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

Civil disobedience is Justifiable.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/21/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 428 times Debate No: 81270
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (2)




I am for this.
First round is acceptance.


I accept and await your affirmative opening case.

**Also, you might want to check your "Choose a Topic!" debate, I've responded there and have provided at topic about which I'd be interested in debating.**
Debate Round No. 1


I don't have enough time ><
I'm just going to say that civil disobedience can be used to prove a point.
For example, the civil rights movement.
Without that, segregation would still be in act.
With that, you should appreciate the value of civil disobedience.


** After I've responded, you have 72 hours to make an argument. You don't have to post within the first day. That'd give you more time for arguments **

Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Civil disobedience is a response to supposed injustice, but the reality is turned. The actual injustice is the civil disobedience itself, as it is a direct threat to justice. Because the injustice which causes civil disobedience is often simply perceived as such, and because there are better alternatives, I negate the resolution which states: Civil disobedience is justifiable.

My value throughout this debate will be justice, which is defined as "the quality of being just, impartial, or fair" as per Merriam-Webster Dictionary. [1] Justice is conceivably the most important value because it is the height of what governments should strive to attain. Because civil disobedience facilitates violence, or simply unjust acts, justice should be the utmost value.

The criterion by which this debate should be judged is utilitarianism, which is an "ethical philosophy where happiness of most people is thought to be the greater good," according to Black's Law Dictionary. [2] The greatest benefit to the greatest number of people is achieved by keeping citizens in line with rule and protecting them from potentially violent disobedience. In this case, the potential harm caused by civil disobedience undermines utilitarianism.


Contention I: Justifying civil disobedience fosters a lack of respect for the law
This premise is quite clear. If civil disobedience becomes permitted, to what extent will that ideology go? Boundaries being torn down only increases the possibility of further infractions of the law, and breeds disrespect and disregard for other law. Morris I. Leibman notes, "Specific disobedience breeds disrespect and promotes general disobedience. Our grievances must be settled in the courts and not in the streets. Muscle is no substitute for morality. Civil disobedience is negative, where we require affirmative processes. We must insist that men use their minds and not their biceps. But, while the emphasis must be on the three R's of reason, responsibility, and respect, we cannot accept selfrighteousness, complacency, and noninvolvement... We have an affirmative and daily duty to eliminate discrimination and provide opportunity-full opportunity and meaningful equal justice for all our people." [3]

Futher disrespect of the law easily surpasses any preconceived boundaries of even civil disobedience. There's no reigns placed on the wild horse that is civil disobedience, and no way to contain it after it is released. Society cannot allow citizens to break the law, which is effectively what civil disobedience grants. Leibman asserts "No society whether free or tyrannical can give its citizens the "right" to break the law. There can be no law to which obedience is optional, no command to which the state attaches an "if you please." [4] It would not uphold the practice of justice to allow infractions of the law to go unpunished, and would not be fair or utilitarian to allow the minority to uprise and disobey the law in any regard.

Contention II: Violence is an inevitable consequence of civil disobedience
A society trying to protect it's citizens, preserve justice and utilitarianism, and ultimately do what's best for its citizens would not allow civil disobedience becuase it leaves the option open for physical, mental, and emotional violence. Gerald Coleman, professor and theologist, explains "mass civil disobedience leads to violence." [5] Violence is never good and is widely conceived as an obstruction of justice. If violence continues to happen, it prohibits justice from taking its full work. Leibman again quotes, "The plain fact of human nature is that the organized disobedience of masses stirs up the primitive…Psychologically and psychiatrically it is very clear that no man-no matter how well intentioned -can keep group passions in control…Let's not forget there is nothing new in violence. Violence has throughout mankind's history been too often a way of life… It was the installation of American juridical proceedings that enabled our people to weld together the disparate territories destined to become an organic nation." [7] Civil disobedience fosters violence, which is unacceptable, unjust, and certainly not utilitarian.

Moreover, when violence contributes to the point of death, as it has in previous accounts [6] (among others), is not utilitarian. If people are continually being harmed, the justification of civil disobedience isn't appropriate or utilitarian. Without civil disobedience, less violence and revolt leads to a more pleased populace, being more utilitarian but also preserving justice.

Contention III: Alternatives to civil disobedience are more effective and moral
Under the First Amendment of the United States, there is allowance for disagreement and dispute over laws, government policies, or government rule itself. This is a much better, effective, and moral way to protest perceived injustices. Susan Tiefenbrun reiterates this concept by quoting, "The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to dissent, to protest, to assemble peaceably, to criticize a law or government, and to oppose a law. The more difficult question is how one may permissibly dissent if a person's first legal and moral imperative is to obey the law. Using means of opposition and dissent that are permissible under the U.S. system of law will not subject a dissenter to punishment by the state. The right to dissent may be exercised by the use of written and spoken words, by acts or conduct such as picketing, "peaceable" mass assembly, sit-ins and demonstrations, which are referred to as "symbolic speech." The basic means of permissible protest under the U.S. system is the right to vote, "the right to organize and to elect new officials to enact and administer the law." [8]

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does much to sum up my position: "Civil disobedience is an outdated, overanalysed notion that little reflects current forms of political activism, which tend toward more extreme modes of engagement." [9] Justice is noble, and by allowing individuals, or groups of people, to commit severe infractions of the law and violence is to neglect justice and the pursuit thereof. As it is the optimal value in the debate, it's remarkably important to consider how much justifying civil obedience violates justice. Moreover, utilitarianism is a rule-of-thumb by which to measure justice. When pleasing the majority of the people, justice is revealed as a side-effect. Utilitarianism is harmed by controversy and violence, both of which are supplied abundantly by the justification of civil disobedience. It is imperative to judge the debate based on how the value and criterion are harmed, but also the contention-based arguments I've established which demonstrate the flaws and detrimental consequences of civil disobedience.

Because justice is supremely important and utilitarianism keeps peace, but is harmed by civil disobedience, vote CON!

[8] Tiefenbrun, Susan. Southwestern University Law Review, 2003. pg. 144-145

Debate Round No. 2


SongHaGin forfeited this round.


Extend Arguments
Debate Round No. 3


Forfeit, sorry.


Unfortunate as it may be, I accept the concession. Vote CON.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by GoOrDin 1 year ago
I am CON.
civil disobedience is a term which does not apply to an oppressive government from my perspective.
Posted by ColeTrain 1 year ago
Fantastic! :)
Posted by SongHaGin 1 year ago
I checked it ^^ Just answer back.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by logical-master123 12 months ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: First of all Pro forfeited his second and third round which makes Con get a conduct point. Second of all Con had better arguments. Pro had little time so just made one sentence of work. I think I will hand this debate to Con.
Vote Placed by tajshar2k 1 year ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: FF