Apart from the general anarchy which has erupted among the reformers,
each is compelled to confess to himself that he has no clear conception
of what the future should be. That, however, is just the advantage of
the new trend: that we do not attempt dogmatically to prefigure the future,
but want to find the new world only through criticism of the old. Up to
now the philosophers had the solution of all riddles lying in their lectern,
and the stupid uninitiated world had only to open its jaws to let the
roast partridges of absolute science fly into its mouth. Now philosophy
has become worldly, and the most incontrovertible evidence of this is
that the philosophical consciousness has been drawn, not only externally
but also internally, into the stress of battle. But if the designing of
the future and the proclamation of ready-made solutions for all time is
not our affair, then we realize all the more clearly what we have to accomplish
in the present - I am speaking of a ruthless Kritik of everything existing,
ruthless in two senses: The Kritik must not be afraid of its own
conclusions, nor of conflict with the powers that be. - Marx, September,
Policy has a stranglehold on debate worthy of any NYC transit cop. Argument
must conform to rigid policy prescriptions - not only are particular types
of arguments deemed unacceptable, whole ways of thinking are excluded
also. A caveat must follow on the heels of these seemingly scathing denunciations
of current debate practices: debate is excellent! Debate opens paths of
thinking that compulsory statist education maliciously denies. Intellectual
obedience to authority is schooled, beginning in kindergarten and continuing
throughout the remainder of the students' captivity (3). Debate teaches
students to question the dogma spewed forth daily in their classrooms,
to inquire into the matter at hand rather than simply accept the intellectual
authority of their teachers. Students initially are protected from the
stultifying effects of educational institutionalization by the argument
and thinking skills learned in and brought from debate. Unfortunately,
debate cannot resist its own calls to "face reality," cannot
resist its own dogma. In debate though, those calls rally around the policy
pole, demanding allegiance to the real world. Debate has opened many paths
for its participants and helped them to travel extraordinarily far. This
article attempts to open additional pathways for debaters, not shut down
the current ones.
Martin Heidegger lived most of his life in close proximity to the Black
Forest in Germany. The forest permeated much of his thinking. In many
of his later lectures and essays, Heidegger included at least a brief
movement through the German word Weg. Weg, way or path in
English, provides Heidegger's readers with a hint for understanding his
sometimes difficult philosophical prose. As is often the case, Heidegger
turns to the ancient Greeks for help: "For the Greeks, however, the
basic feature of the way- ('method") - is that be conveying along
the course, underway, it opens up a view and a perspective and hence provides
the disclosure of something." (4) While walking in near-darkness
through a dense forest, the trees above suddenly break and some light
hits you. The experience of emerging suddenly into the light, feeling
the warmth of the sun, is the movement of Heidegger's thinking. Difficult
matters are engaged not to resolve them, but simply to think them. The
darkness is as important as the light. Conveying along a particular
path is not the answer. Views become possible, perspectives open only
while underway. What allows for the moment of brightness is the moving
along a way, not the reaching of a destination. On another day, the sun
is absent and the moment is missing. So unconcerned with destination was
Heidegger that he names a collection of his essays Holzwege, woodpaths,
and offers the following description:
is an old name for forest. In the wood are
paths which mostly wind along until they end quite suddenly
in an impenetrable thicket.
They are called "woodpaths."
goes its peculiar way, but in the same forest.
Often it seems as though one were like another.
Yet it only seems so.
and forest-dwellers are familiar with these paths.
They know what it means to be on a woodpath. (5)
describes his thinking as ending in an impenetrable thicket, a dead end.
So why read him? - because what is important is not the end, but the way.
The way of thinking does not invite the thinker to arrive, only to think.
Sometimes you get shown the light in the strangest of places. Sometimes
the light shows you.
The danger of thinking in this or any other way is the way can become
old, tired. When one way is followed too often or too closely, it becomes
fixed. Where once fresh forest floor led the thinker, pavement now determines
the way. Permanency replaces flexibility. The need to seek new, different
ways is stressed by Heidegger:
The way, . . .,
of the thinker does indeed go off the usual path of men. Yet we leave
it open whether this "way off" is just a by-way. It could
also be the reverse, that the usual way of man is merely a perpetual
by-way ignorant of itself. A way off the path, however, does not have
to be a by-way in the sense of what is "way out" and unusual.
Even a by-way is again not necessarily an off-way.(6)
Heidegger here maintains
the possibility that the way traveled for centuries just might be ignorant
of itself. Notice the argumentative style: Heidegger entertains this possibility
in the hopes of getting the thinking underway. His goal, at least at the
beginning, is not to convince his reader of the "correctness"
of this position. Too often, thinkers avoid the way off for fear of failing
or losing their way. For others, acceptance and conformity prevent them
from following off-ways in order to avoid being thought of as too far
out. Still others simply want to win and the way most traveled in debate
is policy. In fact debate is called policy debate when classified in high
school and college. So certain is debate that the lines are demarcated
clearly, a familiar epithet frequently hurled at the kritik runs: "Go
to CEDA where you belong." No doubt a number of you who have continued
to read this far endorse a similar message, perhaps substituting L-D for
CEDA. At least keep the question open, maintain the possibility that the
kritik has something to say to policy debate. Leave it open whether the
kritik is the off-way or policy is merely a perpetual by-way ignorant
of itself. Follow at least for a while along a less familiar way through
Another cry heard increasingly around college debate is Dallas Perkins'
now famous "TOO Faast!" The critique of speed has been present
in debate since the beginning of "spread" debate. Traditionally
and consistently, defenders of current debate practices point to benefits
other than speaking skills (though those are not excluded): research skills,
argument strategy, depth of topic-specific knowledge, breadth of policy
knowledge, and critical and other thinking skills, to name only a few
of the more popular defenses. The kritik accepts those benefits and attempts
to extend thinking skills. The same defenders quickly retrench to the
benefits befitting mostly policy debate, now arguing against this
kind of thinking. Critical thinking is fine. This type of thinking though,
precludes other policy benefits. WARNING: The kritik supplements, not
supplants current debate practices. The kritik is not the new way
of debating, out to become the new debate dogma, to replace the old guard.
The kritik joins policy debate. If along the way one helps the other,
if the kritik opens up another way through debate, if policy debate provides
the framework in which the kritik can flourish, wonderful. If however,
the only result is debaters are exposed to different ways of thinking,
new thinkers, then the kritik has served one of its major purposes: to
expand the realm of critical thinking. These new attempts at thinking
may not be recognizable immediately as successful due to the current ways
of judging success. By thinking along different paths however, the possibility
that new perspectives will open remains above.
As a starting point, the kritik can be divided into three types: thinking,
rhetoric, and value. The first, thinking, offers much to debate and directly
engages Heidegger's ways of thinking. Thinking kritiks attempt to think
the resolution along different paths. Policy debate presently functions
on a foundation of unquestioned assumptions. Quite simply, this type of
kritik opens those assumptions for consideration. Rhetoric kritiks focus
on the specific language used either by the debaters or in their literature.
The focus shifts from the impact of arguments to the impact of words,
although words often impact arguments. Debaters are held accountable for
the implications of their word choice for both their arguments and themselves.
The value kritik is the most commonly argued of the kritiks and is very
similar to arguments which have been made in debate for a long time -
that is, deontological arguments, a priori axiological or value
positions, most ethical or moral standards. Value kritiks reveal critical
underlying value assumptions and expose them to either external or internal
evaluative standards. Briefly, external standards typically are found
in some societal or cultural ideal and applied from outside, while internal
standards use the revealed value assumptions to expose inherent contradictions
and inconsistencies. Remember: This typology is a place to begin, offered
provisionally to get the kritik of thinking underway.
Kritiks of thinking uncover the ways of thinking underlying policies,
arguments, and even debate itself. Uncover here almost seems overly dramatic
since the thinking under scrutiny is usually quite open. Why then, uncover
what is already present? Heidegger asks a similar question: "But
what does nearness mean?":
As soon as we try
to reflect on the matter we have already committed ourselves to a long
path of thought. At this point, we shall succeed only in taking just
a few steps. They do not lead forward but back, back to where we already
are. The steps do not form a sequence from here to there, except - at
best - in their outward appearance. Rather, they fuse into a concentration
on the selfsame thing, and wend their way back to it. What looks like
a digression is in fact the actual proper movement on the way by which
the neighborhood is determined. And that is nearness. (7)
We need to take steps
back towards ourselves. Our thinking must find its way back to where we
already are. Weg, is no longer so obvious when steps taken along
the path do not form a sequence from here to there, when the way wends
back to the same place. One of the earlier thinking kritiks was a kritik
of rationality. The college topic required affirmatives to overturn a
Supreme Court privacy decision. The kritik of rationality "uncovered"
rationality as one of the cornerstones of judicial decision-making - no
great discovery. Uncover perhaps is expressed more properly as made available
for debate. The importance of rationality to both the Supreme Court and
to debate almost cannot be overstated. Reason is the unquestioned (unquestionable
according to many of the kritik's opponents) foundation which makes policy
and debate possible. The specifics of this kritik are less important than
its movement through the questions. Rationality surrounds us, controls
us and directs us. Reason distinguishes us from other animals. After all,
judges are expected to provide reasons for their decisions. Nonetheless,
rationality has come under intense, and at time brutal, scrutiny. (8)
Still, debate seems unwilling to examine one of its own increasingly unstable
building blocks. Rationality was assumed correct and necessary. Debate
took place on the basis of, not over, rationality. The kritik of rationality
apparently digressed from its assigned course toward the Court. The rationality
kritik moved behind this topical assignment, exposing what was obvious
and everywhere to the same type of critical examination ostensibly required
of every other issue argued in debate. This "digression" allowed
debate to dwell in its own neighborhood, brought debate back to itself.
If debate is determined by rationality, then it must not be afraid of
its own conclusions (or premises). The way to the Court first involved
a couple steps back to, through debate. This thinking kritik uncovered
the obvious and made it debatable.
Last year's high school topic on worldwide pollution provided for a similar
movement. Pollution, though in some need of rudimentary definition, is
a commonplace. Pollution involves fouling, soiling, or generally making
the environment unclean. Advocates of reducing pollution accept the distinction
between an untainted environment and a polluted one. This distinction
draws its sustenance from Descartes and the modem scientific view of humans
and nature. Critics of this perspective attempt to expose such dualistic
thinking as the source of the problem rather than the solution. Placing
humans outside and above nature establishes the framework for exploitation.
The environmental ethic has been argued effectively in debate for years.
Much of last year's ethic work continued along a path prepared by debaters
a decade earlier. The kritik also provided an argumentative structure
within which that previous thinking could be extended. The implications
for the debate itself of altering thinking as the ethic authors advocated
were explored. Evaluating evidence and arguments now required facing thinking
that rejects some of the most fundamental assumptions necessary not only
for the evidence and the arguments, but also for the very nature of evaluation.
Advantages and disadvantages, cause and effect, even affirmative and negative
losses demand rethinking when the necessity, desirability, or possibility
of dualistic thinking is opened to question, for example. This kritik
directed topical environmental thinking under our current ways of thinking
toward the near omnipresence of dualisms, in both debate and the environmental
literature. Dualistic thinking was but one way through the environment
and debate. 'Me desirability and possibility of this type of kritik debate
obviously can be called into question. Neither question can be opened
effectively if either is practiced exclusively. Debating worldwide pollution
required thinking about the various environmental ethics and thinking
about environmental ethics invited thinking kritiks.
A few brief, concluding examples should take us far enough for now along
toward thinking kritiks. Feminism is the focus of many debates today.
Perhaps the cornerstone of most current feminist politics is some
clearly definable difference between either sex or gender (for example,
male and female). Such oppositional thinking is under serious attack,
often as part of a larger confrontation with all binary thinking- sometimes
feminist, sometimes political, often neither. The need to examine the
assumptions of all the evidence and arguments in the debate is
obvious when the possibility of thinking outside both gender and sex emerges.
Basic questions of freedom and oppression, an enormous part of today's
debate, are re-cast drastically when, for example, the structures governing
human actions are surveyed. The existence of free choice, the omnipotence
of the state, ideological, and other apparatus, the possibility or impossibly
of meaning, all gather in debates over basic freedoms. Not only the structures
governing individuals, but the individuals themselves are open to question.
The kritik of modernity and Cartesian thinking has far-reaching consequences
(that is, if we are still able to talk in terms of consequences). When
the basic building blocks of western-style democracy can be brought under
fire, thinking over freedom must be a part of at least some of our debates.
Kritiks of western thinking are also very much a part of the health care
literature. Non-western kritiks similar to those aimed last year at traditional
environmental solutions no doubt will arise.
Thinking about providing medical insurance from within a holistic perspective,
for example, seriously calls into question the benefits typically associated
with standard allopathic treatment. If the whole foundation of western
medicine is undercut, arguments and evidence from within that perspective
must be re-examined. The effectiveness no longer can be evaluated by first
presupposing the legitimacy of the thinking. Simply pointing to the history
of successful western medical intervention will not suffice if that history
is the matter being debated. Kritiks of thinking approach old questions
in new ways. Though the way is sometimes difficult, the view is often
The importance of
language to debate also almost cannot be overstated. Virtually all paths
in debate lead through language. Yet, aside from technical objections
like those leveled at speed, language is rarely discussed. Rhetoric kritiks
seem to remedy this oversight. One of the oldest attempts to hold debaters
responsible for the possible ramifications of their language is found
in debates over debate ethics. A popular response to charges of ethical
impropriety is to punish reciprocally unsubstantiated ethical aspersions.
According to advocates of this position, the effect on one's reputation
associated with even the suspicion of unethical behavior can be devastating.
So, both teams must be held accountable for their choice of language.
There are at least two different types of rhetoric kritiks: debater-centered
and argument-centered. Debater-centered kritiks, like the ethical one
above and as the name suggests, focus on the effects language has on the
debaters. Argument-centered kritiks attempt to unravel the interconnections
between the language policy-makers employ and the policies they enact.
Together, these kritiks allow debate access to another of its fundamental
assumptions, providing a way into matters too long left unexamined.
What role should language play in debate? Clearly, rhetoric creates possibilities
and restricts alternatives. In the early seventies, the Supreme Court
tried to balance the rights of welfare recipients with the need for government
officials to control fraud. In Wyman v. James, the Court accepted
the invasion of privacy because of the suspected high fraud risk. Opponents
of the decision pointed to its pervasive "rhetoric of poverty."
The Court assumed that welfare recipients were more likely to commit crimes
due to their poverty. Enforcement measures ordinarily deemed intrusive
were allowed because of the extraordinary nature of poverty. Not only
were specific encroachments permitted, a climate of hatred and discrimination
was fostered by presupposing the association between poverty and crime.
The poverty label stigmatized those it ostensibly sought to help. The
kritik of rhetoric engaged in both high school and college against homeless
policies and privacy decisions often included both types of this kritik.
Initially and obviously, the rhetoric of poverty allowed the Court to
approve otherwise unacceptable remedies. The ease with which the words
impoverished and criminal were substituted practically demanded the Court's
decision. Also though, this interchangeable rhetoric encouraged discrimination
against the poor from non-governmental sources as well. The movement from
the effect of this rhetoric on individuals to its effect on debaters seems
almost natural. If the way the Court speaks affects the nation, then the
way debaters speak, at least possibly, affects those debaters. Debater-centered
kritiks of the rhetoric of poverty parallel the argument-centered approaches:
using discriminatory language when making decisions increases the likelihood
of engaging in discriminatory practices. In other words, the debaters
themselves were at risk. Here, as with all typologies, the lines blur
and the categories run into one another. Such blurring merely demonstrates
the extent to which rhetoric and its effects extend throughout debate.
Our focus on argument and policy too often directs our attention away
from other equally "real" impacts. Certainly, as the need to
extend health care to the poor in this year's high school topic is addressed,
questions about the impact of such rhetoric will also need to be addressed.
Value kritiks have
been part of debate for a long time, though under different names. Debaters
frequently argue apriori value criteria for evaluating policy actions.
Here is another example of the artificiality of attempting to separate
value and policy (either institutionally, by creating other forums, or
dogmatically, by hurling insults). How does one debate the merits of health
care or medical insurance in a "policy" vacuum? Even the most
staunch defender of policy debate would not advocate excluding questions
of, say, freedom from their discussion. Though the government functions
on a bedrock of assumed values, most policy-makers in debate allow, if
not encourage, debates over these cherished values. More often than not,
the values continue to be assumed and are used to evaluate other actions.
Still, thinking behind policy decisions toward value assumptions in any
fashion helps uncover much about the way those decisions are accomplished.
At the outset, this article divided value kritiks along external and internal
lines. External kritiks often use commonly held values as the basis for
their objections to particular policies. For example, constitutional guarantees
of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness combined with basic democratic
beliefs about egalitarianism and individual worth could be used to delegitamize
current medical insurance practices. Since all citizens are not protected,
the government fails deontologically (that is, fails in a primary duty
or moral obligation). Such straight-forward applications of normative
ethical standards require little explanation. Another version of what
here is called an external value kritik also has been present in debate
for some time. Rather than accept the underlying value structure, this
variation of the kritik rejects critical elements of that structure, rendering
it unable to support itself. Earlier in this article, individual rights
were offered to support increased medical insurance. Previously in debate,
calls for increased individual liberty have been met by a rejection of,
for example, property-based rights for reason of ecological scarcity.
Recent events in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union speak to the
absolute necessity of coming to grips with radically different views of
freedom. Instead of embracing westem-style democratic values, many of
these newly "freed" individuals are clamoring for a return to
the security and freedom of the old guard. Even the framers of the constitution
encouraged a healthy criticism of the powers that be, before eventually
succumbing to and becoming them. Once again, this way through the field
of values is fairly obvious. External value kritiks evince traditional
objections to age-old questions.
Internal value kritiks expose the inconsistencies and contradictions within
policy structures. Like the early immanent critiques of Hegel and Marx,
these kritiks try to delegitamize the dominant views of society by showing
how they fail to meet their own standards of legitimacy. This legacy has
informed a loosely knit group of legal scholars known as critical legal
studies, CLS, whose primary goal was to "trash" the system.
Originally relying heavily on the tools of Marxism and critical social
theory to demystify legal structures, they have expanded their repertoire
to include some of the ways of thinking ways described above, like post-structuralism,
postmodernism, and feminism. CLS has played a role in college debate for
almost a decade now. The privacy topic continued debate's on-going dialogue
with CLS. The kritik helped open new ways through that dialogue. Like
the earlier environmental ethic debates for example, kritiks forced debate
to come to grips with the far-reaching implications of endorsing such
radical approaches to traditional questions. Rejecting a policy and refusing
to present an alternative dramatically alters debate's basic policy framework
which relies almost exclusively on comparing policy alternatives. Thinking
about the legal system necessarily extended to thinking about debate.
The similarities between legal and debate dogma are striking. The reaction
by each to CLS and the kritik was also similar: lash-out. When the foundation
cracks, people get nervous. When the walls crumble, they get scared and
angry. Internal values kritiks are not the exclusive province of the left,
however. Opponents of government-financed health care might cite the same
constitutional guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,
but focus instead on the underlying property justifications. This approach
allows proscriptions against taxing one member of society to take care
of another since the right to property is equally inalienable. Internal
and external value kritiks move along a way traveled frequently in debate.
By conveying along a way, underway, perspectives previously unavailable
open, potentially disclosing something earlier overlooked.
We use the word "discuss"
here to mean, first to point out the proper place or site of something,
to situate it, and second, to heed that place or site. The placing and
the heeding are both preliminaries of discussion. And yet it will require
all our daring to take no more than these preliminary steps in what follows.
Our discussion, as befits a thinking way, ends in a question. The question
asks for the location of the site. (9)
The above typology attempts to situate the kritik properly. Too often,
the kritik is dismissed summarily as outside the domain of policy debate.
Locating the kritik in the thinking behind policy debate allows us to
view both from a different perspective. Placing both at the site of thinking
prior to any policy-making turns us away from rigid policy prescriptions
toward rigorous thinking ways. When we heed thinking, many of the concerns
raised by the kritik's opponents are razed or rendered impotent. Our thinking
on the kritik has begun only recently, so we must step carefully. As both
Heidegger and Marx warned, it will require all our daring to take only
a few steps, not to attempt dogmatically to prefigure the future. Nonetheless,
the practice of debating the kritik must be addressed. Now however, the
kritik has a place to stand, a place to begin.
The relevance of a particular kritik first must be established. A necessary
precondition for any kritik is uncovering assumptions critical for the
arguments and evidence being debated. Simply invoking "the kritik"
is insufficient. (10) The threat of nuclear war looms over policy debate,
still directing much of our thinking. Including the history of Being in
a debate about averting another world war no doubt seems, at best, dubious
and, at worst, criminal. Heidegger comments on just these concerns in
But for the time
being - we do not know how long - man finds himself in a perilous situation.
Why? just because a third world war might break out unexpectedly and
bring about the complete annihilation of humanity and the destruction
of the earth? No. In this dawning atomic age a far greater danger threatens
- precisely when the danger of a third world war has been removed. A
strange assertion! Strange indeed, but only as long as we do not meditate.
In what sense is
the statement just made valid? This assertion is valid in the sense
that the approaching tide of technological revolution in the atomic
age could so captivate, bewitch, dazzle, and beguile man that calculative
thinking may someday come to be accepted and practiced as the only way
What great danger then might move upon us? Then there might go hand
in hand with the greatest ingenuity in calculative planning and inventing
indifference toward meditative thinking, total thoughtlessness. And
then? Then man would have denied and thrown away his own special nature
- that he is a meditative being. Therefore, the issue is the saving
of man's essential nature. Therefore the issue is keeping meditative
thinking alive. (11)
The kritik must also be understandable. The above is from a commemoration
of a native composer given at a public ceremony in the German village
of Messkirch, Heidegger's birthplace. He engaged his decidedly non-academic
audience in matters of thinking reserved almost exclusively for an advanced
philosophy seminar. In fact, so successful is Heidegger in engaging his
audience, the above requires almost no additional explanation.
The most prevalent response by far to the kritik was mentioned earlier
in the context of the CLS debate: no alternative. After having provisionally
set aside the presumed superiority of policy debate and here in the context
of thinking, this response seems out of place, not wrong. Obviously, many
different ways run through the question of an alternative. As policy-makers
and critics, seek alternatives. As thinkers though, maybe follow the debaters
for a while - perspectives sometimes open, underway. What can high school
students teach us about, for example Nietzsche? What can they learn? Thinking
about questions without the usual intellectual baggage lets one move differently
along old paths. Striking new views are possible when stepping lightly.
Think along ways that frighten even the prepared. "You must succeed
in bringing about a change of viewpoint in your auditors, in awakening
the sense in which questions must be asked." (12) Heidegger's teaching
advice applies equally well to debaters and coaches.)
If you allow certain fundamental assumptions to be debated, then you open
the way for all assumptions to be debated: infinite regression. This response
presumes the legitimacy and rules of logic. Infinite regression actually
might parallel the experience of all seeking after knowledge: withdrawal.
Fine for thinking, but what about debate? Without limits, debate is impossible.
The ground made available by the kritik is literally limitless. Though
kritiks may allow a unique experience of thinking, they destroy debate,
shout the accusers. What if instead, one of the most important experiences
of critical thinking is everything is debatable? The way around the dictatorship
of the classroom is through the opening created by everything is debatable.
Ultimately of course, such an experience turns back on itself. If everything
is debatable, then everything is debatable is debatable, beginning a back-and-forth
movement which stops only when thinking stops or reason intercedes. In
addition, remember the kritik's site, thinking. Respond to the kritik
of the Cartesian subject with your own rendering and defense of "I
think therefore I am." Listen to the thinking behind the various
kritiks and respond appropriately. Read, debate, think.
Many questions still remain. Questions of conditionality, fiat, "should,"
and the like all involve more space than remains here. Briefly though,
conditionality again privileges only one way through debate, one view
of debate. When an impenetrable thicket is reached, Heidegger does not
advocate hacking a way. Steps can be retraced, choices changed. 'De kritik
questions. Answers answer, not win - just like the answers given to topicality
questions. Early versions of the kritik included a reexamination of fiat.
Since no policy is ever enacted post-debate, this kritik questioned the
legitimacy of "weighing" advantages versus, for example, kritiks
of the system within which those advantages accrue. Ultimately, the illegitimacy
of such a response can be found without the need for recourse to flat
kritiks (see the earlier implications for evaluating advantages in the
face of a thinking kritik). Though fiat kritiks are not needed, further
thinking about fiat is. Some kritik opponents point to specific words
in the topic to exclude kritiks. They use should to force a selection
between or among alternatives. Even without the argument's specifics,
its movement through the topic should he apparent by now. In an attempt
to shut off a particular thinking path, this strategy defines should in
order to prevent debating should. This response to the kritik enacts the
need for a kritik. Finally by way of suggestion, use kritiks strategically
as non-absolute arguments. Kritiks can be argued against, for example
specific advantages or disad scenarios. Explode the myth of mental illness
against a mental health advantage or expose the racism of a crazy leaders
proliferation scenario. By limiting the scope of a particular kritik,
some of the objections to the kritik in general might be avoided. More
importantly however, debaters limit the kritik when they fail to limit
the kritik. Rather than providing an exhaustive list of responses requiring
little additional thought, this way through the kritik of thinking hopes
to encourage further thinking, not regurgitation.
Policy or not policy? 'Me question asks both whether to follow traditional
policy paths and if the kritik follows any of these paths. Clearly the
former is advocated openly throughout. Debate faces questions similar
to those raised by Heidegger at the dawn of the atomic age. Technology
works. So does debate.
Policy debate has helped many go far. Will one type of thinking come to
dominate exclusively as calculative thinking has? Or is the domination
of policy in debate symptomatic of, rather than analogous to, the situation
with technology and thinking? The other way through policy or not policy
opens the possibility that the kritik is policy debate. Last year's college
topic on development assistance helped open this way. The development
assistance literature was heavy with kritik, all types. The policy literature
explicitly raised questions about the underlying value assumptions of
development assistance. Policy analysts examined the impact of the rhetoric
of development assistance on not only those it tries to help, but also
those who speak it. These policy analysts also explored the consequences
of thinking about development assistance in different ways, from different
perspectives. Policy is not choking debate. An inflexible, narrowly defined
vision of policy threatens debate. Not all transit cops hate graffiti
As the article ends, its nature as a polemus needs to be stressed. Polemus
sometimes translates from Greek as war. Heidegger translates it as "a
setting apart from one another," aus-einander-setzung. This
article seeks to combine Greek confrontation with Heidegger's setting-apart
by getting thinking about the kritik underway. Thinking in this way presents
a way through kritiks, obviously not the way. This kritik of thinking,
this polemus sets itself apart from other thinking about the kritik,
confronts that other thinking. As a result, the way sometimes gets rough.
So does debate.
The article ends where it began, with the title. Looking part, "of"
operates enigmatically and equivocally. The of in the title allows for
its own reversal: thinking of kritik. Is the kritik of thinking or thinking's
kritik? Does the article kritik debate's thinking or does the kritik belong
to thinking? Or, both? Obviously, the article kritiks debate along three
ways discussed here: thinking, rhetoric, value. Also obviously, the article
locates the kritik at the site of thinking where it belongs. So, both
- but, if both, then what about enigmatic equivocality? What if instead
of debate's thinking, the article kritiks thinking in general? If thinking
becomes the kritik's object, does the kritik of thinking then destroy
Kritik, criticism or critique, partially untranslated underscores its
German lineage and reaps untold aesthetic rewards. This article emerged
from sustained contact with an extraordinary group of debaters at the
University of Texas. Thanks.
2 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert
C. Tucker, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 1978) (13). Marx offers a "plan"
that "would meet a real need" in this letter to Arnold Ruge,
both at the time were editors of a short-lived "critical philosophy"
3 Paul Feyerabend, philosopher and historian of science, offers insight
into our educational institutions which comments directly on our debate
endeavors: From our very childhood we are subjected to a process of socialization
and enculturation (to use ugly words for an ugly procedure) compared with
which the training of household pets, circus animals, police dog's is
mere child's play. The noblest human endowments, the fit for friendship,
trust, the need for companionship, the will to please that is to make
others happy are misused and defiled in this process by teachers who have
only a fraction of the talents, the inventiveness, the charm of their
pupils. They are not entirely unaware of their shortcomings and they take
their revenge. For their one and only aim, their life's ambition is to
reduce their wards to their own squalor and stupidity
people without hope take hope away from those who still have it, encourage,
badger, coax them to 'face reality' and thus make sure that the world
will never lack the likes of them. Science in a Free Society (New
York: Verso, 1978) 174-5.
4 Martin Heidegger, Parmenides, trans. Andre Schuwer and Richard
Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1992) 66. Parmenides is generally
considered to be one of the great progenitors of the dominant western
world view, the current way of thinking (the specifics of which are not
immediately relevant). The Greek in this passage remains to remind the
reader that this thinking extends back at least twenty-five hundred years
to a truly alien world. Too often, translation eliminates this distance,
flattens this difference.
5 Heidegger, Basic Writings, ed. David Farrell Krell, 2nd ed. (San
Francisco: Harper, 1993) 34.
6 Heidegger, Parmenides 66.
7 Heidegger, On the Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz (SanFrancisco:
Harper, 1993) 34.
8 The academy is rife with such criticism: philosophy, literary criticism,
human and natural sciences, all are under attack from various circles-
postmodernism, post-structuralism, pragmatism, and the ever popular epistemological
anarchism, to name but a few.
9 Heidegger, Language, 159.
10 Even the most non-interventionist among us would want: "Vote against
11 Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, John Anderson and E. Hans
Freund (New York: Harper, 1066) 55-56.
12 William J. Richardson, "Heidegger among the Doctors," Reading
Heidegger: Commemorations, ed. John Sallis (Bloomington: Indiana UP,