Impact Tip! Don’t Forget Philosophy in Lincoln Douglas Debate By: Caleb Sampson

Lasting Impact! is going to run a new series in 2021 called Impact Tips! Today’s tip comes from Caleb Sampson. He’s running an LD Workshop next week to help you bring your A-game to your Lincoln Douglas Debate. The workshop will discuss the relevance of this year’s NCFCA resolution and the proper use of philosophy, legislation, case law, historic examples, logic, and analogies. This is a Workshop LDers don’t want to miss! In fact, if you sign up now, we will throw in the Lasting Impact! LD Guide FREE. Sign up HERE or keep reading to see his Impact Tip!

What is the most essential yet underappreciated application in Lincoln Douglas Debate?

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas faced off in a series of 7 debates about the issue of slavery in the United States. While both men were esteemed politicians and policy makers, these Lincoln Douglas debates didn’t focus on the intricate details of legislation or the ins and outs of constitutional law. Fundamentally, these debates focused on the values of Americans and the underlying philosophies that led the American People to those value systems.

The most essential yet underappreciated application in Lincoln-Douglas Debate is philosophy…

Over the last few years, I have witnessed that a number of Lincoln Douglas Debates within NCFCA tournaments have shifted away from philosophically based value debates into a territory that I like to call “policy light,” essentially a policy debate without stock issues. In 2019, when the resolution pitted free trade against fair trade, tariffs and trade agreements were more frequently debated than the underlying philosophical issues of national sovereignty and human rights. In 2020, a preventive war resolution led to more discussions of individual preventive wars than the underlying ethical theories justifying those wars. Now don’t get me wrong, real-world examples and policies absolutely have a place within Lincoln Douglas competitions, but they should never be the predominant focus of a value debate. This is because of a key clarification that debaters can often forget. Policy debates ask what should be done. Value debates ask why we believe what we do. Mixing up these two questions confuses the entire purpose of any debate.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking. The 2021 resolution is about privacy and knowledge during elections. It’s very, very political. Shouldn’t I use as many spicy scandals as possible? I won’t really benefit from using philosophy, right? Isn’t it just better to appeal to judge bias? Nope, it definitely isn’t.

A couple of years ago, I had a brief conversation with two-time Lincoln Douglas National Champion Mac Mann. When I asked what advice he’d give an aspiring LD debater, he told me that you should rarely use more than one or two applications in Lincoln Douglas debate. When I asked why, he reminded me that LD Debate isn’t based on little details, it’s based on overall persuasion. When you get bogged down in debating the examples, rather than applying them, you aren’t able to give the great reasons why your arguments are superior, not just your applications. You only start to consistently win ballots when you shift focus from individual examples to why those examples prove your main point.

This is why philosophy is essential to Lincoln Douglas Debate. Philosophy is the study of fundamental, universal questions. Philosophy answers the same question that Lincoln-Douglas poses– why? Hillary Clinton’s emails, Donald Trump’s tax returns, and Hunter Biden’s business connections can never answer why the public’s right to know ought to be valued above a candidate’s right to privacy. Only philosophically based value systems can answer that.

This begs a very important question– how can you effectively integrate philosophy into your Lincoln Douglas cases this season? Over the years, I’ve become very good friends with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Harvard Philosophy Department’s website. However, if these sources are too daunting, there’s a much more approachable (and fun) way to apply philosophy to the 2021 NCFCA resolution. That’s with myself and my good friends at Lasting Impact! I’m excited to announce that, over the next few weeks, I will be coaching with Lasting Impact! Through one-on-one coaching sessions, I’m excited to teach you everything I’ve learned about the use of philosophy in Lincoln Douglas Debate over my seven years of competition! If you want to learn how Kant’s Categorical Imperative defends a candidate’s right to privacy, How Robert Bork believed the right to privacy doesn’t exist, or how Alexander Meiklejohn asserted that the right to know was an essential component of self-governance, Lasting Impact! is the place to be!

As you all know, there are more applications to explore in Lincoln Douglas Debate than just philosophy. From historical examples, to case law; from classical logic to modern legislation, there is an abundance of substance you can use to maximize your Lincoln Douglas performance, if it is used properly. In LD Debate, it’s easy to forget why we use applications. I think we often look at examples as obligatory additions to LD contentions, or even as appeals to judge bias. If we view Lincoln-Douglas applications through this lens, we lose sight of what they truly are: nuanced tools to effectively communicate sound logic.

I want to help you rediscover the best ways to use applications in LD Debate. I’m partnering with Lasting Impact! to host a one-night workshop for you– Substance: Rethinking Applications in Lincoln Douglas Debate. This workshop will analyze the most effective ways to use philosophy, historical examples, case law, legislation, and analogies in Lincoln Douglas Debate. By doing so, you’ll not only learn how to perfect your cases, but also how to refute others when they abuse examples. This workshop will take place on Monday, January 11th. I’m excited to work with you to maximize your LD performance! Sign up HERE. Remember, Workshops are recorded.

Caleb competed in Speech and Debate for seven years, during which he became the 2018 NCFCA Illustrated Oratory National Champion, 2019 Sweepstakes Champion, and a two-time LD National Quarterfinalist. He now attends Hillsdale College where he is double majoring in Politics and Economics, and competes as a closing attorney for his Mock Trial Team. If you can’t make Caleb’s Workshop- schedule a one on one coaching session with him!