Prospect ST (Sophia Tian)

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Hi practical reasoners! I'm Sophia, and I debated for Prospect High School from 2020 to 2024. I obsessively stalked the older debater pages on here and also wrote some articles on my own (Cap K, Intro to Theory, Particularism, etc.), so I thought it'd be cool if I threw my prep here. If you've ever read any articles on phil from this library, chances are that I, Zach, or Ben wrote it, so I hope you enjoy!

I did a lot of phil debate in my career since it was the easiest option available to me at the time (didn't require much prep). It also didn't require as much coaching, so I find it a valuable option for people (mostly in Texas/the East Coast) who don't want to spend that much money on this activity.

I get some questions asking me how I did phil debate as a small school, so I thought I'd answer them here. I'm also a bit sad phil is dying in LD, so all my cases and frontlines (with some explanations) are below.

Feel free to contact me with any questions!


Phil Debate on the West Coast

If you are substantive enough, any judge will vote for you, as long as you do your prefs correctly. There are some judges (for example, judges who openly say they dislike phil on their paradigms or policy crossovers) that won't vote on it, so pref carefully, but there are a good amount of judges that are surprisingly solid for straight up phil. On the West Coast, I ran phil affs with util advantages, carded pretty much everything, overexplained, etc. A lot of it is in how you do your prefs, and if you want to seriously run phil, you should probably expect that your best judges are not going to exist and that every round will probably be an uphill battle for you. Your West Coast opponents will also pref the complete opposite of you, so as you get farther into a tournament, the elim panels will get more and more unforgiving as less flex judges will be obligated in for remaining rounds. Being flexible enough to go for 2-3 other argument types will benefit you greatly.

Learning Phil Debate

Phil debate is a tech check (much like tricks) -- you have to be technically proficient but also able to explain things in a way that's understandable. After every round, I'd probably redo my 2NR or 2AR around 5-6 times, or however many times it took me until I finally got the speech "right." I wouldn't let myself write notes down on my flow to help myself in the speech, since at that point it'd become a doc -- going off what you had in round helps you practice extempting and memorizing certain analytics (for example, AT Tailoring Objection). I'd do this immediately after every round ended.

I also read a good amount, although I avoided reading source literature. I relied on online encyclopedias like the IEP and the SEP , and Youtube channels like PhilosophyTube. I spent most of my free time when I was bored thinking of analytics and how they interacted with each other (in my defense, when one is running the mile to assess their California Fitness Standards, there is not much to think about besides calc indicts).

I'll probably write a full length article on how to "do" phil debate soon, but it's always good to know the philosophy well enough to explain to a layperson. Using examples, numbering your arguments/signposting, and seeming knowledgeable always gives you a speaks boost. For example, if your opponent says "Freedom is not uniform, meaning Kant can't account for it under his a priori binary" a good response could be "Freedom comes in many different forms but it can still be a priori," but the best response would be something like "Freedom comes in many different forms but it can still be a priori e.g., saying a triangle has 3 sides is an a priori truth, but there are many different types of triangles -- scalene, isosceles, and equilateral even though they share the same property." While the second response is longer, it's also more detailed and explains the concept a lot better than the first. Longer responses are also not uniformly bad -- they give your judge time to flow, which can be a breath of fresh air in blippy phil debates.

Small School Debate

(This is the part where I do some shameless advertising)

If you want mentorship, you can join Peptalk Debate, which will pair you with an experienced mentor who will teach you in your area of interest. If you're a gender minority (non-cis male), you can also sign up for Women in Debate ( and receive mentoring from a gender minority. also has blogs with advice on how to navigate debate as a small school, and both organizations have lectures. For people who want to go to camp, also has a scholarship program to match you to camps :)

Wiki stalking is going to be your best friend, especially if you don't do policy -- phil and K links can be easily acquired and used whenever you want as long as you're not at the first tournament of the topic.


Here are all the positions I read -- I mostly included things I cut myself with topic-specific frontlines. Any policy position I read was likely cut by Elmer Yang or stolen off the wiki. I rarely actually used prewritten frontlines -- writing them was just so I could think about them through and articulate my thoughts.

HSLD 2022--2023

HSLD 2021--2022

2022 -- 2023



I mostly read Kant with an ASEAN advantage, but in more tricky rounds I'd just fill the aff with preempts (theory or AT: K) instead of the util advantage. I kept the Kant framework and advantage relatively short (< 3:00) since most people don't LBL the justifications anyway, so it wasted time in the aff that I could use to add other more strategic preempts. The one below is the longer Kant framework by itself with all the carded preempts I'd put in the framework. The offense went something like this:

  1. Everyone is a priori equal.
  2. Border discrimination restricts people's rights based off of factors they can't control (i.e., where they are born).
  3. Therefore, borders ought to be open.

JF23 -- Kant AC

JF23 -- Kant AC Frontlines

My pride and joy:

JF23 -- Kritikal Kantsequentialism AC


Read this NC mostly to get high speaks in front of judges that disliked skepticism. I'd usually run skep whenever I could though since the topic wasn't very balanced philosophy-wise. In my opinion, Kant wouldn't advocate for either the aff or the neg, but rather something in the middle. For example, if I have a friend group, I am not morally obligated to include you in that group even if I discriminate against you based off of factors you don't control (perhaps I simply happened to meet my current friends before I met you, and decided I did not need more friends). The problem with this NC is that you could easily spin that same justification into a moral atrocity (e.g., pro-segregation) if the negative can just pick any detail (e.g., race) to discriminate off of, which was an ethos nuke.

JF23 -- Kant NC

This was the skep NC I ran a lot with its own "truth testing" justification. I found it strategic because it avoided the common criticisms against TT (too many tricks and a prioris) while also preserving the benefits (running skep).

JF23 -- Moral Antirealism NC

I was sent this disad by an alien named Morp that had a particular interest in philosophy and probability.

JF23 -- Morp DA


My other pride and joy:

JF23 -- Furry Spec



I read Kant with the Brahmaputra Dams advantage (thanks Elmer!). I cut a different Kant framework to justify property rights as a political necessity in order to leverage the environmentalism offense better. The TL;DR on that one is that:

  1. Freedom is important.
  2. Property rights are necessary for individuals to exercise their freedom (see the explanation for the SO22 Kant AC for why this is true)
  3. Property rights can only be guaranteed by the state.
  4. Thus, a state is necessary.

The environmentalism offense leveraged the idea that destroying the environment creates a contradiction in conception: if property rights are used to control resources but those resources are all destroyed in the process of exercising those property rights, there is no property in the first place to declare your rights over (e.g., say I overfish every day to increase my fish haul -- that kills all the fish and then I cannot achieve my original aim of getting more fish since they are all dead). This was probably my favorite framework.

ND22 -- Kant AC

ND22 -- Kant AC Frontlines


Not the most viable NC, ran it mostly for the speaks thing I mentioned above. This was a lot less elegant than the AC -- it was more like Milton Friedman-esque "REEEE PROPERTY RIGHTS!" It relied on Locke's conception of property -- labor mixing -- which just says that when you put your labor into something then you own it. It would therefore be unjust for the government to tell you how you ought to use your property (e.g., imagine I forced you to buy certain foods with your money (a form of property) -- it would seem unfair).

ND22 -- Kant NC

ND22 -- Kant NC Frontlines

I read this NC to troll -- pretty sure I stole this from Valley but thought it was worth including.

ND22 -- Particularism NC



The offense was that people who depend on private insurers to guarantee something essential to their life (healthcare) were being coerced, so the government---which is obligated to be fair to citizens via the social contract---needs to provide public insurance. Take the example of a man in poverty who is dependent on you to survive. Every week, you give him a stipend of $10,000 to stay alive. While he may seem free since he has plenty of money, it is up to you as to whether you want to withdraw that money -- if you were in a bad mood, for example, you could withdraw your charity for several months and he would starve and die. The reason this is coercion is because since he is fully dependent on you, you can make him do whatever you want (e.g., dance, rob banks, other favors) and he will have to obey or else die. Kant calls this coercion regardless of whether you are currently being generous or not since it still violates freedom (or as I like to articulate it, even the most well-treated prisoner is still a prisoner).

The reason the government has the ability to control how people should own their property is because the government/state determines what property rights are in the first place. When people are born, they are a priori entitled to use property so they can exercise their freedom (for example, if I can't use objects then I am unfree because I limit my own ability to do things such as breathe air, walk on land, etc.) but they are not entitled to a specific piece of land (an a posteriori detail). However, since there are no laws governing how people can use their land and one individual can't decide how land should be divided for everyone (this is what Kant calls a unilateral will, and it is coercion -- imagine what happens if someone disagrees with that individual's interpretation -- there is no one to correct them), the government must be created so that it can enforce property laws to guarantee everyone's freedom. This is why the government is allowed to do things like tax and regulate property, since the government itself determines what constitutes property in the first place. This is also another reason the government has to intervene when its own property laws create a situation of coercion/dependency, since it must enforce property rights so that people are free, but if current laws (e.g., the lack of singlepayer) leave people unfree, it isn't doing its job correctly.

The public option CP gave me headaches trying to answer it -- in my opinion it didn't really affirm since singlepayer is far too specific for Kant. Counterplans are underrated against phil affs!

SO22 -- Kant AC

SO22 -- Kant AC Frontlines


My child, and the only policy position I will probably ever cut in my career.

SO22 -- Telesurgery PIC

This was pretty straightforward -- it was again super libertarian in saying that distribution is unjustified since people have a right to their property and followed Nozick's Wilt Chamberlain example of "poverty is a choice." Sigh.

SO22 -- Kant NC

2021 -- 2022

It's literally all Kant.

Just kidding.

There's a virtue ethics aff too.



This was by far my favorite topic to date because I got to argue about property rights nonstop for like 4 months.

JF22 -- Kant AC

JF22 -- Kant AC Frontlines

Wrote this aff so I didn't have to break the Kant aff at Blake (my first tournament of the season). I have weak willpower, so I ended up breaking the Kant aff at Blake anyway (and then never ran this aff ever again).

JF22 -- Virtue Ethics AC


I called it Kant, but it's actually libertarianism in disguise.

JF22 -- Kant NC

JF22 -- Kant NC Frontlines



ND21 -- Kant AC

ND21 -- Kant AC Frontlines


Cut this one at camp and docbotted all of my 2NRs on it :')

ND21 -- Cap K

Not particularly warranted but it is basically just 20 skep triggers in a substance trench coat and it did the job.

ND21 -- Hobbes NC

ND21 -- Particularism NC



Breaking news: Virtue ethicists realize that virtues are just a fancy term for gut feelings, setcol debaters horrified.

This aff was fun but it sucked vs the K. It relied mostly on open-source as a community-building method.

SO21 -- Virtue Ethics AC

SO21 -- Virtue Ethics AC Frontlines


SO21 -- Contracts NC

SO21 -- Kant NC

SO21 -- Kant NC Frontlines