Paradigms and Principles: Are “I Meets” Always Terminal Defense?

A. Is an “I meet” argument always terminal defense on theory?

An “I meet” argument is an answer to theory which claims that there is no violation – the debater has complied with the rule proposed by the interpretation. For example, if the 1NC runs theory arguing that the AC may not employ contingent standards, and the 1AR argues correctly that the AC does not employ contingent standards, there has been no violation and the affirmative debater should not lose on theory.

If an “I meet” argument is conceded, judges will almost universally regard it as terminal defense – defense sufficient to defeat the theory position entirely such that it has no weight in the decision calculus. (See Jake Nebel’s article from yesterday for good reasons why the debater running theory should have the burden of proof that there is in fact a violation.) This is an exception to the general rule, because we often say that terminal defense is impossible or rare – there is almost always a possibility that the impact claimed by a debater will happen despite a defensive argument.

There are cases where treating “I meet” arguments as terminal defense is easy – for example when the argument is conceded. If offending debater did not in fact do anything objectionable, then she should not lose on theory. However, the decision becomes more difficult when the “I meet,” argument is contested. Suppose in the example above that the negative argues that an ambiguous part of the AC could be reasonably interpreted as a contingent standard, so the Aff does not meet the interp. Now the judge must conclude that there is some probability that the affirmative violates and some probability that she doesn’t. If the judge concludes that the affirmative debater is marginally ahead on the “I meet” argument (e.g. the affirmative case is reasonably clear but not entirely unambiguous), is it still appropriate to treat the “I meet” as terminal defense? If not, does it make sense to force debaters to defend an objectionable practice which they are simultaneously claiming they have not used?