Nov 19, 2008

the most important philosophers for Lincoln-Douglas debate

When it comes to Lincoln-Douglas debate, everyone knows you should know a little philosophy--okay, more than a little, a lot--but time is precious. How should you focus your energy and effort?

I've arranged groups of philosophers by their potential usefulness to you. The "basic study" group, for example, is composed of the philosophers you are most likely to hear cited in a round. (I almost wrote "encounter," but realized that the more literal-minded members of my audience might have found such language confusing instead of humorous.)

Warning: the following list is based on practicality, not any Platonic standard of LD-oughtness. Also, the list is provisional--a work in progress. I've almost certainly missed somebody important. Suggest names in the comments, and I'll add them.

Last, if you don't know it already, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a great place to meet--encounter--read about many of these philosophers. Check it out.

The Basics

Plato on justice, rights, and the ideal State (hint: not a democracy)
Aristotle on justice, rights, and democracy
Hobbes on the Social Contract, especially regarding sovereignty, punishment, and the State of Nature
Locke on the Social Contract (but understand his foundations in empirical knowledge and natural theology, which grounds rights)
Rousseau on the Social Contract
Kant on rights, duties, and his formulation of morality encompassing both, The Categorical Imperative
Mill on democracy, utility, free speech, and the Harm Principle
Marx on justice, equality, societal values, revolution, and more
Rawls on a new, pluralist approach to the Social Contract and "justice as fairness," including the Original Position / Veil of Ignorance, the First and Second principle of Justice, democracy, neo-Kantianism
Maslow on value, especially his Hierarchy of Needs

Advanced Study

de Beauvoir on ethics and gender
Berlin on ethics (especially pluralism) and politics
Dewey on moral and political pragmatism and democracy
Hayek on freedom
Hegel on Hegel
Hume on the Social Contract
Arendt on democracy and totalitarianism
Dworkin on morality and law
Dahl on democracy
Schumpeter on democracy
Kierkegaard on reason
Aquinas on Natural Law and Just War Theory
Popper on anti-Platonism
Sartre on freedom and ethics
Habermas on democracy and deliberation
Nozick (especially against Rawls) on rights, freedom, and the Social Contract
Foucault on rights and justice (especially concerning criminality and punishment)
Beccaria on criminal justice and punishment
Bentham on Utilitarianism
Rand on Objectivism, especially as it concerns morality and freedom
Added: Josh's List

Kritik Central

Adorno on critiquing the West
Baudrillard on... good luck.
Derrida on deconstruction
Gadamer on hermeneutics
Levinas on ethics and the Other
Nietzsche on anything
Rorty on pragmatism and democracy

[154th in a series]


Matthew Anderson said...

"Popper on anti-Platonism"

Or rather, "anti-Popper's reading of Platonism." Whether he gets it right is an open question. : )

But I am glad to see Gadamer make the list!

TeacherRefPoet said...

Thomas Aquinas on Just War Theory. Absolutely essential if we're debating whether to invade/go to war. And not that hard to understand! A good bang for the time-buck.

JASON said...

For the current resolution, Beccaria seems important. Also, if you're going to mention Rawls, Nozick probably deserves a mention too. People looking for reasons for the government NOT to do a particular thing will find many good ones in his work.

Sexy Beast said...

Sweet deal, Jim!

I would recomend Foucault, for rights and justice system philosophies. He works well.

Jim Anderson said...

Bro on Popper, indeed, although he works well for LD because a lot of Platonic analysis is based on similar readings of The Republic. Also, your affection for Gadamer reminded me of another absence: Habermas.

TRP, I don't know how I forgot that one, especially since it was just a couple resolutions ago.

Jason, same thing. Rawls and Nozick are almost inseparable.

Sexy Beast, yep, another glaring omission.

Captain Princess said...

What about Bentham? Or Seneca? For this resolution, al-Mawardi seems pretty neat too.

(Yeah, I had to go deep in my head for those three. What of it?)

Sexy Beast said...

My personal opinion is that Bentham isn't applicable to most topics, because his theories simply aren't feasible. The Hedonistic Calculus is largely based off personal opinion, and thus is very arbitrary.

Anonymous said...

As a judge of LD who is not fully versed in all of the philosophers of the world I would also suggest that if you go off the basic list your burden to explain what the philosophy is in a clear and understandable fashion is increased. Because while I can hear "Social Contract" or "Utilitarianism" and basically know all I need to know for the round, if you start rambling on about Schumpeter without giving me a 30-second lesson on what that means it's going to be very difficult for you to win the value debate in my round.

Jim Anderson said...

Absolutely. I've cobbled together this list as an idea-bank, not a name-dropping factory. Listen to Swankette, O Ye LDer.

Sexy Beast said...

Hey Jim, what about Ayn Rand, specifically her theory of objectivism?

Jim Anderson said...

Oh yeah--Rand. I guess it's been a while since I've heard an Objectivist case.

Captain Princess said...

Yes! I've been co-opted. Dreams do come true.

Sexy Beast: I happen to agree that Bentham's pleasure calculus isn't up to par. The notion that humans are pleasure driven creatures wasn't a new one. The notion that what gave them pleasure, whatever it was, was a Good was a new idea and it serves as a direct challenge to classical thinking. Which is why I suggested it.

Sexy Beast said...

Correct. However, if you wish to use utility in a debate round, you'd be much better served through Mill. And just fyi, Plato comes up with a notion of justice as social utility in his works. Its interesting, it works well on a small variety of topics, such as the morally permissable to kill one.

Sexy Beast said...

I think some of the communitarian philosophers would be crucial to this list:
Amitai Etzioni

And the civil disobedience dudes:
Henry Thoreau
Mahatma Gandhi

And finally, this guy with his notion of Social Justice:
Shotoku Taishi

Anonymous said...

I always find it difficult to counter theory arguments. For example, if someone uses Locke's social contract theory to prove how the resolution is justified, how can you counter it?

Anonymous said...

You forgot Mearsheimer on realism!

Sam said...

Hey Jim, would you mind listing some philosophies on their category? For instance, naming a philosophy that advocates ethics being solely based on their intentions would help.

Oregon Debater said...

You seem to have left out Thomas Paine-American Revolution era- he has a very useful analysis of the social contract in his work "Common Sense," I suggest you add him.

Oregon Debater said...

You seem to have left out Thomas Paine. Most LDers I've met have never heard of him, but his work "Common Sense" is very interesting and he has some good ideas.

Anonymous said...

Dont forget Zupancic and Badiou