COMMON MISTAKES.


Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
You know your places: God be with you all!

William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III, Scene i.


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THE TRUISM

The Truism is a Method mistake made by many debaters. It is a mistake that occurs while defining the topic. Literally a Truism is a statement that is, by definition, unarguably true. In debating a Truism is a definition proposed that makes the topic unarguably true (or false). This is more a problem with metaphorical topics, that is topics that are constructed around a metaphor. Such topics require the metaphor to the interpreted and if that interpretation means that it becomes unarguably true or false then a Truism has been created.

Here are some examples of Truisms.

With the topic That there is no smoke without fire if you define smoke as "a grey substance caused by fire" and then restate the topic with the definition included then you get:

"That there is no grey substance caused by fire, without fire"

Which as you can see is unarguably true and denies the Negative an argument.

Another example is with the topic That Uranium is Gold if you take a scientific definition of the two elements mentioned, that Gold is a metal with atomic number 79 and Uranium is a radioactive element with the atomic number 92, then you could say that Uranium, by definition, is not Gold. This is a case of a truism being employed by the negative. You could argue quite lucidly about atomic weight, nuclear composition, radioactive properties and so on and this would stand up well scientifically but from a debating point of view it is all a waste of time. The negative, if they had done this, would have created a Truism and will have missed the whole point of the topic.

So, what if you are faced with a Truism ? That is the other team has created a Truism and presented it as a definition or, as in some cases occurs, as an argument ? What you need to do in this case is a two stage process:

Firstly state what the Truism is and why it is a Truism.

Secondly propose a more reasonable alternative.

For example:

In the case above in the topic That Uranium is Gold the affirmative might point out that the negative have created a Truism about one chemical element not being another and that this fact is not arguable. The affirmative might say that the negative has missed the point of the debate and that the point is that Uranium is a high profit raw material for a country that owns it. This covers both of the stages above.