The Instigator
james14
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Raistlin
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

Morality should be legislated

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/15/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 773 times Debate No: 67071
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (0)

 

james14

Pro

Morality should be legislated. One would think this would be obvious, but I'm sure someone out there disagrees.

Standard definitions are used.

Go right ahead Con with whatever objections you have.
Raistlin

Con

I would like to thank pro for this debate. As he is making a positive claim, the burden of proof is on him. However, as he has kindly invited me to go right ahead, I will save a little time later by explaining my case.

The first obvious question that one must ask in a topic such as this one is "What should the government do?" In other words, by what objective criteria ought we judge whether the government should legislate a given item? The answer depends on the natural rights of man.

To start with, we have a few definitions. I define a non-aggressor as one who does not violate the person or property rights of others through physical force or threat of physical force. Secondly, I will define a government as an entity possessing, or claiming to possess, a monopoly or near monopoly on the use of force. Secondly, I define the non aggression principle (hereafter NAP) as the following: "The initiation of physical force or the threat of doing so against a person or his property is morally wrong." From this simple, guiding principle, the entire ideology of libertarianism/classical liberalism is derived. Third, I will define "libertarianism" as "the political philosophy consistent with the NAP." Finally, I define society as "The aggregate of people living together in a community," a slightly shortened version of the Oxford dictionary definition.

However, to attempt to derive this position without demonstrating or at least providing justification for the truth of its fundamental principle would commit the fallacy of begging the question. Although the concept of not taking people's property or hurting their person is intuitive, intuition has led mankind to all sorts of illogical or reprehensible behaviours ranging from communism to geocentricism.

Consider a very fundamental question; who is entitled to the ownership of a person? Intuitively, the person himself would own his person. There are essentially two alternatives: that one class of persons owns another, or that everyone is owned by society. I won't spend much time on the former option of class ownership as I highly doubt this audience believes in the divine right of kings or any other such nonsense. Instead, I will address the question of whether each individual is owned by society as a whole. This implies that if "n" number of people live in a society, everyone owns a "1/n"th share of everyone else. In other words, the ownership of an individual is divided evenly among members of a society. However, it is illogical to suggest that others have a more legitimate claim on your person than you have on your own. It is simply ludicrous to suggest that an individual owns everyone except himself. Therefore, the only logical answer to this question is that each individual is entitled to the ownership of his person.

Obviously, if each person is entitled to the fundamental right of self-ownership, then we have solved the problem of initiating violent force against a person. That would clearly violate this right, and must therefore be wrong. However, my opponent may rightfully object that we have not yet proven to satisfaction the question of fundamental property rights. We will now show that property rights are a direct consequence of self ownership. If I own my own person, than it follows that I own my labour. If I own my own labour, than it follows that I own the fruits of my labour, and this we call property. Property is created by mixing labour with resources, and by doing so, so long as the resources are not the property of another person. Therefore, if I possess ownership of my property, it is morally wrong to initiate force, or to threaten the initiation of force, against my property. This completes our justification of the NAP.

However, there is one very significant question left: what should we do to those who violate this principle? The only satisfactory answer is to retaliate with force. Those who ignore reason in favor of force must face forceful consequences. This is where government comes in. If individuals are unable to maintain the NAP on their own because they are outgunned, a state is necessary to monopolize force and minimize the use of aggressive force. This is the justification for having a state in the first place.

Now, morality is somewhat different from our exercise. Some activities widely considered immoral, such as cheating on a spouse or verbal bullying, do not fall under the realm of government as these actions do not violate the NAP. Whilst some immoral actions, such as murder and rape, do fall under the NAP and therefore the proper jurisdiction of government, government's job is not to dictate morality to its citizens.

That's all for now. Good luck to pro.
Debate Round No. 1
james14

Pro

Ooookaaay . . .

Impressive, Con. But don't see what your libertarianism philosophy has to do with the resolution.

I said we would use standard definitions, but out of laziness didn't actually state them. Now I will briefly do so.

Morality: beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior [1]

Legislated: basically, enacted through laws. I think we know what the word means, but Con can contest this if he wants to. I don't think the word requires a great deal of exegesis.

So beliefs about what is right and wrong should be enacted in our laws. In other words, we should make laws based upon our understanding of what is right and what is wrong. It should be obvious that this is would be a good thing. After all, if we can't make laws based upon our knowledge of right and wrong (punishing the wrong) then what can we base laws upon?

The NAP is based upon the MORAL baseline that "The initiation of physical force or the threat of doing so against a person or his property is morally wrong." Nowhere did I insinuate that a particular type of morality (public acceptance of morality) was specified, and I did not want to debate concerning those particulars. I am sorry if Con misunderstood, but in fact his NAP is based upon morality and as a result does not contest my resolution. His point seems to be only that the government should not dictate morality. To which I respond, Yes. The people, through their elected representatives, should be the cause of morality-based legislation. Judges or presidents should not just decide privately what should be right or wrong. My only aim was to prove that morality should be legislated, and if forced to go into detail I would specify, the people's morality.

Thanks Con. I'm sorry if you misunderstood.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
Raistlin

Con

Pro's response to my argument is rather interesting. He claims that government should be based on some moral principle. This is not what the resolution states. Let's take a look at the resolution. "Morality should be legislated." Now, pro has given us a nice definition of morality as beliefs about right and wrong behaviour. With this in mind, there are two ways to interpret the resolution. The first is that people's beliefs about right and wrong should be legislated. I believe this is not what pro is going for, as he states, "His point seems to be only that the government should not dictate morality. To which I respond, Yes (sic)." The second interpretation is that beliefs about what is morally wrong should be codified into illegal behaviour. This is what I was aiming at.

Violating the NAP is a sufficient but not necessary qualification for being immoral. In other words, an action that aggresses against a person or his property is immoral, but not all immoral actions necessarily do this. My point is that our laws shouldn't be based on whether society thinks an action is right or wrong, but by whether the action violates certain fundamental rights, as I laid down in my last argument.

Clearly, legislating a belief about right and wrong, the literal interpretation of the resolution, is not the role of government. The second interpretation, which is that being immoral qualifies an action to become illegal, also goes against the proper role of government.

Pro is trying to spin the resolution in a somewhat misleading way. His interpretation seems to be, "we should make laws based upon our understanding of what is right and what is wrong." This is obviously rather vague, so some clarification would be welcome. If pro is going for something like "laws should be loosely based on some moral principle," then he is distorting the resolution and not interpreting it in the most natural way. I would like to ask pro a very specific question. Under your system, does being immoral qualify an action to be illegal, or not? Also, what is your justification for the existence of a government in the first place? Please elaborate on your reasoning. The reason I ask for a justification for the existence of the government is that legislation cannot even occur if government itself is illegitimate.

Pro does give a somewhat troubling statement which I would like to look at. "The people, through their elected representatives, should be the cause of morality-based legislation." Let's say we pick a state in the Bible Belt, where about 3/5ths believe in young earth creationism, [1] and let's hypothetically say that they found the teaching of evolution to the pure, innocent, defenseless minds of children to be immoral and passed a law banning evolution in any school teaching minors. According to pro, this would be "The people, through their elected representatives, (being) the cause of morality-based legislation," and their actions would be legitimate. This is highly troubling to me to think that a government can, supposedly legitimately, enforce the beliefs of the majority, which in this example were false [2], on everybody by making them comply with the use of force.

Finally, remember the BOP is on pro. He must do more than claim "it should be obvious" that the resolution is true; he must demonstrate its truth.

Good luck in the next round.

Sources
1- http://ncse.com...
2- Science and Creationism A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition. S.l.: S.n., 1999. Print.
Debate Round No. 2
james14

Pro

Thanks, Con.

All I mean by "morality should be legislated" is that beliefs about what is right and wrong should be legislated. Why beliefs? Because, in the end, every other system of morality is, at best, the system that a certain group of people think accurately represent "natural" morals. In other words, systems of morality are judged by how the correspond to the conscience or inner compass of general humanity. If the NAP permitted us to murder or steal without worry, then the NAP, not our own sense of right and wrong, would be flawed.

Con says: " . . . our laws shouldn't be based on whether society thinks an action is right or wrong, but by whether the action violates certain fundamental rights, as I laid down in my last argument."

IF we applied the NAP and based all our laws on it, then what would be doing? We would be legislating Con's belief that the NAP is an adequate and complete foundation for "just" laws. When we adopt affirmative action "morals" as the basis for laws we are doing the same thing to a lesser degree. But how do we determine which "moral foundations" are best? So far we have not arrived at a better determiner than the simple majority vote balanced by a hopefully moral responsible legislative body[s] also accountable to the people. Sound familiar? Representative democracy is one of, if not the, best systems of governments. What you are advocating is more an utopic system that would sound good in theory but would soon fall prey to the issues of interpretation and would require decision-making, either from a ruler, judges, or the people.

"Under your system, does being immoral qualify an action to be illegal, or not? Also, what is your justification for the existence of a government in the first place?"

Generally, yes. It depends on the degree, of course, but if something is severely wrong, it should be illegal. People will differ on what is wrong and what is not, and whether the offense is serious enough, but in the end this is the true foundation of the judicial system. We punish murder because it is wrong. We punish theft because it is wrong. We punish the breaking of agreements (something not really covered by the NAP) because it is wrong. Today homosexuality is legal not because people have decided not to legislate morality but because they have decided homosexuality is not really wrong. I guess Con would say, to the same question, that he would refer to the NAP on every issue rather than depending on a subjective interpretation of "morality." He would still be punishing immoral behavior, but depending on the NAP to determine what behavior is "immoral enough" to deserve punishment. This is obvious, as if he does not punish immoral behavior, then what can he justly punish?

Government should exist to safeguard the liberties of the people. What those liberties are, how far they extend, and how they should be protected, all are moral issues that must be determined.

Oh boy. Look at this:
"Pro does give a somewhat troubling statement which I would like to look at. "The people, through their elected representatives, should be the cause of morality-based legislation." Let's say we pick a state in the Bible Belt, where about 3/5ths believe in young earth creationism, [1] and let's hypothetically say that they found the teaching of evolution to the pure, innocent, defenseless minds of children to be immoral and passed a law banning evolution in any school teaching minors. According to pro, this would be "The people, through their elected representatives, (being) the cause of morality-based legislation," and their actions would be legitimate. This is highly troubling to me to think that a government can, supposedly legitimately, enforce the beliefs of the majority, which in this example were false [2], on everybody by making them comply with the use of force."

Oh; I see we might have strayed. In the preceding paragraphs and rounds I seem to have laid an emphasis on the majority's opinion. I am willing to discuss this, but the main point of the debate is "morality should be legislated," not the majority's or the minority's. So far we have seen Con advocating his own system of morality while putting down mine. However, both are examples of morality being legislated.

In the example above, I would assume that Con thinks a judge should step in and legislate HIS morality in that instance, forbidding the state from banning the teaching of evolution. In some instances that may be fair, in some instances it may be unfair. Con's example does not pit legislating morality against not legislating morality, but legislating the majority's morality against the minority's morality! Con's claim that the majority's beliefs were false is a reflection of his own moral beliefs. Whether he is right or not is a question for another debate, titled "Is Teaching Evolution Wrong?"

Why morality should be legislated:

Morality is belief in right and wrong, what SHOULD BE illegal and what should not be, what is a liberty and what is not, as well as what is justice.
Laws should be just. That is obvious.
We cannot get just laws without morality, as justice is a function, or component, of morality.
Morality is therefore necessary and vital to the making of laws.

All that remains is to decide whose morality should be legislated and how it should be done so.

I'm in favor of representative democracy, personally.

Thanks. I finished just in time!
Raistlin

Con

Pro makes an interesting response to my argument. However, he makes some claims that I need to address.

"All I mean by "morality should be legislated" is that beliefs about what is right and wrong should be legislated." This statement by pro clarifies nothing. Recall that pro defined morality as beliefs about right and wrong. Therefore, he is not telling us any new information by replacing the word morality with its definition. This is a tautology.

The justification for government is that people constantly use force against each other, and that there must be some protection from this abuse of force. Crafting a government based on the NAP is not legislating morality but protecting rights. Reason and libertarianism provide an objective standard for the role of government. Pro's assertion that the "inner compass of general humanity" is the standard by which government should be run provides a subjective, extremely and deliberately vague means of determining the proper role of government. Pro has failed to provided an objective justification for the existence of a government, much less that government must dictate morality to its citizens, as pro must show.

The NAP does not provide a complete definition of morality, as I have explained, and an act violating it is not necessarily more or less immoral than any other immoral act. For example, stealing a dollar may not necessarily be more immoral than cheating on one's wife, but only stealing would fall under government's proper power. Pro gives us a very telling example which I will use to illustrate the crux of the debate and debunk pro's position.

"Today homosexuality is legal not because people have decided not to legislate morality but because they have decided homosexuality is not really wrong." Pro has essentially implied that if homosexuality were wrong, it should be illegal. However, as homosexuality is not in violation of the nonaggression principle, it should be legal regardless of whether it is right or wrong. I, for one, believe homosexual acts are morally wrong, but I have admitted they should not be illegal. Homosexuality is legal (in some places) because of two factors: some people have decided it's not wrong, and some have decided not to legislate morality.

Now, I want to clear up any misconceptions about evolution. By not banning the teaching of evolution, I am not enforcing my morality on others. It's that simple. Pro claims, "In some instances (banning the teaching of evolution) may be fair, in some instances it may be unfair." This harkens back to my point about pro having no objective standard. It is absolutely unfair for the government to ban the teaching of evolution. This is an objective, not a subjective, statement. Pro cannot say whether it is fair or unfair because he lacks an objective standard for government. He is like a Sophist from the time of Socrates, not being able to come to an objective conclusion based on sound reasoning from first principles. [1]

Morality is not a system of beliefs about what should or should not be legal, but what is right and wrong, by definition. Being morally wrong does not qualify something to be illegal, and beliefs should not be dictated by the government. Deciding what should be legal is not a matter of "legislating the majority's morality against the minority's morality," but of using completely objective reason by methods I describe in the first round.

Sources
1- http://www.iep.utm.edu...
Debate Round No. 3
james14

Pro

Why morality should be legislated:

Morality is belief in right and wrong, what SHOULD BE allowed or tolerated and what should not be, what is a liberty and what is not, as well as what is justice. This follows from the definition. If you believe something is "wrong" enough, you will want all practice of it outlawed.
Laws should be just. That is obvious.
We cannot get just laws without morality, as justice is a function, or component, of morality.
Morality is therefore necessary and vital to the making of laws.

All that remains is to decide whose morality should be legislated and how it should be done so.

Con hasn't really provided an adequate rebuttal. All he posits is that HIS specific set of beliefs about what is just (the NAP) are better than all others.

"
"Today homosexuality is legal not because people have decided not to legislate morality but because they have decided homosexuality is not really wrong." Pro has essentially implied that if homosexuality were wrong, it should be illegal. However, as homosexuality is not in violation of the nonaggression principle, it should be legal regardless of whether it is right or wrong. I, for one, believe homosexual acts are morally wrong, but I have admitted they should not be illegal. Homosexuality is legal (in some places) because of two factors: some people have decided it's not wrong, and some have decided not to legislate morality.
"
The confusion in this debate is derived from Pro's arbitrary demarcation between what is JUST and what is RIGHT. Pro believes homosexuality is wrong, but that allowing it is just. Hence, he believes that criminalizing homosexuality would be, in at least some sense, wrong, whether the reason he gives is compliance with the NAP, the pointlessness of enforcement, or
belief in the principles of liberty. It therefore follows that morality is still being legislated even under this philosophy. Pro believes the nonagression principle to be the (moral) foundation of legislative justice and will therefore denounce any violation as unjust, but this obviously does not mean he is not legislating morality. He is!

CON: "Now, I want to clear up any misconceptions about evolution. By not banning the teaching of evolution, I am not enforcing my morality on others. It's that simple. Pro claims, "In some instances (banning the teaching of evolution) may be fair, in some instances it may be unfair." This harkens back to my point about pro having no objective standard. It is absolutely unfair for the government to ban the teaching of evolution. This is an objective, not a subjective, statement. Pro cannot say whether it is fair or unfair because he lacks an objective standard for government. He is like a Sophist from the time of Socrates, not being able to come to an objective conclusion based on sound reasoning from first principles."

What is my objective standard? The liberty that people should possess to govern themselves. If 99% of the population of Georgia doesn't want their children "indoctrinated" with evolutionary teaching, why shouldn't their will be enforced? If you, as the dictator, king, judge, or whatever you want to call yourself, forbid such a legislative measure, you are legislating your morality (that such a law would not be "just" according to the NAP) over the morality of 9,717,059 others. For some reason that looks suspiciously like tyranny to me. Unfortunately, this type of government (any form of democracy) will only work with a fairly moral people, but I still prefer it to a "benevolent monarchy" or a judicial dictatorship, as those are far more prey to unjust results. Even if the king was pretty much spot-on in his

CON: "The justification for government is that people constantly use force against each other, and that there must be some protection from this abuse of force."

Quite an emphasis on force in this debate. Is theft not wrong if it isn't done forcefully? Is deception regarding certain important issues not illegal, and rightfully so? As I pointed out earlier (Con didn't respond), the NAP cannot address breaches of civil contracts. Under the NAP such would not be illegal.

" Crafting a government based on the NAP is not legislating morality but protecting rights."

Crafting a government based on the NAP must come about as a result of believing that protecting rights is important and that a government that neglected, or at least encroached upon, others' rights would be doing something "wrong" or at least unjust. As I showed earlier, perceptions of injustice follow from perceptions of morality, so the distinction shouldn't be important. If there is nothing inherently "right" about rights (conduct point for pun, please!), then why should we protect them?

"Reason and libertarianism provide an objective standard for the role of government. Pro's assertion that the "inner compass of general humanity" is the standard by which government should be run provides a subjective, extremely and deliberately vague means of determining the proper role of government."

Otherwise known as "a democratic society." I still maintain that a bottom-up democratic process is better than a top-down intellectual elitist process. The NAP's guidelines against "force" would require a great deal of interpretation and would be quite vague at least in practice. Let's define "force." If my neighbor climbs into my car while it is running and drives off, has he used force? The whole top-v.-bottom debate is irrelevant, though, as legislating either system is to legislate a system of morality.

" Pro has failed to provided an objective justification for the existence of a government, much less that government must dictate morality to its citizens, as pro must show."
Raistlin

Con

It's the last round, so I would like to address pro's case quickly and then summarize my case. I will be quoting and analyzing the flaws of some of pro's points.

Pro-"If you believe something is "wrong" enough, you will want all practice of it outlawed."

This is false. How wrong I believe an action is has no bearing on whether I would ban it. Almost everyone believes cheating on a spouse is morally detestable, but it is not illegal. Justice may fall under the umbrella of morality, but they are not synonymous.

Pro-"What is my objective standard? The liberty that people should possess to govern themselves."

This is no objective standard. According to pro, any action is permissible if the majority approve. This is almost the definition of subjective. Also, pro's "liberty" of democracy is really the fallacious assertion that each person is owned by everyone. However, it is illogical to assert that someone else has an equal right to control you as you do yourself. Pro's "objective standard" is neither a standard nor objective.

Pro-"If 99% of the population of Georgia doesn't want their children "indoctrinated" with evolutionary teaching, why shouldn't their will be enforced?"

It's not too bad for them to not teach there own children evolution. However, by banning the teaching of evolution by anyone, the 99% would be stopping the children of the 1% from learning science. Pro clearly has no respect for the 1st amendment by stating this is OK. As the resolution undermines an objective standard of what should be legislated, pro has no platform on which to say whether the government should or should not do this.

Pro-"Is theft not wrong if it isn't done forcefully? Is deception regarding certain important issues not illegal, and rightfully so? As I pointed out earlier, the NAP cannot address breaches of civil contracts. Under the NAP such would not be illegal."

Theft is by definition the use of force against property. Fraud is equivalent to theft, as is violating a contract.

Pro-"If there is nothing inherently "right" about rights (conduct point for pun, please!), then why should we protect them?"

If conduct points were that easy to come by, I would win a lot more debates. 😃 Alas. Anyway, I never said that morality played no role in government, only that morality itself shouldn't be legislated.

Ok. Time for a brief recap of important points.

Based on the simple right to self-ownership, one can reasonably deduct that the government's role is to protect persons and property from the use of force. This is known as the NAP. Pro provided no real refutation to this.

To legislate morality means to legislate beliefs about right and wrong. There are two interpretations of this. Firstly, the government makes it mandatory to believe certain things about right and wrong. However, this constitutes the use of force against a nonaggressor and is therefore illegitimate. The second is that things which are wrong should be illegal simply because they are wrong. However, I have demonstrated that there are things which are wrong, such as cheating on a spouse, that are not and ought not be illegal, defeating the resolution.

Pro tries to spin the resolution by claiming laws should be based on some moral principle. However, the resolution is that morality as a whole, not some aspect of it like defining justice, is to be legislated. Pro's case rests on this faulty interpretation of the resolution.

Finally, pro failed to provide a justification for the existence of a government. Without a government, no legislation can exist, and the resolution is defeated.

Merry Christmas!
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Raistlin 2 years ago
Raistlin
My point exactly.
Posted by dhardage 2 years ago
dhardage
Laws are meant to protect the rights of one from being impinged upon by another. While that dovetails with morality it no way implies that all morals are subject to legislative action. Morals are about the individual and how he behaves with respect to those around him. One can be immoral without being illegal. It is also possible to be performing a legal action and be immoral. Attempts to make the two synonymous results in a governing body that will attempt to force its moral beliefs upon all members of society instead of adhering to the proper concept of law.
Posted by 1Credo 2 years ago
1Credo
What do you mean by this?
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