Resolution & Case

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Notice here that there is complete overlap between the affirmative case and the debate resolution. In short, the affirmative position embodies the essence of the debate proposition and is immune to charges that it is not topical (provided, of course, that the affirmative has properly defined the nature of the proposition).

I believe that affirmatives ought to make a good faith effort to encompass the resolution. It is arguable that debate resolutions are complex and affirmatives can never fully attain the ideal of encompassing the whole resolution. Still, I think the ideal is worth pursuing. My use of the phrase "good faith effort to encompass the resolution" is important: An affirmative that intentionally narrows its focus for the purpose of avoiding significant clash with the negative (via trick/squirrel cases) has not made a good faith effort to support the resolution. To be on the safe side, I urge affirmatives to attempt to be comprehensive in their support of the resolution.


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Affirmative Case Resolution

In this case, there is no overlap between the resolution and the affirmative case. If one considers the debate to be about the truth of the resolution then an affirmative that fails to address the resolution, no matter what the merits of their position might be, should not win the round. In short, the case presented by the affirmative might be interesting but is irrelevant to the topic at hand and the negative topicality challenge asserts that the affirmative has neglected their obligation to prove resolution is true.

In policy disputes look with care at the affirmative's plan. The plan should embody the debate resolution . . . if a case addresses problems that appear topical yet the plan does not urge action consistent with the direction of the resolution, the affirmatives are vulnerable to a topicality challenge.


Topical Points of the Affirmative

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Irrelevant Extra Topical
Issues by the Affirmative

In the diagram above, there is some overlap between the affirmative case and the resolution. The position taken when an affirmative is charged with being extratopical is that ONLY that portion of the case that embodies the resolution should "count" in the judges final decision. Benefits, advantages, values that may be compelling yet do not stem from accepting the resolution (those areas above where there is no overlap) are considered irrelevant to the outcome of the debate.

The "topical" portion of the affirmative position may be sufficient to win a round but a negative may ask that extratopical positions be discarded by the judge.

This argument is particularly productive in policy debate. If an affirmative claims benefits, advantages, etc., from a proposal (plan), that is not an example of the resolution such benefits or advantages can be dismissed as irrelevant to judging the merit of the debate proposition. In short, extratopical points in an affirmative's case or plan divert attention away from the focus of debate.



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Affirmative case


A convenient way to view a debate is to consider that the resolution constitutes a claim (or generalization) that the debaters will ask their critic/judge to affirm or deny at the conclusion of the round. In this instance, the affirmative case becomes an example of the resolution and upon hearing it, the judge should be in a position to accept or reject the proposition. The argument of "hasty generalization" (represented above) says that the information provided by the affirmative case is insufficient to allow an accurate appraisal of the resolution. In short, even though the affirmative is addressing the resolution (i.e., they are topical), they address such a small portion of the proposition that generalizing that the resolution "as a whole" is true is impossible. Like the survey that is too small or unrepresentative to permit broad conclusions, the affirmative case that is too narrow will not allow the generalization that the resolution is true.

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Updated: January 20, 2004