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A purpose to morality would imply the correctness of an ends-based moral system

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/26/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,364 times Debate No: 8788
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
Votes (1)




I will allow my opponent to make the first argument.
Thank you for accepting this debate.


My opponent makes a positive statement, so the burden of proof lies with him. I will do what I can for now.

Morality has always had a purpose, and that is collective and/or individual benefit. Humans, being social animals and in living groups, developed desirable conduct for benefit. Morality is meant to foster order within or between groups and create a mutual perception of desirable conduct between persons, or in religious context act as instructed by a god, deity, prophet, or religious body to garner favour from that god or deity. Murder is seen as evil because it takes away a person, and a person is valuable in emotional, economic, and social ways. The murder somewhat hurts themselves, as they absolve themselves of a potential ally, friend or benefactor, and will be perceived as violent and undesirable by fellow humans. Murder is prohibited in most religions, and to followers following that moral decree will be beneficial to them in the fact that they are following divine commands and following them will benefit them spiritually and possibly in the afterlife if that is in their religious dogma.

I cannot really see the relation between this and pragmatism. If people accept a purpose to morality, I see no reason for them to perhaps kill to provide food for their families, or destroy nations to achieve world peace.

I await elaboration on your statement.
Debate Round No. 1


The reasons a purpose to morality implies an ends-based system is relatively simple. If there is a goal for morality, then morality exists to achieve this goal.
This means that what is moral is determined by whether or not it improves progress towards this goal.
As such, what is moral is being determined by the results of an action, which is what an ends-based system advocates.

To clarify for my opponent. An ends-based system is not necessarily a pragmatic one, though the most common one, utilitarianism, is.

While I accept the assertion that the purpose of morality is to benefit humanity, I disagree that this lends itself to the creation of immutable rules. This is because there are occasions, when following the most common of these rules, when following the rule actually violates the intent of the rule itself.

For example, the intent of a rule against killing (humans) exists to prevent the death of humans, generally seen as a bad thing. However, when following this prohibition, if refusing to kill actually leads to more death, than that contradicts the original purpose of the rule against killing.
As such, it makes far more sense to judge actions by their ends, when a purpose to morality exists, then it does to create unbreakable moral rules.


The purpose of morality being human benefit, this is a goal achieved through both means and ends. It is a goal perpetuated by the existence of humanity, for as long as there are people, they will seek benefit. Morality does not end once the goal of human benefit is reached. As the means used to achieve the ends will affect the parties on the moral decision, the means will have effect on the ends, and the amount of benefit. The means have intrinsic value, and therefore will come under moral judgement.

The situations where morality is taken into account vary too much for an absolute moral system. Morality has to be relative. An ends based system is only really prevalent when acting against an original breach of morality, and usually only when there is NO OTHER SOLUTION then breaching morality. In this case, using immoral means becomes moral. For example, there is a man absolutely certain to kill, I will have to kill him to achieve the ends of benefiting people, his possible victims. A case like this is the only case in where two "wrongs" in fact do make a "right".

Pursuing moral means will result in more benefit. A man is going to kill, I use peaceful negotiation to cease his homicidal plans, and bring about peace. I have used moral means, and achieved moral ends. No one has died, and this is obviously more beneficial than having to kill the man. This is the significantly more common process. When dealing with a problem like a homicidal maniac, moral means are always in priority, and the purpose of benefit is always in mind. Moral means result in more moral ends, therefore greater benefit, the original purpose of morality.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent misunderstands the nature of an ends-based moral system. In an ends-based moral system, any action which results in a net benefit is a moral action. Ends do include the consequences of the means.

As such, my opponent has never actually refuted my argument, but simply stated that the use of moral means to accomplish moral ends produces greater benefit. This is already encompassed by the definition of an ends-based moral system. A moral means is by definition one which produces moral ends.

There has been no refutation of my logic that the existence of a purpose of morality, in this debate the benefit of mankind, leads naturally to an ends-based moral system.


No, you misunderstand the nature of a ends-based moral system.

The subject of debate and the idea that you support is "A purpose to morality would imply the correctness of an ends-based moral system".
1. A foundation upon which something rests.
2. The chief constituent; the fundamental ingredient
3. The fundamental principle.

The ENDS being the foundation or chief constituent, it obviously has to be the most important. In order for a moral system to be ends-based, the ENDS hold the greatest value, and are more important than the MEANS.

I am saying that the purpose of morality in mind, ENDS does not not hold greater value then MEANS, as a ends-based moral system would suggest.

No, a moral means is not by definition one which produces moral ends.
mor�al (m�rl, mr-)
1. Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny; a moral quandary.
2. Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior: a moral lesson.
3. Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous: a moral life.
4. Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong: a moral obligation.

A moral means is, by definition, a means that follows morality, right and wrong, proper conduct, arises from conscience, etc.

There would be no refutation only if your definition of an ends-based moral system was the correct one. I have refuted the statement that the benefit of mankind, leads naturally to an ends-based moral system.
Debate Round No. 3


I would first like to thank my opponent for a very interesting debate.

My opponent assumes that the ends are separate from the means. As I explained in the last round, "A moral means is by definition one which produces moral ends.". When the benefit from a given action, the harms or benefits, as well as the opportunity cost of the means are taken into account. As such, the ends of a given action include the means used. Given that this is true, the means cannot be said to be of equal importance as the ends.

Furthermore, even if my opponent has successfully argued that the in morality, the means ought be of equal importance to the ends, this by no means refutes the claim of the Pro. This debate is not about whether an ends-based system is the best or most moral, but simply one that a purpose of morality would lead us to accept.

As has not been refuted, the mere fact that if there is a goal of morality, a moral action is one which advances that goal. This is inherently an evaluation of morality which focuses on what an action causes, not what the action itself is, and as such, is a moral system which evaluates the ends without assuming an inherent morality to the means.

Vote Pro.


giantrobot11 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by Amphibian 8 years ago
Correctness has nothing to do with it, it is all to do with natural selection.
Posted by Lexicaholic 8 years ago
"The murder somewhat hurts themselves, as they absolve themselves of a potential ally, friend or benefactor, and will be perceived as violent and undesirable by fellow humans."

Wouldn't that be an objective? I think the idea of this debate is to argue that actions are moral in and of themselves instead of them being moral because of the ends to which they are directed or the consequences they hold.

Or you could argue the fine points of the resolution and say that even with a purpose, correctness may be indeterminate assuming ... well, I won't make the argument for you ... but I think right now Pro is winning without arguing.
Posted by Rezzealaux 8 years ago
LB628: Yes, I know. The small wall of text in my previous comment that started with your resolution and changed bit by bit was me attempting to understand what you're trying to say, in my own terms. Of course, I did insert one of my own definitions - that the purpose of morality is to be happy :D
Posted by feverish 8 years ago
Yiu shoulkd challenge Ragnar Rahl.

Warning: comment posted while inebriated.
Posted by LB628 8 years ago
By "A purpose to morality" I mean that if morality is accepted to have some goal, then that would imply that an ends-based moral system is the correct form of moral system, as opposed to a means-based system.
Posted by Rezzealaux 8 years ago
The purpose of morality implies that an ends-based moral system is correct...
The purpose of acting virtuously implies that an ends-based morality is correct...
The purpose of acting virtuously is to be happy.
Attempting to be happy implies that an ends-based moral system is correct...
Attempting to be happy implies that a moral system based on results is correct...

I negate. But I'll leave it open for a day or two, since I'm busy with another debate right now.
Though to be sure, this one seems interesting :D
Posted by Lexicaholic 8 years ago
It could ... how free am I to play with the meaning in the resolution?
Posted by wjmelements 8 years ago
It is open to interpretation. PRO has not defined any words.
Posted by MTGandP 8 years ago
What do you mean by "a purpose to morality"?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by LB628 8 years ago
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Total points awarded:30