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

Individuals have a moral obligation to assist those in need

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/6/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,958 times Debate No: 19708
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (2)




"At the end of the day the goals are simple; safety and security."

It is because I agree Joyce Heislin that I stand in firm negation of the resolution that states resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need.

I feel it is important to define the following Counter-Definitions:
Moral: Conformity to the rules of right action (Random House)
Obligation: A course of action imposed by society (Collins English)
Assist: to give support or aid to (Random House)
Need: Necessity arising from the circumstances of a situation or case (Random House)

Remember that values compel actions, and with that in mind, the value premise I will be upholding in today's round is that of Justice. The British philosopher Thomas Hobbes defines justice as the imperative of self-protection. He writes, "The right of nature, which writers commonly call [justice], is the liberty each man hath, to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own Nature." We can clearly see that Justice is merely protecting the liberties of individuals, not such notions as obligatory assistance. When a society is protecting the safety and liberty of its people, it is then a just society.

My criterion, the device by which you should if I have achieved my value, is that of Hobbes' Social Contract. Hobbes writes that people enter into a society for selfish reasons. In the state of nature, "the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." In nature, humans don't have any obligations. "All men pursue only what the perceive to be their own individually considered best interests- they respond mechanistically by being drawn to that which they desire and repelled by that to which they are averse." Humans enter society in order to ensure self-protection. The reason for establishing societies is to provide security. Furthermore, morality is not internationally uniform. Henry Beecher tells, "Morality is character and conduct such as is required by the circle or community in which the man's life happens to be placed." Morality, then, is a social issue, concerning how people treat one another in a society; therefore, we will look to the social contract.

I offer the following two contentions for support:

First Contention: We can not uphold this obligation to assist others

Subpoint A: It conflicts with the social contract, therefor, justice

Hobbes defines justice as "self-protection". Society was formed to enforce justice upon the people of society. If this moral obligation is established, then we are violating the Social Contract then in correlation we are conflicting with justice. If a person offers assistance, they are either putting themselves into a form of danger, or offering up something they are entitled to. For example, a person offers up their money as a donation during church that could serve them selves far better. Or a person attempts to rescue a hostage from harm. This act would clearly put them in danger. Requiring this assistance would contradict their right to self protection; therefor, would not be just, and would hence violate the Social Contract. (not to say this help is immoral, but injustice lies when we force someone to do this)

Subpoint B: There is no obligation

Melvin Eisenberg, a Prof. of Law at the University of California, writes, "There is no moral obligation to make heroic rescues, that is, rescues that would involve significant risk to the rescuer. If an actor does perform a heroic rescue he will have acted in a way that is morally commendable, but not in a way that was morally required."

These acts are both commendable and kind, yet can not be made requirements. Not only is it not always possible to assist others, it will always come into contradiction with the social contract, hence, justice.

Second contention: Assistance is a choice to the individual

Every man is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. His goal is to preserve himself first, then his family, and finally obey his government or society. Because a moral obligation to assist people in need would naturally conflict with his highest purpose, self-protection, a human must use his own judgment to decide whether to do something or do abstain. It is his, and only his, CHOICE, not his obligation.

Steven J. Heyman, in the Vanderbilt Law Review, writes, "As long as a person refrains from injuring others, he should be free to act as he wishes. It is inappropriate for [society] to require one person to act solely for the benefit of another."

In conclusion we are not required to help others in any instance. To uphold this resolution is to disregard justice, and in a sense IMMORAL.


Note: Con has imposed a 1000 character limit on my response despite his opening argument exceeding 3500 characters - a blatantly unfair handicap.

1. Justice is not synonymous with selfishness

Con cites one pessimistic political philosopher to define justice in loaded and ridiculous terms. MOST people consider greed / selfishness as moral vices, while altruism and selflessness are praised as moral virtues.

2. Human beings are social creatures that rely on the assistance of others

Con wastes time talking about an abstracted "state of nature" which has never actually existed. Human beings are social creatures who depend on the benevolence of others (especially relatives) to thrive.

3. Con confuses legal and moral obligation

The former may not exist in many instances where the latter does, as demonstrated below.

4. Con's argument leads to perverse outcomes

Con says "we are not required to help others in any instance." Is a mom not required to save her infant from drowning in a tub?
Debate Round No. 1


Jaybird122 forfeited this round.


Note: I still have a ridiculous 1000 character limit.

Con wrote "we are not required to help others in any instance." If this is true, my opponent would apparently defend the following scenarios as morally permissible:

1. Dozens of pedestrians walk past a 2 year old child over the course of several minutes, as she lays dying in the middle of a street after being hit by a car.;

2. Fellow patients & hospital personnel fail to do anything to save a 49 year old woman after she collapsed onto the floor in a hospital waiting room. The woman died 36 minutes later.

3. A 6'5" assistant football coach witnesses a 58 yr. old man raping a 10 year old boy in a shower, but fails to stop the rape or report the incident to police.

If we can easily stop suffering, we MUST. Period.
Debate Round No. 2


Jaybird122 forfeited this round.


Unfortunately, my opponent hasn't bothered to defend his opening argument, or respond to anything I've written.

Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by LiberalHoyaLawya 6 years ago
Jaybird, can you change the character limit to something greater than 1000 characters? If not, please don't exceed 1000 characters in your arguments with me.

I regret signing up for a "debate" under such ridiculous constraints.
Posted by iTzDanneh 6 years ago
Damn I was just about to accept!!! ive wanted to go affirmative. Oh and that definition of moral is bs
Posted by larztheloser 6 years ago
I'd like to take pro, but I've done this debate as pro 3 times on this site in the last month and in each debate my opponent conceded so I'm a bit sick of it. Good luck though.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by WriterSelbe 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct for the forfeit, though no one can be sure the exact reason why Con forfeited.
Vote Placed by Ore_Ele 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro did not provide adequate support of the resolution and the lack of sources from both sides was mildly disappointing. However, both sides basically "assumed" their morals, and so arguements cannot be given to either. However, the forfeits and highly restrictive character count cost Con the conduct.