The Instigator
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The Contender
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Individuals have a moral obligation to assist those in need.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/8/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,881 times Debate No: 25079
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (59)
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Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist those in need.

Rules and Conditions:

1. This is the November/December topic for 2011 in LD. Thus, this will be treated as an LD debate.
2. Both traditional and progressive cases are allowed.
3. Cases are allowed to be posted in google documents if they exceed the 8000 character limit. All rebuttals must be inside the limit.
4. Forfeit means automatic loss, unless this rule is voided by the non-forfeiting debater.

Round structure:

Round One: Neg proposes debate, aff accepts and posts case.
Round Two: Neg posts case and rebuttal. Aff posts rebuttal.
Round Three: Neg posts rebuttal, aff posts last rebuttal.

Deviation from this round structure is automatic deduction of conduct point for one offense, automatic loss for two.

With that, I await my opponent.



What if every moral obligation was ignored? What if every moral obligation was fulfilled?
The Bad Life: You wife has just died in the midst of a civil war which has encompassed your entire life. Today your daughter was raped, by your son who was forced by the gun point of a gang member to do it. You have experienced only occasional respite from chronic hunger, fear, apathy, and confusion You life has been one long emergency, and now it’s nearly over.
The Good Life: You are married to the best person you’ve ever met. You both have intellectually engaging and financially rewarding careers. Your wealth and social connections allow you much time to enjoy activities which bring you immense personal satisfaction. You find happiness in helping others. You can’t imagine your life to be any better. Your closest friends and family live long, healthy lives, untouched by crime, sudden bereavements, and other misfortunes.

These two lives are very different, and one should note the empathy one feels toward the less fortunate of the two. It is because some human beings require assistance to achieve the good life that I stand in strong affirmation of the resolution,

Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people* in need. My opponent made a slight mistake in phrasing the resolution. []

I will now define some of the key terms in today’s debate; all of which come from Black’s Law Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:
Individuals: Single persons as distinguished from group or class
Moral Obligation: a duty which is valid and binding in conscience and according to natural justice
People in need: “human beings” who “lack something requisite”
Moral Agency: the capacity for those actions which have a moral quality
Altruism: exhibiting a regard for the welfare of others

Observation 1: for the purposes of this debate I do not have to prove that all individuals have a moral obligation, as this would be abusive to the resolution: some humans lack the basic requirements of responsible moral agency.

The highest Value of today’s debate is clearly that of Morality. Morality is a right, universal code of conduct that all rational persons would put forward for governing the behavior of all moral agents. It is rationally and ethically defensible with procedural tests for identifying morally permissible actions. It’s moral values exist independently of the feeling-states of individuals at particular times. Morality is saliently important because it gives us the instructions for right action.

The Value Criterion I will use to achieve my value of Morality is Moral Responsibility. This is the responsibility of conscience that justifies claims and ascriptions of praise and blame, reward and punishment. This applies to when a person performs or fails to perform a morally significant action, and is a prime importance in this debate because it is precisely what warrants moral action. Without moral responsibility there would be no way to judge morally significant actions; thus, any objective moral action would be done unintentionally. Moral responsibility has little if anything to do with determinism, since it arises from people’s desires and attitudes rather than from the causal origins of their actions.

Contention one: Our moral responsibility requires us to be altruistic. The work of evolutionary biologists and psychologists Robert Trivers and Geoffrey Miller on reciprocal altruism examines the psychological and social aspects of altruism which are empirically observable in brain scans, group behavior, and the acceptability of actions. They prove that sexual selection further developed moral behavior as an epigenetic trait. Moral responsibility is a natural component of moral agency. Moral responsibility demands altruism as an essential component of morality. Since moral responsibility warrants action based on inherent altruism, morality is upheld and achieved. When we see a kid fall off a bicycle and get injured, we sense our moral obligation to assist him because of this altruistic quality inherent in agency. The assistance we would offer this child would be medical aid, assurance, and comfort. We are morally obligated to assist him because of our moral responsibility. Numerous moral codes, religions, and traditions throughout history and dispersed globally denote the moral importance of charity, benevolence, and altruism to people in need. This is an extraordinary paradigm of just how pervasive this most essential concept of morality is. This moral norm was discovered in light of an unchanging and objective set of moral principles that find their source in the realities of human existence. It is clear that morality is a universal concept of which people adhere to based upon their deepest integrity. The Philosopher Sam Harris writes in his book, The Moral Landscape, “helping people can be one of humanity’s greatest sources of happiness.” To summarize, the morality inherent in human beings obligates compassionate assistance through moral responsibility which culminates in a mutually beneficial moral exchange that helps humanity.

Contention two: Assisting people in need is obligated by Universal Morality. Aristotle’s Law of Identity is that reality is absolute and can be understood through inductive and deductive reasoning. Because reality is absolute, and reasoning is the means by which we understand reality, it follows that reasoning is equally absolute. Once we have this rational foundation, we move on applying reasoning and understanding to morality. As Immanuel Kant aptly synthesized, “Act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal law.” We simply apply the rationale of moral responsibility to action, and when we do that we see that we should act in universally valid and moral ways. Conversely, actions are wrong if the success of the proposed action depends upon making an exception for yourself. Assisting people in need is always moral, because the myriad ways individuals can fulfill their moral obligation to assist people in need ensure morality. Furthermore, the act of assisting people in need passes the seven tests for universally ethical decision making: Harm test (will it hurt anyone?), Publicity test(would I want my action publicized?), Defensibility test (could I defend my decision?), Reversibility test(what if I were in his situation?), Virtue test (what will I become if I do this?). Conversely, when the moral obligation is avoided or ignored, the tests are scored negatively, we feel guilty for not having fulfilled it, and we drift toward the bad life. Thus, morality obligates assistance to people in need in the positive and negative sense. Universal Morality, the ethical code which transcends culture, creed, socioeconomic class, gender, and zeitgeist obligates these actions.

Contention three: Moral obligations promote utility in an individual towards society and strengthens society as a whole. Moral responsibility, referring to the “scope of moral obligation and the structure of human interaction”, requires altruism, which is always moral, and uses it to create a mutually beneficial network of moral exchange within society. Moral responsibility warrants moral obligations and good behavior. With it, individuals within a society choose to act according to Kant’s categorical imperative: “act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Essentially, what all of us know as the “golden rule.” Fulfilling one’s moral obligation is not merely financial assisting others in need many mediums of aid however insignificant. This value of assisting those in need greatly strengthens a society and the foundation of morality that it upholds, this concept that forms the foundation of society and the common individual, one’s moral obligation.

Thank you! :)

Debate Round No. 1


Procrastination for the win. case is below since I can post google doc links for cases.

With that, let's return to my opponent's case for some rebuttals. Starting with an overview to his contentions:

The problem with his contentions is that he presupposes we are morally responsible for the welfare of other people, yet provides no warrant for why we hold this responsibility to other people. The entire driving force behind his argument for altruism is that we are being constantly held morally responsible for them, and thus are obligated to act in an altruistic manner. The problem is he never warrants the existence of this moral responsibility, but only pressupposes it's existance. Without this warrant, there's literally nothing linking altruism to being morally obligatory. If he fails to prove this link, presume neg.

But secondly, his presumption that moral responsibilty towards others exists is abusive, because presupposing this is equivalent to presupposing we are morally obligated to others. By presupposing this, he presupposes the resolution is already true, which is abusive since we're still debating if the resolution is true. Don't let him get away with this presumption without warranting it, since it abusively presumes the resolution is true. With that, let's go to the first contention specifically.

The problem with altruism is it in itself is not morally obligatory. Under egoism, we can act altruistically if we so choose to, but in no way are we morally obligated to do so. Even if we decide to act in an altruistic manner, the reason can be some self-fulfilling reason and something that isn't actually morally obligatory. If I see a kid fallen on the side of the street, the aff would argue that I would have to help him because it's morally obligated. However, under egoism, I can do the exact same thing because it makes me feel good inside for helping someone out. The only difference is one is obligated and one isn't: the action was the same, but the cause of the action differed. This means two things in terms of how the round breaks down:

1. Don't let my opponent throw body-count numbers around in an attempt to appeal to some outside emotion (as he tried to in the top of his case) in an attempt to paint the negative world as horrible, unethical beasts. In the negative world, we are able to do the exact same thing as the affirmative world, but the only difference is there isn't any moral obligation.

2. Any offense my opponent gains off of altruism flows negative as much as affirmative, since we can do the exact same things as the affirmative in the negative world, effectively making the contention non-unique.

Now to move onto his contentions two and three (as they both talk about the same principle):

The same problem with his first contention applies to his second and third contention. Under egoism, we can still follow Kant's Categorical Imperative, but still not be morally obligated to do so. Because we can do the same thing in the negative world as in the affirmative world, you flow these contentions as offense for the negative just as much for offense as the affirmative, thusly making it non-unique.

In summary:

The main problem with my opponent's case is that he provides literally no warrant for why we are held morally responsible for other people's welfare. He's made quite the compelling case for all the good that would come out of it if we WERE, but has yet to warrant the 'if we were'. Until he does, we can still do the same exact things in the negative world as he's described in the affirmative world. The only difference between the two is that you vote con because there's no moral obligation to act altruistically, but rather we have the choice to act altruistically or not to act altruistically. This missing link between obligation and altruism is what will ultimately cost my opponent the debate.

Thank you.



My opponent chooses my aforestated value of morality for his case; however, we differ on definition, and I will urge you to accept mine. My opponent states that morality is, “based in rules of interaction that guide our decisions. Our decisions come from self-interest and intending to recognize desired ends.” This makes morality as arbitrary as playing with play-dough or selling drugs to children to buy porn. If self-interest is the highest good of morality, any action (provided it doesn’t intentionally use force on others) would be moral. Lying, cheating, stealing, attaining every possible clandestine advantage, and other acts we deem wholly immoral are considered moral in this system. The reason we deem them immoral is due to our moral responsibility, which ascribes to them guilt and punishment. Needless to say, a society of Egoistic Game Theory robots would not be a moral place to live, but an amoral one.

My opponent chooses a value criterion of “realizing self-regarding ends” and a basis of Egoism for his argumentation. This theory says that what one morally ought to do is whatever is in one's own self-interest. It rejects altruism, and says that the only way to truly value ourselves and humanity is to care solely about our own life projects. Quick question: when thinking about a moral person you are familiar with, does there immediately arise in your mind a person wholly concerned with his own self-interested desires who rejects a concern for the welfare of others? The point is there is no direct connection of acting in self-interest and acting morally. Without moral responsibility, judging morally significant actions is an impossibility.

Egoism is the only moral theory which directly and unequivocally disregards positive moral obligations. It accepts negative moral obligations, and it holds that hurting others or using force and intimidation against others is necessarily self-harming, since it is inconsistent with the nature of man to do so. So, as Pro all I have to do to turn Con’s case into flowing Pro is demonstrate that it is in the majority of people’s self-interest to help others in need. This would indicate a positive moral obligation, as it is an act, not a withholding of an act, which is consistent with the nature of man to help people in need.

Furthermore, according to Egoism if the only action that stands in the way of furthering one’s own goals is using force, then any other action performed by that agent is moral. This opens a Pandora’s Box of society-destroying behaviors when Universalized. It goes without saying that actions deemed moral under Egoism do not pass basic procedural tests for morality, demonstrating an inherent contradiction in Con’s case.

What basic fulfillment do people achieve through helping people in need? As I stated in my case, the Philosopher Sam Harris writes in his book, The Moral Landscape, “helping people can be one of humanity’s greatest sources of happiness.” How could a non-selfish act be in one’s self interest? The answer can be found in our genes. This can be further understood when we delve deeper into my case’s mention that the work of two evolutionary biologists’ work on “reciprocal altruism examines the psychological and social aspects of altruism which are empirically observable in brain scans, group behavior, and the acceptability of actions.” When we examine the brain scans, the ‘reward system’ of the brain is engaged and satisfactory brain chemicals are released. This is the part of the brain we have the least control over, since it is the most primal and instinctual. Primary rewards of this circuitry include those that are necessary for the survival of species, which elucidates the emotional truism Sam Harris expressed. It is an inherent part of humanity, which necessitates that we have moral responsibility.

My opponent describes weak egoism as an agent having, “self-regarding ends, an expectation without which the agent would not have performed the action.” Regardless of the reward, individuals sacrifice to help people in need. Fathers feed their families according to the Marxian principle of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!” Volunteers offer unpaid service at soup kitchens. A driver pulls over to help a child who has fallen off a bicycle. Egoism cannot sustain itself under critical scrutiny, and outside theory it is consistently, overwhelmingly disproven.

The resolution is affirmed.
Debate Round No. 2


So just starting from the top where he questions the morality behind a Egoistic society. The problem with it is all he does is takes the extreme side of the spectrum and tries to sell it off as the norm. But this is fallacious because:

a) All an egoistic society really is is one where our actions are driven by what we want, and gives us no moral obligations what-so-ever. There is still charity and helpfulness and altruism in an egoistic world, but it all is for a reason in our self-interest. I.e. I can volunteer at an animal shelter, but the reason for that could be that I need volunteer hours to graduate from high school, and I could really care less about the animals or that there's a really cute girl that I want to see if I could get with or even more basic like volunteering there gives me a good feeling inside. Hence why I said that his offense flows negative as much as it does affirmative.

b) The same thing can be done with altruism. Our extreme desire for others would only promote us to starve ourselves so that there is more food available for everyone else, to kill ourselves so that we can donate all of our organs to science or to people that need them, and other silly, extreme things like that. I don't want to live in a society that the normal is starving myself and then killing myself so that someone can have my brain and scientists can test on my spleen.

That's where his first attack fails. Extend our Mercer 1 which establishes that society and morality is driven by the desire to realize self-regarding ends.

His attack against my criterion is an entire straw-man of what my position says. Egoism does not reject altruism, but rather establishes that we do not hold a moral obligation through altruistic feelings, but that these altruistic feelings and actions are taken for an end of our own wanting (i.e. feeling good about ourselves, etc.) This attack also fails, so extend out my criterion of realizing self-regarding ends. This means that you're going to view the round today under an egoistic frame of mind.

His idea for a turn on Egoism ultimately fails because even if he shows that it's in our self-interest to assist people in need, this doesn't prove that we are morally obligated to do so. Under egoism, we hold no moral obligations, which established in the Kalin evidence. So you can ignore the turn on egoism as false.

The next paragraph is just not even close to true, and doesn't even make any sense. It commits the Slippery Slope fallacy, claiming that if it's in my best interest to use force to realize a self-regarding end, then suddenly EVERYONE will start using force and the world will come to an end in a spasmic rain of flaming, radioactive monkeys falling from the sky. But seriously, it really doesn't make any sense. Also, my opponent misunderstands that actions are not universalized under an Egoistic framework. To say that our actions are meant to be universalized would presume that we all have the same self-regarding ends, which is massively false. I certainly don't want the same ends in my life as my opponent does, or that imabench does, or that anyone else here does (well, maybe not everyone else, but you get my point). That's ultimately where his attack fails there.

My opponent then only furthers my case when quoting Harris when he says that when we act in the benefit of others, chemicals in our brain are released that make us feel happy and satisfactory. If his case is true, and that we hold a moral obligation to act altruistically, then there would be no need for the brain to emit these chemicals that make us feel good about what we did, for we wouldn't need them in the first place! We would have to, as it's our moral obligation! But the mere fact that it does suggests that by helping others, we better ourselves (i.e. realize self-regarding ends. See where I'm going with this?). So you can actually turn this evidence to flow negative.

My opponent's attacks against egoism have been superficial, at best, and have really not even hit the target and really been applicable to what egoism actually claims. Egoism isn't a doctrine that says we all should intentionally screw people over and laugh maniacly while plotting for world destruction. Egoism is a doctrine that says that we should, basically, just to what we want to do! If that means we become the largest donor of money to charity organizations like UNICEF, then go donate that money! If not, and you want to use that charity money to go buy yourself a nice, big soda from McDonalds, then go get you some soda! My opponent has attempted to blind you to one half of the spectrum, the spectrum that actually takes his case and makes it confirm my side of the case, and sell that the other half is the only half that exists. This trickery is false and entirely untrue. I ask that you fully extend my case across the flow and vote for the negative debater because of it.

Of course, he also dropped all my attacks against his case, and still presumes that moral responsibility exists, so you can extend all that out as well.

But anyway, resolution is still negated.


Moral Responsibility.

Perhaps the most basic attack on the Pro case by Con has been the charge that moral responsibility has not been shown to exist. Even if altruism would be shown to be a direct outcome of the application of either Kantian, utilitarian, or evolutionary ethics to society, if moral responsibility is not proved then it is all for nothing. For that reason refuting Con's observation is necessary in order to defend the Pro case. Luckily Con's observation doesn't hold weight under scrutiny. First, the opposite of moral responsibility (the position of an ethics which imposes no responsibility or obligation) is itself incoherent as was shown in the refutation of egoism (see 'Refutation of Egoism' below). Basically, under egoism, morality is simply whatever we do with no regard to concepts like right, wrong, good, or bad. This in itself establishes the scale in favor of the existence of moral responsibility.

Of course that's not enough to prove positively that moral obligation exists. That part was provided in the point regarding Kantian universality. The basic point argued was that no moral code can be established as actually moral if it is merely contingent on one's desired ends. It would only create what Kant called a hypothetical imperative. But that's not morality. It's simply a way of choosing what to do to get to where you want. Morality deals with the right things to want. Figuring out how to get to what one wants is another job entirely. A construction worker isn't being moral when building a house just because they're utilizing means to achieve desired ends. He's simply doing his job as cost efficiently and as qualitatively as possible. It might be the smart thing to do but you wouldn't say that worker is being moral which is what an egoistic morality would dictate.

Refutation of Egoism.

Con has weakly attempted to dodge the necessary outcome of an egoistic morality. He argues that one would be free to be altruistic if one wants and that not everyone would act violently or aggressively. This may be all well and true, but it is altruism and not egoism that stamps out violent, aggressive action fully. Beating someone over the head to steal their clothes could be fully justified if the only rule of morality is that one acts according to their desires. However, a morality based off of concern for the welfare of others (as well as one's self) would deny that as wholly irrational. Con's point that not EVERYONE would be violent and aggressive fails to refute the fact that some people would, and would be fully justified under egoism.


To conclude, moral responsibility has in fact been shown to exist both because the converse (non-obligatory morality) fails and because non-obligatory morality ignores what morality actually is. Non-obligatory morality simply creates a hypothetical imperative, which doesn't take into account any actual moral standards. Furthermore, since non-coercive actions taken are always taken on free will, egoism doesn't actually prescribe anything since acing on our own free will is acting according to our own desires. Ethical egoism is simply saying that whatever we do on our own free will is permissible because it is what we want to do and that anything we are forced to do by the will of someone else is also fine (since universality is not required under egoism, thus not everyone is under the same rules and requirements) since that is something someone else wants, since they are also morally justified in doing whatever they want. So basically, any action at all by anyone is justified, hence the earlier charge that egoism is simply amoralism stands. Moral responsibility has been shown to exist (hence the application of Kantian and utilitarian standards succeeds) and ethical egoism has been shown to be inherently self defeating and amoral.

Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 3
59 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by aberum1 5 years ago
Sorry I mistyped, you commented"There is so much wrong that I dont know where to start." It is comments like these that i die for, to help me improve my debates.
Posted by aberum1 5 years ago
i love how this debate had over 50 comments, yet had no votes? Now if I may Zaradi, as you may know this topic is the Lincoln Douglus debate this year. Your case is EXCELLENT! Now i would like to debate you on this topic. In one of my debates on this topic, you commented" If you would like, I would like to debate you on this topic, and see how you attack each one of my contentions, and my core value and criterion. Please contact me back, and I wish you the best of luck in the future. Thank You!
Posted by sadolite 5 years ago
I saw your nice profile,and something motivated me to communicate with you,My Dear in your usual time may it pleases you to write me back so that i can send you my pictures and also tell you more about myself.A friendship is the foundation build on other relative things to come.May God bless you as i wait impatiently to hear from you. Your lonely friend,
Posted by Zaradi 5 years ago
Good to know you can't refute what I'm saying. This, of course, only begs the question of if you knew you were wrong and just came in here to repeat the same "broken record"-esque line over and over again, why did you bother in the first place?
Posted by sadolite 5 years ago
I said all I have to say. Reality is a cold ruthless thing, and does not give a crap about your noble resolutuion and your samantics.
Posted by Zaradi 5 years ago
The reason why I'm "ignoring it" is because it doesn't actually respond to what the resolution is asking us to question. Why it doesn't do that is because a) it asks us to consider things from a moral/philosophical point of view, not the one of a realist (although you could catagorize your argument as a pragmatistic argument, although since you have not done so I don't give you credit for this), and b) as I have said multiple times before and you have refrained for talking about those same amount of times, the resolution is asking whether or not we have moral obligations, not whether or not acting on those moral obligations is a good idea. Irregardless of the downsides of acting on a moral obligation (as your argument is saying that moral obligations are bad), it a) presupposes that moral obligations exist, which would mean your argument would prove my side, b) doesn't matter because the resolution isn't asking whether moral obligations are good or bad, and c) doesn't matter because regardless of the harms, having a moral obligation means that we are still obligated to do it (big words for saying we have to do it. Just making sure you understand since you seem rather slow and dim-witted) regardless of the harms that come to us for doing it.

Since I'm really starting to get tired of pointing out the painfully obvious to you, unless you have something new I would suggest taking your butt-hurt feelings elsewhere. Thank you, and have a lovely day!
Posted by sadolite 5 years ago
Your response was to ignore a fact of life and reality. And then insult me for pointing it out. Helping people out who are in need is all well and good (In theory and on paper). But in "reality" it comes with grave financial risk. That is all. Oh and your a dumb aZZ ignorant jerk off too. You started it.
Posted by Zaradi 5 years ago
I've already responded to that. If you don't feel like listening, much less refuting what I say without saying that "I'm ignoring you", then you're only proving my "insults" true.
Posted by sadolite 5 years ago
And you are not listening to me. You ignore reality. There "are" implications attached to your resolution and to ignore them is the act of a "fool". Insulting my intellegence is a reflection upon your character. It in no way is a reflection upon me. When you resort to insults, you have already lost.
Posted by Zaradi 5 years ago
@ sadolite:

You are not listening to me. The resolution does not ask what are the implications of acting upon moral obligations. You present a compelling case for, if they exist, why we shouldn't act upon them (ignoring the fact of the whole obligatory deal, but that's past the point). But since the resolution does not actually address that, but rather do these obligations you claim are horrible exist in the first place. Saying they are massively harmful to one's fortunes and well-being presupposes they do exist, which would only be a vote in the affirmative direction, a direction your argument does not flow. So before you try and say I don't know what I'm talking about because I'm 17 (yet I know more about what we're currently discussing than you do. Reality check), please actually READ the resolution.

I say, regardless of the marginalization effort, your win record serves your intelligence quite well. Good day.
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