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Civil Disobedience and Voluntary Punishment

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 1/19/2017 Category: Society
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,173 times Debate No: 99117
Debate Rounds (5)
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Chris and I were talking about Chelsea Manning, and this topic came up and we found ourselves on opposing sides. I think it is an interesting topic, to say the least, and I'd love to debate it with someone.

The voting mechanism is select winner with an ELO threshold of 3000. The voting period is 2 weeks.


In a functioning democracy, those who commit acts of civil disobedience against morally dubious laws or practices ought to voluntarily accept punishment for their act of disobedience.


Functioning democracy - a representative or direct democracy in which individuals possess meaningful rights and freedoms (like due process of law and the right to vote), in which socio-pollitical conditions are relatively stable (i.e. not riven by civil war), in which transfers of power generally occur peacefully and voluntarily, and in which the democratic processes are not systematically rigged, corrupt, or effectively predetermined by the government.
Civil Disobedience - an act which violates the law in which the actor(s) (a) sincerely believe in the moral rectitude of their actions; (b) intend to draw attention via their disobedience to a law or practice which they believe needs to be reassessed, exposed, altered, or rejected; (c) clearly communicate that their actions are meant to draw attention to said law or practice and to generate either reassessment, exposure, alteration, or rejection of said law or practice; and (d) acted non-violently (inflicted no physical injury) in their specific act of disobedience. Individuals like MLK, with his sit-ins, engaged in civil disobedience, but, in a way, so too did people like Snowden who violated laws to expose practices which they believed were unethical.
Morally Dubious - of uncertain moral standing; likely morally impermissible, but possibly morally permissible; that which a reasonable person, operating within established cultural conventions (i.e. not fringe), could question as moral
Ought - indicates moral desirability
Accept - to consent to; in this case: to submit to willingly without attempt to evade arrest or trial
Punishment - a penalty meted out by the state in response to a criminal or misdemeanor offense after due process of law


1. No forfeits
2. Citations must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final speeches
4. Observe good sportsmanship and maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling
6. No "kritiks" of the topic (challenging assumptions in the resolution)
7. My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add resolutional definitions
8. For all undefined terms, individuals should use commonplace understandings that fit within the logical context of the resolution and this debate (unless otherwise specified in R1)
9. The BOP is evenly shared
10. The first round is for acceptance only
11. Rebuttals of new points raised in an adversary's immediately preceding speech may be permissible at the judges' discretion even in the final round (debaters may debate their appropriateness)
12. Violation of any of these rules, or of any of the R1 set-up, merits a loss


R1. Acceptance
R2. Pro's Case; Con's Case
R3. Pro generic Rebuttal; Con generic Rebuttal
R4. Pro generic Rebuttal; Con generic Rebuttal
R5. Pro generic Rebuttal and Crystallization; Con generic Rebuttal and Crystallization

Thanks... whomever accepts for this debate. I'm looking forward to a fun debate.


Thank you, Pro, for accepting me.

I look forward to this discussion. Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to Lupricona for taking this debate!

I. Means of Justification

It seems to me that there are two possible internal justifications that a disobedient could use to excuse themselves from accepting punishment. A disobedient could argue that (1) their moral intent justifies their non-acceptance of punishment and/or (2) the nature of the law they broke justifies their non-acceptance of punishment. The latter option could refer to the nature of the law as immoral or as simply morally ambiguous. Actions are, in a sense, bipartite, involving the mental state (part 1) that spurs one to commit the action itself (part 2). This analysis generally seems to fit with the way we normally examine issues of crime--the idea of mens rea paired with the action itself.

A. Moral Intent

Someone can sincerely believe that the Earth is flat, but that belief does not make it so. Someone can seriously believe that their actions are moral, but that does not make it so. If good intentions absolve crime, then there are many monsters who would be morally justified in avoiding justice. Take Hitler--it could be said that he believed he was in the moral right all the time by eliminating the barriers to the Aryan utopia he idolized. Take Cecil Rhodes--he believed the colonialism was not only good for the colonizers, but good for the colonized, and that there was a kind of moral imperative to engage in the kinds of policies which would plague South Africa for decades. Even for non-violent acts, the idea that intentions alone could absolve a crime is troubling--embezzlement, segregation, and stalking are all non-violent offenses, so would it follow that good intentions can excuse them? Certainly, a sexists discriminatory hiring practices are nonviolent and may be morally well-intentioned, but that does not make them moral either.

This argument then takes two forms. Firstly, belief and reality are not the same thing. Moral intent cannot, in and of itself, render immoral actions moral. People who engage in immoral activity ought to be punished for that activity (more on this later). Secondly, their is a "ballooning effects" argument to be made here. If moral intentions can excuse a disobedient from submitting to punishment, then why can't they also form the grounds for people like Hitler to be excused from submitting to punishment? The only way to answer this question in a way that responds in favor of the disobedient while not in the favor of Hitler is to appeal to the nature of the actions themselves, implying that intent is insufficient grounds to excuse failure to accept punishment.

B. The Nature of the Action

Let's look at two basic claims: (1) people ought to be punished for immoral actions, and (2) people ought to follow moral laws.

On the second claim, moral laws are those laws which are in concert with morality; i.e. they are either morally obligatory, morally desirable, or morally permissible. In terms of laws which express morally obligatory or morally desirable propositions, the second claim is obviously true. Of course it is morally desirable that we engage in morally desirable/morally obligatory activities. As for morally permissible laws, there is no moral reason not to follow them, and there is reason to follow them: respecting democratic institutions (more on that later).

If we accept the premise that individuals ought accept punishment for violating moral laws, then moral dubiousness can justify evading punishment. Moral dubiousness indicates that a law's moral standing is unclear; it implies that there is a chance, perhaps a significant one, that a law is moral rather than immoral. In other words, a law can be both morally right and morally dubious at the same time.

If disobedients ought to avoid punishment for violating morally dubious laws, then they also ought to avoid punishment for violating some moral laws. It cannot be simultaneously true that people both ought to accept punishment for violating moral laws and ought to avoid punishment for violating moral laws. These points are mutually contradictory, and so cannot be jointly advanced as action-guiding principles. Thus, the nature of the law cannot serves as grounds for the disobedient fleeing punishment.

II. Law, Order, and Democracy

There are several reasons that have to do with law and order and democratic institutions that explain why we ought to accept punishment when we violating the law. Those reasons include: (1) respecting the legal process and (2) promoting social stability.

A. Respect for Democratic Institutions

Disobedients are seeking to "draw attention via their disobedience to a law or practice which they believe needs to be reassessed, exposed, altered, or rejected," per the definition provided in round one. They are not seeking to overturn the democratic systems in their country which provide the very preconditions necessary for the kind of free and open socio-political debate that disobedients hope to spark. Disobedients can object, therefore, to a law or practice, but ought to submit to punishment as a demonstrating of their respect for the democratic institutions which produced the law.

Submitting to punishment reaffirms the idea that no single person is above the democratic system in deciding what laws ought to exist or ought to be enforced. The act of protest may serve as a catalyst for democratic dialogue, but when a disobedient refuses to submit to punishment they are suggesting that they are above the law and above the democratic system. This would undermine the force of law.

The general outline for this argument has been expressed before: "disobedients do not aim to protest the whole system, or to topple over the existing government: they want to denounce a violation of those principles of justice accepted as fundamental by the whole community. Therefore, while breaking a particular law to protest, they still want to show respect for the legal system as a whole. This is why...protesters must be willing to accept the legal consequences of the law-breaking action." [1] We should not confuse the legitimacy of any particular law with the legitimacy of the entire system.

B. Promoting Social Stability

There is a risk that, were disobedients to avoid punishment, that the legal system could be harmed, resulting in reduced stability and safety for all. Erosion of the rule of law could create chaos or upheaval resulting in greater violence or crime. An over-proliferation of disobedient activity and avoidance of punishment, even were it not to produce anarchy, could undermine the ability of the government to do its job and reduce confidence in the ability of the system to do that job. This may be true for several reasons.

1. Slippery Slope Effect: suppose disobedients are morally justified in eluding the authorities when they violate morally dubious laws. A would-be disobedient sees this, and then feels morally justified in eluding the authorities when he or she violates a moral law because they personally disagree with it. Then others see this and feel that merely disagreeing with a law is a justified basis for violating it in a nonviolent manner and avoiding punishment for doing so. Next come violent violations. A jilted wife might feel morally justified in killing her cheating husband, and believe that because she felt morally justified that it is okay to evade punishment for her actions, esp. if she sees other morally justified individuals escaping their penalties. Submitting to punishment heads off this kind of "well, they did it, so why can't I" logic; it communicates to others that laws have force.

2. Symbolism: as discussed in Section A of this argument, when disobedients fail to submit to laws, they send a symbolic message that individual people are morally justified in putting themselves above democratic institutions. This begins to erode the credibility of the institutions and the laws they promulgate and enforce. Submitting to punishment affirms norms of law and order which are important to social stability and wellbeing.

To quote MLK: "In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law...This would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly, (…) and with a willingness to accept the punishment. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law." [1]

III. Civil Disobedience Itself

Accepting punishment may actually strengthen the disobedient's message. Individuals who are arrested or punished for their activities become--in effect--martyrs. Firstly, their willingness to accept punishment attests to the strength of their convictions, and demonstrates the sincerity of their demands. This sincerity separates them from criminals who try to break the laws for their own personal gain and makes it harder for society to dismiss them as mere criminals. In other words, it bolsters the credibility of the disobedient; he didn't just resist injustice, he sacrificed in his fight against it. Secondly, martyrdom often attracts greater publicity and attention to the disobedient and their cause. Thirdly, trials themselves can serve as platforms to address injustice. Mandela used one of his trials to " showcase 'the ANC's moral opposition to racism'." [2] Fourthly and finally, submitting to punishment helps people stop thinking of the law in the abstract, but to put a face to the injustice, to see how and who it injures as embodied by the disobedient himself. It particularizes the narrative, which can bolster the narrative's sympathetic appeal. Thus, submitting to punishment actually makes the disobedience more effective.

IV. Sources

1 -
2 -

Thus, I affirm. Thanks again to Lupricona and to the readers. Please Vote Pro!



In a functioning democracy, those who commit acts of civil disobedience against morally dubious laws or practices ought to voluntarily accept punishment for their act of disobedience.


As I am taking the con position in this debate, I can see two methods for proving my case: 1) The resolution makes a moral claim. If my opponent cannot present a sound case for objective morality, then I can easily take the stance of moral relativism/nihilism to show that no person “ought” to do anything. 2) I can present a sound objective morality, and in that moral framework, show that it is immoral to voluntarily accept punishment for acts of disobedience against morally dubious laws.

Subjective Morality:

There are multiple moral theories that exist in contemporary intellectual discourse. However, each of these theories are flawed by fallacies. This is known as the grounding problem of ethics.

For example: In utilitarianism, the precept is to cause the greatest number of good for the greatest number of people. Now, this begs the question. What is the greatest good? Happiness/pleasure? What makes happiness the aim? Because it is good? This is circular reasoning.

Another example: Divine command theory is plagued by the Euthyphro dilemma. Is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good? This theory doesn't explain where goodness comes from.

If my opponent cannot present a solid ground for morality, then the alternative position, moral relativism, must be conceded to be true. If my opponent concedes moral relativism, then no person “ought” to do anything, including the resolution.

Objective Morality:

Thomas Aquinas' argument from efficient cause shows that there is a necessary first cause to the universe. (1)

The metaphysical proof shows that there is one continuous creator of all else that is. (2)

This unconditioned reality, the first cause of the universe, is something that exists in itself. Given that it eternally exists, and created all other things to exist, it is necessary that the fundamental principle of reality is existence itself.

So, murder is wrong because it is a negation of existence, which goes against the intended purpose.

Now, creation itself is a multitude of information systems, increasing in complexity. A human has more complexity than a mere bug or animal, so its intended purpose to exist is much stronger and superior. The human is able to contemplate its own purpose, so the destruction of a bug or animal lacks the moral equality of the destruction of a human.

Given that the most basic moral principle is existence, it follows that the principle for human societies to follow is to flourish. A way for a society to achieve this is to limit the amount of violence that occurs.

A simple principle of life is the non-aggression principle. People should not initiate force on others. Causing harm on others goes against existence, so causing force is wrong.

Laws of Society:

In the ideal society, the laws should reflect moral principles. Lawmakers are not creating morality arbitrarily, rather, they are supposed to be the translators of morality. For example- recently, gay marriage is something that was legalized in all of America. The lawmakers were not making the claim that gay marriage was NOW a human right, and past societies were justified in preventing consenting adults to a marriage license, rather, they were stating that gay marriage was always moral and were changing the laws to finally be in accordance with morality.

Now, imagine a law that initiates force on people that aren't committing any wrongdoing. Imagine that people are choosing to smoke a drug, like marijuana, and this doesn't affect anyone else. In America, people who freely choose to make non-violent decisions on their own bodies are violently attacked and locked up. Some people may feel that this is unjust, and may wish to disobey these laws.


It is morally wrong to give an unworthy punishment. An unworthy punishment is essentially violating the non-aggression principle.

A morally righteous person should want to prevent injustice. So, if they do something moral, and they are unjustly threatened to punishment, they ought to prevent that injustice from happening.


Human suffering is an evil, and a morally righteous person would attempt to prevent it.

For example, if a person witnessed a cop beating a victim, they ought not to wait, call for other police to assess the situation to see if its justified, and then hope that the victim survives. Instead, the person ought to prevent the cop from killing a victim, even thought that itself is breaking the law.

If there is a law, like the war on drugs, that initiates force on others, a morally righteous person ought to prevent the aggression as immediately as possible. They ought to help others resist arrest, rather than go through the means of attempting to sway voters to change their minds in the next voting cycle to change the law.

Here is an analogy to show how unrealistic that logic is: Imagine you visit a doctor and they prescribe you medicine. However, everyday you suffer severe side affects. You perceive that you may be allergic to the drug, and wish to stop taking it right away. However, others are telling you that you should continue taking the poisonous concoction, and wait for the “proper channels”; you should keep taking the medicine until you visit the doctor and they allow you to switch medication.


I have presented a basis for objective morality, and in that framework I have shown that people are morally obligated to resist punishment when disobeying unjust laws. If my opponent refutes my objective moral framework, they then have to provide their own moral justifications to show that it is immoral to avoid punishment. If they cannot provide an objective moral framework, then they must concede that moral relativism is all that there is, nullifying any “ought” claim.




Debate Round No. 2


Thanks again to Con. I will now rebut Con's case.

I. Subjective Morality

A. Rules

My opponent is effectively making a kritik. Because the resolution asks what "ought" to be done, it is presupposing the existence of morality for the purposes of this round. Arguments from nihilism, for example, seem to move the question from "what is the moral course of action" to the question of "does morality even exist." The resolution's wording is clearly getting at the former, not the latter. Because kritiks are prohibited by the rules, my opponent's line of argumentation here must be disregarded entirely. The resolution assumes the existence of the kind of morality needed to answer the question it poses.

B. Theory

1. Talking about the Topic

If, before we could ever answer an ought question, we had to demonstrate that objective morality existed, we would be so constantly bogged down in pre-resolutional topics that we would never actually get to the topic itself. My opponent says that I must show objective morality exists to affirm. Well, I could easily argue a prerequisite to negating is that disobedients and laws exist, so he must show that these things are not just all figments of a mind's imagination. Do you see how this becomes ridiculous pretty quickly? This is not a debate on morality's existence. It is a debate on civil disobedience. If we worry too much about the former issue, we seriously shortchange the latter one. We should not be expected to continually beat out all of these pre-resolutional questions, because it undermines the value of the debate as a mechanism to actually engage with the resolution itself and to learn about the topic at hand.

2. Fairness

If I am required to prove objective morality exists and to justify a particular moral theory through which to assess the resolution, I am going to have very little space left to make arguments. Proving and justifying those things is no easy or short task, and I will show that in attempting to do it himself, Con undercovers the issues himself. If I were required to do those things before making my case, I would have no space to make my case. So, clearly, Con's claim that I must do these things to win is unfair and an absurd standard to hold me to.

II. Objective Morality

A. Fairness

Con merely cites the argument from efficient cause and the metaphysical proof. He does not actually make arguments for them in this debate. This is essentially an unfair attempt to dodge the character limitations imposed on these rounds. If these arguments are integral to his framework, then he ought to present them in the round in his own words or as a quote--as 90% of debaters on this site do. He's not just citing a statistic or noting a fact, he's farming out whole chunks of his argumentation to offsite locations (this is what I meant by him "undercovering" the issues). The links themselves do not make arguments, and forcing me to respond to them functions only as an unfair character-suck (i.e. eats up significantly more of my character to rebut than it eats his to cite). Either he lays these arguments out in full, or the judges should ignore these points altogether.

B. Reality

1. Is Intent a Reality?

It does not seem to follow that the existence of a creator entity implies purposiveness. When a volcano erupts, does it intend to create lava? To say yes would imply that the volcano as conative thoughts, which I doubt Con would claim. It is not beyond our power to conceive of god as a force which gives rise to reality without necessarily intending to do so. Theories of god, like those of Spinoza, for instance, view god as being without intentions [1]. For Con to claim that god's intention to create humans explains why murder is wrong, Con must first prove that god has intentions. He does not.

2. Longing for the Simple Life

Con claims that human complexity proves that we were more intended to exist than an ant. This seems to be more an expression of anthropocentric bias than an actual argument. It assumes that god somehow values the beauty of complexity more than the beauty of simplicity. Con has not proven that this is the case, he has only assumed it to be true. Con cannot prove that, because (a) he cannot possibly know god's intend purpose for each creature because he is not god, and (b) sometimes the most unassuming creatures are the most essential. Without earthworms, trees and flowers would not be able to grow.

3. NAP

i. Human Flourishing does not entail the non-aggression principle (NAP).

The most basic idea of NAP is that force (including violence and coercion) can only be used against those who initiate it; those who did not use force are not proper subjects of force. Taxation is in violation of the NAP because it entails the government initiating force against citizens to extract resources. Yet, taxation has been essential to human flourishing over the years. It is responsible for funding our roads, much of our medical and scientific research, our police forces, our justice system, and much more. Laws which require motorcyclists to wear helmets or drivers to wear seatbelts are similarly violations of NAP, but these laws save lives, keep people healthy, and promote human flourishing as a result. You might even be able to say that requiring parents to care for their children violates NAP to the extent that parents just walking away is not an act of force, but the state imposing mandates is. My opponent also talks about preventing suffering. If I see someone drowning in a pool or starving, can I be mandated by the state to help them? If I can, then the state is aggressing against me, but there is also no system in place to effectively prevent suffering. In other words, Con opines on these grand moral goals (e.g. human flourishing, preventing suffering) that he argues should be the central objectives of morality, but his moral system abjectly fails to achieve these goals and may even be counterproductive to them. In other words, his arguments here are rather nonsensical. Shouldn't our moral theories actually promote our moral objectives? And if not, then how does Con justify the dissonance?

Consider also the case of fraud: "fraud is not physical violence. If I tell you that the painting you want to buy is a genuine Renoir, and it's not, I have not physically aggressed against you. But if you buy it, find out it's a fake, and then send the police...over to my house to get your money back, then you are aggressing against me. So not only does a prohibition on fraud not follow from the NAP, it is not even compatible with it, since the use of force to prohibit fraud itself constitutes the initiation of physical violence."[2]

ii. Risks

"The NAP clearly implies that it's wrong for me to shoot you in the head. But...what if I merely run the risk of shooting you by putting one bullet in a six-shot revolver, spinning the cylinder, aiming it at your head, and squeezing the trigger? What if it is not one bullet but five? Of course, almost everything we do imposes some risk of harm on innocent persons. We run this risk when we drive on the highway (what if we suffer a heart attack, or become distracted), or when we fly airplanes over populated areas. Most of us think that some of these risks are justifiable, while others are not, and that the difference between them has something to do with the size and likelihood of the risked harm, the importance of the risky activity, and the availability and cost of less risky activities. But considerations like this carry zero weight in the NAP's absolute prohibition on aggression. That principle seems compatible with only two possible rules: either all risks are permissible (because they are not really aggression until they actually result in a harm), or none are (because they are)." [2] To prohibit all risks would leave us virtually unable to take any action without being immoral, and to allow all risks would clearly endanger human flourishing.

iii. Punishment

Con says that if X does something moral and they are unjustly threatened with punishment, then they ought to prevent that injustice. Here you can just cross-apply my own arguments on the nature of the law itself--there is no guarantee that civil disobedience is always going to be a moral act, even in response to morally dubious laws or practices. My case goes more in-depth on this issue. Additionally, if you don't accept NAP as a moral theory, then Con cannot necessarily show that X is doing something moral because his metric for illustrating that point is gone.

III. Areas of Possible Overlap

Con writes, "It is morally wrong to give an unworthy punishment." The corollary to this claim is that it is not morally wrong to give a worthy punishment. A punishment would seem worthy if it upholding a morally legitimate law. This directly feeds into my case where I talk about the nature of actions as well as how "people should be punished for immoral actions" and how "people ought to follow moral laws." Given that Con advances NAP as a moral law and claims that people should follow NAP, Con also seems to agree with these claims in principle.

Also, even though I don't wade into the quagmire of objective morality in my case, I agree that promoting human flourishing is a moral objective. Given that both Con and I can agree on this point, we now have a mutually recognized mechanism for weighing moral issues in the round. Human flourishing is about individual self-actualization; basic conditions of wellbeing are essential preconditions to having a meaningful opportunity and ability to self-actualize. People who are starving, who are living in a war zone, or who are suffering from illnesses face substantial hurdles to self-actualization.

IV. Sources

1 -
2 -

Thus, I affirm. Thanks again to Con and to the readers. Please Vote Pro!


A Brief Note:

My opponent, bsh1, seems to be highly intelligent and wonderfully methodological. His arguments are very well written and structured. I apologize for not being able to match that level of sophistication, and I hope to improve my arguments and structure so that I can offer a formidable.

Also, I want to apologize for making a couple of errors:


Pro claims I effectively used a kritic with my moral argument. I don't quite think that's the case, so I want to address this now. So, while the resolution does make an “ought” claim, I don't see how this makes the assumption of objective morality. There are methods of morality that can use an ought claim that isn't objective, like cultural relativity or pragmatics. However, this is my opponent's debate, and if he claims to have assumed objective morality in the first round, I do not want to go against that.

The issue still remains, though, that my opponent does need to present his objective moral system, so that we can measure his claim. Imagine we were debating “We ought to obey God.” Because there are so many different religions with contrary positions on how to obey God, the pro arguments would need to supply which mode of understanding God is correct. Or, imagine we wanted to know what day of the week it is- we would need to refer to some objective calendar system, and depending on the calendar system, the day of the week would be different. I hope this explains why this isn't a kritic, and why my opponent needs to present an objective moral standard.

Secondly, I want to apologize for linking out arguments for the existence of God without arguing for them within text. The arguments are both the original and current representation of Aquinas' causal argument for God. Even though this argument is well known, my opponent is right, I should present it in my text

The argument for the existence of God:

There is an efficient cause for everything; nothing can be the efficient cause of itself.
It is not possible to regress infinity in efficient causes.
To take away the cause is to take away the effect.
If there be no first cause then there will be no others.
I exist as a contingent being, therefore, a first cause exists.

This first cause is necessarily eternal, which is why I put forth that the most basic principle is existence itself, which is what morality is based off of.

I apologize for not having added this in the previous round, and I will address the rebuttal to this in the next round.

Okay, with those clarifications finished, I'll move on to Pro's opening case:

Means of Justification:

I agree with my opponent that the two possible forms of justification rest with either the intent of the agent, or the nature of the law they broke justifies non-acceptance of punishment.

Moral Intent:

I agree with my opponent that someone believing something does not make it so, but believing the earth is flat is not the same as intending to do good yet causing harm in the process. My opponent stated that moral intentions should not absolve punishment, but gave no arguments to prove this. There are some moral theories that rely only on the intention of the agent. The consequences might not be what matters in the moral realm.

My opponent argued that moral intention isn't enough to absolve punishment, because that would mean Hitler shouldn't have been punished. This isn't an argument- it commits the fallacy of begging the question. Why should Hitler have been punished? Also, by the logic of your next argument, you state that there is always a possibility that a morally dubious action is morally righteous. Your own argument concludes that it is possible Hitler was moral. And remember, Hitler was elected, and his actions were entirely legal.

There is no justification here; my opponent argues only in circles.

The Nature of the Action:

The crux of the argument seems to be that any dubious moral principle has the possibility of being true, no matter how slightly, so we ought to commit to that principle on the off chance that it is true. If we follow this system to its logical conclusions, then this leads to moral decay. Any action in the world has the possibility, however small, that it is moral. Humans perceive killing people to be wrong, but there is a chance, ever so slightly, that it could be morally correct.

Humans do not have perfect knowledge. We all disagree on correct moral actions- some may see a law as morally dubious, and others may not see it as dubious at all.

By this logic, the opposite is true as well. There's always a possibility that the action itself is wrong, so we ought not to do it because of that chance. But, this leads to us never making any action, for the possibility that it is wrong. Therefore, this argument is logically contradictory and impossible to follow.

What matters is whether the action itself is objectively right or wrong. So, if there is a morally dubious law, that is actually objectively immoral, then the person has the moral right to oppose that law.

This argument is logically contradictory; there is no justification.

Respect for Democratic Institutions and Promoting Social Stability

The argument here seems to be simply summarized as: If people start resisting punishment, this could result in a deconstruction of the rule of law and a stable society.

This argument is irrelevant to the resolution. Let me give an analogy to help explain why: Imagine you are in a situation with your friends, and you know if you tell all of them the truth about something, it could dissolve the entire group. However, just because the moral thing to do- telling the truth- could lead to results that are unsatisfactory, it does not make it act of telling the truth in that situation immoral.

So, even if people are justified in to resisting punishment, and that leads to issues in society, it does not make the act of resisting punishment immoral.

Now, to make this argument relevant, my opponent could argue that while it may not prove the objective morality, it could prove it pragmatically, in that we should focus on the results.

So, as a counter for the pragmatic argument, resisting punishment might even lead to satisfactory results. If more people resist morally dubious laws, it could lead to a more minimal state that increases the rights of the citizens. According to some moral theories, a minimal state is the result we should strive for.

This argument fails in both relevancy to moral objectiveiy and in practicality.

Civil Disobedience Itself

Again, this argument is irrelevant in regards to objective morality, but my opponent could argue that pragmatically, if a dissident wants their voice to be heard, they are more likely to achieve this by accepting punishment.

I concede this point to an extent. It does seem that the dissidents who do so peacefully and in the terms of the government do create an environment where others are more likely to want to create change for their platform. So, if a revolutionary wants to use this method, it may be practical for them. However, this does not prove that they OUGHT to use this method, it only implies that it is an option.

Given that this argument doesn't prove that revolutionaries OUGHT to submit to punishment, my opponent is effectively left with zero arguments for his position.

I look forward to new responses; good luck!
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks, Con. I will now respond to Con's R3.

I. Framework

All of Con's points have become immaterial, insofar as we both agree than promoting human flourishing can be used as a means of weighing the arguments in this round. I noted that we could use human flourishing as a prism to assess the round earlier in this debate (see round 3). In other words, I concede partially to Con's framework and intend to show how I win within that framework. This is a commonplace debating strategy both IRL and on DDO. I agree that (a) there is an objective morality and (b) attaining human flourishing is a/the central aim of said morality. I do not agree that NAP is an effective means of achieving or furthering human flourishing as defined.

And, as a brief aside, how does accepting punishment for disobedience truly violate NAP, when the disobedients are voluntarily submitting to the punishment? It does not seem that affirming the topic necessarily incurs any harms under a NAP framework. Even so, I think there are plenty of reasons to reject NAP as the framework for this round.

Also, even if you don't buy that my Kritik argument excludes things like cultural relativism, it does seem to reject nihilism insofar as nihilism would shift the debate from "ought we to do X" to "does morality even exist." The resolution is asking the former, not the latter, so there is some built-in assumption that we've moved past the latter. On reflection, I was hoping for a debate that wouldn't get bogged down in all this moral theory and could--at the very least--have debaters who accepted that Hitler and the holocaust were obviously immoral. Clearly, a different debate has emerged.

II. Means of Justification

My opponent concedes that a disobedient has two areas to derive their justification for avoiding action.

A. Moral Intent

I presented two arguments on this topic. I will address each in turn:

1. Flat Earth

I pointed out that: "belief and reality are not the same thing. Moral intent cannot, in and of itself, render immoral actions moral. People who engage in immoral activity ought to be punished for that activity (more on this later)." My opponent and I agree that morality is objective and that human flourishing is a central aim thereof. Moral intent cannot change whether an action does or does not further or comport with human flourishing, so it cannot absolve individuals guilty of acting contrary to human flourishing. This defeats Con's "well, maybe Hitler shouldn't have been punished" retort. No one in their right mind would argue that the holocaust served the interests of human flourishing. So, even if Hitler meant well, by the standard of human flourishing, Hitler acted immorally.

Moreover, at the point Con said: "I agree with my opponent that someone believing something does not make it so," Con basically conceded the point. If intending well doesn't change the nature of the action, and if immoral actions should be punished (we established this at the end of R3), then immoral but well-intended acts ought to still be punished.

Finally, I offered an argument as to why intent and the moral nature of the action are different. Belief (like the flat earth theory) is not the same as fact. If Con wants to undermine that connection, he needs to do more than just say that "some moral theories rely on intent." Con would need to actually make an argument that belief and fact are one in the same, morally-speaking. He was made no such argument.

2. Ballooning Effects

This argument really wasn't addressed directly, but what it shows is that allowing people who intend well to escape punishment for their actions would justify letting people like Hitler go free. Clearly, this is against the interests of a peaceful, violence-free society and against the interests of human flourishing. So, a human flourishing standard is incompatible with intent-based punishment avoidance.

B. The Nature of Action

Firstly, we are not taking about any law just "possibly" being immoral. A law is morally dubious if "a reasonable person, operating within established cultural conventions (i.e. not fringe), could question" it as moral. Laws against sadistically torturing infants, for example, are laws in which no reasonable person, operating within the establish cultural conventions of a functioning democracy, could question. Sure, it is "possible" that such statutes are moral, but that does not mean that they are morally dubious per the definition in the resolution. The definition was clearly constructed in such a way as to suggest that a "morally dubious" law was one which was debatable within the mainstream of society (not the fringe). So, only a small subset of our legal system can be classified as "morally dubious" for the purposes of this debate. Therefore, this does not imply that humans could never act, because action would only be restricted in a select number of cases.

Secondly, Con simply does not respond to other elements of my argument. Obviously, people ought to follow morally desirable or morally obligatory laws. This is tautological and self-evident. Morally permissible laws ought to be followed to promote human flourishing and to prevent social decay (as I outlined in Law, Order, and Democracy). If disobedients ought to avoid punishment for violating morally dubious laws, then they also ought to avoid punishment for violating some moral laws. Con cannot just affirm for those who violate "objectively immoral" dubious laws; Con's position conveys a blanket right on all disobedients to avoid punishment for all morally dubious laws, including laws that might be objectively moral ones. Is it Con's position that people who violate objectively moral laws should go free?

Given that only a small number of laws are implicated by the phrase "morally dubious" and given that a significant portion of those laws may actually be moral, it seems obvious that we ought to err on the side of abiding by the laws, particularly when the risk of not doing so is a social breakdown that would be detrimental to human flourishing. The balancing act here clearly favors the Pro side.

III. Law, Order, and Democracy

All Con's comments about the consequences of actions not impacting the morality of actions strike me as rather absurd, at least insofar as he seems to contradict himself. In R2, Con wrote: "Given that the most basic moral principle is existence...the principle for human societies to follow is to flourish. A way for a society to achieve this is to limit the amount of violence that occurs." Clearly, this comment is all about consequences and outcomes. When the consequence of an action is limiting violence, such an action is good because it protects the outcomes of flourishing and existence. It is wrong to kill people because of the consequence of killing, i.e. terminating someone's existence. Con cannot simultaneously argue that consequences don't matter and that consequences do matter.

Next, Con suggests, "If more people resist morally dubious laws, it could lead to a more minimal state." There are several responses to this point. Firstly, there is literally no argument here. Con is saying, " miiiiggghhhttt happen," with absolutely no evidence or logical argumentation to warrant the assumption. Secondly, history has shown us that after years of protests and resistance in functional democracies that none are minimal states. The weight of historic analysis is against Con. Thirdly, a minimal state is not conducive to human flourishing and to protecting human existence--I elucidated this point in my previous round. Therefore, it is not a "satisfactory" result. Fourthly, Con dropped my observation from last round that "disobedients do not aim to protest the whole system, or to topple over the existing government." Disobedience would likely not lead to a minimalist state, because that is not its aim. Con is talking about something far more revolutionary than is pertinent to this debate. Finally, Con mistakenly believes that disobedience is always going to be oriented against more government authority. That is not necessarily the case--environmentalists who illegally squat on federal land to protest the lack of federal regulations protecting the environment want more, not less, government interference.

Moreover, when we analyze this question through the prism of protecting human flourishing--even through the prism of saving lives--we can understand why it is important to prevent the erosion of law and order. Con does absolutely nothing to rebut any of my arguments in this section besides saying that "consequences don't matter" and making a rather feeble point about the minimal state.

IV. Civil Disobedience Itself

Con concedes that accepting punishment may help the disobedient's cause. In Con's R2, he talks about the benefits of civil disobedience, particularly under his "suffering" section. Obviously, Con believes civil disobedience is an important tool in redressing moral wrongs. If Con didn't believe that civil disobedience had moral utility (esp. in terms of promoting flourishing), he would not be negating. By making disobedience more effective, I can not only co-opt Con's advantages in terms of objecting to immoral laws, while still securing the moral benefits outlined in my case. It is a win-win to vote Pro.

V. Conclusion

Con and I have agreed on a framework: human flourishing. Human flourishing entails basic conditions of wellbeing which are essential preconditions to having a meaningful capacity to self-actualize. Using moral intent as grounds to negate is incompatible with this standard. And, given the risks to social stability, it is not worth evading punishments which may, in many cases, be deserved. Plus, I can link better than Con can to the moral benefits Con sees in civil disobedience. This is a clear Pro ballot.

Thus, I affirm. Thanks again to Con and to the readers. Please Vote Pro!


Thanks, Pro, for your recent rebutalls.

Now, for my rebuttals of round 3:

Objective Morality

Is Intent a Reality?

Pro's argument here is that, even if I did prove that a God existed, it does not prove that this God has a mind, or that this God made intentions towards our created universe.

However, this can be easily proven false. Not only is there a causal argument for the necessary existence of some kind of being that is eternal, but there is a causal argument that this being has intentions.

Intentions can have two outcomes- accidental and intentional. For example. I can intend to grab a cup off the table, and if that action is completed, it was an intended action. However, I can also intend to grab a cup, but I may accidentally bump it off the table. In both scenarios, the events necessarily lead back to some intention.

Now, and accidental outcome can never lead to an intentional outcome. So, if the universe came into existence without intention, in order to have a consistent construction of reality, my opponent must then concede that he himself has no intentions- he is merely an accidental collocation of atoms, and this debate itself is entirely meaningless.

However, if we accept that people can intend outcomes, we must trace that causal chain of intentions back to the original intention- the act of creation from the first mover.

So yes, intent is necessarily a reality, unless my opponent states that it isn't, and then must concede that this entire debate is meaningless. Since I do contend that I have intentions, I would win by default.

Longing for the Simple Life.

Pro states that I argued that because a human is more complex than an ant, then we were intended to exist more than an ant.

This is not what I argued. I stated that because humans have the capacity to recognize that they exist, because humans have self-awareness, this shows that humans have more value than do ants. This is not to say that ants, or any creature of existence, don't have value.

The Non-Aggression Principle

Pro argues that taxation shows why the NAP isn't a good principle. He states that, because taxation has provided benefits, that consequence is superior to the force imposed on citizens by the state. You could apply this same logic and say that it is okay to steal from the rich, as long as you use the money for good means. You can't commit an evil for good outcomes- morality isn't a balance scale.

A superior method of societal funding would be through voluntary means, where everyone in society freely chose to put money together to make roads, public education, etc.

My opponent makes arguments, like the seatbelt law, to show that its okay to force people to help themselves. Will this method result in fewer people dying? Yes, probably. Does that make it morally righteous? No, as I already explained throught the stealing of the rich analog. Also, by this same logic, if I put a gun to your head, and force you to give money to charity, then the ends justify the means. However, initiating force on someone IS wrong, because people have a high degree of value and they have certain rights that it is immoral to cross.

My opponent stated that if someone is drowning in a pool, the state ought to force those people to save the person. No. Sure, there are things that people ought to do, like tell the truth, help others, be polite, etc. but we can't force people to do those things. Nor should we punish people who fail to do things. Punishment is only justifiable when one person initiates violence on another. The NAP may even apply to personal property, where if you steal from me, that violates my existence and may cause me the pain of starvation, so punishment may also be justifiable.

Pro asks how I explain the dissonance, between my moral theory desiring that people ought to do good, and how that I argued against the state mandating force among people who don't do good. But he's setting up a construct that I didn't make. Yes, human flourishing is good, but it has to be achieved through good means. It has to be done in a way that doesn't require violence to do so, which is what my opponent advocates.

Pro thinks he's easily defeated the NAP by stating that, in the case of fraud, it is necessary to punish the one who committed fraud on another. This is incorrect. Fraud is indeed not causing force, and respectively, it would be wrong to punish those who commit fraud. So, even thought it's immoral behavior on the part of the fraud, it's not violent immoral behavior that deserves punishment. The manipulated person made a voluntary exchange for the painting.

My opponent is arguing for something inherently contrary to the flourishing of society. He argues that the NAP is not a good principle; that it is morally permissible to initiate violence on innocent people. Once you allow the conclusion that violence is permissible, so long as you can justify the consequence, anything becomes moral. This is the second time my opponent has made an argument where the logical conclusion is inconsistent and contradictory.


Again, my opponent attempts to argue against the NAP, and continues to make arguments that don't defeat it.

Yes, there are risks that people take. This doesn't destroy the NAP. If I choose to drive, I recognize that there is a possibility that an accident can happen. Its possible I could cause harm to someone. However, I am not intending to cause harm. Also, if some accident were to occur, and given that I made the choice to drive knowing the possible consequences, then I must also accept punishment for those consequences. If I harm someone, even accidentally, I owe them recompense. Now, the retribution will be different given the intent of the person. If I murder someone, or if while hunting I accidentally kill a fellow hunter, the just punishment for each instance will be different.

But this is my entire point- punishment is only justifiable IF and only IF the NAP is violated. If you want to fly a plane, it is morally permissible to do so, as long as you recognize you have the duty to submit to punishment for acts of intentional or accidental force.

If you are peacefully protesting a law that transgresses the NAP, then it would be immoral to be punished, because the government would be initiating unjustified force on peaceful dissenters.

Areas of Possible Overlap

Pro and I seem to both agree with two corollary statements:

It is morally wrong to give an unworthy punishment, and it is not morally wrong to give a worthy punishment. I have argued that the only justification for punishment is if and only if the non-initiation of force is applied. Pro advocates that it is morally permissible to enact force on anyone, so long as a consequence can be justified.

Objective Morality

I have stated my objective moral theory. Pro has continually evaded doing so. However, looking at all of his arguments, he seems to base his morals on the consequentialist theory. Given that Pro only has one round left to provide his measuring tool for how he justifies consequentialism. I beg him to do so, for the sake of the validity of his arguments. Now, this theory is plagued with the fallacy of circular reasoning, so I am curious to see how he justifies the position.

Now, for the last time, I want to stress the severity of morality in this debate. My opponent is making a moral claim. Depending on which moral theory he prescribes to, the defense of that moral claim will be different. Under Kant's categorical imperative, you cannot use people as means to and end. So, if my opponent argues that it is moral to force people to wear a seatbelt, this is morally incorrect, according to Kantism. Under Divine Command Theory, morality is what God says it is. If God commands against forcing people to make decisions, then his consequentialist arguments would also be incorrect.

If my opponent continues to abstain from putting forth a moral theory to show how me measures the validity of his claim, then all of his arguments are necessarily invalid.

Debate Round No. 4


Thanks, Lupricona, for the debate, and to the readers and voters!

I. Drops

In order to avoid making new arguments, Lupricona may not talk about any points he dropped or make arguments he never previously made. A dropped point is one he failed to respond to when he had the chance to do so earlier.

II. Framework

Con's points re: Objective Morality or The Simple Life have simply become irrelevant because we have already agreed that (a) there is an objective morality and (b) attaining human flourishing (HUFL) is a/the central aim of said morality. Con drops a & b and drops that protecting and promoting HUFL is a standard by which we can weigh the arguments in this debate and the morality of accepting punishment.

Con drops the definition of HUFL: "[h]uman flourishing is about individual self-actualization; basic conditions of wellbeing are essential preconditions to having a meaningful opportunity and ability to self-actualize. People who are starving, who are living in a war zone, or who are suffering from illnesses face substantial hurdles to self-actualization."

Given that Con's own theory makes HUFL central, it's hard to see how he could've possibly objected to this standard; regardless, it is now too late for him to raise objections to it. Moreover, I have already conceded to the view of objective morality which places HUFL at its core, agreeing with Con's claim that "[g]iven that the most basic moral principle is existence, it follows that the principle for human societies to follow is to flourish." I do not need to offer my own theory of objective morality when I agree with my opponent's theory up until this point.

The question now becomes: how best to achieve HUFL? Whoever best achieves HUFL will thus best link into morality. Con says that NAP is the best way to achieve HUFL. I disagree, and point to an ends-based model which seeks to produce concrete outcomes which cohere with HUFL as I defined it. Since HUFL is our moral objective, all I need to do to justify my model is to show that it best achieves that objective as it was defined; I have already shown this with my examples (e.g. taxation, parenting). Moreover, Con's theory has consequentialist (CONSEQ) undertones which undermines his R4 deontological talk.


A. Consequentialist Undertones

Con wrote: "Given that the most basic moral principle is existence...the principle for human to flourish. A achieve this is to limit the amount of violence that occurs." The key word here is "limit." This word implies that we are looking to avoid producing certain outcomes, in this case, violence. He treats NAP as a means to limit violence. This is a kind of CONSEQ reasoning.

Even using the term "human flourishing" implies consequence-oriented morality, because HUFL as defined is an end-state that will have to be achieved through actions designed to produce that end-state. Finally, Con says, "Human suffering is an evil, and a morally righteous person would attempt to prevent it...the person ought to prevent the cop from killing a victim." This is entirely consequence-oriented; Con wants to prevent the consequence of suffering.

Con seems to abnegate consequentilaist logic, yet appears to make both CONSEQ and deontological claims. He can't backtrack from his own words. Also, if Con can use CONSEQ reasoning, he cannot to object to me using it.

B. NAP is Inconsistent with HUFL

Stealing and taxation are not analogous, because one (not the other) comes from an authority checked by legal restraints and democratic processes. A society without taxation would prove catastrophic--how could the state run food programs for the starving, secure the borders against violent groups, or fund healthcare initiatives to aid the sick without tax money? There is no good reason to suspect that voluntary donations would be sufficient for the government to do all or even some of these things. It's not hard to imagine people--selfish as we can be--not coughing up money for those programs without some coercive force. In this same vein, Con drops that "requiring parents to care for their children violates NAP." Con also admits that we cannot punish people for committing fraud. How can I flourish if I have no money to feed myself because I was defrauded of all that I owned?

These examples illustrate that in order to achieve HUFL and existence, force is sometimes necessary. That which is necessary to achieve a moral aim cannot itself be immoral in all situations, as the necessity of it serves as its own justification. Con says it's immoral to negate existence, but suggests it is okay to allow people to starve to death or to neglect infants until they pass away. Force is necessary to prevent this suffering. Non-initiation of force would fundamentally harm HUFL and existence in certain situations, and therefore force cannot always be immoral.

C. Risk

1. We Can Never Act

We ought not to act immorally. This is tautological; furthermore, Con repeatedly advances this position throughout the debate. He argues that initiation of force is immoral, so we ought not initiate force. If every action we do has the possibility of initiating force against someone else, then we ought never to take any action.

When a hunter accidentally harms his friend, mistaking his friend for game (Dick Cheney *cough*), he has acted immorally under NAP because NAP's prohibition is a blanket one against any initiation of force. Con concedes as much when he notes that the hunter ought to be punished for initiating force. As Con writes, "People should not initiate force on others. Causing harm on others goes against existence, so causing force is wrong." Thus, we ought never to take any action, because every action is potentially immoral. Every action could initiate force against something else, and that is something we should not do. They only way to avoid acting immorally then, is to never act.

It does not seem that merely being prepared to accept punishment for a violation of NAP makes an action that risks violating NAP morally permissible to do. If we ought never to act immorally, then we ought never to put ourselves in a position where we would be punished, because the fact that we need to be punished indicates that we have acted immorally. So merely being willing to accept a penalty for doing something immoral does not mean that we should or are permitted to do that immoral thing. Since all actions are potentially immoral, and we never want to act immorally, we should never act under NAP.

2. We can Always + Double-Bind

Actions only carry the "risk" of harm. No action in and of itself is guaranteed to initiate force. If the trigger jams as I try to fire a loaded gun, I haven't initiated force, I have only attempted (and failed) to do so. Thus, Con is in a double-bind. If he wants us to be able to act, he must acknowledge that all actions are permissible. If he rejects that position, than no actions are permissible. As my card noted, "either all risks are permissible (because they are not really aggression until they actually result in a harm), or none are (because they are)." Con drops my card's argument that violence/aggression/force requires physical harm to occur (mere intent to harm is not considered violence, therefore).

3. Sidenote

Con says that punishment is only justifiable if and only if NAP is violated. Consider my card's earlier example about the revolver. Suppose there are two people who each have a 6-bullet revolver filled with only one bullet. Both take aim at a target and and pull the trigger. For the first one, the chamber is empty and so nothing happens. For the second one, the chamber is full and the target dies. Con can only punish the second one, yet it seems obvious that what the second one did was not any worse than what the first one did, since both people had an equal chance of killing the target. This has several impacts:

    • 1. Con is punishing people based on random chance (not a moral basis for punishment)
    • 2. If Con is okay with only punishing the second one, he seems to lend further credence to CONSEQ logic
    • 3. If second one was willing to submit to punishment if they hit the target, does that mean that the second one acted in a morally permissible way? If not, then Con's plane example is bunk.

IV. Voting Issues

1. Flourishing

    • As I said in R4, "promoting human flourishing" is the standard Con dropped the definition of HUFL, which (a) implies looking at consequences and (b) is best promoted & protected by looking at the ends (this was shown through examples, e.g. fraud, parenting). This interpretation promotes HUFL better than NAP. If morality requires us to protect human flourishing and/or existence, we must examine the consequences of our actions and we must occasionally use force.

2. NAP

    • Three things: (a) NAP fails because of the double-bind--either all actions are wrong or all are right--and Con's reply about "submitting to punishment" fails; (b) NAP fails because it obviously fails to protect and promote HUFL and/or existence; and (c) accepting punishment voluntarily does not violate NAP.

3. Intent

    • Given that Con would punish the hunter who accidentally shoots his friend, Con acknowledges that intent alone is not grounds to avoid punishment. Plus, if you buy the HUFL standard, we cannot excuse well-meant actions which harm HUFL.

4. Nature and Law & Order

    • Disobedients will sometimes violate moral laws. Violating any laws undermines stability. If the penalty is justified, then not accepting is wrong and it hurts society--that is doubly bad. Even if the penalty weren't justified, it would still undermine HUFL. So, it's not worth avoiding potentially justified punishment when doing so harms HUFL and existence.

5. Disobedience

    • By making disobedience more effective, I access Con's benefits while also securing my own.

Ultimately, Con gives us no reason to negate. I however, give several reasons to affirm. Please VOTE PRO! Thank you!


Thanks, Pro, for your conclusion round.

Here are my rebuttals to Round 4:


Pro entirely misunderstands morality. He argues that he wants to use 'human flourishing' as his measurement to morality. 'Human flourishing' is not the measurement, it is the value we need to have some measurement for. Depending on the objective moral system you use, human flourishing will look completely differently. My opponent continually ignored his need to set forth his moral standard, and demonstrated his ignorance towards objective moral systems. If my opponent wants to make moral claims about reality, he needs to understand what the different moral systems are (i.e. utilitarianism, consequentialism, divine command theory, virtue ethics, etc.) and he needs to understand that there exists different political theories for society (equality by means of redistribution, justice by means of voluntary actions, etc.). All of his arguments are inherently invalid as he assumes his position that disobedience is wrong by arguing in circularity that disobedience is wrong.

Moral Intent

Pro argued, “No one in their right mind would argue that the holocaust served the interests in human flourishing.” This statement is the prime example of my opponent's inability to argue outside of circles and continual appeal to arguments from emotion. He isn't able to demonstrate why Hitler was wrong, instead he can only state that he beliefs it is obviously wrong, and states that people who agree with his beliefs should also find it wrong.

There are moral theories that put intent as the measuring tool. If this is correct, and Hitler intended to do well for human flourishing, then he didn't do anything wrong, according to this moral paradigm. My opponent never put forth his own moral paradigm and he never demonstrated how virtue theory is unsound. If my opponent is unable to argue how Hitler was immoral, how can his argument stand that people ought to be punished for breaking ambiguous laws?

Again, Pro demonstrates his ignorance towards moral frameworks. Belief and fact are two different things. However, under some moral frameworks, as long as someone is intending to do something moral, then that intention is all that matters. Outcomes are irrelevant. Me and my opponent may both agree that this objective moral theory is unsound, but my opponent did nothing to disprove this theory, other than stating it's wrong because he can't see how it could be right.

My opponent also argued that allowing Hitler to go free clearly goes against the interests of a peaceful society. Again, he merely is arguing from emotions and circular reasoning. It actually isn't clear that Hitler shouldn't have gone free. What if Hitler was correct that the Jews were a disdain to his society, and removing them would have allowed his society to flourish more efficiently. As I argued in my round 4, I suspected that my opponent was a consequentialist. So, if Hitler exterminating the Jews would have led to his society flourishing better, than my opponent's own moral model proves that Hitler was moral.

The Nature of Action

Pro stated, “A law is morally dubious if “a reasonable person, operating within established cultural conventions (i.e. not fringe), could question” it as moral.”

Every society is built up by reasonable people who come to different moral conclusions. Given the wide spectrum of moral theories, yes, any law that is passed can justifiably be understood as morally dubious. Even with torturing infants- some societies practice child sacrifice. They have beliefs of gods that protect their land, they sacrifice children and the gods provide them with good harvest seasons. Their beliefs are as valid as my opponent's consequentialist beliefs in that anything is justifiable as long as the consequences are good. So, given the logic by my opponent, any morally dubious law has the ability to be right or wrong.

My opponent argued it is obvious (again, using circular reasoning), that we ought to err on the side of abiding by laws, particularly when the risk of not doing so is a social breakdown (and argument that my opponent never demonstrated to be the case, and something I refuted in the last round). However, it is not obvious that we ought to err on the side of doing the law. Committing an evil act is worse than neglecting to do the right thing. A person is punished more severely for intentional murder than they are for negligent homicide. Or, for another example, imagine that there is an item of food on the table. It has an equal possibility of being healthy for you, or having poison in it that could kill you. Even though they have equal possibilities, it is better to err on the side of caution, and neglect to eat the food, in order to survive.

So, yes, according to the logic of my opponent, completely derived to rational conclusions, then all laws are potentially moral and immoral, and we ought to err on the side of neglect.

My opponent's logic demonstrates that his resolution is false.

Law, Order, and Democracy

Pro again has misconstrued my arguments. I never stated that we ought not to look at the consequences of an action to understand the morality of it. When looking at morality, it is important to look at everything- the intention of the agent, the categorical imperatives, and the consequences that could occur. The issue with consequentialism is that it ONLY cares about the consequences, and anything can be justifiable so long as you get the result you want.

My opponent stated, “Con is saying, ' miigggghhtttt happen,' with absolutely no evidence or logical argumentation to warrant the assumption.”

Aside from the sarcastic and improper rhetoric, I did provide logical argumentation to warrant the assumption. Some political theories put forth liberty as its primary principle. If people start protesting morally dubious laws, it would limit the amount of laws, thus leading towards a more minimal state. My argument was not stating that this would definitely happen, merely that it is possible it could happen. The same is true from my opponent- they argued that if people disobeyed dubious laws it would lead to the breakdown of society. This claim is equally as possible. My opponent didn't present any hard claims showing that this was necessarily the case, so I did the same- I showed an option that was equally as possible.

He claims that history has shown us that protests in democracies do not lead to minimal states. This claim is very debatable. Protests can lead to less restrictive government policies- just look at womens' rights, gay rights, and the lgtb communities.

My opponent also argued that a minimal state is not conducive to human flourishing, again, by means of circular reasoning.

He also argued that, because people that protest morally dubious laws aren't doing so for the sake of restricting government, means that it won't lead to that conclusion. This is obviously false. I might intend to do something for one reason, and that action could lead to outcomes that I didn't intend.

Again, Pro misrepresents me and falsely quotes me with me saying, “consequences don't matter”. I didn't say this and I don't push that belief forward. I do say that only consequences don't matter, because everything has to be taken into account- consequences, intentions, and categorical imperatives.

Civil Disobedience Itself

Right, I conceded that accepting punishment may provide some benefits. However, we must remember the resolution- that people ought to accept punishment. This concession is not that people ought to accept punishment, but that they may if they choose to, meaning they have the equal moral right to reject punishment. This concession does nothing to help my opponent's case- as I stated before, this case is entirely irrelevant.


Pro and I did not agree on a framework. Human flourishing is not a framework- it is the thing we are actually debating. Pro never provided a moral framework, making all of his claims inherently invalid. Even without that, the claims that he did make were entirely self contradictory, circular, and emotional.

I provided a moral framework for my position, and off of that I derived the principle of non-aggression. My arguments were valid and sound, showing that if people disobey a morally dubious law that does violate the NAP, they have the moral right to resist punishment.

Vote for Con if you value logical consistency.

Debate Round No. 5
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by fire_wings 1 year ago
This is so sad....
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
But, I don't want to litigate it much further. I think it was a close debate, and I appreciated the discussion.
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
Human flourishing as a standard was proposed in R3 (see the bit under overlap), not R4. Thus, your R5 argument was new.
Posted by Lupricona 1 year ago
In my final round, I only rebutted your arguments made in round 4 and made a conclusion. I don't see how I violated the rules. I didn't accept human flourishing as a standard, because you need a moral standard to evaluate human flourishing. I apologize if you feel that i waited too long to make points, but I feel that each round I rebutted the arguments you made accordingly.

Thanks for the debate
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
Sorry, that sounds really impolite in retrospect. It was a good debate. Thank you.
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
I think you made the claim that I had no moral theory, but the distinct claim that HUFL was not a valid standard was not made until R5.
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
Lupricona, this was a new argument, which is prohibited under the rules: "He argues that he wants to use 'human flourishing' as his measurement to morality." You could've addressed it at any point after R3, yet you did not until R5.
Posted by Lupricona 1 year ago
@bsh1, Thanks!

Also, I meant to say, "a formidable opponent" in my recent post
Posted by bsh1 1 year ago
@Lupricona, Yes, if you want.
Posted by Lupricona 1 year ago
Bsh1, may I respond to the issues morality kritic and the existence of God proofs that you raised in this round?
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