Part Six of the Miniseries “Improving Your Debating From the Ground Up”

New to this series? Take a look at part one here!

Framework and introductions are all well and good, but all they really do is set the stage for the actual argument–which is contained in the contentions. Arguments in contentions will be structured in the same manner we’ve already addressed: claim-link-warrant-link-impact. The manifestation of that pattern commonly comes in two distinct forms–syllogistic cases and composite cases.

Syllogistic Cases
Syllogistic cases build contentions around arguments, making each part of the contention a part of the argument. A common build for a syllogistic case contention would be this:

Contention Tagline
Subpoint A) Claim
Subpoint B) Link + Warrant
Subpoint C) Link + Impact

These cases will often have more contentions, as each one only contains a single argument. Syllogistic cases are easy to follow, and very friendly for all types of judges, and as a result are especially common when lots of lay judges are expected.

When rebutting syllogistic cases, remember: you don’t have to beat every part of their contention! As the contention is simply a single argument, you only have to break a single part of it for the entire contention to fall. Mention the entire piece, but focus on the weakest parts.

Pick a syllogistic case if you want to ensure judge-friendliness, or if you have more complex arguments that require a more involved delineation, as the structure of a contention naturally lends itself to the framework of an argument.

Composite Cases
A composite case takes a different approach, grouping similar arguments under a common contention to reinforce a point. A common build for a composite case contention is as follows:

Contention Tagline
Subpoint A
Claim + Link + Warrant + Link + Impact
Subpoint B
Claim + Link + Warrant + Link + Impact

Composite cases tend to have less contentions, as the ones they do have are more complex and generally require longer to read. The arguments made in these cases can sometimes be more difficult to follow due to the lack of a structured separation of argumentative components, but using a composite structure allows for a more comprehensive approach regarding a general point. A derivative of the composite case is the double base composite case (it’s better because it rhymes):

Contention Tagline
Claim
Subpoint A
Link + Warrant + Link + Impact
Subpoint B
Link + Warrant + Link + Impact

This format is a narrower version of the generalized composite case, where instead of using multiple arguments to bolster a wider point in a single contention, multiple warrants and links are used to support a single claim. This should be used if your claim has a direct relation to the resolution and has multiple avenues of support, as it makes the argument much harder to break.

When rebutting composite cases, remember that you must break every argument! For general composite cases, that means addressing every subpoint and breaking at least one part of it. If you’re facing a double base, you need to either break the claim or both of the subpoints in order to invalidate the entire argument.

Use a composite case if you have multiple similar but unique arguments that can be grouped under a common theme, or if you have a critical win condition claim that you need to support multiple ways.

Of course, these case archetypes can also be combined, with a syllogistic contention one and a composite contention two, etc. However, this should be generally be avoided until you’re comfortable with both types individually, as the cases’ different approaches can seem messy or confusing if put together gratuitously.

Categories: Debate

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