Resolutions: The Definition

The Speaker will outline the motion at the beginning of their speech and define the meaning of any terms in the motion which require interpretation. The definitions provided must have a clear and logical link to the motion. The intent of the definition is to clarify the resolution with increased specificity. A good definition will be neither confusing nor surprising to the debaters.

 

Prohibited Definition Types

There are three types of definitions which are not permitted. For the following examples, consider the resolution: “There are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners.”

 

1) Squirreled: A motion has an obvious meaning and the wording is twisted to represent something unexpected. This makes the debate too easy for the government and is unsporting. Example: “dogs” are defined as “hot dogs.”

 

2) Tautological: The government is trying to have it both ways by forcing the resolution into a place where the truth is logically guaranteed. Example: “bad dogs” are defined as only “dogs with bad owners,” and excludes dogs bred to be violent, et cetera. This exhibits needless repetition and is redundant.

 

3) Special Knowledge: The government calls on expert knowledge not widely available to or understood by a layperson. Example: “bad dog owners” are defined as “people having a statistically prevalent genetic marker that predisposes them to not properly care for dogs,” and the source of this information is a biologist friend of the PM whose work is not widely published. If the information is available via a basic internet search, it is fair game and not special knowledge.

 

Sanity check for debatability

The speaker should also write out the negative phrasing of the definition to determine if there are arguments readily available for the opposition. This sanity check should be considered an extention of the “Squirreled” form above – but this test is in case the government has inadvertantly twisted the debate without realizing how difficult (or impossible) it might have become for the opposition. Off the top of your head, try to come up with 3 arguments for the opposition. If you are unable to do so at all – the defintion might squirrel the debate.

Toronto Debating Society

 

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