It’s been four years since Stoa last employed a fact-value resolution for LD.  So most people debating this year will probably have never debated a fact resolution in a value context yet.  And while the overall structure of the debate will be similar (you still need a value, contentions, etc.) the specific structure of some of the parts will change a bit- particularly the way you use a value.  

This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to helping Stoa LDers see the logical difference between normal value debate and this year’s resolution.  The first thing to understand is the entirely different set of burdens you must fulfill to prove the resolution.  

Value Case Structure

A typical value resolution takes the form X > Y.  X and Y are two related concepts, and the > sign is some form of valued above (more important than, ought to be prioritized over, etc.).  Last year the resolutions for NCFCA and Stoa were both true value resolutions: “Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution” and “The needs of the public ought to be valued above private property rights.”  

In order to judge the two concepts, you had to measure what it means to value something above another thing in the context of the resolution- you had to determine how to determine which is more valuable.  For example, a workable value for the NCFCA resolution might be “Justice” or “Safety”.  For Stoa, you might have used “Liberty” or “Common Good”.  

In both cases, the values give you a test for the resolution- a standard that can be applied to show whether X or Y is more valuable.  “Value Clash” is not about which value is better in the abstract, but which value is most apt to the resolution at hand.  Ultimately, the value forms a filter to study the two concepts- whichever best passes the filter should win the round.

Here’s some more detail on how this works.

Fact Case Structure

A fact resolution employs the structure X is Y, where X is some concept, Y is a subjective description, and the “is” bit is some form of a “be” verb.  Since that is confusing as I’ll get out, here are some examples.  Walmart’s business practices are detrimental to the United States.  Privacy is undervalued.  The United States has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts.  Governments have a moral obligation to assist other nations in need.  (All are resolutions employed in competition, by the way).  

Now in a fact resolution, X and “is” do not typically need a standard, but Y does.  That’s where a value comes in.  In a fact resolution, a value sets a test for the Y term based on the context of the resolution.  So you might use the standard of “Fair Competition” for the Walmart resolution, or the value of “Contractual obligations” for the international conflicts resolution.  

These aren’t necessarily warm and fuzzy values like ‘Justice” or “Human Rights”, but they are functional values.  Fact values are about establishing the standard for the subjective term in the resolution and then using the value as a test to measure the X term.  

So what about this resolution?

For this preemptive war resolution, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about dealing with this unusual fact nature (actually, there are several wrong ways, but I will here address what I believe will be the most common one).  

Poorly thought-out cases will use values like National Security or Safety and justify them by quoting Ronald Reagan and insisting a nation has an obligation to protect its own.  Then they’ll have a contention to say that “Preemption is good for National Security,” with an application of the Six Day War or such.  Then follow that up with a second contention “Not preempting is bad for National Security” with an example of somebody getting attacked and it not going well like Pearl Harbor.  

Now that would be a fine case if the resolution was “Preemptive Warfare ought to be valued above non-preemptive warfare.”  But for a resolution questioning whether preemptive warfare is morally justified it is a terrible case- because it proves nothing.  It’s not prima facie.  It doesn’t address the moral status of preemptive war at all (unless one adopts a strictly utilitarian perspective, but I don’t expect people running this case to bring that point up- more on that in a later post).  While simply arguing that preemptive is a useful tool is tempting, it is useless logically (again except for the utilitarians).  

The proper way to set up a case is to stick to the fact structure.  That is, set up a value that does determine whether preemptive war can be morally justified (say something like Just War Theory or one of its standards).  Then have one contention to show how preemption fits your value.  That proves the resolution.  That’s a prima facie argument.  

Having a fact resolution for a value debate is unusual but hardly rare.  By my reckoning, 21% of NCFCA’s and Stoa’s LD resolutions have been fact.  This is then a significant section of both league’s histories.  And it’s reasonable to assume that it may be a significant section of their futures too.  Whether or not you are doing Stoa LD this year, it pays to know how to do treat fact resolutions right.  Give them the respect they deserve, and ensure that you know how to prove the resolution true or false.