The Instigator
Con (against)
14 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Abortion is always Morally Permissible

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 11/20/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,934 times Debate No: 65581
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (137)
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I have recently been having some philosophical and logical consistency issues with my Pro-Choice stance. I would therefore like to defend a Pro-Life position to help me understand that persepective, and to determine which point of view I find more compelling.

To accept this debate, you must have completed 4 debates already. To vote you must have a minimum of 3,000 ELO. Because this is such a contentious issue, I would also like to remind voters not to vote for their beliefs, but rather based on what was done technically in the debate.

Full Topic

Abortion is always morally permissible.


Abortion - "the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus: as induced expulsion of a human fetus." (Merriam Webster)
Always - "at all times: invariably." (Merriam Webster)
Moral - "concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior." (Merriam Webster)
Morally Permissible - “A moral system differentiates among behaviors that are morally prohibited, those that are morally permitted, those that are morally required, and those that are morally encouraged.... Permitted [means] behavior that is within the bounds of the moral system.” (Prof. Deni Elliot)


1. No forfeits
2. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No "kritiks" of the topic (e.g. challenging a core assumption of the resolution, arguing outside of the grounds provided by the topic, etc.)
6. No trolling
7. Pro accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add definitions
8. Pro accepts the full BOP
9. Pro must post their case in Round One
10. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss


R1. Pro's Constructive Case
R2. Con's Constructive Case, Pro rebuts Con's Case
R3. Con rebuts Pro's Case, Pro defends Pro's Case
R4. Con defends Con's Case, Pro rebuts Con's Case and Crystallizes
R5. Con rebuts Pro's Case and Crystallizes

Thanks... whomever accepts. I sincerely hope that this will be a productive, informative, enlightening, and useful discussion.


Thanks for the open challenge Bsh1. *Cracks Knuckles*


This debate explicitly involves what is morally permissible, ergo this debate is about the objective answer to the question of ‘what’ is moral, and does not address the ‘how’, or ‘why’ questions of morality.

From the affirmative side, I am defining “right and wrong behaviour” in terms of maximising or minimising conscious self-interest with intent. A morally ‘right’ action is an action which maximises self-interest with intent, and a morally ‘wrong’ action is an action which minimises self-interest with intent.[1]

This is indeed an egoistic take on moral questions of ‘what’ is moral, and a very explicit one at that.

Therefore, in this debate I will consider two aspects of abortion:

  1. 1. The short-term, myoptic considerations of self-interest
  2. 2. The large scale society considerations of self-interest

By the end of this debate it will be clear that abortion is positive under both considerations.

Moral Egoism

Moral egoism holds one, unparalleled advantage over any other ethical definition, and that is its moral facts, and moral values are identical. Because these facts are identical, it also follows that all moral facts, are in essence, also “moral oughts”. For anything capable of experiencing self-interest, the situation is a tautology:

“One ought to maximise their self-interest if they value maximising their self-interest”

All of such value judgements will yield value answers such as “It is good for me” “it is bad for them” “It is neither good or bad for society”.

This also has the consequence of all moral facts of moral egoism being entirely subjective depending on the people involved, as all people will have different self-interests. For the purposes of this debate however, it is exactly this which makes the resolution a truism (more on this later).

On the other hand, an ethical system such as Utilitarianism for example, which deals with human well-being deals with the physical/mental state a human is in. The ‘ought’ for such a system is also necessarily subjective. One can simply argue “They do not care” about maximizing well-being, and the entire moral system would be inapplicable and irrelevant to them. Therefore any value statements are in the following format:

“You ought to act to increase well-being, if you value increasing well-being”

Which obviously has limited utility, even amongst our fellow humans. When considering moral egoism however, to state “I do not care about maximizing my self-interest” is an oxymoron, and incoherent sentence. Since our self-interest is by definition what we care about.

Moreover this gets over significant hurdles that other ethical systems run into when one party does not care about the value appealed to in their system. For example, a person may be curious about the effects of a particularly harmful act. They may be so curious that they would ask a friend to participate in assisting them in experiencing said harmful act, which immediately and over the long-term reduces their overall well-being.

Under utilitarianism for example, that person’s friend would have performed a ‘morally wrong’ act even though their friend begged them to help them, with their friend in 100% awareness that this action was going to cause themselves harm. All ethical systems that do not marry values with facts (i.e. all non-egoistic definitions) will fall foul to this type of analysis one way or another.

This is pragmatically addressed within the context of moral egoism, which deals with self-interest, and thus what is moral is explicitly defined as what maximises our self-interest. Moral egoism holds a tremendous advantage over every other moral system because what ‘ought’ to be the case is synonymous with what ‘is’ the case. A moral definition such as in utilitarianism which addresses well-being,

Abortion & Self-Interest

The Mother

When we assess this debate we need to also consider the context of the people this would refer to. What maximise and minimises self-interest will entirely depend upon who is involved, and the social construct they exist within.

For the purposes of this debate, I will assume we are considering consensual abortion that occurs within civilization. So, given this, what is the context of a woman asking for abortion, and does this context always lead to an overall increase in self-interest.

  1. 1. The woman consents/requests an abortion, hence the action is with intent
  2. 2. The child abortion is within her immediate self-interest

Point#2 is immune to coercion-type rebuttals, since the action is still within her overall self-interest, even if the immediate act of aborting her child is not. E.g. “It is within her own self-interest to agree with her husband, who desires the abortion to be carried out”. In any case such as this, while an abortion may not be within the woman’s immediate self-interest, it will be within the woman’s long-term self-interest.

Therefore we can immediately conclude:

“The mother’s action to abort her foetus is *necessarily* an action that is consensual, and therefore with intent, and is an action which fulfils her own self-interest.”

Thus under the framework I have set, abortion at the very least is “Good for the mother”.

The Foetus

When we consider values, they must always be done from the perspective of beings capable of holding subjective values. Note that I do not speak only for complex values, but subconscious ones, such as needs or desires. It is only via. such values that we can hope to make any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ assessment, regardless of context.

For example, it is impossible to consider the values of an iceberg, or a rock, or anything else inanimate, since they do not hold any values, or self-interest, etc.

Self-interest is necessarily predicated on being intelligent and aware.

Given this, consider what a human foetus is:[2]

  1. 1. An unconscious body
  2. 2. Unintelligent
  3. 3. Amnesic
  4. 4. No reasoning faculties

I hardly see Con disagreeing with any of these facts, but here we can clearly conclude that a foetus can not and therefore does not hold any values or have any self-interest.

This being the case, it is impossible for abortion to positively or negatively fulfil it’s self-interest, for it possesses none to speak about. Therefore, abortion is a morally neutral action regarding the foetus


So far I have clearly demonstrated that abortion is at the very least “good” when both the baby and the mother are considered, since the mother’s self-interest was fulfilled, and the babies’ self-interest was neither fulfilled or deprived. Therefore, it can only be affirmed that abortion is wrong (and therefore possibly morally impermissible) if and only if we consider external factors.

It is hard to imagine that anybody’s self-interest would be more important than the mother’s, who’s life and body is of immediate consequence to the pregnancy, and the foetus who’s life is being terminated. So such a notion is rejectable out of hand. A larger consideration however, is that of society.

When we consider society, we need to realise that of course, each individual populace will hold their own values or self-interest, but these are largely irrelevant because for society to function, certain core values are strongly maintained, even against the values of some individuals within society.

First consider, why is society a significant self-interest of its populace?

There are a plethora of reasons, the most basic are human’s general desire for community, easy access of wealth, food, water, entertainment. Moreover housing, shelter, etc. A society provides ease of access of these, which are generally within the self-interests of the populace, due to the similar biological and psychological make-up of its populace. We generally desire the same core things.

It is for this reason that society plays such a significant role in fulfilling so many of our self-interests, that our more myopic self-interests are over-ridden by self-interests that are related to society. For example, it may be desirable to rob a bank of its money, but it is a greater self-interest to remain outside of jail, or to act altruistically, etc.

Therefore, we need to consider, does society influence whether or not one will have the self-interest to abort.

The answer, quite clearly, is no. It is precisely because of society that the option to consensually abort a child even exists, as such society is acting within its own self-interest when it facilitates the abortion of a child. It falls into the same tautological circle as already discussed.

Furthermore, one of the core values of society is autonomy of its citizens. This is exemplified in societies such as the US which grants full autonomy over freedom of speech, thought and liberty. It is only when actions severely impinge upon their self-interests of other citizens that it is no longer within the self-interest of society to value that autonomy. Abortion simply isn’t one of those actions which impinges upon the self-interests of others within society in a direct way.


The case is rather clean-cut. Abortion is an action that in no way reduces self-interest with intent. Therefore, abortion is not a morally ‘wrong’ action as defined. By extension, abortion is at worst, a morally neutral action which would fall within the criteria of morally permissible. The resolution is affirmed.


  1. 1.
  2. 2.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks, Envisage! I will now, as per the rules, present a constructive case.


In my case, I will examine three ways to approach the topic of abortion and morality. There may be some overlap between ideas, but I intend for them to operate with a fair amount of independence; by this I mean that just one of these arguments should be sufficient to negate, and that each one is distinct enough to have to be addressed individually, vice lumped together and rebutted as a cluster. I also will take this moment to point out that even if I win none of the arguments that I am about to present, that does not mean I lose the debate. Since Pro bears 100% of the BOP, unless he can persuasively uphold the resolution, he loses. I do not need to negate; merely, I must prevent Pro from affirming. With this laid out, I'll transition into the body of my arguments.


This is, perhaps, the most common objection to abortion. I am using personhood as a term that applies to an agent or thing that has inherent moral worth; the moral worth creates a presumption against killing, because to kill is to essential obliterate the moral value of a person, creating a net negative in moral output. There are cases where this presumption can be overridden, but as long as the presumption succeeds at least once, it's sufficient for me to win. The first thing that needs to be established, then, is that humans, or, at a minimum, the average human, has personhood status. We can do this in a variety of disparate ways; the following is more of a list of possible ways to valuate humans, rather than individual arguments. Utilitarians might argue that the human capacity for pleasure and pain makes gives humans moral significance. Certainly, pleasure and pain are key factors in determining our self-interest, and so under an egoistic framework, these feelings take on moral weight. Kantians might assert that human's capacity for autonomy gives us moral worth. The difference between myself and a chair, or the difference between myself an a gold fish, is that I can make moral decisions. This capacity to make moral decisions is what makes us unique, and conveys upon us this moral worth. Sociobiologists or Darwinian Ethicists might claim that life is valuable because it helps to advance the species. Morality has arisen as a survival mechanism for humanity, and the idea of "survival in numbers" encourages placing a value on life and procreation. Finally, still others might claim that our future is what gives us moral worth (more on this later.) Whatever your justification, it is intuitively obvious that life has to have some kind of moral value, and that there ought to be a presumption against killing.

Following from that, it is not hard to make the claim that, if personhood can be applied to a fetus, abortion is wrong. This logical can be displayed more formally:

P1. Persons ought not be terminated.
P2. Fetuses/Embryos are Persons.
C1. Fetuses/Embryos ought not be terminated.

It is my contention that there is no good post-implantation/fertilization criterion that exudes fetuses from personhood and so, unless Pro can proffer such a criterion, there is a moral presumption against abortion. To expound on this argument, I will refute two common criteria used to determine what is/is not a person: (1) survival outside of the womb and (2) full development. Also, just so no one accuses me of plagiarizing myself, I am arguing view here I floated in an earlier thread on DDO.

Fetal Viability

My primary concern is that this brightline is changeable, and that implies arbitrariness. Let's take a look at two identical mothers (A and B), with two identical fetuses--the only difference between them is one mother is pregnant in 2014, and another is pregnant in 2020.

Both have their babies during the 23 week of gestation. Due to insufficient technological advancement, mother A's fetus doesn't survive. Yet, six years later, the technology has grown enough that mother B's baby does survive. Under the fetal viability threshold to personhood, the first baby isn't a person, but the second baby is. It seems to unacceptably tie whether something is a person to how advanced we are technologically...and technological prowess doesn't seem like it should have anything to do with the issue.

Full Development

By "full" development, I don't mean to adulthood, but rather, I mean until the fetus has developed all or almost all of the biological facets of a recognizable human. "Full" might be a confusing term for me to use here, a bit of a misnomer, but it's the best I can come up with for the time being. Looking at the pattern of fetal development, I would say sometime around week 31 a fetus has reached this stage of development. [1] This standard, too, is untenable because it would seem to imply that fetuses born before the 31st week and who manage to pull through are somehow not persons when they're born, still alive. Moreover, there is the infamous alien argument. If an alien, who had all the faculties that humans had, were to fly down to Earth and mingle among us while looking nothing like us, could we justifiably deny this alien personhood? The answer is no, because it seems as if there is no morally relevant difference between himself and us. Appearance is not a moral trait--and someone ought not to have personhood denied to them on the basis of how closely they resemble us.


There are two questions I want to pursue at this juncture. First is, "what makes killing wrong," and second is, "how can the answer to the first question enlighten the debate on abortion."

The first question is perhaps one of the most vexing questions philosophers can ask. Some might suggest that killing is wrong primarily for the wrong it does to others (e.g. the family of the victim, society, etc). But, what if the victim was a hermit, or despised by his compatriots? Still others might claim that the wrong lies in the idea that killer is brutalized in the act of killing, yet, it seems that the wrong to the victim explains this transformation into savagery, not vice versa. Perhaps the most plausible of accounts of the wrong of killing is that it "imposes upon us the misfortune of a premature death." [2] In other words, it denies us a future. An early death is harmful because it denies us future goods. "The goods of life are whatever we get out of life...The goods of life are what make life worth living...An individual's future will be valuable to that individual if that individual will come, or would come, to value it...Thus, killing someone is wrong, in general, when it deprives her of a future like ours." [2] This is the FLO argument, and applies whether or not one believes a fetus to be a person or not; so long as the fetus has a potentially valuable future, it would be wrong to deny the fetus the opportunity to engage in that future. In this way, murder and abortion--while not necessarily the same under this view--are wrong for the exact same reason: the denial of a FLO.

We can look to FLO for a number of reasons. FLO seems consistent with our idea of a moral hierarchy of crimes: i.e., that killing is worse than most other crimes. Killing is the total loss of a FLO, whereas crimes like robbery and theft are harms that, while they may impact our future, do not delete our future altogether. FLO also appears to reflect a considered, logical judgement on the nature of why we believe killing to be wrong. Moreover, FLO does not seem wholly inconsistent with a morally egoistic position--certainly, to be egoistic, we must evaluate our self-interest. This oftentimes can best be done by examining what will make us better off in the future--in other words, value is placed on the future.


Even if you buy none of the arguments I've presented so far, we can make the argument that abortion makes life for those already living worse off, and is thus unfair and unjust for them.

Discrimination and Selective Abortions

Discrimination on the basis on immutable characteristics is not only unfair, but widely regarded as immoral. A person cannot help being male or female, black or white, and so it is unfair to accord them more or less moral significance. What's more--it's harmful to society. For example, "[r]esearchers in India...for the Lancet journal said prenatal selection and selective abortion was causing the loss of 500,000 girls a year...the ratio of girls to boys in the next birth was 759 to 1,000." [3] This creates a dangerous imbalance in the male-to-female ratio, which can, in turn, have broader negative side effects. So, for young men already born, they could be being denied a future bride, because people currently reproducing are not producing enough women. Moreover, this will make it harder for girls, because they will be an even greater minority in India, which could only make instituting gender-biased policies easier. There is a similar risk of this happening in the U.S., but on a racial level. "In the United States, black women are 3.3 times as likely as white women to have an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute." [4]


Abortions reduce the number of adoptable babies which hurt those couples who would like to adopt.

Harms to the Mother

Evidence shows that prior abortions can increase the risk of pregnancy and diminish the chance of successfully carrying to term in many mothers. Furthermore, evidence shows that abortions can result in psychological trauma for many mothers that has actually been linked to higher suicide rates.


1 -
2 - "An Argument that Abortion is Wrong" by Don Marquis. Found in "Morality and Moral Controversies: Readings in Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy," 8th edition, edited by John Arthur and Steven Scalet (2009)
3 -
4 -



Note that BoP only means I need to give evidence that positivly demonstrates the resolution, it does not mean Con wins automatically if just one of his arguments passes. Contrary to Con's assertion, I will be undermining all three of Con’s arguments by undermining his presuppositions regarding morality.

Con's Moral Presuppositions are Incoherent

Con has left the terms 'Right', 'Wrong' completely undefined in his opening statement. Yet these are essentially the crux of the entire debate!! These crucial words are labels for concepts, but Con has not established what that concept is. Hence, Pro is effectively throwing darts at a wall and drawing the circle around it, since there are no established goalposts.

This is largely because Con is attempting to affirm some form of moral realism, which is a futile task. Con makes two such realist claims, both of which I will demonstrate are incoherent

  1. 1. Moral Realism
  2. 2. Existentialism

Incoherence of Moral Realism

Moral realism essentially states that moral truths exist independently of cognition, bias and opinion. While it is easy to see why one would be sympathetic to such a presupposition, as it allows for imperative statements such as “The Holocaust was wrong!”, etc. It ultimately leads to incomplete and question begging statements. A system which fails on either of these is incoherent.[4]

For instance, why is the Holocaust wrong. One could either justify this in moral or non-moral terms. Both fail:

1. Either objective moral statements reduce/justified in moral or non-moral terms
2. If justified in moral terms, then the moral term begs the question
3. If justified in non-moral terms, then the statements are no longer “oughts”
C) Objective moral statements are either question begging or incomplete

To defend P2, this should be rather apparent. Take the following:

“The Holocaust was wrong”

One can simply keep asking why at each moral term “why.” Each euphemism used such as “moral, incorrect, inappropriate, imperfect, bad, corrupt, etc.” These gives no content, nor any closer to what “wrong” means. For example, for one to claim there is a ‘best’ football player, or a ‘best’ flavour of ice cream necessitates there to be an objective standard by which one is ‘better’ than the other. But this statement is logically incomplete, since ‘best’ is a useless word on its own.

To assert a ‘best’ football player one is necessarily going by some specific measure. One football player may maximise the game score, another may team morale, another player may maximise team publicity and funding. Clearly a bare ‘best’ football player is meaningless, as it is not a relational attribute in of itself.

This is exactly that Con does in his entire opening round. He gives a plethora of determinations of ‘moral’, such as utilitarian, Kantian autonomy, pain, etc. which demonstrates my point exactly. Con ends up trying to define morality into moral systems, but he does so inconsistently, since these moral systems are incompatible. He cannot affirm both.

P3 is easily demonstrated with 4 words.

“I do not care”

Any statement made in non-moral terms, as soon as a definition is hit, then it comes down to value judgements to determine whether or not one should care about that moral statement. For example, perfectly complete moral systems which maximise suffering, minimise altruism etc. can be constructed, and would virtually the same claim to being ‘moral’. Essentially every moral statement comes back to our own values one way or another.

E.g. “You ought not to increase suffering”

Why? Why ought I not increase suffering? Such a justification cannot be given in moral terms, and to not explain why is just declaring something true by fiat. It is a fundamentally incomplete statement, the only way it can be completed is to make it a conditional:

“You ought not to increase suffering IF you value less suffering

Here we quickly find that to make ANY moral ought coherent, then we necessarily need to make it subjective.

Moral Existentialism

Con’s entire argument from Personhood presupposes inherent human worth. What is this ‘inherent human worth’, what does it even mean? What is a unit of ‘human worth’, and what does it even compare to? Much of this relates to my argument that objective morals, or moral realism is incoherent, so is the notion of ‘intrinsic human worth’.

To state that humans ‘have worth’ is to literally state that ‘Humans are worth *something*’, what is this something?Is it a lump of gold, a pleasurable deed, where does it even come from? From our understanding of economics we can clearly see that things have value if and only if it is of value to the conscious agents (subjective agents) doing the ‘valuing’. For example, in a universe with no conscious agents, a flawless diamond the size of the moon would have no more worth than a lump of clay. It’s only to us that they have value.

Inherent human worth however by definition divorces from a subjective value judgement, and as such any claim to human worth is both question begging and meaningless, and is much akin to stating that a 100 dollar bill is ‘inherently worth a lump of gold’, when the bill actually has no inherent value.

Inherent Human Worth

Much of this I have already addressed in my refutation to existentialism and realism, Con’s arguments are hence incoherent. Con pretty much concedes this when his best justification is:

“Whatever your justification, it is intuitively obvious that life has to have some kind of moral value”

It also seems intuitively obvious that the Sun goes around the Earth, and the Earth is flat. Con simply does not have an objective justification here. Our list of cognitive biases is far from trivial.[3]

Now onto Con’s syllogism:

P1. Persons ought not be terminated.

This fails because of my attack on moral realism, as the statement is fundamentally incoherent and incomplete. It is simply just an imperative statement, and Pro has not given any justification to believe this premise. The only way to make this statement coherent is to present it as a conditional, but this necessarily makes it subjective. Pro can possibly try to affirm this via. emotivism, or universal prescriptivism, neither view however is consistent with Pro’s arguments.

P2. Fetuses/Embryos are Persons.

Pro simply cannot demonstrate this premise true because he defined personhood as:an agent or thing that has inherent moral worth”. And the notion of inherent moral worth (existentialism) has been challenged. However, a more useful definition of ‘Personhood’ is one that is conscious, intelligent, and holds values, since its only with these attributes that we care about staying alive or not. However I already demonstrated a foetus lacks all of these. Con even concedes this in his own argumentation(!):

“The difference between myself and a chair, or the difference between myself an gold fish, is that I can make moral decisions”

While I do not agree with this statement, even assuming Con’s position he cannot affirm a foetus is a person because a foetus cannot make moral decisions either! He hang himself on the noose here.

Both of Pro’s supporting arguments for fetal viability and full development fail, since Pro has already defined personhood differently to what a foetus is. I could concede both these arguments and it would do nothing at all to prove P2.

For example, my arguments for abortion would work even if an 18 year pregnancy were possible and a fully grown adult would be born. The exact same considerations regarding consciousness, intelligence, sentience, and most importantly, values would apply. The key difference between a baby that is born and one that is not is that the latter is now aware, and is now actively forming the a priori mental semantics required to hold values. Con implicitly concedes this when his sentient aliens argument, which would be morally relevant because of their sentience.

Future Like Ours (FLO)

To see what Con is actually arguing here, a syllogism is most adequate:

P1: Any action which intentionally denies a FLO is immoral
P2: Abortion intentionally denies a FLO
C: Abortion is immoral

Of course, P2 is true, so I can only address P1. First of all, P1 is incoherent for reasons already explained regarding moral realism and existentialism. Pro’s presuppositions here are thick, for example when he considers "what makes killing wrong," presupposes that killing is objectively wrong, which I challenge. There is no reason to accept the imperative “killing is wrong”.

Furthermore, Con even concedes himself that killing is not always ‘wrong’:

There are cases where this presumption can be overridden”

The fact that Con concedes this much concedes his presupposition in P1 as false, and this is assuming Con’s own position is even coherent.

Con argues that denying future goods is wrong, but what is ‘a good’, what is a ‘unit of good’. The only coherent statements one can make is ‘good for me’ or ‘good for society’, but I refuted both of these in my opening. There is no ‘me’ to be good for (since the ‘me’ never existed), and that is a subjective, not objective value. Furthermore, assuming P1 also leads to the absurd notions like “wearing a condom is immoral”, “not unprotected sex having sex at every opportunity is immoral" and "not breeding like bunnies until the Earth becomes dangerously overpopulated is immoral."

Societal Benefits

Pro’s argument for selective abortions is largely beyond the scope of the debate at hand, as it attacks the manner in which abortions are performed, or even eugenics rather than the act of abortion itself.
Pro concedes this himself:

“Discrimination on the basis on immutable characteristics is not only unfair, but widely regarded as immoral.”

Discrimination =/= abortion. Also, by assuming Con’s logic, it is moral for Indian citizens to copulate, and abort males to balance the gender population, if it is the case gender imbalance is inherently bad. Con also commits the slippery slope fallacy by appealing to sequential dubious assumptions.


Debate Round No. 2


Thanks to Envisage. I apologize in advance for any formatting errors made due to C/Ping from word; I tried to correct them all, but I can't guarantee that there aren't any. I'll now rebut Pro's case.


Pro takes the position that an action is moral if it maximizes conscious self-interest with intent. What this essentially means is that an action is morally permissible if it is uncoerced and in accordance with what we believe to be our self-interest. In the comments section, Pro has refused to specify whether his stance is one of psychological, ethical, or rational egoism. Yet, his own source indicates that: "[e]thical egoism claims that it is necessary and sufficient for an action to be morally right that it maximize one's self-interest." [1] Therefore, if we use Pro's own source, we can see that he is, in fact, arguing for ethical egoism.

Furthermore, Pro never laid the groundwork for an absolutist psychologically egoistic stance in his case or in the comments, and so it seems that it is at least possible for someone to act immorally; if Pro wants to advance a hard psychologically egoistic position later, I will rebut it at that time. But, because the possibility of immoral action exists, it is still possible that someone will choose to abort their fetus in circumstances where that goes against their believed self-interest. That's all we really need to negate the resolution right now.

But, now let's talk a bit more about ethical egoism and Pro's justification for it. Pro writes: "Moral egoism holds one, unparalleled advantage over any other ethical definition, and that is its moral facts, and moral values are identical...because what 'ought' to be the case is synonymous with what 'is' the case." He goes on to justify this assertion by saying that it is (a) incoherent for someone not to value their self-interest, and (b) in other moral systems, a party may not care about the value appealed to in that system.

This is, essentially, one big is/ought fallacy. [2] Just because something is the case, does not mean it ought to be the case. Applied to Pro"s logic, just because we value X, doesn't mean we ought not to value Y instead. Moreover, Pro gives us no reason or justification as to why our self-interest is necessarily a moral criterion; he never explains why our self-interest necessarily is linked with morality. Without that connection, most of his moral claims are just bare assertions without sufficient warrant. Finally, one could also say that egoism gives us no means of resolving conflicts between interests, and is thus incomplete. For instance, it is equally in my self-interest to do A and to do B, but I cannot perform both A and B. Egoism gives us no way to decide between these actions, and so puts the actor in a moral limbo where they have no guidance on how to act.

But, we can also rebut Pro's idea that it is incoherent not to value one"s self-interest. Recent genetic evidence hints that humans may have a genetic predisposition to altruism [3, 4], where "altruism" refers to "'a motivational state (where)' 'actions are meant to benefit another person' 'at a cost to themselves' '(that are) voluntarily done' 'and requires a group of two, at least'." [4] The presence of an altruistic gene means that it is possible for humans to feel motivation--to want--to act contrary to what they believe to be their self-interest. If this is true, then egoism does not successfully marry moral facts with moral values, and falls prey to the same criticisms Pro levels at other moral theories. In fact, this holds true if we can ever decide to act, want to act, contrary to what we believe to be our self-interest, even if this want isn't genetically ingrained.


The Mother

Pro makes the assumption that his first point is immune to "coercion-type rebuttals," as it is within the woman"s self-interest to submit to whoever is coercing her. The problem here is that this really isn"t an action done with intent, i.e. done voluntarily. The whole point of coercion is that it forces you to make a decision you would otherwise not have made, by limiting your pool of options such that you see few viable courses of action. The absence of meaningful alternative negates choice, and so the woman really isn"t acting voluntarily. If Pro asserts that she is acting voluntarily, then there can be no such thing as coercion because I will always have a choice of some kind. So, in fact, it is not immune to coercion-type rebuttals.

Moreover, it is possible for someone to choose to act against their self-interest, so it is feasible that a mother chooses to abort even when she believes it will not maximize her self-interest.

The Fetus

Pro writes, "when we consider values, they must always be done from the perspective of beings capable of holding subjective values." By subjective values, I am going to assume that Pro is referring to subjective sensations--a rock, as Pro notes, cannot have intrinsic value in that it has no interests of its own. I disagree, however, with Pro's claim: "self-interest is necessarily predicated on being intelligent and aware." Firstly, this is just barely asserted. Secondly, we can reasonably discuss a baby's self-interest, a comatose person's self-interest, or a dog's self-interest, while simultaneously stipulating that none of the three is, in their current state, "intelligent." Why are awareness, consciousness, and intelligence necessary to have self-interest? All that I need to do is show that the fetus has some form of interest in order to show that an abortion violates that interest, and thus commits a moral wrong under Pro's own framework.

We can reasonably say that a fetus has an interest in a FLO. Pro can agree that a normal person like himself or myself has an interest in our future--that"s why we make decisions designed to improve our future quality of life. It is also part of the reason why, more often than not, we say that death is not in our self-interest; our access to our future is prematurely cut off. Even if we say that death isn"t always wrong, we can agree that it is often against our self-interest. If that is the case, we can say that a fetus has an interest in not being aborted, because it will have lost access to its FLO and that this is true for some of the same reasons I have an interest in not being murdered.

We can also justify or ground a fetus's interest in its ability to feel pain. "The majority of the scientific literature on the subject finds that the brain connections required to feel pain are not formed until at least 24 weeks." [5] Others argue that a fetus can feel pain at just 20 weeks. [6] Regardless of when this threshold arrives, it is significant that a fetus can feel pain at any point in time. Certainly much of our self-interest is rooted in our desire not to feel pain, and, hopefully, to feel pleasure. I do not touch a hot stove because I find the resultant pain a negative sensation. I do not fail to turn in assignments, because I believe an "A" will bring me happiness/pleasure. I, and most people, would describe such things as being in our self-interests. Consequently, I would argue that a fetus's ability to feel pain is sufficient to say a fetus has interests of its own, that abortion can be said to violate.

Moreover, in some countries the fetus is recognized as a person or granted certain legal rights. In these countries, it can be said that the fetus has legal interests, in that it has rights, protections, statuses, or guarantees that can be denied or affirmed.

So, when Pro writes, "it is impossible for abortion to positively or negatively fulfil [sic] [the fetus"s] self-interest," Pro is incorrect. It is possible for abortion to negatively fulfill the fetus"s interests by denying it a FLO, by causing it pain, and/or by violating its legal rights and protections.

Moreover, I would just briefly note that abortion may be against the father's self-interest or the family's self-interest, and that Pro has failed to explore these possibilities. It is wholly conceivable that an abortion may violate these agents' self-interests.


Pro writes: "we need to consider, does society influence whether or not one will have the self-interest to abort. The answer, quite clearly, is no. It is precisely because of society that the option to consensually abort a child even exists, as such society is acting within its own self-interest when it facilitates the abortion of a child."

Firstly, in my case I explain how abortion is not necessarily in the interests of society. If this is true, then, under an egoistic paradigm, a society ought not to facilitate abortions. Secondly, however, many societies have made abortion illegal, and, in so doing, they do directly "influence whether or not one will have the self-interest to abort."

Pro writes next that, "one of the core values of society is autonomy of its citizens...Abortion simply isn"t one of those actions which impinges upon the self-interests of others within society in a direct way."

Firstly, I have already explained how abortion does abridge the interests of a fetus. Secondly, not all societies place such a premium on autonomy, and instead prefer to emphasize collective or theocratic values. Abortion, if it isn"t net beneficial, may harm those collective values, and abortion is very clearly not in line with the values of many faiths.


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Thanks. Over to Pro...


Moral Egoism

Prefer Egoism
Con argues that I gave no justification as to why self-interest is necessarily a moral criterion/linked to morality, but Con completely ignores that self-interest is linked to morality by definition. It makes no sense to ask why a definition is a definition. I gave reasons to prefer moral egoism’s definition over any other definition which include:

  1. 1. Purely subjective system, with directly relevant values
  2. 2. Only moral anti-realist systems are coherent
  3. 3. Any “ought” is necessarily subjective anyway

While other moral systems such as Util can give frameworks around certain elements, such as maximising well-being, altruism, etc. it still remains necessarily subjective “why” we should act morally (hence the “ought”).

Con seems to be predicating his assumption that morality = moral realism. That morals are ‘tangable’, but this is incoherent, as I argued last round. There cannot be an objective “ought”, nor a “correct” definition of “moral”, only concepts of “moral” that are preferable to others.

My Egoism Stance
Con strawmans my position by asserting I have failed to lay “the groundwork for an absolutist psychologically egoistic stance”, but I never tried to argue for an absolutist stance. My stance is an entirely relative one, and is necessarily entirely subjective. I explicitly affirmed this in my opening:

“..all moral facts of moral egoism being entirely subjective depending on the people involved”

Con also strawmans my position by attacking a different definition of ‘morally right’ to what I presented in my framework.

Con: ”[e]thical egoism claims that it is necessary and sufficient for an action to be morally right that it maximize one's self-interest”
Pro: A morally ‘right’ action is an action which maximises self-interest with intent, and a morally ‘wrong’ action is an action which minimises self-interest with intent.”

There are two crucial differences in these definitions:

  1. 1. Con’s argues for absolutism
  2. 2. Mine includes intentionality

#1 I have just discussed. #2 is also a critically important distinction, and is an aspect of most moral philosophies (that are non-imperative). For example, natural disasters are not ‘morally wrong’ since they completely lack intentionality, even if their effects go against self interest/well-being/etc. and lesser intelligent beings such as lion kills are seen as ‘less immoral’, since they do not possess the same level of intentionality of the consequences (murder). This applies to many other moral philosophies we well (such as some util). With these two points, most of Con’s rebuttals collapse.

Con’s objection that my arguments are an is/ought fallacy might apply IF I was arguing for an absolutist philosophy, but I am not, as such “ought” statements can and are easily coherently and logically made by presenting them as conditionals. Virtually all the problems of deriving “ought” statements are from moral realism philosophies (such as the type Con is affirming himself) which attempt to posit “objective oughts”. By including the subject and their desires within the statement, the is/ought problem disappears:

“You ought to drink water, if you desire quenching thirst
“You ought to walk the dog, if you value your dog’s fitness

Also, Con’s entire is/ought objection is based on a predicate that I argued that what ‘is’ the case is synonymous with what ‘ought’ to be the case, which is another strawman. I made a very clear distinction between moral facts (what IS moral) and moral oughts (why one ‘ought’ moral), but Con misunderstood this. The fact that moral facts = values does not equal moral facts = “oughts”.

Arguments against egoism

Con’s argument against ‘resolving conflicts’ is only an argument against pragmatics. It is unlikely that two things would ever be valued uniformly, one thing will almost always be a more core/important self-interest to the other (e.g. avoiding torture might be a more core interest to having breakfast). My overall value would be in favour of the more significant value.

Also, Con’s moral altruism argument is in no way an argument against moral egoism, because then it simply becomes one’s self-interest TO act altruistically (to forgo myoptic self-interest for the larger altruistic self-interest). Ergo, altruism is perfectly compatible with egoism.

Abortion & Self-Interest

The Mother
Con’s only rebuttal here is that a women may be coerced. But I already addressed this:

while an abortion may not be within the woman’s immediate self-interest, it will be within the woman’s long-term self-interest.”

IF a woman is having an abortion while not herself immediately wanting it it is clear that:

  1. 1. She has considered external factors to the abortion
  2. 2. Has come to the decision that it would be in her overall interest to continue anyway

Her self-interest in her family’s interests will exceed her unenlightened self-interest. It’s for these reasons why somebody would not rob a shop even if it was within their immediate self-interest to make material gain, since it’s against their greater/enlightened self-interest not to be arrested, imprisoned, etc.

Con argues one can chose to act against their self-interest. This is implausible since it assumes we do not have full autonomy over our own actions when we have a sound mind… which is universally assumed to be false in the court of law.[2[

The Fetus

Intelligence & Awareness
Con misunderstands what I mean by ‘intelligent’, to which I was only stipulating the intelligence required for consciousness. A dog would have a degree of intelligence, as would a baby (albeit very low). It’s for these reasons why self-interest is predicated on consciousness, since there is no *you* or *I* if there was no consciousness, and self-interest is predicated on *me* or “my self-interest”.

Ergo it is logically absurd to talk about self-interest outside the context of consciousness, of which intelligence and awareness are required.

Con commits an absurd equivocation:

  1. 1. Normal people have an interest in our future
  2. 2. Therefore a foetus has an interest in its future

Quite bluntly, a foetus is not a “normal person”! When we are talking about people we are talking about “they” or “I”, but a foetus doesn’t possess that (since it’s not a conscious entity), a crucial distinction. If we hack away a person’s limbs, it does not change the fact that *they* exist, even a quadreplectic has interests. But as soon as their brain dies (and therefore their consciousness), *they* do not have values, moreover legally we don’t even treat them as such (organ donation, autopsies, etc). There simply is no *they* to talk about.

Con can argue that death is against *our* self-interest, but in doing so he is no longer arguing relevant to a foetus, because there is no *they* in this sense. There is a reason why killing embryos, even if it is considered as “wrong” for the sake of argument, is clearly not considered as “wrong” as murdering a healthy human. [1]

Con concedes 2 things in his argument from pain:

  1. 1. There is clearly period in which foetus’ do not feel pain
  2. 2. “Much of our self-interest is rooted in our *desire* not to feel pain”

Both seriously damage Con’s case.
If we were to accept that ability to feel pain predicates self-interest, then clearly we have a period in which abortions do not cause that. Given that most societies’ statutes do depend on the stage of pregnancy before allowing an abortion, this affirms my case. Since a society would not make abortions available for later term pregnancies

Second, Con’s entire objection is based on a double equivocation:

  1. 1. Ability to feel pail =/= having self-interest
  2. 2. Having self-interest =/= having a self-interest for not dying

Self-interest for ‘not dying’ is the only relevant concept here, yet while it’s highly dubious a foetus has any self-interests, for a foetus to have a self-interest in self-preservation is absurd. It is simply unable to comprehend that concept, and this fact extends beyond birth towards infanthood.

Con makes an argument from legal rights, etc. But this is beyond the scope of this debate, as this debate regards morals. Our legal rights usually follow from our understanding of ethics and morality, not the other way around.

Con argues that abortion may violate the father’s self-interest, but I hardly see this as relevant, as a moral egoism judgment would only argue it is “wrong for him”. Given that the father is not an immediately related party, then this can only be argued from a society perspective. The same argument can be made for anything you “don’t like”, for example my neighbours choosing wear skirts instead of trowsers may annoy me, but it wouldn’t be remotely relevant in a moral judgement (for them).


Note when I talk about society, I am talking about the social construct that serves humans (such as a governments). I gave the context of abortions I was referring to in my opening, assuming a consenting procedure performed within society. Therefore it’s implausible that an abortion *could* occur in a society which has illegalised it.

Assuming this though, I made the moral argument as for why society is important (access to food, shelter, security, etc.), but also outlined where societies self-interests should be, which is to be in its continued function to serve our core self-interests.

Abortion is rather irrelevant to societies’ function to cater to our core self-interests. Abortion doesn’t affect how society functions, does not affect the price of food that’s on our plates, nor our sense of security in any meaningful way. Because abortion is irrelevant to society’s function to cater to our core self-interests, then it is morally neutral towards society.

A core self-interest shared by virtually everyone in society is a right to autonomy. Con’s only objection is an argument for theocracy or dictatorship, but neither systems are constructed nor operated for the purpose of serving our self-interests, and hence irrelevant.


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Debate Round No. 3


Thanks once again to Envisage on this debate. I kindly remind him that this round will be his last opportunity to post arguments as he must forgo the final round. At this time, I will discuss the BOP for this debate and defend my case.


Pro writes, "Note that BoP only means I need to give evidence that positivly [sic] demonstrates the resolution." That is partially correct. Pro must offer evidence that upholds the resolution, and this evidence must be sufficient on its own to accomplish that task, but it must also not be cancelled out by any arguments I might make. For instance, let's say Pro has argument A and I have argument B; Pro's argument fully affirms the resolution, whereas mine fully negates it. Because Pro has the BOP, in case such as that, we presume against Pro and vote Con. Therefore, Pro must not only successfully argue through evidence that is sufficient to affirm the resolution, but he must also deal with any potential arguments I present that would negate the resolution.


What is an objective moral statement? I want to explore this question though the example of Utilitarianism. A utilitarian might make the statement: "maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain are moral." They use this as their first principle to determine whether a given individual action is or is not moral. To use Pro's phraseology, the moral truth espoused by the utilitarian exists "independently of cognition, bias and opinion," even though it may be biased in its application (i.e. biased in favor of promoting pleasure.) the same could be said of Kant's philosophy, with its categorical imperative being used to make right-wrong claims that exist independently. Why, then, is moral egoism not a morally realist theory? It is axiomatic in the sense that an egoist will make the claim: "doing what is in your self-interest is moral." This is a first principle by which the morality of a given action is determined. Like Utilitarianism and Kantian Ethics, it seems to meet all of the criteria that Pro lays out as well. If this is the case, all of Pro's arguments can be turned back against him, defeating his own case.

"The debate between moral realists and anti-realists assumes, though, that there is a shared object of inquiry--in this case, a range of claims all involved are willing to recognize as moral claims--about which two questions can be raised and answered: Do these claims purport to report facts in light of which they are true or false?...Moral realists answer ‘yes’." [1] Moral egoism is purporting to report facts in light of which moral claims are true or false, and thus falls under the scope of moral realism, affirming Pro's self-contradiction.

Now, let's discuss Pro's syllogism. P1 is obviously true, so we'll focus on P2 and P3. Pro's argument in support of P2 is that when we make a moral statement, we can keep asking "why" ad infinitum. But, this objection seems true even for so-called objective facts. If you make the claim "1+1=2" I could continue to ask "why" for every single response you gave until it would reach the point of absurdity. Everything has to start from some basic assumption, some first principle, that we can then work back from, like egoism's first principle of maximizing self-interest, utility's first principle of maximizing pleasure, Kant's first principle of respecting human dignity, etc. The implications of Pro's argument is that nothing is objective, but that's clearly false. Very clearly "1+1+=2" even if I can ask "why" until my throat gets hoarse.

While we may have trouble identifying what the basic truth of morality is, that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. By citing a variety of theories, I was attempting to show that from multiple possible first principles of morality, we would arrive at the same conclusion--thus, regardless of which of these first principles was right, we could still make the claims I was making. For the purposes of this round, I was establishing that murder is generally wrong. Even egoism agrees with this claim, as committing murder could find you locked up in jail, ostracized by potential allies in the community, etc. So, my case preceded on the notion, on the first principle, that murder is generally wrong.

Regarding P3, this is also not true. Pro is attempting to prove a negative here--i.e. to prove that there is no objective moral first principle. If it is at least possible that such a principle exists, even if we don't yet know what it is, P3 is undermined because, this principle is not something I want or value, "ought" statements do not connect with what I care about. I might "ought" to do something I do not care to do. This casts serious doubt on the validity of P3.

Finally, there are several advantages to moral realism that mean we should prefer that as a framework for the debate. The main one I will give here is that moral realism has the "capacity to resolve moral disagreements: If two moral beliefs contradict one another, realism says that they cannot both be right, and therefore everyone involved ought to be seeking out the right answer to resolve the disagreement." [2]


Pro writes: "To state that humans ‘have worth’ is to literally state that ‘Humans are worth *something*’, what is this something?" I would argue that, for the purposes of this debate, I don't have to answer than question as long as I make the claim that humans are of equal worth. If humans are of equal worth, then killing one to save another creates no net harms (it's a 1 for 1 trade.) However, killing one without saving one does create a net harm. That's sufficient to make my argument.

As for the inherency of human worth, a lot of that ties back into moral realism, so I don't see much reason to explore that too much. Instead, I want to focus on Pro's claim that worth is never inherent, but rather assigned. He explains that a dollar bill has no inherent worth of it's own. That's true insofar as the value of a dollar bill is determined--subjectively--by society. This seems to be a relativistic stance Pro is taking.

Let's take a moment to explore moral relativism: "The philosophically interesting claim at the heart of most forms of moral relativism is that moral statements are true (or false) relative to some normative standpoint, usually one characteristic of some particular culture...Cognitive relativism holds that (a) the truth value of any judgment is relative to some particular standpoint (for example, a conceptual scheme or theoretical framework); and (b) no standpoint is metaphysically privileged over all others--there is no 'God’s eye point of view' that yields the objective truth about reality. Relativists of this sort are not so impressed by the fact-value distinction. They do not view truth as a property that sentences possess in virtue of their correspondence to an independent reality. Rather, they argue that we call a sentence 'true' when it coheres with the rest of our beliefs, perceptions, values, and assumptions." [3] There are two impacts to this:

The key impact of this analysis is that relativism leads to an inability to make meaningful moral claims. Because there is no objective truth, and all moral values are analyzed from an individual perspective with no overarching first principle, something can be both moral or immoral. Let's say Envisage and I witness situation X transpire. Envisage thinks what occurred was moral; I think what occurred was immoral. Under a morally relativist paradigm, we're both correct. Therefore, it is impossible to make substantive claims about whether an action is or is not moral. This would lead to a Con ballot because Pro cannot affirm the "always" statement since--from some point of view--abortion will be immoral. This would also function as a kritik of the topic (something disallowed by rules) because it challenges the debate's assumption that we can make moral claims about abortion. Since the logical implications of Pro's dollar bill analysis would lead us to a relativistic conclusion, we can actually turn those arguments against him.

So, Pro is really all over the map. He argues that egoism is a moral axiom (objective), then denies objectivity (subjective). Morality is either objective, subjective, or nonexistant. Pro cannot affirm if morality doesn't exist, and his other two stances are widely contradictory. What's more is that if morality is subjective, we can turn that back against him and negate.


All of Pro's attacks on this part of my argument are simply cross-applications of his earlier remarks about realism and existentialism. Since I've already reviewed those two concepts thoroughly, I see no need, nor do I have the space, to repeat myself. I am not dropping this contention, though, because I have already addressed the core assumptions of Pro's rebuttals. As for the remark about gold fish, we can make the claim that a gold fish will never have the potential for moral decision-making, whereas a fetus will. The same is true of a baby.


It appears I need to offer a brief clarification here: I contend that murder is wrong except in self-defense, because at that point the losses in FLO cancel out (1 for 1 trade). Otherwise, the FLO argument would seem to assert that killing is wrong. To more properly construct the syllogism, we would write:

P1. Any action that leads to a net loss in FLO is wrong
P2. Abortion intentionally denies a FLO
C1. Abortion is oftentimes wrong

This clarification, combined with my earlier statements, should sufficiently uphold P1.


Pro drops 2 of my harms to society. He cannot rebut these later, as that would be making new arguments. Extend them. Society is harmed in those ways by abortion--I'll impact this in my next speech (where it's relevant).


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Thanks, again :) Over to Pro...


Con makes numerous attacks on egoism last round, despite me never having using it as a rebuttal to Con’s arguments. As such Con’s attacks on egoism last round are clear violations of format (he was only supposed to defend his own case).

Con’s Case
All three of Con’s arguments stand and fall based on whether or not realism & existentialism is correct. So if we can reject either of these we can reject all of Con’s arguments, regardless of how well constructed they are. Knock out the foundations of a skyscraper, the entire building, no matter how sophisticated will certainly collapse.

Con’s case is literally that simple, since he presupposes these in every single aspect of his argumentation.

Moral Realism
So, we can reject realism outright since Con has given absolutely no reason whatsoever to:

a.) Accept Moral’s indeed ‘exist’
b.) To prefer their use even assuming they did

Con has attempted to affirm what is moral from utilitarianism, Kantian, altruism and even egoism. However all of these philosophies are mutually incompatible, and hence fail. Also, assuming realism is true, why on earth should we expect moral systems such as utilitarianism to give us any idea what is moral> There simply isn’t a causal link between the two other than squabbling over the label of ‘moral’, and at the very least Con has not demonstrated one.

Most seriously, are Con’s continued attempts to make subject-independent moral statements which end up as imperative statements (“X is wrong!”). The use of subject-dependant statements is trivially logically coherent (such as I have in egoism), however the use of subject-independent statements is on dubious grounds at best, which I have positively argued is in fact positively incoherent.

Note that I have not defended an axiomatic version of moral egoism (Con is breaking the rules attacking my case in R4, but I will defend anyway), I have only presented it as a definition of ‘moral’, and argued why we should prefer its use over any other. Objective facts of morality =/= realism, these facts stem from a subjective use of a definition of ‘moral’. Subjectively, one can use utilitarianism, or egoism etc. as a definition. But we are now talking about different concepts. The same cannot be said of Con in this debate.

I have addressed the the “Why” portion of “Why we should act moral” in egoism, but Con has not done the same for his case. Having lots of definitions of ‘what’ is moral doesn’t get to ‘why’, or ‘why care’ (thus, ‘ought’), which is the ultimate arbiter of which system we should prefer. The statement “we should act moral because it’s good” is a circular statement, since ‘moral’ is defined by what is ‘good’.

I will summarise both positions below:

Realism: Attempts to describe what IS moral (as an independent entity or ‘shared object of enquiry’)
Anti-Realism: Defines ‘moral’ and attempts to demonstrate why a definition is preferable

Clearly, my arguments for moral egoism do not argue for the former, as it doesn’t presume there is already a way things “ought” to be out there. Con’s arguments however, do.

P2. If justified in moral terms, then the moral term begs the question

The point here is that moral terms in themselves are devoid of any content until expressed in non-moral terms. We cannot make arguments about ‘what’ is moral until we do this, and Con has conceded as much when he attempts to defend util etc. since these attempts posit morality in non-moral terms (well-being, pain, etc).

Ergo, Con implicitly drops this premise. It isn’t just a case of playing a “why” game. The “why” game ends once you reach the definition of a word. To ask why a “chair” is something with “four legs, a back and seating for one person” is nonsense since we have now reached the definition. This is not possible with moral statements in moral realism, since it’s moral statements cannot be defined. Con can only escape this by positively identifying *what* is the nature of moral in realism, but he has failed to do so, he has only asserted it.

Pro literally conceded this last round

“While we may have trouble identifying what the basic truth of morality is, that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.”

First, it’s an argument ad ignorantum! I still await for reason to believe its existence. Second, Con hasn’t even proposed a method by which we could hope to ‘identify’ this truth.

P3. If justified in non-moral terms, then the statements are no longer “oughts”

Con drops this premise as he fails to address the central argument that “subject-independent ought statements” are logically incomplete. Con asserts it’s possible but makes no attempt to demonstrate its possibility. Demonstrating something is logically incomplete/incoherent indeed “proves the negative”.

Advantages of Realism
None of these matters if Con cannot affirm moral realism in the first place. Also Con has not argued that moral disagreements are necessarily a problem in anti-realist systems. Given that any “ought” is predicated on subjective values, and that these values are trivially determined, then an ideal way forward is rather easy to envisage.

Con asserts that humans are of equal worth (1 for 1), however he:

  1. 1. Doesn’t define what a “Human” is
  2. 2. Fails to justify why this is the case

IF Con defines a human as a “person”, then this becomes question begging since he has defined a person as “an agent or thing that has inherent moral worth”, it also doesn’t show all persons are of *equal* inherent moral worth, even assuming itis a coherent concept. IF Con defines “Human” as just the biological entity, then Con has a hard time demonstrating “all humans have moral worth”.

The most important question is not *what* humans are valued, but *how* they are valued. It’s incoherent to assert the former without knowing the latter. “Inherent moral worth” necessarily divorces itself from the “how” (including theistic systems), it literally just states it ipsie dixit.

Con performs a massive strawman of my position. I am not arguing for moral relativism! Relativism =/= anti-realism! That’s a massive error, it only demonstrates that Con massively misunderstands my position, as I have explicitly rejected the notion of truth in imperative statements such as:

“X is wrong”

Are fundamentally incomplete and “not even false”. Similarly, judgements (relative or objective) suffer the same problem:

“X is good”

It’s logically incomplete. MY position is to make such statements subject-dependant, hence:

“X is wrong for me
“X is good for me
“I should do X if I value X

And that is exactly how I am applying my arguments to the resolution, since I applied 3 key contexts.

  1. 1. The mother’s
  2. 2. The foetus’
  3. 3. Societies’

Which yield statements such as “Morally permissible for the mother/society/the foetus”. This is a perfectly reasonable way to affirm the resolution (hence not a kritik).

Ergo, it’s not a case that Bsh1 and I would disagree on what ‘IS’ moral, since that presupposes realism. It would be a case that I would just state Bsh1’s statements are meaningless/incoherent. We could have two independent “Good for me” statements, but they do not address the same concept, hence there is no contradiction (since ‘me’ is different in each case).

“He argues that egoism is a moral axiom (objective)”

This is false. I have only advanced it as a preferable definition.

Con drops his “argument from intuition”, which is literally his only positive argument for moral worth here and my argument from a priori mental semantics.

Con argues entirely from ‘potential ability to make moral decisions’, but implicitly concedes my point! A foetuscannot make moral decisions. We don’t define things by what they ‘could be’, we define things according to what they are, at this moment in time. Thus this point is a massive red herring since he needs to argue what a foetusis, not what a foetus could be (to fulfil the definition). By how we define a foetus and a goldfish, they are of equal moral worth assuming existentialism.

Con reformulated argument is now logically invalid (conclusion no longer follows from the premises). P1 becomes even more debatable since it assumes all FLO’s are equal (which is just false, since everybody has a different future), and now includes mother’s future, which will become seriously compromised being forced to continue the pregnancy against her will.

Moreover, Con invalidly supports P1 by asserting murder is wrong (bare assertion), but that does not demonstrate that murder is wrong *because* it denies a FLO (assuming Con’s moral ontology). Indeed there a plethora of realism ontologies which do not care about FLO in determining murder is wrong, hence P1 is necessarily incomplete/ignores the big picture.

It is also an incoherent moral imperative statement.

I have already implicitly addressed these two arguments in my own arguments (would still be in the mother’s self-interest since she is choosing to go forward with the abortion despite the potential harms). And adoptions are made with zero evidence justification.

Conclusion & Voting
I have provided a complete ground-up case for why we should regard abortion as morally permissible. I have established:

  1. 1. Moral egoism judgements are tautologically relevant to our best interests
  2. 2. Moral egoism is a complete and coherent moral philosophy
  3. 3. According to egoism, abortion is at worst morally neutral in the three most important contexts. The mother, society and foetus. Hence, morally permissible.

Furthermore, one should vote against Con because:

  1. 1. His entire case is based on dubious assumptions of
    1. a. Inherent moral worth
    2. b. Moral realism
    3. 2. I have demonstrated such assumptions are not only unfounded, but also logically incoherent
    4. 3. Con has not even attempted to provide a complete case for *what* is moral, and is largely from emotion/intuition
    5. 4. Con’s case lacks logical rigor, and relies on faulty presuppositions and equivocations

I really thank Bsh1 for this debate. Vote Pro!

Debate Round No. 4


Thanks, Envisage! I will address a rules dispute, rebut Pro's case, and crystallize.


Before I launch into defending my own case, I merely want to point out that I haven't violated the rules. I think this is important for me to point out, because this is my only opportunity to defend myself against this accusation. Pro writes: "Con is breaking the rules attacking my case in R4." I have two responses: (A) pointing out how arguments interplay is not the same thing as rebutting Pro's case. Pro is expected to maintain logical consistency throughout the debate, and if there is something logically inconsistent, I should be able to point it out. (B) Pro violates the exact same rule, so things cancel out. In the last round, Pro states that, when he was rebutting my case, that he "implicitly addressed" arguments I made against Pro's case. That commits the same rule breach I am accused of.



Before I get into the other issues here, I wanted to address my altruism argument. I pointed out that genetic evidence showed that people had biological factors that made it "possible for humans to feel motivation--to want--to act contrary to what they believe to be their self-interest." Remember, Pro specifically defines egoism as "maximising...conscious self-interest with intent." Pro does not challenge the genetic basis of altruism, but instead he says that altruism and egoism are not incompatible because people can choose for forgo their myopic self-interest in favor of a long-term self interest. Yet, this doesn't address my claim that the genetic basis of altruism means we could feel compelled to act altruistically EVEN IF we consciously believe it to be against our long-term or short-term interests. So, Pro's point does not address my argument. This is going to become very important as the debate progresses--it shows that it is not incoherent to not value one's own self-interest.

Strawmans Galore

Pro then accuses me of strawmanning his position. But, by failing to clarify in the comments what his position actually was, I felt that I need to address possible interpretation of his argument, including one of absolute psychological egoism, which is the belief that humans can only act in what they believe to be their own self-interest. Saying that Pro failed to lay the groundwork for such a claim is also not the same as saying Pro was advancing that claim. As for the issue of ethical egoism, I merely meant to point out that his arguments were most similar to that theory of egoism. I have throughout this debate talked about Pro's standard for egoism, vice "necessary and sufficient," so my arguments are not aimed at a strawman.

Also, Pro drops the following: if "the possibility of immoral action exists, it is still possible that someone will choose to abort their fetus in circumstances where that goes against their believed self-interest. That's all we really need to negate the resolution right now." Because he doesn't defend a hard psychological egoism, he concedes that people can act against their self-interests, and can thus act immorally. If the possibility is there, it is highly unlikely that all abortions will always be moral, and that is sufficient to negate the resolution.


Pro argues that we should prefer egoism because self-interest is linked to morality by definition; yet, nowhere in the definition of "moral" decided on in R1 does it mention self-interest. In addition, our genetic capacity to be altruistic means that we can value things other than our self-interest.

Regarding the is/ought dilemma, Pro writes: "all the problems of deriving 'ought' statements are from moral realism philosophies...which attempt to posit objective 'oughts'." But, as I noted earlier, Pro is defending a form of moral realism. He is making the claim that what is in our self-interest is what we ought to do. That asserts that objectively true moral decisions can be reached via this axiom. Hence, it is a form of moral realism, and is open to is/ought critiques. Moral egoism assumes that there is a moral fact (that obeying our self-interest is moral), and that from this fact we can then make objective decisions about morality. He even says as much when he writes: "Moral egoism holds a tremendous advantage over every other moral system because what "ought" to be the case is synonymous with what "is" the case." So, not only is his system morally realist, but this quote shows I am not strawmanning Pro's position. In R3, Pro had claimed that I was strawmanning, because he had not argued that "what 'is' the case is synonymous with what 'ought' to be the case."

Finally, the conditionals argument is not convincing, because a question such as "you ought to murder, if you enjoy murder" still makes the basic, core assumption that what is the case informs what ought to be the case--clearly, this still commits and is/ought fallacy, and moral reasoning, rather than factual reasoning, must be used to back up the claim. The altruism argument also serves to rebut these conditionals, because it confuses the link between what we desire and what we ought to do. Our genetic predisposition to altruism means that we may desire things we believe to be against our self-interest. So, I may believe X to be against my self-interest, but I value it nonetheless. Ought I to do X, according to Pro? No, despite what Pro's conditional might suggest.

Therefore, Pro's framework is not only open to is/ought critiques because it seeks to make objective is/ought claims, but my attacks were also not founded on a faulty premise. Because no moral reasoning is forthcoming from Pro as to why self-interest is necessarily a moral criterion (except a faulty appeal to definitions), he commits an is/ought fallacy is his framework that takes it out.


The Mother

Pro claims that it is implausible that someone could rationally act against there self-interests. But, he gives no justification for this except to say it is assumed in courts of law. Firstly, this is an appeal to authority. Secondly, Pro has made arguments about how it is moral to act egoistically, but he never constructed arguments as to how egoistic action was the sole rational option to participate in. The two are not the same. Pro's argument lacks a foundation. Thirdly, our genetic predisposition to altruism provides an explanation of how a rational person could come to act in an un-egoistic fashion, therefore negating Pro's argument.

The Fetus

Pro's argument essentially boils down to the idea that only conscious entities can have a self-interest. Consciousness has to do with awareness. But, as I said before, "we can reasonably discuss a...comatose person's self-interest." Someone who is comatose is not necessarily aware. Pro remained silent on that example, so I can only assume he doesn't disagree. We can discuss the self-interest of a comatose person because we know that this person could wake up, we realize that they have an interest in being cared for and having their affairs run well in their absence. In other words, we realize that this person has an interest in their potential future should they emerge from the state of unconsciousness in which they reside.

Firstly, "them" implies a self or individual just like "you" or "I" has that connotation, and that self has interests, and so it does not appear that consciousness is a prerequisite for self-interests. Secondly, in the instance of the comatose person, there will be an "I" if that person does awaken, and, there is definitely a "them" while they are unconscious. This future "I" allows us to rationally talk about the present entity's self-interests. For example, it is not incoherent to say, "it is in the comatose patient's interests that, in case he wakes up and regains consciousness, that he bank accounts are not robbed." Because a fetus is an individual entity and can be referred to as "them" and/or because it has a potential future, i.e. a FLO, it has self-interests. This is going to take out most of Pro's rebuttals here.

As for pain, a desire to avoid pain does not imply some kind of advanced conative ability. A stink bug recoils from pain, as does any living creature capable of feeling pain. They all have a self-interest in avoiding pain because pain is--in a word--unpleasant. If this is the case, then it would be wrong to abort a fetus that could feel pain. Insofar as any abortion anywhere has/will cause pain to a fetus, it was/would be immoral. Please note: "some countries, like Canada, China...and Vietnam have no legal limit on when an abortion can be performed." [1]

Pro says the law isn't topical, but they give fetus's protections, and thus interests in those protections. Pro fails to rebut this logic.


I did not argue for dictatorship, but rather collectivism. Collectivism does work for the purpose of serving our interests, in that by making a better community to live in, we're better off. There are certainly societal harms to making abortion totally permissible (underpopulation, as with the USSR [2], lack of adoptable kids, harms to the mother, etc.) so such a society might reasonable make abortion illegal and "directly 'influence whether or not one will have the self-interest to abort.'"


Remember, Pro bears the sole BOP. My voting issues 1 and 3 take out moral egoism, the bedrock of his case. Without moral egoism, Pro cannot affirm. Issues 2 and 4 shows how even under egoism, Pro cannot meet the "always" standard. Thus, I negate.

1. TURN: Moral Egoism is a form of Moral Realism. Pro defeats his own framework.
2. The possibility of immoral action exists, which is sufficient to negate.
3. Moral Egoism rests on an is/ought fallacy.
4. The Fetus has Interests the Violation of which would be a Wrong

Please VOTE CON! Thank you.


1 -
2 -


Thanks for a great debate Bsh1! Onto the voters...
Debate Round No. 5
137 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by JohnUnger 1 year ago
I like how you designed this site! And actually i like the issue of this debate, nova days its unfortunately very relevant question. I found assignment expert writer on who has wrote huge dissertation regarding this issue, it's actually very interesting what hi has found out there.
Posted by Juan_Pablo 1 year ago
I agree with wrichcirw. Forced abortions are clearly not morally permissible because they go against the freedom of the pregnant woman. That alone undermines the resolutions and gives the win to Con.

This was a very passionate debate. I would have enjoyed it if more real-life examples were used to defend each other's arguments, because I think both debaters relied to heavily on subjective, abstract concepts.
Posted by wrichcirw 1 year ago
Hmmm...this resolution is indefensible. Given a basic level of competence from CON, PRO is all but guaranteed to lose this debate.
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
A lot of prochoice people think that it is morally permissible. There are decent reasons to believe that, they are just not reasons I find convincing.
Posted by Dilara 1 year ago
Even pro choice people admit that it's morally wrong. Choosing your social life over your Baby is terrible. Everyone deserves a chance. Denying someone that chance because they are in the way of something is morally wrong. If you have any doubts about the pain babies to through while they are being aborted watch silent scream. It's 28 minutes and it shows an abortion through update sound. The 13 week old fetus squirms away from the Canula and tries to fight. Than he is killed. At the very least or should be banned passed 20 weeks.
Posted by Envisage 1 year ago
Again, you are applying your own arguments to my position. There are 2 people debating, not 3, you are applying your own bias if you do that.

And I really think you need to reread the definition of harassment, lol.
Posted by Daktoria 1 year ago
I mean I'm not a big fan of people who argue they should have won because their side was the least wrong and the other side didn't call them out for it. That's called harassment in my book, and not only does it mean you lost the debate, but that you were uncivil in your course of debating.
Posted by Daktoria 1 year ago
I award victory because the role of a judge isn't to merely compare sides in a debate, but to analyze sides in a debate unto themselves. Technically speaking, Con didn't have to say a word. You lost the debate on your own merit.

Again, you're putting dialectic before analytic reasoning.
Posted by Envisage 1 year ago
That were not made*
Posted by Envisage 1 year ago
Bsh didn't raise those concerns in the debate however, or anything remotely like them. So I hardly see how you can award a 'victory' based on rebuttals that were not more.

Moreover your first point completely skips over my case, which had virtually nothing to do with utilitarianism, I only used it as an explanation tool. The second point is just false, as words are defined according to concepts, not bother words, if you have a word which can only ever be described in words', which can only ever be described in words etc then you run into non cognitivism. Words need to be grounded into concepts (again this point was not raised by Bsh anyway), and the third point is just false, I have reasons to think babies are not cognitive anyway (so the BoP was at least fulfilled, even if it was refutable), and argued from the inability to form a priori networks. Even Bsh conceded that pain perceiving pathways do not exist until later during pregnancies, he didn't really contest cognition and was arguing from existentialism instead.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by YYW 1 year ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: PRO had to persuade that abortion is always morally permissible, whereas CON had to persuade that abortion is not always morally permissible. Read: for PRO to win, there can never be a case when abortion is not morally permissible, and for CON to win, there must be at least one case where abortion is sometimes morally impermissible. The burden of persuasion is theoretically equivalent, but in actuality PRO has a lot more that he must persuade on. So, practically, PRO has a much greater burden than CON. PRO's argument from self interest is fundamentally flawed, in that it is self contradictory. CON had some difficulty responding to it, but nevertheless meets his burden and proffers a stronger case relative to PRO. CON therefore wins. Critique to follow shortly. See comments.
Vote Placed by xXCryptoXx 1 year ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: If Bsh1 and Envisage were fighting on the edge of a building, this debate could be described as Envisage kicking Bsh1 off the edge and as Bsh1 falls he grabs Envisage's leg and pulls Envisage down with him into the streets below. This debate questioned every single assumption that could be made on both Con's and Pro's positions, resulting in sheer absurdity by round 4. The debate became almost meaningless. Envisage must prove that we cannot act within our self interest! Bsh1 must prove that FLO is even morally valuable! Pro must prove we cannot act altruistically! Con hasn't given us any reason to believe in objective morality! Con won for one reason, and that is that Pro had the burden of proof. Pro demolished Con's arguments with enough questioning of its core assumptions, but Con shed enough doubt on Pro's arguments that even though Con had no arguments to stand on, Pro's arguments were not strong enough to affirm the resolution. More in comments.