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Resolved: It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent p

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/30/2008 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,571 times Debate No: 5591
Debate Rounds (1)
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I negate: "It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people."
For clarity, I pose the following definitions.
1.Morally permissible: conforming to a normative standard of right and wrong.
2. Innocent: free from the action or intention of moral or legal crimes.

For analysis of the resolution, I pose the following observations.
1. According to the resolution, it is asking if an action is moral. Morality is normative. Normative is defined as absolute, not relative, or circumstantial. Therefore, the affirmative must prove that killing complies with morally normative standards.

2. The resolution implies morality versus necessity. Killing an innocent may be necessary to save more lives, however that does not make it moral. Killing must be proved moral rather than a necessity. The negative concedes the idea that it is necessary to save more people, but the negative does not concede the idea that killing an innocent is moral.

3. Morality is achieved on an individual basis not collectively. If morality is dictated by collective needs, then the human worth of each individual is pushed down to nothing. If society adopts a morality based on collective need, then all individuals are threatened by the majority.

The negative values Morality, since it is the clearest value indicted by the resolution. The value of morality is upheld by the criterion of Maintaining Justice. Justice is a necessary element of morality. Justice requires that society recognize the equal value of each individual life. Killing one innocent to save many, contradicts the societal duty of equality of human worth between all people. Furthermore, protecting individual rights that are guaranteed to each individual is a main component of upholding justice. Undermining the equal worth of each individual undermines justice.

Contention 1: Killing one innocent person to save the lives of more people undermines the equal worth of all individuals.

For something to be just and moral, the action must be fair and equal. A moral and just society must see each innocent individual as equal. They all have the same human worth. By affirming the resolution the ethical position has been created that one innocent can be killed for the sake of other individuals. This blatantly undermines society's duty to protect and maintain the equal human worth of all people. Jeff McMahan explains that "To kill a person, in contravention of that person's own will, is an egregious failure of respect for the person and his worth. It is to annihilate that which is irreplaceable, to show contempt for that which demands reverence, to assert a spurious authority over one who alone has proper authority over his own life, and to assume a superior position." It is never morally permissible to quantify the amount of human worth to degrade an equally worthy and innocent person. Meaning that morality cannot be achieved based on a sole number; it must be achieved by the human dignity of each individual. All lives are equal, and therefore they must be weighed equally.

A) Dehumanization. By killing one innocent to save more people, you have made a person a means to an end. This is dehumanization because the worth of one individual has been reduced to that of an inanimate tool. Humans are ends in themselves, and should not be seen as a means to an end. Immanuel Kant explains "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end.

Contention 2: John Locke's Social Contract

Inalienability. Inalienability can be defined as that which cannot be forfeited. According to John Locke these rights are: Life, liberty, and property. These three rights cannot be forcefully given up, either by the government taking them away or by another member of society. John Locke explains "All mankind, being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions." Any member of society, no matter what the circumstances, does not have the morally permissible right to take these rights away. By killing an innocent, you have violated their right to life. From this, you have violated all rights, since all rights come from the right to life.

B) Protection of individual rights.
As individuals, we are guaranteed the protection of these three inalienable rights. A morally permissible action must defend these rights. The affirmative is condoning the action of right violation of an individual. In a just and moral society, this is impermissible because it undermines the very core of a society. The rights we are guaranteed cannot be infringed upon by any other member of society. It is the duty we have between each other as members of a society to not directly, and by our own hand violate the rights of another person. This is exactly what the affirmative is doing, and thus is violating morality.


Resolved: That it is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save more innocent people.
I affirm.
To clarify debate I offer the following definitions.
Morally permissible: conforming to a standard of right behavior (Merriam Webster)
innocent: harmless in effect or intention (Merriam Webster)
Kill: to cause the death of (Merriam Webster)
Maxim: a subjective principle or rule that the will of an individual uses in making a decision. (Immanuel Kant)
Observation 1: "Kill" does not imply intent. "Murder" implies intent. You can be killed by a train without the train "intending" to kill you. You can be killed by a drug overdose without intending to kill yourself.

Value: Moral permissibility
Justification: I choose moral permissibility because it is expressly stated in the resolution. The resolution asks for the morally permissible solution to this dilemma. Obviously it must be our value.

Criterion: Kant's Categorical Imperative
Justification: Kant's Categorical Imperative that we should "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." Kant justifies this by saying that a moral proposition that is true must be one that is not tied to any particular conditions, including the identity of the person doing the moral deliberation. A moral maxim must have universality, which is to say that it must be disconnected from the particular physical details surrounding the proposition, and could be applied to any rational being. So, basically, an maxim can be universalized if it does not create any contradictions or logical incoherencies. For example, a maxim that involves stealing in order to accrue some sort of benefit cannot be universalized because any benefit gained would be quickly lost because some other person would just take it from you. So the bright line, the litmus test for morality is whether a maxim can be made a universal law of morality. In short, morality is determined by maxims. If a maxim is able to be made universal, it is a moral action.

Contention 1: The affirmative's maxim can be made universal.
The affirmative can operate under numerous maxims. However, the most appropriate for this is the maxim that "One ought to attempt to save lives when in a position to do so." This maxim can certainly be made a universal law of morality. It's common sense we ought to try to save lives. Following this maxim does not lead to any contradictions or incoherencies. Furthermore, negating this maxim would mean that saving lives is ALWAYS immoral. This is absurd. That would mean doctors, soldiers, and charity workers would be considered immoral. You obviously cannot negate this maxim. But wait you say, the affirmative kills, surely this cannot be moral. The answer to that is somewhat complicated. Kant's Categorical Imperative leads to a few other necessary principles of morality. One is the principle of double effect. Julian Baggini describes this as such "it can be morally acceptable to do something in order to bring about a good, even if you can foresee that it will also bring about something bad, as long as the intention is the good and not the bad." So because I intend the good effect, I cannot be judged for the death of the innocent.

Going down my opponent's case (Why is he Neg?)

I accept his definitions and only offer one more, that of kill, which I defined above.

I accept Ob. 1, and Ob. 3, however I disagree with Ob. 2. Both actions are moral, saving lives is moral, not killing is moral, I am arguing that the Aff intentions negate the bad effect of the death of the innocent. We have a choice of two moral options. Both are permissible.

I agree with his value, and his criterion is acceptable, but the resolution is better upheld with Kantianism, because Kant offers a moral system that is based solely on logical principles.

Contention 1:
It does not. Remember, actions are justified by their intentions, and I intend to save lives, not to kill. We all have the same worth, yes of course, but the resolution does not violate that. For example, if I am driving in my car, and three small children run out into the street in front of me, it is certainly permissible for me to swerve. If, unfortunately, when I swerve another innocent person happens to be in the way, my action was still moral, because I was trying to save lives, and I wasn't trying to kill.

A. I am not dehumanizing them, I accidentally killed them.

Contention 2:
Rights are inalienable, so I must act to protect them. This means not letting innocents die. If by chance an innocent is accidentally killed in the process, it was an accident, I'm sorry, but I can't be judged for it.

B. I am defending these rights, I just accidentally kill while doing so. I guarantee no judge would condemn me for accidentally running over an innocent while trying to avoid three more innocents.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the affirmative if justified in saving lives. This is undeniable. Unfortunately a bad consequence occurs, but as this was unintended, the affirmative cannot be judged. The affirmative conforms perfectly to the categorical imperative, therefore it is morally permissible. You must vote Aff.
Debate Round No. 1
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by LR4N6FTW4EVA 8 years ago
WTF? One round?
Posted by LR4N6FTW4EVA 8 years ago
Congrats CiRro. I'll pwn this nub for you. Just kidding, but I will take him on, I've got an awesome case for this. My rule of law one sucked, but luckily, I didn't have to use it. I went 1-3 at my tournament, but I got sucky draws and got stuck with the top two, whom I lost too. Got into a debate about the finer points of Kantianism while being judged by a lay judge. Not a good idea.
Posted by CiRrO 8 years ago
Oh thx for stealing my cases. lol. I jsut debated these at the Yale Tournament. 5 W 1 L
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Single round debate, pro getting the last word in almost assures victor; afterall none of his points were challenged. Even if he did refer to the killing of one life as an accident, which was a little outside the intent of the question.