Our elite Mastership Sourcebooks for NCFCA and Stoa will release soon! Check them out here!

Isaiah, one of the original founders of Ethos, is back with a guest post about using all types of proof, not just the kind people with advanced degrees. In just a couple of days he’s doing a special livestream you’re not going to want to miss.

He will be hosting a webinar to show debaters what tech-powered resolution analysis looks like in real time.

In this experiment, Isaiah will utilize his real-world AI tool skills, developed through years of debate, to tackle the Stoa LD resolution. The challenge? Developing a solid case for a debate camp in just 3 hours or less.

What makes this experiment fun is that Isaiah intentionally doesn’t know the resolution. He’ll be just as surprised at the results as you are!

Register now to attend this compelling event on July 13 from 10 AM -1 PM CT. RSVP by July 12 at 11:59 PM to secure your spot. If you have any questions, reach out to Josie at Next Up Leader.

Incorporating All 8 Types of Proof

It was the 2010 national championship quarterfinals. My team, Josiah McPeak and Patrick Shipsey, were challenged with what I consider to be a novice trope of debate. Except it took a jedi-move turn towards classical rhetoric roots that only come from truly understanding your craft. It went like this:

  • Them: “what evidence do you have for that?”
  • “Logic.” (awkward, fun silence)
  • “But what evidence do you have for that?”
  • “Doesn’t the point make logical sense?”
  • “That’s not evidence.”
  • “Logic is recognized as evidence.”
  • “By who?”
  • “In the classical rhetoric tradition founded by Aristotle and completed by folks like Cicero and Aquinas, there are 8 types of evidence: quotes, historical examples, personal examples, logic, statistics, laws, maxims, and rumors.”
  • ::awkward silence::

Now I’m not suggesting you copy that without acquiring for yourself the theoretical foundation necessary to pull it off. (And FYI, Josiah and Patrick went on to win nationals on a 7-0 decision.)

What I am suggesting is that you start that journey now. As Dr. James Tallmon says often, “there is no substitute for a strong theoretical foundation.” Here’s where it goes, and how to get started. 

The Transferable Skill You’re Learning

Knowing exactly what’s available in terms of warrants/proof points in all situations is absolutely a desirable life skill, useful in every context of business, government, academia, and leadership. 

Yes, you’ll have to reframe your knowledge for a world that doesn’t have it. Just like in debaterland when you use norm-shocking tactics. That’s part of the responsibility of acquiring greater skills than your audience! Shape it to them. Yet keep pursuing depths.

Yesterday at Next Up Leader we hosted a workshop on sales, led by a 2012 national champion (Isaac Kim) and former Ethos debate coach who has transferred his skills into closing multimillion dollar deals for high-growth tech companies and building winning sales teams. Look at this slide to see how he’s put the understanding of proof to good use.

It’s great to keep the end in mind as you build a skill. Your limited understanding of proof will limit you in every context, not just debate. Your expanded understanding will help in every context, not just debate. 

Skill Progressions to Acquire It

Here’s what I suggest is the pathway to mastery of a broader range of proofs than the shallowest coaching in debate teaches you: that quotes from articles/experts = “evidence.” That is true in zero professional, academic, or legal contexts. 

Skill Progressions:

  1. Understanding each of the types of proof and where they came from
  2. Confidence in when each type of proof is the right tool for the job
  3. Experience (repetitions) in deploying each type of proof
  4. Confidence and panache in explaining how and why expanded forms of proof
  5. Confidence challenging one type of proof with another (especially: challenging quotes from a PHD with logic, which is a seminal national-class debater skill)
  6. Fluency in building and choosing proof types on the fly, in real-time
  7. Deploying multiple types of proof for points to capture varied audience types

A coach should be able to help guide you through these progressions. (Coaches: if you’re struggling to take your students to this level of skill progression in this area or others, consider booking a call to level up your coaching game.)

Start With Progression 1: 8 Proofs

Let’s get you started right here. Some links and a video should do the trick. 

Prior blogs of relevance:

We’re located in the Classical Rhetoric tradition of Discovery, under the common topics (topoi) of evidence/proof.


Tap into your classical rhetoric roots to acquire more tools in proof! You’ll find that fuels your debate career as much as your professional career.

About Isaiah McPeak

Isaiah McPeak is the OG co-founder of Ethos debate, which he started with his coach Lisa Alexander in 2005. He transferred debate skills to high stakes decisionmaking, negotiations, consulting, and company building, and has now co-founded several companies, consulted some of the top execs in the world, built winning teams, turned around failing companies, and continued to progress the craft of rhetoric + brain science in professional environments. 

Now he’s “debate coaching” leaders through Next Up Leader, and bridging the Ethos skills list with a similar professional skills list, training companies like Adidas, Recharge Payments, and VC-backed tech founders. 

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