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  1. #1
    Banned Indefinitely

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
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    Back to Basics: Context

    Context. n. the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

    Listen up you master debators: Your uncle Zhavric is back and I'm not best pleased by what I have found here. Time to get back to basics of debate starting with context. Seems like a lot of you don't understand it. The dictionary definition is above. To expand on it, context provides us with the parameters of an idea, wording, or scenario. It's very important in debate (and in general) to understand what happens when we change context.

    The best and most shocking way to see context is when we start throwing around insults or demands. I'll do my best to avoid insults.

    To delve in, take this statement as an example: "Mican owes me $50.00."

    We can express this as X for Mican and give him quality Y which is "owe me fifty bucks". We could get into the formal expression of debate arguments (which looks a lot like math) but that's not important here. Keeping it simple, we can say the example sentence can be expressed as "X=Y".

    So along come Mican who says "What the cuss are you talking about, Zhav? I don't owe you any money!"

    I then reply back, "Mican might owe me $50.00." Now we're talking about the same subject, but the context has changed. We're no longer talking about X=Y. We've got "might owe me $50" rather than "does owe me $50". We can call the might statement Z. So my second sentence ("Mican might owe me $50.00.") can be expressed as "X=Z". As you can see, these statements might sound and appear similar, but with just a slight change of context it becomes a very different concept.

    In a debate, make sure to be aware of what context is being used and don't let your debate opponents change it. For example, if I say, "If you find an armed intruder in your home threatening your loved ones, it's morally acceptable to kill said intruder." And my debate opponent says. "But if you don't know they're threatening your loved ones than it's not morally acceptable."

    Look at what happened there. The response changed the context. In effect, they introduced a completely different scenario. In doing so they effectively set up a straw man: creating a slightly different, but completely separate scenario and answering that one instead of the original.

    This is what makes context so important: if you play fast and loose with it then you end up not actually debating a premise. You end up answering your own questions instead of those posed by your opponent.

 

 

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