Author Topic: Explicit v. Implicit Concession  (Read 8321 times)

William Mosley-Jensen

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Explicit v. Implicit Concession
« on: January 28, 2010, 03:12:57 AM »

Since West Georgia I have been considering a theoretical issue that confronted me as a result of something that happened in the quarters debate I adjudicated. What is the status of an argument that is neither explicitly contested nor explicitly conceded? I would appreciate others thoughts and comments.

There was a short discussion of this on The 3NR podcast this past week. I have included the link below.

A summary of the relevant parts of the quarterfinals debate:



2AC: NFU solves CBW & No Impact to CBW.

2NC: Kicks the CP, does not explicitly mention the 2AC CBW add-on or impact takeout, nor does he extend the 1NC impact.

1AR: Extends the add-on and the 1NC impact to CBW attack.

2NR: Extends the 2AC impact takeout to CBW.

2AR: Contests the legitimacy of the 2NR’s extension of the impact takeout.

Was the 2NR’s move legitimate? I argue that it was because there is a prevailing set of debate practices that are consistent with allowing this type of extension, and requiring the explicit concession of the impact takeout in the block would rely on a model of debate that could result in nonsense and shenanigans. 

Generally, what is the status of an opponent’s argument that is neither explicitly answered nor explicitly extended by a team in a debate? Is there a case where this situation occurs that we consider an argument to be implicitly extended? There most definitely is and the cases are sufficiently similar to justify interpreting the negative’s move in the block as an implicit concession of the 2AC arguments.

Case – The turned DA. When the 2AC turns a disadvantage, be it a link or impact turn, they rarely explicitly extend the other component of the turn that makes it offense. Despite this lack of explicit extension, if the block were to stand up in the face of a straight link-turned DA and say “we are no longer advancing the argument that there is an impact to this disad,” the affirmative would rightly cry foul.

Though this case is not controversial, I will belabor the discussion of it for the sake of future clarity. Why don’t we make the 2AC explicitly concede the impact to the link turn? It would take very little time to make it transparent that the link turn accesses the negative’s impact, really just a formal statement of “Extend the negative’s impact evidence; economic decline causes war, Mead 92.”

Given the ease of this explicit concession, why don’t we require it of the 2AC? The answer is that it is wholly unnecessary. The presence of the link turn, and the lack of explicit contestation of the impact, leads to the overwhelmingly logical assumption that the 2AC has conceded the impact. In this case, we do not force the 2AC (and probably not even the 1AR) to go through the rote exercise of explicitly extending the negative’s impact, nor should we.

So, are the two cases similar? Does the negative’s silence in the face of the 2AC add-on and impact takeout constitute an implicit concession of both, or a strategic blunder? Our case study seems to suggest that when in doubt, we are willing to spot a team the implicit concession. Why do we force the block to demonstrate that they possess the strategic wherewithal to acknowledge that one argument takes another out, but do not force the 2AC to demonstrate that they know that the impact to their link turn is the original 1NC impact? Both situations seem sufficiently basic to infer that an implicit concession has occurred.

One possible distinction between the two is that the implicit concession of the impact is the conclusion of the link turn while the failure of the negative to explicitly concede affirmative arguments represents a lack of resolution or conclusion. The chief response to this objection is that the resolution is the concession of all affirmative arguments and the conclusion is the sum total of those arguments. If the combination of the 2AC arguments represents something to the effect of “we prevent a CBW attack, which has no impact,” then I fail to see why the negative’s silence in the face of this conclusion fails to resolve the situation.


3NR Link:

This post also at:

Ryan Galloway

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Re: Explicit v. Implicit Concession
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2010, 07:46:48 PM »
I agree with Will in this specific instance, however, I think judges should be very cautious about doing the specific "this is implicitly conceded" work for the debaters.  I'll go through some specific commentary and examples, but start by saying that the reason I agree with Will is because the 2nr responded by pointing out that the AFF had already answered the impact to the link turn.  I'm wary of the judge "doing that work for the debaters" which seems to be somewhat implied by Will's post and Scott's commentary on the 3nr.

Overview:  Debaters learning and understanding argument interaction is important.  Ergo, encouraging debaters to explicitly concede arguments is a valuable skill.  In addition, argument interaction is not always implicit or obvious.  I've lost important debates when judges made assumptions about arguments that I had blocked answers to, which is frustrating as a debater.

The line-by-line:
In Will's specific example, the part that troubles me the most is that the AFF tried to "resurrect" an argument they had answered.  IE, the 1ar went all the way back to the 1nc to get an impact back that the AFF had answered.  Given that the 1ar is "reaching across two speeches," it seems perfectly OK to me for the Negative to "reach back across two speeches" to point out that the argument had been answered.  Indeed, it seems that this concept of cross-applying unanswered arguments is more on point than the debate about implicit versus explicit concessions.

This is the hypothetical I'm worried about.  I'm worried about a judge "connecting the dots for the negative."  Let me be specific.

I see a fair number of debates where the negative "kicks a disad wrong."  I judged one at Texas where the neg tried to concede non-uniques to get out of a link-turned disad.  Now, the 2ac HAD MADE IMPACT TAKE-OUTS, but the 2nc conceded the disad on non-uniques.  When the AFF went for the straight turn in the 1ar, the 2nr did not point out that the AFF had also read impact take-outs, and the AFF went for the straight turn.  I gave the straight turn to the AFF.

In a sense, the AFF went for shenanigans.  They had answered the impact earlier in the debate.  However, I think it rewards understanding argument interaction if the negative fails to capitalize on conceding the defense in the debate.  I probably would have been OK with the 2nr pointing out that the impact had been answered, because it would reward the negative's understanding of argument interaction.  However, I don't want to, as a judge, "do the work for the negative" and point out after the fact to the AFF that they don't have an impact to their link turn even though the neg had two opportunities (2nc/2nr) to deal with this.  Will may or may not agree with me on this claim, but I feel this is important, because I'm worried that judges will become too "activist" in implicit concessions.

In his 3nr podcast, Scott Phillips argues that it's kinda boring and tedious to watch the negative have to concede defense on disads.  I agree, it is tedious, and we've probably had 100+ debates in our careers and a 1000+ as judges where the neg has to do it.  At the same time, understanding argument interaction is an important skill.  As tedious as it can be (especially in upper-level debates) to have to say "concede the impact take-outs," it's one of those debate conventions I'm willing to accept in the name of the skill of understanding argument interaction (which can be very difficult for younger debaters especially to learn).  Heck, I've won elims at national tournaments when the neg conceded a disad wrong.  Executing their way out of turned disads is an important skill for the negative.

Now let me address two other implicit concession hypotheticals...
Intriguingly, Will's post reminds me of his last debate.  This is a scenario I recall from this debate.

1ac for AFF has an environment advantage.
1nc reads general bio-diversity take-outs.
2ac reads a K turn impacted with environment/impact internal to card is extinction.
2nc link turns this argument, reading evidence from Dyer-Witherford (the AFF author of this card) that Dyer-Witherford would vote neg and that the K alt solves the environment.
1ar only answers this at link level (we're right, K alt destroys environment)
2nr goes for turn to environment, leverages as net benefit to K alt (i.e. if security debate is a tie, environment is tie-breaker, terminal is extinction).
2ar goes back to the 1nc bio-diversity take-outs to take out environment net benefit.

I thought this was 2ar shenanigans.  The 2ar was conceding take-outs to an impact that the 2ac read.  The AFF had not initiated the argument in the 1ar that the 1nc bio-diversity take-outs took out the environment impact, and besides THE ENVIRONMENT IMPACT WAS AN ARGUMENT THE AFF INITIATED.  However, one of the judges thought that was a fine cross-application, and zapped the environment net benefit to the K.

I'm concerned that in a world of "implicit concessions" the 2ar may get away with too much, and/or the judge may connect the dots after the debate is over.  I at least want to hold the AFF to a standard that the NEG gets to answer so called "implicit concessions".

Three examples from my debate career where I would be concerned about "implicit concessions."
Scenario 1:  "New but true:"  We lost a ballot at the NDT my senior year in a round where the judge voted on a new 2ar argument to answer our link that was "just true."  The card we read was that congressional/court fights undermined court legitimacy.  The new 2ar argument was that our card only assumed a fight initiated by the court, not the congress (plan = Congress).  This link (read in the 1nc) was unanswered until the 2ar argument in question. 

However, perhaps it was "implicit" in the argument from the word go that this was "true."  The trouble is, we had a link extension block that answered this argument on point.  We lost a judge on a "true" argument that was not so very "true" if we had the chance to answer it.  A world of implicit concessions may empower judges to connect dots on issues that may seem superficially true, but are false.

Scenario 2:  "Your cards assume Eastern Europe:"  Lost in a huge upset in Round 2 at Wake my senior year where the judge said all of our cards assumed Eastern Europe democracy modeling, whereas our link didn't assume modeling in Eastern Europe.  I was pretty upset, because going back to my file, there is a block labeled:

"Answers to:  These cards are talking about Eastern Europe" with the next two paragraphs of the Falk book it came from talking about how this was generally true in emerging democracies, and he was using EE as an example.  The "implicit assumption" that the arguments only dealt with Eastern Europe was accepted as true, even though it was the judge connecting the dots at the end of the debate.

Scenario 3:  "Your cards assume human intel:"  In the Octafinals of West Georgia my senior year we lost a 2-1 decision when we were AFF.  The neg team had read a new turn/mini-disad in the block that the CWC undermined intelligence gathering, impacted in Middle East war.  I straight link turned it in the 1ar.  The 2nr...said nothing...cleanly dropped it when he was running out of time in the middle of a big debate (that they initiated, btw).

Gordon went for the straight link turn in the 2ar.  We lost 2 ballots on a North Korea disad that we didn't have the best answers to.  Stables went in the other room to yell about the decision (loud enough for the judges to hear), I asked the following question...

What did you do about the intelligence reform turn?

To the following two answers....
Judge 1) Your cards assumed computer intel, their link was about human intel.  Your link turns didn't apply (I had an accordian of a covert action file in front of me that had cards that said computer intel boosted human intel...if that argument had been made in the debate).
Judge 2) Their impact card was didn't say a Middle East war escalated (so we are punished because we straight link turn an argument that they read crappy impact evidence on).

Perhaps both of these argument seemed "obvious" to the judges.  But what is obvious in a debate is not always obvious if you hear an extended answer on it.  I'm worried that carrying the "implicit concession" argument too far means that judges may make cross-applications all over the flow after the debate is over to connect the dots in ways the debaters should do in the speeches.  Sometimes the obvious isn't always so obvious.  Sometimes the other team may have either an answer (or as in the above scenarios) blocked out answers to something that "just seems so obvious" to the judges.

Two other things to briefly discuss...

1) Should the 1ar/2ar get to extend dropped advantages in their speeches.  I think they should.  I like to reward debates where debaters have to refute their opponents arguments, and it seems wanky and exceedingly flogo-centric to me that the negative would get to say in the block that the AFF didn't extend their advantage so it goes away.  At some level, this may be rewarding an implicit concession, and disregarding the notion that maybe the AFF team has to say "extend our advantage" in the 2ac.  At the same time, the goal of all of the above is to reward direct clash and debaters' discussion of argument interaction, so even if there is some tension with some of what I've said above, I'm OK with it.

2) Theory tension.  I've seen many a 2nr go for "reject argument not team" on conditionality AND THEN GO FOR "sever perm = voting issue."  Perhaps I'm falling into my own above trap on implicit concessions, but even if the AFF drops the theory debate entirely, it seems to me that there is no world in which I can accept the premise that we should reject the argument, not the team AND why a permutation would be a voting issue against the AFF.  I'll go on a bit of a tangent on this one to discuss an issue I've been wanting to discuss related to these "theory bombs" that people drop.

In the late 90's there was a trend where there would be 6 or 7 "independent voting issues" in the block, almost always on perms like "do both."  It was sort of a nightmare for the 1ar to have to go through each of this separately.  For a while, I dutifuly voted on "sever perms bad" when the 1ar or 2ar dropped it. 

However, Dallas (in conversation) and Roger (in his DRG theory article), helped convince me that it is unduly flogo-centric to make an argument a voting issue (trumping everything else in the debate) that is poorly explained and somewhat contrived.  I've honestly thought for a long, long time on the question (more than anyone ever should), on why on earth the Affirmative making an illegitimate permutation should ever be a voting issue against the AFF.  AFF's make bad link arguments all the time.  But slaying them on the link doesn't mean the negative automatically wins.  To say the punishment doesn't fit the crime isn't even the right analogy...the AFF committed no crime to begin with, they merely made a bad argument.

Therefore, when I judge debates that RANT (reject argument not team) is the controlling paradigm for theory, I won't vote on a theory argument (unless rejecting the argument inherently means rejecting the team--I don't know how I can reject "the plan" and vote AFF for instance). 

I view this as being similar to the 2nr/2ar advancing both the link turn to a position and a take out.  If you win both, good job, you've won a link turn to something which you've taken out the impact for.  I've actually seen AFF teams pump up the impact to their AFF to a huge degree, only to lose to link turns to the advantage they pumped up when they were winning another advantage.  I think teams making choices in the last rebuttals is also important.

In both the theory instance and the substance instance, it may be that I'm doing a little connecting the dots for the debaters.  But in an effort to deter debaters from going for theory in trivial instances (which in the late 90's was unnecessarily cluttering the debate and trading off with substance), and to encourage debaters to make strategic choices, I resolve the issue by evaluating both arguments.  If you win that sever perms are bad, but you also won that I should reject argument not team, I will RANT.  If you win that you linked turn health care, but also go for health care doesn't help the economy in the 2ar, you've linked turned something without an impact.  The difference between this and the previous hypothetical (where the negative never conceded the impact defense), is that the AFF chose to go for both those arguments in the last speech.

This is not a consistent indictment or affirmation of the "implicit concession" theory proposed by Mosely-Jensen.  However, I feel that:
1) Debaters should point out argument interaction.
2) Judges should try to minimize connecting the dots for teams when teams don't make arguments.  Often times things that seem "obvious" may not be so.
3) At the same time, if teams advance patently contradictory arguments (theory is vi/reject argument not team), judges have to have a way to reconcile it, and I feel they should reconcile it with the arguments they have presented before them.  I have a slight propensity to ratchet up doing this in theory debates, because I feel that any issue that supersedes every other issue in the debate should have a high level of scrutiny attached to it.

I'll close it off by affirming some of Gonzales' arguments that some level of judge intervention is inevitable.  We should be persuaded by arguments, and not be argument robots.

And at a minimum, I've introduced RANT as the acronym for Reject Argument Not Team.  Which makes flowing easier and is somehow appropriate to the argument generally.


William Mosley-Jensen

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Re: Explicit v. Implicit Concession
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2010, 10:23:59 PM »

I too am wary of judges doing too much work for debaters, and never think that the judge should intervene for arguments that are never made in a debate (or perhaps not made in the last rebuttals.) What I do think is that teams should be responsible for arguments that they have made and the interaction of those arguments, and not rely on a team mishandling a concession when silence in the face of a given set of arguments is sufficient.

It seems that it has been a convention that teams should explicitly kick arguments in the block, out of a sense argument responsibility/closure perhaps. If memory serves, at one time this responsibility also extended to arguments where there was no possibility of offense, such as a topicality violation with a standard set of 2AC responses. Now it seems that this convention has disappeared, perhaps because it is simply inefficient to make negative’s kick topicality when there is zero risk of affirmative offense.

As debate becomes more technical, which seems a feature of paperless debate in particular, then there is a larger incentive to increase efficiency. One of the ways that that can happen is to not force the affirmative or negative to explain how a given set of arguments takes out an advantage or disadvantage. Of course this can be a risky strategy if the arguments do not truly prove an argument false. If there is some disagreement about whether or not there is residual offense; that point can be debated out in later speeches.

I am not suggesting that there is no possibility of offense if a 2AC reads a single defensive argument against a disadvantage, but what I am suggesting is that the onus is on the aff (in this instance) to explain how the arguments leave space for offense. In the example that has been discussed, with an impact takeout that is read to a turned disad, there are still plenty of ways that the aff could generate offense. One of those ways would be to explain how the residual impact to the disadvantage still has relevant consequences. For example, U.S. economic decline might not cause war but it is probably still bad for U.S. hegemony, which may be relevant for the debate. The model of strategy-making that I am defending is one where a team should consider the relationship between the arguments that they have made as it relates to the further evolution of the issues in a given debate. If anything, a team relying solely on silence is consent or explicit concessions would probably put themselves at a severe disadvantage in many instances.

I don’t have time (right now) to discuss all of the particular scenarios that you bring up, but I think that these cases are distinctly different than a situation where a team has implicitly conceded an argument. A team could not implicitly concede an argument that is “just true” if that argument has not been made until the 2AR. I don’t think that judges should go out of there way to construct offense for a team because of implicit concessions that have been made, in fact, just the opposite. Judges should avoid making arguments for debaters but should hold them to the arguments that have been made and extended by either team, sometimes especially those that have been met with silence.

Ryan Galloway

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Re: Explicit v. Implicit Concession
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2010, 12:15:38 AM »
I feel like we agree then.  My concern with the implicit concession paradigm is that a judge might consider something implicitly conceded, as opposed to a team pointing that out.  I feel like we should put the burden on debaters, where reasonable (see my caveats of 2nr/2ar going for arguments that take each other out like RANT and 2nr/2ar going for link turns and defense take-outs).

The only thing I'll comment on is your "gotta kick T analogy" and to point out that unless T is a reverse voting issue, there never has been impact relevance to T, whereas with a link turned disad (even with defense take-outs to the impact), there is relevance to the link turn (as you even point out with your not a war, but hegemony) example.