Ryan Malone Paradigm
How I make decisions
I hope Whitehead is right, that even dimwits can make good decisions if they follow an appropriate procedure. It’s only fair then for me to give a general sense of how I make decisions, with as few platitudes as possible, though most of them still apply.
1. After the 2ar I review 2nr and 2ar arguments and their comportment with the block and 1ar. Unless there are arguments about how I should or should not flow, I appreciate when debaters are attentive to line-by-line, but I understand that strategy sometimes calls one to deviate from it. When that occurs, I am less likely to line up arguments in the same way as you may want me to.
2. While doing that I clarify shorthand and mark out errata and things that aren’t arguments. There is a difference between arguments and nascent things that purport to be arguments. We don’t need to talk about Toulmin; an argument is really anything that could inform a decision. This may seem arbitrary or kind of like question-begging, but I don’t think it’s capricious. I don’t do this because I have some ultra-strenuous “not buying it” threshold for what constitutes an argument. My concern is that there is a temptation to embellish not-quite-arguments, especially those that, if they had been full arguments, would be compelling, strategic, or make for an easy decision. Assessing, at the outset, what all on the flow are reasonably arguments is a way to ward off that temptation.
3. I then look to arguments the 2nr and 2ar say are the most important and other arguments that appear central to the debate or that may supplant opposing lines of reasoning. The last part may seem to imply a premium on the meta, but rarely are debates leveraged on Archimedean points.
4. If necessary, I read evidence. I don’t follow along in speech docs or look at speeches in more than a cursory way prior to the end of the debate, with perhaps the exception of interpretations and counterplan texts. I will read a piece of evidence if there is contestation about its quality, applicability, or illocution, if I am asked to compare two pieces of evidence or a piece of evidence and a countervailing explanation, or if some argument is dense and, despite good explanation, I’m just not following. My concern is that the more evidence a judge reads without specific reason, the more they reward good evidence read sloppily over clear, persuasive argumentation and are at risk of reconstructing the debate along those lines.
5. I hash out the above (it’s hard to adumbrate this process in a way that’s not super vague) and I get something resembling a decision. I run through a few even-if scenarios: what, if any, central arguments the losing team could have won, but still lose the debate, and what arguments the winning team would have had to lose or the losing team would have had to win for the losing team to win the debate. Finally, I review the flow again to make sure my decision is firmly based in the 2nr and 2ar and that there is nothing I’ve missed.
Note on Framework
Framework debates are better when both teams have some defense, in addition to offense.
Even if fairness is intrinsically value, by which I mean fairness is valuable regardless of relation, I’m unsure how valuable procedural fairness is, in and of itself. Because of that fairness arguments make more sense to me as internal links rather than impacts.
Similarly, impact turns to fairness are more persuasive when they are about the purported use of fairness as an impartial rule. Phrased differently, in explaining the way structural fairness informs procedural fairness as a difference in fairness-in-rule and fairness-in-practice, it may be worth thinking about fairness as the practice of appealing to rules.
Topical versions are under-utilized.
Things that do not concern how I usually make decisions
Some of the above is assiduously believed, but weakly held, however, the following points are immutable: I will comply with any tournament rules regarding speech and decision times, speaker points, etc. Any request not to be recorded or videotaped should be honored. If proven, clipping, cross-reading, or deceitfully manufacturing or altering evidence will result in a loss and zero speaker points. Unlike wit, sass, and tasteful self-effacement, bald-faced meanness will negatively affect speaker points.
My rfds are brief, which I’m working on. This reason for this is twofold. First, most of what I write down concerns how I make my decision, not how I intend to give it. Second, I don’t presume to act, even temporarily, as something like an arguments coach, nor as someone who can adroitly explain or find fault in an opposing team’s arguments. The last thing I want to do is say something that would lead you astray. At this point in my time judging I’m really just trying to be a good heuristic machine—anything more is just gravy. Obviously, to the degree to which I have insight I will give suggestions, clarifications, or share in your befuddlement.
Please feel free to email me if you have questions or concerns.