to me like a virtue argument from Aristotle. A thing is morally good in that it does what it is meant to do; in this case a judge is meant to judge fairly. I know I'm leaving out a lot of nuance and not addressing most of what was said, but these are just a few things I wanted to bring up. Thanks for the post, Jake.

    • Interesting point, and it is quite possible that you're right. I think the problem is that this sort of argument would claim that nonmoral value isn't really possible, namely, that all our values in some sense take morality as their source. But given this interpretation, there isn't a discussion to be had at all. Moreover, I think that the ambiguity over what sort of value is "moral" and what sort of value is "prudential" indicates that this debate isn't really resolvable absent an agreement over when these terms apply, which I think, realistically, isn't going to happen here.

  • Clay,Sorry for being unclear about what I meant by "normative." That seems like a word that causes people to talk past each other a lot. On your first question: "Do nonmoral norms exist such that it would never (or at least rarely) be permissible to violate them?" Surely you don't mean moral permissibility here. And surely you don't mean permissible-by-those-norms? Because it'll be trivially forbidden by etiquette to violate the rules of etiquette. What remains is rationality — i.e., what we are justified in doing, what it's not irrational to do, what we have sufficient reason to do. I really can't imagine why rules of etiquette or social conventions are things that we never/rarely have sufficient reason to violate. Do you ever have sufficient reason to fart in public? All the time. If you came up with an example for rules of etiquette or social conventions that it's never/rarely rational to violate, I would think it's a moral rule and point to the telltale signs of morality — e.g., it disrespects others, would be bad if everyone did it, is universally condemned, etc. (And you should always be careful not to think that moral rules are merely conventional; that way lies psychopathy — seriously.) What persuasive arguments do you have in mind?But, in any case, we can imagine a skeptical argument that undermines all practical rationality. If reasons for action must be non-natural facts, and metaphysical naturalism is true, then there are no reasons for action. So, no acts are irrational/unjustified, even if they violate the rules of etiquette.I think the other questions are less important than this main disagreement.When I said one could give a cogent RFD for either side, I wasn't using "cogent" to imply correctness. I meant that the RFD would be believable, and that others would find it convincing, so no one would think you were judging unfairly. That's compatible with my view that agreeing to disagree is irrational, since one of the believable RFDs will be mistaken. Sorry for that ambiguity. (Interestingly, you might think that the proposition "Aff did the better debating" gets a credence of exactly 1/2, in which case a coin flip seems like the right thing to do. But, with fully rational judges who flip coins in a .5 case, there is no disagreement even when they vote for different sides. Their RFDs would be the same — namely, "I flipped a coin because neither side won.")

    • I didnt mean morally permissible, obviously. I meant rational, in the particular sense that the reason could not be easily overridden/outweighed by other nonmoral reasons. Ill grant that social conventions that it is rarely rational to violate often have a moral overtone (i.e. respect other people), but I disagree that the only way to justify such principles is via morality.So let me establish some possible nonmoral arguments for why debate judges have a very good prudential reason to adjudicate fairly. (Im using prudential and nonmoral synonymously by the way). 1. As I mentioned in the number 2, I think a possible source of nonmoral reason is value in light of context/a things nature/functional use. Just as hay is nonmorally good for horses and medical experience is nonmorally valuable for a doctor, there may be good reason to think that fair adjudication is nonmorally good for a debate judge (Agreement with the tournament defines what is valuable for the judge in that it defines what the judge should pursue, the nature of being an LD judge entails a reason to be fair (may be a mislabel but I think this sort of approach is constitutivist) in that fairness is part of what it means to be an LD debate judge, a judge has reason to be fair because it is in line with natural expectation for his conduct, etc.). 2. A kind of deflationary constructivist approach: fairness is prudentially valuable, and there is a nonmoral reason to be fair just because we accept that it is valuable in judging a debate round. We have a reason to be fair judges with respect to our socially-ingrained beliefs about what debate is/what a debate judge is. Our reason, in this sense, might stem from our identification with other persons, and in this case, a judges identification with the rest of the debate community. While this account suffers from some of the same problems that plague intuitionism in moral philosophy, I do actually think it coheres with the way people judge debate rounds; we dont deliberate over our reasons to be fair/do all the things we do as judges, we just do them, because we are debate judges and those things are what debate judges do.3. Fair adjudication might be prudentially rational in light of the judges best interest. If I accepted a bribe and were banned from judging (by community stigma/nfl sanction, whatever) I would go through some kind of psychological withdrawal if I werent ever allowed to be a part of the debate community again, which, if you think about it, isnt as absurd as you might imagine. And this, although it was the first to come to mind, is pretty obviously not the only reason why it isnt in a judges best interest to accept bribes. Im sure youll ask me to consider an adjusted scenario where it is in the judges all-things-considered best interest to affirm, but I think it is important to remind ourselves of the fact that these sorts of scenarios just dont really occur in debate at all and so, arent that relevant.4. I think fair adjudication is almost definitely valuable in light of personal desire/want. Obviously this contention is largely subjective, but I think the common thread that unites all debate judges (and is the reason why they kill their weekends at debate tournaments) is that judges really enjoy being a part of the debate community for whatever reasons they hold, and perhaps even altruistically desire to help teach/mentor younger kids (Although altruism is overtly a moral trait, I think it is also identifiable as a nonmoral psychological trait). This sort of personal desire (especially the altruistic sort) might easily ground a reason why a judge wants to be fair, even in the face of a bribe, for the reason given in (3) and other similar reasons that accord with a persons desire.5. I believe that an assumption that fairness is valuable even when debaters run skepticism is necessary, is just a bedrock truth you have to accept as a debate judge, because otherwise the skepticism would leave your decision groundless/lacking a rational basis/unjustified with respect to the round. i.e. while the cash might give you a personal reason to affirm, your decision is ultimately meaningless with respect to the round because it lacks any tie to the debate/competition itself.6. Universally, debate judges assume that they will try to judge a round fairly before it starts. Youre no exception. Given this assumption, there is no reason a judge should personally accept the skepticism as true. You yourself noted that debaters often make and can win off of false arguments as long as they are valid/plausible. But this notion suggests that there are separate layers to debate: the plane on which debaters make arguments, and the plane on which the judge evaluates those arguments as they affect his personal beliefs. Meshing the two would make debate impossible/nonsensical. If judges should really personally accept the arguments that debaters make, their beliefs would fluctuate wildly speech to speech and round to round. A judge might, at various points in one tournament, believe that util, deont, virtue ethics, contractarianism, constructivism, skepticism, determinism, and existentialism are all true, which, lets be honest, is absurd. The notion that judges should separate the arguments on the flow from their personal beliefs coheres the most with the way debate judges, and in fact human beings, do evaluate arguments, and to assume otherwise is absurd.Note: I think there are other arguments to be made for why allowing arguments made on the flow to interact with your beliefs is silly/paradoxical/senseless, but Im too tired to think of them right now.A few other notes/ questions for you:First, can I get a cite for an argument that suggests that all reasons for action must be non-natural facts? Are you referring to Humes reason is slave to the passions argument? This argument seems unpersuasive to me, but if such an argument exists Ill concede that a debater could run it. However, it is very unclear to me why such an argument would function as moral skepticism, the object of our discussion. The sort of skepticism that suggests that no actions are rationally justified is a much deeper, more explosive sort of epistemic skepticism. I was under the impression that we were discussing antirealist skepticism, and while I find epistemic skepticism interesting, I honestly dont think it has any place in debate unless the judge and the competitors agree to artificially constrain it, and if we shifted this discussion to what a judge may do when a debater runs this sort of skepticism it will change the nature of our discussion entirely. (The skepticism you refer to is explosive in the sense that it would undermine the judges ability to rationally justify anything. I dont think the conclusion is that no acts are unjustified/irrational, because that conclusion suggests that acts are justified and rational, but given this sort of skepticism, they arent.) On a similar note, I havent started Parfit yet, it may take me a while to get back to you on that question. I have a hunch that if Parfits argument undermines all normativity, it probably isnt moral skepticism at all.Are nonmoral values even weighable? We do empirically weigh between them, but do we do so validly? Would arbitrary adjudication still be nonmorally wrong even if the benefit from cash was sufficient to empirically give the judge a reason to affirm? Are reasons for something tied to reasons against? I dont think so, and especially not if those reasons stand on different levels. How exactly do you weigh between different varieties of nonmoral reasons? Also, reason and desire may conflict, but that doesnt deny that the reason is valid. If conflicting reasons can both be valid reasons, then there is a great deal more to the dilemma of a judge facing a bribe than we have discussed here.While I think my number 2 is probably a corollary/reflection of number 1, I disagree that the number 3 is unimportant. If the number 3 is true and judges who are only motivated to fairness by moral concern dont exist, then the question of whether moral skepticism can justify an aff ballot is moot. Similarly, I think that the fact that people dont go around offering massive amounts of cash to judges to vote for them is indicative of the fact that this question is irrelevant. You might counter that judges could very well have another good reason to affirm, but I dont think this is true. It is a factual truth that almost all LD judges want to adjudicate fairly/not be arbitrary, and this fact suggests that the scenario in your article just isnt relevant.Finally, please again note that I dont think this discussion is resolvable unless we can agree on exactly what the scope of morality is, because while you may legitimately claim that the fact that morality inspires some/all of the forms of prudential value I listed, I may legitimately disagree.

      • To your questions:Parfit doesn't argue against normatively. He argues that the arguments for moral nihilism are too strong because they also undermine all normativity. Also see Parfit for why reasons are irreducibly normative, non-natural facts. Scanlon has a good lecture series called "Being Realistic About Reasons." There's also that passage at the end of Reasons and Persons where DP argues that if there are reasons, then it's plausible that there are moral reasons. My point here isn't that Parfit is right (although my credence in that is >.5), but just that it's plausible and ignored by your view. I don't understand some of your questions, but here is a string of answers which may also be unclear — I wrote them quickly. I guess nonmoral values are always weighable if you have a continuous utility function, sometimes weighable if have some discontinuities, and never weighable if you think all nonmoral values are incomparable. If by "nonmorally wrong" you mean irrational, then whether the cash benefits justify an aff ballot depends on the non-moral reasons for voting neg. Relevant variables include whether anyone would find out, whether you could ease your conscience, and what you could do money, but in principle these things could easily come out in favor of the aff. The decisive one, for me, is that voting aff would be wrong, but without that reason, I can imagine having sufficient reason to vote aff. Different kinds of reasons may count in favor of things to different degrees. Even if those degrees are imprecise, there may still be truths about how they compare. Your question about reasons vs desires is unclear because it depends on what you mean by "valid" and on whether you think reasons come from desires or from the objective features of what we want. If the former, then there can't be conflict. If the latter, then reason trivially wins against non-reason-giving desires. Validity is a property of arguments, not facts or desires, so I may be misunderstanding you here. There can be reasons in favor of X and reasons in favor of not-X, and the balance of reasons determines what you all-things-considered ought to do. The more fuzzy areas, ties, discontinuities, indeterminacies, etc., you think come into the balance of reasons, the more acts you should think are justified/rational, so those should actually increase your credence that voting aff is justified. (Example: if you accept Sidgwick's dualism AND think there are several varieties of nonmoral goods that are unweighable, then you're gonna think it's rational to pursue any of those good when they conflict with either each other or morality.) The #3 was only important if skep undermines morality alone, not reasons in general. If skep undermines reasons in general, including nonmoral reasons, then the judge has no more reason to vote aff or neg. The cash thing is a good example for thought experiments but bad for real cases because it'll rarely be decisive (you might get caught, the amounts are too low, etc.). The more typical cases of unfair judging involve close rounds with things like rep, personal stakes in success (camps/school alliances), and playing favorites. In close rounds, I could see it being in my best interests to vote for the person who I like most and give a believable RFD. I never do that (knowingly — we all have biases) because I think it would be wrong. But, if morality doesn't exist, then screw it. Or, if you have a present-aim theory of reasons (instead of self-interest over the course of your life), it's even easier for this to come out in favor of the unfair decision, since it just depends on what you want at that moment. If you just want the skep debater to lose, then that's what you have most reason to do. And, yes it is resolvable without a definition of morality if the skeptical argument is too strong and undermines all reasons for action, if you accept a present-aim theory, or if you ever have sufficient self-interested reason to vote unfairly.

        • Hey Jake,I need to start getting ready for freshman year, and so I can't continue this line-by-line discussion any time soon, but I'd like to note a couple general things before i stop checking for posts:1. The discussion has transitioned from a discussion of the "moral skepticism" in the article to a discussion of much broader forms of skepticism (about normativity in general, about reasons), and while I think there is interesting discussion to be had in that direction, I also think that this kind of skepticism is really explosive and has the potential to undermine/mess with other aspects of judging/debate, and these things should be addressed. Also, I think that your shift from defending a hypothetical where the debater ran skeptical antirealism to a hypothetical where the debater ran skepticism about reasons/normativity is important because it might mean that debaters are in the clear if they want to run skeptical antirealist arguments, just not if they want to run epistemic skepticism. This is my view, in case I've been unclear. I don't think epistemic skepticism makes any sense in the context of debate.2. Heres a hypothetical for you: If you had an epiphany and suddenly realized that error theory is true, would you still try to be a fair judge of debate rounds? If so, why? What WOULD you do in this scenario? Would involvement in debate even make sense anymore? In this vein, were you adjudicating the round between Alon and me fairly (glenbrooks I think?) where I ran moral skepticism, and if so, why?

        • It's not *intended* to be epistemic skepticism; it's an unwanted consequence of the view. The moral antirealist is not in the clear: the point of the argument is that args for moral antirealism undermine normative realism. (I was using "antirealism" interchangeably with "skepticism," and neither as specific to a particular domain, e.g., morality, unless otherwise indicated.)I don't recall thinking you won that moral skepticism was true. But correct me if you remember differently from my RFD. If I were 100% confident that error theory were true, then I would probably just do work for school during debate rounds until the late rebuttals, unless I thought I would enjoy the debate. But, if I were any less than 100% confident, then I would judge fairly for moral uncertainty reasons. See Jake Ross's "Rejecting Ethical Deflationism."

      • Quickly on the nonmoral reasons for a requirement to judge fairly:Natural expectations of conduct don't count much in favor of following those expectations. A good member of the Nazi party would hate Jews a lot — doesn't count in favor of hating Jews. Thoughtless habits of communities don't give you good reasons either. Engrained beliefs might, if they were true and justified. See my other post for how the balance of self-interested reasons could easily justify voting for your personal favorite or camp/school/ideological ally if you could do it without raising much suspicion (i.e., not too many times, giving good RFDs, etc.) — especially if you think there are all these nonweighable nonmoral goods. Judges like being part of the debate community, but for the most part, judging sucks. Self-interest may justify involvement in general but might not require each marginal hour you spend in the back of the room trying desperately to make the right decision (and you need requirement to avoid my conclusion). Altruistic self-interested reasons can easily go overboard here: you could then justifiably vote aff because you know the aff will be more upset about the loss. Yes, skepticism would leave your decision unjustified — that's the point: you have no more reason to vote neg than aff, so just do whatever you want. If skepticism is incompatible with a bedrock assumption of debate, then you either throw out skepticism or the assumption wasn't bedrock at all, but you can't have it both ways. I covered the "debate truthiness" point elsewhere, including an explanation of how my view isn't about "personal beliefs" and is compatible with supposing different things to be true in different rounds (reset your priors), but I thought you agreed with my general conclusion there. I asked, "Can an argument, in principle, undermine the judge's duty to judge the round fairly in the way we normally understand it?" You said, "I think the answer is pretty obviously yes" and gave an example where the judge supposes that fair evaluation would give you lung cancer. It's cool if you changed your mind about this point, but then you might want to be more cautious about the way you use the word "obviously," which you've used a lot.

  • Dylan345543

    Round 1: Debater A runs util, says he should win the round as he is the utility monster, wins the round under this approachRound 2: Debater A runs kantianism, but this time addresses the resolution insteadDebater B: "But in the last round, he said util is true, i watched the round, lying is non-universalizable, drop him"Under Nebels approach its unclear who he would vote for, but concievably Debater B can win. If our substantive arguments can have impacts to the ballot outside of the resolution, switch-side debate is literally impossible and i think the above example makes it pretty clear why.

    • It doesn't seem clear to me why switch-side debate is *literally impossible* on my view. Can you abstract from the example and connect it to that strong conclusion?Problems with Debater B's argument:1. Lying might not always be wrong even if Kantianism is true. Debate might be a case of permissible lying. But suppose, for the sake of argument, that this version of it says explicitly that lying is always wrong…2. We don't actually know that Debater A lied. You lie just when you claim something you believe to be false. It's not clear to me that this happened. But suppose Debater A admits that she lied…3. We don't know when Debater A lied. When she ran utilitarianism, or when she ran Kantianism? Most justifications for punishment in debate are about punishing bad things in the round. But suppose Debater A concedes that she lied, and thereby acted wrongly, in this debate…4. Just because lying is wrong doesn't mean the judge should vote against debaters who have ever lied. All of us have acted wrongly before, so punishing everyone who has done something immoral won't help you decide debates. And not all cases of wrongdoing are blameworthy. And not all prior blameworthy acts should result in a loss, because some are quite minor. But suppose those things weren't true, and that some implausibly strong version of retributivism were true, such that all wrongdoing deserves a loss…Then, yeah, the judge ought to vote for Debater B, because Debater A acted wrongly, is blameworthy, and deserves the punishment of the loss. But that conclusion is only absurd because of the crazy assumptions along the way, not because of the form of reasoning I've defended.

      • Dylan345543

        Fine, you might be right that kantianism could allow lying in that instance, my point was just that switch-side debate is nigh-on-impossible if we have to hold the same moral reasons that we do in the round. I agree it was not a strong example, it was assumed that debater B won the argument which seems just as ridiculous as debater A winning that he maximized happiness by winning.My point is that if our normative arguments have greater implications then that of the resolution, and we have to advance different arguments every round, then we must simultaneously hold those arguments to both be true and false, which seems insane (or maybe we can just be skeptics?). You could say that those arguments should just be specific to the round, but I dont see why that is any less of an arbitrary barrier than saying arguments should be specific to the resolution as you implicate.

        • Even when you make arguments that you believe to be false, you could make arguments that you find plausible. Also, in most cases, there are more than two options. In such cases, we may be more or less confident in certain options, without being confident that any of them is correct.Great debaters can tell you how they firmly believed their best cases on both sides, because they thought the arguments were so good. If they had to debate themselves, might think it's so close that they would not be confident which side is right. Those are the arguments you should run. Most of us don't like it when people run theory arguments that are wildly implausible, which even the debater can't possibly believe. Theory is just the ethics of LD. Why care so much about the truth here, but not with other arguments?

  • JacobN1

    Great article, but I still think tabula rasa judging is the best approach. I don't think it's axiomatic (because, say, the ballot says "better debater"); I just think it's the best form of debate. Tab judging prevents bribes and coercion, it avoids biases (to an extent), and in my experience it leads to much more educational debates than the emotional appeal style of debate that happens at the local level. Taking every debater's advocacy to its logical conclusion seems to me very detrimental in the long term (encouraging bribes and biases, de facto prohibiting certain arguments, etc), and that's enough for me to reject it.Sure, debaters can still make arguments like "the fact that you're evaluating this debate on the flow at all means you have to accept the existence of some conception of fairness", and they can debate that argument in round. What they can't do is extend their opponent's Nietzsche K and then sign my ballot for me. That argument rejects the tabula rasa model and so rejects the only reason why I would give a conceded argument weight in my decision in the first place. The debater would have to convince me to change my sincere convictions and become a Nietzscheian. Until that happens, I'll remain tab.

    • I think the tabula rasa model requires the opposite. As I said to Daniel, when deciding who wins the debate, the tab judge supposes that all claims that are won or conceded are true. After voting, she can return to her prior beliefs.Since the tab judge's prior credence on Nietzsche K true/false is uninformative (e.g., 50-50), it doesn't take any special convincing to make the tab judge suppose that the Nietzsche K is true when deciding the round. I also don't think the alternative consists of emotional appeals and bribes. I think it's just more plausible arguments about which advocacy is better. It seems inconsistent for a tab judge to be okay with accepting the reductio version of the argument ("Fairness is incompatible with X position, so reject X; otherwise it would be cool for me to sign the judge's ballot") but not the offensive version ("Fairness is incompatible with X position, so reject fairness because X is true; this means it's cool for me to sign the judge's ballot"). One person's modus ponens is another's modus tollens.

      • JacobN1

        I think the premise that "the winner of the round should be the winner of the flow" should be a basic premise of the round that isn't open to debate. This seems like a consistent tabula rasa view and one that excludes "Nietzsche means let me steal your ballot", "skep means flip a coin" and the like. Those arguments reject the flow model but only matter in my decision if I consider arguments won on the flow to be true.There might be other coherent paradigms (I don't see anything internally inconsistent with yours). I just think those paradigms lead to worse debates. In particular, I suspect that in practice your view will just lead to more spikes and procedurals that detract from topical debate. That seems anti-educational to me.

        • I don't see why my paradigm is any more likely than a tab paradigm to encourage spikes and procedurals.What does "the winner of the flow" mean? Why isn't that person just the debater who best shows that the judge ought to vote for her? I realize you want to resist this idea to avoid the conclusion, but you need a counter-interpretation of tab. I don't see how you can exclude the flip a coin/steal your ballot arguments but not theory or other pre-fiat advocacies.

        • Also (and this problem comes up for all assumptions that aren't open for debate), what do you do when both debaters *agree* to reject it? Because, e.g., they agree that the judge (like everyone) ought to increase the sum of happiness in the universe, and only judge by the flow when those aims align?

  • Isn't it possible that the judges obligation is a functional ought rather than a moral one? This argument is articulated by Elizabeth Anscombe, as well as MacIntyre. Essentially, the claim is that the "context" an action is within provides the standards of its evaluation. The most common example is that of a good or bad watch. The motions of a watch would mean nothing if abstracted from the context of timekeeping. So, it is still possible to say that a certain judge was good or bad even if moral skepticism is true, since these are not moral claims. When making the commitment to adjudicate rounds, the judge implicitly concedes to these standards, because they could have decided not to enter into the judging pool if they wanted to screw the standards (and avoid the risk of a fine). It seems like judges feel some kind of internal reason or motivation to judge, which also motivates them to adhere to the standards of LD debate. This, of course, only applies to judges who choose to judge, rather than being forced into it by their affiliation with a school, however that seems to be the tyoe of judge we are talking about.

    • I thought the point of the functional view was to serve as a basis for the moral ought. That's why this idea of goodness is informative for moral theory. So it seems incompatible with moral skepticism. (Yes, it avoids some of the arguments for moral skepticism, but not skepticism itself.)Coaches are required to judge. So these judges could respond, "So what, I'm a bad judge, in the sense that some watches are bad. But I don't care about that. I'm just judging because I have to." If skepticism is true, that seems fine. Even coaches who are required to judge should think that's wrong. I think fairness is morally important as a matter of respect. That's why they should care about being a good judge.

      • Daniel Imas

        It isn't true that the functional view serves as the basis for the moral ought. Anscombe draws upon the moral ought as something entirely distinct, which became popular in use with the dominance of Christian thought. The functional ought can be considered something separate. It doesn't make claims of obligation, just procedural claims.

        • You're right. I wasn't thinking of Anscombe specifically as much as the way LDers and others sometimes develop the view (e.g., that virtue ethics determines obligations).

  • I have a question, one of the examples of arbitrary ways of deciding debate rounds is "or promoting the sum of happiness in the universe." Does this mean that if say a negative runs a utilitarian position, and the affirmative just reads four minutes of why it would promote the greatest amount of happiness, would you vote aff (presuming he wins this debate)?I have a feeling the answer is no, and if not, this is inconsistent and just a way of getting around normative skepticism. If the answer is yes, then… I don't know; I just think that there's a reason we confine ethical frameworks to the round. I think a lot of ethical framework would reject the way that we go about debating, like on the juvenile's topic a lot of people ran that a non-adversarial framework of law was more likely to reach truth. It just seems to un-fairly limit the scope of debates to not think of debate as an isolated space.

    • I would vote aff, and I think that strategy is pretty cool. But I'd be open to arguments from the neg for why, on the whole, it's best for util if judges obeyed a rule to evaluate the resolution, instead of going by the expected utility of each individual decision. I think that response is plausible and gets into an important debate in consequentialist moral theory.I would also be open to an aff making that argument as a double-bind: either total/expected/act/hedonistic util is false because it has this absurd consequence, or it requires you to vote aff regardless of the resolution. If the non-adversarial framework were most likely to reach the truth in general, and not just in law, then that's a good argument against competitive switch-sides debate. That could be an interesting impact in a theory debate. (Isn't that pretty mainstream in Policy Debate?) On the other hand, one might use our confidence in the value of competitive switch-sides debate as a reductio of the view that the adversarial framework is bad. We only confine ethical frameworks to the round now because debaters often run wildly implausible ethical frameworks, which wouldn't make sense if we thought about them rationally, without these arbitrary and imaginary limits separating "debate truthiness" from reality. If debaters ran more plausible ethical frameworks, we could be consistent without having strange consequences.

      • On the one hand I'm sympathetic to the idea that what debaters say in round has some real implications. On the other hand, I'm skeptical of the idea that 'plausible' ethical frameworks are those that are consistent with/follow debate's norms. Still, interesting idea, thanks for the post, and I'll definitely give it some thought.

        • Not all of debate's norms may be justified. But some of them clearly are — e.g., treating each debater with fair concern and respect.

  • Daniel Imas

    Also, this argument relies on blatant level conflations. There is no reason why the judge should be influenced to a personal extent by arguments in the round that they are set to evaluate. The flow-based world is very distinct and separate from what the judge's real life beliefs would be. Otherwise, if the judge has no moral obligation, then they could also justifiably then take the ballot without signing it and run away from the tournament since they're "under no obligation", making it impossible for it to continue because of a missing ballot. There is very clearly a difference between what happens in a debate round and what is actually true in real life that needs to be recognized.

    • Daniel,If skepticism were true, then yes, that would be okay. That just means skepticism is absurd. Is this absurdity on a different "level" than the claimed truth value of skepticism in a debate? I don't see how it could be. There is no special "debate truthiness." Yes, there is a difference between what debaters claim and what's true of real life, but that's because debaters often make false claims. That doesn't deny that claims made in a debate round are claims *about* reality, and their truth conditions in reality fix their truth conditions in a debate. What's the flow-based world? How is it different from the real world? When the neg says that there are no moral obligations, that claim is incompatible with the judge having a moral obligation. There are no qualifying brackets in the neg's thesis. This is even true for the most "tabula rasa" judge. When deciding who wins the debate, this judge lists all the claims that are won or conceded, and supposes that they are all true. If the judge supposes that there are no moral obligations, then the judge will suppose that it's permissible to vote either way. After voting, she can return to her prior beliefs. (This picture of tab judging is basically that the judge starts each debate with a fresh set of uninformative priors, updates those beliefs based on the arguments won in the debate, and then decides with that posterior distribution of credences. After deciding, the judge resets to the uninformative priors for the next round.)Cutting this response short because I've written another post on it for later. Interested to hear your thoughts.

      • Daniel Imas

        Jake, although obviously there isn't a difference between what would technically be true in a debate round and real-life, I think it's fairly obvious that we keep those levels separate. For example, if someone proves util true in a round and their coach offers you $500 to vote for them, there's definitely a utilitarian benefit to taking the money because that leads to more utils than a kid winning a debate round. Likewise, they could be running an egoist position and do the same thing. You may claim that no one makes these arguments but, if they did, according to your beliefs, you would be obliged to vote for them. I think that leads to an educationally bankrupt view of debate that involves questions of the judge way too much.It doesn't make sense for us to take parts of the flow-based world to impact our actual judging behavior because the judge's role is to decide who did the better debating, not to see what the extent of their moral claims could do.

        • Why should the judge always decide based on who did the better debating, and why should that always come down to an evaluation of the resolution? My view: sometimes debaters make arguments that bear on whether the judge really ought to decide who did the better debating, or what "the better debating" entails. Your view: that's impossible. Your argument for your view is an example, but I don't think your example supports your view better than mine.Suppose the neg runs ethical egoism, and the aff concedes it and argues that voting aff will best promote the judge's interests. The neg concedes that voting aff will best promote the judge's interests, but continues to argue that belief in the resolution is unjustified. I would vote aff. I don't see why I should care about the resolution and vote neg, rather than do what the debaters say I ought morally to do. (Using egoism here because the example is clearer than utilitarianism.) I don't think this is educationally bankrupt. It's just a reason why, in order to avoid this kind of scenario, debaters should advance moral principles that fit our firm, considered judgments — including what we all take to be obvious about how judges ought to decide. If you defend moral principles that are out of whack with those judgments (yes, including Expected/Total/Act/Hedonistic Utilitarianism), then you can expect weird consequences. I think this is good for education because it reflects philosophical methodology. Your example only seems counterintuitive because you didn't have the aff argue that voting aff is the egoist thing to do — which leaves out the link between voting one way and doing what the arguments in the debate imply you to do. When adding this link, I find the opposite conclusion counterintuitive: that you should do something that the arguments in the debate imply you *shouldn't* do. You can block my conclusion if you have what Rebar called "non-contestable assumptions" — in this case, that (a) you ought always to vote for the better debater, and (b) you ought always to determine the better debating by evaluating whether belief in the resolution is justified. I think (a) is a largely uninformative phrase on the ballot, and (b) is not a good candidate for non-contestable assumption.The "tabula rasa" way to figure out who did the better debating is to decide which debater you ought to vote for, given the arguments in the debate. If, given the arguments in the debate, you ought to do whatever is best for you, and voting aff is best for you, then you ought to affirm. In most cases, there is not much reason to believe that voting either way will be better for you, so figuring out whether we're justified in believing/following the resolution is a good rule of thumb. But, in the case above, you shouldn't follow this rule of thumb. I'm not a tabula rasa judge. The way I decide who did the better debating is by figuring out which debater presented advocacy that, based on the arguments in the debate, is better (i.e, the advocacy that we have most reason/ought to choose). The aff advocacy, at the end of this debate, is that the judge vote aff. The framework is ethical egoism, the aff wins offense under it, and the neg has no offense against that advocacy, so the aff advocacy is better. So I vote aff. In order to vote neg, I would need to hear an argument for why egoism requires the judge to vote neg if we shouldn't accept/follow the resolution, even if the evidence suggests that ignoring the resolution in this particular case would be best for me. That could be true. But I'm not going to assume it for the neg.

        • If you don't accept my view above, consider how it interacts with more general principles of debate judging.You can block my conclusion if you have what Rebar called "non-contestable assumptions" — in this case, that (a) you ought always to vote for the better debater, and (b) you ought always to determine the better debating by evaluating whether belief in the resolution is justified. I think (a) is a largely uninformative phrase on the ballot, and (b) is not a good candidate for non-contestable assumption.The "tabula rasa" way to figure out who did the better debating is to decide which debater you ought to vote for, given the arguments in the debate. If, given the arguments in the debate, you ought to do whatever is best for you, and voting aff is best for you, then you ought to affirm. In most cases, there is not much reason to believe that voting either way will be better for you, so figuring out whether we're justified in believing/following the resolution is a good rule of thumb. But, in the case above, you shouldn't follow this rule of thumb. I'm not a tabula rasa judge. The way I decide who did the better debating is by figuring out which debater presented advocacy that, based on the arguments in the debate, is better (i.e, the advocacy that we have most reason/ought to choose). The aff advocacy, at the end of this debate, is that the judge vote aff. The framework is ethical egoism, the aff wins offense under it, and the neg has no offense against that advocacy, so the aff advocacy is better. So I vote aff. In order to vote neg, I would need to hear an argument for why egoism requires the judge to vote neg if we shouldn't accept/follow the resolution, even if the evidence suggests that ignoring the resolution in this particular case would be best for me. That could be true. But I'm not going to assume it for the neg.

        • Daniel Imas

          I disagree with your A point that it's an uninformative phrase found on the ballot – I think it pretty clearly determines what factors are relevant to making your decision i.e. it's irrelevant if their coach paid the judge off because they didn't do the better debating.The second half of your post is answered above where I talk about how judging should be more involved than I think you lend it credence to be. Anyways, this is my last post because I find it difficult to track these arguments through random different posts and I think I've sufficiently detailed my view in the comments above.

        • Daniel Imas

          The ballot asks who did the better debater. Absent just lying (which if you want to defend as a reasonable way of judging, that's fine), you have to decide it in the manner dictated on the ballot.I don't really see a resolution to this debate if you accept that it's fine for debaters to argue that they should win because their coach bribed you, frankly because I think that's a ludicrous claim and absolute tab judging is a detriment to the activity. I think it's fairly obvious that there are limitations on what we should allow debaters to do, while your conclusion would justify allowing them to do absolutely anything in-round.The logical extent of your argument is that literally any ethical theory that is run in the round would affect how the judge decides the ballot. If someone runs that suffering is good and beats their opponent, arguing that you should vote for them, do you allow that occur? I just think this exemplifies why completely tab views on debate justify absurd in-round tactics – if you think that's a good view of debate, I guess we'll agree to disagree.

        • I'm not a tab judge. I was responding to your argument that my view requires too much input from the judge. If someone argues (and the opponent concedes) that you should always lie, then either (a) you should reject the argument because it's absurd, or (b) vote for the worse debater because you should lie. I would probably do (a), but I think other judges' views on intervention would require them to do (b). I would never let someone beat her opponent, which is why I can't imagine voting for an argument that suffering is good. What I find strange is the idea that debaters can argue for anything, but that the clear implications of their arguments are irrelevant — and I think many judges do precisely that with skepticism. If nothing is wrong, then lying isn't wrong.And, no, most reasonable moral principles do not drastically change how you should decide the round, although they usually have some affect on theory impact debates. But the recent past in LD has focused on extreme, unreasonable moral principles which most of us reject — they are unreasonable when they're obviously inconsistent with our duty to judge debates fairly. If frameworks were less ridiculous, then this scenario wouldn't be a problem. Totally fine not to respond, but I think agreeing to disagree is irrational, so I hope we can discuss this later with the hope that we eventually agree. See <a href="http://hanson.gmu.edu/deceive.pdf” target=”_blank”>http://hanson.gmu.edu/deceive.pdf

        • TheBerkeleyBear

          You claim below that "I would never let someone [punch] her opponent, which is why I can't imagine voting for an argument that suffering is good." It seems that your paradigm also justifies not voting on util assuming util leads to a morally repugnant conclusion or can justify genocides. Some are repulsed by Existentialism's tie to Nazism. Some think Kant is racist. Adjudicating rounds quickly becomes impossible since most rounds use these ethical theories. So, it seems like your paradigm enables self-righteous judges to be able to damage the activity. Thus a distinction between pre and post fiat must be made.

        • "Can justify" is different from *entails.* "Some think" is different from *is true.*

        • TheBerkeleyBear

          Of course. But undoubtedly we prefer a debate paradigm where that's impossible, especially if people do believe things like Kant being racist. I'm pretty sure I know of at least 3 good judges in the community that find util offensive (Rebar is the most vocal). If these people used your paradigm, they'd be hurting the activity.

        • I'd prefer a consistent paradigm where that's possible to an inconsistent paradigm where it's impossible.Kant being racist doesn't mean Kantianism is false. Util offending Rebar doesn't mean util is false. Beating your opponent being totally not okay does mean that suffering is bad.

        • TheBerkeleyBear

          Your paradigm isn't consistent because it depends on what people perceive as intuitively repulsive. I don't even understand how the pre and post fiat dstinction paradigm is inonsistent.The #2 is silly. It doesn't matter if the argument is actually false. What matters is if people get voted down, which is the issue with your preferred paradigm.The #3 is a blatant strawman. No one would defend that.

        • TheBerkeleyBear

          okay this is ridiculous

        • Moving the discussion leftwards to give bigger margins. When did I say my paradigm depended on what people perceive as "intuitively repulsive"? The point of my #2 was to say that your counterexamples don't link because repulsiveness/disgust was not my criterion."Blatant strawman"? Why does everyone keep using the word "blatant" to make their arguments sound stronger? Anyways… It's a counterexample. Counterexamples test your principles by imagining what you would/wouldn't do in some hypothetical. What would you do in this situation? If you would intervene, then it seems like you have some non-contestable expectations for what goes on in a debate round — and that's okay, but it's important to admit it.

        • TheBerkeleyBear

          This statement "I would never let someone [punch] her opponent, which is why I can't imagine voting for an argument that suffering is good." is what leads me to believe a judge's belief for what behavior is repulsive will be a part of the round.I'd break up the fight because I imagine the tournament might hold me responsible. And of course I have expectations for the round. I only speak English so they have to speak English.Plus, this discussion doesn't mean what you think it means. I'm just saying that no post-fiat and pre-fiat distinction is wrong. Debaters can still argue that it's right and my paradigm is bad. I'm not precluding those arguments just because I think they're wrong. This is just my default.

        • Also, my view does not undermine the distinction between pre- and post-fiat. Even if you have this distinction, you can/should accept that morality does not change between them. Most philosophers hold fundamental moral principles to be true across all possible worlds, so util can't be true in the post-fiat world but false in the pre-fiat one. It would only make sense to distinguish the moral principles in each world if those principles were contingent, which requires philosophical argument, not pointing to debate conventions.

  • Daniel Imas

    I think your argument also ignores the procedural justification that the judge has to evaluate the round and who did the better debating, as the ballot indicates. The judge is under an obligation to the tournament in exchange for either money or the ability of their students to participate and the rules dictate the judge must honor whatever rules are in place at the tournament (NFL rules, usually, which include time constraints). As for the obligation to evaluate the round fairly, the ability to decide who did the better debating requires an equal playing field for them to start from so that the judge's decision isn't skewed. This appears to be a procedural obligation, rather than a moral one.

    • Why does the judge have an obligation to do what the ballot says she ought to do? What grounds the "procedural" obligation? It's not self-interest, because the judge in my scenario (as with pretty much every other scenario I've encountered) can get away with voting aff without the tournament withholding cash.Claim: you have no reasons to obey this obligation except for self-interest and morality. It's wrong to screw debaters over, and they have a legitimate right to your fair, undivided attention. But if there were no morality, you would only have self-interest. So, in this debate, you would do what maximizes your expected wellbeing — vote aff.

      • Daniel Imas

        The procedural justification is grounded in what I said above – an agreement between them and the tournament to fairly adjudicate debates for either money or their students having the ability to compete. This is why if any evidence of impropriety is demonstrated between a judge and someone they are judging i.e. someone sees some kind of payment, then they are thrown out of the tournament as a judge. Just because the judge may not have an incentive or a clear check on whether they're making the fair decision in their mind doesn't mean that it isn't their obligation.

        • Why should the judge do what she agreed to do? What grounds this obligation?I obviously agree that fair judging is an obligation. But I think it's a moral one, and I don't see what else it could be. If there were no moral obligations, then judges could not have this particular moral obligation. So either (a) skepticism is absurd, or (b) the judge can do whatever she wants.

        • Daniel Imas

          My belief is that, fine, maybe it doesn't rest in a sense of obligation, but it's still something that you ought to do as a judge because that is what a judge is supposed to do. In any scenario, I have no idea why this is something that would be up for the debaters to decide in-round.

        • Debaters should either decide or be constrained by this rule. Take your pick.The skeptic denies that we ought to are supposed to do anything. Either that's false because we're supposed to judge fairly, or it's true so we can vote for whomever we want. If you think the obligation to judge fairly is beyond in-round contestation, then you can't accept skepticism in round, since skepticism denies the obligation to judge fairly.

      • I think this is a false dichotomy. Obligation could be grounded in a kind of hypothetical imperative of the form "to do what is right in the context of debate/to do what rationally flows from the premise that debate is a competitive activity/to foster the sort of in-round environment that will make debaters want to keep debating, etc., you should be a fair judge" or literally any other prudential or Anscombey ought or reason. Also, it is possible (and I think likely), that people care about younger debaters and the activity in a selfless, non-egotistical way.I also think your insistence that prudential oughts are insufficient to generate an obligation (because we can always ask why we should follow the ought) is pretty funny because its almost identical to the morally-skeptical "why be moral" question. Which isn't even a question at all really. see: <a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism-moral/supplement.html” target=”_blank”>http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism-moral/supplement.html

        • The SEP entry you cited does not support the claim that "Why should I be moral?" is not a genuine question. The point of Sidgwick's dualism (at the bottom) is that it's justified either to do what's prudentially best for your or what's morally right, when they conflict.As I wrote in the post, I'm interested in figuring out the generalizable implications of this view, so control for details that you find important. In this case, suppose that the skeptical argument clearly undermines the idea of rightness-in-a-context, actions rationally flowing from the nature of things, fairness, or normative reasons. If that were true, would it then be permissible to vote aff? I don't think I ever denied that there are prudential requirements. I just said that such requirements do not explain why we ought to judge debates fairly, and that if they were the only requirements, then your obligation (prudential requirement) is to vote aff. Hypothetical imperatives require you to do the instrumentally necessary means to your ends. If those aren't your ends, then you don't have to do the means. So:(a) For the sake of argument, suppose you don't have those ends. Do you agree it's permissible to vote aff? I think you'd have to say Yes. (b) Even if you do have those ends, but could justifiably not have had those ends, do you agree that it's permissible to vote aff? Just decide to care about different thins. It seems unsatisfying to think that the right decision in this debate depends not on what happened in the debate, but on the judge's psychology.

        • Sorry for the mis-cite. A couple more thoughts:1) I honestly have no idea how the kind of skepticism that you outlined above could be justified. I've done a LOT of reading on moral skepticism over the summer, and haven't found anything remotely close to what you described short of total epistemic skepticism, which isn't really what we're talking about at all here (the debater in the dialogue in your article ran quote "moral skepticism"). I'll absolutely concede that if there were a magical kind of moral skepticism that undermined all the arguments I've made on this page that your view is correct, but I defy you to show me this kind of skepticism.Also, if the skepticism "undermines the idea of rightness-in-a-context, actions rationally flowing from the nature of things, [and] fairness" it isn't MORAL skepticism at all. As I remarked in another post, your argument probably forces opening a new can of worms over exactly what morality is (if it even exists at all), and given the rampant disagreement over what morality is in the debate/philosophical communities respectively, I don't think that this discussion is resolvable via that route.2. If you concede that trivial/nonmoral obligation can exist, then I honestly just don't understand why the particular trivial/nonmoral obligation to be a fair judge can't also exist. Please explain.

        • Didn't mean epistemic skepticism in particular. All normative skepticism. Parfit argues, for instance, that normative nihilism is incompatible with reasons for belief. This just depends on whether you think epistemology is normative or natural — look up naturalized epistemology for a way to escape the argument. Then assume naturalized epistemology fails, and assume the skeptical debater knows this. Parfit also argues that Mackie's arguments apply to all normative concepts.If you're asking for someone who realized this implication and accepted normative nihilism, I have no names for you: it's just an implausible view. That's why it's effective to show that an argument for moral skepticism is non-unique to moral concepts b/c it also applies to all normativity. It was an argument for moral skepticism. But one whose premises also entail more. "Acts rationally flowing from non-normative premises" seems like something that most arguments for moral skepticism would deny. Also, I really want to abstract from the details of the example here. Let's get the general picture right first: can an argument, in principle, undermine the judge's duty to judge the round fairly in the way we normally understand it? By "trivial obligations" do you mean the prudential requirements? There may be a prudential reason to be a fair judge, but it's outweighable in this case by the massive gains expected by voting aff.

        • This discussion has become very similar to the other ongoing one, so I'll just respond to the clarification questions here:1) I think the answer is pretty obviously yes. For instance, if I validly argued that by adjudicating fairly you would somehow give me lung cancer, then the duty not to give me lung cancer would override the duty to be fair. I think the better question is whether a) a debater would ever run an argument that he/she knows would undermine his/her judge's commitment to be fair (so that we can determine if this discussion is relevant at all) and b) whether a morally skeptical argument can serve this function. And I think the answer is "no" to the second question.

  • It seems to me that it would be a very strange judge who feels compelled to judge debates fairly ONLY because of some "moral" obligation. As far as I can tell, judges attempt to be fair because:a) they want be/seem like good judges (because they want to be respected in the community, want to be hired as a judge more so they can make more $, egotistically care about their appearance, etc.) and b) they care about the pragmatic benefits that debate affords participants (knowledge, public speaking ability, the ability to befriend other intellectuals, etc.) and realize that judging rounds unfairly would undermine this purpose (by discouraging debaters from wanting to compete, by undermining their credibility in the debate community and therefore limiting their chances of coaching/passing on knowledge in the future, etc.). In fact, I'm not inspired to judge fairly at tournaments next year out of a sense of moral duty at all; I'm motivated by the above reasons alone. But even if I did feel morally obligated to judge fairly, I wouldn't ONLY be morally obligated to judge fairly. If a judge only felt compelled to judge debates fairly because of a moral obligation, and was somehow completely isolated from the two sources of motivation I have described above, he would have WAY bigger problems (social/relationship problems, probably) than figuring out how to adjudicate a round where moral skepticism was run.

    • Good point, Clay. But I'm not sure how much the case depends on that particular detail of the example. Consider:1. Depending on what fairness is, some skeptical arguments would deny that treatment can be fair or unfair at all. So even if you care about fairness for prudential reasons, skepticism would imply that what you cared about was an illusion. Or, alternatively, the skeptical argument could deny the existence of all normative reasons (even non-moral ones), so you couldn't have any more reason to vote neg than aff — either way would be justified.2. Even if you (reasonably) care about fairness for prudential reasons, rather than moral reasons, it doesn't seem to me wrong to vote aff in the debate we're imagining. It's just a prudential mistake. The neg has no legitimate complaint or right against the judge that the judge maximize her own expected wellbeing. 3. If the benefits you cite were sufficient reason not to vote aff in my example, this fact would have strange implications. That's because the benefits don't always side with fairness. Suppose you judge a close debate in which you could give a cogent RFD for either side. But you think the neg won. Just before you sign the ballot, you realize that your interests would be best served by affirming: you would seem like a bad judge if you negated, even though you think it's right (e.g., because you know the other judges on the panel would affirm). And you realize that the pragmatic benefits of fair judging would be unaffected in this case, because no one will think that you've done something unfair, so no one will be discouraged. So you vote aff. Most of us, I suspect, would think that's wrong — it's not what you should do. Separate comments on whether it's reasonable to be concerned with fair debates only for moral reasons:1. The reasons you give to care about (a) are things that most of us only care about instrumentally — respect, money, and appearance. If I learned that those things were morally bad (not just neutral), I would try not to achieve them, and hope that others would do the same. Also, many of us realize that there are better ways to achieve those things than by going to tournaments. This suggests that, if (a) is a good reason, it's ultimately grounded in morality after all.2. The pragmatic benefits of debate seem to me morally good. It's a morally good thing to help foster and educate a community of bright, openminded people who learn how to disagree rationally, think critically, and discuss public decisions in terms of their reasons. That's not just something I want, like chocolate ice cream. But if I were given indisputable evidence that debate is morally bad (e.g., because it trains the next generation of Nazis), and that it's wrong to foster what I thought were pragmatic benefits of debate, then I would no longer consider them benefits and would find something better to do. Again, I would hope that others would do the same. This also suggests that we shouldn't care about those things for their own sake, unless morality sides with them.

      • This discussion might get really narrow and hard to read after a few more posts. Here are my thoughts:In reference to your (1), I honestly dont know what kind of skepticism you are talking about. Short of epistemic skepticism or something radical/explosive like that, I havent read about any kind of moral skepticism that denies the possibility of nonmoral norms or standards. Also, I think that (1) absolutely depends on what fairness is. Fairness, as I conceive of it, is definitely knowable and is definitely achievable, and has firm roots in debates competitive nature, and therefore doesnt seem subject to moral skepticism at all.In reply to your (2), Im not entirely sure what you mean by wrong. If by wrong you mean moral wrong, then youre right, it wouldnt be on face immoral for the judge to affirm even if the neg won. It would be a prudential mistake of some kind. But it would also definitely be wrong qua the nonmoral norm of fairness/being a good judge, and the norms/conventions of debate as a social institution that prohibit arbitrary decisions, and in light of this wrongness, the neg would absolutely have a legitimate complaint.In reply to the (3) I absolutely agree- I think it is wrong for a judge who believes a debater has won to vote for the opponent, and I think most would agree. However, I think that you have a lot of work to do to prove that the wrongness in question is moral at all. As Dimas suggested, and I outlined in the paragraph above this one, it is entirely possible to conceive of the judges decision in this scenario as wrong in a nonmoral procedural sense (i.e. wrong because he was paid to sign the ballot for who he thinks did the better debating, i.e. wrong because something about the ideal of being a good judge prohibits voting against your belief in who won, etc.).In response to the first separate comment, I think that a) there is no better way to become a respected judge than by going to tournaments, which is why it was the first thing I thought of, and b) the conclusion that if (a) is a good reason it is ultimately grounded in morality doesnt follow. As you acknowledged, the things outlined in (a) are morally neutral (i.e. we dont think debate is training a new generation of nazis) if they have a moral property at all (and I think morally neutral just means nonmoral although I could be wrong here). Therefore, the things listed in a) arent grounded in morality at all.The second separate comment is harder to respond to, largely because it is just an incontestable assertion of your opinion. I disagree with you opinion. I think that while the educational benefits of debate are prudentially good, they are not morally good. Education may even be an ideal we should strive towards, but to assert that education is morally good is to open an entirely new can of worms with regards to what morality is and exactly when it is relevant to issues of everyday life. I think education is valuable from a non-moral standpoint (i.e. it helps young people to become responsible citizens, it teaches critical thinking skills that make debaters better at intellectual discussion (and conversation generally I think) than other kids, it lays the groundwork for future philosophical inquiry, etc.) I disagree with your chocolate ice cream analogy. I want young debaters to learn about philosophy in generally the same way I want ice cream, the difference is just a matter of degree.The second prong of your second separate comment suggests that a side-constraint on your willingness to be a part of debate is that it is not morally wrong. While I agree with this premise, I think the conclusion that we shouldn't care about those things for their own sake, unless morality sides with them reflects a misunderstanding, or perhaps just a fundamental disagreement between you and I over the nature of moral permissibility. I think that the entire class of actions/things that are not-prohibited and not-obligatory are just not-morally-relevant (where I conceive of not-morally-relevant and morally permissible as identical). Given this understanding, the question of whether judging debate sides with morality is largely irrelevant. While some people might profess a calling to be a debate coach, I dont think anyone would claim that involvement in debate is obligatory or forbidden, and as such, I dont think that viewing involvement in debate through a moral lens is appropriate.

        • Responding to each paragraph in order (it's easier to read if you copy/paste into a document):If fairness if giving each her due, or the satisfaction of comparable claims, then a skeptical argument can undermine fairness by challenging desert or claims/rights. Also, most contemporary literature on metaethics is about normative concepts in general — reasons and "ought" — not specifically morality. The metaphysical and epistemological arguments for Mackie's error theory, along with many other classic kinds of skepticism, apply just as well to all normative concepts, and it seems arbitrary to restrict them to morality alone. Most philosophers are not moral skeptics because they are not normative skeptics, and it seems plausible to allow morality if you allow for reasons in general. Yeah, I meant immoral. If your view implies that bad judging is morally fine, then I think your view is mistaken. What makes a complaint legitimate is not arbitrary norms and conventions, but whether those norms and conventions are justified. By what? By moral considerations that we all take to be relevant to everyday life — e.g., respect. I'm not interested in procedural obligations that may or may not be justified. I'm interested in the ones that I have reason to obey. If I don't care about this particular procedural obligation, then you can't think it's even a non-moral mistake for me to vote for the debater who I think lost. But it clearly is!You're right: debate is not morally bad. My point is just that, if it *were* morally bad, then I hope that we would stop promoting the morally bad things about it. If debate *were* training a new generation of Nazis, then I hope we wouldn't participate in it. If we wouldn't, then our motivating reasons are moral ones. You don't need to know exactly what morality is to think the world is a better place when there are more educated, rational citizens living in it. Also, being a responsible citizen is really costly, and probably worse for your self-interest since your vote/opinion will rarely make a difference. I think the other things you mention are awesome — but good for the kids who learn, not for me, so I'm morally concerned with promoting them. Maybe you have different alternatives, but I have better ways to maximize my expected wellbeing than coaching debate. So my motivating reasons are primarily moral ones. If you think about debate without using deontic categories, you might see a connection to morality. Debate is good, and the world is better because of it. That is a moral reason to coach debate. If debate were bad and made the world worse, then you would have a reason not to become a debate coach. Teachers do good things. Even if you're not morally required to become a teacher, there is something morally admirable about devoting your life to education. Even if you have that view about the deontic moral categories, surely you admit there are other moral concepts? So, by "morality sides with them," I guess I mean that they are good-making features, or that we have moral reason to want them.

        • Also responding to each paragraph, you should also copy and paste this into a word doc.In response to your first paragraph, it seems to me that for a skeptical argument to undermine the sort of fairness ideal we talk about in regards to debate adjudication, it would have to be extremely specific to debate adjudication (i.e. talk about exactly how judging procedure fails or something), because it seems evident to me that judges can be fair. Obviously any kind of moral skepticism a debater would run in the scenario you set up would meet this requirement. Im still not clear on what the skeptical argument challenging desert or claims/rights would look like. Can you point me to some literature? I dont think there are any persuasive arguments for why debaters cant claim that the judge should be fair, or for why their claims or meaningless, or for why they dont deserve fairness. These sorts of arguments would be really strange. In response to your claim that error theory applies to any kind of normativity, I absolutely disagree. Mackies queerness argument is specific to moral norms. He doesnt claim that all norms have a to-be-doneness about them, and such a claim would be absurd. Mackies general thrust is anti-realist, not anti-normative. Mackie only claims that moral facts dont exist/are queer, so his argument doesnt make sense in the context of nonmoral norms like fair adjudication, where he would concede that there is a fact of the matter (i.e. we can all at least generally envision what fair adjudication of a debate round looks like, and can understand what to do to achieve that ideal (namely, dont be arbitrary in making your decision, dont evaluate new arguments, etc.)). Mackies disagreement argument also doesnt make sense in the context of debate adjudication: because there is a fact of the matter about how to fairly judge a debate round, the sort of general, fundamental disagreement that Mackie claims characterizes the moral judgments of different cultures just doesnt exist in the debate community, or between any communities in which reasoned debates occur over how to judge an argument. But even if this disagreement did exist (and since people in the LD community have conflicting views in terms of fairness/theory Ill allow that it might in some limited fashion), the kind of moral skepticism a debater would run in round could not possibly, on its own, call into question the judges beliefs about normativity with regards to adjudication. In order to make the logical connection, the debater would have to make the argument that Mackies disagreement claim applies to LD debate adjudication, which in your scenario he doesnt, and which no debater could ever be strategically moved to do. Let me know what other kinds of classical moral skepticism would fit the requirements Ive just outlined. I really dont think such a moral skepticism could exist. Note: I just saw that you posted something about Parfit arguing that Mackies claims apply to all norms. Can you give me a cite for that argument? I also feel like there may be some misunderstanding between us over what the word normative means. Could you clarify?In response to your second paragraph, my view does not imply that bad judging is morally fine, it implies that, given moral skepticism is true, bad judging has no moral quality. I have a beef with this kind of argument (another instantiation is skep means the holocaust is morally permissible) by the way. Moral skepticism doesnt mean that everything is morally ok/permissible/in the clear because it calls into question the underlined morally. Moral skepticism suggests that nothing/no actions have a moral quality at all. Richard Joyce talks about this in several of his articles. I think your claim that norms and conventions can only be justified by moral considerations is blatantly false, and youve waffled a bit on this point (In response to my question of whether nonmoral/trivial obligation could exist you said quote I don't think I ever denied that there are prudential requirements.). It is possible that norms could be justified because those norms are the only way to ensure that debate runs smoothly (i.e. the norm of respect you reference is important not only from a moral standpoint, but also from a prudential standpoint, because it is necessary for interpersonal relationships to flourish). But I think, and Ive said this elsewhere, that those norms are justified (in what I think? is a constructivist manner) simply because we as a community take them to be. They (norms like be a fair judge) are just bedrock principles that we accept as necessary prerequisites to engaging in LD debate. I feel that there are probably other ways to justify norms, but Im just not well read enough to identify them. Other people feel free to jump in if you can think of any.In response to your third paragraph, I think that your claim that if a person doesnt *think* or *believe* he/she has a reason to obey a nonmoral obligation then he cant be non-morally mistaken to not follow that obligation is false, and pretty obviously false, the mistakenness would just be in respect to the norm he chose not to follow. If you meant that the person in question really doesnt have any reason to follow the obligation, then youre right, the obligation wouldnt apply to him/her. I just dont understand how this line of thought applies to adjudicating a debate round. Ive outlined elsewhere nonmoral reasons debate judges are obliged, to be fair that arent reducible to self-interest.In response to paragraph four, I honestly have no idea why the conclusion all our motivating reasons with respect to debate are moral reasons follows from if debate were morally wrong we would have reason to stop doing it. The case of Nazi-training is a case where moral reasons would take priority to the nonmoral ones that normally motivate the activity.In terms of the fifth, I disagree, I do think that you have to know what morality is to think that a more educated human race is morally better than the alternative. I would rather live in that world, but I dont know what that has to do with morality. I feel that this disagreement is indicative of the fact that we do need to know exactly what morality is in order to make claims about the moral quality of education. I dont want to be an ass and conjure up some third-world society where people think education is bad, but I will say that the agreement between moral skeptics and their non-skeptical counterparts over the truth of the claim that the world is better when people are more educated (at least in the Western world) suggests that the better in question isnt moral at all. You also claim that since you dont coach debate to maximize your expected well being, you do it for moral reasons, but I think this is probably a false dichotomy in terms of your reasons for involvement with the activity, and definitely a false dichotomy in general. I imagine that you coach debate at least in part because you enjoy teaching high schoolers about philosophy, enjoyed debating and get a kick out of the competitive thrill of coaching, and like the paychecks you get as compensation for the time you spend in the activity. I imagine that you dont coach only, or even primarily, because it is a moral thing to do; you could volunteer as a fireman or work with a humanitarian aid institution if you were only motivated by moral concern. You coach in part because you want to, and a debater running moral skepticism should have no influence on this non-moral desire. Ive convinced myself that Im a moral skeptic, but Im still hoping someone hires me next year to coach them, and I intend to judge as often as I can. I think the primarily you use in the phrase My motivating reasons are primarily moral ones is telling: As I initially claimed, nobody tries to be a fair judge only because it is the moral thing to do, so moral skepticism should have no influence on the judges attempt to adjudicate the round fairly.This is my last post tonight, Ill check for replies in the morning.

        • Normative = reason-implying, not rules or conventions. Reasons are facts that count in favor of things. The "counting in favor of" is like the "to-be-done" relation — not reducible to natural properties like motivation, according to Parfit. So Mackie would find it queer, as would all metaphysical naturalists. It's all over Part VI of OWM.I never said that there were only moral norms/reasons/requirements. From the start, I've also admitted that prudence can give norms/reasons/requirements. My point has been that they are not norms/reasons/requirements of the *right kind* in terms of debate judging, since they will be outweighable, so the thing the judge has most reason to do in my thought experiment is to vote aff. Also, as you know, I agree with you on the permissibility point, but again, please abstract from my example so we can talk about the general principle: switch the sides and assume the skep debater is running it as permissibility, opponent concedes, etc. I'm not persuaded by any of the non-self-interested reasons you gave. They just seem like conventions — e.g., etiquette. And, even if they could give reasons, they could be outweighable. No, I think the fact that we agree about the world being better from education means that you're not a skeptic about value (goodness/betterness). I don't know what non-moral sense of better you find compelling here. Why should I care that you *like* a world with education? I can see why we should all care if a world with education is just better. Of course, I enjoy debate — but self-interest could not justify the marginal time I put into it each day. Only the value of the activity could. And I happen to think that educating and influencing bright students is the most valuable thing I can do with my time — see 80000hours.org. But, in any case, abstract from the example; I just want to hear what you think about the general view. IF the judge were the rare breed who only cared about the moral reasons, THEN don't you agree that they should (or are justified in) voting aff?

        • Thanks for clarifying the definition of normative, I was under the impression we were debating about whether nonmoral rules could exist/motivate action, whatever. I think that they are probably one and the same in many respects though.It seems to me that this discussion breaks down into three issues on which we disagree:1.Do nonmoral norms exist such that it would never (or at least rarely) be permissible to violate them? I use the caveat rarely because, as I said, I think the example of a round where judging unfairly would somehow save someones life is obviously a case where it would be permissible to violate the norm of fair judging. However, since those sorts of cases very rarely, if ever, arise, I think we can discount such extreme scenarios for the purpose of this discussion.You think the answer to this question is no, I think the answer to this question is yes. I can envision reasons why nonmoral norms ought to be absolutely (with the exception of cases where morality overrides the nonmoral norm) prioritized over other nonmoral norms. i.e. I think there are compelling prudential reasons why the norm of fair judging should be prioritized over the norm of self-interest. I also disagree that the only compelling prudential reasons are reasons rooted in self interest. I think there are persuasive arguments for why etiquette/social conventions should be absolute norms for action.2.Can nonmoral value about something like education exist? You think not, I think so. I think there are a variety of possible nonmoral sources of value including: value in respect of a things nature (i.e. education is valuable for human beings because of something in our nature that flourishes when we gain knowledge), value as a result of a persons best interests, value in respect of a persons desires, etc. I realize that youll claim that these values are moral values, but I think a) they might also be normative in a nonmoral sense and b) That this discussion isnt really resolvable absent a concrete agreement about what morality is, however, because otherwise it is unclear what sorts of values are moral and which are prudential, i.e. it is unclear exactly what the scope of morality is. 3.Do judges who are only motivated by moral considerations exist? Ill admit that if a debate judge were only moved to be fair because of moral reasons, and moral reasons alone, that moral skepticism would have the potential to interfere with his reasons to adjudicate the round fairly. I do think that if the neg argued that the judge should keep pre and post fiat boundaries distinct, or some other argument to a similar conclusion, that this potential would be nullified. But I also dont think Im making a real concession here because I dont believe that that sort of judge could ever exist. That judge would be completely dissociated from the norms, social conventions, and principles that structure the interaction of people within the debate community, and I cant imagine why that sort of person would be judging debate in the first place. I dont think your hypothetical really proves anything with respect to debate as it is. An unrelated question: you earlier used the example of a round where a cogent decision could be made for either side, i.e. one of those coin toss rounds when it is unclear who won. How do you reconcile the possibility of these sort of rounds with your belief that justified disagreement can't exist (the article about why we can't agree to disagree)?

        • Posted response on main thread.

        • Sorry, didn't notice your other post where you said the answer could be Yes in general.One small point:I never claimed that the prudential reasons for fair judging are *a priori* outweighed by expected benefits of debate. Just that they sometimes are. That suggests that they aren't the right kind of reasons, since most of us don't think the duty to judge fairly is outweighable by self-interested reasons in particular rounds. That's why I think you need morality to step in.

  • Rebar Niemi

    i don't understand how this is useful, even as a 'thought experiment.'

    • I can think of a few concrete implications:1. Some people think that skepticism takes out impacts of theory and other pre-fiat issues. But, if that's true, then it has other unwanted implications, like making it okay to ignore skepticism completely.2. Arguments for skepticism may be self-undermining. A typical skeptical argument goes like this: (a) all statements of the form "X ought to Y" are false, (b) the resolution is a statement of that form, (c) you ought to negate if the resolution is false. If we say Yes to the question in my post, we might also say that the argument above can never win because (a) denies (c), but the argument would be incomplete without (c).3. Debaters can make the argument in my post as a reductio to skepticism. If skepticism were true, then there would be no obligation to judge the round fairly. But you obviously have that obligation, so skepticism must be false.4. A few debaters used to respond to hard determinism by signing the judge's ballot and claiming they weren't responsible. If the answer to the question in my article is Yes, then it's not a bad idea for debaters to respond to skepticism by conceding it and signing the ballot for the judge. Seems like an easy way to win debate rounds. 5. This reasoning also has implications for the interaction between normative ethics and theory — e.g., can/should debaters apply utilitarianism vs. deontology to the impact level of a theory debate? If Yes above, then probably Yes here. 6. The thought experiment can be a test case of whether debaters' claims are about the world, or about something else — in your article, you suggest a "debate world." People sometimes say No to the question above because they think the neg's argument is not a claim about our real moral obligations, but about something else more specific to debate (which seems mysterious to me). I'll talk about this more in another post. There are probably more implications that I haven't considered.

  • Can't post for the next 10 hours or so, but please keep up the great comments!