The Instigator
TheSkeptic
Pro (for)
Tied
32 Points
The Contender
Vi_Veri
Con (against)
Tied
32 Points

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/31/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,045 times Debate No: 9897
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (12)

 

TheSkeptic

Pro

f you have participated or read any of these types of debates before, then this one should be no different. However, for those who haven't:

ROUND 1: This obviously includes this opening introduction and rules. For my opponent, he/she will post 3 topics (clarify them if you could) he/she wishes to debate, and then post his/her position on each of the topics. Please try to add a mix of subjects. Have some deal with religion, others with politics, others with art, others with social issues, etc.

ROUND 2-4: I will start my case by supporting or attacking one of three topics my opponent proposed. It should follow throughout as a normal 3-Round debate.

*NOTE* - I realize that politics are almost undoubtedly tangled with social issues, but a somewhat cut between the two would be fine. By politics, I imagine topics such as what is the best political system, what role does the government play, economics, taxes, so on and so forth. By social issues, I imagine topics such as gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, so on and so forth.

*NOTE* - Please put forth only controversial, or at least opinionated claims, for the topics. This should be pretty self-explanatory. If you have any questions, just leave it at the comments section.

*NOTE* - The "1G" notation is for purely for browsing purposes.

If there's any concerns or questions, leave it at the comments sections.
Vi_Veri

Con

lol this was a bit difficult as we agree on almost all issues... but here's the list I came up with.

1. In regards to the situation of capital punishment, it is more moral to take the criminal's life than use them for utilitarian gains.

I'll be Pro.

2. It justifiable for protesters and activists to break the law for the sake of their cause.

I'll be Pro.

3. Parenthood should be a privilege not a right.

I will be Pro.

Good luck, Skeptic, : )
Debate Round No. 1
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this open debate - I'm excited to have another debate with her! I'm also glad to see that her list of topics are unique; it should serve to be an enthralling debate. I will be choosing her first topic: "In regards to the situation of capital punishment, it is more moral to take the criminal's life than use them for utilitarian gains." She has chosen to be PRO, so logically I am CON.

To advance my position, I will fulfill my burden by arguing an in-between position: taking a criminal's life is not more moral than using them for utilitarian gains, OR vice versa. Essentially, they are on the same moral standing - none. In fact, this is the reason why I personally am against CP. Instead of fulfilling some false moral obligation of taking a criminal's life, it would be much more useful to have them do hard labor, or something of the sort.

Since I have no clue what argument my opponent will use to support this claim (though I can suspect). I will simply conclude by saying that I do not believe there is a moral obligation to take a criminal's life - and the same for using them for utilitarian gains.

Unto my opponent.
Vi_Veri

Con

What theSkeptic has done in this debate is a total cop out.

I intended to debate ethics of reasoning for Capital punishment, not if there should be Capital Punishment or not.

The debate is, "In regards to the situation of capital punishment, it is more moral to take the criminal's life than use them for utilitarian gains" NOT "Capital punishment is morally superior to hard labor."

I never intended for this to be a political debate. This topic was me proposing a debate in regards to different moral system's take on reasoning for Capital Punishment.

I'm sorry to say, but the Skeptic completely turned this debate on it's head and made the topic something that it wasn't. He completely changed it form ethical systems' takes on Capital Punishment discussion to a political debate on whether CP is right or wrong.

I will come right out and claim his actions are abusive.

I'll give him next round to re-establish a proper CON rebuttal towards the topic that I proposed for this debate.

Regards,

Vi
Debate Round No. 2
TheSkeptic

Pro

My opponent has vehemently declared that I "copped out", turned this debate on it's head, and in all effectuated an abusive round. Now, I'm definitely one for some rhetoric banter but it would seem quite clear to me that my opponent's strong opposition to my stance is unbecoming and unjustified - I have done nothing to make this topic something it wasn't.

Let's backtrack, exactly what was my opponent's resolution? She proposed that "in regards to the situation of capital punishment, it is more moral to take the criminal's life than use them for utilitarian gains". It's a very clear and precise resolution, and I understand it perfectly. In other words, she wants a debate in which we morally evaluate whether it's more moral to take a criminal's life or use them for utilitarian gains (presumably hard labor). She takes the former position, which likely will place her in a Kantian position. Either taking a life is more moral, or using them as utilitarian gains is more moral -- either A or B can be chosen.

So what did I do? I chose the third possible option, option C -- I stated that NEITHER OPTION IS MORALLY BETTER OR WORST. This "third choice" is much more rare in similar debates, but it is definitely legitimate to choose and is in no way a cop out. It is perfectly legitimate to respond to the resolution that "X is immoral" by stating that morality itself is a farce. I in no way evaded the topic.

"I intended to debate ethics of reasoning for Capital punishment, not if there should be Capital Punishment or not...He completely changed it form ethical systems' takes on Capital Punishment discussion to a political debate on whether CP is right or wrong."

----> I never hinted at the claim that this resolution is about whether or not there should be CP, though I did say I was personally against it. I abide by the resolution because I was planning to argue for using the criminals for hard labor in a different aspect perhaps you did not foresee -- not so much a fault on my part. Nevertheless, I will satisfy your qualms by arguing how you want; by defending utilitarianism in this aspect. I devoted this large introduction to a response because I found it unbecoming that you accuse of me abusive actions when I took a perfectly legitimate course.

Anyway, here's my argument:

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Kant's Categorical Imperative one major logical flaw
=====================

Since this debate basically boils down to Kantian ethics vs. Utilitarianism, then inevitably it would seem that the entire issue of CP becomes sidelined and the debate then would focus on which ethical theory is correct. It doesn't seem that my opponent disagrees, stemming from her arguments and comments. So I will demonstrate the flaws of Kantian ethics, and show that at the very least it can't be shown to be a valid moral theory and thus killing a criminal to be "more moral" then using them for utilitarian gains.

I will utilize one major criticism of Kantian ethics:

Kant hasn't resolved the problem of when his obligations conflict. Often we see the case in which two or more obligations will clash, such as the obligation to preserve human life and the abolition against lying. These two maxims are supposed to be absolute and universal, and yet they can be found in conflict - Kant, I would argue, has no way of resolving this. If he can't do this, then his theory is logically incoherent.

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Conclusion
=====================

I will wait for my opponent's reply to my argument against Kantian ethics, and subsequently wait for her attack on utilitarianism (presumably). Since I have no clue what attack she will use -- being that it's one of the most popular ethical theories and thus full of opponents -- I will respond to her criticisms in my last round. Remember, this debate is effectively a debate on which normative ethical theory is superior. If I show utilitarianism to be correct, then using criminals for things such as hard labor would be more moral. If you demonstrate Kantian ethics to be correct, taking a criminals life wouldn't only be more moral but in fact morally obligatory.

The floor is yours, CON.
Vi_Veri

Con

My opponent only makes one objection thus far:

He presumes that Kant's ethics fail because "Kant hasn't resolved the problem of when his obligations conflict. Often we see the case in which two or more obligations will clash, such as the obligation to preserve human life and the abolition against lying. These two maxims are supposed to be absolute and universal, and yet they can be found in conflict - Kant, I would argue, has no way of resolving this. If he can't do this, then his theory is logically incoherent."

This exact objection to his theory was raised by Swiss Philosopher Benjamin Constant. Constant remarks, "Since truth telling must be universal, according to Kant's theories, one must (if asked) tell a known murderer the location of his prey."

Kant would see no conflict of obligations here. There is a difference between "not lying" and "telling the truth." A person may be vague, or a person may not tell at all. The categorical imperative can also work against the murderer at this point. According to Kant, if someone steals, they are allowing the rest of the world to steal from them also (categorical imperative). Thus, if a murderer asks for the location of his prey (thus asking for information to commit a malicious action) the other person has all of the right in the world to be malicious towards the murderer. The intent to murder someone is a direct challenge to the person you are defending's life - thus, the individual has the ability to challenge the murderer head on at this point. One may choose not to answer at all "the difference between 'not lying' and 'telling the truth'" or one may threaten the murderer as well.

Lying, to Kant, is always, always wrong. But, also according to Kant, if you commit a wrong, you beg for equal wrong be done to you (catagorical imperitive) and thus, a murderer with malicious intent invites malicious intent. Thus, according to Kant (and his direct reply to Constant) and myself, there is no real conflict here.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As PRO, I will present my case:

Outline of Justification for Morality of Capital Punishment

1. Kant, "One man ought never to be dealt with merely as a means subservient to the purpose of another."

A person can not be used as a means by another person; example: slavery is absolutely wrong. But, this doesn't mean that a person can not volunteer as a means to someone else; example: a service job. All this means is that you can't be "dealt with" as a means to someone else's purpose.

and

2. Justice requires equality (no one's ends are more important than another's)

Thus, Utilitarian means - using a person's life as a means to gains for other people (hard labor, etc) is morally wrong. If the reason for punishment is to deter others, to protect someone, or to set an example of the person, then the person punished is wronged; their humanity has not been respected.

Thus, the statement can be seen as, "If you steal, you are inviting everyone to steal from you" or rather, stealing from yourself. The pain you inflict must be inflicted back to you, or jus talionis - the right of retaliation.

By stealing, one is saying that property is insecure; and thus, if that were the universal maxim, he is inviting the idea that stealing is ok.

Kant concedes to the idea that punishment should not lead the punisher to immoral activity. Thus, if a murderer tortures his victim before killing him, the punisher should not torture the murderer before execution. He says:

"His death... must be kept free from all maltreatment that would make the humanity suffering in his person loathsome or abominable."

Do not confuse "retribution" with "revenge." Kant does not take the side of revenge. We must punish the criminal with a punishment equal to his crime, but a punishment not disrespecting his dignity as a human being. Impossible, someone might say? No, for morality does not entitle us to everything.

Thus, making Kant's most interesting claim: by punishing the criminal, we are respecting her freedom even more. She is responsible for for her actions, and was free to do otherwise (free to act good, but instead chose bad). So, a punishment is respect toward her humanity - and a repercussion of the maxim they have demonstrated. Someone who disrespects morality has pushed it, and thus if she believes that she shouldn't be punished but that others should be kept from stealing from her, she is going against a maxim. By engaging in immoral activity, we are accepting the consequences of our actions: allowing the crime to enter our maxim. So, if I steal from an individual, I am allowing for a punishment equal to the stealing be brought unto myself - thus respecting my "rational will" and humanity.

So, in short, a crime committed is consent for jus talionis - and a just talionis that respects one's humanity, at that. A punisher must not act immorally.

It must be noted that from everything that has been said, only the GUILTY must be punished.

Substitution punishments may be issued to refrain from destroying a person's dignity - though the punishment must be equal or proportional to the crime committed.

So, the just propose of punishment is, as Kant says, "in order that everyone may realize the desert of his deeds."

In the case of murder, no substitute punishment can be sufficient to make the aggressor realize the significance of the wrong that has been done.

Thus, Capital Punishment is the only way to preserve a criminal's dignity of "rational will" and humanity. The crime of murder is so monstrous that this is the only dignifying act to respect the person's humanity and choice to make the most immoral of choices and change their maxim to "I murder, thus I allow others to murder."

It is wrong to punish people for utilitarian reasons (in other words, using them as a means to an end), because it disrespects their humanity and rational will. Punishment must always be in response to guilt.

Thus, Capital Punishment is a morally superior stance to Utilitarian usage of a person.

I suspect an engaging response from my opponent! : )

Regards,

Vi Veri
Debate Round No. 3
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for her response, and I can only wish that we had more rounds to entertain this classical topic of Kantian ethics vs. utilitarianism. Since neither of us has spoken about utilitarianism (I planned to only if she were to attack it), then I will assume that we both agree that if I show Kantian ethics to be invalid/unsound then I would effectively fulfill the resolution -- because at the least this would demonstrate that it is not more moral to kill a criminal than to use him for utilitarian gains. This should be quite evident.

My opponent's defense of Kant crumbles under one main reason: she has too much of a myopic view that is a consequence of concentrating solely on the popular counterexample used against Kant of the murder who is looking for his victim, and you being obliged to tell the murderer the truth. I will explain why her reasoning on this example is insufficient to solve the problems of Kant's categorical imperative, and of how this problem can manifest in another way as well:

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A major logical flaw of Kant's Categorical Imperative -- Conflicts of obligations
=====================

The murder counterexample is something my opponent concentrates on for a paragraph, and her conclusions about it is in fact something I would agree that is consistent in Kant's theory -- because the murderer has given up his own right to life, you do not have to respect his rights. This is a popular interpretation of Kant and a defense of such counterintuitive counterexamples. The problem is that my opponent focuses TOO MUCH on this analogy and fails to see other possibilities and the implications it bears:

Firstly, you must realize that the counterexample is formulated in a way as to force a dilemma: you can only either lie or tell the truth. Of course, in real life situations there's always a plethora of other possibilities (not saying anything, whacking him over the head, etc.), but this misses the point. The philosopher can simply tweak the conditionals of the hypothetical counterexample until he forces you into a desired dilemma. Nevertheless, my opponent can still escape this by stating she doesn't have to respect his rights and thus refuse appeal to the murderer. However, this is just this particular counterexample...

Take the following counterexample I have created in consideration; it's much more to the point I am stressing and common: You are confronted by your significant other who asks you a question - one that you know if you truthfully answer will emotionally hurt the significant other (and assume the circumstances of your answer does not include foul play on any person's fault). This happens many times, and it can be as simple as a white lie or as serious as an an unfortunate event that happened to someone such as death. On one hand, you are obligated to tell the truth according to the categorical imperative. Likewise, you are obligated to further the welfare of the common person and especially you're loved ones. This, among many others, is a case in which two rules are in conflict but NO PERSON has done something as to constitute punishment on themselves (such as willing to murder, in which the categorical imperative would allow a "whiplash" effect back on them as my opponent mentions). If no foul play is detected, then we have a dilemma of two rules in conflict and no way out.

This brings up the issue of how can Kant resolve such conflicts. One strategy is to show that some party involved in a situation has committed foul play (a term loosely meaning someone's rights can be forfeited because of what they have done). An obvious instance is the murder-victim counterexample. However, with a plethora of daily counterexamples this strategy does not suffice. Another way is to prioritize certain obligations, such as the sanctity of human life over the abolition of lying. However, Kant has NOTHING to give a sway on this matter which puts any Kantian in a logical dilemma.

Take another hypothetical: this time you are confronted by a news crew who are covering a story about a special family of which only YOU hold information about -- they obviously know about this, and the majority of the people want to know about it in the name of free press. However, you also realize that if you release such information, you give the chance of having several people who want to murder the family have vital information to find them and kill them. Now do you uphold the obligation of allowing free press or the obligation to preserve human life?

Now it would first seem that you could simply say nothing -- but remember that one can simply tweak hypothetical to the point in which you have to choose either telling the truth or lying. As you can see, there is an obvious dilemma. Almost everyone believes that freedom of press is valuable, albeit normally with limitations (such as if the release of said information would endanger others). However, to add such conditionals would to construct a HYPOTHETICAL imperative and not a CATEGORICAL imperative. The latter is devoid of conditionals and does not care about the consequences...but in doing so violates it's own logical grounds.

=====================
Conclusion
=====================

Ironically, Kantian ethics is destroyed by a logical argument when itself prides to be based on reason. Before I conclude, I want to note that my opponent gives a case for Kantian ethics and brings up several general points about Kant's ethics. I submit that these are more or less accurate representations of his theory, but this troubles me not as my argument still stands.
Vi_Veri

Con

Essentially, I only need to defend Kantian ethics from the two arguments my opponent made in order for it to be the correct option. I did, in fact, raise objections to Utilitarianism that my opponent chose to ignore (the fact that a person's humanity is wronged, degraded if they are used for others' gains is one of the objections I raised, for example).

Here are the two examples my opponent gave, in short:

1. Your lover asks for information that, if you tell them, will hurt them. The dilemma is between protecting your loved one or telling the truth.

This can be solved very neatly. The problem with this example is that theSkeptic has not offered a reason *why* the information would hurt the other person. Without this little bit, I can not properly answer the question. If the lover has done something wrong, then telling the truth will only bring justice to the situation. Since Skeptic said it was nothing that you had done, and if we assume that it's nothing that your lover has done either - then we are to assume that it is a third party fact that the lover has an emotional connection to (say your child was raped). I see no discrepancy with telling your lover the truth; for it is not you that is hurting them, but the fact of the world that they can not handle. Kant never says it is one's job to protect someone from reality. If reality hurts a person, that is of no fault of the one who clarifies this reality. It is the fault of the one who can not handle the reality. An example of this is as such; if two people must collect firewood for their home in the winter, but the wind is so harsh that it pains to walk outside; if your partner insists on going with you, it is not your fault that the winter wind pains them when they walk with you to get the fire wood. It is just the reality of nature. You shouldn't have to protect them from every branch on the ground, every insect bite. What Kant means by inflicting harm is actual intended harm, malicious harm one may do to hurt the other. If one has respect for the rationality and dignity of their lover, one will tell them the truth (as Kant says, always tell the truth, no matter what the situation). If the information hurts the other, it is of no weight on the one who told the truth. If it is asked for, one must give it in this case.

2. The last example is in regards to respecting the free press or protecting a family from murderers that might be looking for that information in the press.

As we can see, this is exactly like the murderer dilemma, and therefore I do not need to produce an argument in defense of this.

To conclude, my opponent has not successfully thwarted the ideas of Kantian ethics in regards to Capital punishment, nor has he addressed the moral dilemmas for Utilitarian use I have presented (or presented a case that Utilitarianism is more moral- he has only attacked the logic of Kantian ethics).

Resolved; in regards to the situation of capital punishment, it is more moral to take the criminal's life than use them for utilitarian gains.

Regards,

Vi
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
I interpreted the resolution exactly as theSkeptic did, and I don't see how an alternative meaning could be derived from it on face value. The accusation that Pro was being abusive was bad conduct by Con.

It settled down to being a good debate. I give the edge on arguments to Con, but it would have been interesting to have it continued for another round.
Posted by Vi_Veri 7 years ago
Vi_Veri
Just weak : )
Posted by Danielle 7 years ago
Danielle
"If reality hurts a person, that is of no fault of the one who clarifies this reality. It is the fault of the one who can not handle the reality."

Very good argument, but you make it sound as if the person who can't handle it is bad/wrong for not being able to. I know that wasn't your intention, but that's what it sounded like :P

Anyway, good debate.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
Fun debate, though it was short.
Posted by Vi_Veri 7 years ago
Vi_Veri
I dislike Kant, so this should be fun :p
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
If that's what you wanted -- which truthfully, I could tell -- then sorry. But really, you should've specified that you wanted a debate between the two, because yes I do know the classical arguments between the two. The thing is, the way you phrased the resolution in no way barred me from arguing for my position; which really is what I described.

However, if you really want a classical debate between the two, I'll try to accommodate for that ;).
Posted by Vi_Veri 7 years ago
Vi_Veri
Hey Skeptic! (Btw, waited until the last hour to post this round for you ; ) heheh). Anyway, I guess you misunderstood my topic? I'm essentially proposing a classic debate on ethics of Capital Punishment that has be reiterated over the years: it's pretty much a Mill vs. Kant debate (with me being Kant and you Mill). Utilitarian gains, in this case - that is, in capital punishment, are murdering someone for the good of the people, for the good of anyone other than the criminal. Kant would then take the opposite approach and say that the criminal's dignity as a human being would be breached. I'm sorry, I guess I shouldn't assume that people outright know classic arguments like this :) Better luck in your next round.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
If you can, will you be willing to do me a favor and not post your argument too soon? I'm a little packed with midterms, papers, and more debate arguments to write. If you can, then much appreciated!
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
Political issues and social issues don't go hand in hand many times :P? And um...I suppose you mean the term controversial is vague?
Posted by Logical-Master 7 years ago
Logical-Master
I'd like to debate the second and third "*NOTEs*" with you. :D
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