What We Owe Championships

Universidad del Rosario
Friday-Saturday, October 18-19, 2019
Cl. 12c # Nº 6-25, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Friday & Saturday Morning Check-Ins: Casur Room 204

Remember your ID for entry!

What We Owe Championships (Semifinals & Finals)

Andrés Martinez has more than 10 years of practical experience developing and managing conflict resolution and peacebuilding operations for local and international organizations. He is a certified psychologist and holds a graduate degree in Conflict Resolution from Javeriana University, and a Master of Arts in Gender and Peacebuilding from the United Nations-mandated University for Peace. He has participated extensively in movements advocating disability rights, nonviolent action, mine action, and gender equality. As a psychologist he has provided psycho-social rehabilitation services for hundreds of landmine survivors and other victims of violence in Colombia.  In his career he has developed 19 advanced international programs with Johns Hopkins University, Clingendael Institute, American University, Syracuse University and UPEACE, training more than 500 peacebuilding and conflict resolution professionals. 

Brian Marrin is Assistant Professor of philosophy at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. Specializing in Ancient Greek philosophy, he also maintains a keen interest in political philosophy (both Greek and otherwise). Brian graduated with a PhD from Boston University.

Derek Malone-France is the interim Executive Director of The George Washington University Peace Studies Program and an Associate Professor of Religion, Philosophy and Writing. He received his doctorate in Philosophy of Religion and Theology from the School of Religion at the Claremont Graduate University. 

Eduardo Bechara-Gómez is professor at the Faculty of Finance, Government, and International Relations at Externado de Colombia University (Bogota-Colombia). His research and teaching interests revolve around Colombia's armed conflict dynamics and peacebuilding challenges, with a particular focus on former combatants' reintegration and reincorporation, as well as their interaction with victims at the local level. As part of his research projects, he has carried out field work in La Palma and Viota (Cundinamarca); Granada, Villavicencio and Mesetas (Meta); and Mocoa, Puerto Asis and Villagarzon (Putumayo). 

Juan Gabriel Viana is a Director of Public Affairs at FTI Consulting in Colombia, formerly Chief of Staff of the Colombian Agency for Reincorporation of ex-combatants. Juan has more than 18 years experience in public policy and conflict resolution. He worked at the Organization of American States in DC and in Bancoldex as Director for Regional Development.

Kaitlin Turck is a U.S. Diplomat focused on Public Diplomacy currently serving as a Press Officer at U.S. Embassy Bogota.  Previously she served in Baghdad, Washington, D.C., Skopje, North Macedonia, and Hermosillo, Mexico. She is a graduate of William and Mary with degrees in Hispanic Studies and Gender Studies.

Kate Bartlett is a U.S. Diplomat who has worked in embassies in Afghanistan, Moldova, and Colombia. A former Fulbright Scholar and Boren Fellow, Kate has experience in managing communications for global audiences. She has a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Relations and a Bachelors of Arts in English from the University of Florida.

Kelly Ryan is a U.S. Diplomat currently serving as Vice-Consul at U.S. Embassy Bogota. Prior to working in Bogota, Kelly was the Assistant Public Affairs Officer in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Kelly debated at the high school and university levels and competed in the 2009 Worlds Debating Championships in Ireland and the 2010 Worlds Debating Championships in Turkey.

Valentín Castro is Peruvian-American and served 14 years in the US Marine Corps. After the Marines, he received a Master’s in Conflict Resolution with a concentration in humanitarian and refugee emergencies. He currently works for HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) as a security consultant here in Bogotá, Colombia. He is responsible for identifying, developing, and implementing security solutions in response to the Venezuelan refugee exodus.  

Preliminary Rounds - Spanish Language

Hernan Medina is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Universidad El Bosque in Bogota. His philosophical work focuses on moral and political philosophy but he has been a professor of Logic and Argumentation for over 4 years now. Hernan received his PhD from Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Fabio Fang is an Assistant Professor of Logic and Argumentation at Universidad del Rosario in Bogota. His area of expertise is Moral Responsibility and Free Will.  Fabio received his Masters degree from Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Alejandro Farieta is a researcher at Universitaria Agustiniana. His areas of expertise are history of ethics, moral education, education and philosophy.  Alejandro has a BA in philosophy from National University of Colombia and a MA in Education from Los Andes University (Colombia)

Tomas Molina is a philosopher, PhD from the University of Granada, and is currently a professor at Universidad la Sabana in Bogota.

Preliminary Rounds - English Language

Ed Lee III is the Senior Director of the Barkley Forum at Emory University, an organization housing Emory’s award winning debate team and the Emory Conversation Project. He serves as the Curriculum Director and Lead Facilitator for the Social+Justice Innovation Institute and is the primary contributor to Inklings: A Social+Justice Innovation Blog.

Eli Smith is the Rutgers University-Newark Director of Debate. A two-time U.S. national championship debater, Eli has held debate coaching and programming positions throughout the world, including at Wake Forest University and the University of California, Berkeley, and in programs in Shanghai, China. 

John Koch is Senior Lecturer and Director of Debate at Vanderbilt University. His primary research interests include argumentation and debate, citizenship, democratic theory, and presidential rhetoric. He has a PhD from Wayne State University.

John Patrick is the assistant director of forensics at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (Ed.D., from the  University of La Verne) where he teaches persuasion, rhetoric and public speaking. He has a long history in debate including Worlds Universities competition and directing international civic debate workshops and competitions. 

ML Sandoz is Director of Forensics and Principal Senior Lecturer at Vanderbilt University. Her primary research interest involves argumentation and debate. She  was formerly President of the national intercollegiate Cross-Examination Debate Association National Communication Association.

Paul Hayes is The George Washington University Director of Debate. An international antitrust and competition attorney at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLC before coming to GWU in 2012, Paul is a graduate of the New York University School of Law (Class of '01). 

Judge Handbook

Click here to view the What We Owe Championships Judge Handbook. This handbook will be circulated to judges for Saturday rounds (semifinals and finals). During preliminary rounds on Friday, judges will be asked to judge rounds in a manner that best prepares debaters for elimination rounds on Saturday.



Breakfast on your own

10 am Check in with coffee and pastry

10:30 Round 1

12:00 Round 2

1:00 Lunch

2:00 Round 3

3:30 Round 4


Breakfast on your own

10 am Check in with coffee and pastry

10:30 Semifinals 

12:00 Finals

1:00 Reception & Awards


Laws, policies, and programs are morally justifiable only if they can be judged reasonably acceptable from the perspective of every member of society, regardless of their individual circumstances.


In his book “What We Owe to Each Other,” the philosopher T. M. Scanlon framed the moral requirements of social life in terms of the justifiability of one’s actions in relation to general rules of conduct that “no one reasonably could reject.” The topic for the What We Owe Dialogues challenges U.S. and Colombian students to defend and critique the implications of Scanlon’s core arguments in the Colombian context.   

Scanlon argues moral agents ought be motivated by self-regard and respect for others to identify principles for living with others on terms of mutual respect. To implement such a society, Scanlon suggests that laws ought be considered morally justifiable only if grounded in principles that can be judged reasonably acceptable from the perspective of every member of society, regardless of their individual circumstances.

Scanlon’s criterion of moral justifiability depends on specific conditions and the bounds of ‘reasonability’.  According to Scanlon, only genuinely reasonable objections count against the justifiability of moral, social, or political regulations, whereas unreasonable objections may be discounted or ignored in the formulation of such laws, policies, and programs. 

For affirmative teams, one principle question that must be addressed is whether an appropriately non-prejudicial criterion—or set of criteria—of reasonableness can be established that could form the basis of a sufficient consensus to justify its own application. Absent a sufficient criterion, a society attempting to operate on Scanlon’s principles would be left paralyzed at the start, for lack of a just basis of adjudication between legal, policy, and programmatic proposals. 

When considering this question, affirmative teams should take note that Scanlon is addressing a social dialogue in which participating parties have a shared willingness to modify their private demands in order to find principles that others could not reasonably reject. As he writes on page five of the “Introduction” to What We Owe to Each Other, this is why his model is connected to the social contract tradition going back to Rousseau and why his model often referred to as “contractualism”:

What distinguishes my view from other accounts involving ideas of agreement is its conception of the motivational basis of this agreement.  The parties whose agreement is in question are assumed not merely to be seeking some kind of advantage but also to be moved by the aim of finding principles that others, similarly motivated, could not reasonably reject.  The idea of a shared willingness to modify our private demands in order to find a basis of justification that others also have reason to accept is a central element in the social contract tradition going back to Rousseau.  One of the main reasons for calling my view “contractualist” is to emphasize its connection with this tradition.

Hence, Scanlon’s account of social and political justice calls for agreement on criteria to be established only between those individuals who demonstrate a commitment to the idea that there is such a thing as justice, and to the principle that justice has a moral dimension that separates it from the mere assertion of power or private interest, such that justice cannot be defined solely or simply in terms of their own specific private interests and preferences. 

For the purposes of the What We Owe debates, Scanlon’s framework should be adapted into a specific form, “What Colombians (Today) Owe to Each Other” as a means for exploring the conditions of legitimacy, justice, and peace, within Colombia today.  Given this reframing, affirmative debaters are tasked with defending or contesting the correctness of Scanlon’s conception of political legitimacy as a means of establishing the moral justifiability of particular laws, policies, and programs in the Colombian context.  In other words, debaters are asked to apply Scanlon’s philosophical arguments to the specific question of how Colombians should assess the moral justifiability of laws, policies, and programs.  

The phrase, “every member of a society, regardless of their individual circumstances,” should be broadly interpreted to include all individuals who live within the political and/or the geographic bounds of a society.  Individuals should not be excluded from consideration because they are members of categories of people that the society in question has previously treated as being suspect in some way, for example, the poor, the incarcerated, or those who have participated in protest or even rebellion against the political status quo.

Affirmative teams are asked to defend the topic and Scanlon’s model of contractualism as defined by the topic statement. This means defending the correctness of Scanlon’s conception of political legitimacy as a means of establishing the moral justifiability of particular laws, policies, and programs in Colombia.  

Negative teams may argue against the resolution by effectively rebutting the affirmative’s arguments and/or demonstrating the existence of a superior and competing philosophy of justification to Scanlon’s contractualism.  


There will be an Affirmative and Negative team in each round. The affirmative team will be asked to defend the topic and topic statement.  The negative team will be asked to rebut the affirmative’s argument per the terms of the topic statement.

The Affirmative team will be composed of a 1st Affirmative Speaker and a 2nd Affirmative Speaker.

The Negative team will be composed of a 1st Negative Speaker and a 2nd Negative Speaker.

Both the 1st Affirmative and 1st Negative Speakers will be responsible for delivering the final rebuttal for their teams.

Important: The U.S. debater should be the 1st Affirmative Speaker and the 1st Negative speaker in the Spanish language rounds.  The Colombian debater should be the 1st Affirmative Speaker and the 1st Negative Speaker in the English language rounds.

This means the U.S. debaters will speak first and last in the Spanish language rounds.  The Colombian debaters will speak first and last in the English language rounds.

6-4-6 Format with one rebuttal per team: The following debate format is referred to as a 6-4-6 format because each debater presents a 6 minute speech followed by a 4 minute cross examination and one debater from each team presents one 6 minute rebuttal to conclude the debate.

1st Affirmative Speech                                                                6 minutes

              Cross examination by 2nd negative speaker           4 minutes

1st Negative Speech                                                                     6 minutes

              Cross examination by 1st Affirmative Speaker       4 minutes

2nd Affirmative Speech                                                               6 minutes

              Cross examination by 1st Negative Speaker            4 minutes

2nd Negative Speech                                                                    6 minutes

               Cross examination by 2nd Affirmative Speaker     4 minutes

Preparation time                                                                            2 minutes

Affirmative rebuttal by 1st Affirmative Speaker                    6 minutes

Preparation time                                                                            2 minutes

Negative rebuttal by 1st Negative Speaker                            6 minutes

Suggestions for Further Reading

Begin with:  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/contractualism/

Other important related sources include:

Simon Blackburn, “Am I Right?”, in New York Times, February 21, 1999, p. 24: https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/99/02/21/reviews/990221.21blact.html

Amy R. Baer, ed., Varieties of Feminist Liberalism (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004).

Tracy E. Higgins, “Gender, Why Feminists Can't (or Shouldn't) Be Liberals,” in Fordham Law Review, 72, 1629 (2004).

Rahul Kumar, “Who Can Be Wronged?,” in Philosophy and Public Affairs, 31: 99–118 (2003).

“Contractualism and the Roots of Responsibility”, in R. Clarke, M. McKenna, and A.M. Smith, (eds.), The Nature of Moral Responsibility: New Essays, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2015).

Thaddeus Metz, “The Reasonable and the Moral,” in Social Theory and Practice, 28(2): 277–301 (2002).

Derek Parfit, “Justifiability to Each Person,” in Ratio, 16: 368–370 (2003).

Philip Pettit, “A Consequentialist Perspective on Contractualism,” in Theoria, 66(3): 228–236 (2000).

T.M. ScanlonMoral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2008). 

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