16 stamps to analyze debates

We have chosen to link debate concepts to logic symbols for three reasons:

Firstly, philosophy teachers might already be familiar with these symbols, making their implementation intuitive and user-friendly.

Secondly, the symbols consist of simple strokes, which lends them to be used in note-taking once they are internalized by teachers and their students.

Thirdly, the original meaning of the logic symbols is often very close to their meaning in our proposed debate methodology. 

3D-printed stamps

The symbols depicted above can be materialized into a set of stamps. The 3D models for these stamps can be downloaded here in the STL file format. If you do not have a 3D printer at your disposal, you can order the complete set at a 3D printing service via the link below.

The stamps can be used when brainstorming and preparing for a debate, when taking notes during a debate, or when evaluating these notes within a jury.

Key concepts in debate

With Debaticons, we present a set of key concepts that offer philosophy teachers a clear and comprehensive approach to debating. These concepts are visualized with the following set of symbols:


The definition comes at the start of the First Proposition’s speech. It is not a dictionary definition of the words in the motion, but rather a clarification of the terms of the debate. It is essential for a good debate that everyone in the room is clear about what they are debating and what the parameters are.


In policy debates, the definition needs to include a model of how the action will be undertaken. The First Proposition speaker must establish the what/when/where/who/how of what is being discussed so that the rest of the debate can focus on the why/why not.


Both teams try to convince the audience that the world is how they see it. For example, if there is a motion on introducing state-funding of political parties, the Proposition team would wish to establish a context of big money corrupting democracy. The Opposition, on the other hand, wish to paint a picture of a high-functioning democracy where current regulations work to help ensure elections are fair.


The clash points are the specific areas which the two sides disagree on. This cannot always be predicted before a debate begins. The Proposition may put forward a problem, a solution and principles in their case. The opposition may not oppose all of these and only those they do become the clash points. By the end of the debate, the reply speakers must analyze the clash points to show why their side has won. 

Principled argument

Both sides will usually have some principled arguments as part of their case. In the philosophy classroom, these are the arguments that will be given the most importance. Regardless of the practicalities, what is the right thing to do? Common principled arguments in debates revolve around freedoms and responsibilities, identity, justice and equality.

Practical argument

Practical arguments are common in policy debates. Regardless of what is the right thing to do in principle, what will happen in practice if we do or do not follow this course of action? Will it work? Is it too expensive or time/labour intensive to be realistic? What will the consequences be of the action? Of inaction?


The statement is where you put forward the argument that you are going to develop, analyze and attempt to prove. The statement itself is an assertion and needs the reasoning and evidence which follow. It flags up to the listener what your argument is going to be.


The debater must go beyond asserting their point and try to prove it through reasoning. It is important that the debater shows all the logical steps in their thinking. In their analysis they can show why the argument is true, why it is relevant and significant and ultimately why it supports their side of the motion. 


Each argument should have an illustration to support it. The analysis shows why the argument is valid logically; the illustration seeks to show that you can see the truth in the real world. This could be an example of where the policy has been carried out before. It could be scholarly evidence, statistics, or the support of a relevant individual, organization or school of thought. 


An assumption is a premise within the argument (or the case) that (a) has to be true in order for argument function (that is to say to be valid and sound), but (b) was assumed to be true or was not proven in the constructive argumentative material. Attacking the assumptions on the opposing side is an effective form of refutation .


One form of analysis and refutation focuses on relevance. The argument may be logically sound and supported by good evidence, but does it contribute to whether the motion should pass? For example, in a debate on shutting down zoos, if the opposition team argued that keeping animals in captivity was important for medical research, the proposition do not need to attack the argument itself, only to show that is not relevant to a debate about zoos.


When a team develops an argument they try to establish that the benefits they discuss are unique to the proposal they put forward. The Opposition may try to show that these benefits would come about without acting or through another proposal which had less harms. In addition, if the Opposition run a counter-plan, it must be mutually exclusive with the proposal put forward by the Proposition. 


One form of analysis and refutation focuses on impact. The argument may be logically sound and supported by good evidence, but how much of an impact is it actually going to have? The speaker making the point needs to consider impact in their reasoning and the other side can look for opportunities to show limited impact in their refutation .


It is important that an individual speaker’s arguments and those of their team are coherent and cohesive. It is not acceptable for two speakers to run contradictory arguments. It is an effective tool of attack to identify and expose contradictions on the other side.


Refutation is the attack that debaters make on the other side’s arguments . They may, for example, show flaws in the reasoning, a different interpretation of the illustration, challenge the premises or reject the principle. Refutation is key to a debate. It is not enough for the debater to present their own arguments. They must listen carefully and attempt to dismantle the other side’s case.


Most refutation focuses on what has been said, but omission focus on what hasn’t been said. This may be pointing out that the other team has omitted details from the definition or model which make the terms of the debate unclear. It could be pointing out underlying assumptions in a case and attacking those, or it could be accusing your opponents of missing a key step.


When an argument has been attacked through refutation, the next speaker must attempt to rebuild it by showing why the refutation is to be rejected. The aim is to have all of the arguments standing in the audience’s mind by the end of the debate, so the team must not let attacks go undefended.