The Instigator
Con (against)
3 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
2 Points

Resolved: This house prefers utilitarianism.

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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: 6/16/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,007 times Debate No: 56715
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (21)
Votes (1)




I would like this round to be in the Parliamentary style. The Proponent of the resolution should be referred to as the Government and the Con shall be referred to as the Opposition.

Further, the Government will be given the duty of defining the terms of the resolution and this house. For those who wish to vote on the resulting debate, please keep in mind that you should evaluate the round through the lens of the house.

Round Breakdown will be as follows:
R1: Acceptance and Presentation of the Government Case
R2: Opposition Constructive 1 and Government Constructive
R3: Opposition Constructive 2 and Government Rebuttal
R4: Points of Order

it should be noted that no new arguments should be voted on or considered in the Government's rebuttal. That is a chance for the Government to quickly sum up the arguments already made in the round. As such, the Government should be limited to 3,000 characters for the rebuttal.

if the Government proponent goes over 3,000 characters (in a fashion that defies the spirit of the rule--about 50 words or so) they should be given a penalty loss.

The fourth round should, for the most part be left blank. If, for some reason, the Opposition believes that there have been new arguments made in the Government's rebuttal, they will be allowed to point those objections out by giving a quotation of the new argument and a brief explanation (no more than 3 sentences) as to why they believe it is a new argument. The final speech in the last round will give the Government the opportunity to respond briefly (no more than 3 sentences) to the objections. Judges will be allowed to evaluate the Points of Order at their own discretion as they see fit. All other argumentation in the fourth round is to be forbidden upon penalty of disciplinary loss (again subject to the judges).

I really look forward to the debate! Get creative with it. As long as you define the terms within reason, we should have no problem. I look forward to this, it should be a large amount of fun.

Do not forget to post the Government's constructive in the next speech!


What's more important to you: the details of how and why you did something good, or the fact that you did something good?

Consider that question as I jump through the hoops of parliamentary style debate.

The resolution is "this house prefers utilitarianism". I represent the views of the government.
The government side believes that this house prefers utilitarianism. The opposition, Manastacious, who put together this debate (thanks!), will try to convince you that utilitarianism is not preferable.

A key role for opening government (the first speech of the first round) is to define the terms of the resolution.

The definition of "prefer" ought to be easily agreed upon as "would rather use X" or simply "likes X more". Unfortunately this little word tries to put the government side at a disadvantage as we do not yet know what the opposition will choose to pit against utilitarianism. Fortunately, utilitarianism is an adaptable and focused philosophy, and can withstand attacks from whichever lesser philosophy Manastacious may choose to draw upon.

"This house" and "utilitarianism" require more substantial definition.

For those of you unfamiliar with parliamentary debate (which is nothing to bother about as some have referred to it as a dying style), "this house" typically refers to "us" or the people in the room. For the purposes of an online debate, 'this house' will refer to the (DDO) members observing. Thus, if more of you prefer utilitarianism after this debate, as I believe you should, the government side will have won. If you do not prefer utilitarianism after this debate, then sadly, the government side will have lost.

Understanding utilitarianism will be paramount if you are to follow this debate. To be perfectly honest, before accepting this challenge I hopped over to YouTube for a quick introduction on the topic. Now, having read more thoroughly on the topic, I shall give you as clear an explanation as I can.

Before I go on, I'd like to take a sentence to give credit where credit is due; Englishman John Stuart Mill, continuing the work of his mentor, Jeremy Bentham, fathered the philosophy of utilitarianism in the 19th century.

Even if you haven't heard of utilitarianism before, you likely have heard of they saying "the ends justify the means". If you prefer utilitarianism then you believe it is not the actions themselves, but the impact of those actions that is judged.

Take two imaginary drunk drivers for example: Jake and Sally.
Jake knows you're not supposed to drink and drive, but he does this at least once a month and hasn't had a problem yet. Jake gets in his car, drives drunk, and arrives home safely.
Sally also knows you're not supposed to drink and drive, but she is sick of all the drama and doesn't want to wait for her sober friend to finish flirting. Sally gets in the car, drives drunk, and crashes into another car, putting the other driver in critical condition.
Who do we hate more: Jake or Sally?
Sally of course! Other philosophies would claim that both Jake and Sally put lives at risk and so both are bad people. If you are like me and think that Sally is worse than Jake because her actions hurt another person, then you prefer utilitarianism!

I'd like to clarify that utilitarianism does not condone drunk driving.
Martha is a utilitarian. She is also drunk. Martha has to decide between driving home intoxicated or calling her mother. As a utilitarian she weighs the risk of causing physical harm to herself and others against the risk of being berated by her mother. As a utilitarian, Martha would call her mother.

The example of Martha leads us into another way Mill explained utilitarianism: math. He believed in achieving "the greatest good for the greatest number".
Think of it this way: the impact an action has on an individual involved ranges from -10 to 10 (-10 being horribly affected, 0 being neutral, and 10 being wonderfully affected).
Imagine a scenario where a man is sent to jail. He feels his life is ruined, his wife feels betrayed and files for divorce, and their two children are negatively impacted. On the other side, the arrested man's victims find relief knowing he is behind bars, and all who would have been future victims unknowingly benefit.
As this is merely an explanatory example, let's make the math easy by sticking to multiples of 5.
The impacts on the man (-10), his wife (-10), and their two children 2 (-5) add up to -30.
The impacts on the five victims of the man 5 (10) and the ten would have been future victims 10 (5) add up to 100. Overall, arresting the man led to a positive impact of 70.
It was good that this man was arrested because it created the greatest good for the greatest number.

Now that we are all on the same page about utilitarianism, I can move away from definitions and on to my favorite part, argumentation.
As I slipped in earlier, utilitarianism is an adaptable and focused philosophy.

Utilitarianism is adaptable in that it allows for questionable, but necessary, means. Other philosophies get sick to their stomachs at the thought of doing evil for the sake of good and condemn all things done by evil as evil. This is not the case. If you could save someone you care about by committing a lesser evil, wouldn't you? And would not that be good? Yes, as the impact would be good. An adaptable philosophy is key to guiding humans through right and wrong, because as humans we do not live in a world of black and white, but compromises and leaps and grays.
Utilitarianism allows for a greater variety of means, all in order to achieve a good end. On that note, I point you to my second argument: utilitarianism is focused.

Utilitarianism is focused in that it cares about what really matters: the end. The methods taken to achieve an end won't matter at all if the proper sacrifices aren't made and everything falls apart before the good end can be reached. Some claim that the method, the means, the journey, call it what you will, is more important because it defines us. I put to you " what is the point of developing your morality by taking proper means, if you allow yourself and others to take harm in the process by focusing on flimsy philosophies rather than the good end, the greatest good for the greatest number? Do not let other philosophies contort logic until it seems almost feasible that turning a blind eye is proper or that all forms of lying are wrong. Stay focused on what really matters: the end.

You might be thinking, utilitarianism is clearly preferable, what could the opposition possibly say?
Well, some have claimed that utilitarianism is merely how states defend extreme action.
Manifest Destiny may have been defended by some with utilitarianism, but their math was wrong.
The suffering of the Native American peoples in the past, the lasting negative impacts, and the mar on American history far outweigh the benefits of expansionism.

This leads me into another point, that the weight of how good or bad an impact is can by subjective according to the culture, but that I shall save for the next round.

If you'll recall, at the top of this opening I asked you: 'What's more important to you: the details of how and why you did something good, or the fact that you did something good?'

I hope that you know see, if you did not already, that the impact of an action is more important in the grand-scheme of morality and personal choices, than the motivations that lead to that action.

To reiterate this, I'll spin you one last tale before passing the spotlight on to Manastacious.

A terrorist, or as he calls himself, a freedom fighter, has honorable intentions and steals himself to go through with his brave sacrifice. Weaker philosophies would allow him to think of himself as moral, utilitarianism would not. A terrorist attack kills bystanders, breaks families, and triggers paranoia against any associated with the terrorist's country, religion, and sadly even phenotype. The good of the freedom fighter's statement is outweighed by the bad of the innocent deaths and lashed out paranoia that involves even more innocent parties.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this debate, and I look forward to reading the opposition's points.
Debate Round No. 1


Manastacious forfeited this round.


Manastacious and I have agreed in the comments to shift the rounds. "R4: Points of Order" will occur in the comments.

R2 does not exist.
Debate Round No. 2


This is going to be a fun debate. There is a reason that I organized this debate as I have. The parliamentary debate style is refreshing in its snark and its adaptability to all kinds of argumentation. The idea here is to have both tight argumentation and soaring rhetoric: something my opponent has already attempted to emulate and something I hope to best him at. But that is the name of the game and it is all in good fun.

It is important to remind those who are going to cast their ballots in this debate, that there is generally no hard evidence in a parliamentary debate round. I wanted to let the Government provide the standard for this in their first speech, but seeing as he has provided no sourcing. Please refrain from RFDs that include criticism of our lack of sourcing--that is completely intended.

Now, it is interesting that the Government rings up the idea of drunk drives. Allow me to use this example to explain exactly why we must reject Utilitarianism. The government says that because of the results of Sally’s actions and the results he causes that we hate her more. However, this is exactly the problem. We shouldn’t despise the person who causes death more than the other. Because they both performed the same action. In the eyes of the Utilitarian, Jake has done nothing wrong. Even though he endangers his own life and the lives of others, because he was lucky enough to not hurt anyone, or himself, he is not morally condemnable. But do we not intuitively think that he has done something wrong. Don’t we condemn those who drive drunk even if there is a different result of the choice to drink and drive?

This is among the many reasons that we must reject Utilitarianism for a new alternative theory of ethics and deciding what is and is not ethical.

Let us examine, again, this idea of Utilitarianism ignoring some of the bad things in the world—as is the case with Jake and Sally that the Government provides us with. According to the Utilitarian point of view, the consequences provide us with the moral rightness or wrongness of an action. However, we can see that, intuitively, this is not the case. When we look to the drunk driving example, we should find that it is both the action of drinking and driving and the result that follows are the moral actions that we must evaluate. Surely we can say that we find Sally more morally condemnable because of her actions, but that does not mean that it is solely the consequences of her action that lead us to the notion that her actions were immoral. Intuitively, we want to find Jake as morally bad, too. His actions could have led to death just easily as Sally’s did and therein lies the problem with Utilitarianism.

Additionally, we can look to one of the oldest critiques of the utilitarian point of view—it takes the form of a thought experiment. What if you were in the emergency with a cold? It is not a big deal, but you are going to get some antibiotics to help you out. But your doctor is a good utilitarian. He also happens to be an amazing transplant surgeon. He notices that you have a hopping heart, 2 lively lungs, a lovely liver, and 2 kicking kidneys. You could save six people upstairs right now with the organs you have just sitting in your meat preserver of a body. It would provide six people a lifetime worth of happiness for the doctor to end your life right now and transplant all of those organs. Utilitarianism would have us total that pleasure vs that pain and tell us to go ahead for the good of the many. The consequences of the transplants, though drastically bad for you, are drastically good for those who receive the transplants. For the utilitarian. What is not to like? But for the rest of us, we are left wondering…is there not some other standard here that is being violated? IN the end, the utilitarian takes into account only the pleasure and the pain of the mater. It is clear that there is less suffering if you kill the one many to have six others live. But is that all that is in play in the game of ethics? Intuitively we find the conclusion that we are all merely organ mines ready to be picked at repulsive. And our intuitions are correct.

Finally, we can look to Robert Nozick’s famous critique of Utilitarianism in the form of what he calls the Experience Machine. The experience machine posits the idea of a machine that would provide all the nutrients for life. The human body could step into the machine and be sustained and the conscience would be “hacked” to experience the perfect life. The experience machine creates the perfect life for the individual and let’s tem experience the maximally pleasureful life. Who wants to get in?

No one, right? The idea here is that the utilitarian sees the idea of a person living the maximally pleasured life. So, to the utilitarian, there is no negative to this machine. Wouldn’t it be a perfect world morally to have everyone get in the experience machine? Maximal pleasure for everyone. No pain. That is the utilitarian’s dream world. But that seems fake to us. Despite the fact that our brain may secrete serotonin and norepinephrine until the day our brains shut down and we die, it does not follow that we have lived the most morally correct life. In fact, it seems, that there are other things that we could do with our lives. We could help people *for real*. We could change the world *for real*. Even though we may not be able to achieve the maximally pleasureful life for ourselves, does that not mean that we have achieved something of a real moral profundity?

These are the reasons that we must, on face reject Utilitarianism. However, it seems that in order to for this house to not prefer Utilitarianism, there needs to be some work done to defend an alternative point of view. Thus, I present the notion of Deontology. Kant provided one of the first profound examples of Deontology in his conception of morality through the Categorical Imperative. For Kant, the notion of what is ethical is defined by two principles of the Categorical Imperative. These can be stated simply as this 1) That maxim, or principle of action, which can be consistently willed to be universal is moral as long as it does not 2) use man as merely a means to an end.

This conception of the good and what is moral is, in particular, a stark comparison to what Utilitarianism would have us believe. The Government side wants you to think of consequences on a scale of -10 to 10. And while it is universally recognized that murder is a morally reprehensible thing to do, the highest that action could rank on a scale is -10. What if 2 people gained quite a deal of good from that death? What if the one man who died a terrible death—rendering a score of -10—leads to 2 people getting a massive fortune—thus a score of +6. Does that total of +12 not outweigh even the most horrible of deaths that the man could possibly experience? It seems that Utilitarianism can be used to justify a whole host of morally reprehensible actions, and that is something that we cannot have in the world of ethics.

Thus, let us look at the situations we have described and examine how Kantian Deontology provides us with the answers that we are looking for. In the case of the drunk drivers, what do we conclude? While Sally is much more ethically condemnable for causing the deaths of humans and creating an irreparable harm, we must also think of Jake’s actions as equally bad—at least from the onset. We find that, despite the fact that Jake’s actions do not create any bad consequences and provide for no negative utility, the action of drinking and driving, regardless of the results, is condemnable and ethically bad. How do we reach this conclusion? In more ways than one, Jake’s actions use many lives, including his own, as a means to an end. Despite the fact that he has options to safely get home, he takes it upon himself to drive while drunk. Thus, he uses the many people who could be injured by his actions as a means to get himself home. He also uses his own life and puts it up has fodder simply because he is too impatient to attempt to get home. Additionally, we find it impossible to consistently will that even one person take matters into their own hands and drive home drunk. We have reasonable conclusions here.

Second, where Utilitarianism would advocate for this form of organ robin-hoodery where we take from those who are rich in organs and give them to the poor, Kantian Deontology recognizes the moral dilemmas. What if we did that for everyone? Can we consistently will that maxim of killing someone for their organs to be used to cure more people? What if it was your mother who was drafted to save the lives of six drug dealers? The maxim of forced organ transplant is recognized as ethically incorrect by Kantian Deontology and thus, we must not prefer Utilitarianism.

Finally, whereas Utilitarianism would have us all jumping to get into the next experience machine, we must once again evaluate this intuitive moral atrocity from a universal standpoint. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone were in an experience machine? No. How could the human race survive? What if one of the machines broke. Who would be there to diagnose any of the problems? Who would be there to reproduce? In short, the problem here is one of the matrix. Can we consistently will that were are all subject to the induced pleasure of a machine? No. And thus, where Utilitarianism fails us again, Kantian Deontology succeeds.

I have illustrated three examples where Utilitarianism fails us in ethical dilemmas. These are not isolated example. These are three very basic examples that only illustrate the root problems with Utilitarianism. I will address the further problems with Utilitarianism in my next speech, but I will leave you with this. If we can’t prefer Utilitarianism in these three basic examples, where can we prefer it? And does life really break down into only one chief good—pleasure? It seems to me like there is much more in life to evaluate.



The opposition has chosen Kant to stand against Utilitarianism and has twisted about three scenarios for you where Kant seems to be preferable (though it is not so), yet he curiously left my main arguments untouched.

My personal style is to first remind you of my arguments, present my new argument, defend any rebuttals the offense made, and then break down the offense's arguments.

After defining utilitarianism for you, I then showed that utilitarianism is adaptable and focused. Even though the opposition did not directly refute my arguments, I can still compare them to Kant.

My first argument was that utilitarianism is adaptable. Deontology's (Kant's philosophy) greatest weakness is its inability to adapt. Kant did not believe in any kind of moral gray area or subjective morality. Kant believed that what was right was right and what was wrong was wrong universally. Clearly in terms of adaptability utilitarianism is the winner.

My second argument was that utilitarianism is focused, focused on what is really important to be specific. This is another clear win for utilitarianism. Did you know that Kant believed that everyone was their own moral agent? That means that you are only responsible for your own actions, not the actions of others. This means that if a bad man asks you for information that could harm others, you should tell the truth " in fact you should always tell the truth " because you are responsible for your own morality and the bad man is responsible for his. This is ridiculous. Deontology would have you place your own morality over that of the greater good. Deontology is not focused on what is important, utilitarianism is.

The argument I saved for this round is that utilitarianism allows cultures to frame how much weight they give to different types of immoral activity when morality is calculated. Just as the opposition showed in how they reworked my -10 to 10 example of how utilitarianism works. The opposition believes that getting wealthy is worth 60% of a single life. That is how the opposition chooses the weight his morality. Luckily, every culture influences their own weighting system so we don't all have to use the oppositions rather sociopathic math. After all, morality is subjective, not objective as the opposition and Kant would have you believe. There is no single moral truth, but I will get into that more when I rebuttal Kant directly.

Now for my defense.
I would like to remind everyone that my drunk driving example and my -10 to 10 example were merely for explanatory purposes and not arguments. It is fine that the opposition has chosen the drunk driving I created as one of their arguments. However, I do not approve of how you take advantage of the -10 to 10 example and straw man the third maxim of utilitarianism.

Firstly, the -10 to 10 example was merely meant to show how 'the greatest good for the greatest number' would function. Obviously -10 to 10 is far too simplistic for the real world. Do not mistake my simplified example for the sake of defining as an argument.

Secondly, how would you like it if instead of addressing Kant's first two maxims, I started attacking Kant's third maxim (that everyone should act as though they are the moral authority of the universe) even though you only presented Kant's first two maxims? This is exactly what you've done. I presented the first two Maxim's of utilitarianism (the ends justify the means, and the greatest good for the greatest number), and instead of addressing either of those you take out of context and mock the third utilitarian maxim, pleasure. As you'll see in the next section, I do not ignore Kant's maxims.

Before moving into rebuttal, I'd like to shed more light on what the maxims mean. It was helpful of the opposition to provide them, but layman terms are in order.

When the opposition keeps saying 'consistently will', think 'if everybody did it all the time'. For example, if you follow Kant and are deciding whether or not to dump your trash on the side walk instead of taking it to the dumpster, you would ask yourself "would I like to live in a world where everyone dumped their trash on the side walk all the time?". If your answer is no, then you should not dump your trash on the side walk. This is not a source of contention between Kant's philosophy and utilitarianism, the core philosophy of which centers on the big picture.

Kant believed that every man is an end and not a means. This is the core of where Kant and utilitarianism differ. This is what we should be debating. I say the end justifies the means. The opposition, if in line with Kant, should say that because every man is an 'end' we are not allowed to treat them as means. This ignores the big picture. There are some 'ends' that are more important than the 'end' of a few. Achieving the greatest good for the greatest number, means not striving for what is best for a single end or man.

And now for the rebuttals.
The oppositions framework is to set up three scenarios where they believe utilitarianism would fail, and knock them out of the ball park with Kant. Those scenarios are "Drunk Driving", "Medical Dilemma", and "Experience Machine". I will show you how utilitarianism actually works in these scenarios and where Kant's philosophy falls short.

The opposition has stated "In the eyes of the Utilitarian, Jake has done nothing wrong". This is wrong. The opposition has ignored my example of Martha, the Utilitarian who chose not to drink and drive after weighing the options. Jake was wrong to drink and drive. He is a bad influence, and if he were a utilitarian he would stop.

The opposition is correct to say that we "intuitively think that [Jake] has done something wrong". But realize that we also intuitively know that Sally is worse than Jake because of the devastating consequences she caused.

The opposition is contradictory when he agrees Sally is more condemnable. Kantian philosophy believes that moral judgment is contained in the act alone.

You can either believe that Jake and Sally are equally bad and side with the opposition, or you can believe that Sally is worse than Jake (which even the opposition mistakenly agreed) and side with the government.

The opposition's last two examples can be crushed with the same concept, so I've grouped them together. That concept is rule utilitarianism. You see, the opposition has been playing with a simplified version of utilitarianism called 'act utilitarianism'. For complex dilemma's such as mass organ transplants and experience machines, rule utilitarianism comes into play.
Rule utilitarianism takes the greater goal of the individual into account.

If the greater goal of the individual considering getting into the experience machine is to accomplish something in the real world, the would not get into the experience machine. The consequence to their greater goal would be far more devastating that the pleasure the machine could provide.

The greater goal of a doctor is to promote health and not harm others. Even though chopping up one person could save six, this violates the greater goal of the doctor. Such a grievous violation would counter any good saving six lives would have done.
In conclusion, the opposition has not touched my arguments and I have countered each of the opposition's examples. Both on my terms (adaptability, focus, subjective) and the opposition's terms (examples), utilitarianism has come out preferable.
I look forward to the opposition's rebuttal.

I used less words than last time so I'll leave you with a relevant joke by novelist Patrick O'Brian.

"Two weevils crept from the crumbs. 'You see those weevils, Stephen?' said Jack solemnly.
'I do.'
'Which would you choose?'
'There is not a scrap of difference. Arcades ambo. They are the same species of curculio, and there is nothing to choose between them.'
'But suppose you had to choose?'
'Then I should choose the right-hand weevil; it has a perceptible advantage in both length and breadth.'
'There I have you,' cried Jack. 'You are bit - you are completely dished. Don't you know that in the Navy you must always choose the lesser of two weevils? Oh ha, ha, ha, ha!' "

Yeah, we aren't supposed to use sources, but the above isn't evidence, it is merely humorous and I'm feeling jovial. If you can't stand sources in parliamentary that much just ignore the above quote and my argument is just as sound.
Debate Round No. 3


Once again, thanks to the opponent for agreeing to this debate. For any number of people the sheer number of rules that I laid out so that I could replicate the parliamentary debate style would be off putting, so I appreciate that the Government has taken the time provide what has turned out to be an excellent round of debate.

The debate between deontology and teleology (Utilitarianism) is one that has been going on for centuries amongst philosophers, and here in this round we can see a number of the greatest arguemnts for and against both sides being brought up in this debate round.

As this is my final speech, I am going to go about quickly dismantling the Government’s arguments before summing up the arguments that have bene made in this debate and provide succinct reasoning as to why you must not prefer utilitarianism.

First, I would like to present one final new argument as to why we must vote down utilitarianism: it seems good from a third party omniscient point of view, but in the moment, utilitarianism provides no moral weight. There is a certain beauty to being able to look at issues from a philosopher’s point of view. We know what is going to happen with each action, and therefore it is easy to defend a view like utilitarianism. However, in the real world, that is something that just does not happen. When we are stuck in a moral conundrum in the real world, we do not know what is going to happen such that we can easily make the best decision. In fact, because Utilitarianism is entirely based off the idea of what happens at the terminus of decision making Utilitarianism can provide us with no moral judgment at the onset of an action and provides with only ex post facto morality.

Looking over the style of DDO, it seems that the members prefer a very direct refutation of the ideas presented in speeches. That direct argumentation was missing in my last speech, so I will provide that quickly here.

On the argument that Utilitarianism is more flexible that deontology, we can see that the government is wildly twisting the rules of utilitarianism for his own defense. The government says that Kant does not believe that there are any moral grey areas. However, this is not really a critique of deontology. Utilitarianism does not provide for any sort of moral grey area either. For both theories of ethics, there are certain things that are worse to do than others, but in neither of these theories of ethics are there the sort of *meh* conclusions that we would see with virtue ethics or other theories.

On the argument that Kant’s view of lying. This is something that is often misconstrued. Here, the Government would have you believe that a man should tell the truth when asked where the location of a murder plot is. However, let us apply the test of the Categorical Imperative to this idea? Can you consistently will that in every case someone tells the truth that leads to the harm of another? What if the person who will be harmed is you or someone you care about? We cannot consistently will this maxim and therefore the Categorical Imperative does not confirm that it is a moral thing to tell the truth in that situation. Again, this is another easy twist of deontological views.

Finally, on the argument that every culture is allowed their own weighing of goods and evils and consequences. The Government paints this as a strength when it fact it is a damning weakness. These are the kinds of “ethics” that allow cultures to rationalize genocide. These are the kinds of ethics that allowed Hitler to rationalize the holocaust. When we allow cultures to relatively place value based on their own ideals, we open ourselves up to all sorts of moral atrocities that are, once again, intuitively incorrect. For this reason alone, if this is the type of Utilitarianism that my opponent wishes to uphold, by all means we must negate the resolution.

Now to the defense of the case.

The Government would like you to believe that the example that he offers of the -10 to 10 scale is one that is simplistic in nature and only designed to provide a quick example as to how the ideas of Utilitarianism would work. And the Government wants you to believe that the attacks that I presented upon this idea are simply a straw man. However, this reaction of the Government’s illustrates exactly why he does not want you to think that this is true. However, regardless of the number at the extremes of the scale, in some way and in some form, if there is a large enough group of people even slightly aided, pleasured, helped, or benefitted from a massive loss of one person (e.g. death), then Utilitarianism justifies that pain because in the end there was a greater utility produced. This line of argumentation, though it was not presented as an argument but rather as an explanation by the opposition, is all the more reason that it is important. If we find that there is a moral repugnance in the idea that a large amount of minimal pleasure can be used to justify a murder, we must negate.

Let us delve further into the three cases that have been presented. My opponent argues that these examples are exactly the reason that we must side with utilitarianism. However, let us examine this more closely.

In the case of Jake and Sally, it seems clear that there is some muddying of the facts. The Government does the duty of providing us with the example of Martha. The utilitarian who decides not to drink and drive. First of all, good for her. This, however, does not do the work that the Government wants it to. In the world of utility, the Government argues that Jake is indeed condemnable because he “sets a bad example.” This is playing right into the hands of the deontologist. There is no way in which the “setting of a bad example” is a consequence. There is no one to observe Jake’s action of drinking and driving. The only manner in which Jake is a bad example is in some broad existential sense. Let us examine this case in the eyes of the Utilitarian because perhaps I was wrong before. The Utilitarian may reach a different conclusion that I said before. What happens when Jake drives home drunk? He kills no body. Gets into no accidents. He gets home. The only thing there is a positive. Jake is now home. That is the only consequence of his driving home drunk. So, in the end, not only is Jake not condemnable for his actions, he is morally praiseworthy because he created greater utility by driving home drunk. So, unless, in some grander existential or DUTY-based sense (deontologically), it seems that the utilitarian should have nothing to say about what Jake does. And in arguing for this idea that Jake is a bad role model, the Government is playing right into the hands of Kant.

The next argument that my opponent presents is, perhaps, the strongest argument that could have been presented in my favor. The opponent argues from a stance that there is a greater goal of the human being in the case of the “experience machine” and in the case of the “medical dilemma.” Now, the Government team calls these a “greater goal” because he does not wish to call them exactly what they are: duties and rights. These are the things that deontology is based off of. So, in arguing for this idea of what the government calls “rule utilitarianism,” the Government muddies the idea and argues for deontology. At this point, where the government is advocating for deontology, it seems that there is no other choice but than to negate.

Let us sum up this debate. There are a few key arguments—all of which the Opposition is winning---that lead you to conclude that we must negate the resolution and say that this house does not prefer utilitarianism.

1) Look to the examples of the “medical dilemma” and the “experience machine.” In attempting to argue for “rule utilitarianism,” the Government directly appeals to the ideas of deontology to pursue the point of utilitarianism. At the point where the Government is defaulting to deontology to explain the crazy world of utilitarianism, you must negate.

2) Look to the cultural relativism argument coming out of the Government’s last speech. These are the ethics that are used to justify moral atrocities because they are simply in line with the culture’s ethics. When we look at the impacts within the round, you must vote down any ethical theory that can be used to justify murder on a mass scale because of culturally relative ethics.

3) Look to the argument that the Government would have you believe to be a straw man. At the point where an ethical theory can be used to justify murder, even on a simplified scale, we must negate.

To conclude my real portion of argumentation, I would simply ask you, the judges, to weigh the arguments that we have presented and the points of order that will be brought up in the comments section. Please do not allow the Government team to bring up new arguments.

Remember that we are arguing the following resolution:

Resolved: This house prefers Utilitarianism.

My opponent has defined this house as you the judges. Do you wish to support an ethical theory that would have you jump in an experience machine or could justify murder or even genocide? Would you vote for an ethical theory that claims that the only good and evil in this world are pleasure and pain?

It seems to me that it is a universal acknowledgement that masturbation all the time is a good way to lead a moral life. However, when we reduce morality to pleasure and pain, what is there left to conclude.

Thank you all for reading. Don’t forget to read Points of Order. Vote Opposition!

A quotation from one of my favorite philosophers: (of course as a joke, not to be taken as evidence).

The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

--Bertrand Russell



If you've made it to this point, you've done some major scrolling to get here. I would like to thank you on behalf of both the government and the opposition for taking the time to read through our debate.


Opp claims Kant is okay with lying in certain situations because of 'consistently will'. Kant is never okay with lying. Kant believed every man to be his own moral agent. The opp's attempt to refute Kant's belief with a different deontology maxim is just more evidence of how fallible deontology is.

Opp claims setting a bad example is not a consequence. I disagree. Jake may have just created more drunk drivers. Jake's friends and neighbors who see him drunk drive will think less of him. There are negative consequences for Jake.


I. Flexibility

Despite what the opp claims, they too see that utilitarianism is flexible. They often complained how utilitarianism in its extreme could be used to justify murder. Allowing questionable means to achieve a greater end is flexibility. Utilitarianism is preferable because it is flexible.

II. Focused

Lack of opp rebuttal on this point gives it to the government. Utilitarianism is preferable because it is focused.

III. Cultural Relativity

Opp claims this is a horrible thing, but it isn't. Cultural relativity on the whole prevents the world from becoming uniform and fallible in that uniformity. There is no one correct morality. Utilitarianism is preferable because it is adaptable to different value systems.

A. Jake and Sally

Sally is a drunk driver that killed someone. Jake is a drunk driver that has yet to kill anyone. Deontology would blame Sally and Jake equally. Utilitarianism blames Sally more than Jake. If you believe killing someone is worse than not killing someone, you prefer utilitarianism.

B. “Rule Utilitarianism”

Opp's “experience machine” and “medical dilemma” examples were easily dismissed by rule utilitarianism. Opp claims overlap. I claim – so what? Opp gave extreme examples meant to crush utilitarianism, only to discover them easily brushed off. Utilitarianism is preferable because even these unrealistic examples did it no damage.

C. “Big Picture is too Hard”

Opp's new argument is that it would be too hard for people to think about the big picture and that they need an 'in the moment' philosophy like deontology. Fine. If you are so small minded that you cannot imagine the consequences, if you are so selfish that you believe you are just your own moral agent, then give in to deontology. Utilitarianism is preferable because it cares about the big picture.

If you care about the greater good, if you believe that there are circumstances where killing is justified, then you prefer utilitarianism. If you would never lie no matter the circumstance, if you believe all killing is wrong, then you prefer deontology.

As you can see, utilitarianism is preferable. Vote PRO!

Check comments for Points of Order.

Another debate, Manastacious?

Debate Round No. 4
21 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Manastacious 2 years ago
That irritates me. Sigh.
Posted by Ambassador95 2 years ago
Manastracious: I would first say that your use of language was very enjoyable and easy to read. There were but a few small, particular errors either in sentence structure or punctuation. I didn't read through the whole debate again and so I may not have an exhaustive list, but most notably, I would draw attention to Round Three when you wrote, "It is clear that there is less suffering if you kill the one many to have six others live."

There was one capitalization and one punctuation error that I saw as well. Referring to the following: "IN the end, the utilitarian takes into account..." (unnecessary capitalization of the letter "N"), "These are the reasons that we must, on face reject Utilitarianism." (failure to enclose the parenthetical phrase within commas [i.e. "...we must, on face, reject..."]).

One other aspect, although minor, influenced my decision: awkward modifiers. This, I suppose, could be a personal preference, but I find that it detracted ever so slightly from the rhetorical effect of your speech. For example, when you said "Despite the fact that he has options to safely get home," it seems that, in order to create a more appealing sentence, it should have read "Despite the fact that he has options to get home safely," This would be the same for when you said "When we allow cultures to relatively place value based on their own ideals," it seems that it should read "When we allow cultures to place [or create?] relative value based on their own ideals,"

Like I said before, this is all very minor. But the bar was set so high, that even a small misstep tipped the scales. It must not go left unsaid however, that I thoroughly enjoyed reading many of your sentences. One of which I quoted here: "So, unless, in some grander existential or DUTY-based sense (deontologically), it seems that the utilitarian should have nothing to say about what Jake does."

Thanks again for the effort you put into this debate (both of you).
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
Off the top of my head I recall typos such as 'bene' instead of been, and I believe at some point you misspelled argument with an extra e.
Posted by Manastacious 2 years ago
Ambassador95: I would just like to know what S/G errors you found in my content. I am perfectly fine with you awarding the points as you wish, but I would just like to be aware as I pride myself on my grammar, etc.
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
Hmm. I get where you're coming from. Though I was trying to compare what deontology would do compared to teleology. Not what you said deontology would do.

Well, I'm no expert on where the line is with Points of Order so I'll let the voters decide how much weight to give all this.
Posted by Manastacious 2 years ago
There is only one slight Point of Order (which is questionably defined as a point of order depending on the rule of parliamentary procedures that you follow).

I would like to raise a Point of Personal Privilege against the Government side.

The point alleges that the Government grossly mis-stated the Opposition's case in a manner that could bias the debate if left untouched.

"Deontology would blame Sally and Jake equally. " This is a quotation from the last rebuttal presented by the Government side. The opposition argues in the first constructive speech that Sally is more morally reprehensible than is Jake, but that Jake maintains some modicum of guilt in the endeavour.

I decline to present any other points. Good luck to For Serious.
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
Loved your use of *meh*. Made it a more pleasant read through.
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
I was implying the negative consequence Jake creates is by being a negative role model. Sure it isn't as bad as the negative consequences created by Sally, but there are still negative consequences.
Posted by derspence 2 years ago
I would disagree with the 'Pro' side arguing for 'Utilitarianism.' Its limited to results or consequences of action/inaction. If bad behavior did not have a negative result, under utilitarianism we would still call it moral. It also lacks foresight, as you have to wait until such action has occurred and can measure consequences in order to determine if such action was moral. You can't say the drunk driver who didn't cause harm was immoral under Utilitarianism.
Posted by ForSerious 2 years ago
Phew. Made it under the wire. The planning stage took longer than expected, but the writing out stage happened oddly fast. My fingers danced :)
It's funny how much easier things can get when you are too tired to over think and over revise.
Of course then there is the risk of becoming so tired you can't think at all - but I think I hit the sweet spot. We'll see when I reread in the morning :)

I look forward to your rebuttal.

Really enjoying the quick return of a 24-hr timer, despite the risk of forfeiture.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ambassador95 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:32 
Reasons for voting decision: First off, this was by FAR the best debate I have read on DDO thus far! despite the length, it was so very enjoyable... I wish all the debates were conducted in like manner. The Government had exceptional use of grammar and rhetoric, where Manastacious also displayed skill in this area, even the few shortcomings were enough to award ForSerious the points. It was hard to decide if Conduct should be left as a tie or awarded to the Government, but after looking at the big picture (you see what I did there?), the Government, perhaps only in virtue of more opportunity, is awarded with Conduct as well. This is primarily because of his understanding regarding Manastacious' inability to present an argument in the second round. Manastacious, in my view, presented arguments which showed the inadequacy of a world governed by utility. I found his medical and machine example especially persuasive, feeling that the Government could not bolster his case so as to defend Utilitarianism. Well done all.