Archive for izak dunn

Like our content? Check out for Content on the High School Space Topic

Posted in camp, Podcasts with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by Scott Odekirk

I am hosting another debate site for the Gonzaga Debate Institute this summer,, that should have some great content on it. Tonight I posted a podcast that featured deb(k)ate author Izak Dunn. Those of you interested in running Ks on the High School Space Topic should probably check it out.

Podcast: Izak Dunn (USS Reliant) on the GDI 


Critical Issues in Debate: Izak Dunn on the Role of Philosophy in Debate

Posted in Critical Issues in Debate with tags on May 10, 2011 by Scott Odekirk

Izak Dunn is an author on this site, he has participated in the Non-Trad Showdown, and written such posts as The Esoteric and Critique. As a debater he was very successful, clearing multiple times at the NDT, enjoying deep runs at big tournaments, and earning Idaho State University’s 1st First Round bid to the NDT in 2006. This conversation covers a lot of things under the general heading of the role of philosophy in policy debate including: a round between Harvard and Oklahoma, lived experience in identity politics, Michael Dillon, mutual preference judging and the marginalized, Zizek, where to start with things like Deleuze and Guatarri, Descartes and skepticism, Izak’s first exposure to the the kritik, ontology in debate, getting lost in Heidegger, being an angsty teenager, and more! Scott and Izak also issue a formal challenge. Currently he coaches at Gonzaga University, who earned a first round this year, and is also the director of the newly emerging program at Eastern Washington. This podcast epitomizes the phrase “philosophy on the street!”

also check out on iTunes! You can also download this podcast here: izak on philosophy.

Here is a link to the round Scott and Izak discuss between Harvard and Oklahoma.

Here is a link to Scott’s decision in which he discusses the application of Descartes in debate.

Oklahoma GW vs Harvard JP

Posted in College, Video with tags , , , on December 3, 2010 by Scott Odekirk

A special thanks to both teams (Oklahoma RJ Giglio & Nick Watts and Harvard Eli Jacobs & Alex Parkinson) and Izak Dunn ( author and Director of the Eastern Washington Debate Team). Also deb(k)ate would also like to thank Wake Forest for putting together another great tournament. Check back again over the next week for more debates from the Wake Tournament.




Securitization and Framework: A Lecture

Posted in beating Ks with a traditional aff, camp, lectures, tactics, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2010 by izak

What follows is a lecture given at the GDI regarding Securitization (from Dillon/Heidegger’s point of view) and Framework.

Now, I understand that a lot of this lecture is quite basic, and I tend to find the life of Heidegger somewhat more interesting than his philosophy (damn you psychoanalytic critique!). Yet, I feel I need to highlight a few things, especially given that the lecture ran long and I foolishly put the main point last.

First, critiques are not about the plan. Some lectures will claim that a dirty word link to a word that is in the plan text links to the plan, but this is merely semantic noise. What framework asks is that the link be predicated off of plan action, not the diction of the plan. So, there is no such thing as a critique link to the plan–what you have there is a non-unique disad.

Second, alternatives are not alternatives to the plan action–rather, they are frameworks. If a critique is any argument which links to framework, then the alternative should be an alternative framework. I think this follows easily enough.

Third, every argument has a framework. This is where the lecture runs short. At the end of the lecture, I had desired to emphasize that your framework argument should not be designed to exclude the critique but rather justify your arguments in the face of the critique. So, for example, if the critique is Securitization and its framework is “Ontology First,” instead of a framework which merely excludes ontological questions (either theoretically with education and fairness arguments or politically with a Rorty card) I would rather listen to a framework which answers the question. In CP terms, these sort of answers might be “disads” to the CP. It should be clear that I think the disad/CP model of understanding critiques is horrid, but I think an analogy might prove useful. Against a CP (hell, against every argument, right?), we would like to generate a diversity of arguments. We usually read Theory, Solvency Deficits, and Disads against the CP. Theory is to the CP as Theory-Framework is to the Critique. Solvency Deficit is to the CP as Politics-Framework is to the Critique (remember, the impact to these Rorty claims is the aff–it is weak to claim simply that the critique “makes political engagement impossible.” One would rather provide a scenario for this claim: the aff is impossible under the neg framework). Finally, Disads are to the CP as “Justifications” are to the Critique.

When someone reads “Ontology First,” perhaps their opponents should justify their ontology. It is not as if they don’t have one–oftentimes, they simply don’t know what it is. For example, Mearshimer and Guzzini cards that nobody ever cuts or reads can offer defenses of certain ontological positions (although, one would rather turn to someone who defends the ontology of realism rather than simply describes it: a Machiavelli, a Hobbes, a Carr, or even perhaps a Morgenthau surrounded on all sides by social scientists). Before the lecture ran long, I had intended to identify some basic ontological commitments traditional policy debaters generally make.

One thing that characterizes the ontology of most TPD is the realism of the state: the state exists in the world apart from the individual perceptions of the debaters in the room. TPD would also like to assume that the most effective politics arises from engaging in the state, but this is a normative claim that one would have derive from the ontological commitments of TPD (that is, one would like all this stuff to hang together coherently rather than be a disconnected series of taglines). So, as an ontological position, TPD claims that Political Being finds its locus in the practices of the State (for an account of this one could look to Schmitt, but I would rather look to Aristotle or Arendt, since despite the former being a slaveowner at least he wasn’t a card-carrying Nazi).

Another thing which characterizes the ontology of most TPD is determinism: in its barest formulation, the notion that all events are caused. Perhaps this would be best characterized as a metaphysical position, but this post is no place to get into the nitty-gritty of semantic distinctions when I am mostly out to make strategic recommendations regarding rounds that wouldn’t dare get into those distinctions in the first place. Defenses of this “assumption” can be found all over the place: I am a big fan of turning to someone like a Leibniz in this case, but Kant does the job better as causation becomes a sort of condition for the possibility of experience in the first place. If you’d rather have some sort of update, David Lewis’s 1986 Philosophical Papers or Hart and Honroe’s Causation in the Law provide excellent resources regarding the metaphysical nature of “Selection” and causation (i.e., what factor makes an event a “cause,” what is the nature of this factor?). In any case, this is where a rather elegant defense of realism can be derived. The main agents in political actions are states; all events are caused, which is to say that as individuals we can predict the trajectories of state and collective action; hence, the aff.

Of course, this only scratches the surface: one could discuss whether or not IR-Realism is in the fact the affirmative’s ontology (for the most part, especially on this year’s college and high school topics, this doesn’t seem to be the case), whether or not IR-Realism has anything to do with philosophical realisms (i.e., epistemological realisms like correlationism, Aristotelian naive realism, etc), and whether or not the defenses outlined above are really defenses.

Notice that this argument is very parallel to the “Solvency Deficit”: even in a dispositional (re: Debate, not Chalmers for example) world, these are disads to the CP. However, they are disads that have to do more with the aff than simply the CP’s action. Perhaps this is where my analogy breaks down: I feel that these Justification arguments are disads to the Critique (but they are about the aff–so maybe the Rorty card is really the Disad and the Justification is really the Solvency Deficit) insofar that they are Impact Turns to the critique. Now one might object: But Izak, the only impact here is some philosophical hoo-ha about “right thinking”! And you would be right, but I would urge you to examine what the nature of critique impacts are. They sound like “genocide, nuclear bombs” and other delicious things from terribly interpreted Rabinow evidences. But the internal link to all of these impacts is “right thinking”: think about biopower wrong, and bam!–the nuke sneaks up on you… (and another aside: all “impacts” are really just internal links to death/suffering; debate terminology fails to be philosophical in exchange for being efficient).

However, there is a sense in which the Rorty card contains an ontology as well–its ontology just assumes that we can’t “know” what this ontology is in any truthful sense. This is why Rorty might say something about how ontological questioning can’t lead to real progress: there is a sense in which nothing can be built on this question that has a relevant relationship to politics because it is impossible to say how we would settle these arguments given our radical seperateness from ontology proper. But this is a different post, to be sure.

In sum: every argument has a framework. That is, every argument carries with it or assumes or underwrites the conditions concerning how each team wins and which impacts are allowed into the debate. If this is true, I would submit that it is biconditionally related to the notion that if the argument “Ontology comes First” has gotten anything right, it’s that every argument carries with it or assumes or underwrites its own ontology. And I feel that we should not run from these debates (notwithstanding Rorty’s brilliance).

Friday Foto Kaption Kontest

Posted in Random with tags , , , , on August 6, 2010 by izak

Announcing a new feature of Putting the K in Debate today: a Kontest! Each Friday, we’ll post a foto; you e-mail us with your best caption, and we’ll pick a winner to be posted to the front page the following Friday for a week. Best of luck!

This week’s foto should be interesting:

Can you win this week's Kaption Kontest?

The Non-Trad Showdown

Posted in Battles, camp, College, Ks on the Aff, lectures, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by Scott Odekirk

Featuring ISU OD (Odekirk and Dunn), two debate coaches who learned their style at Idaho State, on the affirmative. Also featuring Fullerton NW (Nielson and Ward), two current debate coaches who developed their style while debating together at Cal State Fullerton. What happens when two non traditional K teams face eachother? This is the question asked by this showdown which has become a regular aspect of the Gonzaga Debate Institute curriculum. This showdown was moderated (quite well) by Professor Sam Mauer who is the Director at Emporia State University. Enjoy! Thanks to all the participants (many of which are authors on this site) and a special thanks to the GDI for making it all possible.

Part 1 

Part 2

The Esoteric and Critique

Posted in Manifestoes with tags , , , , on June 10, 2010 by izak

Critique is paradox. It demands that we change ourselves and yet settles for the ballot.

Let us consider the statement, “I lie.” Strange things happen in self-referential situations: if the statement is true, then it is false. Conversely, if the statement is false (here one must remember that this is precisely what the statement is saying), then it is true. Thus, one may conclude that the Liar Statement is true if and only if it is false. Given some noncontroversial assumption of excluded middles (i.e., the assumption that the statement has to be either true or false), then we can further conclude that the statement is both true and false. Despite over two thousand years of attention, philosophy is yet to agree on on a way out of the paradox.

A popular solution, inspired by Tarski’s Undefinability Theorem [see his “The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages,” in Logic, Semantics, and Metamathematics (Clarendon Press: 1956)] is to postulate that self-reference is a special case in classical logic. That is, the statement isn’t speaking about the natural world whose truth could be assessed by Tarski’s archetypal account of truth: the sentence “snow is white” is true iff snow is white (a strange parallel to the opening of the Tractatus). Rather, the statement is speaking about language itself—so the solution to the paradox is to assume that language refers to the world and metalanguage refers to language. If the Liar’s Paradox is a statement in the metalanguage, then it seems that its truth value is neither true or false, so the contradiction mentioned above does not arise (this is essentially a mangled and over-simplified version of Kripke’s argument in “Outline of a Theory of Truth,” inJournal of Philosophy 72).

So what does this have to do with the K? One cannot divorce critique from the context in which it occurs—there is always something negative and destructive about the process of critique, and this is the sense in which we can speak of the parasitic structure of critique. “Theory” was once the same way—it was a response to arguments in debate as they were formulated, and it destroyed old paradigms of evaluation and competition before founding more familiar forms of debate we encounter today. I don’t know if “Conditionality Bad” had to overcome the hurdle of the framework argument in its own heyday, but the K makes a parallel move: critique is not merely talk—it is talk about talk.

A distinction between arguments that occur in debate and arguments that occur about debate should therefore be drawn for the moment. I do not think that this is controversial—at one point, before the advent of “competing interpretations” as a whole framework for evaluating theory arguments, “Conditionality Bad” was more an accusation that the other team didn’t so much as say something bad but rather did something which should not have been allowed. Abuse, abuse! And the K? Zero-point, zero-point!

This is a long, rambling way to introduce the main thesis of this post: the critique is, by necessity, esoteric. I think that it is easy enough to show (in four short paragraphs, no less) that the critique is different from other arguments insofar that it is a meta-argument (an argument about argument). We can grant that other arguments like disads and counterplans are often supported by meta-argumentation (the notion that the winning uniqueness argument is the one that post-datesassumes the meta-argument that this is how we are supposed to value uniqueness claims), but this is a trivial observation as the very nature of argumentation is to sift out “poor” argumentation by reference to argumentation itself. What makes the meta-argumentation of critique different from the meta-argumentation in vanilla disad or counterplan debates is its esotericism. It is easy enough to show that, as debaters, we can both debate and debate about debate. However, what the critique is allowed to say is qualitatively different from what theory about disads and counterplans already say about how we should argue.

Enter the scholarship of Leo Strauss. Okay, only some of his work—I’ll “strategically” dismiss arguments like Drury’s that Strauss was illiberal and elitist. I want to focus on his notion that philosophy is esoteric. Let us consider Strauss’s conception of the birth of political philosophy: the execution of Socrates. Strauss makes a distinction between scholars (those of us who, while generally calling ourselves philosophers, meticulously catalog and reference the works of greater minds) and great thinkers (e.g., a Socrates, someone who boldly and creatively addresses “big problems”).

In his Persecution and the Art of Writing, Strauss maintains that in order to get by, many great thinkers have hidden their “true teachings” in their writings. This might be to get around religious or political persecution, or this might be a pedagogical tactic used to engage the reader in dialogue. In any case, the real meaning of a philosophy is hidden—and I would submit that this love of hiding comes from the fact that politics must be protected from political philosophy as the latter rightly engages those “big problems” which threaten to undo the masses’ fascination with prevailing political mythologies (and here, perhaps I am reading too much Nietzsche into the question—that the belief in progress Nietzsche encountered in his own time was soon to become yet another fable, and that the only way “out” so to speak was to embrace these kinds of fable instead of running toward the oh-so-deadly truth).

Esotericisms abound: Aristotle wrote the way he did because he feared that “Athens might sin against philosophy yet a second time”; Pseudo-Dionysus could not publish under his (her??) own name because of the radical nature of religion outlined there; Augustine had to write to give political justification for the fall of Rome; Descartes (and much of modern philosophy, perhaps) had to make sure to write a scientific philosophy with just enough room in it left for God (and into what strange shapes this God is twisted!–the principium individuationis, the ground of “practical” reason, Nature itself, one big-ass monad, Geist, even a corpse). Worse still, one can always find an esotericism if one looks hard enough.

Thus what the critique is allowed to say about debate is absolutely key to understanding what makes the critique different from other arguments. If critique becomes too radical, a framework argument can easily exclude it from accessing the ballot. If critique is too conservative, a framework argument can easily include the object of critique (generally speaking, the aff) so as to either permute or outweigh the critique. This is what makes critique different—it is not the fact that the argument has an alternative (that is a counterplan) or that the impact is about rights or genocide (that is a disad) but rather that the link is to something that was done in the debate round rather than to something which is advocated (the plan). In other words, if the framework argument does not apply, then one hasn’t found critique.

And this is a strange situation, no doubt, for a community whose mission is the clarification of personal values and the progress of argumentation in general. I am reminded of some old CX-L posts from a former Oak Harbor debater which detailed his/her revulsion at seeing peers eating meat after having read about the Deep Eco K. This debater also probably would have gotten ulcers after reading too much Lifton, but luckily a commitment to eating well probably prevented this. At the end of the day, these posts (which, as a novice debater, I excitedly read in rounds as “K cards”) mused on an interesting version of the Liar’s Paradox in debate. If someone read the Deep Eco K on you and one of the links was to the fact you ate meat, how would the judge handle this? Worse still, let us say that despite running the Deep Eco K you in fact ate meat (and, say, are totally unaware of critical defenses of meat-eating in the literature such at Plumwood’s criticism of vegetarianism) and a “performative contradiction” argument was made regarding the permutability of this link. How would the judge handle this? Nowadays, the personal lives of debaters are shielded from the ballot through the employment of framework arguments: the judge probably reasonably asks him/herself “What does this link have to do with the plan?” Despite all of the excellent scholarship done on the question of standpoint epistemologies, it seems as if debaters are rarely willing to bring their standpoints into the debate unless there is some positive strategic value (and thus the confession becomes just another appendage of the permutation).

I do not like the position critique therefore finds itself in debate. Truly radical notions about transforming not only debate but the people who participate in the activity are marginalized via discussions of the plan. Now, I understand that the plan itself is generally a proposal to change how people live their lives in the status quo. But herein lies the problem: as commentators on the status quo, we often divorce ourselves from both the way we construct and are constructed by the status quo. That is, one of the greatest assumptions of the framework argument—that it is possible to judge a debate round “objectively” in the sense that we could consider the round itself as a special or unique kind of writing about the status quo—defeats the framework argument outright. That is, if objectivity were possible for the critic, then the special kind of link forwarded by the critique becomes “more true” than the arguments made within traditional debate. Granted, this relies on the assumption that the critique’s link argument is won, but this is perhaps the strategic beauty of the critique (the link is almost always there—it is a matter of outweighing which is a problem) The permutation is just an apology for the object of critique, not a defense.

A strategic aside, then. Consider the situation where a straight-up affirmative runs up against a “performance” neg. Usually, on the permutation, the negative will say that the affirmative isn’t a performance (whether this implies mutual exclusivity or something is usually left for me as a judge to decide). This argument demonstrates the neg’s inability to come to terms with the theoretical implications of performance theories: if the neg is right, everything is a performance. In fact, one of the main internal links to the performance K’s impact is that certain performances are excluded from the banner of legitimacy in the status quo—so the neg replicates this structural harm of the status quo via their argumentation in the debate round. The correct answer should be that the affirmative did in fact perform their argument but that this performance is a bad one. Given the tension between making normative statements and the monolithic nature of the kind of links people like to run nowadays, I can understand why some would be loathe to make this kind of argument. It gets worse when a team like Weber State refuses to make their religious arguments about the other team—debate is particularly American in that we have a strange tendency to simply assume that “different strokes for different folks” is a ethico-political yardstick for evaluation. Weber runs the God K and the other team doesn’t think for a moment that their personal beliefs really have a part to play in the debate round. It gets worse still when a team runs a Nietzsche K and their opponent’s response to the “no value to life” contention is “blunts, bitches, and forties” (perhaps I am too jaded by what children think the value to life is nowadays)–and they generally get away with this!

To return to the topic of esotericism, then, the critique necessarily esoteric for two reasons. First, it uncovers the hidden truth of the object of critique (the link level). Second, it itself contains a hidden truth which must love to hide lest the critique become the object of political persecution (what OD calls the “assimilationist model” of critique). I am not advocating a return to the old equation of arm+brick+window… (though, given all the commentary on esotericism in this post, I wonder if I can even be taken seriously at this point). Rather, I am calling on all those so-called critique debaters to account for their beginnings, to ask themselves why they debate the way they do. Then, I am calling for more lies. Every critique should be called the Lie. Everyone should understand that when critique actually happens in the debate round, nobody is allowed to recognize it.

This post is a lie.