The Instigator
QT
Pro (for)
Winning
6 Points
The Contender
tvellalott
Con (against)
Losing
3 Points

Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
QT
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/22/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,192 times Debate No: 19434
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)

 

QT

Pro

Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need


-This first round will be for acceptance. Argumentation will begin in the next round.

-There will be a total of 3 rounds of debate and one for acceptance

-The voting period will last 2 weeks.

-For every round of debate, each debater will have 48 hours to post their argument.

-Each debater will be allowed to type up to 8,000 characters for every round of debate.


* I would prefer that my opponent have experience with LD debate.
tvellalott

Con

I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
QT

Pro

I affirm the resolution resolved: individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need.


For clarity I offer the following definitions:


A moral obligation is defined as a particular duty which one is morally bound to do (Oxford English Dictionary)


Assisting is defined as increasing the net amount of happiness from an objective point of view. You should prefer this definition for the following reasons:


1. There are infinite number of ways to assist people in need. Allowing me to defend only one specific form of assistance would give the Neg an impossible research burden because I can focus all my time researching one specific way of assisting while he has to spend his or her time researching the specific nuances of the almost limitless ways of assisting.


2) The text of the resolution doesn’t specify an actor, so we can’t determine aid from a subjective standpoint of one specific individual.


3) Pragmatism is the only way to determine whether it is really aid. If I sent a package of food to a society in Africa and it caused the massacre of a million of innocent people, objectively we wouldn’t consider it aid because the harms outweighed the benefits.


Needs can be defined as that amount of food, clean water, adequate shelter, and access to health services to which every person is entitled


All moral obligations ultimately arise form morality, which allows us to determine the extent to which an action is right or wrong. Thus, I value morality in this debate.


For the following reasons, only the consequences of one's conduct can be the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness of that conduct.


1) We establish general moral principles through our observations of specific real world events. Thus, we can only determine if any particular act is good or bad by evaluating the end states the action produces. For instance, we acknowledge that murdering others is wrong because of the consequences of death. Given that the idea of harm is determined by end states, it logically follows that we are obligated to positively influence those end states, justifying consequentialism.


2) Deontological theories cannot serve as a guide for action since they require us to act on certain principles regardless of how morally desirably the end states may be. Given that our observations advise courses of actions based on unique contexts, and given that we humans are instinctively inclined to follow the course of action that offers the highest probability of producing a desirable end, only consequential theories are consistent with morality’s ultimate purpose of serving as a guide for action.


Thus, to evaluate the morality of an action, we must look to its consequences. The amount of happiness that an action produces is one of its most morally significant consequences. We should use this principle exclusively to evaluate actions for the following reasons:



1. Based on our most basic desires, we are rationally committed to believing that the value of happiness is unconditional.


As Sayre-McCord stats, “The grounds we have for holding the beliefs we do must be traced back to our experiences, to our senses and desires. When what we are looking at appears red to us, we believe that the thing is red. Similarly, when we are desiring things, that the thing is good, otherwise we wouldn’t be wanting it for ourselves. Desiring a thing and thinking of it as desirable are one and the same, just as seeing a thing as red and thinking of it as red are one and the same. Desiring something is a matter of seeing it as valuable...Therefore, in desiring happiness, people are thinking “happiness is valuable” and, on that basis, wanting it for themselves. [E]ach of us, in desiring happiness for ourselves cannot deny that when someone else gets happiness they get something good. Of course we are not committed to thinking that their getting it would be benifical to us. Nevertheless, the grounds we each have for thinking it would be a good to us appear to commit us to thinking that in getting it, someone else would be getting something of value” (1).


Clearly, we are logically committed to believing that the value of happiness isn’t conditional. Therefore, evaluating actions by the amount of happiness that they produce is the only way we can objectively access the morality of all actions and contrast the rightness of two different actions.



2. Evaluating the morality of our actions by the overall amount of happiness they produce allows us to uphold the worth of individuals.


According to Rakowski, "Individuals’ status as moral equals requires that the number of people [who are happy] be maximized.Only in this way can we give due weight to the equality of persons; to allow [a small number of people to be happy and large number of people to suffer] is to treat some people as less valuable than others.It is because they are no less ends than others that an impartial decision-maker must [favor] the more numerous group" (2).


3. Since our moral beliefs are almost entirely based on the values of the society we live in, we are led to believe that the general happiness is an intrinsic good.


As Wren states, “Being moral involves proposing actions which, upon being communicated to other agents, would be recognized and accepted by them. When an action is perceived as unacceptable, the agent who proposed it can only presume that it is wrong. In other words, moral valuation presupposes the existence of other agents because a totally isolated agent could not know his choices as good or his moral judgements as true” (3).


Etzioni agrees.“The libertarian perspective that individual agents are fully formed and their value preferences are in place prior to and outside of any society. Ignores robustsocialscientific evidence about the deep-seated human need for communal attachments, the social anchoring of reasoning itself, and the consistent interactive influence of society members on one another. There are no wellformed individuals bereft ofculture. Individuals' actions are often deeply affected by groups and communities of which they are members" (4).



Clearly, our moral beliefs are almost entirely based on the values of the community we live in. Since all communities value happiness in general, our moral education leads us to believe that we ought to do what produces the greatest amount of happiness.


As these points clearly imply, the only way we can evaluate the moral rightness of an action is to access the amount of happiness it produces. Since all moral obligations ultimately arise from morality, we can be said to have a moral obligation if and only if acting on this obligation will increase the total amount of happiness. Thus, my criterion is maximizing societal happiness.


According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, humans cannot be satisfied without our basic survival needs being met. For example, I could never feel happy about a good grade I earned in a class if I wasn’t able to feed myself. Thus, people in need necessary must have a relatively low level of happiness. For this reason, we ought to assist people in need since assistance increases the net amount of happiness from an objectively point of view, and happiness is morally desirable.

Thus, you affirm.



Sources:

1. Sayre-McCord, Geoffrey. "Mill's "Proof" of the Principle of Utility: A More than Half-Hearted Defense." Social Philosophy & Policy, 2001. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.

2. Taking and Saving Lives” Columbia Law Review, Vol. 93, No. 5, (Jun., 1993) pp. 1063-1156 Published by: Columbia Law Review Association, Inc.

3. Thomas E. Moral Obligations: Action, Intention, and Valuation. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2010. Print.

4. The Responsive Community: A Communitarian PerspectiveAuthor(s): Amitai EtzioniSource: American Sociological Review, Vol. 61, No. 1 (Feb., 1996), pp. 1-11Published by: American Sociological Association.
tvellalott

Con

I’d first like to thank my opponent for her exhaustingly extensive opening argument. I am unfortunately unfamiliar with LD (or any other formal style) debate, but I’ll do my best to keep up with a superior opponent.

CROSS EXAMINATION

You make an excellent case for using subjective judgement to make moralistic choices, but (as far as I could see) you didn’t explain why anyone should be obligated to follow through with said positive actions. Why must an individual be required to follow through these good deeds? Let me elaborate; there are numerous things you or I could do, right this very moment, which would improve the lifestyle of the people around us, both those familiar to us as well as strangers.

For example, I could afford to personally feed a low-income family by foregoing some of the comforts I enjoy. That would certainly “increase the total amount of happiness”. You reference Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; I would certainly increase the families ‘safety’ and possibly increase my ‘esteem’, yet I am certainly not morally obligated to do so.

So, again, why am I (or anyone) OBLIGATED to increase the total amount of happiness?

NEGATIVE CONSTRUCTIVE

A quick glimpse at my profile will quickly reveal my philosophy regarding morality; nihilistic. I reject the concept of objective morality on the basis that there is no objective moral teacher. I reject the concept of subjective morality on the basis that subjectivity is a useless way of determining whether is right or wrong, even if there is near universal agreement.

So I couldn’t help but find myself shaking my head as I read my opponents argument. She talks about ‘increasing the total amount of happiness’ as though it were as simple as taking a bird’s eye view of society and reallocating resources; as if it were as simple as Maslow‘s pyramid suggests. Unfortunately happiness is highly subjective. Making one person happy is almost certain to make someone else unhappy as a consequence. Without objective morality, there can be no certain way of determining whether something is actually right or wrong.

I’m also offended by the idea of being obligated to do anything that I don’t want to do. Sure, I enjoy doing nice things for people. I enjoy making my girlfriend and family happy, with gifts, love and affection, but the idea of being obligated to help people seems heavily restrictive. As selfish as it sounds I don’t want to be obligated to do anything, but I firmly believe that no-one else should either. We are altruistic by nature; nobody likes to see starving children in Africa on their TV which is why they make such a powerful advertising tool for corporate charity. But, we are also capable of resisting our nature and for good reason. If we were to give all we could spare away, we would never feel truly safe or comfortable.

I’m running out of time and honestly regret accepting this debate (on the basis that my opponent’s argument was so well constructed >_<) so I will have to turn it back over to her. I apologise if I've disappointed.
Debate Round No. 2
QT

Pro

CROSS EXAMINATION:


My opponent asks me, “Why am I (or anyone) OBLIGATED to increase the total amount of happiness?”


I have already offered at least two lines of argumentation to answer this question. I’ll reiterate them here with clearer impacts:


1) Everyone undoubtedly desires their own happiness. Because of this, each person must regard his happiness as valuable. Sayre-McCord explains, “When we are desiring things, we believe that the thing is good, otherwise we wouldn’t be wanting it for ourselves. Desiring a thing and thinking of it as desirable are the same” (1).


When an individual desires his own happiness, there clearly must be something he sees as good about it. Whatever that feature is, it cannot be merely the fact that it’s his happiness, since there are at least some things of his which are not valuable. However, any other feature which might give this individual’s happiness value will not be originally proprietary. That is, it will not be a feature which is specific to his own happiness but rather a feature of happiness in general.


Therefore, as Sayre-McCord concludes, “...in desiring happiness, people are thinking that happiness [in general] is valuable and, on that basis, wanting it for themselves. [E]ach of us, in desiring happiness for ourselves cannot deny that when someone else gets happiness they get something that is good...The grounds we each have for thinking it would be a good to us appear to commit us to thinking that in getting it, someone else would be getting something of value” (1).


Thus, everyone MUST see the general happiness as valuable. Since morality is essentially a code of values to guide an individual’s actions, all individuals are morally obliged to increase the general happiness.


2) Since all humans are morally equal, we MUST act to increase the total amount of happiness in society.


Rakowski explains, "Individuals’ status as moral equals requires that the number of people [who are happy] be maximized. Only in this way can we give due weight to the equality of persons; to allow [a small number of people to be happy and a large number of people to suffer] is to treat some people as less valuable than others. It is because they are no less ends than others that an impartial decision-maker must favor the more numerous group” (2).



DEFENDING THE AFFIRMATIVE CONSTRUCTIVE (AC):


In response to the AC, my opponent states, “Happiness is highly subjective. Making one person happy is almost certain to make someone else unhappy as a consequence.”


This objection seems to be irrelevant to the debate. As I noted in round one, assistance is defined as the act of increasing the net amount of happiness from an objective point of view. Since my opponent has failed to offer an alternative definition, we must accept the one I have provided. Thus, my textual burden is only to prove that individuals have a moral obligation to increase the overall amount of happiness. I clearly am not required to defend the statement that individuals have an obligation to increase the happiness of every specific person.



ATTACKING THE NEGATIVE CONSTRUCTIVE (NC):


My opponent states that “A quick glimpse at my profile will quickly reveal my philosophy regarding morality; nihilistic. I reject the concept of objective morality [since] there is no objective moral teacher...Without objective morality, there can be no certain way of determining whether something is actually right or wrong.”


I have three responses to this argument, the first of which comes directly from the AC.


1) Since our moral beliefs are almost entirely based on the values of the society we live in, all individuals ultimately believe that the general happiness is an intrinsic good.


Wren explains, “Being moral involves proposing actions which, upon being communicated to other agents, would be recognized and accepted by them. When an action is perceived as unacceptable, the agent who proposed it can only presume that it is wrong. In other words, moral valuation presupposes the existence of other agents because a totally isolated agent could not know his choices as good or his moral judgements as true” (3).


Etzioni furthers, “The libertarian perspective that individual agents are fully formed and their value preferences are in place prior to and outside of any society ignores robust social scientific evidence about the deep-seated human need for communal attachments, the social anchoring of reasoning itself, and the consistent interactive influence of society members on one another. There are no wellformed individuals bereft of culture. Individuals' actions are often deeply affected by groups and communities of which they are members” (4).


Clearly, our moral beliefs are almost entirely based on the values of the community we live in. All societies value the general happiness since it’s key to the survival of the community. Therefore, each individual’s moral education leads him to believe that he should do what produces the greatest amount of happiness. My opponent appears to concede this point when he states, “We are altruistic by nature; nobody likes to see starving children in Africa on their TV.”


In essence, the fact that there is no objective moral teacher is essentially irrelevant to the debate. All communities already hold that the general happiness of their society is good.



2)
Even if this response is not valid, we still must reject nihilism. According to this theory, all moral beliefs are neither right nor wrong. However, nihilism itself is a moral belief. Therefore, my opponent cannot prove that this theory is right without contradicting himself.


3) In any case, it’s unfair for my opponent to argue in favor of nihilism since doing so places multiple burdens on me. Namely, it requires me to prove that objective morality exists and demonstrate that individuals should assist those in need. However, in arguing for nihilism, my opponent only needs to prove that objective morality doesn’t exist. Fairness is clearly important because the ballot asks who did the better debating, and such an evaluation is impossible in the prescience of unfair rules.



Later in the NC, my opponent states, “I’m offended by the idea of being obligated to do anything that I don’t want to do.”


This is irrelevant. The fact that individuals may not want to fulfill their obligation to assist others is not sufficient to show that such an obligation does not exist. For instance, a criminal may strongly want to steal another person’s belongings. However, regardless of this fact, the criminal still has both a legal and moral obligation to not steal from others.



Lastly, my opponent claims, “If we were to give all we could spare away, we would never feel truly safe or comfortable.”


This objection is also irrelevant to the debate. The resolution does not say that individuals must give to any specific extent. Therefore, affirming the resolution would not require individuals to “give all [they] could spare away.”




SUMMARY:

Throughout this debate, I have demonstrated that there are at least two reasons why all individuals are obligated to assist people in need. I have also shown that, independent of these reasons, all individuals already believe that they have such an obligation.

My opponent has argued that objective moral standards cannot exist. However, the third argument I presented directly refutes this point by showing that all individuals accept the moral standard of minimal altruism. My opponent even contradicted himself by agreeing to this in his constructive.



Please vote for the affirmative!



SOURCES:


See my sources for round one.

tvellalott

Con

I apologise to my opponent. Though I disagree, I must concede this debate on the grounds that I can't write a valid response on my iPhone and I have no other way of accessing the internet at this time. I had hoped to have a spare hour or two at work, but I was inundated with work and it was simply impossible.
Furthermore, I feel I wouldn't have been able to adequetely respond anyway, since my opponents argument is very strong.

I apologise for wasting your valuable time. I'm sure you can debate this topic again and reuse a lot of your arguments, so it is not a complete waste.

-tv
Debate Round No. 3
QT

Pro

If my opponent would like to, he may go ahead and post his rebuttal in the next round.
tvellalott

Con

tvellalott forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by QT 5 years ago
QT
Also, philosophical arguments are traditionally used in LD debate.
Posted by QT 5 years ago
QT
I defined assisting as increasing happiness. Since my opponent didn't challenge this definition, I only needed to prove that we should increase the total amount of happiness to win the round.
Posted by QT 5 years ago
QT
I plan on posting my argument sometime tomorrow.
Posted by tvellalott 5 years ago
tvellalott
I'm not going to forfeit, don't worry.
Posted by QT 5 years ago
QT
Jeesh! I probably should have proof-read my argument before I posted it.
Posted by tvellalott 5 years ago
tvellalott
Holy sh!t. I'm really going to have to work on this one. >_<
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by WriterSelbe 5 years ago
WriterSelbe
QTtvellalottTied
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Total points awarded:33 
Reasons for voting decision: I'm just sort of weird this way, but honestly I found pro's arguments lacking. Though pro proved that helping others increases happiness, pro failed to prove that everyone is morally obligated to assist those in need though she said she did quite a bit. However, con did concede. Also, philosophy is really not evidence or an argument. If stating that some philosopher said something makes a debater correct, then no debate would be more than a tie.
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 5 years ago
BlackVoid
QTtvellalottTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con conceded.