The Instigator
Brik
Pro (for)
Winning
15 Points
The Contender
iq_two
Con (against)
Losing
13 Points

In the United States, true intent ought to have a higher weight in court than ends.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Vote Here
Pro Tied Con
Who did you agree with before the debate?
Who did you agree with after the debate?
Who had better conduct?
Who had better spelling and grammar?
Who made more convincing arguments?
Who used the most reliable sources?
Reasons for your voting decision
1,000 Characters Remaining
The voting period for this debate does not end.
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/31/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,307 times Debate No: 3465
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (8)

 

Brik

Pro

Opera singer Andrea Bocelli once quipped, "All that counts in life is intention."

Because I believe this statement holds true in the United States courtroom, I espouse Bocelli's quote and the PRO side of this resolution, which states:

RESOLVED: In the United States, true intent ought to have a higher weight in court than ends.

Before I begin, I offer the following DEFINITIONS to clarify the round:

TRUE: real; genuine; authentic
INTENT: purpose; design; intention
OUGHT: (used to express duty or obligation)
WEIGHT: importance
COURT: a place where justice is administered
ENDS: a result; an outcome

(all defined from http://www.Dictionary.com...)

Move with me now to the RESOLUTION ANALYSIS, an explanation and evaluation of the topic:

1. The resolution pertains to a United States court; thus we must view this round through a judicial perspective. A United States Court is concerned with determining whether someone is innocent or guilty and whether or to what extent they deserve punishment. The question of the resolution, therefore, is whether the judgment of the court should depend more on the intent (motive) of the action than the ends (effects) of the action. As the PRO, I will attempt to convince you, the judge, that the motive is more important than the ends in making this judgment.

2. The PRO is not bound to argue that, in an imperfect world, court decisions can practically be determined by true intent. Rather, the PRO is obligated to prove that, assuming the courts were equally able to base decision on ends or intent, using the intent would deliver more justice.

With these standards for debate set, we can now move on to CONTENTIONS, the meat and potatoes of the case. My position will be split up into three points:

I: The morality of an action is based on the intent of the actor.

Various philosophers have based their systems of moral evaluation on different conditions. Bentham and Mills considered only the ends, independent of means or intent; Kant considered the action, independent of intent or ends. However, the surest way to determine whether an action is morally right or wrong is to observe at the intent - the desired outcome - of the actor. An action may lead to good or bad "ends," but this can occur independent of the rightness or wrongness of the action.

II: The ends and the intent of an action often contradict.

When an action is successful, the actor's intent is the same as the action's ends. However, often actions have unintended consequences. The best way to understand this is through examples:

a. A surgeon is presented with a patient in critical condition. The only way to save the patient's life is a heart transplant, which, due to the complexity of the procedure and the condition of the patient, would be a risky operation. There is not enough time to summon an expert surgeon, so the surgeon attempts the transplant and fails to save the patient's life. The surgeon's action was morally right, despite the undesirable ends of it.

b. A burglar breaks through the window of a house in order to steal the goods inside. Unbeknownst to him, the shattering of glass is heard by a murderer in the next room, who runs out the door without committing his crime. In this case, even if the burglar gets cold feet and leaves without stealing anything, he or she may have achieved desirable ends, but his or her action of breaking and entering is morally wrong because of his or her intent to steal.

In both of these situations, the ends are opposite of the intent. Yet no rational human being would condemn the surgeon and commend the burglar. However, if the court were basing its decision chiefly on the ends, they would do precisely that.

III: United States courts ought to judge based on true intent rather than ends.

A crime is committed by acting on criminal intent. Yet oftentimes the varying ends that crimes create lead to varying punishments. But consider for a moment the legitimacy of this variation: What makes an attempted murder less severe than a successful murder? The latter generally receives a more severe punishment, yet only one difference separates the two scenarios: their ends.

To determine the degree or length of punishment based on the success or failure of the criminal action creates a double standard and does not sufficiently punish the true crime or the true criminal. The only just way to punish a criminal is to do so based on that criminal's true intent, and not the ends they bring about. All that counts in life (and law) is intention. It is because of this that I urge a PRO ballot.
iq_two

Con

First of all, I disagree with you about what you have to prove. You said that, "The PRO is not bound to argue that, in an imperfect world, court decisions can practically be determined by true intent. Rather, the PRO is obligated to prove that, assuming the courts were equally able to base decision on ends or intent, using the intent would deliver more justice."
But your claim is that in the United States, true intent ought to have a higher weight in court than ends. Since your debate applies to the United States, not some hypothetical perfect world where judges can read minds, you do have to show that courts can determine true intent. Because if intent cannot be determined, it is impossible to attain justice based on a person's intent.
As for my argument, I will not prove that intent should have no weight in a courtroom, just not as much weight as the ends.
The morality of an action is based on the intent of the actor.
What determines the morality of an act can be debated either way. Everyone has different moral beliefs. But the purpose of courts is not to enforce moral beliefs, but to enforce the law.
The way our criminal justice system is currently set up, the laws are based on the ends, but intent is also factored in, and this is the way it should be. For example, the crime of murder is "Every person who unlawfully kills a human being with malice aforethought," malice being express when "there is manifested an intention to unlawfully kill a human being" or implied when "the killing resulted from an intentional act, the natural consequences of the act are dangerous to human life, and the act was performed with knowledge of the danger to, and with conscious disregard for, human life." (This is the statute for California, but the law here is fairly similar in all the states.
As you can see, for an unlawful homicide to be murder, the killer must have had intent. However, the intent goes only to the weight of the charges, not whether charges are brought at all. "Every person who unlawfully kills a human being, without malice aforethought and without an intent to kill, is guilty of the crime of involuntary manslaughter." And while the differences between involuntary manslaughter and murder can be a lifetime in prison, the initial requirement is the ends, not the intention. If nobody is killed, it isn't murder or manslaughter, regardless of the intent. Even to be charged with attempted murder, you must have actually done an act to try to kill someone, not merely formed the intent.
This is how the law currently is, I am aware that this debate is on how it should be. If the law were changed to give more weight to intent than to the ends, who intends to kill someone, even if they do nothing to act on that intent, would be punished just as severely as someone who actually commits murder. Why should we punish someone who does nothing the same as someone who actually ends a life? Intent does not kill. You have to act on your intent to commit a crime.
And intent can easily change. Take your example of the robber who breaks into a house to steal, scares away a murderer, and leaves without taking anything. His intent before he broke into the house was to steal, but at some point it changes. At which point do you prosecute his intent? Or say someone intends to kill someone. This would-be murderer buys a gun and goes to find their would-be victim- and then, seeing that person, realizes the consequences of shooting that person and decides not to. This person had the intent to kill, and even acted on it by buying a gun. But by not going through with the act, a murder did not occur and no one was hurt. But by your logic, since this person had intended to kill, they will be prosecuted for murder.
And we can never completely know someone's true intent. Judges and juries can guess by the persons actions, but it's just that- a guess. We can't read minds, and unless we can, we can't punish people for what we think they intended.
Debate Round No. 1
Brik

Pro

I will tackle my opponent's argument in chunks for clarity. I will give the beginning and ending statements of each chunk in capital letters and in quotation marks before my responses. Please reference my opponent's Round 1 speech in order to understand all argumentation.

"FIRST OF ALL, I DISAGREE WITH YOU...JUST NOT AS MUCH WEIGHT AS THE ENDS."

1. The judges are not required to read minds or administer justice in a perfect world to determine true intent. Witness statements, evidence, and even testimony from the accused often bring this true intent to light. Also, in cases of accidental or mentally-unsound actions it is very simple to distinguish what is true intent.

2. Even if this hypothetical world were required to learn true intent (which the PRO does not advocate is true), this would not make using the ends right or conducive to justice. Indeed, if we convicted bad-ending situations and acquitted good- or neutral-ending situations based chiefly on the ends, we would garner more injustice than justice.

3. The most fair way to consider the round is to give each side the equal chance to prove their position – if the resolution were "Unicorns are better than regular horses," the debate ought not center around the existence of unicorns, but rather which one is superior. And again, true intent is no unicorn – it is obtainable and understandable in many circumstances.

"THE MORALITY OF AN ACTION IS BASED ON THE INTENT...BUT THE LAW HERE IS FARILY SIMILAR IN ALL THE STATES."

4. Please pull through the examples of the surgeon and the burglar, which were not attacked. These clearly demonstrate the fact that ends are often inconsistent with morality, whereas intent is always consistent with morality. Because laws are based on moral codes, to base a law on the immoral act of prioritizing the ends would achieve justice.

5. You say that both ends and intent are factored into the present system. I agree with this to an extent, but the intent is still the more important of the two. Which of the following ought to be (and is) more severely punished: a nurse who injects a mislabeled drug into a patient, thus killing her, or a vengeful ex-husband who injects a dangerous drug with intent to kill? If charges were brought against the nurse she would be quickly acquitted, but the ex-husband would likely face life imprisonment – even if he failed in his task.

6. Suppose the ex-husband did fail: if the ends were more important than the intent, the nurse (who actually caused the patient to die) would be more severely punished than the ex-husband (who did not cause the patient to die). But because the true intent carries more weight than the means, the nurse would receive lesser (if any) punishment.

7. I also take issue with the statement that "the laws are based on the ends." It is not illegal for a person to die (ends). But it is illegal for someone to attempt to bring about those ends (intent). And regardless of whether the ends happen as a result, the crime has been committed by the intending and acting on the intention.

"AS YOU CAN SEE, FOR AN UNLAWFUL HOMICIDE...REGARDLESS OF THE INTENT."

8. Your statements about how "the intent goes only to the weight of the charges" and about "the initial requirement is the ends" only prove the PRO side. What happens in a United States courtroom is chiefly the determination of the weight of the charges. If we view the round judiciously (as my resolution analysis stated, and which was not attacked), the debate is about the weight and not the naming of the charges – which is not the prerogative of the judge(s). Yes, the ends are often the first thing pounced upon by the authorities, but anyone who has been to a concert where a local garage band opened for the main event will tell you that what comes first isn't always what is most important.

"EVEN TO BE CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED MURDER...NOT MERELY FORMED THE INTENT."

9. Again, I agree that ends are often the first indication of a crime taking place. I also agree that having the intent to commit a crime is not the same as committing a crime. But viewing a round judicially assumes that the criminal has already succeeded in or attempted his or her crime – otherwise they would not be in a court of law. The question of the resolution is that, during that trial, what has a higher priority – true intent or ends. And it is indeed true intent that makes-or-breaks a prosecution's case.

10. Acting on one's intent is part-and-parcel with that intent. It is NOT the ends. The ends are what happens after the action – someone dies or not. Yes, you must have actually done an act to try and kill someone, but this is considered proof of that intent, and because there is no life-or-death result given with it, it cannot be the ends.

"THIS IS HOW THE LAW CURRENTLY IS...YOU HAVE TO ACT ON YOUR INTENT TO COMMITT A CRIME."

11. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT IN THE ROUND. I do not advocate the elimination of all ends from courtroom consideration. What I do advocate is that the intent ought to carry more weight. We can see this by looking at the example of the nurse and the ex-husband provided above. This example shows exactly why true intent is more important. If ends were more important, the nurse would be jailed and the ex-husband would go free. But because intent is more important, the ex-husband is punished and the nurse is acquitted. Until the CON can prove that the nurse is more blameworthy than the ex-husband, the true intent must carry more weight.

"AND INTENT CAN EASILY CHANGE...THEY WILL BE PROSECUTED FOR MURDER."

12. Nowhere in my previous arguments do I advocate prosecuting intent only.

13. Neither of these examples proves the CON side. The robber ought to be prosecuted for breaking and entering, because he acted on this intent. The ends he created were beneficial, but these same ends pale in comparison to the weight of the intent. The robber would be convicted of breaking-and-entering because acting on the intent, regardless of what ends it produces, merits punishment.

Also, the would-be-murderer has not performed any illegal action – he bought a gun. But had he attempted to fire at the person (this is in the domain of the intent, not the ends), he would be jailed – whereas an accidental fatal shooting would not lead to the same result. This goes along with the nurse/ex-husband example, and further proves the folly of raising the ends above the intent.

"AND WE CAN NEVER COMPLETELY KNOW...WE CAN'T PUNISH PEOPE FOR WHAT THEY THINK THEY INTENDED."

Refer to argument #1 and #2, about how telepathy is not required to determine true intent, and that if it were this would still not prove that using the ends would lead to justice.
iq_two

Con

"1. The judges are not required to read minds or administer justice in a perfect world to determine true intent. Witness statements, evidence, and even testimony from the accused often bring this true intent to light. Also, in cases of accidental or mentally-unsound actions it is very simple to distinguish what is true intent."
Sometimes intent can be determined, but sometimes it can't be. And if we were to set up the system to be based on intent, you would have to have a certain way to know intent- which we can't.

"2. Even if this hypothetical world were required to learn true intent (which the PRO does not advocate is true), this would not make using the ends right or conducive to justice. Indeed, if we convicted bad-ending situations and acquitted good- or neutral-ending situations based chiefly on the ends, we would garner more injustice than justice."
I am not saying the intent should be given no weight, just that the ends should be given greater, or even equal weight.

"3. The most fair way to consider the round is to give each side the equal chance to prove their position – if the resolution were "Unicorns are better than regular horses," the debate ought not center around the existence of unicorns, but rather which one is superior. And again, true intent is no unicorn – it is obtainable and understandable in many circumstances."
The problem with this is that the topic is "In the United States, true intent ought to have a higher weight in court than ends." This debate does not apply to some hypothetical world, but to the United States. If the topis was, "We should ride unicorns rather than horses in the United States," the best counterargument WOULD be that unicorns don't exist.

"5. You say that both ends and intent are factored into the present system. I agree with this to an extent, but the intent is still the more important of the two. Which of the following ought to be (and is) more severely punished: a nurse who injects a mislabeled drug into a patient, thus killing her, or a vengeful ex-husband who injects a dangerous drug with intent to kill? If charges were brought against the nurse she would be quickly acquitted, but the ex-husband would likely face life imprisonment – even if he failed in his task."
Hypothetically, I completely agree. But in real life, the siyuation might not be so simple. In such situations, it's likely that all that is known is that the nurse lethally injectedx the patient, and so did the husband. We don't know the intents- even if they tell us something, they could be lying. The nurse could have purposely injected the patient, and the ex-husband could have been committing a mercy killing to put his wife out of her misery. You can make up all the hypothetical situations you want, but in real life, we cannot base decisions on peoples intents because we can't know what their true intentions are.

"And regardless of whether the ends happen as a result, the crime has been committed by the intending and acting on the intention."

The key part of that statement is "acting on the intention." Actions are ends, not intent.

" But viewing a round judicially assumes that the criminal has already succeeded in or attempted his or her crime – otherwise they would not be in a court of law. The question of the resolution is that, during that trial, what has a higher priority – true intent or ends. And it is indeed true intent that makes-or-breaks a prosecution's case."

This proves my point. If the ends were not met, the criminal would not be in a court of law. Intent is just the icing on the cake.

If we gave intent a higher weight than ends, most of trials would be trying to prove the defendant's intent- and since we can't read minds and can't actually know what their intent is- yes, we can make inferences or believe what the person says, but we can't actually KNOW, it will be impossible to achieve justice.
Debate Round No. 2
Brik

Pro

1. First of all, please note that the CON has conceded that true intent can be determined. At this point, all argumentation about true intent being impossible to discover is moot.

Secondly, the U.S. judicial system is already based on intent (insanity pleas, manslaughter vs. murder), so this is entirely possible.

Thirdly, even if a court case occured where the intent could not be determined, this does not mean that the principle of weighing intent heavier than ends is bad.

2. I apologize for the confusion. When I said "chiefly" I meant "with the most weight." And indeed, if ends had more or even as much weight as true intent, the same unjust rulings would occur.

3. This argument no longer matters when both the PRO and the CON have agreed that true intent can be determined in a U.S. court of law.

5. Again, the CON has admitted that true intent can be determined. And this does not refute the fact that a judicial system based more (or equally) on ends than means would invert justice or vacillate between justice and injustice, respectively. True intent must have higher weight.

7. The actions are not the ends, because they are not the end result. When murder is committed, the dead person is the end result. The act of murder is merely the manifestation of the intent, and is founded on only the intent. Also refer to #10 of my previous speech for further analysis.

9. True intent is by no means the "icing on the cake." Again, look to the "opening band" analogy: the ends are the first thing that alerts the authorities to the crime, but this DOES NOT mean they have a higher weight in the court than true intent. Also, pull through the points in #8, which show that ends are determined at the scene of the crime, and not the courtroom, so in reality ends have weight only outside the court, and not in it.

And, again, the PRO has given examples of when true intent can and has been determined, and the CON has agreed that it can be determined. Therefore, the last "reading minds" point does not hold any water.

Please pull through the attack on examples in #13, as well as the unattacked examples provided by the PRO which demonstrate how relying more on ends than true intent leads to injustice.

Now let's go to the VOTING ISSUES. These are three reasons why, when the hurly-burly's done, when the battle's lost and won, you as a judge are going to vote PRO:

1. BOTH SIDES AGREE THAT TRUE INTENT CAN BE DETERMINED.

Do not buy into the siren song that is "true intent is impossible to determine." At the point where the PRO can give examples of when true intent can be (and has been) determined, and the CON concedes these examples and even admits that true intent can be found, there ought to be no question over the real-world possibility of an intent-based legal system.

2. TRUE INTENT AND ENDS OFTEN CONTRADICT

The nurse/ex-husband example has proven how valuing true intent over ends leads to a different verdict than valuing ends over true intent. With ends mattering more, the ex-husband would be punished less. With true intent mattering more, the nurse would be punished less. These two disparities in punishment cannot both be just, so one system must be right and the other wrong.

3. TRUE INTENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ENDS.

A mentally unsound man who kills someone is considered less guilty than a mentally sound man who fails to kill. Why? Because true intent matters more. They both may be brought TO the court because of the ends, but as soon as the court starts its jurisdiction, their goal is (and ought to be) to determine the TRUE INTENT and assign a verdict based on that determination. You can look all the way back to the surgeon/burglar example in the first speech to determine this. The surgeon killed someone. The burglar saved one or more lives. Yet no judge or jury in this country would rationally condemn the physician and commend the purloiner. No, they would do the exact opposite, because they rightly place more weight on true intent than ends.

And with that, I urge a PRO ballot.
iq_two

Con

I do not agree that true intent can be determined. There are some cases in which the facts are such that intent can be inferred. Such inferences may be likely to be correct. But we can't KNOW. And since we cannot read minds, all other arguments are moot. Therefore, inent should be given equal or lesser weight than ends.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Brik 8 years ago
Brik
That's how I feel too. Sometimes you get lucky and draw the side of the topic that you personally believe - but I think it's twice as fun when you're debating the other side!
Posted by iq_two 8 years ago
iq_two
Now that this debate is over, I can say that I actually feel that intent should have a higher weight than the ends. :-)
Posted by draxxt 8 years ago
draxxt
I was just debating this the other day when a teacher said I was throwing a tantrum when I just misjudged the weight of the door. I told her perception should not rule over intent.
Though Neg makes some excellent points, he fails to realise that the topic is "Intent ought to have higher weight in court than ends. Therefore I vote Aff.
Posted by Evan_MacIan 8 years ago
Evan_MacIan
One of you needs to post in the Facebook group so I can give my decision.
Posted by josh_42 8 years ago
josh_42
its very well an interesting debate. good topic too
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by josh_42 8 years ago
josh_42
Brikiq_twoTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07 
Vote Placed by iq_two 8 years ago
iq_two
Brikiq_twoTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by meganlg43 8 years ago
meganlg43
Brikiq_twoTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by jazzyfizzle 8 years ago
jazzyfizzle
Brikiq_twoTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by draxxt 8 years ago
draxxt
Brikiq_twoTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by liberalconservative 8 years ago
liberalconservative
Brikiq_twoTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by ETKANG 8 years ago
ETKANG
Brikiq_twoTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by Evan_MacIan 8 years ago
Evan_MacIan
Brikiq_twoTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30