An assumption is a premise or idea that is accepted as true without facts or reason to back it up. Outside of debate, our interactions, education, and experiences help an individual to create assumptions that they operate on. While many of the assumptions we hold have reasons behind them, we often accept them without questioning why.
Democracy is the best form of government
People should have rights
You can’t be successful unless you get an education
While there may or may not be reasons behind these claims, when they aren’t backed up, they are assumptions.
Where to find assumptions:
When building a case
Every side of a debate operates on a fundamental premise. This premise is what allows a team to anchor down their points to a central theme for consistency. You can find the assumption by asking yourself what the other side believes. The assumption of a case is something that has to be true, and is assumed to be true in order for their arguments to function. Another way to think about fundamental premises is to figure out the big themes in the debate for example: majority vs minority, environment vs economy, rights vs security. In each of these cases, the assumption for either side is “the most important thing in society is x” or “we need to prioritize x over y”.
Once you have found this assumption, you can use it in caseline refutation, comparative, and replies to compare the priorities of the two sides and why the judges should prefer the world where your assumption is true.
Another way to use assumptions is in prep. Finding your teams underlying assumption can help you prep for rebuilding, or to make sure your arguments align with your main premise.
When developing and refuting an argument
Just like when an entire case is developed, individual arguments are also built on underlying assumptions. To find them ask yourself some of the following questions:
- What has to be true about the world for this argument to be true?
- What is the argument trying to achieve?
- How does the argument relate back to the main case?
For your side, knowing your assumptions helps you to create analysis that helps support the assumption. Without that analysis, it is much easier for your opponents to attack your argument. Caseline clash is so effective because it deals with the underlying ideas of the round causing the whole case to fall. Attacking assumptions does the same thing. When refuting an argument based on an unsupported claim, if you can prove the assumption is wrong, the argument falls.