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The Contender
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Rational egotism, even in the absence of law enforcement, is generally not immoral.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/21/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 951 times Debate No: 56976
Debate Rounds (4)
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I take the position that "Rational egotism, even in the absence of law enforcement, is generally not immoral." I have the burden to prove that as a result of the evolution of the human species, the human psyche generally favors humans to do utilitarian actions even in the absence of an enforcer. My opponent must show that I have not met my burden of proof or prove me wrong.

Rational egotism - the principle that an action is rational if and only if it maximizes one's self-interest. [1]

Immoral - ethically wrong (per myself, not utilitarian).

Self-interest does not point to only material interest. Happiness is inherently psycological, and while material things lead to happiness, so can immaterial things.

R1 acceptance;
R2 arguments;
R3 rebuttals;
R4 rebuttals;



The absence of law enforcement or any government is Anarchy, thus promoting chaos. A system with no enforcer could not thrive as a successful society. Even with the law enforcement we have now ,crime still occurs everyday. If I were to put the result of the absence of law enforcement in two words it would be "the purge" - great movie by the way- your system could work if every one in the world miraculously developed an impeccable sense of morality and establish world peace. It is apparent that this will happen no time soon, so we will just have to make do with the flawed but necessary system we have now.
Debate Round No. 1


It appears that my opponent has neither read the title of my debate challenge or the contents of the first round. Regardless, I will present my round 1 arguments. I will rebut my opponent’s “arguments” in the next round, even if he does not forfeit, which looks very likely at the moment.


I. Humans have conscience, a sense of justice, and a taste for revenge.

There are many existing factors that prevent humans from harming each other for personal gain that developed out of evolution. Conscience and revenge are part of it. The evolution part will be addressed in Argument III.

Humans have conscience [1]. Most humans feel bad when they cause harm to another human being or cause otherwise unnecessary damage to others.

Humans also have a desire for revenge [2]. Fear of disproportional revenge discourages people from causing harm to each other.

II. Game theory predicts that the action most beneficial for the group is often the one that is also beneficial for one self.

Game theory is the “study of strategic decision making” [3]. It can be shown through reasoning that under certain circumstances, self-sacrificing is, in the end, beneficial for self.
A simple example is the so called Prisoner’s Dilemma. Criminal activity is obviously not utilitarian; but for this example, pretend that it is. Imagine the following case (modified from Wikipedia [ ]):

Two members of a criminal gang, Al and Bert, are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The police don't have enough evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. Simultaneously, the police offer each prisoner a Faustian bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to betray the other, by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. Here's how it goes:

Option 1 - If Al and Bert both betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison.
Option 2 - If Al betrays Bert but Bert remains silent, Al will be set free and Bert will serve 3 years in.
Option 3 - If Bert betrays Al but Bert remains silent, Al will be set free and Bert will serve 3 years in.
Option 4 - If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison.

A rational egotist would attempt to receive the lowest sentence for himself. Al wants to be set free so it seems like Al should choose Option 2, since he could be set free. However, Bert also wants to be set free, which means it seems he would choose Option 3 in order to have a chance. But if they both choose their respective options, they will both be imprisoned for 2 years each. Incidentally, both Al and Bert are rational egotists. They want to receive the lowest sentence possible. Therefore, they choose Option 4, and serve 1 year each, which is the least amount possible.

A rational egotist is aware of this situation, and will choose to remain silent to receive the least amount of jail time.

III. The group that is most willing to work together has better chances of survival.

Ants are some of the most communal animals on earth. They work together and sacrifice themselves for the colonies. As a result, they are highly prolific.

Sources [1] and [2] both discuss the evolutionary benefits of “conscience” and “revenge,” and why rational egotists would be pushed to use those techniques despite temporary dissatisfaction. Kevin Carlsmith describes one evolutionary hypothesis: “Punishing others in this context—what they call 'altruistic punishment'—is a way to keep societies working smoothly… You're willing to sacrifice your well-being in order to punish someone who misbehaved.

Austin Cline writes: “It's not a surprise that something like this would evolve naturally. Morals are, basically, the rules by which our social groups function. They ensure that things are reasonably fair and that relationships run reasonably smoothly. Social groups simply wouldn't survive without rules, so the evolution of the ability to create and follow rules should be expected. Humans are social animals so it's also to be expected that, like other social animals, we would have social rules which regulate group behavior.

Conclusion: rational egotism, even in the absence of law enforcement, is generally still utilitarian, because humans tend to do what is most beneficial for the group.





James96 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2




There is nothing to rebut " by opponent patently misrepresents my argument. He says that "your system" is "[t]he absence of law enforcement or any government is Anarchy, thus promoting chaos." I never proposed a "system" at all; I was simply arguing that rational egotism does not usually lead to immoral actions even if there is no law enforcement. It is true that they would lead to some immoral actions, and those immoral actions will have a disproportionately noticeable effect, but that is irrelevant to my argument.




James96 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


I have nothing to rebut.


James96 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Bullish 3 years ago
Thank you for accepting this debate. Please simply post "I accept" or something along the lines in the first round, and clarify anything you may want to. Since I do not have my first round to make arguments, it is only fair that you do the same.

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1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Subutai 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: FF.