Welcome to the first edition of Full Strat Disclosure. The goal of this project is to provide a free place to discuss and learn strategy from some of the best. Coaches and judges will discuss a case they either wrote or coached and detail the strategic thinking behind it. On this edition, Ryan Teehan discusses his Korsgaard Aff on the topic, “Resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory.” 

RT: This was a framework and philosophy heavy case. Generally, the strategy was to have pre-emptive framework and contention level arguments that the negative would have to sift through, while also providing multiple alternative outs on the contention level.

Part One is Sympathy

Judgments of whether something is good-for some agent mean being empathetic to the perspective of that agent. Korsgaard:

That leads me to one last point about Geach. Geach thinks that his account of the grammar of good renders claims about the good straightforwardly descriptive, and on this basis he denies non-cognitivist accounts that claim that “good” has a primarily commendatory force. These days it is a commonplace in the philosophical literature that when we use the term “good” in the ordinary evaluative or functional sense, we can be straightforwardly descriptive. That a good assassin has a steady aim and a stony heart are things that we apparently can say without commendation. I do not think that is quite right. But the fact that we can apparently make the connection between having the properties that make you good-at performing a role and having the properties that are good-for you to have by supposing that you identify with the role suggests a slightly different account of what the supposedly “non-cognitive” element is. Judgments of good-for, in the sense of good-for-someone, are ones that incorporate a certain point of view. As we will see, this turns out to be – but for non-trivial reasons – the point of view of the someone for whom the things are good. The use of judgments of goodness in the practice of commendation is just an artifact of that. To put it another way, the judgment that something is good-for someone is essentially empathetic, or sympathetic [and] in the Humean sense. It is a judgment we make essentially by taking up the person or animal’s own point of view, and so sharing in his [the] evaluative responses.

This act of sympathy is one of endorsement for the motives behind an act. This is the only explanation for why reasons exist and expresses our unconditional value. Korsgaard 2:

I have already suggested that when we say that something would be good-for X in the final sense of good, we are speaking from a point of view made possible by our empathy, or in Hume’s sense, sympathy, with X. We are doing that because we are saying something that is only intelligible when we look at the world from X’s point of view. Claims about an animal’s final good are essentially relative to the animal’s point of view, for we identify his good and bad with respect to the view that he must take of his own condition.52 Now it might seem a little odd to say that when I judge that something is good or bad for me I am sympathizing with myself, but in fact I think that this is exactly the right thing to say.53 For to say that something is good-for me is to describe something’s relation to my condition as having normative implications, and that is in turn is to endorse the view of myself that, simply as a conscious being – as a being who is in her own keeping – I necessarily take of my own condition. One might see the endorsement of that view as an act of sympathy with myself. However that may be, that act of sympathy or endorsement – the conscious determination to act on the [those] motives that arise from the view that I necessarily take of my own condition – is what first gives rise to reasons. When I decide to treat what I cannot but think of as good-for me as being worthy of pursuit, then I decide to treat what is good-for me as good absolutely. In Kant’s language, I treat myself as an end in itself.

This means utilitarian concerns are not normative in their own right, rather pain and pleasure only become important after we recognize the value of humanity. 

RT: The first two Korsgaard cards explain how judging something to be good for a particular agent, like a government, involves taking up the perspective of that agent.  When an agent takes something that is good for them as a reason to act, they recognize that that thing is good absolutely.  This would pre-empt utilitarian concerns, since pain and pleasure only become normative through the process of recognizing the importance of your own humanity. It would also pre-empt contractualist arguments, since taking up the second-person perspective requires this act of sympathy.

And, both notions of the good are good for. Korsgaard 3: 

Admittedly, that would be a rather surprising move for such an admirer of Aquinas, who made much of the idea of a summum bonum. But in any case it is not what it is happening. The idea of “good-for” in the sense of good-for someone makes an appearance in Geach’s remarks here: death is bad-for an organism, but being murdered as Caesar was is good-for a man who seeks to be worshipped as a god. So apparently Geach thinks that being good-for someone supports the attributive use in something like the same way that having a role or a function does. That means that Geach thinks there are two different ways in which “good” can be attributive: speaking roughly, we say X is good-for P or sometimes good-at P when P is a purpose that X serves or a role that X carries out, and we also say X is good-for P when P is a person or an animal who is benefited by X. 20, 21 In other words, there is both a final and an evaluative sense of good-for. So the summum bonum will survive, but presumably as something that is good-for human beings considered just as such. Now that is a conclusion I am perfectly happy with. It suggests Geach would agree with me that good in the final sense is a relational notion – a form of good-for. But that is exactly the conclusion that I think needs a further defense here. For I also agree with Geach that when we say something is good, we should “convey a standard of goodness.” And I think that this second use of good-for – namely good-for some person or animal – does not carry with it the same straightforward standard of goodness that being good-for a purpose or goodat a role does. When we seek a standard for applying this notion, we will run into the question I mentioned earlier, namely, how we can say that some thing is good-for someone without appealing to some prior notion of what is good.22 One might suppose that by deploying Philippa Foot’s notion of “natural goodness” we can make this problem go away, although Foot herself does not think this, as I will notice below. Foot observes that we can identify natural goodness and defect in the properties of organisms simply by considering how the organism carries on its activities and what it needs in order to do so. So for instance, there is no mystery about how we can say that stealth and swiftness are good properties in a tiger. And we might think it is just as obvious that these properties are good-for the tiger. A similar point seems in order when we think about someone as occupying a role. A steady aim and a stony heart are good properties in an assassin, and they are also good properties for you to have, in the sense of good-for you, if you are an assassin. Or anyway, that is true, at least insofar as you identify with the role. That is a qualification that I will come back to.

All moral frameworks must conserve this relationship between the two notions of the good, evaluative and final. This is a meta-standard that the neg must explicitly link into.

RT: The third Korsgaard card explains that the good is always relational, which means it describes a particular relationship agents have with the world.  This takes into account the common Geach argument about attributive goodness and also hijacks the link into many Aristotelian frameworks.  Since everything that is good is good-for some agent, aggregation-based frameworks are nonsensical since there is no aggregate agent created for whom the aggregate good can be good-for. 

Since good is relational it must be good for an agent. This means aggregation doesn’t make sense because there is no aggregate agent created.

RT: Since the good is relational, we have to speak of good ends by referring to their role or function.  The problem is, for utilitarian or other consequentialist frameworks, that ends don’t have functions or purposes in the way we traditionally think about them.  For example, the death of Caesar was bad for the purpose of survival but good for the purpose of being elevated to the level of a god.  To bypass this problem, the fourth Korsgaard card says that we can capture the idea of a purpose of function with the notion of something being rational to want.  This means that good ends are just ends that it is rational to want, which means ends-based frameworks collapse into my framework.

And, this means that end states aren’t inherently good. There is no function of an end to evaluate its goodness. Only rationality can solve this, meaning util devolves into Kantianism. Korsgaard 4:

The idea of something’s being rational to want is helpful in this context because when we are using the term “good” in the evaluative way, it captures the same content that the idea of something’s role or function does. Since knives are ordinarily wanted for cutting, a good knife is a sharp one, and if you want a knife for the usual reasons, sharpness is a property it is rational to want in your knife. So instrumental or functional properties, broadly speaking, coincide with the properties it is rational to want. But, with Rawls’s idea of the life plan in hand, we can extend the idea of “rational to want” to a person’s ends. Earlier, when I asked what the notion of “good end” might [refer to] mean, I asked whether ends have a role or a function, and I denied that they did. But in effect, Rawls’s move does assign our ends a kind of role or function. Their role or function is to serve as an element in a person’s rational plan; some of them are better than others at playing that role. But there’s another way to characterize Rawls’s move here that I think is even more important. I have now described the evaluative notion of the good in two different ways: first, as invoking the plain, descriptive idea that something has the properties that enable it to serve its function well; second, as invoking the slightly more normative idea that something has the properties it is rational to want in that kind of thing. The difference between these two ways of thinking of evaluative goodness is that when we think of the object in the slightly more normative sense of being rational to want, we consider its functional properties from the point of view of someone who wants that sort of thing.[it] This enables Rawls to establish[es] a continuity between the evaluative and the final good, since the final good as Rawls conceives it is also characterized from the point of view of the one whose good it is. That is, it is characterized as what it is rational for that person to want, given his rational plan. So both evaluative and final goodness are relational; they are goodness relative to someone’s plan, and therefore goodness for that person. Even the most general evaluative use of ‘good, when it is not relativized to the point of view of any particular person, evokes a relation to a point of view. If I just say, for instance, “the Honda is good car,” without any qualification, I mean, “rational for pretty much anyone in want of a car to want, given what such things are generally used for.” That ties the goodness of the car to “pretty-muchanyone- in-want-of-a-car’s” point of view. In my view this is no accident, for the concept of the good always makes an essential reference to someone’s point of view. In fact, that is putting it too mildly, for as we will see there is only such a thing as the final good because there are beings who have points of view. That is why the final good is a relational concept, as I will now try to show.

Pain and pleasure, along with other positive and negative dispositions, arise as responses to the relationship activities and objects have with our conception of the good. Reject frameworks that don’t explicitly explain this relevant feature of our moral psychology, because they can’t deal with the actual decision procedures of individuals.

RT: The first analytic provides an explanation for why we experience positive and negative dispositions: they function as feedback for self-regulation.  We feel positive dispositions towards things that cohere with something we find worthy of pursuit and negative dispositions towards things that don’t, which means that pain and pleasure aren’t the bad or good, rather they show us what the bad or good is.  This is a framework weighing argument that speaks to the explanatory power of the framework.

And, this is the only way to resolve skepticism. Skeptics still has to see certain things as good-for-themselves, which Korsgaard 2 explains means valuing humanity as an end.

RT: The second analytic just explains that skepticism fails because the skeptic still values their own humanity when making a choice, which they inevitably have to do.

Finally, the normative question arises from the first-person deliberative standpoint. Ethics is not directed from the point of view of the universe, rather it deals with the actual decisions that people must make. Any other view alienates ethics from its purpose, to guide the actions of real people. This means all objections must be linked explicitly to this first-person standpoint or they aren’t real objections. 

RT: The third analytic explains that we can’t divorce ethics from the perspective that we use when we make choices, which would pre-empt indicts of free will, personal identity, and certain skeptical arguments. 

Thus the standard is consistency with a system of mutual respect.

Underview to the Framework – Publicity

Collective action requires both the publicity of reasons and respecting each as an end in themselves.   This link turns all contract or governmental frameworks since it frame our ability to act together. Korsgaard 5:

But on the public conception of reasons, we do not get this result. On the public conception I must take your reasons for my own. So if I am to think I have a reason to shoot you, I must be able to will that you should shoot me. Since presumably I can’t will that, I can’t think I have a reason to shoot you. So it is only on the public conception of reasons that a universalizability requirement is going to get us into moral territory. 9.4.6 I just claimed that if personal interaction is to be possible, we must reason together, and this means that I must treat your reasons, as I will put it, as reasons, that is, as considerations that have normative force for me as well as you, and therefore as public reasons. And to the extent that I must do that, I must also treat you as what Kant called an end in yourselfthat is, as a source of reasons, as someone whose will is legislative for me. To see why, consider a simple coordination problem. Suppose you and I are related as student and teacher, and we are trying to schedule an appointment. ‘‘Stop by my office right after class,’’ I say, thinking that that will be convenient for me, and hoping that it will also be convenient for you. It isn’t, as it turns out. ‘‘I can’t,’’ you say, ‘I have another class right away.’’ So I have to make another proposal. It’s important to see why I do have to do this: it’s because having the meeting is something that we are going to do together. The time I suggested isn’t good for you, and therefore it isn’t good for us, and it follows from that that it isn’t after all good for me, and so I need to suggest another time. To perform a shared action, each of us has to adopt the other’s reasons as her own, that is, as normative considerations with a bearing on her own case. That’s why the fact that the time is not good for you means that it also is not good for me. So we both keep making suggestions and considering them until we find a time that’s good for both of us. The aim of the shared deliberation, the deliberation about when to meet, is to find (or construct) a shared good, the object of our unified will, which we then pursue by a shared action. And it follows from the fact that the action is shared that if either of us fails to show up, we will both have failed to do what we set out to do. Our autonomy and our efficacy stand or fall together.

The resolution assumes a deliberative context, so you look to my framework if I win this argument even if I lose every other argument.

RT: This argument explains that deliberative contexts require that we respect each other as ends.  This would pre-empt other arguments about governmental obligations and contracts as well as providing another way out on the framework level.

Finally, resolutional analysis.

RT: The next set of arguments provides an interpretation of compulsory voting as well as reasons to prefer that interpretation over alternate interpretations.  These would provide offense on the T debate early on so that the 1AR could more easily respond to it.

Engelen clarifies compulsory voting:

First, there is the secrecy of the ballot. As a matter of fact, ‘compulsory voting’ is a misnomer. What is made compulsory is not voting, but attendance at the polling station. All a citizen has to do to comply is register his or her presence. The state has no control whatsoever over his or her choice inside the voting booth. As long as the ballot is secret, voting simply cannot be made compulsory. In this sense, it would be more accurate to speak of ‘compulsory attendance’ or ‘compulsory turnout’. As Arendt Lijphart (1998, p. 10) – perhaps the best-known proponent of compulsory attendance – rightly argues,the secret ballot guarantees that the right not to vote remains intact’. If a state not only obliges its citizens to show up at elections but also to publicly express their vote, totalitarianism is lurking. However, in each of the countries that implement such laws,1 the ballot’s secrecy is guaranteed. Second, a blank option can and should be provided on the ballot. This way, voters can refrain from choosing from any of the available parties and candidates. As Lacroix (2007, p. 193) argues, people’s freedom of thought cannot be violated if they have the option of casting such a blank vote. In my view, an additional ‘none of the above’ option should be added, since this allows one to distinguish between purely apathetic and apolitical voters on the one hand (blank) and anti-political protest voters on the other hand (none of the above) Third, one should refrain from sanctioning abstainers too heavily. In fact, most countries only impose small sanctions. In Australia and Belgium, for example, which are known for their ‘strict’ enforcement, there is no systematic prosecution of abstainers. What happens is that some of the abstainers receive a so-called ‘please explain’ letter in which they are asked to fill in the reason for their abstention. Those who fail to give a legitimate reason – like a stay abroad, illness or a more principled objection – risk a fine of €25–50. While Lever (2008, p. 64) wants to associate compulsory attendance with a totalitarian regime in which ‘otherwise law-abiding citizens may be sent to prison for the failure to pay fines for not voting’, it is safe to say that this is a vast exaggeration.2 It is interesting to see that people who object on principle to participating in elections are exempted from fines. These so-called ‘conscientious objectors’ fundamentally disagree with the system or regime as a whole. They refuse to vote not because it is inconvenient or boring but because of politically principled reasons. I certainly support the practice of exempting from fines citizens who provide plausible reasons why voting is against their conscience. In fact, I agree with Lever (2008, p. 64) that both religious and secular reasons can be valid. In my view, counting them as legitimate excuses in the ‘please explain’ letter is an effective way of respecting people’s freedom of thought and speech.

Prefer this interp because:

  1. It cites the best known expert on the topic, which means it is key topic literature and is the most predictable interp
  2. Cites two of the most commonly used countries to justify the interp, which is another internal link to predictability and topic lit
  3. Abstentions are key to aff ground because otherwise I would need to defend people on their deathbed or out of country going to vote, which is awful ground
  4. Also, disclosure solves any abuse, there was more than enough time to cut good responses

Contention One is the Duty of Liberty

Compulsory voting is necessary to justify policies to the people. It fosters civic relationships and political culture that is a precondition to any notion of a good state. It is also necessary for individuals to see themselves as part of a state, which is necessary for the state to be a state. Rawls:

Of course, the grounds for self-government are not solely instrumental. Equal political liberty when assured its fair value is bound to have a profound effect on the moral quality of civic life. Citizens’ relations to one another are given a secure basis in the manifest constitution of society. The medieval maxim that what touches all concerns all is seen to be taken seriously and declared as the public intention. Political liberty so understood is not designed to satisfy the individual’s desire for self-mastery, much less his quest for power. Taking part in political life does not make the individual master of himself, but rather gives [one] him an equal voice along with others in settling how basic social conditions are to be arranged. Nor does it answer to the ambition to dictate to others, since each is now required to moderate his claims by what everyone is able to recognize as just. The public will to consult and to take everyone’s beliefs and interests into account lays the foundations for civic friendship and shapes the ethos of political culture. Moreover, the effect of self-government where equal political rights have their fair value is to enhance the self-esteem and the sense of political competence of the average citizen. His awareness of his own worth developed in the smaller associations of his community is confirmed in the constitution of the whole society. Since [one] he is expected to vote, [one] he is expected to have political opinions. The time and thought that he devotes to forming his views is not governed by the likely material return of his political influence. Rather it is an activity enjoyable in itself that leads to a larger conception of society and to the development of his intellectual and moral faculties. As Mill observed, [one] he is called upon to weigh interests other than his own, and to be guided by some conception of justice and the public good rather than by his own inclinations.19 Having to explain and justify his views to others, he must appeal to principles that others can accept. Moreover, Mill adds, this education to public spirit is necessary if citizens are to acquire an affirmative sense of political duty and obligation, that is, one that goes beyond the mere willingness to submit to law and government. Without these more inclusive sentiments [people] men become estranged and isolated in their smaller associations, and affective ties may not extend outside the family or a narrow circle of friends. Citizens no longer regard one another as associates with whom one can cooperate to advance some interpretation of the public good; instead, they view themselves as rivals, or else as obstacles to one another’s ends. All of these considerations Mill and others have made familiar. They show that equal political liberty is not solely a means. These freedoms [it] strengthen men’s sense of their own worth, enlarge their intellectual and moral sensibilities, and lay[s] the basis for a sense of duty and obligation upon which the stability of just institutions depends. The connection of these matters to human good and the sense of justice I shall leave until Part Three. There I shall try to tie these things together under the conception of the good of justice.

RT: The first contention level argument explains that the expectation to vote is necessary to the promotion of political culture and civic connections.  The arguments beneath explain why this duty turns arguments focused on autonomy or culpability.

This also means that political culture is part of the final good of any individual, turns any autonomy or culpability NC since a) since it is necessarily part of their ends they are being treated as an end, and it means that inconsistent beliefs are irrational b) we are all culpable for the deliberative process that chooses representatives. This means that views that other conceptions of the good are irrational by their own standards. Third, hold objections to voting to the standard of public reason since by the nature of society we have a duty to justify ourselves by principles of public acceptance. 

Stability is the most important impact, it is a precondition to substantive moral theory, means it comes first under any standard. Rawls 2:

Now a well-ordered society is also regulated by its public conception of justice. This fact implies that its members have a strong and normally effective desire to act as the principles of justice require. Since a well-ordered society endures over time, its conception of justice is presumably stable: that is, when institutions are just (as defined by this conception), those taking part in these arrangements acquire the corresponding sense of justice and desire to do their part in maintaining them. One conception of justice is more stable than another if the sense of justice that it tends to generate is stronger and more likely to override disruptive inclinations and if the institutions it allows foster weaker impulses and temptations to act unjustly. The stability of a conception depends upon a balance of motives: the sense of justice that it cultivates and the aims that it encourages must normally win out

RT: The second piece of Rawls evidence provides an external impact to the stability argument above.  This is both a weighing argument and also a separate way out on the contention level even if the framework was lost. 

Nonvoting violates the rights of others, compulsory voting is key to solve. Dagger:

For that matter, a republican liberal can argue that people who fail to do their part to keep their polity’s electoral system in good working order really are violating the rights of their fellow citizens. If the electoral system is an integral part of a polity that [is]may reasonably be regarded as a cooperative venture for mutual benefit, an individual then has an obligation, based on fair play, to the cooperating members to vote. Failure to discharge this obligation may therefore violate their rights to his or her cooperation. As a “man,” in Rousseau’s sense of the word, he or she will hope to conclude the “advantageous treaty” that Rousseau sketches in the Letter to D’Alembert—an agreement in which “everyone will faithfully render him what is due him, while he renders to no one what he owes.”37 Thinking as a citizen who is exercising moral liberty, however, the individual can prescribe and obey a law that treats every member of the public fairly. If a system of free and open elections is in the interests of the citizens, then every citizen must have both an obligation to do his or her part to maintain [elections] the system and a right to expect the others to do theirs. In that sense, compulsory voting may simply ensure that the person who wants not to vote—and not, therefore, to do his or her part—will be forced to be free.

This turns any libertarian or autonomy NC because those rights are based upon the working electoral system, means we have a prior obligation to vote.

RT: The Dagger card explains that nonvoting would violate the rights of others, which would turn libertarian or autonomy-based arguments. 

Also, the only way to allow for self-governance, unity of the people, and stability is through the form of the Republic where all vote. Korsgaard 6:

So, since that step can’t be made, let’s just skip it, for now anyway, and suppose that somehow or other the form of sovereignty has been determined, not necessarily legitimately, and there is a ruler, under whom these people are able to function as a collective agent. Now as I said, the sovereign or ruler’s job is, strictly speaking, to set up the government. Suppose the sovereign ‘‘itself,’’ as Kant puts it, simply proceeds to govern—it carries out all three functions of government directly. In this case, the government is despotic. Even if the de facto form of this sovereignty is democratic, the direct rule of the minority by the majority is despotic, for as we’ve just seen, the democratic form is not privileged, and we can’t just assume that everyone agrees to democracy. Suppose instead, however, that the sovereign in Kant’s strange words ‘‘lets itself be represented’’ (MM 6:341). That is to say, the sovereign adopts a constitution that sets up the offices of various magistrates who perform the three functions of government separately, and all government takes place through this constitution. In this case, the government is republican (MM6:341). A republican constitution, Kant says, is ‘‘the only constitution that accords with right’’ (MM 6:340) because it is ‘‘the only constitution of a state that lasts, the constitution in which law itself rules and depends on no particular person’’ and in which therefore ‘‘each can be assigned conclusively what is his [his rights]’’ (MM 6:341). In a republican constitution, Kant is saying, every person is bound by the law and so nobody’s rights are dependent on anyone’s will—not even on the majority’s will. Kant puts it this way: Any true republic is and can only be a system representing the people, in order to protect its rights in its name, by all the citizens united and acting through their delegates (deputies). But as soon as a person who is head of state (whether it be a king, nobility, or the whole of the population, the democratic union) also lets itself be represented, then the united people does not merely represent the sovereign: it is the sovereign itself. (MM 6:341) The point is that once such constitutional forms are established, the united people no longer have to invest the sovereignty in any ‘‘person,’’ not even the majority. Instead the people govern themselves directly through their constitutional forms. This means that, once this form of government is in place, it does not matter that there was no legitimate way to establish the form of sovereignty. We don’t have to agree on the question in whose hands we shall invest the sovereignty, because it doesn’t have to be in anybody’s hands. (And even if we did have initial unanimity about the form of sovereignty, only the republic constitution ‘‘lasts’’—remains legitimate—since only it solves the problem of new generations.) Outwardly, of course, somebody must administer the various functions of government, but those who do so are now regarded as ‘‘delegates’’ who work for the people in accordance with the constitution, not as authoritative individuals in whom the sovereignty has been invested. We are unified not under a centralized authority, but under constitutional forms themselves. Only under such a constitution can a people really rule themselves. Kant goes so far as to claim that the despotic forms of government are mere empirical appearances, of which the true Republic is the form .”

This establishes an independent duty to vote by virtue of being a citizen. There is no right not to vote because citizenry is a political office with the duty of electing officials, a duty granted by its form.

RT: The Korsgaard card explains that the republican constitution solves many of the issues that traditionally arise in political philosophy with regards to the state.  she also explains that a true republic would consist of “all the citizens united and acting through their delegates.” This also has a second impact into the stability framework.
Underview – Theory

 If the aff wins offense to a counter interp, wins an I meet on T or theory vote aff, because a) the neg can spread the aff out in the 1AR; theory in particular requires huge time commitments because it is a game over issue and b) competing mutually exclusive theoretical interpretations force the aff into a double bind of being subject to theory no matter what is run in the AC. At worst, drop the argument since I have to defend one interp, and shouldn’t be punished for speaking first.

What would you have done against this aff? Leave your questions in the comments below!

If you are interested in participating in this project, message Ben Koh on facebook or email premierdebate [at] gmail.com. 


ryan-teehanRyan Teehan debated for 4 years at the Delbarton School in New Jersey. He reached semifinals of Blake and competed at the TOC. He will be attending UChicago in the fall.

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