Debate 101 Method

Debate 101: Practical Arguments

In practical arguments, you need to talk about the harms and benefits of a motion.

Practical arguments explain the impact, urgency, efficacy, or consequences of your proposal. It is more intuitive and is often brought by first and second speakers.

In practical arguments, you need to talk about the harms and benefits of a motion. Weigh them and persuade the judge to vote for your side.

The basic question to ask is always “Why does Proposition/Opposition bring more good than harm?”

Characteristics of a practical argument

  • Context-specific — analyzes unique characteristics of the status quo and what’ll happen to them
  • Cares about the success/failure/harm/benefit of a motio
  • Actors in the motion can experience a tangible harm

Structure of a practical argument

Let’s use this motion: This House celebrates the rise of eco-friendly products. The structure of the argument Why eco-friendly products are good to improve the environment goes as follows.

  • What’s the status quo? → The environment is being destroyed at a rapid rate. Millions of trees keep getting cut, waste overflows landfills and causes floods elsewhere, etc.
  • Why does it fail? → Most people don’t know how to help the environment, or are used to a non-eco-friendly lifestyle and difficult to change. Most companies keep destroying the environment without giving back to it, because it’s profitable that way. Governments only follow people and companies’ readiness to preserve the earth.
  • What’s ideal? → Ideally, people and companies should have a habit of living while being eco-friendly; not worsening the current environmental destruction.
  • Why is this motion the solution? → It’s the middle ground, because people don’t have to radically change the way they live, but live with environmentally friendly products. Eco-friendly products make people able to reduce their daily environmental damage, e.g. no more littering of plastic bags and cups because they use totebags and reusable bottles. Companies are also motivated to go green by producing and using eco-friendly products to build a responsible company image — while still gaining profit — like what’s happened with McDonalds refusing to use plastic straws. Society shifts to a sustainable green habit.
  • Why do alternative solutions not work? → When environmentalists ask people to help the environment, people rarely want to do things like join the movement, or even stop using their cars and take public transport. When companies are told to do major environmentally friendly things like reforestation, it’s not profitable and you can’t tell them to stop paying their workers.

That ends the brainstorming process of a practical argument. Because there are usually lots of practical arguments you can make for a motion, make sure to pick the most urgent ones during casebuilding and be comparative!

The next article will talk about a different type of argument, which is principle arguments. But if you’re still curious about practical arguments (types, how to rebut, tips), check this out.

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