The Instigator
Undebatably_Superior
Pro (for)
Losing
18 Points
The Contender
Ragnar_Rahl
Con (against)
Winning
21 Points

It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/4/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,190 times Debate No: 5646
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (18)
Votes (6)

 

Undebatably_Superior

Pro

This resolution is undeniably correct in saying that "It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of many innocent people."

Before I begin, I offer the following definitions:

Moral: of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical
Morally: from a moral point of view
Permissible: that can be permitted; allowable
Innocent: free from legal or specific wrong; guiltless

All defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Contention 1 - Respect for autonomy means we respect consent.
An established moral principle which the law usually sanctions is that "No wrong is done to one who consents." This allows a doctor to put someone through a painful surgery, or a tattooist to give someone a tattoo without it being a criminal act - so long as the other party reasonably agrees. Respecting other people means allowing them to decide for themselves what harms to risk or suffer in return for what they prize. For those who share this ideal of voluntariness, rooted in both Kantian moral philosophy and the English utilitarian tradition of which Mill is representative, a person's consent to be killed for his own good or for the benefit of others will render it morally permissible to kill them.

Contention 2 - The right not to be killed is not absolute.
Even if one does not consent to being killed, there are many ways that taking their life may be morally permissible. Ordinary human beings have a powerful moral claim against their fellows not to be killed and, under certain circumstances, to be saved from death or serious harm. The scope of that right is not, of course, unrestricted. For example, it arguably does not protect innocent people who threaten others or who would be killed by the removal of what threatens others, should those in danger, or third parties who wish to assist them, use necessary lethal force to eliminate the threat. That right not to be killed is also alienable. Unjustified aggression may forfeit its protection. An example: (hate to use the cliche Hitler.. but it gets the point across) One would argue that Hitler had no respect for human life and therefore, nobody should respect his human life. Our judicial system supports this claim by holding a death penalty in certain states or the national law of self defense. However, this resolution is not talking about something that extreme. It talks about killing an innocent. One may be innocent by not actually doing anything wrong or killing a man, but our judicial system also supports the thought that threatening another is almost as bad. So, if a man as good as the pope threatened to kill another, his lack of respect for another's life would show others to lose respect for his.

Contention 3 - Examples don't lie...
In the event of 9/11 happening again, would you honestly refuse to let the government shoot down a plane? Everyone on the plane is already certain to die. You can either kill 60 innocent people and save 2000 and a building and prevent all the repercussions that followed, or you can defend the 60 citizen's lives and watch the event happen as you refuse to do anything.

Thank you for taking the time to read this argument. I will be looking forward to this debate.
Ragnar_Rahl

Con

Contention one, it happens, doesn't do much, because if a person consents to be killed, they are not innocent- they have the guilt of that consent. Seeking death is a specific wrong, for which death is a just remedy. It's not necessary to bring the law into it of course, because no one is being forced into anything, and the law's only proper domain is retaliatory force.

"Contention 2 - The right not to be killed is not absolute.
Even if one does not consent to being killed, there are many ways that taking their life may be morally permissible. Ordinary human beings have a powerful moral claim against their fellows not to be killed and, under certain circumstances, to be saved from death or serious harm. The scope of that right is not, of course, unrestricted. For example, it arguably does not protect innocent people who threaten others or who would be killed by the removal of what threatens others, should those in danger, or third parties who wish to assist them, use necessary lethal force to eliminate the threat. That right not to be killed is also alienable. Unjustified aggression may forfeit its protection."
Simply because something has a context does not mean it is not absolute. Rights, by their very nature, only apply to those who respect the same rights in turn. The term "Right" means "Proper limit on social relations." It is only proper to observe such a limit to secure the observation of same in the other direction. Nevertheless, it is absolute. The bump on my ear absolutely exists within the context of my ear, whether or not it also exists outside that context.

"
In the event of 9/11 happening again, would you honestly refuse to let the government shoot down a plane? Everyone on the plane is already certain to die. You can either kill 60 innocent people and save 2000 and a building and prevent all the repercussions that followed, or you can defend the 60 citizen's lives and watch the event happen as you refuse to do anything."
The people on that plane are not, metaphysically, innocents. They are guilty of the wrong of cascading toward someone else's property aboard an explosive. Since they did not do this of their own free will, they are morally innocent, their guilt is no longer present if they happen to survive somehow and get out of that situation, as they are no longer forced into membership in a guilty party... but for their time on the plane, they cannot be described as "innocent" of wrong in relation to anyone except the hijackers, who of course don't care. Moral innocence is not the only criteria to qualify as "innocent" in the general sense, they are not metaphysically innocent. Slaves are not innocent until you have freed them, until such time, they are metaphysically party to the guilt. You cannot violate the rights of someone who is already being violated.

I await reasons why actual INNOCENTS, those free from wrong, are fair game for the sacrificial pyre.
Debate Round No. 1
Undebatably_Superior

Pro

Because my opponent provided no contentions of his own and only attempted to disprove mine, the debate has come down to nothing but me defending my contentions from his attacks.

Con did not disagree with my definition for innocence so I'll assume his thought of an "innocent person" is one who is free from legal or specific wrong; guiltless. If you really want to get deep into innocence, most philosophers believe that only a newborn child is truly innocent. Once a human being experiences an act of hate or aggression, he loses his innocence. From that point on he most likely will make biased decisions based on what has happened to him.

(con stated "if a person consents to be killed, they are not innocent- they have the guilt of that consent") If con continues playing the game he's playing, he can say even an infant is guilty of something such as breathing. Everyone has a guilt of something. But according to con, if a man is "guilty" of saving another man's life, then they are no longer innocent.

I realize it is not necessary to bring the law into this, but the law is mainly there to protect morals. So, in most cases, if the law allows it, then it most likely is moral.

And that's great that Con has a bump on his ear but I fail to see how he disproved my contention in any way. Con stated "Rights, by their very nature, only apply to those who respect the same rights in turn." When I said "One would argue that Hitler had no respect for human life and therefore, nobody should respect his human life." I mean the exact same thing. So if anything Con is just supporting my statement that if one does not respect your right to live, you, in turn, should not respect their right to live.

And lastly, "They are guilty of the wrong of cascading toward someone else's property aboard an explosive."?? A man thrown at a building even at a rate of 300m/h wouldn't do much damage. The passengers are not flying towards that building by choice. The effect of 9/11 was structural damage and many deaths. The passengers did not wish to take any part in that. The ones guilty of hijacking an airplane and setting the entire thing into motion were the hijackers. So the passengers would most likely be completely innocent. Think about it... if there was a plane full of completely innocent infants and 3 terrorists headed towards the empire state building and the government shot it down, do you think the majority of the population would agree or disagree that it was the right thing to do? And you must remember that morals are created by what the majority thinks is right. So if more agreed that it was the right thing to do, then it would be morally permissible to kill an innocent to save the lives of more innocent people.
Ragnar_Rahl

Con

"f you really want to get deep into innocence, most philosophers believe that only a newborn child is truly innocent."
A mix between ad populum and ad authoritatem, and in either case not helping your point, since there is no point permitting something that is impossible.

"Once a human being experiences an act of hate or aggression, he loses his innocence."
Having experienced such is wrong per se? How so?

"If con continues playing the game he's playing, he can say even an infant is guilty of something such as breathing."
Breathing is not a wrong, now is it? Seeking to die, on the other hand... since morality is merely a tool for achieving a goal, the goal being life (those for whom life is not a goal are already dead with rare exception, since human life requires volitional action), clearly an action promoting death, including giving consent to be killed, is "Wrong."

"But according to con, if a man is "guilty" of saving another man's life, then they are no longer innocent.
"
Saving a life, is again, not a wrong, per se, though saving certain lives from certain things might be (Hitler for example).

"
I realize it is not necessary to bring the law into this, but the law is mainly there to protect morals."
To protect rights, derived from morals. Not all morals per se.

"
And that's great that Con has a bump on his ear but I fail to see how he disproved my contention in any way."
I don't have to disprove you, just prevent you from proving. It's known as Burden of Proof.

"I mean the exact same thing. So if anything Con is just supporting my statement that if one does not respect your right to live, you, in turn, should not respect their right to live."
True. We are allowed to agree on things that are not the actual topic. I was simply showing that that had no relevance to the absoluteness of such rules- all absolutes have a context.

"A man thrown at a building even at a rate of 300m/h wouldn't do much damage. "
If someone is behind a window, and the man should hit the window?

"he passengers are not flying towards that building by choice. " Their choice is relevant to their specific moral innocence, not their general innocence. Metaphysically, they are flying toward the building whether they chose to or not. If I am sleepwalking, and about to murder you, I am not innocent, I'm doing something wrong, accident or otherwise, the facts remain the same.

"do you think the majority of the population would agree or disagree that it was the right thing to do?"
Ad populum.

"And you must remember that morals are created by what the majority thinks is right. "
Nope, ad populum. After all, Hitler was elected :D. Nowhere in the definition of morality you provided for the purpose of this debate is the word "Majority" used. This is because majorities mean might, they do not mean right. What is "Right" is whatever enhances one's goal- that goal, for almost anyone alive, being life, the sole possible exception being those on life support. Everyone else affirms that their life is their goal, by taking actions toward it. If it were not, they would not seek and consume food, water, shelter, etc, none of these things is automatic.
Debate Round No. 2
Undebatably_Superior

Pro

"in either case not helping your point"
I used the reasoning of an innocent to explain why the infants in my later example "a plane full of completely innocent infants" would truly be innocent. I was merely explaining in that paragraph, not trying to prove a point.

And it clearly states in the second sentence why "Once a human being experiences an act of hate or aggression, he loses his innocence." It's because "From that point on he most likely will make biased decisions based on what has happened to him." I'll put it another way. If a child is yelled at for running away, the next time he goes to make a decision he will consider the consequences before running away again. So from that point on, his actions are no longer unbiased and innocent actions. This is why punishment is almost always greater the second time one is caught for something - they're no longer innocent or oblivious to the action's wrongfulness.

Morality is agreeably a tool for something. But one cannot prove that morality is a tool for achieving life. One could argue that morality is a tool utilized to benefit one's selfishness by implying one's values is superior over the another.

Many of Con's arguments are just altering my statements, not disproving or preventing me from proving mine.

And if a man was thrown at a window with a man behind it you can only assume something bad would happen. However, the man did not wish to be thrown at the window, meaning he's still innocent. If a man was sleep walking or was just thrown off a building while he was asleep only to land on someone and kill them, the man would still be innocent. The thought of ending another's life never crossed his mind. His body did what his mind had no control over.

"Nowhere in the definition of morality you provided for the purpose of this debate is the word "Majority" used."
I never even defined "morality". I defined "moral" and "morally". I apologize if the similarities between the words confused you. And in the definition of "moral", "ethical" was used which means "conforming to accepted standards of society". Which is mainly determined by the majority. It's a very rare case that society accepts standards of the minorities.

This debate was fun and I enjoyed it very much. Good luck to Con and I appreciate any judges who took the time to read this.
Ragnar_Rahl

Con

"It's because "From that point on he most likely will make biased decisions based on what has happened to him."
What "Most likely" happens is not a wrong, only what will happen can be :D.

"
Morality is agreeably a tool for something. But one cannot prove that morality is a tool for achieving life. One could argue that morality is a tool utilized to benefit one's selfishness"
A, therefore non A? Selfishness, pursuit of self, requires pursuit of life of self :D.

Many of Con's arguments are just altering my statements, not disproving or preventing me from proving mine.

A few are. Mainly so I don't end up assenting to a falsehood by default.

"
And if a man was thrown at a window with a man behind it you can only assume something bad would happen. However, the man did not wish to be thrown at the window, meaning he's still innocent."
The wishes do not alter whether he is free from wrong. The fact that he's headed toward that window is still a wrong, one he is not free from. Since he didn't choose it, he will be free from it when it's over, if he survives, but presently he is not free from it, not innocent. Nowhere in the provide definition of innocent does it include intent.

"The thought of ending another's life never crossed his mind."
What matter his mind? Where did the definition require that? His mind isn't what's in control of this situation.

"
I never even defined "morality". I defined "moral" and "morally". I apologize if the similarities between the words confused you."
"Morality" is simply a different "Part of speech" than the word "moral." The definition of one is derived from the other.

"And in the definition of "moral", "ethical" was used which means "conforming to accepted standards of society"
Nope, you didn't set that definition as a precondition of the debate, as such, it cannot be sprung upon me :D. Ethical means conforming to the standards relevant to your goal. Nothing more, nothing less. Hitler conformed to the accepted standard of his society, yet clearly you do not consider him ethical.

It seems I've distracted you. You've no rounds left, and you have yet to really argue your case according to the resolution, but the burden of proof is on you. Have a nice day :D
Debate Round No. 3
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 6 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
http://img161.imageshack.us...
Me no does has a sel fon!
Posted by Undebatably_Superior 6 years ago
Undebatably_Superior
didn't do the personal ID or whatever? I was just wonderin... haha
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 6 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
I don't have the ability to vote on this website.
Posted by Undebatably_Superior 6 years ago
Undebatably_Superior
Did you vote for yourself?
Posted by Puck 6 years ago
Puck
"All my contentions were adequate examples of when it would undeniably be morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people."

Err. No. You just had an entire debate + comments showing that is wrong. Your issue was not defining your intent strictly enough e.g. what is innocent. By not defining this strictly all definitions are valid counter arguments, "specific wrong" is as good as saying - open season on definitions.
Posted by Undebatably_Superior 6 years ago
Undebatably_Superior
All my contentions were adequate examples of when it would undeniably be morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people.
Posted by Puck 6 years ago
Puck
""It was like watching a mini train crash." You think he really beat me that badly?"

Reference what I quoted. It was a pun. Something about being derailed...
And yes - you singularly failed to live up to the burden of the resolution - to provide an adequte example.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 6 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
"Everything you have said is completely wrong."
Even the things I agreed with you about?
Could you perhaps prove it?

"JUST STOP."
I believe there is a word that applies here, it's called hypocrisy.
Posted by Undebatably_Superior 6 years ago
Undebatably_Superior
Just stop. I didn't state that in my case, I stated that in a comment. You can't win. Everything you have said is completely wrong. JUST STOP.

"and stating what I think I've found" What you "think" you have found is something useful that will make you seem better than me, but what you've really found is nothing.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 6 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
"idn't say kill one "innocent" to save the lives of others, I said to kill one to save the lives of others. "
And I quote, the resolution.

"It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people."

"your conduct is really quite immature."
my conduct consists of seeking truth, and stating what I think I've found. Whether that is immature is no concern of mine.
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