The Instigator
Mestari
Pro (for)
Winning
15 Points
The Contender
thett3
Con (against)
Losing
10 Points

New Members Tournament: Murder is Never Morally Permissible.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 8 votes the winner is...
Mestari
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/12/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,900 times Debate No: 18320
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (88)
Votes (8)

 

Mestari

Pro

This debate will be between Thett3 and myself for the New Members Tournament.

Round 1: Acceptance.
Round 2: Cases.
Round 3: Rebuttal of round 2.
Round 4: Rebuttal of round 3.

Murder (1): To kill (a human being) unlawfully and with premeditated malice.

1. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
thett3

Con

I accept. I would like to avoid a debate over which morality we are referring to, but it seems unavoidable.

Malice is defined in the comments as "any intention to cause pain or distress to the victim or any one connected to the victim, such as a family member."

Permissable-acceptable

Thank you, and I look forward to your opening argument.
Debate Round No. 1
Mestari

Pro

Framework

Morality shall be interpreted through Kantian Deontology.

Christine Korsgaard (1) elaborates,

"[W]e must value our moral nature as what I call a form of practical identity, a description under which we value ourselves and find our lives worth living. I claimed that our moral identity, which I took to be equivalent to our human identity, is the ultimate source of reasons, because the moral law is the ultimate source of justification - a consideration must be capable of being embodied in a universalizable maxim if it is to count as a reason at all. So if we are to have any reasons, or to see anything as being valuable, we must value and identify with our nature as moral beings."

G. A. Cohen argues (2),

"[E]ach person is the morally rightful owner of his own person and powers, and, consequently, that each is free (morally speaking) to use those powers as he wishes, provided that he does not deploy them aggressively against others" (pg. 67).

1. States have the power to secede.
2. States have the right use their powers peacefully.
Thus, states have the right to secede peacefully.
Therefore I urge a Con ballot.

Morality requires we maintain an act omission distinction:

We cannot obligate individuals to take positive action to help others or they would have limitless obligations to help others. This undermines morality’s ability to guide action since in a situation with unlimited obligations one violates morality no matter what one does. Thus, without an act omission distinction, morality can no longer prescribe actions and becomes meaningless. This undermines a utilitarian impact calculus because it always demands the action which promotes the most welfare, regardless of moral constraints. Thus, choosing not to act is always morally permissible, so my opponent cannot create a hypothetical scenario in which your only two choices are to kill someone or to let somebody else die. Letting somebody die is not morally equivalent to murder.

Case

Contention 1: Murder is always immoral.

The Categorical imperative is the law of free will. Korsgaard (3) 2,

The Categorical imperative tells us to act only on a maxim that we could will to be a law. And this, according to Kant, is the law of a free will. To see why, we need only compare the problem faced by the free will with the content of the Categorical imperative. The problem faced by the free will is this: the will must have a law, but because the will is free, it must be its own law. And nothing determines what that law must be. All that it has to be is a law. Now consider the content of the Categorical imperative. The Categorical imperative simply tells us to choose a law. Its only constraint on our choice is that it have the form of a law. And nothing determines what that law must be. All that it has to be is a law. Therefore the categorical imperative is the law of a free will. It does not impose any external constraint on the free will’s activities, but simply arises from the nature of the will. It describes what a free will must do in order to be what it is. It must choose a maxim it can regard as a law.

Korsgaard (4) continues,

The moral law tells us to act only on maxims that all rational beings could agree to act on together in a workable cooperative system.

What we can conclude is that under deontology, for an action to be moral you must be able to rationally will it as universal law. Murder is not moral because you cannot rationally will that other people repeat the action of murder onto yourself.

Furthermore, actions that lead to the death of human beings undermine everything's value. Korsgaard (5),

Kant saw that we take things to be important because they are important to us - and he concluded that we must therefore take ourselves to be important. In this way, the value of humanity itself is implicit in every human choice.15 If normative skepticism is to be avoided - if there is any such thing as a reason for action - then humanity as the source of all reasons and values must be valued for its own sake.

If we don't value human life, we can't value anything normatively.

Thus, you negate.

Sources

1. Valuing our Humanity. Christine M. Korsgaard. Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University
2. Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality. G. A. Cohen. Cambridge UP 1995
3. Sources of Normativity. Christine M. Korsgaard. Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University.
4. ibid
thett3

Con

I thank my opponent for his opening round, and I can tell that this will be a thrilling and fascinating debate. As my Opponents round one states this to be for cases only, I will refute his arguments in the next round.

Resolution analysis

The resolution calls for me to show cases where murder is not immoral. Since it states "never", than if even a single example I show does stand than you vote Con. It is also not necessarily my burden of proof to show cases where murder is inherently moral, but rather that it might be unclear or unable to tell if it is moral or not. If a single one of my examples is, at the end of this round, not found to be either moral, or immoral, than the resolution is negated. We must also remember that although the word has a negative connotation, the only things differing murder from

When presenting my arguments, I will show a variety of examples from different systems of morality.

Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism holds that actions are moral if they end up maximizing the greater good. That is to say, that if an action hurts more people than it harms, the action is immoral.

A. Assassination of Hitler

I'm sure we've all heard of the famous 20th of July plot to assassinate Hitler[1]. The conspirators knew of all the atrocities committed by Hitler and his Third Reich, and they wanted it to end. Surely murdering Hitler was A) Against the law, B) Premeditated and with Malice, and C) would've likely ended the war and the holocaust earlier, making it a moral action.

The Malicious aspect of it may be disputed, and to pre-empt that I would like to present the following quote from one of the conspirators, Claus von Stauffenberg[2]: "We took this challenge before our Lord and our conscience, and it must be done, because this man, Hitler, he is the ultimate evil." He believed (and rightfully so) that Hitler was an evil man and recall that malice has been defined as an inention to cause pain or distress on the victim, so this was malicious toward Hitler, even if it was, over all, for the greater good. Even if we accept that malice was not the primary motivator for this, it doesn't matter because the definition of murder we are debating does not specify malice to be the only or primary motivation behind the murder; it simply has to be there.

Furthermore, a theoretical assassination of Hitler by the Jews could also be deemed moral. While the primary motivation behind the assassination would likely be a desire for self preservation, as the Grandson of a Jew who was in the second world war, I can assure you without a doubt that the malice would be very much there. So this as well meets the criteria in the resolution.

B. Kill one to save a thousand?

Utilitarianism holds that the moral answer to that question is to kill the one innocent person to save many more. If the actual killing of the one person is against the law, than this meets the criteria in the resolution. Immediately it will be objected that this is without malice. This objection, however, falls because the question doesn't specify whether or not the malice is there. Let's assume that it is. Say that the one person being killing is my mortal enemy, would that change the morality of the action? I certainly don't think so. Under utilitarianism, the action is still very moral, malice be damned; it's an irrelevant issue.

C. Prevention

Assume for a moment, that for whatever reason, I know for a fact that someone is going to attempt to rape my sister, and to keep that from happening, I kill the man before he can do it. I think we can all agree that it would be moral for me to kill a rapist if I walked in on him doing the action and killed him to stop it, so why is it differnent to pre-empt it? My Opponent may say to this: "well if you know shes going to be raped you can just call the police." and sure, in todays society you can do that. However not only does that have 0 affect on the moral aspect of the killing, just the logical one, the resolution also does not specify right now, in fact it claims the very opposite. This would be against the law, because the "he was going to rape my sister, and I knew it" defense would not hold up in a court of law. It would be a malicious action because I know in my case at least (and remember I'm only obligated to negate the "never" part of the resolution) if anyone was going to rape my sister, I would want to kill the man not just out of a desire for her well-being, but out of hatred and disgust as well.

Retributive theory of justice

This holds that wrongdoers must be punished simply because they deserve to. It shows that punishing wrongdoers is a moral action[3].

A. Vengeance

Say my father is murdered and my mother is raped by a mugger. In reaction to this I hunt the mugger down, and kill him. Surely we all agree that a killer/rapist must be punished, but why must it be by the government? What if we live in a failed state, and the government doesn't have the ability to punish this man? In that case, I contend that someone should. My opponent might argue that vengeance is generally immoral, but that doesn't matter. If a single hypothetical case can be found in which it is justified, than the resolution is negated. The objection that this would generally be morally wrong because I likely would've killed the wrong mugger falls under the same logic.

My Opponent may argue that "an eye for an eye just makes the whole world blind" or "violence is never the answer", but when someone has just seen their family raped/murdered, such talk is laughable; particuarly when the Goverment doesn't have the power to intervene.

B. Too light of a sentence imposed

For this example, let's take the example of the father in the movie "a time to kill". Two men brutally raped his daughter, however they were given absurdly light sentences. The father felt a moral obligation to see justice done, so he kills the men himself. If the government/courts fail to enforce justice, than how is it morally wrong for victims to seek it themselves?

Self defense

A. Duty to retreat

Believe it or not, some states still have "duty to retreat" laws, which specify that when a person legally must, if at all possible, escape their home when it is under attack, rather than stand and fight to protect their family and property from the forces of evil. Such laws are, of course, absurd however they still show that unlawful killing can be morally permissable.

Imagine I live in a state with a "duty to retreat" statute. I hear some rustling, and suddenly a window is shattered, and a family member of mine starts to scream! I grab a shotgun, run to the source of the noise, passing my screaming family member (who's running the opposite direction, away from the attacker) and when I find him, he's looking tearing apart a the room, looking for valuables. I open fire, strike him in the back, and he falls dead. My action then is against the law because we all could've escaped/"retreated". However from a moral perspective, the action was perfectly permissable, after all the man was ransacking my property and got what was coming to him (this also applies to utilitarianism as well, it's generally for the greater good when a theif was killed). The malice is very much there, again I can speak using myself as an example, as far as I'm concerned a theif trying to steal my property is an act of war. I would have a desire to harm them, especially if my family was also present.


B. Incorrect self defense

Perhaps I believe someone is attacking me, but really they aren't but I kill them. I have a mental disorder perhaps. Isn't it still permissable? While the killer would be locked up for the safety of others, what has he done wrong morally?

Please vote Con.




1. http://bitURL.net...
2. http://bitURL.net...
3. http://bitURL.net...
Debate Round No. 2
Mestari

Pro

Resolution Analysis

The resolution states that murder is never morally permissible. If an action is deemed not moral or immoral then you are unable to attribute moral permissibility to it, thus it is a reason to affirm. You must prove that an action is undeniably morally permissible.

Overview

As clarification, whilst there are many theories of morality, only one can be taken as objectively true. We come to the conclusion as to which that is through the evaluation of metaethics. I would like to note that my opponent provides no metaethical justifications for any of his theories of morality. My third Korsgaard card attempts to establish a metaethical justification for deontology. It attributes normative value to human life as a reason for action. The first Korsgaard card is also a metaethical justification. It explains why the categorical imperative is the only moral mechanism that allows the expression of free will. Ever other moral system denies this fundamental aspect of being human, where they require you to give up your free will in moral decision-making in favor of efficiency logic. With all of this being said, my opponent will obviously try to refute these arguments in round two, but remember that only one side of he debate has metaethical justifications, and that is myself.

Furthermore, morality serves as a guide for action. If a claimed moral theory cannot proscribe action in all situations, then it is not a moral theory at all.

Utilitarianism

1. Utilitarianism is circular.

The reason we want to maximize the greater good is to maximize happiness. This is the end goal of all utilitarian impact-calculi. Why do we want to save lives? To maximize the happiness in the global system. Why do we want economic welfare? To maximize happiness by allowing people to buy food and to pay for shelter. However, it is here that we find the fundamental flaw in utilitarian views. Utilitarianism is unable to proscribe reason to happiness. That is to say, we desire to be happy, but we cannot provide a reason as to why we want to be happy other than the fact that this desire for happiness exists. Thus, utilitarianism justifies itself through circular logic.

2. Morality is binary.

A. Either an action is moral or it isn't, there is no middle ground. One action cannot be "more" or "less" moral than another. To determine the comparative morality of an action, morality weighs effects in specific contexts. However, rules of morality must be independent of context. If norms fluctuate with context, then our norms would be determined by those contexts and would merely describe what we do, rather than what we ought to do, collapsing the difference between is and ought. Without this distinction, morality no longer has meaning as a guide for action.

B. If we can call an act moral even if it only has some of the qualities of being a moral action, then morality becomes meaningless. Without this distinction, concepts will start collapsing into each other. For example, even though apples and oranges share some properties like being spherical fruits, we maintain this distinction to avoid making the words meaningless. Similarly, morality must be absolute for it to have meaning.

3. Utilitarianism cannot prescribe action in all cases.

Buridan's Azz (Hereafter mule to avoid the profanity filter) Paradox: If a mule is precisely the same difference between a stack of hay and a pail of water, with nothing else around as far as the eye can see, it will be unable to rationally make a decision through utilitarian logic. It needs both hay and water to survive, and both resources are an equal distance away, but utilitarianism only allows for you to choose the most efficient option. Thus the mule will never choose either and will die of both hunger and thirst. As utilitarianism is unable to prescribe action to the mule, it is not a guide for action in all cases and thus should be rejected.

4. Utilitarianism is self-defeating.

If utilitarianism always saves the most lives possible then it will lead to an overpopulated world that cannot agriculturally sustain itself. Once this happens people will start dying and as it will be impossible to save them, you will have created a society that functions as a utilitarian dystopia through your use of utilitarian-logic.

Retributive Justice

1. This is a theory of justice, not morality.

The resolution states that murder is never morally permissible, not that it is never justified. Thus, any arguments under retributive justice cannot negate.

2. A retributive morality cannot be objective.

A retributive morality, to prescribe action, relies on the knowledge that somebody deserves punishment. Whether somebody deserves punishment, or how much of it they deserve cannot be objectively identified. We would have to arbitrarily decide what morality dictates us to do. In that case, once again the difference between is and ought is collapsed as what we call morality would describe what we do, not what we ought to do.

3. A retributive morality cannot prescribe action in all cases.

If a murder was committed, but there are 3 equally likely suspects with no way to determine who committed the crime, and only one of them could be responsible, then it would be impossible to exact punishment based on desert. You could either punish all three equally, in which two suspects will receive punishment that they do not deserve, contradicting the basis of retributive justice. Alternatively, you could not punish any of them, in which case one suspect will not receive the punishment that they deserve, reiterating the contradiction previously mentioned. Either way, a retributive morality cannot prescribe action without contradicting itself.

Self Defense

1. Self defense is not a moral theory, it is a social principle.

There's not much to say here, self defense isn't a moral theory. If my opponent wants to justify it as such, I give him explicit permission to do so in his round 2 speech so that I can refute it in round 3.

2. Self defense is not objective.

Self defense must take into account whether or not the victim's life is at stake. To do this we must arbitrarily attribute threat levels to the situation. Again, this destroys the objectivity of morality by collapsing the difference between is and ought.

3. Self defense cannot prescribe action in all cases.

It would be impossible for self defense to serve as a guide for action in a situation where self defense in not involved. Even though the resolution is murder-specific, a moral theory must objectively be justified on a universal level to be justified at all. This must be true to prevent committing a fallacy of composition. On that note, self defense cannot tell me whether or not it is morally permissible to cheat on a test or refuse to pay my taxes. Thus, self defense cannot serve as a guide for action in all possible cases.

Underview

If I disprove a moral theory, then all of the arguments that link back to that theory should be disregarded. That is to say, I do not need to refute the Hitler argument if my opponent only links it to utilitarianism and I show that utilitarianism is logically inconsistent. As only one objective moral theory exists, you are going to prefer deontology with the metaethical justifications for actions that I have provided. Thus, I urge a Pro ballot.
thett3

Con

Thanks again Mestari.

I will refute my opponents system of morality, and if characters permit I will address the concerns brought up against mine. Please note that if I fail to address all of his attacks it is due to lack of space and should not be treated as a concession. Also let it be noted that Pro has not even attempted to refute my specific examples, so if they stand under a seperate system of morals than you must vote Con.



My Opponent argues that choosing not to act is always morally permissable. If we accept this to be true, than how do we ever intend to stop the forces of evil? Refer to the rape example I brought up in my case, are we really trying to argue that if I knew my sister was about to be raped it would be morally permissable for me to not act? That is absolutely and totally absurd. When considering the soundness of this argument imagine losing a family member to a preventable cause just because someone didn't feel a moral obligation to act. That's the kind of world you get with the Pro.

Furthermore, we must consider what exactly an "action" means. When we assess a situation and decide not to act, the decision is itself an action. So my Opponents position that inaction is always just is self refuting, because deciding to not act is an action. Just for that the resolution is negated, because my Opponent has failed to justify his claim with a coherent moral system.

It's been argued that "letting somebody die is not morally equivalent to murder". My question: Why not? Both cases lead to an innocent death that we could've stopped. If we accept that in general death is a bad thing and we also accept that there are cases in which we could have saved a life at little or no cost to ourselves or our safety, than we have a moral obligation to act. Recall the wise words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Silence in the face of evil is evil iself.

Murder always immoral?

An initial critique of this argument can be immediately seen in the idea that nothing distinguishes murder from justified killing save for the legal aspects and a desire to do harm. If murder is always immoral because of a rights violation, then where do things like killing in warfare, self defense, or executions lie? If we do not act based on the collective best interest and to minimalize harms, why do we act at all? I do wonder if my opponent would hesitate to defend a family member because he would be violating the attackers rights.

Take as an example the famous "Trolley Problem"[1] criticism to Deontological ethics (essentially the system my Oppoent is arguing for).

"A trolly is running out of control down a track. In its path are five people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you could flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch or do nothing?"

The rational decision would be to flip the switch and save the five innocent lives, as opposed to the one. My Opponent must show that either lives are not of intrinsic value, thus negating the resolution, or concede that his system is flawed and affirming Utilitarianism, which again negates the resolution.

Just for fun, we'll add the the scenario that the five people trapped are the five people trapped are the five people most important to my opponent (or most important to you as a voter) and the one person is just a random person. If my Opponent still claims that he would not flip the switch and save his loved ones, he's either lying or insane and either way it doesn't matter. When judging the round think of what YOU would do and vote on that.

My Opponent further argues that "Murder is not moral because you cannot rationally will that other people repeat the action of murder onto yourself" What? So everything we don't wish to happen to us is immoral for others to do? I don't want someone to kill me in self defense, yet under this principle even such a just action would be viewed as immoral. How about something simpler. Imagine that I love Brocolli and always have from a very young age and my Opponent has always hated it. When we were children being spoonfed by our mothers would it be immoral for my mother to feed my brocolli even though my Opponet could not rationally wish "others to repat the action" onto himself? Of course not. You can see through these examples how inherently flawed my Opponets system of moality truly is.

My Opponent argues that "Furthermore, actions that lead to the death of human beings undermine everything's value." You can vote Con. He recognizes that we should not end life if we can prevent it, so his position of refusing to save someone falls becase we have a moral obligation to protect the value of, as my opponent admits, everything!

Conclusion: The Resolution is negated. My Opponent has not presented a coherent moral system to condemn murder in all cases. In fact he has present a self refuting one. Remember that since he's the one making a positive claim, the resolution is negated even if all of my arguments fall.


=Defense=

There is absolutely no way that I can fully respond to my Opponents 8000 character rebuttal in 2500 characters, so please note that dropped arguments should not yet be treated as concessions.

My Opponent opens with "If an action is deemed not moral or immoral then you are unable to attribute moral permissibility to it, thus it is a reason to affirm." False, is an action is deemed not moral or immoral you negate. Remember, the Pro is the one making the positive claim. It is his Burden of Proof to show murder to not be morally permissable always.

On Utilitarianism

1. Circular

My Opponent argues that the main goal of Utilitarianism is to "maximize happiness". However that's false, the actual goal is to maximize what is good, which is not always happiness. Recall that it is not my burden of proof to show what needs to be valued, but since my Opponent is arguing that murder is never permissable, it is a fact in this round that human life needs to be valued. Thus my system attempts to maximalize this value, where as my Opponents belittles it. Utilitarianism stands.

2. Morality is binary

A. My opponent argues that all moral actions are of the same value. Essentially arguing that picking up a piece of litter is the moral equivalent of pulling a baby out of a burning building. How absurd. He argues that there is no middle ground, however if there is, at the end of this round, still reasonable doubt on what is or isn't moral than you negate. Remember that my Opponents system is flawed to say that least.

B. It is argued that "If we can call an act moral even if it only has some of the qualities of being a moral action, then morality becomes meaningless." This can so easily be turned to the Con side. Recall the trolly example against my Opponents morality. It is immoral to kill, thus some acts (including the decision to do nothing) that lead to the death of others have immoral aspects. My Opponent has contradicted himself, which collapses his entire system of morality. A Con vote must be cast.

3. Cannot prescribe action

I am running out of characters, so I will respond to this objection later.

4. Self defeating

"If utilitarianism always saves the most lives possible then it will lead to an overpopulated world that cannot agriculturally sustain itself." The problem with this objection is that Utilitarianism is about producing the most intrinsic good. It is a fact in this round that human life is an intrinsic good, so Utiliarianism would try to protect the most of that, even if it means letting some starve so that others can live.

Please Vote Con.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org...





Debate Round No. 3
Mestari

Pro

Clarification

1. My opponent broke off from the chain of debate established in round 1. Instead of asking you to drop him, I instead ask that the judges accept the compromise accepted in the comments section. We will let everything he said in round 3 to stand and I will use round 4 to defend my case and respond to his round 3 arguments. He will use his round 4 to defend his case and weigh arguments if he so chooses.

2. My opponent states that arguments he did not bring up in round 3 should not be conceded due to character limits. I will agree that his examples should be accepted, given that the moral framework they link into is accepted in this round. However, he cannot extend moral theories next round that he did not defend in the previous, and he cannot formulate new defensive arguments to refutations I made in round 3, as he had the opportunity to do so in his own round 2. He cannot justify dropping arguments and then bringing them back up in the final speech of the debate due to character limits when it would be substantially more unreasonable to expect me to defend my case, respond to his 8000 character rebuttal, and preempt arguments he may or may not extend from round 2 that were not mentioned in round 3 with my own 8000 characters. This would also avoid clash, as he can make new defensive arguments that could be completely false, yet I cannot refute them.

Overview

My opponent collapsed his case down to utilitarianism last round. As the judge it is important to note that he has not linked any offense into Deontology, and has only provided defensive arguments against it. Thus, if I win that deontology is the only objective moral theory, not utilitarianism, I win by default as I am the only one with a risk of offense, or a chance of being resolutionally correct. I'm going to explain why metaethically deontology is superior and the debate will end right there. However, to be safe I will also refute his defensive arguments against deontology.

Metaethics

Act-Omission Distinction

My opponent's first response to this is calling the argument absurd and trying to create a sense of emotional appeal by referencing the possible loss of a family member. Remember that this is a debate and that logically correct arguments must be presented, not emotionally driven ones. I stated in round 2 that, "We cannot obligate individuals to take positive action to help others or they would have limitless obligations to help others. This undermines morality’s ability to guide action since in a situation with unlimited obligations one violates morality no matter what one does. Thus, without an act omission distinction, morality can no longer prescribe actions and becomes meaningless." My opponent never responds to this argument, so we can cleanly extend the impact that this "undermines a utilitarian impact calculus because it always demands the action which promotes the most welfare, regardless of moral constraints."

Second, my opponent tries to directly indict the act-omission distinction with his second refutation. He states that a refusal to act is an action in-and-of-itself. However, he is simply creating a straw man out of my actual argument. So once again, "We cannot obligate individuals to take positive action to help others or they would have limitless obligations to help others." It is vital to realize the difference between a positive and negative obligation. Positive obligations demand proactive action, and negative obligations require inaction. My argument is not that we should never act. Rather, it states that if morality required us to take positive actions, to save lives in this scenario, then we would have unlimited positive obligations to do so, and it would be impossible to prescribe that we fulfill a specific positive obligation as it will always result in not fulfilling and unlimited amount of alternative positive obligations. We can prescribe negative actions however, such as a refusal to kill, because you are always in control of inaction. This also serves as a logical necessity. When in face of two contradictory moral choices, we will always violate morality with either decision, and thus neither action can be prescribed. Thus, for morality to logically exist, we must not be demand positive obligations. Utilitarianism does demand positive obligations as you must always proactively promote the most welfare, and thus cannot logically exist.

In simple terms, what does this mean for the round?

What does this mean for the round?

1. For morality to exist it must use the act-omission distinction.
2. Utilitarianism does not use the act-omission distinction.
3. Utilitarianism cannot exist as a moral theory.
Thus, you default to deontology and I win the round right here as my opponent does not have any offense linking into a deontic moral theory, only defense on my arguments.

You can use this argument in combination with my 3rd indictment of utilitarianism, that it cannot prescribe action in all cases. My opponent dropped the Buridan's Mule Paradox which argues that because of the inability to choose between two rationally equal but contradictory actions, there are situations in which utilitarianism fails to prescribe action, which is a requirement of any moral theory. Do not let me opponent put defense onto this argument next round as I've already addressed his character limit justification and it would be far after I have the time to refute it.

Murder is Always Immoral

The Trolley Problem

The summation of my opponent's arguments is two-fold:

First, that if we do not flip the switch, then life is not intrinsically valuable. However, the opposite is true. This is another pitfall of utilitarianism. Value is not aggregate, it is reciprocal. When you justify killing somebody to prevent more deaths, you say that is okay to destroy life in order to save it. In effect, you devalue what you are trying to preserve, making it worthless in the end. You must unconditionally value all life in order to place an intrinsic value onto any life at all. If we fail to recognize this, then it becomes acceptable to arbitrarily assign value to life, in which case it loses all meaning.

Second, he argues that if the 5 people who would die were the 5 people most important to me then I would subjectively choose to save them. This is actually an indictment of utilitarianism. My opponent justifies subjective decisions when morality must be objective in order to prescribe action to all persons equally. A subjective morality would prescribe actions arbitrarily and thus it would be impossible to determine the winner of this debate as one person's point of view may believe murder to be morally permissible, and another may believe that it is not. In order for us to decide a winner, we must find an objective terminus to base rational conclusions off of. That terminus is a deontic moral system.

Third, he indicts the principle of universal law, that for an action to be moral you must rationally will it be done by others. He creates another straw man here. The broccoli analogy is flawed in many facets. The logic is you cannot take actions that you would not want to be done to you. You cannot rationally will people to coerce or murder you, thus you could not be coercive nor should you murder anyone. You can rationally will people eat broccoli, thus you can eat broccoli. That does not mean people have to eat broccoli, and deontology does not prescribe positive actions, only negatives, but it can be willed to be universal law.

Ballot Story

I have unrefuted metaethical justifications for deontology, and have indicted utilitarianism. My opponent has no offense on deontology, whilst I do. He relies on sympathy and strawmans to make arguments while I've used sound logic to prove my theories. Take the arguments for what they are, not for what my opponent manipulates them to sounds like. Thank you for reading this extensive debate, and I congratulate my opponent on a great contest. Good luck in your final round.
thett3

Con

I sincerely thank my opponent for what has been a civil and intelligent exchange. I appologize for going against the structure of the debate, so I will now defend my case and show why you need to vote Con.

On Utilitarianism:

Cannot prescribe action in all cases

My Opponent brings up a paradox about a mule and hay and water. He argues that utilitarianism cannot make the mule drink the water or eat the hay, because the mule needs tem both equally. Therefore, theoretically, the mule would die from inaction. This however, is a fallacious argument, partially because it would not be in the mules best interest (and therefore not Utilitarian) to die, so some action would still happen. Furthermore, such a situation would never truly exist so you can't consider a strictly theoretical argument when I've given specific real life examples.

On Retributive Justice

Justice, not Morality

This objection clearly falls. Just is defined as "Based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair: "a just society"." So everything that is just is also, by definition, moral.

Cannot be objective

Pro's objection falls because Retributive Justice is objective. It is the kind of justice that is an eye for an eye. Pro has not even tried to refute the morality of this, so it stands.

Cannot perscribe action

My Opponent argues "If a murder was committed, but there are 3 equally likely suspects with no way to determine who committed the crime, and only one of them could be responsible, then it would be impossible to exact punishment based on desert. You could either punish all three equally, in which two suspects will receive punishment that they do not deserve, contradicting the basis of retributive justice. "

The problem with this objection is that it's based off of a situation that is impossible to happen (as opposed to my real life examples) and since a just society embraces the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" his scenario cannot be applied. Remember that the retribution takes place after the guilt has been established, so this argument bears no relevance.

My point stands, and since the resolution states "never" you cannot affirm.

On Self Defense

Not a moral theory

It was never argued that it was a moral principle in and of itself, rather that an act of true self defense is always justified.

Not Objective

So what? The fact of the matter is that it is my burden to show examples where unlawful killing can be permissable, not to give a moral system where unlawful killing is always permissable. So my examples still stand as justified and the resolution is negated.

Cannot perscribe action

My Opponent arugued "It would be impossible for self defense to serve as a guide for action in a situation where self defense in not involved."

My response: who cares? My Burden is to show a gray area, where murder cannot always be condemned, not to argue that it's always justified.

The rest of his objections fall under the same grounds. Recall that he has not even attempted to refute the examples I gave, rather he's trying to shift the burden of proof for me to show where murder could be justified in ALL cases, however that is not what I have to do.


Overview:

Affirm if you want a world where killing Hitler would be considered unjust. Affirm only if killing is wrong in every single case, because my opponents argument works against War, Executions, and Self Defense. Affirm if you believe that allowing things such as the Holocaust to continue when you have the ability to stop it would be unjust.

In any other case, please negate.


Debate Round No. 4
88 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Mestari 5 years ago
Mestari
I wasn't going to continue posting here, but I feel the need to clarify. Morality is a guide to action, if it isn't then it's existence is negligible and should be dismissed as our rational decision making process would be purely skeptical. If morality can't guide action, then it can't be taken to exist. In retrospect, I did not make this argument as clear as I should have in the round due to character limits, but if nothing else thett dropped that, "[M]orality serves as a guide for action. If a claimed moral theory cannot proscribe action in all situations, then it is not a moral theory at all."

BlackVoid, you should think of Universal Law as Reciprocal Law. What it argues is that you can only perform an action if you will it to be universal law, in the sense that you would be rationally and objectively okay with others performing the action on you. You can will giving money to panhandlers to be universal because if you were a needy panhandler you would want others to give money to you. Whether or not the panhandler is actually poor is another argument all together. If they are not, then their coercion would be immoral, but not your donation. You can claim that murder is inherently immoral because you cannot rationally and objectively desire to be murdered.
Posted by BlackVoid 5 years ago
BlackVoid
What Mestari was saying is that a moral theory is only valid if it applies in all circumstances. He doesn't do a good job of putting this in laymen's terms though. The philosopher quotes he gives to explain this use a really obscure language that people who haven't heard the idea before won't understand.

When Pro talks about "act only on a maxim that you could will to be a universal law" he's saying that any individual action can only be considered moral if its justified in all circumstances (as a universal law). For instance, take the action "give money to panhandlers". I can't say that this action is inherently moral because in some circumstances the panhandlers are actually not poor and are just trying to get free money. In the same respect, I can't say that the action "murder" is inherently moral because in some circumstances it clearly isn't. Obviously this concept is entirely debatable, but thats what (I'm pretty sure) Pro was putting out there.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Sorry I didn't back to you on this. I had no idea you were still posting. Anyway, I don't know if you still want to discuss this. It's been a long time. But here goes:

First off, I don't see how proving that Utilitarianism cannot prescribe action in all circumstances undermines it entirely. It is still a valid moral theory. Even if you proved that it has a specific flaw, how does it take away from it's validity?

The fact that the decision must be taken arbitrarily may not be prompted by utilitarianism, but neither is it prohibited by utilitarianism, so there is really no contradiction between Util and random choice.

Anyway, I probably will have no idea when you post anything here, so if you still want to continue this conversation, you can PM me.
Posted by Mestari 5 years ago
Mestari
If Utilitarianism is undermined then so is the Hitler example by default.

As for prescribing action, Utilitarianism does not give you anyway to choose which action to take. It demands that you always maximize the greater good. However, in the case of two equally satisfactory choices, it does not prescribe that you take either. You say that in this situation, one of the two choices should be taken arbitrarily. However, that is no longer a decision prompted by utilitarianism, but rather chosen by an individual. If it is due to utilitarianism, then it proves that the theory is subjective.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
As for prescribing action, Utilitarianism holds that actions are moral if they end up maximizing the greater good. If two of the three different actions end up maximizing the greater good equally, then one of those two should be picked arbitrarily. Utilitarianism implicitly prescribes one of the first two actions as opposed to the third one.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
I'll address your point later, but first don't you agree that proving that Utilitarianism cannot prescribe action in all scenarios in no way undermines the Hitler example?
Posted by Mestari 5 years ago
Mestari
It wouldn't violate the fundamental principles of utilitarianism, but it would prove that utilitarianism cannot prescribe actions in all scenarios.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
.... since the alternative is to starve which is not good and hence not utilitarian.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
It is entirely utilitarian to realize that both choices are equally good and pick one arbitrarily.
Posted by Mestari 5 years ago
Mestari
The argument isn't that the mule would choose 3, it is that it cannot rationally choose 1 over 2 or 2 over 1, and thus must make an arbitrary decision that is not prescribed by utilitarianism.
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
Mestarithett3Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: I am cancelling my vote due to protests.
Vote Placed by headphonegut 5 years ago
headphonegut
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Reasons for voting decision: It's amazing thett has any points at all metsari had several arguments that con could not fully understand so could not refute, such as act-omission distinction, Metsari explained it's implications for what is moral and why it's important to have an objective moral system in this debate. With those two arguments all of cons arguments AND EXAMPLES simply vanished and Pro took apart cons trolly analogy and upheld his mule paradox very well.
Vote Placed by skateall24 5 years ago
skateall24
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Reasons for voting decision: Deontology wins, Pro wins.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
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Reasons for voting decision: Awesome and incredibly close debate. Pro wins the deontology argument and manages to refute part of Con's retributive argument as well, Pro also wins the self-defense argument as Con does not give a well-defined enough argument for self-defense. Con wins because he won the utilitarianism argument and all the examples that go with it which Pro never refuted. See the comments for a very detailed analysis of the arguments.
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 5 years ago
BlackVoid
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Reasons for voting decision: Comments page 2.
Vote Placed by Raisor 5 years ago
Raisor
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a really good debate up until Con R4. What happened Con? I think Pro clearly came out ahead in the metaethical debate, so Deont stands as the in round system of evaluation. Con has no offense under Deont so Pro wins. (more in comments).
Vote Placed by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
Ore_Ele
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Reasons for voting decision: All in all a good debate. It was interesting to read, however, I feel that the drops of the assassination of Hitler was key. Pro needed to show why murdering Hitler would be immoral, yet this was never attempted. He ultimately went on to refute utilitarianism (which I don't think that he successfully did by the end of it all). There were some false dichotomies made, but they weren't pointed out by Con, so nothing on those. But ignoring an assassination of Hitler was a big ignore.
Vote Placed by Lickdafoot 5 years ago
Lickdafoot
Mestarithett3Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: interesting debate. pro relied on a lot of theories yet he didn't give enough examples or explanation to back them up. eg morality requires act omission- why? it is moral to value the value of life and help what causes the greater good, with or without the possibility of hurting ourselves. this is not demanded of a person but a self-willed act. Con case was okay, he left enough doubt with his utilitarian outlook to justify why murdering is sometimes a necessary action, moral for a greater good.