The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

Resolved: It is morally justifiable to take one person's life in order to save that of more lives.

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/5/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,643 times Debate No: 22596
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




Before I begin my argument I would like to request that the argument be strictly philosophical and formatted in accordance with Lincoln Douglas Debate.
Value: Utilitarianism
Criterion: Societal Welfare
(definitions if needed provided on request)
Contention One: The Value of human life is immeasurable.
I understand that this sounds like a negative contention but allow me to elaborate. Because the value of human life is immeasurable there is no way to determine that a person of sacrifice would even but a neccessity to society therefore it may not neccessarily be a hinderance to societal progress to kill them but very well may be the contrary. If this sacrifice is intended to save multiple lives in exchange for one it is acting in benefit of society and upholding my value of Utilitarianism.
Contention Two: Any action prolonguing the human race is morally justifiable being that morals are the product of society and are to only be decided by mankind. If multiple lives are saved in exchange for the loss of one life then we have conformed not only to moral but to ethical obligations and allow ourselves the opportunity to make social progress as opposed to the alternative being that the alternative is for a lesser amount of lives to continue. That being said the negation is counterprogressive to society and inherently morally and ethically flawed.



Value - The pro is valuing Utilitarianism. This value is flawed for a number of reasons:

1) It is very vague. There is no clarification on what type of Utilitarianism the pro is valuing. Whether or not he is using Act or Rule Utilitarianism is very important. It’s also important to use a specific philosopher’s Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism strives to provide “utility” for the greater good. However, different philosophers have varying definitions of “utility” so I would ask that pro clarify all of this.

2) Utilitarianism is unachievable. How do we really know that the actions we are taking will be producing the greatest utility for the greatest amount of people? Furthermore, how do we even measure the utility that we are trying to produce? Finally, isn’t utility subjective? What do we do when the utility of one person conflicts with the utility of another?

3) Utilitarianism is unjust. If enslaving 10% of our population would benefit the other 90%, it would be morally permissible under Utilitarianism. By subjecting a chunk of the population to a life of hard labor, the other 90% would see an overall increase in their quality of life. Under Utilitarianism, Human Rights do not exist. Human beings are tools to be arbitrarily assessed for their worth and then discarded.

Value Criterion - This definitely needs a definition. I won’t touch this until then.

Contention 1: My opponent says that the value of human life is immeasurable but this completely goes against what he is arguing in this contention. Pro simply believes that the person being killed may not benefit society and therefore, we can justify killing them. This kind of thinking gives no respect to human beings or their rights. Once again, in pro’s world, human beings are only treated like tools of the society they live in.

Contention 2: This contention is really just saying the same thing as the first. Killing one to save many would benefit society. Pro argues that to negate is counter-productive to society and therefore, morally and ethically flawed. Whether or not an action is productive or not has nothing to do with that action being moral. To act morally is to do the right thing, and what is right is determined by an ethical system. My opponent’s ethical framework of Utilitarianism has already been refuted so they really cannot say whether or not anything is or is not morally justifiable.

First and foremost, Lincoln-Douglas is a value debate. When voting, the value and the value criterion are of the utmost importance. Without a working value of Utilitarianism, my opponent’s case does not even exist. If I have been successful in refuting Utilitarianism then I am clearly the winner of this debate.


Value: Human Rights. “Human rights are international norms that help to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, and social abuses. Examples of human rights are the right to freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial when charged with a crime, the right not to be tortured, and the right to engage in political activity.” [1]

Value Criterion: Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Kant’s Categorical Imperative is the standard for determining whether or not something is morally justified. The Categorical Imperative has three parts:

1) Always act in such a way that you can wish that your actions become universal law.
2) Never treat a person as a means to an end, always treat people as ends.
3) Act as if you live in a kingdom of ends.

Without the Categorical Imperative, Human Rights do not exist.

Contention 1: The resolution fails the test of the Categorical Imperative. By affirming this resolution, my opponent is willing to use people as mere means to achieve an end. By killing one person to save many, pro is placing a very specific value on human life. This is immoral in and of itself. It is never morally permissible to kill a person simply because their death would provide better consequences.

Really not much else to say, I suppose. Vote con.

Debate Round No. 1


Thank you to my opponent for accepting my debate. Good luck in the following rounds.
Foremost, allow me to address the inquiry regarding my Value of Utilitarianism. It is based on the defin ition presented by John Stuart Mill, a disciple of the inventor of Utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham.
Value- Human Rights. While I concede to that human rights is an important value to undertake I disagree as to its importance in the debate at hand seeing as how today's debate is not focused on the individual as my opponent would like to imply and without the need to focus on the individual as opposed to the majority of society, human rights would be nullified because human rights only exist as the byproduct of society's existence.
Criterion-Categorical Imperative. As I have said in the preceding point regarding the value of Human Rights the debate at hand isn't catering to human rights because a value of greater importance was introduced in the affirmative. Likewise, the criterion of categorical imperative is also voided.
Contention 1- Because of the previously stated arguments the affirmative's passage of the test of human rights is unneccessary to the upholding of the value of Utilitarianism so it is irrelevant if it passes the categorical imperative or not seeing as how preserving society is of greater moral effect.
Value- Utilitariansim. utilitarianism is a perfectly valid value to uphold despite that it can be majoritarian. To say it is impossible is assonine because of it's inherent majoritarian nature. In fact Utilitarianism is the only means by which a society's benefit can be judged because it is, after all and quite frankly, impossible to act in the benefit of everyone. no matter what is done a minority will be ignored.
Criterion-Societal Benefit. I had assumed the definiton to societal benefit was implied in the name as well as resolutional context but allow me to elaborate upon its meaning. Whatever is done in the best interest of society as a whole whether it be for society's preservation or for progress is societal benefit.
Contention 1- The deeming of human life as being immeasurable is not a contradiction to the affirmative because it simply proves that individual equality is non existent so we must look at mankind as a whole. Furthermore, the debate requires a logical perspective in regards to society's existence. As i had said in my case, morality is a man made concept and can only be judged in accordance to mankind's everchanging defintion of it. B ut because it is a man made concept applicable to man we must assume (naturally) that whatever is in the best interest of mankind is the "moral" thing to do.
Contention 2- This contention may have seemed like a repeating of the first but only because it was basically meant to be an extension upon the first contention rather than repetition. The negation has misdefined morality as doing what is right or wrong. He failed to include that this is in relation to its criterion of society's judgement. Ethics is what's right and wrong inherently but the affirmation is also being ethical anyway seeing as how theoretically the recognition iof right and wrong inherently is based in the regards of proceeding consequences. we as humans, realize the implication of the negative which would be for more lives to be lost and this renders the negation unethical. But that's irrelevent. The negation is immoral because it is counter progressive to society.
To negate this resolution as a result of only considering pathos in this debate would only be the same as to justify mankind's eventual end in exchage for the consideration of the individual life regardless of the value of that particular individual. Yes human rights are important, but without humans to perpetuate those rights they can't exist.
For these reasons, the affirmative has won this debate and I urge the audience to vote accordingly.


Pro Case

Value: Utilitarianism.

It has been made clear that Pro is arguing for John Stuart Mill’s definition of Utilitarianism. As per John Stuart Mill’s definition, pleasure is the end sought in morality. [1] So for the purposes of this debate, any reference to “utility” essentially just means pleasure.

Now onto Pro’s response to my attacks:

“Utilitarianism is the only means by which a society's benefit can be judged because it is, after all and quite frankly, impossible to act in the benefit of everyone. no matter what is done a minority will be ignored.”

Utilitarianism - “an act is morally right if and only if that act causes the greatest happiness for the greatest number...” [2] It’s funny you should say it’s impossible to act in the benefit of everyone, because that is exactly what Utilitarianism strives to achieve. Pro has admitted that his own value is impossible to achieve.

Additionally, pro has not answered the question I asked in my second attack on his value; “Isn’t utility subjective? What do we do when the utility of one person conflicts with the utility of another?”

Pro has also not addressed my third attack on Utilitarianism where I state that this moral philosophy is unjust.

Silence is concession, and since pro has not commented on these attacks I have made, I am forced to assume he agrees with them.

Value Criterion: Societal Benefit.

“Whatever is done in the best interest of society as a whole whether it be for society's preservation or for progress is societal benefit.”

A society can not have progress without Human Rights. Furthermore, a society without Human Rights is hardly worth living in. What would be the point of living without freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial, the right to not be tortured, etc. The list goes on and on. The point is, there is one very important difference between the pro case and the con case:

The pro case wants to preserve society, so essentially they just want to preserve life.
The con case seeks to preserve life as well, but by valuing Human Rights I am also seeking to preserve the quality of that life.

A human life is more than just biological, therefore the quality of said life should also be taken into account.

Contention 1: The value of human life is immeasurable.

Pro states that we should look at mankind as a whole, and that whatever is in mankind’s best interest is “moral.” However, that’s as far as pro takes this argument. I’m not seeing a connection to Utilitarianism anywhere. Even if I do agree with this statement, Human Rights is still the superior value. It is obviously in mankind’s best interest to value Human Rights.

Contention 2: Really long title.

“The negation has misdefined morality as doing what is right or wrong.”

Moral - of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior [3] The definition of moral is pretty clear.

“the recognition of right and wrong inherently is based in the regards of proceeding consequences”

If you’re any form of consequentialist, this is correct. However, I am using the Categorical Imperative (CI) in my case. The CI is derived from Kant’s duty-based Deontology. This is the polar opposite of consequentialism. So no, you cannot say that right and wrong is solely based on consequences.

“The negation is immoral because it is counter progressive to society.”

How? Throwing Human Rights to the wind is by far a lot more counter productive to society.

“To negate this resolution as a result of only considering pathos in this debate would only be the same as to justify mankind's eventual end in exchange for the consideration of the individual life regardless of the value of that particular individual. Yes human rights are important, but without humans to perpetuate those rights they can't exist.”

Pro is going down a slippery slope here. I don’t see how at all this pertains to the resolution, or my case. Never was it mentioned or even remotely implied that negating this resolution would cause the extinction of human beings.

Con Case

Now, to defend my case.

Value: Human Rights.

Rather than attack my value head-on, pro has simply tried to dismiss the relevance of it. Pro merely states that this debate is focused on society as a whole, as opposed to the individual. Nowhere in the resolution does it say that the debate should be focused on society as opposed to the individual. This is nothing but a bare assertion and can be dismissed as such. My value of Human Rights still stands.

Value Criterion: The Categorical Imperative.

Pro has not even attempted to refute my ethical framework. In fact, pro’s “attack” can be summed up like this: “My value is better, this one sucks.”
Without any valid attacks on my criterion, it stands. Also, this is by far the most important part of my case because it is from here that I derive the negation of the moral permissibility mandated by the resolution. If this criterion stands, then I am the only logical winner of this debate.

Contention 1: The resolution fails the test of the Categorical Imperative.

Once again, pro is not attacking anything; he is merely dismissing my arguments. With Utilitarianism refuted, the Categorical Imperative, being a moral philosophy, is literally the only way to determine what is and is not morally justified. It is the only way we can look at this resolution.

So here’s just a quick recap of the debate and why you should vote con:

1) Pro’s value of Utilitarianism is impossible to achieve. Without a working value of Utilitarianism, pro has no authority to say that something is morally justified.
2) Pro’s Value Criterion of Societal Benefit is narrow. Additionally, my value of Human Rights encompasses societal benefit.
3) Pro’s Contention 1 has no warrant.
4) Pro’s Contention 2 is a very slippery slope.
5) The con case is literally unscathed after pro’s rebuttal.

2) (Found under “Classic Utilitarianism”)
Debate Round No. 2


brief road-map: this round is exclusively for voters and the summation of the debate. no new arguments or contentions will be brought up. I will only rebuild my case as well as address the preceding statements of the Negation.

value-Utilitarianism. It is not a contradiction in the value of Utilitarianism to say that it is impossible to act in the benefit of everyone. It should be common knowledge that this is true. My opponent, now, has attempted to paint Utilitarianism as striving for the benefit of everyone yet contradicts this argument in defining it (though his quotation was a completely accurate definition) because it was stated that an action is moral only if it causes the greatest happiness for the greatest number, not the greatest happiness for everyone and although everyone would obviously be the greatest number, as was established, it is impossible to benefit everyone so by default Utilitarianism has to refer to the majority, leaving it as a feasible value.
Now to answer the question of conflicting utilities, obviously the utility in more demand would be the one of more importance meaning that if action is in the interest of one person but not another, the action's justification relies solely on which person has more in agreement or taking benefit from said action. As for being subjective, utility varies seldom in matters of societal benefit. Pleasure's subjectivity is found more so in the more trivial aspects of experience.
Criterion-Societal Benefit. I'm going to make my final words on this issue relatively blunt. Human Rights take a back seat to the preservation of society and are a matter to be concerned with after the preservation of society is essentially ensured. the negation has stated "The con case seeks to preserve life as well," but the simple version of the con's ideology in negating the resolution is that the con would prefer if one person were not sacrificed in order to save more lives. This is the anti-resolution and I urge you to recognize it. Lastly, in response to the implication that the affirmation is neglectful to human rights, I have never said human rights should be ignored but have said they are the less important issue as compared to utilitarianism. that does not mean, although, that human rights would forever be ignored. It's like investing. In exchange for the valuing of the preservation of society over human rights, the return on the investment would be bountiful then you can have all your human rights as well as more utility and the increase in the quality of life.
Contention One. The connection between Utilitarianism and addressing the concerns of mankind as a whole should be clear in that Utilitarianism is doing what's best for the majority and looking at mankind rather than the individual life is majoritarian. To care more for the individual life than the preservation of society is against the utility of the majority and the utility of mankind.
Contention Two. There is a difference between the definition of morals and the definition of ethics because the two are not one in the same; ethics are inherent which is the basis for my statement "the recognition of right and wrong inherently is based in the regards of proceeding consequences." This is also where things get hazy. Are you saying as the con that my ideologies can't be the polar opposite of yours? That's strange. But I digress. In ethics the recognition of right and wrong are based in consequence regardless of whom those consequences are experienced by. Now in accordance with morality, we've already, once again, established that morals are decided by humans which con's lack of attack has conceded to since "silence is compliance." that being said we have likewise established a framework for pursuit that we both want to do what's best for mankind.
In response to the slippery slope comment i mean to address a worst case scenario which is perfectly relevant to the resolution because the fundamental beliefs behind the negation if consistent would be to morally justify the scenario which I have said.
The affirmative case still stands as the stronger of the two.
The con case:
Value- Human Rights. I have seen no need to attack the value of human rights head on because I have conceded to its importance although I have simply stated that the importance of the preservation of society is higher. As for my assertion that the resolution deals with society, the inclusion of the word "morally" implies the involvement of society in the matter therefore it can not be dismissed.
value Criterion-CI. I'm going to be honest. if i had to choose an elementary way to summarize my attack on my opponents criterion his quotation would be accurate. that is not to say the categorical imperative isn't at least a decent criterion but in regards to this debate Kant would agree with the affirmation since he is after all, a philosopher in the social contract theory. But because the Value of Utilitarianism still stands as the more important value of the two presented, my criterion must also be of more importance.
contention 1. i see no need to further attack this contention. i have in fact dismissed it but for good reason which if my case was read through would be seen as my justification for dismissal.
1. utilitarianism is not impossible to achieve and the implication of this is a result of contextual misinterpretation.
2. in response to the assumption that the con criterion embodies societal benefit, it can not do that when it justifies the regard of the individual life more highly than that of society.
3. the warrant for my claim that human rights is immeasurable comes from the shear lack of existence of a criterion for human value. what's the unit for my life's worth?
4. Already addressed.
5. Already addressed.
My voters:
1. the affirmative value has proven to be more important.
2. Because the negation has failed to prove that affirmative can not uphold the value of Utilitarianism (part of his responsibility in LD), the affirmative case stands.
3. the dismissal of any part of the con as well as the refutation of the con's claims have been justified and so the negative case falls.


Pro Case

Value: Utilitarianism.

Once again, Pro has not even acknowledged the argument I made saying that Utilitarianism is unjust. The example I used was Slavery, saying that under Utilitarianism, we could justify enslaving 10% of the population if it would promote the general utility of the remaining 90%. The point is, just because it would make the majority happy does not mean it is just. With this argument untouched, we can safely negate because Pro’s value has been refuted.

Value Criterion: Societal Benefit.

My opponent states that Human Rights should not come into effect until society has been preserved. Pro is taking an extreme stance on the issue here. Nowhere in the resolution or in the negative case is it even remotely implied that society would be destroyed.

In regards to the actual criterion, Human Rights would benefit society more than Utilitarianism. Rather than using human beings as mere tools to be assessed for their worth and then arbitrarily discarded when standing in the way of the “greater good;” we should acknowledge that all human beings have rights and to infringe upon them is immoral. Additionally, looking at Kant’s Categorical Imperative, it is immoral to use a person as a means to achieve an end. So if the Categorical Imperative still stands as a valid moral principle in this debate, the situation described in the resolution is immoral.

Lastly, I should make it clear that Utilitarianism and Human Rights are incompatible. Utilitarianism, by its majoritarian nature, would supercede Human Rights if it happened to stand in the way of the “greater good.”

This value criterion does not help the pro case at all. Pro’s only defense is to take an extreme stance that skews the resolution. I have proven that the negative case achieves this criterion better.

Contention 1: The Value of Human Life is Immeasurable.

As I have established before, Utilitarianism is unjust. I’m not going to deny that Utilitarianism is striving to provide the most utility, but that does not make it just. The majority’s demands being met is not always just. Slavery, for example.

Contention 2: Really Long Title.

To reiterate, what is right and wrong is not necessarily determined by consequences. Using my Deontological framework, I am more concerned with the motivations that guide an action as opposed to the consequences. Pro cannot make the blanket statement that right and wrong is always determined by consequences.

No, I am not saying that our ideologies can’t be polar opposites. I was confused about what you were trying to say so I made a clarification.

Nowhere did I deny that morals were created by humans, and even if I did that wouldn’t help your argument. I’m not even sure what pro’s point is here, if there is one.

In regards to me having to justify my opponent’s “worst case scenario” example, I don’t even have to. My Categorical Imperative still stands, that is where the moral justification comes from.

Con Case

Value: Human Rights.

Pro has conceded to the importance of this value and has not attacked it. Rather, they have said that preserving society is more important. If pro expected to win this debate they needed to explain why their value is superior to mine, and he has not done that.

Finally, for the last time, nowhere in my case do I attempt to destroy society. The claim that preserving society is more important than Human Rights is absurd. Human Rights can’t exist without humans.

Value Criterion: Kant’s Categorical Imperative.

Pro says that Kant would affirm this resolution because he was a proponent of the Social Contract Theory. So what? What does the Social Contract Theory have to do with this debate? Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if he supported the Social Contract Theory, my case is not about that. My case is about Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Kant would not affirm this resolution because he was the polar opposite of a Utilitarian.

Contention 1: The Resolution Fails the Test of the Categorical Imperative.

Pro never attacks the heart of this contention where I state that the resolution is not consistent with the Categorical Imperative. Silence is concession, so I am forced to assume my opponent agrees with this contention, as well as the Categorical Imperative.


In my case, my value of Human Rights has not been challenged, but rather been dismissed as irrelevant. It is in fact, very relevant in the context of the negative case. Just reading my case will establish this fact. My value criterion has not been refuted, and it is achieving my value quite well in this debate. Furthermore, my value of Human Rights achieves my opponent’s criterion of Societal Benefit far better than Utilitarianism.

Looking at the pro case, Utilitarianism has been refuted because it is unjust and therefore does not affirm the resolution.

Pro has hardly attacked my case, and was quick to dismiss all of my claims without proper justification. If you weigh all of the argumentation in this debate, the Con case is clearly superior.

I thank my opponent for an interesting debate.

Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
I suppose I'll take it, but in the future I would gladly stick to the normal LD format provided we agreed to do so at the beginning of the debate.
Posted by Abel_Rodriguez 6 years ago
Although typically the aff goes last in LD you can have the last rebuttal if you'd like.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
No problem, I could never pass up a classic utilitarianism vs. Deontology debate.
Posted by Abel_Rodriguez 6 years ago
It's a common debate I thought should be covered. Thanks for replying by the way.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
Yes! This is perfect!
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by THEBOMB 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: In an LD debate of this format (no it is not necessary to have a value and criterion...), the most important aspect is the "value." That is what the debater is trying to uphold. I vote Con as the winner because 1) they refuted Pro's value and 2) upheld their own. Also, Pro I ask that you put space between paragraphs. It is not necessary to scrunch everything together....