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Performing greedy deeds is immoral.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/20/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 572 times Debate No: 82854
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
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Pro will contend for the resolution and Con against.


Morals come from animal brains which are a result of natural selection and evolution. Morals have evolved because of how they regulate social behaviours and affect fitness. If you were alone in the universe, you would have no need for morals. As such, morals are useful when interacting with others and wouldn't exist otherwise.

Morals generally help promote cooperation by ensuring mutual advantage with a simple example being; "you scratch my back, I scratch yours". Common morals would say that if you help someone, they should help you in return. If someone does not help you in return, a sense of morale helps you recognize this and avoid helping this person in the future. After all, experience tells you they would not reciprocate. Similarly, recognizing that it's your turn to help someone will motivate you in so doing which, on average, will also help you because cooperation is good and has helped promote human genes in the past. Fundamental morals being the way they are prove this by their very existence. They wouldn't be here otherwise. Mutual help will help ensure more mutual help in the future.

So, morals and the desire to act morally is a normal expression of human genes. This motivation is not rational, rather it is a gut feeling more like sex than it is a rational thought. Behaving immoraly, like murdering someone innocent, would cause emotional distress to a healthy human being. Most of us are judged by our very nature. But, as morals helps regulate interactions with others, others moral opinions of us are also important to us.

As for greed, I will go with the merriam-webster definition : a selfish desire to have more of something (especially money). Selfishness, for which Wikipedia has what I regard as a pretty standard definition, is being concerned, sometimes excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one's own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others. A person who wants something regardless of others, and acts on that, commits an act of greed. From the point of view of others, this is immoral because it is an asocial act. Most likely, it takes from them a resource which could otherwise be used by them and so they judge it negatively. The very fact that the deed is identified as an act of greed indicates that the deed breaks with the group's moral code.

So, it breaks with the group's moral code. Most likely, it breaks with the greedy's moral code as well, but it could be that they do not realize their greed or have abnormal emotions. Possibly, they thought the act was immoral but decided to do it anyways because the gain is bigger than the loss (loss of social standing). Regardless, as good morals promote cooperation, an act of greed can be said to be immoral if it reduces others willingness to cooperate with the person who committed the act of greed.
Debate Round No. 1


Greed is not immoral, in fact Greed is morally sound.

Claim1: There a lot of philosophies, religions, and nations.

Warrant: Here ten philosophies to begin with. [1]. "79 entries are listed here. It is simply impossible to list all varieties of religion" [2]. "Ultimately, the best answer is that there are 196 countries in the world." [3].

Impact: There are at least 10 philosophies, 79 religions, and 196 countries. All with different moral codes. If you put all the philosophies, religions, and countries in a hat and randomly selected one greed would not always be immoral.

Claim2: Under some philosophies greed is good.

Warrant: "Ethical egoism states that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. Basically, it is necessary and sufficient for an action to be morally right that it is able to maximize one"s self-interest." [1].

Impact: Who is to state that Pros philosophy is correct and Ethical egoism isn't?

Claim3: Some religions claim greed is good.

Warrant: "Rules of Acquisition #10: Greed is Eternal"[4].

Impact: Who are we to know which religions are correct and which aren't? Since at least one states that greed is good, there is religious grounds that greed is good.

Claim4: Some nations reward greed.

Warrant: Look at the USA just for starters. Warrant Buffet paying little taxes [5].

Impact: Clearly nations do not see greed as evil.

Now to avoid kettle logic Con contends that since there is such a wide variance in beliefs that all negate each other. Different philosophies negate each other just as different religions contradict each other and finally nations laws. There is only the universal truth of there are no morals. No good nor evil.

Now to Pro's argument, Pro seems to be confusing animal's instincts with morals. It is biologically to our advantage to be afraid of sharp objects and large bodies of water. Just as it is from a Darwinism point of view to cooperate to a degree.

The same goes for nation, yes there is an advantage to some degree of cooperation. Finally, the same goes for many nations, it is within each nation's best interest to cooperate to an extent. Yet, cooperation doesn't mean good or evil. Just an animal instinctively marking his territory isn't good nor evil.

As for Pro's statement about a moral code, Pro is confusing order and chaos with good and evil. Nation's laws exist to promote order, not to promote goodness.

"o, it breaks with the group's moral code."Pro

Group's moral code could be rewritten group's order code. For example, organize these bottles into rows. Neither order nor chaos equal morally. Most people will agree that tax collection is orderly, yet is immoral. Think of Prince John and Robin Hood. Simply following orders and society's rules does not equal moral behavior.

Finally think of the roman legionnaire's. The army was orderly and followed the rules. Yet, few would see them as a force of good.



Morals is not separate from instinct. This is not confusion on my part, but actually a field of study with increasing validity. Search for evolution of morality or similar terms to find a wealth of information on the subject.

The capacity for having moral feelings is biological and such feelings are instinctual, giving us a capacity for instinctually feeling whether an act is right or wrong. Moral theories may be attempts to rationalize morals, but the fact that people normally don't follow any one moral theory indicates that the premises of most of these is false and/or they don't accurately protect our moral interests (how many really follow the philosophy of selfishness? How many true utilitarians are there?). Few moral theories "fit" with our instinctual feelings of right and wrong and so moral theories in general are not relevant in people's day to day lives, instead merely being brought out for the big questions which evolution has not already equipped us with a moral compass on how to deal with, such as on the question of abortions or euthanasia. How everyday-morals is biologically emergent can be exemplified by the existence of psychopaths, people who lack normal emotions or morals, despite being part of a society in which such morals and emotions are the norm. They are morally different because their brains work in different ways from normal, healthy humans. Similarly, a person suffers a brain damage may become a less moral person.

Like humans have moral instincts, so do animals. For example, pecking orders or ranks are common and may be exemplified by how an alpha wolf has eating rights before a wolf lower in the hierarchy.

While morals first evolved throuh natural selection, that is not to say that culture and ideas do not flavour morals, or that moral ideas can't propagate like memes for various reasons, but some things tend to be similar. For example, let's say you have a couple. If the woman should become pregnant with another man without telling her partner, he might spend resources raising someone else's child. To avoid this, one would expect feelings of jealousy or possessiveness to evolve which in turn could motivate a general moral idea that women should be faithful to their men. You would expect this to be the case in the vast majority of human societies and exceptions to the rule are likely to be predictable, such as possible situations where the woman's lover on the side would be genetically closely related to the man and/or chilren are raised collectively so that the parental investment does not differ much in either case.

Con writes that morals don't exist and that there is no good and evil. Ultimately, this is true and something we agree on. There is no moral authority outside human beings judging them. Humans and morals exist as a consequence, not by design. But morals are part of human nature and shape behaviour in a predictable way and so can be said to have an existence. Knowing that it is a product of natural selection, we can predict or model the evolution of our own moral instincts. In this way, morals can be said to have an existence, even if there is no moral authority out there imposing them on us.

Morals are relevant to us in that they regulate social behaviour and, as such, have a direct consequence on how we behave, our social health and wellbeing. So while there may not be a God who judges things in the manner of good and evil, we are all more or less moral beings judging ourselves and eachother. While one can hypothesize ideals or situations where oneself or others do view an act of greed as morally good, the idea of greed or a person being greedy generally carries negative connotations and jugment. For all practical purposes, yourself and others opinions of yourself as a moral being matters and an act of greed is generally considered an immoral act.

I'd like to point out that although a system like capitalism may promote greed, that doesn't mean people's morals change so that they view greed as morally good.
Debate Round No. 2


"The capacity for having moral feelings is biological and such feelings are instinctual, giving us a capacity for instinctually feeling whether an act is right or wrong." Pro

Claim: Racism is an instinct.

Warrant: "do you have any strong indication otherwise? Racism is a natural extension of favouring your own tribe over others, which is indeed a survival instinct" [6].

"A new study provides more proof that racism is a natural instinct that we are all born with."[7].

Impact: By Pro's logic greed is immoral and racism is moral.

Pro seems to take the natural selection route. That instincts and instinctual feelings cause moral behavior which influences social behavior. Natural selection has ensured that only good instincts get passed onto the next generation.

Pro's argument breaks down when one tribe meets another. Instincts tell humans to harm the other tribe. Yet, there is many philosophies, religions, and laws that state its immoral to harm another tribe. In order to prove that pro is correct, Pro must assert why racism is good.

I'd like to point out that although a system like capitalism may promote greed, that doesn't mean people's morals change so that they view greed as morally good. " Pro

Claim: Donald Trump disagrees.

Warrant: "The point is that you can"t be too greedy." [8]. Donald Trump

Impact: The evidence suggests that people living in capitalistic societies do see greed as good.

Instincts while being panhuman contradict almost every nation's laws and religion. Last time I checked its not within the spirit of most religions to go around killing people of other nations. Instincts don't prepare us when dealing with other races and many modern technological advances. There seems to be no way that instincts and evolution could prepare humans to drive fifty kilometers a mile or fly an airplane.

Thanks for the debate, vote Con.



Con seems to attribute to me the opinion that behaviour slected for is "good". It is not objectively good or bad and could be judged to be either or neither depending your point of view. We already agree there ultimately is no good or evil. Similarly, these behaviours and emotions exist as a consequence because of the effect they have had on fitness, not because of their goodness. Feelings of jealousy may not be "good" from a moral point of view, but they may still have a positive effect on fitness.

Con writes:
  • Claim: Racism is an instinct.
  • Warrant: "do you have any strong indication otherwise? Racism is a natural extension of favouring your own tribe over others, which is indeed a survival instinct" [6].
There's a minor contradiction here. Racism, by definition, has to do with race. One tribe is not necessarily of a different race than another. The members of a tribe are not necessarily of the same race.

Still, from an evolutionary point of view, we morally consider people differently. The innate, tribal "us" and "them" kind of thinking is important and explains a lot about human moral thinking towards others. Humans collectively raise their fitness together through cooperation. In a tribe, your own wellbeing is partly dependent on the wellbeing of others. "Us" are the people whom your fitness is partially dependent upon, whom you can work together with. On the other hand, "they" are people who are a threat to your wellbeing. They are likely to be competitors for resources or even a direct, physical threat.

Whenever a human considers another human being, they unknowingly judge whether the person they are considering is an "us" or a "them". If the person is considered an "us", we extend to them greater moral concerns than we would if they were a "them". This difference can be dramatic and could for example mean the diference between wanting to save this person or leave them to die. In a war scenario, we accept that soldiers kill "them", yet we generally abolish murder in our own societies. As a trite example, this line of thinking explains how a normally peaceful, moral human being could regard immigrants as little more than animals and happily leave them to die. Clearly, such a person subconsciously thinks of immigrants as part of "them" and not "us".

Appearance like skin colour is an indicator of whether a person should be consided an "us" or "them", but it is by no means the only one. People can be easily separated into "thems" based on politics, religion, culture or geographical borders. Awareness about this human tendency to divide people into different groups worthy of different moral consideration can help all of us to avoid such knee-jerk reactions. In the ideal, peaceful world, every human would consider all other humans to be part of their own tribe and worthy of the same, basic moral protection.

To equate the above to "racism is selected for, hence it is morally good" is a fallacy. It is not racism which is selected for, but rather the ability to judge whether or not a person you meet is someone you can cooperate with. Hence, it is cooperation which is selected for ("good"), not racism. Like racism is not cooperation, so greed is not cooperation.

As for Donald Trump on morals, I'd simply claim that he is not an authority on morals. The earlier cited Richard Dawkins, although not a moral philosopher per se, would be a much better authority on what morale is or isn't.

That we are not truly equipped for modern society and technology, and that this includes our morals, is true. As an example, imagine there's an infomercial about starving children in Africa on TV. A person in the US might feel compassion for the child on the telly and would so choose to donate money. From a natural selection point of view, this may not seem to make sense. The person on TV can't cooperate or reciprocate, so why give something when you can't receive anything in return? The answer is, of course, that during our evolutionary history, TVs did not exist. Your emotions might react as if they were seeing a person belonging to your own society who could reciprocate. This does not mean that not having compassion is a good thing. Morals are not rational, but ultimately belong to the real of emotions and it is our feelings that judge the moral value of an act, not rationale. Hence, this point is interesting but has little real relevance to the debate.

Closing statement; various creatures evolved dfferent strategies in the struggle for survival, like cheetahs have evolved for speed or a polar bear has adapted to cold environments. Humans have adapted for other things and crucial to our enormous success is is intelligence and cooperation. Humans are extremely social and our cooperation is facilitated and promoted by an in-built capacity for morals. An act of greed is asocial, uncooperative, and the fundamental reason we instinctively think of an act of greed as something morally bad is because this understanding is built into our very nature. Hence, it is as objectively true to us as morale could be.
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by toretorden 2 years ago
NikolaGustav, note that an act of greed is selfish. For your glass of water example to be truly relevant, you should change it to a situation where drinking more water is apparently selfish. This is simple. Let's say you are in the desert with a group of people and have a limited amount of water which is rationed out evenly, one glass each. Drinking two glasses of water would then be an act of greed.
Posted by NikolaGustav 2 years ago
Drinking a glass of water does nothing to help others.
It is a selfish act that doesn't directly help anyone, but yourself.

Pro's defines greed as "a selfish desire to have more of something."

If this definition is true, then Pro is implying that drinking a glass of water and then wanting more is an act of greed and thus, "immoral."
Yet, it is not immoral to drink a glass of water and then want more is it?
Posted by Furyan5 2 years ago
Or they can just look at their parents, grandparents and any other adults they encountered growing up. From there its easy to see why we do the things we do and want the things we want. Human behaviour is not transfered genetically although there are genetic abnormalities which can cause people to behave abnormally by affecting the chemical reactions in the brain. Although I agree that certain behaviour will allow one group of people to thrive where another group fails, this is due to children learning the behaviour from their parents by watching them. It is not passed down genetically.
Posted by toretorden 2 years ago
Furyan5, reducing instinctive needs to food, shelter and reproduction is overly simplistic, and so is reducing naturally selected behaviour to things you will do to survive when pressured.

Almost any part of your instinctive behaviour, particularly how you relate to others, will have an effect on your ability to pass your genes on to the future. Hence, natural selection will have a profound effect on behaviour and emotions in general, even down to fine details.

Anyone interested in human morality should study natural selection and evolution and then take a course in behavioural ecology.
Posted by Furyan5 2 years ago
I agree with environment shaped morals, but societal and religious rules form our ethical values and not our moral values. This is why psychologist can't fully understand or explain human behaviour. As for basic morals based on instinctive needs, food, shelter and reproduction, I would hardly call a survival instinct in any way a moral decision. The extent people will go to to survive defies all sense of morality.
Posted by toretorden 2 years ago
I disagree, Furyan5. We have a very basic set of interests that are built-in from which a very fundamental set of morals arise. Then environmentally shaped morals, like cultural or religious rules, are added on top and add to the final expression of morals in a person.

The idea that human morals are an entirely thought up construct is outdated. The idea that it comes from God is irrational.
Posted by Furyan5 2 years ago
Morals are not instinctive. Behaviour is learnt by observing adult behaviour. This sets the tone for how we will behave as adults. Ethical value are learnt later in life, once we begin to comprehend words. The problem is that our moral values lie in our subconscious while our ethical values lie in the conscious mind. It's the conflict between these two values which makes us feel like sinners when we let our subconscious control our actions. Except in the case of chemical imbalances causing people to behave in an unusual manner, everyone else is aware that their actions are either ethical or unethical. But subjectively, not all unethical actions are considered immoral. It depends on ones upbringing.
Posted by GoOrDin 2 years ago
by definition Pro wins this debate by default.
Posted by BlackFlags 2 years ago
Says self righteous people...
Posted by Robkwoods 2 years ago
So just to be sure, Con is saying greedy deeds are not immoral.
No votes have been placed for this debate.