Best Practices: Philosophies of Rebuttal

For each speech and aspect of Public Forum, I present several philosophies to keep in mind. The following are the philosophies I present for Rebuttal speeches.

1. Create Clash

Clash is the debate term for how your arguments and your opponents’ arguments conflict. Sometimes you may have in case arguments that directly attack or address your opponents’ claims. This, however, is not always the case and never should be depended upon as fact. Creating clash means showing the judge how both sides’ arguments, even if concerning different ideas, are in conflict. You must walk the judge through how the arguments interact and never assume that they see the interaction the same way as you do.

2. Expose Flaws/ Problems in Opponents’ case

Many debaters take the approach of “defeating” an opponent’s case in Rebuttal. In reality, I don’t think this is a healthy or realistic way to approach refutation. Assume that your opponents are never going to admit defeat nor will your judge find their arguments altogether incorrect. Approach your Rebuttal as the time to expose the flawed logic of the arguments, the problem areas your opponent’s hide or do not realize, and ultimately, display that your logic trumps theirs. You want to make a better argument, not show that there argument has no merit. It is near impossible to prove an argument completely wrong and furthermore, it is not required that you prove an argument wrong to “win” an argument. Rebuttal is about casting doubt in the judge’s mind as to the validity of the argument enough that your logic should be preferred over your opponents’ logic.

3. Weigh the Round

With clash and effective refutation, the Rebuttal should bring the big picture into focus and allow the judge to see how the round is playing out. This means going one step further than showing how an argument is flawed – it means showing how your argument is stronger and matters more in the resolutional world. This means after telling the judge how the arguments clash, explaining how in that conflict your arguments are more sound, use better logic, or are more plausible, important, or create larger effects. Weighing the round is also known as Impact Calculus (see the section on Impact Calculus for details).For now, just keep in mind that the Rebuttal should begin to pull back to the big picture as you analyze arguments in a line-by-line fashion. What is a line-by-line rebuttal, you may ask? You’re in luck – you’ll find a full explanation below.


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