Shakespeare defeats Aristotle in first round debate


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Four Union Professors faced off in 2 rounds of preliminary debate Tuesday afternoon in Harvey Hall as part of a fundraising campaign to send Union’s debate team to a tournament in Boise, Idaho.

Audience members paid $2 and received ballots to vote for the winner of each round. Popular opinion was only one component of the judging process; two individuals also scored and judged each debate.

The first round featured  Scott Huelin,  professor of English and Ben Mitchell, provost. They debated the idea that Shakespeare was more influential than Aristotle, with Huelin arguing for Shakespeare and Mitchell for Aristotle.

Huelin emphasized the enormous scope of Shakespeare’s work, citing the fact that 90 volumes of Shakespeare exist for every one of Aristotle’s. He also pointed out that Shakespeare has a “global reach,” as his works have been translated into a 118 different languages and performed on stage 3,000 times this year alone.

Mitchell countered by drawing a distinction between circulation and dispersion, arguing “influence should not be determined by the number of volumes sold, but by the ability to shape ideas.” He emphasized Aristotle’s contributions to philosophy and empirical science, as well as the fact that Aristotle was the founder of the Shakespearean tragedy and comedy.

Huelin’s final point was Shakespeare’s vast contribution to the English language.

“The etymological definition of influence is ‘force at a distance’, and Shakespeare clearly exceeds Aristotle by this standard of measurement, as he has contributed more words, idioms and phrases than any other source,” Huelin said.

Mitchell responded to this by using some of these same well-known idioms and phrases to insult the Bard.

“The empty vessel makes the loudest sound…All that glitters isn’t gold. All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players, including Shakespeare,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Huelin won the first round 3-0.

In the second round, Hunter Baker, associate provost and dean of instruction and Web Drake, chair of the communication arts department and director of debate, debated the statement that Texas is better than Tennessee. Baker defended the statement, while Drake argued against it.

Baker’s first appeal was to common sense, as “every Texan is born with the ability to win and can begin to use it at the age of 12,” he said jokingly.

He argued Texas was superior to Tennessee in 5 categories: the economy, sports, food, politics and geography. He pointed out that Texas is home to Exxon, geographical diversity and a wide variety of cuisine, from Tex-Mex to fresh seafood.

“You can eat oysters fresh from the ocean all across Texas, but if someone offers you a fresh oyster in Tennessee, I strongly suggest you not eat it,” he said.

Drake countered by stating a more holistic review of each state was necessary.

“Your argument is that just because it’s bigger, it’s better, but I don’t think we can really say that. We need to look at the whole picture, as opposed to just 5 specific categories,” Drake said.

He argued that Tennessee was musically superior, as it is the birthplace of the blues, Elvis Presley and The Grand Ole Opry. He also pointed out that there would be no Texas without Tennessee’s volunteers.

“Let’s look at history…every single thing about Texas exists because of Tennessee. Without Sam Houston, without the Alamo, and without the Tennessee volunteers, there is no Texas,” Drake said.

His final point was that “the wise, the intelligent and the gracious Hunter Baker moved his family to Tennessee as quickly as possible.”

Baker conceded that his arguments were about size, “but not about physical size…my arguments were more about the size of the achievement than simply the size of the state,” he said.

He also clarified that the sole reason he left Texas was to help a sick family member.

Baker won the second round by a vote of 2-1.

“That was the funniest debate I’ve ever witnessed,” said Kristine Burgess, sophomore nursing major.

The finals will be held Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 3 p.m. in Harvey Hall. Baker will debate Huelin, and Mitchell will debate Drake.


Emily Littleton|Cardinal & Cream
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