The Instigator
bsh1
Pro (for)
Winning
11 Points
The Contender
Romanii
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Individuals Ought to Help Those in Need

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
bsh1
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/6/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,455 times Debate No: 54180
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (91)
Votes (4)

 

bsh1

Pro

Preface

I have wanted to debate Romanii for some time. As an up-and-coming member, he often undersells his own skills. I think this will be a great debate, and I look forward to a deserving challenge for this, my 70th debate on DDO.

Topic

Individuals ought to Help those in Need

Definitions and Terms

Individuals - specific persons. For example, I am an individual, but the group is not. Corporations and non-human entities shall not be accorded personhood for the sake of this debate.
Ought - this indicates moral desirability. For example, if I say, "I ought to go help Grandma with the luggage," I am making a claim as to what is morally desirable, i.e. that helping grandma is the right thing to do.
Need - a need is something required to achieve some goal

BOP

BOP is shared. Pro must show the help ought to be rendered, Con must show help ought not to be rendered.

Rules

No forfeits
All citations must be provided in the text of the debate
No new arguments in the final round
Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a 7-point loss

Structure

R1: Acceptance
R2: Constructive Cases
R3: Rebuttals
R4: Rebuttals
R5: Rebuttals and Summary

Thanks...

...in advance to Romanii for accepting :)
Romanii

Con

I accept.

Thanks to bsh1 for challenging me to this debate!

Good luck to both of us :D
Debate Round No. 1
bsh1

Pro

Thanks again to Romanii! Due to some time constraints on his part, I have agreed to post my opening arguments within a few hours of him accepting the debate. I will attempt to offer several, independently functioning reasons to affirm today's resolution. Here we go!

First off, let's define "Moral" as: "of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior." [1]

CONTENTION ONE: The Duty to Rescue

"The issue [of the need to rescue] is whether such a duty places too great a burden on personal freedom or presents insurmountable administrative difficulties...There are, however, flaws in this argument. First, the distinction between acts of commission and those of omission is often meaningless. To use a grim example, most would agree that a mother who intentionally starves her healthy child should not be dealt with...any differently than the mother who intentionally poisons her child. Surely, no one would argue that the first mother is less morally culpable simply because starvation is an act of omission." [2] In both of the examples, a person is knowingly permitting someone else to die"the result is the same, regardless of the method. Therefore, culpability remains the same in either case.

So, let's explore this idea a bit more:

P1: There is no substantive difference between Commission and Omission
P1: Immoral Acts of Commission should be Prevented
P3: Immoral Acts of Omission should be Prevented

Assuming the above to be true, we can make the argument that individuals ought to help those in need. If a robbery (an act of commission) ought to be stopped, then surely not calling 911 when you see a robbery occurring (an act of omission) is wrong. If we agree that it is the right thing to do to stop a robbery, which I am sure even Con can consent to, then we agree that the converse, not stopping a robbery, would be the wrong thing to do.

Ultimately then, when people are in need of rescue, passersby ought to intervene.

CONTENTION TWO: Levinasian Ethics

Sub-point A: Human relation is essential to ethics

"Levinas's descriptions show that "in the beginning was the human relation." The primacy of relation explains why it is that human beings are interested in the questions of ethics at all"To situate first philosophy in the face-to-face encounter is to choose to begin philosophy"with" the prime condition for human communication." [3] "Sympathy [is] the glue that affectively binds others to oneself and, by implication, binds a community of ethical individuals together...Hume asserts that "the minds of men are mirrors to one another, not only because they reflect each other"s emotions, but also because those rays of passions, sentiments and opinions may be often reverberated and decay away by insensible degree."" [4]

Simply put, human interaction, and the feeling of sympathy, are the basis of morality in society. That were human solitary and never to interact, a moral code would be unnecessary, and thus never evolve. By the same token, were humans unable to feel sympathy, then even with interaction, humanity would not operate by moral values. Consider a society without sympathy but with all other human emotions--it rivals Hobbes's State of Nature in terms of the suffering present. Look at more advanced animal societies for more clues as to this. Apes and elephants, for example, exhibit sympathy and therefore cooperate on a moral, rather than simply instinctual or coldly rational basis. A sociopath, a person without empathy or sympathy, is what life would be like sans this emotion: an amoral society.

Sub-point B: Human Relation as it impacts the Consciousness

"For Levinas, an "I" lives out its embodied existence according to modalities. It consumes the fruits of the world. It enjoys and suffers from the natural elements. It constructs shelters and dwellings. It carries on the social and economic transactions of its daily life. Yet, no event is as affectively disruptive for a consciousness holding sway in its world than the encounter with another person. In this encounter (even if it later becomes competitive or instrumental), the "I" first experiences itself as called and liable to account for itself. It responds. The "I"'s response is as if to a nebulous command. Nothing says that the other gave a de facto command. The command or summons is part of the intrinsic relationality. With the response comes the beginning of language as dialogue. The origin of language, for Levinas, is always response"a responding-to-another, that is, to her summons. Dialogue arises ultimately through that response. Herein lie the roots of intersubjectivity as lived immediacy...Suffice it to say that first philosophy is responsibility that unfolds into dialogical sociality." [3]

Sub-point C: Human relation provides a moral impulse to redress injustice

This "intersubjective experience, as it comes to light, proves "ethical" in the simple sense that an "I" discovers its own particularity when it is singled out by the gaze of the other. This gaze is interrogative and imperative. It says "do not kill me." It also implores the "I", who eludes it only with difficulty, although this request may have actually no discursive content. This command and supplication occurs because human faces impact us as affective moments or, what Levinas calls "interruptions". The face of the other is firstly expressiveness. It could be compared to a force." As Levinas himself states, "The infinity that is available in the face is the source of the ethical power of the Other in making an unconditional demand on the individual to be regarded and treated ethically as under an obligation without limitation or qualification. Receptivity to the Other occurs in the embodiment of the Other"s transcendence in the face. The face plays a central role in announcing the Other. The Other, in turn, commands responsibility. The obligation and ethical demands that the Other imposes on the individual are apparent to merest inspection in the face of another human being." [3]

CONTENTION THREE: Utilitarianism

"If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it. By "without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance" I mean without causing anything else comparably bad to happen, or doing something that is wrong in itself, or failing to promote some moral good, comparable in significance to the bad thing that we can prevent." [5]

We can uphold this standard using typical utilitarian logic.

1. Pleasure is a moral criterion. Consider, pain is almost always a bad thing. We are not just hardwired to avoid pain, but to seek out happiness. We therefore act in such a way as to maximize happiness and minimize pain. Similarly, in society, the collective seeks to maximize its happiness. In other words, members of society seek to create rules that create aggregate happiness. A government that creates aggregate pain, such as Suharto's regime in Indonesia or Pol Pot's in Cambodia, is seen as immoral and illegitimate. These norms quickly evolve into standards of right conduct, i.e. morals. Therefore, we as individuals and as members of society, operate under moral systems designed to bring about general utility. As a result, refusing to render assistance when their is no cost to you is maximizing unhappiness and disutility, and is immoral. To be clear, let's restate:

2. If Pleasure is a moral criterion, then maximizing pleasure, as a group, is the moral thing to do. Conversely, maximizing pain is the immoral thing to do.

3. Helping people at no cost to you maximizes pleasure, and is therefore morally desirable.

Syllogistic Clarification:

P1. Maximizing Pleasure is Morally Desirable
P2: Helping people at no cost to oneself maximizes pleasure
P3: Helping people at no cost to oneself is morally desirable

SOURCES

1 - http://www.merriam-webster.com...
2 - Silver, Jay, 1981, [Vanderbilt University], excerpted from work done in pursuit of his J.D.
3 - http://plato.stanford.edu...
4 - http://www.iep.utm.edu...
5 - http://www.utilitarianism.net...

I apologize for the brevity of my remarks and for any formatting errors. I need to get this done very quickly, as per my arrangement with Romanii.

I look forward to a great debate!
Romanii

Con

Thanks to bsh1 (who shall be referred to as "Pro" from here on out), for putting up his opening arguments so quickly!
I apologize for not being able to do the same.

Note: I am sort of playing Devil's Advocate on this, so my arguments here don't necessarily represent my personal views.

Like Pro, I will be presenting several contentions functioning independently of each other in order to negate the resolution, so any contradictions between contentions do not affect the validity of my argument as a whole.

C1) Moral Nihilism

Moral nihilism is the idea that morality does not truly exist; that no action can truly be called "moral" or "immoral" [1].
It is based on the perspective that there is nothing special about humans in relation to the rest of the inanimate universe, so causing a human to feel pleasure or pain ultimately means nothing.

From the nihilistic perspective, human beings are simply inanimate arrangements of atoms, differing from everything else in the universe only in complexity. "Consciousness" is merely an illusion created by electrochemical reactions between the cells in the brain; pain and pleasure are nothing more than certain parts of the brain undergoing those electrochemical reactions upon being stimulated by external conditions [2]. Thus, causing pain or pleasure is simply causing an electrochemical reaction; there is no real significance in doing so.

For the most part, morality, especially Utilitarian morality, is based on the amounts of pain and/or pleasure caused by actions, so if pain and pleasure are simply meaningless electrochemical reactions, then morality as whole is meaningless as well; it is an artificial construct with no basis in reality.
If morality doesn't exist in reality, then obviously the moral obligation to assist those in need cannot exist either.
The resolution is negated from the viewpoint of Moral Nihilism.

C2) Ethical Egoism

Ethical egoism is the concept that self-interest should be the most important factor in any moral decision, since ultimately, a human can only feel his/her own pain/pleasure and not anyone else's [3]. Following that logic, the most moral choice is the one which is best for the self (i.e. creating the greatest personal benefit at the least personal expense).

Depending on the situation, helping someone in need may or may not result in greater benefit than cost. However, the resolution Pro is supporting is "individuals ought to help those in need", which implies that there is always a moral obligation to assist people in need. Thus, it is only necessary to point out one such situation in which the costs outweigh the benefits in order to negate the resolution, as far as the ethical egoistic interpretation of morality is concerned.

Consider the simple example of running an errand for a friend; the greatest benefit that can realistically result from doing so is gratitude on the part of the friend and perhaps a personal sense of accomplishment, whereas the minimal cost of such an action it is a lot of time and energy that could have easily been spent doing something more productive for the self.

Consider the classic example of taking a bullet for a friend; again, the greatest benefit that can realistically result from doing so is gratitude on the part of the friend and perhaps a personal sense of accomplishment (on a higher level than in the previous example, of course), whereas the minimal cost of such an action is extreme pain for an extended period of time.

The point of these examples is to show that the personal costs of helping someone in need can be greater than the personal benefits of doing so, thus negating the resolution from the view point of Ethical Egoism.

C3) Reduction of Suffering

For the purposes of this contention, I am going to synonomize "helping those in need" with "reducing suffering", since helping someone in need is ultimately an attempt at reducing their suffering.
I will argue that reducing someone's suffering is not always beneficial to them
To affirm that statement, I will utilize Nietzsche's argument that suffering facilitates a person's growth by serving as an obstacle to them, forcing them to grow stronger to overcome it [5].

For example, if a kid is being bullied, it would seem upon first sight that the action which would most benefit the kid would be for an adult to apprehend the bully and put a stop to it. However, the kid does not gain anything from that other than temporary relief from being bullied. Later in life, he will just be bullied again in a different setting, back to where he started, with no knowledge of how to deal with it. However, if the kid were left to his own devices during his initial encounter with bullying, there is a high probability that he would find his own way to overcome it, and later in life he would be equipped with the knowledge and experience necessary to deal with bullying.
Suffering often serves as a means for self-improvement and character-building, so to reduce suffering in those situations is to lose an opportunity for betterment.

In conclusion, reducing suffering can have negative effects. And since "reducing suffering" is synonomous with "helping those in need", it logically follows that helping those in need can sometimes have negative effects. Having negative effects is not morally desirable; thus, helping those in need is sometimes not morally desirable.
The resolution has been negated; there are plenty of situations in which it is not morally desirable to help those in need due to the potentially positive effects of non-lethal suffering.

CONCLUSIONS

I have built three cases negating the resolution, each functioning independently of the other (i.e. contradictions are to be expected):

1) Morality does not exist; thus, there is no moral obligation to help those in need.

2) Using self-interest as a moral standard, there are many situations in which helping out those in need would not be morally desirable.

3) Reducing suffering by assisting those in need is not always beneficial to them.

Any one of these contentions negate the resolution, so my opponent must refute all three of them in order to show that I have not fulfilled my burden of proof.

I hand the debate back over to my opponent.
Good luck, Pro!

SOURCES
[1] http://home.sandiego.edu...
[2] http://www.qcc.cuny.edu...
[3] http://www.effective-mind-control.com...
[4] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[5] http://www.georgewrisley.com...
Debate Round No. 2
bsh1

Pro

I thank Romanii for a great debate thus far! At this time, I will rebut Con's constructive case.

CONTENTION ONE: Moral Nihilism

Con defines moral nihilism as indicating that "morality does not truly exist." He cites this definition as coming from his sandiego.edu source. I was concerned, chiefly, with what Con meant by "truly existing," insofar as there may be social constructs for what is moral without there being an objective or universal morality. I did a Control + F search for the word "nihilism" and was unable to locate that definition in the given source, and so I would like to clarify that ethical or moral nihilism can be defined as "the view that there is no right or wrong. There is no good or bad." [1] Now that a clearer definition has been provided, we can proceed to the rebuttals.

R1: Con's argument is non-topical.

The resolution, as defined in round one, assumes that morality exists, and asks the debaters to discuss, under that assumption, whether or not it is morally desirable to help those in need. By rejecting the idea that morality exists, Con has stepped outside of the ground the topic provided, and is thus making an argument not topical to the resolution. This is a prima facie reason to reject Con's first contention.

R2: Desires/Values Imply "Should," which rejects nihilism

"One’s having any preferences, desires, or values, implies that one should (or should not) do actions or should
(or should not) have certain attitudes, and also that it is better for that person to do or avoid actions, and so on. But
the nihilist cannot use the words 'should' or 'better' in the context of human life...When one uses the word should, it automatically implies or ascribes a value to the action that should be performed...Why does that matter, unless we refer to the person’s desire to live, and why does living matter, without reference to desires?" [2] In other words, our own personal values give us insight into what is the right thing to do. For example, if it my personal opinion or value that I should not harm others, I am fundamentally making a decision about what is right or wrong of me to do--thus, implying a moral judgment.

R3: Social Constructs as Morality

In round two, I defined "moral" as "relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior." If we acknowledge that societies, through laws, customs, and discourse have made decisions about what members of that society should or should not do and about what is right or wrong, then we must also concede that societies have imposed a sort of morality on their members. As a denizen of the society that is the United States, I know that it is wrong to murder someone. Society has come to this collective judgment, and enforces those rules. In this way, society has crafted principles of right and wrong behavior; i.e. it has created a morality. Thus, morality does exist.

R4: Con's Warrantless Claims

Con posits that "causing pain or pleasure is simply causing an electrochemical reaction; there is no real significance in doing so." There are two issues we can take with this line of reasoning: (1) Con never explains why these electrochemical and neurochemical reactions lack significance, and (2) Con assumes that human's complexity (our only supposed difference from the rest of the world) is not grounds for morality, but again, there is no substantive explanation as to why this is so.

Really, I am just pointing out that there is no warrant to Con's assertions. Frankly, we can make the claim that while pleasure and pain arise from biological processes, that these sensations still give rise to a sense of what we, as people, desire and do not desire. Our desires then evolve into a concept of right and wrong (e.g. utility), and have thus led to the creation of morality.

R5: Objections to Con's Physiological Arguments

"All of our cognitive faculties seem to be the product of natural selection; that is, they deliver the sorts of seemings that they do because those seemings were advantageous for survival. This includes the faculties of sight, hearing, taste, etc., and other faculties such as intellectual and conceptual faculties. But, most of us take THESE faculties to be reliable. When I visually intuit that there is a table in the room, I take this intuition to be an indicator that there IS a table in the room. Likewise, when I mathematically intuit that 2+2=4, I take this intuition to be an indicator that 2+2 DOES equal 4. The mere fact that THESE cognitive faculties are evolutionarily derived does not seem to render them unreliable. Are ethical intuitions somehow different?" [1]

Finally, Con makes some point about how most moral systems are based on Utility. I would argue that this is patently false. We only need to look to Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Rawls, etc. to see that this comment is imprecise.

CONTENTION TWO: Ethical Egoism

R1: Psychological Egoism False

Ethical egoism assumes that people are exclusively self-interested actors, and so morality should reflect this point of view. Therefore, if people are not psychologically egoistic, then they should not be ethically egoistic. If we have moral impulses other than self-interest, then clearly, ethical egoism leaves room for altruistic feeling. This would be an internal contradiction. Simply cross-apply Levinas here; his arguments show that psychological egoism is largely false. We can also look to mirror neurons as well for more evidence of this. "[B]ecause mirror neurons activate when we witness other people's actions and emotions, they may play an important role in feelings of empathy." [3]

R2: Egoism Collapses into Altruism

Let's start with the basic flow of logic for this claim:

P1: The egoist seeks to maximize long-term self-interest
P2: Helping people in need creates a network of allies for the egoist
P3: Helping people is in the egoist's self-interest


Thus, egoism oftentimes requires that one render assistance to those in need. Therefore:

P1: The egoist should help those in need
P2: The egoist's obligation is a moral one
P3: The egoist is morally obligated to help those in need.


Voila! Ethical egoism oftentimes collapses into altruism. Turn Con's entire argument; it affirms rather than negates the resolution.

P3: Egoism falsely assumes self-interest is a cost-benefit game

We may have, for example, a predisposition towards vanity, fame, or vengeance that transcends any benefit to the agent—thus self-interest is not about benefitting oneself, as the egoist will claim, but more about placating our base whims and desires, fostering in us a sense of evil or superiority that could come back to hurt one later and that serve no real purpose. [4]

P4: BOP

Con attempts to pigeonhole me by asserting that I must show that in every conceivable instance there is a moral obligation to help those in need. There are some issues with this:

1. The word "ought" connotes moral desirability, not obligation.
2. The resolution does not say that individuals must "always" help those in need. Because the resolution does not make an "always" claim, I do not have to defend such a claim. Merely, I must show the resolution to be true on balance.

But, even if you do buy Con's interpretation, we can turn this against him. In round one, I stated that the BOP of Con was to show that "help ought not to be rendered." Since this is the direct converse of my BOP, Con must show that there is NEVER an obligation to help those in need. Since I think he would fine this reversal rather inconvenient, I urge him to agree that the BOP for both of us is merely "on balance."

CONTENTION THREE: Reduction of Suffering

R1: False Analogy

Suffering implies being severely in need. If, for example, I am struggling to reach a pot on the highest shelf of the kitchen counter, I am not suffering. I am merely inconvenienced, but I am still in need of help. Consequently, equating "helping those in need" with "reducing suffering" is a false analogy.

R2: False Conclusions

My opponent is assuming that by helping the fat kid you necessarily lead to him being unable to stand up for himself in the future. There are several other likely possibilities. By interceding, you could intimidate the bully, leading to them backing off for good. By intervening you could show the fat kid that he has some intrinsic value worth standing up for; this self-image affirming action may boost his own confidence levels, enabling him to stand up to the next person who bullies him. Con is just drawing false conclusions to bolster his own argument here. He is discounting other possibilities (confirmation bias...sort of.)

R3: Con's argument devolves into Altruism

It's tough love:

P1: Person X is suffering
P2: Letting Person X suffer will develop their character
P3: It helps Person X to let them suffer


Therefore:

P1: Person X suffering is good for Person X
P2: Person Y allows Person X to suffer
P3: Person Y helps Person X


Voila! Person Y is actually helping someone in need. Turn Con's argument on him; it affirms, rather than negates, this topic.

R4: Utility-Focused

Please note that this portion of Con's case is largely a preemptive argument against utility. If you use a non-utilitarian argument to affirm the topic, than this cannot be used to negate that argument.

SOURCES

1 - http://rintintin.colorado.edu...
2 - http://www.mc.maricopa.edu...
3 - http://www.dnalc.org...
4 - http://www.iep.utm.edu...

Thanks once again to Romanii! This is turning out to be a fantastic debate :)
Romanii

Con

Thanks to Pro for his excellent rebuttals!
Now it's my turn...
As agreed in the comments section, this round is only for rebutting the other side's opening arguments; counter-rebuttals will be saved for next round.

Like my opening contentions, my rebuttals function independently of each other.

R1) Duty to Rescue

Pro argues the following:

P1: There is no substantive difference between Commission and Omission
P2: Immoral Acts of Commission should be Prevented
P3: Immoral Acts of Omission should be Prevented

The flaw in this argument is in the first premise.
Pro's only defense of the premise was through example, claiming that a mother poisoning her child (commission) is just as bad as a mother allowing her child to starve (omission). However, that example is a rather unfair one, as our pre-conception is that a mother has a duty to take care of her child, which makes both situations seem equally disturbing and immoral.
Let's look at a different example to more accurately portray the difference between commission (causing suffering) and omission (allowing suffering):

Let's say that Person A goes up to some poor victim and breaks his arm (an act of commission). Soon after, Person B walks by, sees the victim writhing in pain, and keeps walking without stopping to help (an act of omission).

If Person A had never existed, then the victim would be perfectly fine. If Person B had never existed but Person A had, then the victim would still have a broken arm and would be enduring terrible suffering. It is clear that Person A's act of commission is far more harmful to the well-being of the victim then Person B's act of omission.

The fundamental difference between acts of commission and omission is that an act of omission merely requires an attitude of indifference, whereas an act of commission requires malicious intent. Malicious intent causes harm; it involves actually DOING something and inflicting suffering on someone. Indifference does not cause harm; it is simply a choice to ignore suffering. Ignoring suffering after it has been (or while it is being) inflicted is substantially different from inflicting that suffering in the first place.
It is clear that there IS a substantive difference between acts of commission and acts of omission, thus bringing down Pro's entire "duty to rescue" argument.

R2) Levinasian Ethics

First of all, I must give my sincere thanks to Pro. My inexperience in debates of this type caused me to have to ask him for several clarifications of the quotations used in his argument, and it was very gracious of him to oblige in providing me with those clarifications.
Now I shall use my new-found knowledge to refute his argument ;)

Pro's argument is basically that humans have an intrinsic feeling of sympathy/empathy towards other humans, which has become the basis of morality in society. However, this system of morality has the same problem as its opposite extreme, psychological egoism (i.e. humans are intrinsically selfish and self-interest motivates all their actions): there is barely any empirical evidence proving either "theory".

Pro cites examples in nature of more intelligent mammals exhibiting sympathy, but just because they have been observed exhibiting sympathy does not mean that sympathy is their default nature. It is more than likely that their default nature is like that of all lower-intelligence animals, only caring for their own survival (and their off-spring if they have any, but even that is primarily based on instinct).

Humans aren't necessarily any different. There have been thousands of instances recorded throughout history of battle field brutality and things of the like which could go to disprove the notion that humans have any sort of intrinsic sense of sympathy for other humans. Humans could be just as as bestial as any other animal, with a much higher frequency of sympathy/empathy displays due to social norms and more developed mirror neurons.

Pro's B and C quotations speak of a human meeting another human for the first time, making the assumption that the humans would immediately empathize with each other and form some sort of positive social bond. However, there is no evidence that the scenario would play out as such. It is purely hypothetical. What makes us so sure that they wouldn't try to kill each other competing for resources?

Basically, my rebuttal to Pro's argument from Levinasian ethics is that it is all far too hypothetical and untested to be taken seriously. Psychological egoism is just as likely to be correct about human nature as Levinasian ethics is.

R3) Utilitarianism

Pro argues the following:

P1. Maximizing Pleasure is Morally Desirable
P2: Helping people at no cost to oneself maximizes pleasure
P3: Helping people at no cost to oneself is morally desirable

The main problem with this argument is with the second premise and its inclusion of the phrase "at no cost to oneself". Very rarely does helping people come at no cost to oneself; helping some one in need almost always requires a substantial amount of time and energy on the part of the helper. Yet the resolution (people ought to help those in need), is meant to apply to all situations in which someone is in need.

This argument is irrelevant to resolution at hand, as one of its essential premises does not apply to the majority of situations in which people help those in need.

CONCLUSIONS

1. The first premise of the "duty to rescue" argument is false, thus debunking the whole argument.

2. Levinasian ethical theory is based on an unproven proposition.

3. The argument from Utilitarianism is inapplicable to the resolution being debated

With that I hand the debate back over to Pro.
I look forward to seeing his counter-rebuttals!

Debate Round No. 3
bsh1

Pro

I would like to sincerely thank Romanii for this great debate! In this round, I will address Con's third round remarks only.

C1: Duty to Rescue

Con's only argument against this contention is that there is no difference between acts of commission and acts of omission. Therefore, if I can successfully rebut this argument, this contention can be extended.

Let's take a look at Con's own example:

"Person A goes up to some poor victim and breaks his arm (an act of commission). Soon after, Person B walks by, sees the victim writhing in pain, and keeps walking without stopping to help (an act of omission)."

Before I address Con's analysis of his own example, let me point out some initial problems with this analogy: Person A and Person B have not committed equivalent acts. In my example, one mother killed her child, another let her child starve by refusing to feed him. Both instances had the same result: the death of the child. The problem with Con's example is that the results of the acts are not the same, so it makes no sense to draw the comparison. Person A's action resulted in a broken arm and suffering. Person B's action simply resulted in suffering, as the arm was already broken when he arrived, he cannot be blamed for it. Perhaps a better way to write Pro's example, then, if to say the following: Person A broke Person C's legs with a baseball bat. Person B failed to warn Person C of an obstacle on the ground, causing Person C to fall and break his legs. In both cases, we have the exact same result: a broken leg and suffering.

Con then creates a hypothetical world in which Person A never existed. Yet, this example creates several problems. Firstly, Person A and Person B both do exist, and wondering about abstract concerns such as "what if Person A never existed" are useless. My assertion is that there is no meaningful distinction between commission and omission. By meaningful I am talking in terms of real outcomes. Since both Person A and Person B exist in the real world, and both have identical outcomes, they have no meaningful difference (no difference in real-world outcomes.)

But, if you buy Con's point, then let's examine this under his hypothetical. When Person A beats the victim, Person A is the cause of the victim's suffering because Person A could've chosen to not let the victim suffer. When Person B fails to warn the victim, Person B becomes a cause of the victim's suffering, because Person B could've chosen to not let the victim suffer. In this way, both are causes of the suffering for the exact same reason. When Person A and Person B are removed (made nonexistent) then the cause of the victim's suffering is just the obstacle, nothing else. This doesn't mean that Person A is more guilty than Person B because Person B, when he exists, becomes the cause of the victim's suffering.

Con makes the following conclusion from his analysis: "It is clear that Person A's act of commission is far more harmful to the well-being of the victim then Person B's act of omission." Yet, this seems faulty as well. Person A's act of commission resulted in a broken leg and suffering. Person B's act of omission resulted in a broken leg and suffering. In both instances, the, the wellbeing of the victim is impacted in the exact same way.

Next, let's discuss the issue of intent. There are three point to raise here:

1. Con provides absolutely no warrant for why intent matters in moral decision-making. If we are basing moral decision-making off of a cost-benefit analysis, which Con implied when he talked about the impact to the wellbeing of the victim, then we need not evaluate intent at all.
2. Acts of omission can have malicious intent. Returning to the previous example, Person B could omit to warn Person C about the obstacle because Person B dislikes Person C and wanted to see them suffer. This is malicious.
3. Acts of commission can be motivated by non-malicious motives. Let's say I tie my friend's shoelaces together as a joke (an act of commission). We he starts to walk, he falls, injuring himself. My act of commission was not malevolent, but it was harmful.


Let's pause here for a moment. Con's asserts that because acts of commission require malevolent intent, whereas omission does not, commission is worse than omission. But, as we can see, commission does NOT require malevolent intent, and omission can involve malice. Therefore, Con's conclusion that one is worse than the other is unsubstantiated.

C2: Levinas

Con boils his argument down very succinctly for us: “Levinasian ethics…is all far too hypothetical and untested to be taken seriously. Psychological egoism is just as likely to be correct about human nature as Levinasian ethics is.” I will endeavor to show that Levinas’s philosophy is indeed logical, and well-supported.

First, I shall endeavor to clarify what “sympathy” is. When we think of sympathy, we think of two things: (1) the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another; and (2) the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else's trouble, grief, misfortune, etc. [1] If we meld these two understandings together, we can comprehend sympathy to mean a capacity for sharing the feelings of another which also generates empathy for that other. For example, if I see you lying in pain, I may feel pain as well, and that, in turn, makes me feel sorry for and care about your plight.

I will attempt to distill Levinas’s ideas down; I will expand on the points afterward.

Human relation and Sympathy:

P1: Human relation is the birthplace of morality
P2: Human relation leads to uniquely affective moments
P3: Sympathy is an affective moment


Moral Dialogue gives Rise to “Ought” claims:

P1: Sympathy involves a non-discursive appeal, initiating the dialogue
P2: Sympathy leads us to feel as if we should respond to the appeal
P3: Sympathy leads to “ought” claims


First set of points:

In a void, there is no need for morality. I cannot wrong you—I cannot choose to ignore anyone’s rights or otherwise harm a morally relevant agent. Moreover, without other humans with which to communicate, there is no way to formulate any principles of right or wrong. I am unable to engage in moral dialogue and therefore I am unable to create moral rules. Now, Con seems to support this idea, by suggesting that humans would simply act on instinct if isolated.

So, what happens with this isolation is shattered? "If precognitive experience, that is, human sensibility, can be characterized conceptually, then it must be described in what is most characteristic to it: a continuum of sensibility and affectivity, in other words, sentience and emotion in their interconnection." [2] For instance, a human who had lived all of his life in total isolation would not be able to experience romantic love. His introduction to other humans therefore transforms him by providing him access to a new and powerful emotion. This is an affective moment caused by sensitivity to other human beings. One such affective moment is sympathy, in that, now I can share in a far more complex variety of emotions such as the aforesaid romantic love that I could not before.

Insofar as morality required other agents with which to communicate and who could be wronged, human relation provides the initial conditions for morality. Affective moments, because they are what make human relation significant, are involved in morality. Our sensitivity to others emotions influences our idea of what we should and should not do. Every time you feel guilt, you are evidencing this assumption. "Sympathy [is] the glue that affectively binds others to oneself and, by implication, binds a community of ethical individuals together." [3]

Second set of points:

My pain, reflected in you, generates a feeling that you should help me. This pull is the appeal; it is the initiation of the moral dialogue. This relationship is moral in that it generates an idea of what is right or wrong. Our conscious calls on us to respond to such feelings. That is what sympathy is: a call to action; you feel that to neglect them would be wrong. Consequently, you ought to reply to the appeal with assistance. Thus, we can affirm the topic.

Moreover, if you buy egoism, then you should buy that sympathy, as a survival-oriented goal, is a good thing, and we should act on our sympathetic motives. "You would think that survival would be a very selfish process, but it’s not. It’s much more about how embedded in a family or a community we are. People who are more socially connected have a better chance of surviving. We live when we have something to live for." [4]

C3: Utility

Con DROPS that maximizing pleasure is moral. Con also never rebuts that helping people at no cost to oneself maximizes pleasure. Merely, he asserts that these conditions are rarely met, so even though my points are true, I can't meet my BOP. Thus, all I need to show is that these conditions (where one can help others at no greater personal cost) occur sufficiently often, and I win.

"Need" has been defined as "something required to achieve some goal." To be in need is be in a condition where I need something. Just as to "I'm in distress" indicates I am in a condition where I am distressed about something. So, my mom is making cookies and is too short to reach the shelf with the tray she needs. She is in need because she cannot reach her goal of making cookies without help. I am not busy, and it would not unduly incommode me to help, and so I do. Cases like this, where small, simple acts can help some one, are far more common than acts that "require a substantial amount of time and energy on the part of the helper."

SOURCES

1 - http://www.merriam-webster.com...
2 - Source No. 3 from my R2
3 - Source No. 4 from my R2
4 - http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com...

I apologize if I seemed rushed! I am trying to post this quickly for Romanii.
Romanii

Con

Thanks to Pro for his great counter-rebuttals!
Now it's time for me to go back and address Pro's rebuttals... O_o

Like my arguments and rebuttals, all my counter-rebuttals function independently of each other.

C1) Moral Nihilism

First of all, apologies for any confusion with definitions; I was attempting to paraphrase and apparently didn't do a very good job of it. For the sake of simplicity I will go with Pro's definition: the view that there is no right or wrong.

R1: Topicality

Pro claims that the wordings of the resolution demand that the existence of morality be assumed for the purposes of this debate, thus invalidating Nihilism as a contention.
However, notice that nowhere in Round 1 does it explicitly state that. The only place that morality is even mentioned is in the definition of "ought" with the phrase "morally desirable".

This situation is akin to accepting the debate "Dogs make more desirable pets than Cats", and using the argument that there is no objective standard to determine which is more desirable. Such an argument is perfectly fair, and does, indeed, negate the resolution.
In the same way, the contention of Moral Nihilism serves to negate the resolution by stating that there is no objective standard by which one can judge moral desirability.
Moral nihilism is definitely topical to the resolution at hand.

R2 & R3: Morality's Existence

Pro claims that morality does exist in the form of personal judgments and as a social construct. However, this does not refute Nihilism because Nihilism does not deny that morality exists in those forms. Rather, it maintains that personal judgments and social constructs have no basis in reality, being based on the illusion that humans are special in relation to the rest of the inanimate universe.

R4 & R5: Physiology

Pro claims that I have baseless assertions in my argument for Moral Nihilism such as “electrochemical and neurochemical reactions lack significance” and “human's complexity is not grounds for morality”.

This is nothing more than an attempt at shifting BOP by Pro.
I have already shown pain and pleasure to be inanimate electrochemical reactions, just like all the other electrochemical reactions in the Universe. It is PRO’s job, now, to show why the electrochemical reactions in the brain hold any more significance than all those other electrochemical reactions.
I have already shown humans to be complex arrangements of atoms, which are the building blocks of every other object in the universe, as wel. It is PRO’s job, now, to show why the inanimate arrangements of atoms known as “humans” are more significant than any other inanimate arrangement of atoms in the universe.
Pro has not rebutted this contention at all!

Pro then states that “while pleasure and pain arise from biological processes, that these sensations still give rise to a sense of what we, as people, desire and do not desire”. However, according to Moral Nihilism, the whole concept of “we, as people” is an illusion in itself, being based on the misconception that humans are conscious beings, different from the rest of the universe.

Pro then goes on to compare morality to the laws of mathematics, stating that math is an objective concept which we as humans have been able to grasp by use of the cognitive faculties we have evolved, and that morality is much the same.
However, that is a false comparison; math is objective, whereas morality is not. Math is universally uniform, whereas, just within this debate, we have covered so many different interpretations of morality! Morality is completely subjective, and thus cannot be compared to math. It is much more likely that morality is a PRODUCT of our cognitive faculties, rather than an objective concept which our cognitive faculties have evolved to grasp.

C2) Ethical Egoism

R1: Psychological Egoism

Pro assumes that Ethical Egoism being true relies on strong Psychological Egoism being true, and goes about trying to disprove strong Psychological Egoism. However, Ethical Egoism does not at all rely on strong Psychological Egoism being true; it is dependent on weak Psychological Egoism being true. Weak Psychological Egoism holds that humans are capable of empathizing with others, but that their default nature is animal-like selfishness, with the majority of their actions being motivated mainly by self-interest. This theory is well supported, both by evolutionary biology (i.e. we evolved from animals and continue to retain some animal-like instincts) and by the innumerable instances recorded throughout history, from ancient times to the present, showing the primitive bestiality of human nature in desperate situations where the social norms that normally bind us break down (e.g. wars, genocide, etc.).

And anyways, another important factor in proving the truth of Ethical Egoism is the observation that since we can ultimately only feel our own pain and pleasure, actions which maximize our own pleasure and minimize our own suffering are the most moral.

R2: Egoism and Altruism

Pro argues the following:

P1: The egoist seeks to maximize long-term self-interest
P2: Helping people in need creates a network of allies for the egoist
P3: Helping people is in the egoist's self-interest

The flaw in this rebuttal is the second premise. Helping people does not necessarily create a network of allies for the egoist; there are many situations in which the person in need doesn’t have anything to give back once he/she has been helped, other than gratitude, of course. This is a baseless assertion on Pro’s part. Pro must show that helping those in need often creates a network of allies.

R3: Cost/Benefit Analysis

Pro argues that according to ethical egoism, impulsive actions deriving immediate pleasure would be more morally desirable than actions allowing for long-term benefits, thus refuting the concept of a cost/benefit analysis deciding what is more morally desirable.
This is not at all true; long-term benefits can be much more rewarding than the benefits obtained from short-term impulsive actions, and thus more moral according to Ethical Egoism. And in the cases that the short-term benefits are more rewarding, the cost/benefit analysis would be capable of revealing so.

R4: BOP

Pro accuses me of “pigeon-holing” him. I apologize if I have inadvertently implied that Pro has more burden of proof than he really has. I have simply provided some very common examples in which helping those in need would not be morally desirable (according to ethical egoism) in order to show that there is probably a substantial number of situations like that.

C3) Reduction of Suffering

R1: Synonymizing

Pro objects to my synonymizing of the terms “reduction of suffering” and “helping those in need” on the grounds that suffering implies being severely in need. However, that is a flawed definition of "suffering". According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, suffering merely means to experience something unpleasant (http://www.merriam-webster.com...).
Pro’s objection has been refuted. It is, indeed, appropriate to synonymize “helping those in need” with “the reduction of suffering”.

R2: Outcomes

Pro objects to my example, saying that the outcomes which I have predicted are selected just to build up my argument. However, the alternative outcomes which Pro has presented are quite faulty themselves, as I will show.

“By interceding, you could intimidate the bully, leading to them backing off for good.”

But that only scares off ONE bully. Mean people are encountered in every stage of life, and by taking care of the problem for the kid, the adult has simply taken away an opportunity for the kid to learn how to defend himself in future encounters with that type of person.

“By intervening you could show the fat kid that he has some intrinsic value worth standing up for; this self-image affirming action may boost his own confidence levels, enabling him to stand up to the next person who bullies him.”

That really doesn’t make any sense… if anything, the fat kid will feel bad about himself because he was unable to take care of the problem himself. Adult intervention merely proves to the kid that he is defenseless.

The outcomes which I presented in the initial presentation of the scenario are the most likely ones to occur.

R3: Devolvement into Altruism

Pro argues the following:

P1: Person X suffering is good for Person X
P2: Person Y allows Person X to suffer
P3: Person Y helps Person X

This syllogism is flawed. By allowing Person X to suffer, Person Y is not actively helping him. Going back to an earlier theme, there is a substantive difference between commission and omission. There is a big difference between actively helping someone (a beneficial act of commission) and ignoring someone’s suffering, forcing them to help themselves and inadvertently causing them benefit (a beneficial act of omission). There is a clear disparity in intention, committment, and the effort put into it.
One is helping some one in need; the other is forcing someone in need to help themself.

R4: Utility-based

Pro states that since this argument is pretty much a pre-emptive rebuttal against a Utilitarian argument, it does not hold any value if he has not used a Utilitarian argument to affirm the resolution.
However, this greatly confuses me, as Pro DID use an argument from Utilitarianism to affirm the resolution, so, in effect, he just called attention to the fact that one of my opening contentions refutes one of his own opening contentions... (????)

Anyways, that wraps up my counter-rebuttals.
I wish both of us good luck for the final round of the debate!
Debate Round No. 4
bsh1

Pro

Thanks to Romanii for a fabulous debate! In this round I'll review Con's case and conclude with reasons to vote Pro. Due to character constraints, I may only touch on certain points. Please do not construe this as me dropping any argument; if my initial arguments may still outweigh Romanii's responses.

CON's CASE

C1: Moral Nihilism

Con agrees to my definition of nihilism: "the view that there is no right or wrong. There is no good or bad."

R1: Topicality

So, let's examine the resolution. Because ought denotes moral desirability, let's phrase the resolution as this: It is morally desirable for individuals to help those in need. Pro's BOP, as show in R1, is the following: "Con must show help ought not to be rendered." This means that Con must show that, on balance, it is not morally desirable to help those in need.

Con's BOP is to show that it is morally desirable not to help others. If he argues that morality doesn't exist, then he cannot achieve his own BOP. Why? If there is no morality, then Con cannot show that help OUGHT not to be rendered. Therefore, we can TURN his own argument against him.

This is the underlying reason why Nihilism is not topical. As I said last round: "By rejecting the idea that morality exists, Con has stepped outside of the ground the topic provided." Con needed to stay within the grounds of morality, because Con needed to prove a moral claim just as much as I did.

R2 and R3

Con claims that Nihilism does not refute personal moral judgments. This is a MASSIVE concession, because Levinas's philosophy is all about how people are personally affected by others. Con also claims that Nihilism does not refute morality as it has been created or decided upon by society.

Well, if Nihilism denies neither of these things, than how does nihilism negate? Morality, as defined in R2, means "of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior." So, if society says X is wrong, then X is immoral, because it is wrong by principles set up by society. I do not need to advocate for natural morality. I can affirm by showing that moral norms instituted by society call upon us to help others. So, if nihilism neither denies personal morality nor social morality, than it fails to refute anything.

R4: Warrantless Claims

Con says I am shifting the BOP. Unfortunately, this is false. Con claims that electrochemical reactions lack significance. He has noted that humans are far more complex than other objects; so why does that not add significance? If Con intends to make the claim that something isn't significant, he needs to warrant why that is.

R5: Physiology

Con is misinterpreting me. I am not comparing morality to the laws of math, I am comparing morality to intuition. Moral intuitions are subjective and individualized, just as our other senses are. My vision is different from yours, my sense of smell may be more or less acute that yours, etc. But, the subjectivity of moral intuitions does not somehow invalidate them. As long as moral intuitions exist, nihilism cannot be true. Why should our moral intuitions be valued less than our other senses or intuitions? If electrochemical processes lack significance from a natural law perspective, they still lead to the formation of right/wrong judgments, i.e. morality.

C2: Egoism

R1: Psychology

Pro assumes that the majority of our interests our motivated by self-interest. But this seems largely unprovable. If I help someone, you could attribute it to both altruistic or egoistic motives. With mirror neurons, a biological support for altruism, how can we assume that egoism is necessarily our main motive?

R2: Devolution to Altruism

Con says that there are cases where helping others doesn't necessarily lead to any benefit to the egoist. But consider the parable of the lion and the mouse. The lion was trapped in a net, and the mouse freed him. While a bit preachy, this example underscores that even the least among us can offer something to the greatest among us. Since we never know when we may need someone's help, it pays for us to cultivate good relationships with everyone. This means being friendly, outgoing, and helpful.

Barbara Herman of UCLA writes, "The natural limits of our powers as agents set the conditions of rational willing within which prudential calculations are made. It is because these limits are not transcended by good fortune that considerations of risk and likelihood are not relevant. Because we are dependent rational beings with true needs, we are constrained to act in certain ways (toward ourselves and toward others). Thus the argument to defeat the maxim of nonbeneficence goes through: the world of universal nonbeneficence is not a world that it is rational for any human agent to choose.”

So, the syllogism does hold up that:

P1. The egoist seeks to maximize self-interest
P2. Helping people is beneficial to oneself
P3. Helping people is in the egoist's self-interest


Since Con concedes that egoism is moral in nature, it's incumbent obligations are moral. Therefore, the egoist has a moral obligation to help others. Likely, based on the forgoing analysis, the egoist should help people more than they do not, because it would maximize their potential allies. Even small acts of assistance count.

R4: BOP

Con never rebuts my point that I only have to affirm the resolution "on balance." Extend this interpretation across.

C3: Reduction of Suffering

R2: Outcomes

Let's look more at the second example. I claimed: "By intervening you could show the fat kid that he has some intrinsic value worth standing up for; this self-image affirming action may boost his own confidence levels, enabling him to stand up to the next person who bullies him.”

Con says that the kid will feel worthless, but I disagree. To use a personal anecdote, I knew a girl who was teased and bullied for her Southern accent. Keep in mind that in a school dominated by Northeasterners this was an extremely distinguishing feature. Myself and another student interceded on one occasion on her behalf, and she later confessed to us that our intervention had made her feel as if someone cared, and that she mattered. Her parents later told us that she hadn't attempted suicide that month, which was abnormal for her. Sometimes knowing that someone else cares is all that you need to get your life back together, to empower yourself. She never let the jibes get to her after that.

R3: Devolution into Altruism

Pro says that helping some one is inherently an act of commission. But, as I have shown, commission and omission are essentially equivalent actions. Moreover, allowing someone to suffer can be an act of commission. Consider: I am helping someone with their homework. Rather than provide them with the answer, I force them to work it out themselves by saying, "you need to do this." In this case, I am FORCING someone to do something. Forcing is an act of commission, not omission. Therefore, we have two reasons to reject Con's logic.

R4: Utiltiy

My point here was that this is less of a reason to vote Con than it is a reason not to vote Pro. If Con wins this, then, it's not a compelling reason to vote for him. This logic is dropped.

VOTING ISSUES

Let's look at my case. Keep in mind, I only need to win one of these arguments to uphold my BOP:

1. DUTY TO RESCUE

Acts of omission and commission are essentially the same. Therefore, omitting to help someone is the same as committing a harmful act against them, provided that both the act of omission and the act of commission yield equal harms. Since not committing harms is morally desirable, so too is not omitting to prevent harms.


2. LEVINAS

Sympathy leads to "ought" claims. If I sympathize with someone, I feel that it is the right thing to do to help them.Because morality is about principles of right an wrong, whether or not those principles are personal, societal, or natural, sympathy is about morality. Sympathy tells me that helping people is the right thing to do. Therefore, it is morally desirable to help people for whom I feel sympathy, i.e. people in need.


3. UTILITY

Con conceded that maximizing pleasure was moral. Therefore, all I needed to show that there were more cases where I could help someone without causing more harm to myself in the process than not. I have done this by showing that small acts of kindness (like helping someone get something from a high shelf) are far more numerous than acts which "require a substantial amount of time and energy."


On to Con's case. What I need to do here is cast enough doubt on the validity of his points that you feel that helping others is morally desirable more than it is not morally desirable.


1. NIHILISM AND TOPICALITY

Both of us are making moral claims (see R1 BOP). If morality does not exist, than neither side can win. Therefore, Con's own argument defeats him. Moreover, if both sides are required to make moral claims, an Con's point fails to do this, he has very clearly stepped outside of the ground provided to him by the resolution.


2. NIHILISM AND MORALITY

Whether personal or societal, as long as their are standards of right and wrong, nihilism is false, since nihilism is defined as "the view that there is no right or wrong." Con concedes that principles of right and wrong exist on the social and personal levels, invalidating his own argument.

Also, moral intuitions lead to right/wrong judgments (like w/ sympathy), negating nihilism.


3. EGOISM AS ALTRUISM

I have shown that more often than not egoism encourages us to help others. TURN: egoism affirms the topic.


4. SUFFERING EX

Con cannot show that, more often than not, letting people suffer is good. HIs example doesn't support this.


Finally, one generic point

1. CON FAILS TO MEET BOP

Con's BOP is to show that, more often than not, it is morally desirable NOT to help people (see R1). He has failed to do this in any of his contentions or points.


Thank you for reading! Please VOTE PRO!
Romanii

Con

Thank you, Pro for that great final round!

Unfortunately, due to time constraints on my part, my argument here is going to have to be rather brief. Apologies to anyone, including Pro, who is disappointed by the lack of substance in what follows :(

As agreed upon in comments, I will be attempting the rebut both Pro's Round 4 counter-rebuttals and his Round 5 counter-counter-rebuttals.

PRO'S CASE

1. Duty to Rescue

My rebuttal to this argument was that there IS a substantive difference between acts of commission and acts of omission.
The Pro's main counter-rebuttal to this is that the example I provided is faulty, since the actions committed by person A and person B to not have the same results.
That does not make any sense. The central idea of my rebuttal IS that acts of commission and acts of omission generally do not have the same results.
So Pro is essentially objecting to my example because it debunks his argument...

2. Levinasian Ethics

My rebuttal to this argument was that there is no more reason to believe that humans are innately empathetic than there is reason to believe that humans are innately selfish.
Pro's counter-rebuttal does not address this. He merely talks about how sympathy is the glue that binds us together, and that our sense of sympathy calls on us to help people when they express pain.
That counter completely misses the point of the rebuttal. I am not arguing that Levinasian ethical theory does not make sense; I am arguing that its basis (i.e. humans nature is empathetic) is a bare assertion with no evidence.

3. Utilitarianism

My rebuttal to this argument was that instances in which one can help someone in need at no cost to oneself are relatively rare and thus an argument solely concerned with those instances cannot be used to affirm the resolution.
Pro's counter-rebuttal gives one example of a case in which helping someone in need would supposedly come at no cost to oneself (fetching a cookie tray for your mother).
However, even in that example, it still requires time and energy to get up and fetch the cookie tray, so it technically there is still a cost to it.
There are virtually no situations in which helping someone in need actually comes at no cost to oneself; there is always a cost of some sort, even if it's minimal.

MY CASE

1. Moral Nihilism

In his counter-counter-rebuttals, Pro does nothing more than re-assert the claims I had already addressed.

On topicality:
My side of the resolution is not that helping those in need is morally undesirable, but simply that helping those in need in not morally desirable. If right and wrong do not exist, then moral desirability does not exist either. If moral desirability does not exist, then nothing is morally desirable, including helping those in need. Thus, Moral Nihilism does affirm that helping those in need is not morally desirable.

On morality's existence:
Pro simply re-asserts that morality's existence in the form of personal judgments and as a social construct disproves Nihilism. Again, I must assert that Nihilism's position on those things is not that they do not exist, but that they are meaningless and based on illusions.

On burden of proof:
I have already shown that the electrochemical reactions in the brain are just like any other electrochemical reaction in the universe.
I have already shown that humans are arrangements of atoms just like every other object in the universe.
Pro's job was to show that the electrochemical reactions in the brain are special. Pro's job was to show that the arrangements of atoms
Pro failed to complete this job, instead resorting to shifting burden of proof even though I'd already fulfilled mine.

2. Ethical Egoism

Note:
Pro does not even attempt to address one of the central factors in proving the truth of ethical egoism: the observation that since we can only ultimately feel our own pain and pleasure, actions which minimize our own pain and maximize our own pleasure are the most morally desirable. Thus, Pro has conceded that ethical egoism is true.

On altruism
Pro misrepresents my argument in stating that "Con says that there are cases where helping others doesn't necessarily lead to any benefit to the egoist."
My argument from ethical egoism is not that helping people does not lead to ANY benefits, but that the costs of helping people almost always outweighs the benefits. Pro does not rebut this argument.

On burden of proof
Pro ignores my clarification. I shall re-state it:
I provided very common examples of helping people in need to demonstrate that there are a large number of situations in which the costs of helping people outweigh the benefits of helping them. This negates the resolution because, if there are a large number of situations in which it is unethical to help those in need, then it is not morally desirable to help those in need even "on balance".

3. Reduction of Suffering

There is no need to address this. Pro's response consists of:
-a personal anecdote (which can easily be rebutted with another one)
-a debunked argument (i..e. that there is no substantive difference between commission and omission)
-a semantics game (i.e. turning allowing suffering into an act of commission by changing up the wordings)

CONCLUSIONS

-- Pro's "Duty to Rescue" case is refuted because there is generally a clear differentiation to be made between acts of commission and acts of omission, which is contrary to one of the argument's essential premises.

--Pro's case from Levinasian Ethics is refuted because it is based on the baseless assertion that the core of human nature is empathetic, making the entire case logically unsound.

--Pro's case from Utilitarianism is refuted because it only concerns itself with instances in which there is no cost to oneself, which are far too rare to affirm this resolution.

--My cases from Moral Nihilism, Ethical Egoism, and the Reduction of Suffering are all still standing, unaffected by Pro's rebuttals; all three contentions can function independently to negate the resolution.

.

To Bsh1: Many thanks for engaging in this debate with me; it was really challenging, but definitely a great experience, being my first time ever debating someone as skilled as yourself! I hope I posed at least somewhat of a challenge to you :P

Also, many thanks to anyone who takes the time to read and vote on a debate as lengthy as this one.

Vote Con n' stuff :D

Debate Round No. 5
91 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
I'm glad you liked my RFD, bsh :)
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
bsh1
Lol...no I am not. I have yet to see a debater that good. In all my five years in the debate world, I have yet to meet that person...though Danny Debois* comes close...

*He's not on DDO; IRL debater
Posted by Romanii 3 years ago
Romanii
You are not a tough cookie.

You are a titanium disc in the heart of a maximum security prison that is located at the bottom of the deepest underwater trench on the planet.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
bsh1
YYW, loved your RFD...

"intellectually masturbate"
"intellectually blue-balled"

Besides making me chuckle, it was a well-thought-out RFD. Thanks...I never saw myself as a "tough cookie," lol...
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
Despite my usual reluctance to award source points, sources to PRO because there was a vast disparity in the depth and quality of sources between PRO and CON. While CON did a stand up job, to not award PRO source points would be to imply relative comparability in depth and quality of research, which would be a disservice to the outcome of the debate.

Now, a bit about the BOP: In resolutions about what "ought" to be, the only fair thing to do is to assume that inasmuch as PRO has the responsibility to prove as a general rule or standard that "individuals ought to help those in need" so too does CON have the responsibility to prove as a general rule or standard that "individuals need not ought to help others in need." Said another way, PRO must show that individuals should help other people, while CON only has to argue that individuals don't necessarily have to help other people. What that means is, not so much a "split" burden (although if we view burdens as zero-sums then that's the practical effect) but an "equal" burden, because to not place equal burdens on each side is to show bias to one side or another. If this were a positive claim, that would be different. But, this is a normative claim -meaning that we're not talking about what "is" but what "should be." To have a preference for one side or another is fine, but to fail to judge the debate as if the burdens were tantamount is intellectually disingenuous, irresponsible and an unjustifiable exercise of sympathy to one debater's perspective at another's expense.
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
...Even granting CON's conclusion, he doesn't address the potential for a duty to help others where doing so comes at no cost -and thereby misses another opportunity to regain substantial ground.

Rd. 4) PRO's back defending his duty to rescue, and with some success, because indeed, as PRO notes, "Con's only argument against this contention is that there is no difference between acts of commission and acts of omission." A fancifully amusing rejoinder to malevolent intents follows. Levinas makes a return as well, with a clarification of what sympathy is... and PRO seals the deal with his observation that "if you buy egoism, then you should buy that sympathy, as a survival-oriented goal, is a good thing, and we should act on our sympathetic motives." PRO sustains utility, too.

CON's back in action with moral nihilism too, but doesn't really seem to know how to rebuild the topicality point by making a weird analogy to a debate about dogs and cats. CON then backs off of his nihilist framework to the much softer subjectivist claim that "there is no objective standard by which one can judge moral desirability." Such disappointment. At this point, there's not much hope for nihilism... Moreover, CON's rejoinder to PRO doesn't actually undercut PRO's claim that self interest compels sympathy based ethics out of a human interest in survival. PRO carries that point too, and at this point it's looking pretty fatal for CON because he had similar difficulty with his other points against PRO's rebuttals throughout the rest of the round.

Nothing really new came up in round 5, and the debate's outcome was pretty much sealed by the finish of CON's performance in rd. 4. I applaud CON for the effort, because bsh1 is one tough cookie to crumble, but there is no world in which CON takes this one.
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
...almost everything that Friedrich Nietzsche has ever published. The reason his third contention is problematic is because even if it is the case that helping others reduces suffering and suffering is good (though that's a qualified "good") for the individual, that doesn't mean that individuals still ought not help others in need. So, CON's third point doesn't impact the resolution -it just establishes what "might" be the case in "some" circumstances.

Rd. 3) PRO rebuts PRO's moral nihilism point in a fairly predictable way... by claiming it's non-topical, and he's right. The resolution assumes that morality exists (although PRO opened the door for that when he tried to re-prove ethical obligation in his first round's second point). Alas, PRO carries the point. PRO's new way to ground "ought" clams in his second rebuttal to nihilism got sketchy, because it doesn't exactly jive with his earlier grounding ethics on sympathy unless preferences always align with other's interests -and that's just not the case. While it also advances his case, it does so through the logic of CON's ethical egoism point, which was clever. PRO then proceeds to undercut ethical egoism, well enough, though the point about neurons came from left field. PRO undermines CON's analogy about need, likewise.

CON returns in his fullest force against the duty to rescue by attempting to morally distinguish acts of commission and omission -which is curious because in the previous round he tried to advance the idea that morality doesn't exist. CON's says that grounding ethical obligations in sympathy/empathy is "too hypothetical and untested to be taken seriously" and misses a huge opportunity to make a substantive gain for his side. As a judge, I'm intellectually blue-balled, especially as CON argues in response to PRO's utilitarianism point that because only "very rarely does helping people come at no cost to oneself" we can't buy PRO's claim. (Continued in next post...)
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
Rd 2. ) PRO began his "duty to rescue" point with a preemptive rebuttal. Stating flaws in an argument against something isn't arguing for something, and PRO should have argued for a duty to rescue as a concept. His example about a robbery, however, was appropriate. His grounding ethics in sympathy/empathy was well articulated, despite his talking about elephants and his claim that in the absence of sympathy society is necessarily amoral, because there are other (equally valid) ways to ground morality. Though, the resolution implies that morality always already exists, meaning the question is not about whether we can delineate between right and wrong, but whether individuals have a duty to assist others in need. All in all, PRO got more philosophical than he had to to carry the point. PRO's third point is where he really started to hit hard by asserting that failure to prevent a harm is as bad as the harm itself -though beyond that standard it got less clear.

CON begins a point about moral nihilism, which functions as a krit of the resolution (if there is no morality, then we can't talk about what individuals ought to do under any circumstance). It's interesting because it directly clashes with PRO's version of utilitarianism in his third point, but only interesting, because he doesn't prove that morals don't exist -he just used a nihilist framework to intellectually masturbate his way to something that looked like a kritik with his first point. (As a rule, kritiks only work with genuinly flawed resolutions -and this isn't one of those.) CON's second point was better, but it isn't inconsistent with PRO's framing ethical duty in terms of sympathy/empathy because what's best for the individual isn't always at other's expense (especially if a duty to rescue creates a right to be rescued -thereby upholding ethical egoism and affirming the resolution). CON's third point doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and this is coming from a guy who has read... (continued below).
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
Sorry Romanii, I forgot about this. I'll have one done by tonight.
Posted by Romanii 3 years ago
Romanii
Is it just me or did YYW never actually leave an RFD...?
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 3 years ago
whiteflame
bsh1RomaniiTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
bsh1RomaniiTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD to come tomorrow, with an explanation for source points.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
bsh1RomaniiTied
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Reasons for voting decision: see comments. BoP is inordinately high on PRO and very low for CON. CON won arguments by citing a simple example of running an errand for a friend, which was surprisingly never refuted throughout the entire debate. Had I scored this, args/S&G CON, S&G due to the faulty resolution breakdown. As conduct was fine on both sides, I abstain from scoring.
Vote Placed by Juan_Pablo 3 years ago
Juan_Pablo
bsh1RomaniiTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Okay. Before I state anything further let me say that I am ABSOLUTELY NOT voting because of the two debaters involved. I admire both equally and I think both did a hell of a terrific job in this debate! However, after investigating this debate carefully, I have to say that Pro provided better arguments, though there was some points I disagreed with and I think based on the utilitarianism aspects of morality, all PRO had to do was say that indifference PROLONGS SUFFERING, therefore it does contribute to human misery. (I actually agree with Con that inflicting violence and suffering is worse than simply being indifferent to it; but conscious indifference DOES prolong suffering and contribute to it, thus why I agreed with Pro on this subtle utilitarian point.) Con argued that from a nihilistic perspective that no one has an obligation to do anything. However, this is a false position for humans, as Pro demonstrated. If human society wants to generally enjoy life it must reduce pain