5 Arguments Debaters Love But That Really Make No Sense by Anne-Marie Hwang and Noah Simon

There is a wide range in the quality of arguments in debate. There are well researched meta-ethics, there are sophisticated critical positions, and then…and then there are these:

1. Politics DA’s: A Series of Unlikely Events

Here’s a pretty typical disadvantage link chain: Truth seeking means less attorney client privilege → corporations get angry → corporations don’t support Obama →  means Obama loses political capital →  Obama can’t pass immigration reform → US econ collapse →  global econ collapse. Wait, what’s missing? Oh, stick in Mead 98 (global econ collapse means extinction) and you’re done!

That’s a real case from last year’s November/December topic. And yes, for those of you keeping track at home, there has been a global economic collapse since Mead’s precognitive miracle in 1998 and we’re still here.

Brink answers aside, people who run politics DAs need to understand how bills pass to successfully defend them. Ever heard of a docket? Ever heard of Log Cabin Republicans, a subset of the Republican party that advocates for equal rights for the LGBTQ community? Ever heard that the “Green Lantern” image of the president is problematic and flawed?

In addition, the links are not intrinsic to the aff policy, since they rely on a domino effect of impossible-to-predict consequences that have little to do with the aff. There is a case to be made that the aff only defends consequences and links that are easily foreseeable or intended. After all, why should we be held responsible for the implications of Mitt Romney’s binders full of women? Most of these impact scenarios are triggered by crazy politicians doing crazy things, which has no strong basis in the affirmative post-fiat world.

Politics DAs tend to bastardize our Congressional procedures by ignoring subtle policymaking nuances. For example, the DA won’t happen unless the aff plan is even on the docket, because the plan requires a vote to pass (which brings up the question of fiat, but that’s a discussion to be had later). And think of House of Cards (or Scandal, for those who like their politics with a heaping side of soap): there are backdoor dealings–people owe each other favors, people want to side with the winners, etc.–so politics DAs don’t seem plausible, since they are based on generalized statements and predictable trends. Politics DAs try to make an objective statement about people’s subjective preferences — something that is usually bound to fail (cue polls). They boil down a complicated and nuanced system with countless moving parts and unknown variables into “this person likes this so this will happen.” It takes the kindergartener’s view of an impossibly dense and confusing process which makes predictions impossible at worst and silly at best. How likely is that House Republicans will slash FDA regulations? How likely is it that [insert law here] will cause Obama to lose all of his political capital? How can we quantify political capital? Does he have political capital now? Does he take out a loan of 15 political capital moneys every time tries to pass a bill? Who runs the political capital bank? The extinction scenarios and link chains are so highly specific that, even though they are generally absurd, the strategy is to hope that the opponents won’t have carded answers. Strength of link determines strength of impact, so anyone who reads one of these should take a step back and realize that the true value of PTX disads is quite low. These extinction scenarios often rely on such an intricate and multi-actor link chain that they are like taking shots in the dark without a target.

2. Bostrom: Intellectual Uncertainty

Besides the fact that I don’t know who doesn’t have a 10-point take-out of this card, Bostrom’s philosophical crown jewel is flawed for other reasons. His argument says that since we don’t know what matters, we should preserve our ability to seek moral truth. However, this presupposes a consequentialist obligation we have to achieve moral certainty. This can’t be leveraged to justify its own framework without first contextualizing what obligations we normatively have or else it will be circular logic.

Moreover, debaters conflate post and pre-fiat, since debaters like to say that extinction, a post-fiat impact, precludes the judges’ ability to evaluate the framework debate, a pre-fiat concern. Further, this assumes consequentialism is true, since as long as your opponent is winning some deontic framework, consequentialism doesn’t preclude but rather violates it. So, even if there is uncertainty on the framework debate, if there is greater certainty of a deontic violation, there is a weighing debate to be had between the two impacts.

In addition to the logical holes in the card, this card is usually run in conjunction with utilitarianism, even though util seems to contradict the premises of Bostrom’s argument. For example, extinction could easily minimize long-term pain by ending all suffering, or there could be some impact that produces so much happiness (e.g. a renewal of The Newsroom) that it outweighs any pain caused by extinction. It seems that there are a few missing links from maximizing pleasure to minimizing existential risk (e.g., that extinction is the worst pain, or that death is bad, or that negative util and positive util are synonymous). Before copy-pasting this to the bottom of an extinction scenario, we recommend that you double check the logical consistency that this card might or might not possess with your framework.

3. “Meta-Theory”: So Meta It Hurts

“Meta-theory always comes first” seems to be something that someone made up one day and everyone took to be true. Meta-theory is running theory on theory, such as the good ol’ “all interps must be positively worded,” and there’s no reason why this automatically precludes. It does come first in some scenarios, but usually, meta-theory is about practice. Just because there’s a reason why a theory shell was flawed doesn’t mean there’s no violation, so we still have to weigh abuse stories. If a negatively worded “neg must not run a counterplan” shell is conceded, that shows that the rule the shell is justifying is great; to say that the positively worded shell is a prior question seems nonsensical. Even if the meta-theoretical shell is won, we can imagine the original interp being shifted to accommodate the meta-theory interp while still retaining the first violation, so we are able to compare violations.

Just because it has a fancy label, that doesn’t mean that it comes first, since theory is meant to check abuse, so saying “meta-theory always comes first” is self-defeating. At the end of the day, all abuse is linked back to the same voter, so if there are 10 units of abuse coming off of the violation of the first shell but only 2 units of abuse coming off of the violation of the meta-theory shell, it seems that common sense weighing analysis would dictate what matters more, and not a race to the highest layer.

4. “All NC Interps Are Counter-Interps to Implicit AC Interps”: Yeah, right

Someone tell me this is a joke. This is the same as saying that all answers to the AC are counter-interps and hence require RVIs. Every argument in the AC can be twisted into an interpretation, since the AC is an interpretation of the topic. Even if you think that not everything in the AC is an “implicit AC interp,” there are still issues with this idea. First, don’t RVIs necessitate someone reading “drop the debater” in order to generate the “reverse” voting issue? This would mean that AC interps about what affirmatives can run suddenly become drop the debater issues for the negative even though it is impossible for them to meet an interp about what the AC should do, since neg interps would necessitate some violation on the affirmative front. And what happens to topicality? When the neg wins a T shell, that shows that the AC isn’t topical, so the aff offense is null. Why should the impact of the neg winning a T shell be a neg RVI when it’s not a voting issue for the aff to be topical and hence no “reverse” voting issue for the neg?

The biggest issue is that this spike is methodologically false. Interps are meant to exclude practices (even if positively worded, at the end of the day, they say that the aff/neg cannot do what they did) while counterinterps are meant to include practices. This is often overlooked in debate, which can make the interp-level debate quite muddled. So, since the “implicit AC interp” which the neg shell is indicting is meant to include action (e.g. the neg says that the aff can’t spec, meant to exclude action, which is the “counter-interp” to the aff “interp” that the aff may spec, a permission on action). It makes less sense to determine the function of norm-setting based on which interp came first, and we should probably instead look to the function of the rule.

5. “The Neg Needs to Quantify Unfairness” since it’s sooooo hard to affirm!!1!1!

Since when has fairness been quantifiable? Since when have statistics and whining about structural skews been enough to prove unfairness? Even if someone reads statistics about neg win bias, that’s not quantifying fairness–just win rates. The skew could be due to other factors, such as people’s strategies in round, how much they have prepped, etc. By claiming that both sides have to quantify unfairness puts an impossible burden on both debaters, making the argument irresolvable.

In addition, just because someone doesn’t quantify fairness and weigh it against some inherent skew doesn’t mean theory is a wash — if someone wins that you have been abusive, then there seems to be sufficient skews on both sides, so theory violations can be leveraged against the aff skew without quantifying it.


In conclusion, just because the tags of some of these arguments might sound fancy, that’s not necessarily a reason to read them without thinking it through beforehand.

  • Jason Zhou

    Question on meta-theory. How does weighing the abuse of the original theory against meta-theory make sense under a competing interps framework. The argument that the abuse of the original theory outweighs the abuse of meta-theory seems to be an argument under reasonability, e.g. “I’ll concede that negatively worded shells are abusive, but in this case it’s being used to check an even greater abuse.” How is that distinct from “I’ll concede that plans are unpredictable, but in this case the country I spec’ed to is the most predictable ground.” Under competing interpretations, isn’t the focus on the best rule (or in this case, meta-rule), not on the particular violation of that rule in any particular round? In other words, rules that constrain rule-making seem to come logically prior to the underlying rules themselves and under competing interps that seems to be what matters not which has a bigger impact.

    Good article though. I agree with the other points, especially #4. Always thought implicit interps was a stupid argument, wouldn’t it imply that the only way to read a theory shell after the AC that isn’t a counter-interp is to read a non-theory argument?

    • Noah Simon

      Thanks so much for the comment.
      I guess you could check higher up in the previous comment chains, but with competing interps, we need to consider all interns in the round.
      In your AC, if you read polls and AFC, you are adopting an interp that AFC and descriptive standards are good. So even if your 1ar has new implications that “negatively worded shells are bad,” the competing interps still has to weigh the neg Interp (capital ‘i’ interp to talk about the general stance that your position takes) (a fair substantive strategy and a negatively worded shell) versus the aff Interp (polls + AFC + negatively worded interps bad). So, under CI, I don’t see why all the interps could be taken into account do see which the best Interp is.

      • Jason Zhou

        I’m not sure what exactly you mean, but I think I understand what you’re getting at. At the same time, I don’t think you’ve given a reason for why we should weigh the negatively worded interps against the shell that negatively worded interps are bad. My argument is that to do so is to make an appeal to reasonability, not to make an argument under CI. Saying “my plan is particularly educational and fair” isn’t offense under CI for an interpretation of “plans good” or “plans ok,” its an appeal to reasonability. Saying “my negatively worded shell is particularly educational and fair because it prevents greater abuse” is the same thing, it doesn’t debate whether a rule of not having negatively worded shells is better or not, it simply appeals to the negatively worded shell in that particular round.

        Under CI, you don’t just pick the best interpretation, you pick the best between competing interpretations. Your argument about weighing comes after each individual theory shell is won or lost based on CI (e.g. you only weigh after you determine who wins polls good vs polls bad, AFC good vs AFC bad, etc.). It might look like you are debating AFC good vs Polls bad, but thats not CI at all, that’s just weighing different theory shells after CI has already resolved them. The CI happens at the earlier level when the individual theory shells are being resolved. In other words, you aren’t picking between whether AFC good or Polls bad should be the rule for debate, at that point you have already resolved that both should be rules for debate, the question then is just which violation of a rule do we care about more.

        The problem with doing the same thing with meta-theory, e.g. weighing polls bad against all interps must be positively worded, is that once you concede that all interps must be positively worded, you’ve conceded that polls bad is not a valid rule for debate and you are no longer weighing between two violations of rules. To analogize to the plans bad situation, you are saying that a debater, when confronted with a plans bad shell, can win by arguing that his plan about X is super educational and fair because X – the substance of his plan – is super educational and fair. That’s not an argument under CI. It’s not offense back to an interp of plans good. The only way to make it offense would be to make an argument that reading a plan is the only way to make an argument about X, in which case the education and fairness derived from X becomes offense for plans good that can be weighed against plans bad under CI.

        • Noah Simon

          Yes, I do agree that meta-theory, if won, makes the original theory shell a “bad interpretation” but at the end of the day I think it’s still a “better interpretation” than endorsing AFC + polls. This holds us accountable for all the interps we make in round, not just the meta-theory.

    • Kamil

      Jason, on #4: I didn’t hear of that spike before I started writing it into Naveen’s affs in 2009 or 2010, so I may have instigated something there… But that wasn’t the intention of the argument. The point was that 1AC interps are just theory shells read in the 1AC. So when the neg calls the aff out on that interp being abusive that shouldn’t mean the aff loses the debate. That just means they lose their interp and the debate moves on with the neg interp. That’s because the aff world still meets the neg interp as well. So it doesn’t make sense, in my mind, for the aff to lose for reading an interp in the 1AC if their position still meets the neg theory argument. That would be like saying the aff wins that she is topical (against T read by the negative) and the neg should still lose the round even if she wins substance just because she read T and lost it. The intention of that argument was not to say that negatives can never read theory arguments in the NC. It was just that for the aff to lose on the theory argument made by the neg, the aff position must violate, not an aff interp. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this properly though. But the gist is that the affirmative world exists separately from the affirmative interps. If the aff world still functions under the neg theory violation then the aff shouldn’t lose the debate. It should just take out the aff interp and the round moves on. Much like if the aff wins T then any neg offense that fits under that view of topicality the aff won is still in the round. I think there are a host of benefits to this (and I understand the downside which is that affs read exceedingly abusive resolutional analysis) because the rounds are skewed neg and the aff should get a shot at first defining the grounds of the debate. If the neg wants different grounds for debate then the neg can make that argument and that may impact how substantive arguments play out under that interp (way offense functions etc.). But if the aff world can still exist under the neg interp, even if the aff interp cannot, then the aff should not lose. That’s why it seems like the neg is getting away with an RVI on aff interps without having to read an RVI. This spike seems to have mutated in a way I didn’t predict and it should not justify. Not sure that alleviates your concern, but that was my thought process when coming up with the argument.

      On Meta-Theory… I’m afraid Naveen may have had a hand in that… Remember that round at Valley that Naveen had against Michelle Choi (we spent a few hours prepping the night before with Rebar and we wrote up the plan flaw shell bc the Harvard Westlake plan had a bunch of textual problems)? Michelle negated and read 7 min of theory. Naveen only spent time on theory so he lost the debate because the judges didn’t like RVIs, so he thought being able to read multiple theory shells was problematic. Naveen and I argued for a month or two about this. I was firmly on the side of multiple theory arguments fine and he disagreed (we still disagree). From there, he wrote up the shell for multiple theory arguments bad and argued that this occurred at a higher level than the original theory because the original theory was the abuse that skewed the round further. His argument was that it didn’t make sense to be able to weigh the neg theory against the multiple theory shells bad argument. This is all just to say that it wasn’t the case that somebody somewhere just thought this argument up out of the blue. But that Naveen felt there were legitimately abusive practices by the negative and that if he criticizes those practices, that criticism should function on a higher level. It took a couple years for the argument to get a foothold in the LD community.

      The argument or question you are posing here seems to me to be akin to potential abuse vs actual abuse. Namely that a debater should be able to weigh the actual amount of abuse in the round and argue that the amount of offense necessary to win potential abuse should be greater than the amount of offense necessary to win a claim of in-round abuse. So I think the way the article explains the argument, it does run into the problem you pose. But I don’t think that should be the case if you treat that sort of argument as constructing a threshold necessary to vote on the theory and why the fact that there is little in-round abuse should mean the threshold should be much higher than the other debater would like. Under that logic, the theory shells being read prior to the meta-theory can’t directly weigh against the meta-theory. But they can pose an issue for the amount of abuse necessary to pull the trigger on the meta-theory. In other words, the in-round abuse for which the negative is reading theory is so bad that the aff should have to win a substantial amount of offense on the meta-theory for you to pull the trigger on it. It’s not the case that the aff has to weigh against the specific amount of abuse. Rather, the aff has to demonstrate that her rule is so important that winning any offense to the interp should be sufficient to vote for her or that she is winning an overwhelming amount of offense on her interp. But the neg would still need to read a counter-interp or at least read a lot of defense on the meta-theory and wouldn’t be able to directly compare the different levels of abuse. Instead, it just informs how weighing should function on the higher level of debate.

      • Noah Simon

        On the issue of AC interps and neg counterinterps, I don’t think we disagree. I’m saying that “implicit interps” such as “plans good” in the AC don’t make neg interps such as “plans bad” a counter-interp. I do agree with you in regard to something like spikes, which are making interps with preemptive violations. For example, I don’t think that a shell such as “debaters may not read CX checks” should be a meta-theory shell, but rather I think it should be a counter-interp along the likes of “negative debaters don’t have to check interps in CX.”

  • 22222

    I dont think anybody believes that 4 and 5 are good arguments. People read those spikes as tricks and time sucks for strategic value. I think you would be hard pressed to find a single debater who agrees with them.

    • Noah Simon

      That’s quite possible- I hope people stop reading them.

    • Anne-Marie Hwang

      We agree with you. The purpose of this article was to highlight how silly a lot of arguments are.

  • Connor Davis

    Really good article, guys. One more I’d like to add to the list.

    6. RVIs bad because they’re illogical–you shouldn’t win for being fair.

    This argument drives me crazy. Nobody ever with and RVI says they should win for being fair, they say they should win for the same reasons their opponent drew the implication to drop them, such as skewing time with abusive practices. In this case, the unfounded theory that ate up so much of the 1AR (most likely the 1AR that is) is the abusive practice.

    • Somasi Twag

      That’s up to interpretation,

      • AJT999

        “Somasi Twag” isn’t me, by the way

        • Connor Davis

          I was thinking, you’re not tacky enough to have that as your user. But apparently you’ve so much swag you motivate people to homage you with their usernames. Kudos.

    • Noah Simon

      I tend to agree with you, Connor. It’s really not about being fair, but some other impact. The only time this would make sense is if someone says “pick me up for being fair” which nobody does.

  • Parker Whitfill

    Great article!
    I would bet anything that Noah wrote
    “the neg needs to quantify unfairness since it’s soooooohard to affirm!!1!1!

    But I’m not sure about Bostrom part. I don’t think it assumes consequentialism or conflates post fiat and pre-fiat. Although his term MAXIMIZE expected value seems as if it assumes consequentialism I don’t think it does. Even if a deontological standard is true, it would be useful to know that standard is true so you can follow it all the time and minimize violations and thus maximizes expected value. I think this operates in the same way that epistemic modesty maximizes expected value without taking a stance on ethical theories. And, I don’t think it conflates post-fiat and pre-fiat because Bostrom says once you know an ethical theory you can follow it and thus do a lot of post fiat good. Take the US, lets say they find the correct ethical theory, that allows the post-fiat US to always follow this theory and do a lot of good.

    • Noah Simon

      You’re right about the Noah part!

      On Bostrom, that seems to be question-begging about what “value” is. For Bostrom, “value” is contextualized as the ability to value. For deontologists, value is contextualized as having a Kantian respect for moral agents. So, in your case (with a deontological standard being true), the ability to value doesn’t matter any longer and the only thing that retains value is that Kantian respect.
      On the post/pre-fiat distinction, the issue we’re trying to bring up is that the judge has to have some lens through which they will view the round, and as such must adopt some normative theory to resolve offense. Thus, even if agents in the post-fiat world would have some enlightened ability to elucidate right from wrong, the judge doesn’t benefit from that ability to better evaluate offense.

  • AJT999

    Politics is false, but it’s definitely easier to defend than “all neg interps are counter-interps” (partly because very few people actually answer util offense for some odd reason).

    I also think that while politics isn’t very true, researching it has improved my current events knowledge. I couldn’t even tell you what trade promotion authority was until I prepped that politics disad. With all of the time we put into topic prep, a viable strategy which gives you a competitive incentive to check out the news is a nice component of a much larger, educational research process.

    Plus, there are surprisingly great cards on the Internet that make a politics disad well-crafted (the best it can possibly be for an unrealistic scenario).

    • Noah Simon

      That’s really cool and I’m happy you’ve learnt for your research. They very well might have an educational benefit, and that’s something this article doesn’t acknowledge, but we’re trying to say is that the research that comes with it can easily go to harm in a debate round.

    • Anne-Marie Hwang

      Yeah, I agree that a really well researched Politics DA is extremely valuable. However, most of the time debaters will hastily put together Politics DAs that are pretty ridiculous, and they won’t know how to defend them. Mad props to you, Adam, for spending time understanding politics!

  • one conserned debator

    i have couple problem with article post

    here is

    1. obama political capitol low in washington DC, cuba became part of US and is very heavy burden for obama
    how is unlikely? u tell me that now
    so then obama politcal capitol bulding fall


    2. i dont have 10 point take out. i have chinese take out


    any way if everyone dies then there’s no article, so u canot even right this if u have extinction
    has to come before all

    3. meta theroy does not hurt u it is help ful

    why do u thnk it hurts u
    please dont say that its not nice

    i did my own waying analysis bigot

    please do not do this in future, thanks.

    4. big flaw hear! hear is flaw one second

    A. affirmative say something
    that is implicit
    B. negative say something
    that is not implicit
    C. affirmative is implict
    D. negative is explicit

    you has been wrong hole time, why do u even write dis ok? ok.


    5. i tell you quantifycation of SKEW in this ok
    you write article
    u tell people response to my argument
    u make me tell my response to ur response

    now people no all my argumants

    10 skews to fareness
    69 skews to education (LOL)

    To SUMARY this up: do not write article like this, bad for comunity, absolute bigotry

    ruining comunity 1 article @ time 🙁

  • Guest

    Good article! I agree with almost all of it (especially 4, that argument is just absurd), except for number 3.

    Usually, the justification for why meta-theory comes first is a application of the original fairness voter read. The fairness voter is usually something along the lines of “fairness is a gateway issue. If debate is unfair it is completely impossible to determine who won substance.” Because the person reading meta theory cross applies that voter, the debater who read the initial shell is bound to that voter’s logic. There is no reason why it wouldn’t apply to theory as well. Assuming that fairness is a gateway issue, if the theoretical layer is unfair the judge can’t figure out who won the theoretical layer making it impossible to weigh against the meta-theory shell.

    Now, the gateway argument is pretty silly as something being slightly unfair doesn’t make it impossible to evaluate. However, once it is read and conceded to it pretty clearly justifies meta-theory precluding theory.

    • Noah Simon


      Thanks for the input.

      So there is some intuitive appeal to your second paragraph: “Assuming that fairness is a gateway issue, if the theoretical layer is unfair the judge can’t figure out who won the theoretical layer making it impossible to weigh against the meta-theory shell.”

      However, this seems to be constructed on some extreme premises, e.g. that the theory shell is SO abusive that it becomes IMPOSSIBLE to evaluate (apologies for the caps, I don’t know how to use italics in the comment section). But, assuming that there’s just marginal or even significant abuse coming off of the theory shell in a meta-theoretical sense, as long as the original violation caused more abuse, I don’t see why that weighing analysis couldn’t be done. That weighing analysis is independent of the structure of the theory shell or whatever else the meta-theory shell is criticizing, so that seems to not be such an issue. Regardless, even if it is a little harder for the judge to evaluate, the judge can take into account the meta-theory shell and reevaluate the original shell through that lens to allow for all abuse to be considered.

      And yes, on your third paragraph: “Now, the gateway argument is pretty silly as something being slightly unfair doesn’t make it impossible to evaluate. However, once it is read and conceded to it pretty clearly justifies meta-theory precluding theory” it is true that if it is conceded that it precludes, but our point in the article was not to address how the judge should evaluate conceded arguments but the merit of the arguments themselves.

      • 11111

        I still believe that meta theory comes first as a gateway issue is a very compelling argument without relying on “the theory shell is SO abusive that it becomes IMPOSSIBLE to evaluate”. A comparable scenario is an average RVI debate:
        Imagine debater A reads theory then wins substance, and debater B beats back theory but loses substance. Now the obvious logical step to take is that debater A wins. People insist that substance is skewed, but this obviously doesn’t mean that the judge cant evaluate it. There is a objective winner of substance. The problem that rvi justifications appeal to is that the person who wins substance is no longer equivalent to the better debater. (The reasons are all of the generic rvi arguments. Debater B was skewed from participating in substance, so even though debater A won substance, things might have turned out differently if debater B was given a fair playing field to deal with).
        That last sentence is the particularly important one: things might have turned out differently. The exact same is true in a meta theory and theory debate. If debater A reads theory, and then debater B spends the 1ar reading two meta theory shells, then assuming debater A wins theory, how can it matter? Debater B has an obvious and intuitive objection to make: “hey wait, I am saying you ran your shell in an abusive manner. Sure you are winning it, but the problem is that I didnt have a fair chance to engage in it. THINGS MIGHT HAVE TURNED OUT DIFFERENTLY if I had the fair chance.” In this manner, metatheory makes a similar claim to rvi debates (which really are just metatheory), just like substance is skewed from theory, theory is skewed from abusive practices. That entails theory debates can only be adjudicated post meta theory debates.
        I think this is somewhat what the other guest user was appealing to. It is about a gateway issue, but it’s not just a stupid spike you hope will be conceded. There is a compelling reason that the theory shell that is run should be disregarded for being unfair. To vote on the theory shell would be like voting on a pic after a theory shell saying pics bad is won.

        • Noah Simon

          These seem to me reasons why meta-theory is important. However, as long as the “difference that could have occurred on the substance/theoretical level” isn’t as much as the difference made by the original shell and violation, it seems to me that the skew has already been compensated for by the abuse.
          The distinction that needs to be drawn with your “pics bad” example is that it is not a substantive issue, but more theoretical abuse linking back to the same voter. As long as they are occurring on the same level (e.g. substance vs theory), and as long as they are linking back to the same voters, I don’t see a reason why they abuse can’t be weighed even if one is being ran on the other.
          Further, I think the practices caused by minuscule abuse on theory outweighing substantial abuse on substance is harmful to rounds and should be avoided.

        • 11111

          I think this objection misses the point. Your argument is that we can compare the strength of link in the two skews (one from theory and one from metatheory). I am saying that no we cannot do that. In the same way we cant compare strength of link to substance vs strength of link to theory. Going back to my example: sure debater A has a hella strong link to theory, and debater B has a minuscule link to metatheory, but debater B has proven that debater A’s theory shell is illegitimate, which means IT CANT BE EVALUATED. Sure debater A has a strong link, but that strong link was gained illegitimately. Debater B should object by saying: “sure you are crushing me on the theory debate, but that is only because you cheated. If you had provided me a fair chance to engage, then I would have beaten your theory shell, destroying your strength of link.”
          You say “As long as they are occurring on the same level”, but I am questioning that very assumption. The central argument provides the reason that you asked for:
          “I don’t see a reason why they abuse can’t be weighed even if one is being ran on the other.”

          This is the whole “things might have been different argument”. Weighing your abuse assumes the abuse is correct and won, but we dont know that because things could have been different.

        • Noah Simon

          Those are some good points, but I guess what I’m trying to say that since both appeal to some pre-fiat abuse, we are able to weigh the abuse caused by the inability to evaluate the shell (fairness skew from the first shell, let’s call it Skew B) vs the inability to evaluate substance (fairness skew, Skew A) and if the Skew A is so strong that even accounting for Skew B, Skew A is still comprehensible, then we know that Skew A outweighs Skew B. The skew caused by running 7 NIBs, in my mind, should be a bigger voting issue than “you had a negatively worded interp.”

    • Connor Davis

      Weighing between theory and meta theory is an interesting concept I don’t know why we don’t apply more to substantive debate. At the base of it, a theory shell is just a relation of the form t(x) saying practice x ought to be a rule. The input practice x can be substantive (ie, plans bad means it is forbidden that aff run a plan) or theoretical, which is here denoted as meta theory (ie, neg must concede RVIs means it is obligated that neg concedes RVIs).

      I see it as logical to have to resolve the abuse claim t(x) of practice x before we can evaluate the offense from practice x in the debate round. Just as many would think it’s silly to vote on a plan before the debate on whether plans are able to have offense generated, I see no reason why we shouldn’t apply that same logic to meta theory, as it still is of the form t(x). However, it is essential to understand there are different types of meta theory arguments, not all of which come immediately prior through this logic. For example, meta theory arguments like neg must concede RVIs does not logically come before the interp-counter interp debate because whether or not neg must concede RVIs does not affect the legitimacy of the interp-counter interp debate in the first place (well, one could make that argument, but default, it does not). But if the NC reads an interp that says aff must not do y and the AC did y, thus creating an abuse story of the form t(y) such that y ought to be forbidden, and the 1AR reads a new meta theory shell saying neg must not do t(y), the 1AR is creating an abuse story of the form t(t(y)) such that t(y) ought to be forbidden, and that is a logical prerequisite in evaluation.

      Some say to this situation that instead of directly prioritizing the abuse claim t(t(y)) over t(y), we ought to simply weigh the strength of abuse from t(t(y)) to that of t(y). I don’t speak to the legitimacy of that claim, but I just want to question why people don’t apply the same logic to substantial abuse claims, where aff leverages strength of link from y against neg’s strength of link from t(y). Structurally, there is no difference as long as theory is creating rules.

      Or perhaps people already do, and this is just a convoluted perspective on reasonability. Personally, I see this as different than reasonability because we are not establishing any brightline for what counts as punishable abuse, but instead saying the strength of link from substance overwhelms the marginal abuse story.

      • Paras Kumar

        this isnt math class connor

      • Noah Simon

        Although, admittedly Paras might be getting somewhere, I do find myself agreeing with your analysis and find the mathematical way of talking about it quite effective. I think more arguments/evaluative mechanisms should be thought of this way.