Imagine that you were able to hop into a
time machine and go back to the very first academy in ancient Greece,
thousands of years ago where the very first institution of higher education
was established. If you happen to be one of the few elite men that were granted
entry into the institution, you would notice some astounding differences like
there’s no electricity. But there’s one significant similarity and that is that
students would be studying and practicing the art of persuasion in the
public sphere. Argumentation and debate is one of the oldest subjects studied in
higher education and this history has generated some of the most useful tools.
All right, now imagine that you sat through these classes and you were able
to watch students. Students must have experimented with a bunch of different
approaches and discussed the results. They would talk about which tactics work
best and with regularity. It wouldn’t take long for anyone to recognize
certain patterns in debate. Scholars of ancient rhetorical studies explain that
ancient students were able to identify recurring arguments and that those
recurring arguments are what we now call stock issues. So in this video we’re
going to cover the common stock issues in contemporary debate with the
exception of criterion which is covered in another seminar. First we will explore
some background information on stock issues, then cover the stock issues for
policy debates, and finally discuss stock issues you might find in value debates.
Let’s start with what stock issues are. They are not as some people treat
them, absolute rules about how to organize cases. The concept of stock
issues means different things in different debates. The two most common
forms of debate are policy and value. But regardless of what type of debate you
participate in, you are going to experience what Aristotle called stasis.
Stasis is the rest or halt which occurs between opposing arguments. It is likely that you were already personally familiar with this
phenomenon think to the last time that you’re asked what you wanted to eat or
what you wanted to do over the weekend. Did you spit out an immediate response?
You probably took a little bit of time to weigh your options well. This happens
several times in debates. But not only that, these moments of stasis often
brought or revolve around similar issues regardless of the topic. For instance,
what to eat and what to do both require contemplating how much each option costs
and the time involved. Therefore time and money would be issues common to both.
Questions, common questions, are the foundation of stock issues. In fact, the
most inclusive definition of stock issues is that they are the questions
which occur with frequency in the course of argumentation. Luckily people have
been having structured debates long enough to record the common questions in
debate and have noticed some pretty clear patterns that you would benefit
from knowing. For instance, one common question that arises in many debates, if
not all of them, is how do we determine which arguments win the debate. This
question is at the root of the criterion stock issue. But beyond this similar
stock issue, the patterns are different for policy cases and value cases. So
let’s take a look at each one. For policy cases there are three stock issues that
are unique to this type of argumentation. Debaters generally recognize that the
first stock issue is called harms. What are harms when we talk about stock
issues? Okay imagine again that you are in that ancient academy in Athens where
a type of question / answer approach dominates learning. This is like the
Socratic method of learning. If someone stands up and makes a proposal, let’s say
to levy a tax on citizens. What do you think the most common questions an
opponent would have for the speaker? I think it is safe to say that one common
question would be, what’s the problem? In fact, that question is asked so often
that be smart to just assume that your
opponent is going to ask the question and therefore include your answer in the
first speech. Right? Well that line of reasoning establishes our first stock
issue. The harm stock issue is an argument or set of arguments that
attempts to persuade an audience that there are problems with the status quo.
Status quo refers to the current state of affairs. I like to think of it as
status now just because it helps me to remember. There are a couple of ways to
show harms in the status quo and a good debater employs the use of both tactics.
Those tactics are qualitative harms and quantitative harms. Qualitative harms are
based on data of particular people and events, they go into detail about the
individuals that are currently suffering hardships. Whereas, quantitative harms rely
on statistical data to articulate the extent of human suffering. Both are
compelling to audiences and should be used during the construction and
delivery of your affirmative case. For instance, let’s say I wanted to
articulate the harms of global warming. I could talk about how many inches oceans
are set to rise because of melting ice caps and that is a compelling story but
including information about specific cultures that live on low-lying islands
and how they could be wiped out is also compelling to audiences. The first piece
of data is quantitative and the second is qualitative, but when they are used
together they create a narrative that is greater than the sum of its parts. Okay,
so one of the common questions of an affirmative proposal is what’s the
problem, so what’s another question? Can you think of another? You might be asking
is there a solution, but before that question, there is a prior question that
one ought to ask, and that is what is causing the problem. This question
establishes the stock issue of inherency. The inherency stock issue is an
argument or set of arguments that argue that the problem will persist if no
action is taken. I like to think of inherency
in terms of the phrase. The harms aren’t going to fix themselves. There are two
types of inherency 1) structural and 2) attitudinal. Structural inherency
argues that there is a law or policy that is creating the harms. For the
global warming case an argument could be made that the subsidies that are given
to companies for fossil fuel extraction and that the use of those fossil fuels
contribute to global warming because of carbon emissions. Attitudinal inherency
is a type of inherency that argues that there is a common behavior or
attitude that perpetuates the harms. So, for the global warming case, one could
argue that people generally prefer fossil fuel sources of energy because it
is cheaper and more reliable. I would suggest having one focused well
researched inherency story. Exploring every single cause to the problem begins
to imply that your plan will address all of them which is an unnecessary burden
to take on to firmly establish inherency. Do it with depth rather than breath.
What I mean is, if my plan were to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies I would
focus on the structural inherency of subsidies and only subsidies. Talk about
the history, give figures, how significant the subsidies are. But there is no need
to go into the popular attitude towards fossil fuel because your case doesn’t
deal with that issue. Remember you are not obligated to fix all of the world’s
problems only to make the world better than the status quo. Inherency is your
chance to focus your case on the one thing that can be fixed. For the final
stock issue for Policy cases, we can ask why the proposal will solve the problems.
This question gives rise to the solvency stock issue. Solvency is an argument or
set of arguments that the proposed plan will solve the harms. While this sounds
easy some debaters take this stock issue for granted. As if identifying harms and
inherency is all you need in order to justify a
plan. But many plans with the best of intentions fail. In fact, solvency
arguments are one of the most popular on – case arguments in debates. So, put some
energy into this stock issue. There are a couple of things that an affirmative can
do to craft a good solvency argument. First, you want to make sure that the
solvency links to the plan. The link story should explain how the plan
creates a series of effects. For instance, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies will
cause companies to find ways to supplant that lost revenue and they will seek
renewable energy subsidies. Notice that your plan does not force the companies
to seek renewable energy subsidies but you can still argue that such behavior
is likely if this plan were to pass. You might think that this logic is debatable
and you’re right. It is the second thing that affirmative debates can do to craft
a good solvency argument is include significant impacts. In other words, there
should be an explanation that you solve for a significant amount of your harms.
You might ask, what is significant? That’s a good question, without a good answer.
What is or is not significant is debatable and is something that is often
disputed in the debate itself. My only piece of advice is to defend as much
solvency as your research supports and no more. Do not make empty promises of a
utopian future those tend to bite you later in the debate. Use your judgment
and argue for reasonably significant impacts the stock issues. For Policy,
cases do not automatically translate into value cases, so, debaters need to
follow a different pattern. Furthermore, the stock issues for value debates are
not as well-established as stock issues for policy debates. So, they are a little
more abstract. Other than criterion, there are two stock issues for value cases and
the first is the value justification. A value justification simply means that
the affirmative side warrants the value criterion in the debate. Remember stock
issues are derived for recurring questions. So one question that commonly
arises in value rounds is in what ways does the affirmative meet the value. For
example, if the resolution is that nuclear energy is better than renewable
energy and the affirmative has argued in favor of a value criterion of quality of
life, than any argument that nuclear energy improves the quality of life
meets the value justification stock issue. These arguments can include how
nuclear energy provides a stable source of energy for things like medical
institutions and heating during cold seasons. For the same resolution but a
value criterion of security, typical arguments that meet the value criterion
would be about how nuclear submarines are effective at repelling hostile
attacks. The second stock issue in value debates is the value of projection. This
stock issue answers the question, in what ways does the negative side fail to meet
the value. In this stock issue the affirmative can debunk arguments that
the negative might bring up against the affirmative and show how the negative
does not warrant the value criterion. Remember you want to filter everything
through whatever the value criterion is. For the nuclear energy resolution, for
example, if the value is quality of life the affirmative could explain the
unreliability and environmental harm of renewable energy. If the value is
security, the affirmative could argue that there are currently no ways to
power sophisticated naval vessels with renewable energy. Each of these arguments
of course require research and evidence for support, but you can see how stock
issues helps you to frame the arguments you are going to develop even without
evidence. There are more stock issues that correlate with other debates in
science history and other fields that are outside the scope of this video. But
at least you know two most common sets of stock issues in order to help
you plan a general strategy for most debate topics. Following stock issues
is more than just abiding by debate rules, you are following a very long
tradition in the study of argumentation and debate. You are answering common
questions before they are even asked. You are covering as many bases as possible
before your opponent gets up to speak. I’m pretty sure that if you were able to
witness the first classes in the Academy at Athens and if we were able to speak
ancient Greek, we might see some significant similarities between our
respective times. One of those similarities would be the use of stock
issues to compose affirmative speeches. Check out the video on criterion to
understand some of the references made in this video.