The Instigator
Fanboy
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
larztheloser
Con (against)
Winning
9 Points

Resolution: Ulilitarianism is a superior moral theory to Kantianism.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
larztheloser
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/5/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,703 times Debate No: 34542
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (13)
Votes (4)

 

Fanboy

Pro

This is part of the Official DDO Tournament moderated by 1DevilAdvocate.

Note on Voting:
This is Jury voting only via the terms of the tournament found here:
http://www.debate.org...

Debate rules:

4 rounds, 1st round acceptance. 72 hour posting time. 8k characters. RFD required. 1 week voting period.

Debates must be challenged and accepted no later than 6pm US central standard time on Sunday, June 2nd, 2013.

Unfortunately, I am replacement for someone else. That's why this is so late.

Resolution: Utilitarianism is a superior moral theory to Kantianism.

Definitions:

Kantianism: Kantianism is the deontological moral theory which claims that the right action in any given situation is determined by the categorical imperative.

Utilitarianism: A moral theory which claims that the morally right action is the action that will maximize utility.

Utility: According to John Stuart Mill, utility is happiness and happiness is pleasure minus pain.

Superior: Being of more correct status. More true.

A NOTE ON BOP:
I know my opponent has peculiar stance on the term "shared" BOP. Therefore(since I chose the topic), I will assume the full BOP.
larztheloser

Con

I'd like to thank pro for starting this debate, suggesting this topic, providing several reasonable definitions, and being here. It sure is good actually having an opponent for this round.

All that being said, I accept this debate and look forward to my opponent's opening round.
Debate Round No. 1
Fanboy

Pro

Resolution: Utilitarianism is a superior moral theory to Kantianism.

I thank my opponent for participating in this debate and without further ado let’s begin.

General Reasons to think Utilitarianism is True, and Kantianism isn’t:

It seems obvious that given a choice between performing an action or adopting a policy that will lead to a better situation, and doing something that will lead to a worse situation, it always is right to do what will lead to the better situation. Furthermore, it would seem that the best situation is the one with the most goodness in it, no matter what goodness turns out to be.

Think about a bunch of things that would be morally wrong for me to do: punching you, stealing your money, making a promise and not keeping it, for instance. What do all of these have in common that makes them all wrong? The one most obvious thing that they all have in common is that they all harm people(i.e. make them unhappy). Also think of a bunch of good things that I could do: giving to charity, saving someone's life, helping an elderly person across the street. Again what most obvious thing do these have in common that make them right? They all seem to contribute to welfare of people and make them happy. It doesn't seem like an accident that the right things tend to make people happier and that the wrong things decrease happiness. Well, Utilitarianism says it isn't in accident. It says the right actions are right because they tend to promote happiness and help people, likewise wrong actions are wrong because they tend to hurt people and make them unhappy. Obviously, it is helping and harming people (making them happy and unhappy) that is the basis for morality. As long as one accepts that it is best to help people as much as possible OR harm them as least as possible then seems one has a good reason to accept Utilitarianism.

A more concrete way of thinking about the issue is to consider an example. Imagine that you have several tickets to a concert. You have to decide whom it would be best to take with you to the concert. But how do you decide? Some choices would obviously be wrong. You don't want to invite someone who will hate the music at the concert. You also don't want to invite people who cannot stand each other. Why are these bad choices? Obviously because they make people unhappy. It tells you who you should invite as well. It tells you to invite people who would enjoy the concert and be happy.

In general, normative ethical theories tell us what we should do. In more simplistic terms one wants a normative theory to tell them “What should I do?”. Any theory that fails to do this can be seen as incomplete and in need of revision. Certainly there are qualifiers for being a normative ethical theory just as other things, such as an attorney or accountant or a science degree. X cannot be called Y if X doesn’t have the essential properties (or the things that make Y) of Y.

Kantian theory is supposed to rule out actions (making them permissible or impermissible depending on the corresponding actions) however it doesn’t necessarily rule any in. There are possible cases in which all but one action are ruled impermissible by the categorical imperative. But these are few and far in between. More often Kant’s theory simply says what we shouldn’t do not what we should. I give a brief example:


Imagine if a person has promised to pay back a wealthy miser, within a month, a loan of say 2,000 thousand dollars, which he knows that he will be unable to repay on time, but which he will repay eventually. He promised to repay the loan in that amount of time because he would have been unable to get the money if he hadn’t made that promise. He needs the money in order to pay for a vaccine which he will use to save the lives of many underprivileged children, and he has no other means of getting the money in time. Was it wrong of him to make a false promise?


Ignoring the intuitive problem this creates for Kantian theory, I would like to make a more subtle point. While Kant would tell us this action is immoral, because it fails the first formulation of making false promises, it doesn’t tell us what he should do. Should he let the children die? We don’t know, because Kant abandons us to speculation. Therefore, Categorical imperative is inadequate as a normative ethical theory.

Another problem for Kantian theory might be the conflict of motivations and intentions (and human virtue). Consider the following example:

Imagine I was to win the lottery and I'm wondering what to do with the money. I decide giving to charity would be really fun because it gives me the special feeling of making people happy, so I give all of my lottery money away. After all there is nothing admirable about such a selfish pursuit. However, it’s not just selfishness that is ruled out by Kantianism it is every motive besides morality. For instance, if you were someone who refused to the break the law and you always did what the law said just because its law and for no other reason(i.e. not because it is immoral to break the law), then your actions have no moral worth. The motive of your action, in this case, human law, not moral law. If you follow the for its own sake, then you would follow good and bad laws, including any laws which might violate morality. So, even if your society happens to have only good laws, you actions still do not make you a morally good person. Because your motive is wrong. The same type of reasoning can be applied to any other motive besides morality.

Normative ethical theories should also be concerned with what one should do in real life situations. Even if it derives that we cannot make these decisions practically in human life we still should be able to arrive at the conclusion of the argument regardless. For example, Unitarianism tells us “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to promote the reverse of happiness”(John Stuart Mill, Unitarianism) and gives us a complex equation to solve solutions in daily life, even if though it recognizes that this impractical. All ethical theories should have practical application even if the practical application isn’t useful for daily life. Theories cannot ignore states of affairs and refuse to address them. There must be a system of determining the right choices, even if it’s impractical in daily life (It should be noted; when I say practical application I am referring to answering practical questions not its usefulness per se).

Another problem with Kant’s ethical theory is that he writes inside a vacuum allowing no room for conflict. A perfect example of this would be stealing for food. Under Kant’s Universality maxim, stealing in order to feed your family is immoral, since applied universality, stealing would result in a great deal of rights infringements. Under Kant’s Humanity maxim, however, you would steal food for your family because you accord them inherent worth. Thus, we can see that in his writings, Kant offers no standard in which to determine which formulation of his categorical imperative to follow.

Conclusion:

Utilitarianism is the more correct and believable theory. I eagerly await my opponents response. I apologize that my response is somewhat short.

larztheloser

Con

I thank pro for opening the debate. He's kept it nice and short, so I will too. He also asked me to post this late, so I hope this is late enough.

In debates like this it's easy to set the debate in terms of what you want to do for others. Think of it in terms of what you want others to do to you. I remember vividly a childhood friend of mine telling me a few years ago that they respect me so much they would be willing to kill somebody for me. I asked them how they'd feel if I killed them. It didn't take much questioning after that to discover that one of the key reasons they had so much respect for me, although one they'd never thought of before, was that I didn't kill people. In the end, they decided that maybe they needed to think some things through. So think of this debate in terms of whether Utilitarianism actually produces a better society. Not just a society in which you are happier, but an ethical society that works for everyone.

Why Utilitarianism Fails

Utilitarianism assumes that everybody wants to help eveybody else out. If that were the case, there would be no need for ethics because we'd all live in a perfect society already. Its problem is that some people don't want to contribute to welfare and make others happy. Utilitarianism's moral solution of making yourself as happy as possible clearly doesn't actually work. After all, pleasure and pain are both chemical signals our brains have evolved over the ages, and unfortunately our brains have not yet evolved universally perfect judgement.

That's why Osama thought 9/11 was such a good idea, or why Hitler thought the Holocaust was such a good idea, or why almost every evil man has bought came from people who thought they were doing the right thing. They all judged that they were maximising their pleasure, and minimising their pain. Worryingly, sometimes they were right.

There's a number of reasons why our judgement is flawed. We can't see the future, so without being able to weigh moral alternatives in an uncertain world we are forced to make moral judgements on a basis with no reliability. We don't all weigh incentives with the same weight, so one individual might have learnt somehow that selfishness is better than helping others out. Sometimes there are alternatives we don't even want to consider. Sometimes we are prone to short-term thinking. Sometimes people are just really dumb. Sometimes we consider alternatives we strongly believe to be true but which may not be, such as in the case of suicide bombers who believe they will go to heaven by sending others to hell.

These are alternatives that utilitarianism not only allows, but actively encourages, because we might derive (or think we will derive) more pleasure than pain from doring moral wrongs. Maybe some people like seeing the world burn.

Why Kant Rocks

Kant knew about utilitarianism and noted what a failure it was. He realised that if the problem is our subjective, flawed judgement, then logically a subjective system of morality will never produce objectively good outcomes. His moral theory was created to provide an alternative - that that considers not just how YOU feel about a given alternative, but other universal maxims as well, providing some measure of objectivity. Kant called the former hypothetical imperatives, and the latter categorical imperatives. It's these categorical imperatives - things that are more important than our fleeting fancies - that set Kant apart in this debate.

The most important feature of categorical imperatives is that they are universally applicable. So murder, for example, is not good, no exceptions. Even if you have a really good reason to hate somebody, it doesn't justify the murder because murder is bad, at least by the measure of how universal the moral code is. Aside from the fact that everybody can be happy because nobody is getting killed, it also means that people can't protest their own exceptional subjective rationales, and rather refrain from evil in the first place.

Other important things to universally consider, most of which pro seems to agree with (in his examples), are to help others (humanity), act rationally (kingdom of ends) and allow for the autonomy of others (formula of autonomy). These objective moral truths - that we live not only for ourselves, but for others - are what Kant offers and utilitarianism denies.

Rebuttals

It's patently false to say that Kant doesn't "rule in" actions, any more than utilitarianism merely "rules out" actions that reduce your utility. There may well be situations in which there are several good outcomes, but Kant doesn't deal with them because ethics is about making a good choice, not dictating a choice (otherwise it would be a violation of the formula of autonomy). In Kantian ethics all choices are valid so long as people are morally good.

Kant's moral solution to the 2 million dollar problem pro posed is that the false promise was wrong but the miser should have given the money charitably. Kantian ethics provides an objective reason for charity (ie sees human lives as an end worth valuing), utilitarianism hopes it will happen in a world where too often it does not. No false promise is needed to achieve the desired end.

A Kantian follower wouldn't give the lottery money away selfishly but rationally, because there is good cause to give the money to charity. That's not to say a selfish benefit cannot accrue, but that there is a reasonable motivation for it. I don't see why my opponent makes being motivated by doing the right thing count against Kantian theory.

Being universally true, Kantian maxims operate regardless of a state of affairs, but that does not mean they cannot be applied to them - just like maths is true whether you are in Iceland or Tahiti, but maths remains applicable. Likewise, there's no reason to think that your circumstance changes the fact that murder is morally wrong. If you're doing the same act as Jack the Ripper, you should be morally judged as was Jack the Ripper.

Kant's maxims don't contradict. You can still attempt to help your family without stealing the food. It may well be that this alternative leads to their death, but you didn't know that at the time you made the choice, nor did you know stealing the food would be right. Since you didn't steal, you still did right in terms of the moral norm not to steal that society values. After all, perhaps the theft would have discouraged charity giving that would have saved a different family.

I look forward to the next round.
Debate Round No. 2
Fanboy

Pro

I thank my opponent for his response.


A ‘Drop’


One small point to mention before we continue, while my opponent does attempt to refute my objections to Kantian theory, he doesn’t attack my reasons for believing Utilitarianism. This drop isn’t game breaking, but it shows my opponent agrees that there are reasons to think that Utilitarianism is true.


Why Utilitarianism Succeeds


The problem with my opponent’s objection is that it is stressed by Mill (and other utilitarian’s) that the theory of Utilitarianism is not supposed to be a decision procedure (as I mentioned in Round two). In other words, utilitarians don’t suggest that whenever one wants to make a moral decision that one should try to make utilitarian calculation. This would be silly for many reasons, including the ones my opponent has mentioned. This nullifies the judgment argument, just because people can’t use Utilitarianism in their daily lives doesn’t mean the theory is incorrect. In fact, there are many situations when we can use it (especially if we have the time to do the calculation).


Another problem with my opponent’s objection is that the theory of Utilitarianism is strictly mathematical; each thing is good to a certain degree and is assigned a number corresponding to the degree of its goodness. Osama Bin Laden and Hitler would have known that they were wrong if they had truly been a Utilitarian mindset. People not following the theory correctly isn’t an error in the theory, it’s a practical concern. This is why the judgment argument is simply false.


It should be pointed out that even if my opponent succeeds on these objections, they would only show that Kantianism is just as wrong. One could easily claim that Osama Bin Laden was acting on the first formulation, “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law” with the maxim “Attack Islam-hating Countries”. My opponent and I both know that America is not an Islam-hating country, but if my opponent is correct about the subjective nature of utilitarianism then it falls to Kantianism as a problem as well. The same logic would apply with the argument about we are not able to judge the consequences properly, we are able to see all the results of our “universal law”, this must mean that we cannot truly fully judge the categorical imperative because we will inevitably make a inaccurate universal law.


Why Kant cannot compete


My opponent simply misunderstands the Utilitarian theory; in fact he equates Hedonism with Utilitarianism. The problem with this is that Utilitarianism is about everyone’s happiness not just your own, Hedonism is the theory where only one’s pleasure matters (though I would agree cognitive bias exists, it is virtually eliminated by the mathematical nature of the theory). This is why my opponent cannot say that Utilitarianism denies these truths as well. One could easily claim (via rule utilitarianism) that these rules would maximize utility; however act utilitarianism would do the same thing in almost every situation. Simply because helping others (or any other maxim) may not always be morally superior in some situations (such as helping a person doing bad things, leading to negative consequences) shouldn’t count against the theory unless we assume Kantianism.


The problem with his universally applicable categorical imperative is that Utilitarianism has the advantage of being universally applicable in some cases and not in other cases. For each particular instance or place in time with a particular situation, a particular set of consequences exists that satisfy the choices that could potentially be made. Therefore, for any given instance the same action (that maximizes utility) will be the correct action. However, when certain circumstances arise (such as an emergency situation) Kantianism is left the same decision that it is for the non-emergency situation. What it attempts to make up for in consistency it loses in flexibility. One cannot say that one can appeal to ultra-subjective means via Utilitarianism unless one concedes the same for Kantianism; this point was made in the third paragraph.


Responses to Rebuttals


My opponent has misunderstood the nature of the objection. Utilitarianism explicitly says do the action which will maximize utility, not don’t do the action which will reduce utility. Kantianism comparably tells you what’s impermissible and permissible not what you should do. This is an important problem because while ethics maybe about what’s good to do, normative ethical theories are explicitly about what one should do. This is the reason why Kantianism is in need of revision, because if the objection goes through, then Utilitarianism(by virtue of it actually being what it claims to be, a normative ethical theory and Kantianism isn’t) ought to be considered the superior of the two. In example my opponent mentioned, if my opponent was correct then Utilitarianism wouldn’t be a valid normative ethical theory. However, since this is not the case the objection stands.


In the miser example, my opponent mentions that the Miser should give the money charitably to the man. However, as mentioned above this is not the case. As long as the motivation of morality was being considered it doesn’t matter where he gives the money. So the fact that he gives it to the man (unknown to the Miser that’s the money is for a vaccine) doesn’t have moral significance. However it still doesn’t tell us what the Man should do. Therefore the example stands.


My opponent misunderstands the motivation objection. The problem with intentions and motivations is that any motivation besides morality confers no moral value. You want to see kids happy because it makes you happy, confers no moral value. Multiple examples would show the same thing with any value besides morality. My opponent hasn’t responded to this whatsoever. He analyzed the example without recognizing the criticism.


I suppose assuming Kantianism, there is no reason to think the state of affairs changes the moral value of preventing massive disasters or many more deaths than violating the initial categorical imperative, however we can see that many situations would lend the favorable outlook to be toward Utilitarianism. Surely lying to your boss would be noble if it were to save the lives of many people. Even though it violates the Universality maxim, it would seem morality would favor Utilitarianism. My opponent mentions Math as an example, I will use Science. Surely, the principles that govern the universe (which are universal by definition) have differing properties given the system they are operating in and the surrounding conditions. Kant on the other hand operates assuming that circumstances don’t ever change.


While it is true that you could find other ways to feed your family, it doesn’t affect the objection. Because the maxims still contradict. Let me explain, the Universality Maxim says we cannot steal for the reasons mentioned above. However because my family has inherent worth the Humanity Maxim says that the stealing would be okay. Therefore the action is both permissible and impermissible simultaneously. Simply saying that there are other ways of addressing this problem doesn’t change Kant’s ruling that both maxims contradict in certain situations.



I thank my opponent for participating in this debate, I look forward to his response.

larztheloser

Con

Thanks pro!

If there's one thing that is certain in this debate, it's that morality is not a science, it's a faith. You can't test morality. The scientific method is pretty much the opposite of all the assumptions of ethics. Like maths, ethics cannot be proven, it's just a reasonable assumption that actions have good or bad consequences. If pro wishes to draw an analogy with science to disprove universality, he had better show how science is analogous. Ethics doesn't operate in a system. Ethics describe the moral value of conditions, not the other way round. Pro earlier contradicts himself by describing his own model as not scientific but "strictly mathematical."

Why Utilitarianism Fails

My opponent begins by agreeing that most of the time utilitarianism gives the wrong moral answers, and should therefore not be used in most situations. This makes my job a lot easier in the debate, since I later went on to demonstrate how Kant solved this problem to make it generally applicable. However, pro's claim that utilitarianism is still sometimes applicable is entirely without warrent, and I am forced to ask - when is utilitarianism applicable? If pro can't tell us that, the only answer I can assume is never. Not only that, but pro needs to also demonstrate why it's applicable in those situations and not in others, a precondition for which is disproving moral universality.

This would be true - and pro implicitly concedes it - whether utilitarianism was mathematical or not. Still I want to address the objection. Utilitarianism is hedonism applied to a society - act to increase everyone's net pleasure, reduce their net pain. A utilitarian would, for example, kill one person to save the lives of two, while a Kantian would not. If Hitler thought the whole of the rest of the world would benefit if that one religion were wiped out, then that would be a utilitarian calculation. If Osama thought that America's chances of eternal salvation would be massively increased with a couple thousand killed here and there, that would also be a utilitarian calculation. You wouldn't even need to make an error in the calculation to arrive at what we both would consider an obviously morally wrong solution. It's the formula itself that is flawed.

Pro called this "cognitive bias" and rather than pre-emptively argue it, he pre-emptively conceded it (which was a bit weird). Pro spoke as if maths solves this. Maths might derive an answer, but it won't magically put your perceptions of what is right and wrong into an objective sense. You've got to remember that it's not a science - maybe Hitler was right and the world would be better without Jews. We don't know because we don't have any comparison, nor did Hitler know. They are both but reasonable assumptions about how to make the world better off.

Pro's substantive case for utilitarianism was "you want to help others, right?" While I didn't directly answer this, I thought it was pretty clear in my analysis of why utilitarianism fails that this isn't actually what utilitarianism entails (so it wasn't a "drop"). In fact I began by saying that if that assumption were true, society would be perfect. My little story right at the start was to illustrate the danger in using your own subjective moral assumptions to judge this debate, which is relevant because pro's case relied on such assumptions (like what YOU want from the world). This should absolutely count against the theory (anyone else notice pro's subtle maths puns? no?) because it proves utilitarianism relies on untenable assumptions. The fact that it might sometimes lead to inferior moral decisions is just a side effect of this.

Why Kant Rocks

The same is not true of Kantianism. I want to clear something up though. Kant had several maxims. The deal wasn't "you pick one and apply that", the deal was "morally good actions must apply all of these maxims". Most of my opponent's arguments are like saying stealing is good in Christianity because 9 of the commandments say it's OK.

If everyone was to kill minority groups for percieved majority benefit then there'd be nobody left alive, so that clearly doesn't meet that universal law test. The point of a universal law is that it's not specific, so "kill Fanboy" is not a universal law. To universalise that would be "kill your opponents". Similarly, the universal version of "destroy Islam-haters" would be "destroy your enemies", again leaving nobody left alive.

While the categorical imperatives cannot be truly judged, it can be judged more than hypothetical imperatives because it is based on precedent. It is as close to a science as morality is ever going to get. Hypothetical imperatives are based only on what seems like a good idea to you at the time, which cannot be judged nearly as easily.

My opponent notes that Kantianism is inflexible because of "emergencies". He fails to prove why morality should be flexible or what these emergencies are. I might add that the idea of a morality being universally applicable and only applicable in some cases is inherently contradictory. It's true that Kantianism isn't flexible, but flexible morality isn't a good thing. Like I said last round, if you did the same thing as Jack the Ripper, it doesn't matter how much you had grounds to kill somebody, you should still be judged the same because of how you acted (letting others be judged for their actions on their own moral merits, but not compromising your own morality along the way).

Rebuttals

If normative ethics are about what one should do, then utilitarianism must always fail because pro admits it can't be used to make any decisions. However, Kantianism is ethically normative - it establishes ethical norms (distinguishing it from the other class of an ethical theory, meta-ethics, which questions the nature and language of ethics itself). What you should do and what is permissable to do is one and the same in Kantianism. Kantianism explicitly tells you to be ethically good, and then says what actions are ethically good. It doesn't reduce the value of the theory to be allowed to choose which ethically good action to take.

The miser example was about whether the action of the man was justified - of course, it was not. Nor should the miser have to give the money charitably to the man - any good charitable cause would be equally justified in Kantianism (and that doesn't count against it either). Pro says this doesn't tell us what the man should do, but that wasn't the problem. The man should do other good deeds, not go around making false promises. Specific deeds the man could do might include cleaning up the neighbourhood, helping old ladies cross the street, baking hot cross buns etc, but my opponent is shifting the goalposts here.

Any Kantian-approved action has moral value because it has a moral motivation (doing good), but even if this were not the case there is moral value in doing good even for the wrong reasons. If I killed somebody for no reason at all, the lack of my reasoning does not imply a lack of moral value for the action of murder. Similarly helping kids for no reason does not negate that I did good. Like I said last round, I don't see why this counts against Kantianism. Remember it's an ethical theory about what one should do, not why one does it, although it so happens to answer that too.

In real life, you can only control your own actions. The choice isn't "lie or let die", the choice is "lie and you think they won't die". There's a bunch of confounding variables, most of which you probably don't even know about. You can't control the moral outcomes of the actions, but you can control the moral value of your own actions. Lying is bad. It has a negative moral value. And you can prevent that, even if the outcome of a morally good action taken instead is uncertain as well.

The maxims don't contradict, it's just that an action satisfies one and not the other. See also my first paragraph of "Why Kant Rocks" this round.

I look forward to the final round.
Debate Round No. 3
Fanboy

Pro

(Please know my font won't process for some reason.)
Thank you Con, I really enjoyed this debate.

Truly my opponent has misrepresented my analogy and then attempted to show how it contradicts my position. Hold up farm boy, no need to start building those straw men. I was saying(clearly) that Ethics is scientific in nature and that Utilitarianism is just a theory within ethics. All theories within Science operate on a mathematical basis with inclusion of observable phenomena. There is no reason to suggest that the pure math world is more real then the Science based ethics world. To start out with a set of truth is against philosophy, ethics, and skepticism. We develop ethical theories to tell us what right not the other way around or else there would no point in developing ethical theories in the first place. We would already know what was right and wrong without the theory.

Why the ‘Drop’ Carries through

While my opponent may seem to think all of my arguments for believing Utilitarianism are simply “You want to help people, right?” this is simply not the case. The example told us examine parts of our daily lives and asked us to evaluate the way we make decisions compared to Utilitarianism. The bunch of things asked about intuitively wrong things and intuitively right things and asked us to see whether Utilitarianism had the advantage. The first one asked us whether or not we should adopt a policy that leads to a better situation or a worse one. Most of these were neither implicitly nor explicitly addressed. Simply wanting to help people isn’t the reasons I advocated for. His response that why Utilitarianism fails only implicitly addresses one of the arguments. But nonetheless, he didn’t directly respond therefore, voters should count this as a drop.

Why Utilitarianism Succeeds

The problem my opponents first accusation is that it is simply not true. I conceded the practical usage of Utilitarianism, as I mentioned. I also mention that it invalidates the judgment argument, because I specifically pretense it with that I was obviously agreeing our judgment was flawed. One only has to read my second round post to note that Utilitarianism isn’t for use in daily life for practical reasons. On Con, he would say I was so generous to concede the entire argument however, I clear was arguing against the notion. As I mentioned countless times, the practical concerns don’t invalidate the theoretical implications and this theory holds up against some kind of notion that seemingly intuitive problems invalidate Utilitarianism. People are naturally bad at estimating things therefore individuals shouldn’t take the time to do a utilitarian calculation.

Furthermore, Con had a misleading objection, his initial objection was the Utilitarianism is too subjective to work because of our poor judgment; he has led it into an intuitive argument against Utilitarianism. Notice how he clearly talks about people thinking something is good and then goes into our judgment being flawed.

This is why the Cognitive bias is important, it doesn’t affect a real utilitarian calculation which would necessarily be correct because no bias would be included in such a calculation. Estimating things wouldn’t be necessary because the amount of happiness would be predetermined.

Unfortunately for my opponent even if we accept my opponent’s criticism, utilitarianism can be adapted (ideal utilitarianism or rule utilitarianism) to avoid this objection regarding Hedonism applied to the society. However, his criticism is simply false anyway. Surely happiness and pleasure is not the same thing. Moore even points out the illegitimacy of deriving the conclusion that pleasure ought to be desired from the fact that men do desire it. Pleasure is also comparatively hard to define than happiness (well-being). Utilitarianism would consider the entirety of society’s happiness, in the long term and the short term. Therefore Hedonism and Utilitarianism are not morally equal, regardless of their commonalities. My opponent continues to make his new morally intuitive argument by saying that it’s just obviously wrong. He hasn’t given us a reason why it is wrong besides his own moral presumptions. But further my opponent equivocates actual with expected consequences. Especially consequences in which are uncertain (i.e. eternal salvation). It should be mentioned the people killed wouldn’t get Eternal salvation via Islam so the example in of itself is flawed.

My opponent still hasn’t explained why if this objection applies to Utilitarianism it doesn’t apply to Kantianism as well, therefore if voters accept my opponents criticism, it naturally follows that Kantianism has the same problem (since he has fundamentally dropped this).


Why Kant Fails

My opponent attempts to make the argument that the maxims don’t contradict because if one says its wrong then it’s wrong plain and simple. This is not what Kant said and I think Kant understands his own theory. If you can justify the categorical imperative via one of the maxims then the action is hence permissible. Anyone who would say otherwise doesn’t understand Kantianism. Just because the theory doesn’t ‘fit’ my opponents preconceived notions doesn’t mean we can change its structure.

My opponent claims the “destroy your enemies” would be the universal form of “destroy Islam haters” however, he gives no reason for this. He brings up an analogy but gives us no reason to think they are analogous. However, I will argue against this notion anyway. While it isn’t possible for everyone to always kill an individual such myself, it certainly possible that they could always kill a certain type of person, such as Islam hater. Another reason why this is mistaken, not all people are enemies of Islam haters, therefore we can invision this is a universal law, especially because they are not equivalent terms.


Rebuttals

My opponent has misrepresented my case by saying Utilitarianism can make decisions (refer to Why Utilitarianism Succeeds). Unfortunately my opponent is correct that Kantianism isn’t metaethics but simply because it is not one type of ethics doesn’t make it the other. My opponent says that permissible and morally good are the same. However, this is clearly not the case. For example, in Kantianism we can go get Ice cream and this would be permissible. However, unless we are doing it for some higher moral goal it conveys no moral worth, yet it is permissible. The problem is that Kantianism doesn’t really tell us what is morally good. Or the moral right thing to do in any given situation, my opponent my claim it tells us what to be motivated by, but it never tells us what action to do. Therefore permissible actions are indistinguishable from morally good actions. The theory fails as normative.

My opponent attacks my example by misidentifying the problem and fundamentally ignoring the question I posed, because it’s a question Kantianism cannot answer. This example that illustrated my former point is only furthered by my opponent’s disregard for the starving children in the example and specifically what can the man do? What should he do? Not what should he not do.

My opponent has contradicted Kantian theory by saying that “helping kids for no reason doesn’t negate that I did good”. Under Kantian theory, unless one has the motivation(or reason) of doing good for the sake of good then the action therefore has no moral value. My opponent has implicitly conceded a consequentialist view here. Furthermore, he fails to address why any other motivation ought not have value besides morality. Why happiness ought to have no value? Because under Kantianism only morality has value, except this is circular.

Conclusion

By confounding my arguments and trying to avoid the examples my opponent has subsequently dropped a great deal of my case, therefore via the arguments I have presented and the lack of good reasons to deny Utilitarianism, I have fulfilled my burden of proof, I urge a vote for Pro.

larztheloser

Con

I thank my opponent for an enjoyable debate.

Is There A Substantive Case For Utilitarianism?

Most of this debate has focused on Kantianism as pro very early assumed that I dropped it. All of pro's "intuitively right things" involved helping others. Asking the question of "whether or not we should adopt a policy that leads to a better situation or a worse one" is not what this debate is about, loaded as the question is. This debate is about whether utilitarianism is superior to Kantianism. At no point in this debate did I claim that utilitarianism cannot lead to good moral decisions, or that we should ignore it if it does. I simply claimed that Kantianism is more likely to correctly identify good moral decisions.

I'm glad my opponent does drop however, quite explicitly, that utilitarianism can EVER practically work. The whole point about something working "in theory" however is that you create a bunch of assumptions. His assumption seems to be "omniscience" - universally perfect judgement. If we had universally perfect judgement, though, there would once again be no need for ethics because we'd never make bad decisions anyway (the whole point being that we'd know exactly what to do). Pro never answered this despite it being one of the first arguments I made.

I'm afraid I fail to understand how that is supposed to be misleading. Con's explanation of my round two and three cases, which is supposed to show this, are the same sentance with several words replaced by synonyms.

My opponent fails to explain how utilitarianism can be adapted to overcome this objection. Moreover he does not address the criticism that utilitarianism will gladly do a little evil for greater good (which of course results in evil being committed) even without the practical objection.

Pro's whole claim for why my hedonism analogy fails rests on happiness and pleasure not being the same thing. That's funny, because back in round one pro defined hapiness as pleasure minus pain. It's worth noting that hedonism attempts to maximise not pleasure but NET pleasure, which Wikipedia aptly summarises as "pleasure minus pain".

When making a moral decision, ALL consequences are expected. That's because ethics deals with future consequences, and science is yet to invent the crystal ball to tell us what the "actual" consequences will be at the point of making a decision. It's all what we expect. The eternal Islamic salvation point stands.

I explained why the same thing cannot be said of Kantianism in the very next section. I've noticed a pattern that wherever I move an argument to a new heading pro seems to think it's a drop - it isn't, it's just me sorting arguments to where they correctly belong. I even gave you the example of "kill your enemies" to illustrate the point.

Is There A Substantive Case For Kantianism?

Pro says Kant and I disagree about what Kant thinks, claiming Kant thought "If you can justify the categorical imperative via one of the maxims then the action is hence permissible". What Kant actually said was that acting on the maxim was permissable (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org...). There are several hypothetical and categorical maxims that Kant believed applied to actions. I explained this right at the outset and pro raised no objection then. Just because it's permissable on that specific maxim doesn't mean it's also permissable on all the hypothetical and categorical maxims that may apply.

The reason why "destroy Islam haters" is not universal (although I would have thought it obvious) is that it uses language exclusive to those who hate those who hate islam (usually those who like Islam). Islam haters refers to something specific, not something universal. Pro called it a "certain" type of person, and that word certain is perhaps the single most important word pro wrote. Certain implies a limitation. Anyone can have an enemy, but a certain class hating on another certain class's hatred of the former certain class is certainly not universal.

Pro dropped his points about emergencies and true judgements in this round.

Is there a case against Kantianism?

There are two kinds of ethics. Normative ethics seeks to create rules, or what philosophers call norms, or what Kantians call imperatives. Kantianism seeks to create these rules. The other one is metaethics. These are the only two branches of ethics known to mankind, although there are subcategories of course. There is no requirement in normative ethics to distinguish between what is permissable and good - that Kant would require you to be good only means that bad things can never be intended to happen.

Getting an icecream conveys the moral worth of us wanting to do good. We could have chosen to, say, buy pressure cookers to make bombs out of instead, but we did not. An action has moral worth, after all, if it fulfils a moral law. Sure, there were probably other good things we could have done with the money, but the point is that we did good, and that's morally what counts.

The man in the miser example cannot help the starving children. To do that would be morally bad. It would also be morally bad of the miser not to help the children despite being able to, and so the claim Kant disregards the children is absolutely laughable. But to cheat the miser out of his life savings is wrong too. What should the man do? Some other good deed. I've given lots of good examples. Perhaps helping the children is up to the miser, but the man can always do other good things.

The lottery example has been confused by pro. I've said all along that there's a reasonable reason for moral motivation in Kantianism, but pro's reading that as though Kant is saying all other motivations must be morally wrong. Kant himself emphatically denied this. "Doing good" or "doing wrong" is always the motivation in Kantianism, and happiness, or even a lack of an apparent intention, is a consequence thereof. Kant was absolutely a consequentialist in that he believed in intended consequences to judge actions.

Happiness does have value. What do you think hypothetical imperatives are there for? I explained this ages ago. Moreover, happiness helps people and gives them worth, so adding happiness increases the moral value of an action in Kantianism where this is not excluded by another categorical imperative.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 4
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
Well I'm definitely impressed you didn't know anything about the topic before hand.

As for your question, I personally like Kantian ethics mainly because of his work in the foundational principles in ethics and defense of deontology ethics, so I was expecting more of that. Also since it's less controversial and strongly contrasts with utilitarianism. I expect things partially based on how I would debate it, but we see things differently I'm sure so whether the debates goes as I expect or not isn't surprising either way. I guess I expected the consequentialist part of utilitarianism and deontolgy of Kantianism to be more of an issue because that's a big part of it to me.
Posted by larztheloser 3 years ago
larztheloser
Thanks phantom. I have no idea what "consequentialist" actually means, I was just trying to write something that sounded more or less consistent with what I had read to that point.

I'm curious - I didn't actually know anything at all about the topic when I started, so is this how you would have expected the debate to go? Does anybody know if there are any obvious points I missed?
Posted by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
RFD part 3

Pro gives an example of a problem in Kantianism where a person makes a promise he knows he cannot keep in order to get a vaccine and save lives. Under Kantianism the false promise would be immoral whereas under utilitarianism, it would be right. Con says in a Kantian world, the man with the money would have charitably have lent it. This seems to be saying if we were all Kantians, society would be ideal. This seems problematic. Under the current example, it still is a fact that according to Kantianism, the man was acting immorally, whereas, it should be regarded as a moral act. If an act is morally right but Kantianism deems it wrong and utilitarianism correctly deems it right, utilitarianism should be the favored theory in that particular example.

Con calling Kant a consequentialist was just flat out wrong as well as contrary to the definition presented in the beginning. Kan'ts perhaps the biggest opponent of consequentialism in all philosophy. Pro couldn't respond to that, however, since it was in the last round.

Conclusion

No one came near to proving either theories but I come out finding the proposition that utilitarianism is them more superior of the two correct. Pro made a bunch of false accusations about dropped points and couldn't defend the judgement problem of utilitarianism well enough, but there were many points in the debate, and I think I've showed why pro did better on more of them.
Posted by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
RFD part 2

Pro says con mistakes utilitarianism for hedonosim in that hedonism pertains to egoism whereas utilitarianism is altruistic. Con says utilitarianism is just hedonoism applied to a society. Whether this is true or not, I do think con hinted a few times at the beginning that utilitarianians would act according to their own benefit, disregarding others...Regardless of what my memory tells me (seeing as my vote won't count, I'm too lazy to go back), pro doesn't really respond that way and says hedonism and utilitarianism are different because pleasure and happiness are two distinct things. However, this contradicts pro's first definition of happiness being "pleasure minus pain". It still stands, however, that hedonism is egotistic which utilitarianism is not.

Con says Hitler wouldn't be committing an error in calculation for wanting to wipe out the Jews if he were going under utilitarianism, just that the whole formula is flawed. This seems unreasonable to me. If Hitler wanted to increase the happiness of society and wiping out the Jews did not create more happiness, it seems he did make an error in calculation.

Kantianism, according to con, gives us universal and objective moral truths unlike utilitarianism. Pro counters by saying utilitarianism makes some universal statements but also respects relativity more than Kantianism and allows for flexibility. Thus universality isn't always such a good thing.

Furthermore, Kantianism appears a bit too universal, too much like mathematics which has simple principles that apply everywhere at all times. Con tells us to look at science in comparison which realizes the varying properties of things everywhere in reality and takes propositions according to the scenario. Con says morality is not a science. This just misses the point.
Posted by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
RFD part 1

To start off, I disagree with both theories but I do personally believe Kant brought about a better moral theory than Mill et al. However, I'm more inclined to think pro did a better job in this debate, though Larz certainly brought a convincing case to the table (and is very good at being convincing himself), making this difficult to judge. There was no firm winner of this debate since I think both sides did better on certain points than the other.

Con raises the point that utilitarianism rests upon humans subjective and flawed judgements and thus cannot produce objectively good results. Con brings up the judgement problem with utilitarianism which posits that utilitarianism is impractical due to the many times impossibility of calculating actions according to the principle of utility. Pro says this doesn't matter as to whether the theory is true or not, one reason being because, theoretically, the principle still holds. I think this was pro's weakest spot and con's closest point to winning the debate. Pro never refuted it. Practicality in decision making is important to all ethical theories. Pro never countered that and con showed how this was a problem for utilitarianism.

Some of con's objections to utilitarianism existed with Kantianism as well, as pro pointed out. The "Bin Laden" argument for example. Con denied this but I'm more inclined to agree with pro on this point. Bin Laden could still commit acts of terrorism under Kantian analysis just as easily as under utilitarian motives, so con's objections don't stand in light of them applying to Kant as well.
Posted by larztheloser 3 years ago
larztheloser
No
Posted by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
Would it matter if I voted on this but tied all the points?
Posted by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
"Jury voting only". Grrr. I was wanting to vote on this.
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
Didn't have space to put this in the RFD, but I like to see you guys engage the theoretical moral frameworks you're advocating for. It demonstrates to me that both of you are thinking critically, and that is good. A fairly interesting read.
Posted by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
I will vote on this tomorrow.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
FanboylarztheloserTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments. Jury voting only so I'm not giving either side points. However, args would go to pro with everything else tied.
Vote Placed by thett3 3 years ago
thett3
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Reasons for voting decision: I'm gonna go ahead and cast my vote for Larz and thank both debaters for this debate as it's an issue I'm actually struggling with myself. The same thing that happened to blade happened to me, my RFD got lost when my phone refreshed (-_-) but my reasoning is also very similar to YYW's. Con successfully demonstrates why Kant's philosophy "rocks" and Pro doesnt justify very strongly *why* utility is the best metric for moral action. From here the debate goes Con by default even if I don't look to why Kants moral philosophy was good. Good debate, I can elaborate more if anyone wishes but my vote doesn't make a difference in the outcome anyway.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 3 years ago
bladerunner060
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Reasons for voting decision: I had a long RFD that broke down everything, but in the end it can be summarised thusly: Pro had the BoP to show that Utilitarianism is SUPERIOR to Kanianism. Both debators did an excellent job defending their preferred theories, both defending against the charges against them and attacking the weaknesses of their opponent. But due to Pro's resolution and burden, he had the heavier weight, and in a contest that would have been hard to judge had they had EQUAL resolutions to argue over, Pro unfortunately did not make a strong enough case that "Ulilitarianism" was SUPERIOR. I can go more in depth with exactly why on request, but it boils down to that you both did great, but Pro had more to prove. Soooooo tempted to award S&G for the typo in the title, but that's just the petty bit of me.
Vote Placed by YYW 3 years ago
YYW
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Reasons for voting decision: Firstly, truth does not a superior moral theory make, as a normative theory be more or less true than another. While PRO does demonstrate -more or less weakly the "utility" of utilitarianism, and the "disutility" of categorical imperatives -but for that to mean that utilitarianism is superior to Kantianism requires the judge to assume Pro's assumption that utility is the best metric by which to measure the "superiority" of moral theories. And yet, utilitarianism does not -as CON would suggest- in any way assume that "everyone wants to help everyone else." Maximizing aggregate pleasure/good/happiness/etc. and minimizing pain/bad-evil/unhappiness/etc. does not necessarily imply or indicate CON's first point. And yet, Kant still rocks because -as CON aptly noted- " It's these categorical imperatives - things that are more important than our fleeting fancies [i.e. utilitarianism's foundational principles] - that set Kant apart" while salutarily demonstrating util's shortcomings.