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12/04/2009 9:01 PM by
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Recent discussions of intrinsicness highlight how effective these arguments can be, but don't thoroughly discuss the theoretical foundations for the argument. I seek to update older, more theoretical discussions of the argument, in the hopes that affirmatives will be able to more successfully deploy intrinsicness arguments.

T.A. McKinney provides an enduring explanation of intrinsicness that, with some adjustment, provides a useful grounding for the common 2AC intrinsicness argument. For McKinney, intrinsicness is the idea that the affirmative plan must be a necessary causal impetus for the achievement of advantages and the occurrence of disadvantages. Extending Roger Solt’s analysis of counterplans McKinney divides the genre of intrinsicness arguments into two species, “logical” and “empirical.”

Perhaps the most defensible version of intrinsicness theory is what McKinney, borrowing from Roger Solt, calls a “logical” intrinsicness argument. A logical intrinsicness argument is one that relies solely on logical force to prove that a disadvantage, or advantage is not a necessary result of the plan. In the case of a politics disadvantage, say health care good, the 2AC response of “The disadvantage is not intrinsic, it is possible to pass the plan and health care” is a logical intrinsicness argument, because it demonstrates through logic that the plan is not a necessary causal impetus of the disadvantage.

The right of the negative to make logical intrinsicness arguments against affirmative advantages is so deeply ingrained into debate decision-making that the affirmative rarely, if ever reads advantages that could be so easily defeated by the negative. Imagine an affirmative that read a health care good advantage, the negative counterplan to pass health care clearly demonstrates through logic that the plan is not a necessary causal impetus of the advantage. Allowing the affirmative to make logical intrinsicness arguments only preserves reciprocal access to logical argumentation.

Extending Solt’s analysis about counterplans, McKinney distinguishes logical intrinsicness arguments from “empirical” intrinsicness arguments. Empirical intrinsicness arguments demonstrate through empirical argument, rather than strictly logical argument, that a disadvantage, or advantage is not a necessary causal outcome of the plan. In the case of an Allied Prolif DA, a No-First-Use affirmative could make an argument “The disadvantage is not intrinsic, it is possible to adopt a NFU policy and re-affirm our conventional commitment to our allies.” This is an example of an empirical instrinsicness argument.

Nearly all counterplans are of the empirical variety, but affirmative intrinsicness arguments of the empirical variety are rare. This is probably because negative responses to affirmative intrinsicness arguments are most true of the empirical variety. These include indictments related to the unpredictability of the argument, as well as worry that debates can get very broad, very quickly if we allow these types of affirmative arguments.

Though the negative arguments against empirical intrinsicness arguments are good, the chief justification is grounded in logical policymaking, the foundation of conditionality. According to the theory of logical policymaking, at the end of the debate, the judge should not be forced to adopt the plan, simply because the neg read a counterplan, if the status quo is the best option. It would be illogical to accept an inferior option in the face of better choices. The arguments for empirical intrinsicness are similiary.

The clearest way to explain the way that logical policymaking justifies empirical intrinsicness arguments is related to the reasons why non-competitive counterplans should be rejected. At the end of the debate the question seems to be, does the affirmative have to win that the plan and only the plan should be done, or does the affirmative have to win only that the plan should be done, regardless of what other non-competitive actions should also be taken. Logical policymaking is the idea that the affirmative has to win that the plan is better than any competitive policy options or the status quo. What is left out of this analysis is how non-competitive policy options play into the decision-making of a logical policymaker.

It is clear in the situation where the negative presents a non-competitive policy option, such as a counterplan to fund space exploration. Even if it is true that the USFG should fund space exploration, this does not prove that the USFG should not adopt a No-First-Use policy. Thus the perm was born.

Similarly, it may be true that the USFG should keep good relations with Japan, the DA, but that there are also advantages to be had from passing an NFU policy. It may be the case that the optimal situation is one in which an NFU policy is adopted but also that we should take steps to alleviate the potential impact on US-Japan relations. Currently there is no ability for the debate judge to adopt the most optimal solution to the problems of the status quo because of the strenuous dismissal of empirical intrinsicness arguments.

Perhaps the most strenuous objection related to the intrinsicness argument is that no negative disadvantage is truly intrinsic to the plan because there is always some intrinsicness response that proves the disadvantage isn’t true. For example, if the negative has read a Deterrence DA with a bio-terrorist impact against an NFU aff and the 2AC says “Not intrinsic – pass the plan and have terrorists not attack anyone with bioweapons.” Obviously if this argument is allowed then no disadvantages could meet the test of intrinsicness, so obviously all intrinsicness responses should be disallowed right? Wrong.

This is just like saying that because the idea of the counterplan allows similar arguments against affirmative advantages that therefore no counterplans should be allowed. There are many arguments about what types of counterplans are legitimate, with these types of counterplans (object fiat) clearly among those that are illegitimate. Similarly we can argue that these types of intrinsicness arguments are illegitimate, mostly because of the agent involved in the transaction. The debate critic has no control over the actions of terrorists, and so it is clearly out of the range of available arguments to allow a decision regarding their actions. There is one agent that the debate critic clearly has decision-making power over, the United States federal government. In cases, most politics disads, where the negative advances a disadvantage that implicates USFG action the debate critic has the power of fiat to avoid actions that may be undesirable (such as not passing health care reform).

By drawing a distinction between logical intrinsicness arguments that are generated with regard to the resolutional agent and other types of intrinsicness arguments, it seems clear that the most logical, reciprocal model of debate is one that allows, rather than prohibits some type of affirmative intrinsicness arguments.

Given the arguments made, there is very little justification for eliminating affirmative intrinsicness arguments that are of the logical species and operate under the rubric of a United States federal government decision-maker as those avoid the most damaging forms of intrinsicness and reflect contemporary debate practices.