A woman walks into a hospital and is accidentally hooked up to a famous violinist, who is suffering from a fatal illness.
If she stays hooked up to him for a year, he lives and she’s unharmed. If she leaves, he dies.
Does she have an obligation to stay?
An argument that moral obligation would take precedence in a purely incidental situation won the University of Toronto’s Hart House debating team the North American debating championship here over Harvard University yesterday.
Within 35 minutes, Jason Rogers and Jon Laxer argued over Harvard’s Mark Samburg and Kyle Bean that, with no outside forces at work, the woman had the obligation to do what was right.
The Harvard team likened it to abortion if the woman left, but Rogers and Laxer said because the violinist was fully formed with a full life, it was not analogous.
It’s a bizarre situation, event organizers at Carleton University conceded. But that’s why debating builds critical thinking, analysis and oratory skills, said tournament co-director Andrew Lawrence.
The Carleton University Debating Society hosted the North American Debating Championships for the first time over the weekend, with finals wrapping up at the Mayfair Theatre yesterday. It was the fifth time the competition has come to Canada.
“Debating is a sport,” said Lawrence. “You’ve the adrenalin rush, the practice, the technique and the method. It’s an intellectual street fight.”
With 15 minutes to arrive at an argument, topics ranged from international relations to religion to government’s role.
This tournament is considered the most prestigious debate championship in North America, said co-director Blair Stein. “You’re talking about the best speakers on the continent.”