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LD debate topic for Nov/Dec

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/28/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,452 times Debate No: 20100
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
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Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need

The following debate will be in LD format

The first round is acceptance, I will be on the pro side


I accept this debate and thank Pro for proposing it. Good luck to both parties, and I hope it is fun.
Debate Round No. 1


C-L-Fox forfeited this round.


Thank you, Pro, for instigating this debate. Even though it has been a dud thus far, I anticipate some good argumentation in the remaining three speeches.

By forfeiting the 1AC, the affirmative side of this debate forfeits any right to suggest a value for this round to be judged by; a value criterion, dictating how that value is to be achieved; resolutional analysis, including observations, frameworks, definitions, etc.; and contentions. Thus, by default, the affirmative accepts the negative's value and value criterion for this debate (unless he intends to argue that my pair is abusive). The affirmative also accepts my definitions, unless he intends on arguing they are abusive. The affirmative may not formulate contentions in the 1AR or 2AR, meaning that if any of the negative's contentions are even partially standing at the end of this debate, that is reason enough to vote negative, as no other contentions are on Pro's side to compete to fulfill the resolution. Thus, I begin my case.

No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as "the right to enslave."
-Ayn Rand in "Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal"

Because I agree with Ayn Rand, I negate the resolution ("Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need").

Resolutional Analysis

Individual - A single human being as distinct from a group, class, or family[1]

Moral - Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character[2]

Obligation - An act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment[3]

Assist - To give usually supplementary support or aid to[4]

Need - A thing that is wanted or required[5]

Liberty - The power or scope to act as one pleases[8]

Autonomy - Freedom from external control or influence; independence[9]

Negative Right - Rights to liberty, to freedom from being "forced to do anything [one] doesn't want"[7]

Positive Right - Right that obligates a specific course of action on an individual[6]; positive rights and negative rights cannot coexist, as positive rights infringe upon negative rights[7]

Observation One: Views on morality differ from individual to individual, society to society
Because morality is subjective (and the moral philosophies endeavoring to claim it is not lack universal acceptance), it is inevitable that people will have different morals. The same applies to the diverse societies of the world. On the individual level, for example, there is the issue of abortion. Some feel it is justifiable while others feel it is not. On the societal level, I turn to the example of Nazi Germany. I assume that anyone would agree with me in stating that Nazi Germany had some different morals than America does, today.

Observation Two: A Moral Obligation to Assist People in Need Constitutes a Positive Right of the People in Need
As defined, positive rights obligate specific courses of action. The resolution is obligating individuals to engage in the act of assisting. Obligating that individuals assist people in need is recognising that people in need have a positive right to assistance.


Today, I hold the value of justice, commonly defined simply as "giving each his or her due". I intend to show that a moral obligation to assist people in need is unjust, through my value criterion...

Value Criterion

The value criterion for today's round will be the protection of what John Locke describes as the inalienable rights. Locke states that individuals come together in a society, giving up freedoms in exchange for protection of rights. A society should be based upon the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. A moral obligation to assist people in need infringes upon an individual's inalienable rights.

Contention One: Positive Rights Abridge Liberty and Autonomy

Imposing a moral obligation upon individuals violates their negative right to act as they please, their right to liberty. Such an obligation also abridges an individual's right to autonomy, to self-governance. The moral obligation disregards the individual's moral values and substitutes a set that states we should value people in need's positive rights over individuals' negative rights. Some might claim that because a moral obligation is derived from morals, it is not necessarily violating rights (to liberty and autonomy). However, when such an obligation is derived from an external source, it is not respecting an individual's rights.

Contention Two: The Moral Obligation Endangers Individuals
An incident commonly cited by those in affirmation of the moral obligation is the story of Yue Yue, a girl hit by two cars and ignored by 18 bystanders.[10] No matter how horrible it may be to suggest this, it was possible that the child had AIDS. It was also possible that anyone assisting her would be hit by a vehicle themself. It is ridiculous to expect individuals to risk their own right to life in order to assist others. Assisting people in need is not inherently immoral; it should just be a matter of choice, not obligation.

Contention Three: The Altruistic Actions May Lead to Poor Consequences
This point shall be explained through an example. When three Malden Mills factories were destroyed, CEO Aaron Feuerstein announced that he would continue to pay workers' salaries despite a lack of production. Then there was former GE (General Electric) CEO Jack Welch, who fired thousands of employees in his attempt to make his company more successful. One was loved by the media, whereas the other was hated. The ironic twist of the story happens to be the results of the actions. Malden Mills declared bankruptcy when its CEO ran out of money, leaving the employees out of jobs. Welch, on the other hand, created tens of thousands of jobs more than he lost. The point of this narrative is not to state that altruism will always turn out poorly, but that it should be a matter of choice due to the constant danger that it will lead to failure.

I believe I have adequately shown that a moral obligation to assist people in need is unjust. It abridges and/or endangers individuals' rights to liberty (contention one), autonomy (contention one), life (contention two), and property (contention three). The three inalienable rights are threatened by this proposition as well as autonomy and negative rights as a whole. Please note that the value and value criterion to use to judge this debate are not in dispute (as Pro had one speech earlier to suggest a competing pair). Definitions are not either.

I now return the debate to Pro and wish him the best of luck.


Debate Round No. 2


Thank you. Originally I was going to post my case and rebuttal in this argument seeing as according to National Forensics League allows such an action as long as the contender has a chance to argue my points, I do respect the cons choice, as it was my responsibility to get it done and I failed. So instead I will simply argue the cons points and state reasons why the pro is correct in the resolution.

First I will discuss their definitions:

the fact is that the con defined moral and obligation separately, even though it is a phrase which forces it to adopt the new meaning of : something someone should do, but is not legally bound to do.

Now looking at their definition of need I would like to refer to Maslow's hierarchy of needs in which the basic level is Physical need such as food, shelter, and water, which goes better with the definition of need- something essential or very important to life rather then just desirable.

Attack on Observation 1)

the con states that it is not possible to have a moral obligation across all cultures because of the diversity though if you look at the research done by Peter Singer, "Ethics," Encyclopedia Britannica.

It is commonly believed that there are no ethical universals, and that there is so much variation from one culture to another that no single principle or judgment is generally accepted, that is not the case. Of course, there are immense differences in the way in which the broad principles are applied. Concern for kin and reciprocity to those who treat us well are considered good in virtually all-human societies. Also, all societies have, for obvious reasons, some constraints on killing and wounding other members of the group.

This says that no matter where you are you will always find such values in the culture as, respect your elders, help an injured man, and respect your surroundings.

Value and Value criterion attack

the con states that the value of justice is upheld by the criterion of the protection of the inalienable rights. The fact is that assisting someone in need do not interfere with life, liberty, and property because assisting does not ask you to give up you property, and as I stated before the idea of the resolution is saying this is something we should do but are not bound to do therefore this does not take away from our liberty. Also according to the research done by David Schmidtz, "Reasons for Altruism," Social Philosophy and Policy.

Our ultimate interest is in having something to live for, being able to devote ourselves to the satisfaction of preferences we judge worthy of satisfaction. Not having other-regarding preferences is costly, for it drastically limits what one has to live for. A person may have no concern for others, but her lack of concern is nothing to envy. Concern for ourselves gives us something to live for. Concern for others as well as ourselves gives us more.

This is saying that a selfish life can only provide so much happiness but a selfless life offers so much more, and therefore developing a better quality of life for both the individual giving and the individual receiving as both now have more then what they had before and therefore have more to appreciate. And therefore life is boosted by helping others meaning that the cons value and value criterion or irrelevant.

Contention 1) attack

as I stated prior in the case, the resolution is stating that we should help others but or not bound to do so and therefore that completely contradicts their 1st contention leading it to be dropped.

Contention 2) attack

the cons contention to is basically saying that we shouldn't put ourselves at risk and I agree but the fact is that the resolution says assist not assist personally and their for calling a professional to deal with it would still be assisting that person making their 2nd contention meaningless and thus dropped.

Contention 3) attack

two things come to mind when I read this;

first is that this is a real life example and doesn't attack the philosophical issue in today's debate as is Lincoln Douglass style.

second is the fact that the man who paid his workers was doing it for the publicity and the man who fired all the other men did it to restart the company knowing it would lead to more jobs therefore he was assisting society as a whole even if it didn't seem so at first.


I believe I have completely nullified the cons contention and showed that his value and value criterion is not valid enough for this debate. All while showing why a moral obligation to assist people in need is just and positive to society and self improvement.

I now allow the con to take over the debate and wish them the best of luck.


Black Laws Dictionary
David Schmidtz, "reasons for altruism," Social Philosophy and Policy
Peter Singer, "Ethics," Encyclopedia Britannica


Pro begins by stating that he is allowed to build a case in the 1AR but will not because I requested it. However, the 1AR does not include the formation of of new points. It consists of defending the affirmative case and attacking the negative case.[1][2][3]


"the fact is that the con defined moral and obligation separately, even though it is a phrase which forces it to adopt the new meaning of : something someone should do, but is not legally bound to do."

I have represented my opponent's logic in the form of a syllogism:
P1 - Moral and obligation are defined separately
P2 - Moral regards right and wrong behavior or human character
P3 - Obligation is "[a]n act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment"
P4 - The resolution does not refer to a legal obligation
C - The resolution regards what should be done, not what someone is bound, committed, or has a duty to do


He suggested a counter definition, which is illegal.

Moral Obligation

A: Misinterpretation

Pro's interpretation: "something someone should do, but is not legally bound to do."

Why it is incorrect: The definition of obligation states that the individual is (morally or legally) bound to an action. That, or the individual has a duty or commitment to the action. Last time I checked, "bound", "commitment", and "duty" did not refer to what one should do, but what one is being made do. If I have a moral obligation, I am being bound to the action; I simply do not have the choice.

B: Intent of the Resolution

The NFL creates resolutions with an intent. The underlying question of this debate is asking "should we have to help people in need?", rather than "is it a good thing if people help people in need?". With Pro's interpretation of the resolution, there is no ground for the negative (because this is an official topic for debate, the NFL intentionally created a wording which supports arguments on both sides). There is a reason for every word's place in the resolution. If the meaning of the resolution was as simple as Pro wishes to claim, the resolution would be "From a moral standpoint, individuals should help people in need but do not need to if they have anything else they want to do instead". How uncontroversial.

C: Context

If I say that "someone trained in CPR is morally obligated to perform it", it has an entirely different meaning than "someone trained in CPR should perform it". The resolution is about a moral obligation, a moral duty, a moral commitment, and not a moral "should".

Observation One

So he quotes Peter Singer, a major proponent of the moral obligation.[4] First of all, I was not arguing that morals differ extremely from culture to culture. His own source captures what I meant with the statement that "[c]oncern for kin and reciprocity to those who treat us well are considered good in virtually all-human societies." My argument about societies was that there will never be one universal morality. And a moral obligation on individuals is universal (as opposed to "Resolved: Most individuals have a moral obigation to assist people in need").

He ignored my statements on the differences in morals on the individual level.

Observation Two

Dropped. It is truthful beyond a doubt, now, that a moral obigation is a positive right for the people in need.

Value and Value Criterion

His first attack

He simply stated what he will state in attacking my contentions:
P1: My interpretation of definitions is right
P2: Your argument does not match up with my interpretation
C: Your argument is invalid

I have shown P1 to be wrong.

David Schmidtz

Basically, this opinion from another biased proponent of the resolution[5] just states that egoism gives us "something to live for" and that altruism gives us "more [to live for]". His interpretation of his quote? "...both [the altruist and the person in need] have more then what they had before and therefore have more to appreciate. And therefore life is boosted by elping others meaning that cons value and value criterion or irrelevant." I see nothing about gain for the giver other than a reason to live. No idea where he found his interpretation of the quote. He then states that my value and criteiron are irrelevant. Is he arguing that we should break away from LD fomat by neglecting use of a value and value criterion? Regardless, we agreed on LD format. My value and criterion stand, as there is no opposing choice.

Contention One

P1: My interpretation of definitions is right
P2: Your argument does not match up with my interpretation
C: Your argument is invalid

Note that he did not question the observation two. The contention is not specifically about a moral obligation, whereas his attack is. All positive rights lead to this. The contention was not attacked. He just misrepresented the contention, a strawman fallacy.

Contention Two

He brings up "calling a professional". Right, so if someone is burning alive in a car, I have fulfilled my moral obligation by calling 911. This argument is not relevant to the topic. Firemen, policemen, paramedics, etc. have a legal obligation to assist people in need. The moral obligation is not fulfilled by these individuals. A legal obligation is.

Contention Three

A: Irrelevant, as it is a real life example

The contention was that it sometimes leads to bad results. This was one example to prove it.

B: Selfish Intents

Unwarranted claim, much? I doubt Mr. Feuerstein intended to run out of money and declare bankruptcy. It is simply an error to think this. Publicity in exchange for life's savings without any monetary gain... Hm...

I don't need to argue that the CEO of GE wasn't self-interested, that his motive was not wanting to make his company larger.

Voting Issues

My value and value criterion cannot be contested here. Pro forfeited his right to build a case and a value and value criterion are required for LD format.

My observation two was uncontested. A moral obligation is a positive right for the people in need.

My contention one was that positive rights infringe upon inalienable rights. He never mentioned a word about positive rights.

If you believe that Con has any part of his arguments standing, he wins. Pro has no contentions to compete with his.

Pro's last speech is not for arguments, as per LD format. I would not have a chance to respond.

Vote Con.


Note: Sources 1-3 were found by clicking "Online Resources" under Lincoln Douglas Debate at ( is the official website of the National Forensic League, which created LD as a debate form)

[1] Page 35 of
[2] Page 35 of
[3] "Round Structure: Oh, I have another speech?" of
Debate Round No. 3


I ran out of time so I was forced to forfeit my case round, I accept that and realize that puts me at a great disadvantage especially as the con states all definitions I put up are invalid.

I would like to point out that NFL regulations does allow me to argue in my last round as long as I don't bring up any new topics, but as the con has wished me not to do so I will not.

Since I am forced to use the cons value, value criterion, and definitions this makes it hard for me to formulate a case and I chalk that up to my own misfortune for being to busy to post a case.

I would like to apologize to the con and anyone watching or voting for my bad start in this debate. I hope that in the future the con will debate me again. hopefully when I'm less busy so I can prove I don't, for all intensive purposes, "suck".

I would like to comment that since the word moral is in front of the word obligation it changes the meaning to say an obligation if viewed morally correct to that person, but according to the con said since I did not post before rebuttal mine or invalid to the case.

Thank you for accepting my debate.

vote Pro


No more arguments for Con.

Thanks for the debate, Pro.
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by C-L-Fox 6 years ago
I don't know where it states it for certain but I'm on the high school debate team and the handbook my coach gave me said that according to NFL regulations you can post a new argument or idea as long as the challenger has an opportunity to argue it... that was a year ago so I guess it could of changed but as of my knowledge I don't think it has. either way thank you for accepting because this is my first online debate and I find it to be very different. I wish there was a way to do Cross Examination
Posted by Micromann 6 years ago
By the way, I was wondering where it says one can post new arguments in the 1AR. I searched the NFL website, but could not find anything stating that. I would comment on your profile, but you are not accepting new comments currently. Thanks.
Posted by Micromann 6 years ago
It's fine. I know life gets in the way sometimes. :)
Posted by C-L-Fox 6 years ago
really sorry that I had to forfeit the round, I was caught up doing a play at a local theater... I will give my case and rebuttal in my next argument, sorry again
Posted by C-L-Fox 6 years ago
and thank you for not posting deffinitions i do intend to post them in my aurgument as LD regalations intend ... thanx again for accepting this debate
Posted by C-L-Fox 6 years ago
sorry just relized my other challenge was accepted... so sorry
Posted by C-L-Fox 6 years ago
i appreciate you accepting the debate and look forward to it, im sorry you didnt get to debate ConservativePolitico i do have another debate over the same topic but oppisite side that i recomend if you still want to debate... if so i look foward to the challenge as these are my first debates on this site
Posted by Micromann 6 years ago
On a separate note, I would just like to point out that I provided no definitions in my acceptance for two reasons:

A. Because I intend on doing this in LD format - In LD debate, the affirmative and negative do not propose definitions before the first affirmative speech. This is contrary to what C-L-Fox's opponent did in the debate in which he (C-L-Fox) is Con. I would just like to point out to anyone cross-referencing between the two, that I have reason to wait before posting definitions.

B. It is possibly unfair - Pro did not post definitions in round one, and I would not like to assume that he concedes any definitions I may present simply because he does not post definitions in his challenge. I intend on having a fair debate that follows LD style and would not wish to make possibly unfair assumptions.
Posted by Micromann 6 years ago
Ah... I'm sorry. I must have loaded the page before you posted that comment.

LD format is the format used in Lincoln-Douglas debates on the high school level.

A case typically consists of an introduction, a value, a value criterion, observations, contentions, and a conclusion. LD cases should center around morality and philosophical questions.
Posted by ConservativePolitico 6 years ago
What is LD format? I might take this debate.
No votes have been placed for this debate.