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In the last two pieces, I’ve discussed a couple of things that have changed due to the new resolution we’ve drawn for Stoa this year.  So far, we’ve covered the proper role of values in a fact resolution and the lack of need for applications to prove the resolution.  However, I repeatedly mentioned that there were two applications disproving the case I had made.  Here’s where we discuss them.

There are two big philosophies that would quibble with the arguments I have laid out so far.  These philosophies I personally disagree with, but they are useful in debate and I have used them before (in limited cases).  You can expect these philosophies to appear in cases throughout the year, so you would be wise to understand them.  They probably won’t be named in every case, but they are critical to identify.  

The two are pragmatism and consequentialism.


Pragmatism is defined by the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected.”  In essence, pragmatism means you define your terms based on how they are practically applied.  For our resolution, it would mean we must understand preemption based on how it is understood by those who employ it.

Pragmatism rejects the academic definitions of terms.  It says that how a thing is defined by George W. Bush or Theresa May or Xi Jinping, since they have power, determines what it is.  Debaters employing this philosophy like to talk about the real world as opposed to idealistic concepts.  Popular tactics include using resolutional analyses of “the real world” or “practical impact”.  Also expect definition reasons to prefer or Value RTPs that employ the term “real world” to be making pragmatic arguments.

I anticipate that the main employment of pragmatism will be in cases (Aff or Neg) employing an aggressive definition of preemption and relying on things like the 2002 NSS.  These cases will probably argue that, in the real world, preemption is understood to be far greater in scope than how it is defined academically, perhaps more like preventive warfare.

While pragmatism doesn’t affect the arguments I made about the use of value in resolution of moral fact, it does impact the points I made about the applications.  Pragmatism requires applications to prove how preemption is employed in the real world.  So if the case you are debating employs pragmatism, you will need to talk about applications rather than just principles.


The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says this about consequentialism:  “Consequentialism is the view that morality is all about producing the right kinds of overall consequences. Here the phrase ‘overall consequences’ of an action means everything the action brings about, including the action itself. For example, if you think that the whole point of morality is (a) to spread happiness and relieve suffering, or (b) to create as much freedom as possible in the world, or (c) to promote the survival of our species, then you accept consequentialism. Although those three views disagree about which kinds of consequences matter, they agree that consequences are all that matters.”

So consequentialism argues that we judge the morality of actions based on what their results are.  A famous example of this is the Trolley Problem, in which you are standing on a bridge and see an out-of-control trolley speeding toward five people on the track.  It is too late to get the five people to move.  The only recourse you have is pushing a conveniently heavy man standing next to you off the bridge.  Being much fatter than you, he could stop the trolley, but would be killed in the process.  Consequentialism asserts you are morally right (perhaps even obligated) to push him off the bridge, since the action nets four men saved.  Any perceived duty or obligation to not directly murder another is irrelevant since the overall consequences are better for everyone.  

Consequentialism is unlikely to be popular as a value.  Utilitarianism, a subset of consequentialism, is perhaps more likely to be seen.  But the general employment of consequentialism is in sneaky values like National Security, Global Well-Being, and, I would argue in many cases, even Human Life.  These values ask you to determine the morality of preemption based on its results in pursuing these goals, and so are fundamentally consequentialist.  

Consequentialism rejects both the statement I made earlier, that morality is not determined by results, and that applications are irrelevant to this resolution.  When using consequentialism, applications are required, just as they are with pragmatism.  If the goal is to prove the results of preemption are good, we must conclude that applications are necessary to prove the resolution true or false.  


My philosophy on the resolution is that values serve as standards for morality, not standards for results.  Applications are unnecessary since morality doesn’t depend on results.  Pragmatism and consequentialism both are different philosophies that, when employed in debate rounds, can lead to different results.  Whether you choose to contest these philosophies or use them to your advantage is up to you.  But in either case you will be equipped to understand and address these philosophies.

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