Controversies in the realm of academic debate are often assessed with the standards used for other social science confrontations. The notion of paradigms, introduced by Thomas Kuhn (1970) to describe scientific revolutions, provides a starting point for analyzing the current conflict over kritiking. Despite this, previous discussions concerning the so-called “kritik” have focused mainly on whether it should be considered a legitimate argument form in contemporary policy debate (Berube, 1996; Katsulas, 1996/1997; Morris, 1996/1997). In this way, these discussions have become embroiled in a back-and-forth squabbling. Overcoming the tendency to steadfastly proclaim the legitimacy/illegitimacy of kritiks as an argument form is necessary if we are to extend argument theory in relation to the kritik.

In an effort to explore and extend argument theory, we offer three main positions in this essay. First, we argue that there is an emerging paradigm, which we call the “questioning-assumptions paradigm” that is evolving out of a conflict with the current policy-making paradigm. After describing the current controversy between these paradigms in debate, the major arguments lodged against kritiking (as a way of viewing argument rather than as an argument form) will be explained as a way of analyzing the paradigmatic differences, especially with the concept of fiat. Second, we suggest that there is room for dialogue among these two paradigms that lies within the concept of fiat. Policy-making is concerned with what the judge does when adjudicating a “policy.” The questioning assumptions paradigm is concerned with how a judge endorses a “process,” which we call “fiat kritiking.” We argue that a bridge of compromise can be forged between these two concepts of fiat. Finally, we offer this conception of kritiking as a means of argumentative praxis, whereby argument theory is coupled with a unique experience of debate “action.” In this way, we suggest that kritiking is an exciting area for both argument theory and contemporary debate practice that, at the very least, deserves an investigation which transcends the already stale “legitimate/illegitimate” dispute that has characterized previous kritik discussions.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License