Kritik Guide
A community guide written by: Barney & Ramshutu
Kritik (or just K), is the German word for critique. They differ in that while we always critique each other's arguments, we do not always Kritik the foundations on which they’re built. Put simply, a Kritik sidesteps evidence offered, and makes a case around such being irrelevant or outright harmful due to greater concerns.
Of course some debate types mandate Kritiks; countering truisms for example. The main risk of trying to run a Kritik is you are likely to both wander far off topic and be non-sequitur.
Among kritiks there are accidental and intentional, minor and major, valid and invalid.

Form

If explicit or not, all good Kritiks will take this form:
  • Analysis: The main complaint, and Kritik introduction.
  • Link: What specific element of the opponent’s case it deals with and how.
  • Implications: The damage done if the K is ignored.
  • Alternative: What better solution does the K suggest? If none, we should use the status quo.
When debating if someone pulls a Kritik but is missing any piece, remind the judges exactly how little value it offers toward the resolution in light of that. Technically this is Kritiking the Kritik.

Types of Kritik

This section gives a simple overview of common identified types.

Rules

To be clear, on DebateArt.com you may Kritik the established rules for a debate (including the common “No K” rule) as harmful to the spirit of debate. This of course needs to be justified as a necessity, rather than just bleated about; failing to justify it reduces it to Special Pleading.

Discourse

  • “I don’t buy the Mary Sue thing anyway. I find the term sexist in itself, because it’s Mary Sue...” ‑Daisy Ridley, dismissing criticism of character writing [1].
A disagreement with the presence of a word or general language. For example, someone might Kritik that the use of the word “racism” in the resolution normalizes the idea of race itself, leading to future systemic oppression.

Semantic (AKA “Lawyering”)

  • “I know many married bachelors: Bachelors of Art, Science and Engineering”
A semantic Kritik is when a commonly understood or defined term or phrase, is restated to have a meaning other than was expressed or understood. These are usually toxic and may garner conduct violations in any non-troll debate, as it can easily drive the debate off the clearly intended topic.
However, in cases where a phrase is poorly defined, or defined in such a way that is unfair, a semantic Kritik can be used to convince voters that the resolution is better fulfilled using another definition of a word.

Epistemological

  • “[lofty bullshit about the nature of knowledge itself]”
Usually just merrily presented Word Salad or Argumentum ad tl;dr.

Normative (AKA Value Based)

  • “East, West, just points of the compass, each as stupid as the other.” ‑Dr. No
These question the assumed normative cultural basis of good and evil, or if one thing can be objectively better than another. An oddly common but horrid example is people threatening that if you make them question their faith, there will be nothing holding them back from casual murder [2].
These actually have a good place in comparison debates (X>Y), because with ambiguous criteria, comparing apples to oranges becomes a faulty analogy.

Institutional/Political

  • “Nazis had gun control” ‑Various
An attack on an idea based on who also supports it (or the history thereof). Often no more than tribal level virtue ethics [3].
As an example, that the anti-choice movement doesn’t oppose the death penalty or open their homes to refugee children, is a neat factoid about hypocrisy, but is not directly topical within legalize/criminalize abortion debates.

Hypocrisy

  • “If you seen Black Panther and enjoyed it then you are a hypocrite and contradicting.” ‑Actual quote from a user
A special form of Ad Hominem attack… Actually no, just an ad hominem attack.
Which users are on either side of the debate, or what they said elsewhere, is irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Pure Nihilism

  • “Everyone and everything you know will be gone! What will you have after 500 years?” ‑Omni‑Man
Without getting deep into the concept of pre- vs. post-fiat, these are basically rejections of hope as a concept. Someone argues something would be good due to X, Y, and Z, and the other person says it’ll never happen anyway or eventually it won’t matter, so we should dismiss the very notion from consideration.

Handling Kritiks

This section details the three different perspectives from which K’s must be handled.

As Voter

If it’s a major Kritik with its own heading text, be sure to mention it in your vote and weigh it as an argument; then when weighing the linked contentions, factor in the success or failure of the K against them.
If it’s a minor Kritik just kind of tossed in there, handle it however you want. Some Kritiks are just lofty words to confuse the issue.
If it’s a rule Kritik (or a Kritik in violation of established rules), include in your analysis consideration of if it was indeed necessary in order to have a fair competition. Unless the debate was truly untenable without the violation, win or lose, the Kritik is poor conduct.
Remember, the initiator of the Kritik always has the burden to show voters a compelling case for why the kritik must be accepted. While there is no strict rule as to how high the bar is set for a Kritik to win; as these arguments can often end up winning a debate outright; they are often difficult to weigh and contentious if voted on.

As Initiator

First ensure it’s both warranted and on topic, then that it meets the form requirement, and finally that it does not harm your own case (e.g., when advocating for some legal change, running a values are meaningless K makes your case conceded as meaningless). Of course if the K isn’t airtight, you still need to tackle the main opposing argument… In fact if it is airtight, you’ll still need to tackle that in light of the K (manually apply the link to each contention under its heading).
Also, refrain from harassing voters. If they don’t comprehend what you meant or the implications, blame the writer (yourself) for not making it comprehensible enough to them.

As Receiver

Don’t panic! Generally handle it how you would any other argument.
First look for relevancy issues, as the link is where most K’s fail. Browse over it for common logical fallacies, as these weaken the impact. Etcetera.
Don’t use up the character limit on it if you have not first met Burden of Proof for your primary case. Some Kritiks are Red Herrings with this specific intent.
To minimize Kritiks some employ a rule in the description, but a better solution is usually to predict the likely Kritiks, and write a more detailed resolution which hamstrings them. Instead of “Y is true,” write “assuming X, Y is true”; with that in place any criticism involving X, does not touch the resolution.

Examples

The following are some reviewed examples of both good, and bad Kritiks. They may prove useful guidance in launching or defending against Kritiks.

Rule based Kritiks

Death23, “Genetically Modified Organisms” In this debate, the contender successfully challenges the rules and definition of the debate as unfair, explains why they should be ignored, proposes and justifies his own set of definitions, and is ultimately successful.
Speedrace, “Is Christianity A Good Moral System” Having agreed to a no forfeit/auto-loss rule, the contender misses a round but returns. He uses other debates as precedence for the rule not being absolute. The instigator opts to just cite the infraction and discontinue the topical debate. Judges favor the contender in rejection of the auto-loss.

Semantic Kritiks

Wrick-It-Ralph, “Migration is a Human Right” The contender runs a Kritik on the missing word “ought” in the resolution, and the instigator successfully defends the lack of real challenge to his case.

Epistemological Kritiks

Wylted, “A Fine-Tuned Universe…” The contender wholly side-steps the subject, arguing that there was no purpose to debating, so he should win on grounds of creativity… The instigator wins, explaining “My resolution affirming argument is untouched.”

Footnotes

1. Mary Sue

Agree or disagree with Rey from Star Wars fitting the bill of Mary Sue, just calling the term sexist rather than showing where she mastered piloting, is a Kritik which fails to actually defend her characterization.

2. Casual Murder

People literally threaten this.

3. Tribal Ethics

Virtue Ethics are dangerous because those you have predetermined to righteous can do no wrong. Often this ties into nationality, occasionally resulting in genocide being excused as virtuous genocide.