Resolved: When given the chance, we should emulate the choice of Achilles
Resolved: When given the chance, we should emulate the choice of Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was given a prophecy that presented him with the choice to control his destiny:
He could either live a quiet, long, and happy life to die peacfully in his bed or he could live a life of great deeds but die young and be remembered for millenia.
Achilles famously chose a life of glory. The prophecy was fulfilled when Achilles was slain in his prime at the battle of Troy.
This debate is not specifically about Achilles, but about whether Achilles' choice should be taken as paradigmatic for humanity.
I will be defending Achilles' decision to live a life of fame and glory, Con will be defending the decision to live a happy life of anonymity.
Note that this is a rapid fire debate with a half hour round limit.
1. First Round is Acceptance Only. I will make the first argument in R2.
2. Any citations must be provided in the text of the debate.
3. No trolling or trivial semantics. The Resolution is intentionally poetic, arguments should be in the spirit of the Resolution. Legitimate semantic disputes should be resolved in the body of the debate for the judges to weigh.
4. BOP is shared
5. No new arguments in the final round.
6. Violation of R1 terms constitutes a loss.
This debate is open to anyone who wants it. I will pull it down in two hours or so if no one accepts so get while the gettin's good.
"It's better to burn out than to fade away"
- Neil Young
1) Not everyone must make the choice
We must recognize that few people will ever face the dilemma posed to Achilles. Most people will face a life of anonymity whether they like it or not. When we evaluate the Resolution, we must acknowledge that a destiny of glory necessarily selects only those most fit for such a life.
The Resolution does not ask if we all must forego a peaceful life, but whether those who face the dilemma of the Resolution must.
2) The Life of Glory inspires humanity to sustainable greatness.
The tale of Achilles is a model for how a life of glory reaches far beyond the life of one man and echoes through history, inspiring all oh mankind's progeny to greatness. Achilles is the archetypal warrior, a paradigm of bravery and skill that has inspired thousands of soldiers over the course of time. One example of this is Alexander the Great, who was famous for his admiration of Achilles. Alexander conquered the known world, building up great cities such as Alexandria and spreading the cultures of Greece and Egypt across the mediterranean and Middle East. Much of Western society is indebted to the influence of Alexander, and in turn to the myth of Achilles.
In turn, Alexander exemplifies the choice of Achilles. Alexander sunk his life into his military venture, abandoning the possibility of a contented life as a Macedonian king. Alexander himself died young in his mid-thirties, but achieved the long-lasting greatness of Achilles.
Alexander in turn became an inspiration to the great Caesar. Caesar is said to have wept when he realized that Caesar was the same age as Alexander was when he had conquered the known world. Alexander was a model for Caesar when the great Roman put his own life on the line in a highrisk campaign against Pompey. Caesar eventually became victorious and laid the foundations for the Roman empire, yet another cornerstone of Western Civilization.
3) Refusal of a life of Glory is Cowardice, with a high cost to our peers
Achilles' choice often comes at times when we are asked to sacrifice ourselves for those around us. We think of the soldier who makes a courageous run through the line of fire to save his brothers in arms, who is successful but dies as a result. He is reward with the highest honors of his country and the gratitude of the men he saved, their family, and the descendents of their family.
Should that same man choose not to sacrifice his own life for those of his peers, we would call him a coward. Glory is earned through great achievements at great personal sacrifice and require bravery and honor. To shirk the duties bound up with the pursuit of glory can only be called cowardice. It is to be disdained and reviled.
4) Pleasure is of lower value than the virtues of Achilles
A long happy life may appear at first glance to preferable, for isn't a life of peace and pleasure better than one of strife and hardship? But consider the greatest achievements of humanity- the Eiffel Tower, the moon landing, the Mona Lisa. These are not the products of long and peaceful lives. These are the products of men willing to take risks, to work hard and forego serenity and base pleasure for the greater joys aesthetic beauty and human achievement.
A truly good life is not one of longevity and peace, it is one of self-respect and human achievement. A good life is one that exemplifies the best aspects of humanity, and the best aspects of humanity are bravery, accomplishment, and ambition. These are the traits Achilles chose to embody. The life of peace and anonymity abandons the burden of greatness because it is difficult, because it asks too much. Achilles was not afraid of the burden of being a man- he chose to exemlify what it means to accept the burden of living a good life. Both Achilles and humanity are better for his decision.
The manner in which it is phrased implies that the choice is given to an individual without regard to whether other people have that choice or not. Alternatively, it could be interpreted as every living person having that choice since technically, everyone does although there may be practical obstacles to both choices. My opponent loses the debate right in the first round when he assumes that the majority of people will lead long and happy lives because he is implying that a status quo of most people living long lives and a select few achieving great things is preferable.
When humans die, they cannot think, feel, or do anything. Their consciousness ceases to exist. They cannot feel happiness, content, regret or any such emotion. As such, our main goal must be to achieve happiness in our life rather than hope that we will be remembered as legends. The entirety of Con's argument is based on forgoing individual happiness for the benefit of descendants. We have nothing to gain from people remembering and being inspired by us. Alexander's conquests were of no benefit to Achilles. Achilles could perhaps have chosen to live a long and happy life with the drawback being that no one remembers his name. But this is irrelevant to him as he is dead, cannot think and feel and obviously has no clue whether people revere him. What has Achilles gained from Alexander and Caesar?
I disagree that a refusal to live a life of glory is cowardice as that would imply that the vast majority of humans are cowards. While Pro may argue that they have no choice, that isn't true as anyone that has the will can find a way to make a mark in the world.
The values that my opponent provides for what constitutes a good life also provide no benefit to the individual in question. What good is being brave and dying on the battlefield to protect your comrades when you are just as dead as if you died of a drug overdose. All the respect that you get is rendered worthless by the fact that you aren't there to enjoy it.
The positions elucidated by Pro and Con represent a choice of value.
The position articulate by Con claims that the good can be identified with personal happiness and this is what should guide our decisions.
But if the good is personal happiness, we must acknowledge that the happiness of all individuals is of value, indeed of equal value to the happiness of any other individual. For all men experience the same feelings of happiness, we have no way to differentiate the value of one man’s happiness over another. In this way we see that valuing happiness leads us to the conclusion that we must act in a way that maximizes the happiness of all men.
Given Con’s framework of value, Achilles’ choice should still be taken as paradigmatic. My R1 2) and 3) both show how the pursuit of glory at personal expense is necessary for the happiness of man-kind.
My 2) shows that the pursuit of glory by great leaders at their own personal expense is needed for the growth of civilization and the sustenance of society. Without this sacrifice society would collapse in times of crisis.
My 2) also shows that the pursuit of glory increase happiness because it is aspirational. It motivates individuals to personal sacrifice for the betterment of those around them. The pursuit of glory inspires those around us to work harder and achieve more, building a more successful and happy society.
My 3) shows that refusal of glory comes at a cost to those around us. Achilles was a great military leader, and his men were better for his leadership. When we refuse the path of glory and fame, we refuse to shoulder the burdens that those around us need us to carry. Cowardice harms those around us.
The value I have defended is that of the human ideal. The good is that which exemplifies the uniqueness and greatness of humanity. We are good when we are brave, when we use our unique intelligence to perform great tasks, when we respect the value of our fellow men by recognizing our societal obligations.
If my standard of value is superior to Con’s, I have won this debate. Con’s case prioritizes individual happiness over all other values, fore-saking values like honor and bravery. My values could never endorse foresaking glory and its assciated values.
My value is superior for several reasons:
The Resolution clearly states “when given the chance…” demonstrating that Achilles choice is not universally available but instead is dependent on opportunity. It is absurd to say that all people will make this choice, as many people die during childhood or before they could ever have a chance to achieve anything of glory. As I argued in R1, Achilles’ choice is presented to few people, and those are the people who must choose glory.
My opponent claims I have already lose this debate by “implying that a status quo of most people living long lives and a select few achieving great things is preferable.”
This is incorrect for two reasons.
First, my argument is only pointing out that not everyone must make Achilles choice, not that long and happy lives are generally preferable. We need not consider a case in which EVERYONE choose glory because this case is not possible.
Second, I do not deny the value of happiness or longevity, I argue that it is a value which must be weighed against an array of competing human values. My conclusion is that the values associated with fame and glory outweigh those of longevity. There is no contradiction in my argument and the claim that most people living happy lives is preferable.
Con points out that when we die, we lose all sense of awareness and so cannot personally benefit from our acts of glory.
First, simply being alive has no intrinsic value. A life of perpetual torture or a life used to act cruelly, to rape and murder, is not valuable. The content of the life is what gives life value. Con must account for what value there is to living, and he seems to say this is the pursuit of happiness. Here we can cross apply my arguments that pursuit of glory is needed for perpetuation of happiness. Also cross apply that we should value all aspects of human value, including honor and greatness, not just happiness.
Second, Achilles’ choice does not condemn one to a life of misery- only a brief life. Achilles and Alexander achieved fame and power in their life time, but at the cost of longevity and only through great strife and trial. It is false to say Achilles received no benefit from his decision.
Third, to live focused only on personal gain is base and not worth living. A heroin addict thinks only of his own pleasure when he robs and steals to get his next fix. A rapist thinks only of himself when he uses other people to gratify shi sexual desires. Such a life is morally reprehensible. Even if Con claims happiness is all we should value, he must acknowledge that the happiness of those around us has value as well. Achilles’ choice best represents consideration for his own happiness and the happiness of others.
Fourth, Con’s argument proves my R1 3) - Con would have the soldier flee from battle and let his brothers die, since bravery and duty are of no benefit to the individual soldier. This demonstrates that Con’s position is incompatible with my values of the human ideal; Con endorses cowardice when it is personally expedient.
Finally, Achilles received the benefit of having lived a good life- a life exemplifying the virtues of humanity. This benefit is far greater than the basic pleasures of an anonymous and peaceful life.Con says most people are cowards for not achieving glory, I disagree:
Most people do not refuse to live a life of glory, they are never given the chance to lead such a life. This is not cowardice.I would argue it is cowardice if you are failing to live up to your potential, but that is irrelevant to this debate.
F-16_Fighting_Falcon forfeited this round.
Please see the comments for Con's previous argument. I let him post there due to the technical difficulty of managing a 30 minute round.
I am winning this debate in several different ways. Each of these are independent reasons to vote Pro.
First, I have proven that human decisions should account for a wide range of values, including happiness, honor, and courage. This best accounts for the wide range of moral situations humans are subject to and our diverse moral language. My approach of evaluating the human ideal accounts for our valuation of happiness, while Con’s approach ignores broad swathes of value in human life.
Foregoing glory is incommensurate with this value system because it prioritizes happiness over all other values. It is an act of cowardice, it fails to accord courage its proper value. Foregoing glory is also foregoing the achievement that makes humanity great and undermines humanity’s legacy of achievement by depriving us of models of greatness. Achilles could never choose his own happiness over the legacy of greatness that runs from himself through Alexander through Caesar and persists to this very day.
In choosing glory, Achilles does not devalue happiness- he recognizes the value of the happiness he received in his short life- he recognizes that value is diverse and multifaceted. In refusing glory, Achilles turns his back on all but his own happiness.
Second, I have shown that Con’s values are in fact reprehensible. Con advocates that individuals seek only their own individual happiness without regard for the well being of others. This makes a vote for Con a vote for rapists, murderers, traitors, and thieves. Such a world is not only appalling but unsustainable. As I argued in R3, society would not be possible if we did not foresake our own happiness for the well being of others. Con’s position is unsustainable and so should be absolutely rejected.
Third, even if we do value only our own happiness, I have shown that our own happiness depends on the collective efforts of humanity. We all benefit from the efforts of Alexander the Great, from greek philosophers and Roman statesmen. Our individual happiness requires that others make sacrifices in pursuit of great achievements. Because the collective pursuit of glory is a precondition for individual happiness, valuation of individual happiness requires us to be willing to make sacrifices for the pursuit of glory.
Fourth, if the judges graciously interpret Con’s position to be that the maximization of happiness in general is the only thing of value, I have shown that the best way to maximize happiness is through the pursuit of glory.
Con misconstrues my moral framework, so let me clarify:
First, I deny that happiness is the ONLY moral value. Morality is rooted in the uniqueness and greatness of humanity. We can look to what we value about humanity in general to determine what our moral values are. Happiness is one thing we value, but it must be weighed against other values such as courage and honor and beauty.
Second, I argue that valuation of one individual’s happiness logically entails valuation of all individual’s happiness. I acknowledge that we have a unique responsibility for our own happiness, but this is not what gives our happiness its value. We don’t say “I value my happiness because it is mine,” instead we value it for the intrinsic sense of well being it affords us. But all men and women feel the same intrinsic value of happiness. The justification for the value of happiness is not the subject, but the thing itself.
If Con claims the only thing that makes my happiness valuable is that fact that it is mine, then he must explain why absolutely anything that is mine- suffering, fear, courage, etc. are equally valuable to happiness. This leads down a rabbit hole we no longer have time for in this debate, I have no chance to pursue this inquiry so the judges should consider this a flaw in Con’s justification.
Third, I do value the global perspective of humanity insofar as each individual in the past, present, and future embodies the human ideal. They all are morally relevant to our decisions.
I concede that the uncertainty of our future should factor into our decisions, but we can say with a substantial amount of certainty that humanity will be around for millenia to come. Con has offered no substantial argument that we won’t, so we should look to our longevity of our species history as evidence of a long future to come.
The scale of the universe does not devalue humanity. First, this argument applies equally to individual happiness- if an infinite universe devalues glory it also devalues happiness. Second, humanity has value as long as men are around to value it. As long as humanity survives, it will exemplify greatness.
I concede that it is not ALWAYS necessary to “die in a blaze of glory” but it is undoubtedly true that it SOMETIMES is. Moreover, the broad question of the Resolution is only which we should choose when posed the alternative of glory over longevity- as I stated in my opening argument, some people won’t have to make this choice. We are arguing about those who do.
Pro only now questions the value of Alexander’s achievements, we don’t have time to debate that at this point. I claim that the millions who benefitted from the spread of Greek philosophy, the establishment of cities and commerce and transportation hubs outweigh the blood spilled in his campaign. Anyways ancient war was common, if it wasn’t Alexander it would have been some local warlord doing the killing.
Con claims glory is an illusion, but I have shown that glory has a huge influence on the course of humanity. Achilles’ glory shaped events millenia after his death. Moreover the glory accompanies glorious action, and glorious action such as a soldier saving his brothers in arms has massive benefit. Glory is the reflection of the worth of an action, it is not illusory.
Con claims an artist who is only discovered after his death has wasted his life. I would say that millions of people disagree with Con - people admire and study Picasso and similar artists. We would have no difficulty saying “someone with a wasted life might as well not have been born” but we would never say this of Picasso or a similar artist.
Con concedes that duty and honor tie into happiness- he thus concedes that pursuit of glory is the best way to propogate happiness. The pursuit of glory creates and maximizes more happiness, thus when given the choice we should pursue glory rather than prioritize our own longevity.
Con concedes that life alone has no value and says it is happiness that gives life value. This means that longevity alone has no inherent value and this debate is just a question of the supremacy of happiness to a pluralistic value system. I maintain that I better account for all the factors that make life valuable.
Thanks Raisor for letting me post arguments in the comments section:
I've outlined my ROUND 3 here for easy reading.
Framework for resolution
Pro views personal happiness from the point of view of humanity as a whole and so claims that one man's personal happiness is equal to another. My argument is that personal happiness ought to be measured from the point of view
of the person in question. This is because although from a bird's eye view, everyone's happiness is of equal moral value, from a personal standpoint, an individual rightfully cares more about their own happiness than that of others. We live in our own body and have our own consciousness, out own memories, thoughts and feelings which take precedence over those of an external entity, in this case other human beings.
No one should care about society in the far future
The potential collapse of society sometime in the future is irrelevant to our personal happiness. Society will eventually collapse whether it is through the sun's death, through a Big Crunch (inverse of the Big Bang), Heat death of the universe, evolution and extinction of humans as we know them now or a myraid of other scenarios. It is not important to sacrifice our personal happiness in the hope that some humans, a few decades or centuries from now may find inspiration to build a tower, conquer the world, or remember us as legends.
Dying in a blaze of glory is unnecessary
Besides, there are a multitude of ways to benefit society than to live a short and difficult life. Albert Einstein
lived long, and through his long and illustrious life, formulated the theory of relativity, created a model for wormholes
and refined Newton's equations of motion as we understand them. In fact, his long life enabled him to provide more
achievements for humanity. Contrast that with Alexander who brought war to multiple countries in Eurasia,
unnecessary, gory deaths, famine, and life threatening injuries to the people involved. There is no need to die in a
blaze of glory for humanity to benefit so my opponent's entire argument is built on a premise that is not a pre-requisite
for the benefits that he claims it has.
Personal happiness trumps glory as it can be experienced. Glory is an illusion. When a person sacrifices themselves in
the hopes of inspiring future humans and be known as a legend, it is an empty reward. They will not know what it feels
like to be a legend. No matter how they die, they are just as dead. Personal happiness is real, and tangible. An artist
who creates great works and only achieves fame after his death has wasted their life. Pro tries to differentiate duty
and honor from happiness without realizing that towards the end, they all tie back into happiness. People must do their
duty as long as they can feel happy and content as a result. They shouldn't do it in a misguided attempt to achieve glory
Value of Life
I agree that a life of torture has little value. But we are arguing specifically for a long and happy life. Life
in conjuction with happiness has high moral value.
And NOW, onto Round 4:
The resolution asks us to differentiate between a "quiet, long, and happy" life and a short life of fame and glory. Pro's rebuttal to my position with the drug addict and rapist examples don't fit within what I advocate because I don't advocate active harm to other individuals. Happiness must not come at the expense of others. My notion of happiness is one that fits squarely into the images conjured by the resolution - a quite, happy life, not a life of a drug addict. My position is that happiness in life is preferable to respect and reverence in death.
Whether forgoing glory is an act of cowardice or not should be irrelevant because posthumous glory has no value that can be cashed in. Pro claims that it is actions that have value and result in glory. But those actions in no way benefit the individual in question because the result has no value to them.
Pro continues to argue that others have to make sacrifices of longevity in the pursuit of greatness yet does not refute my Einstein example. This is a key reason I win the debate regardless of whether you agree with Pro's value system or mine. Longetivity need not be sacrificed to achieve the glory and benefits to humanity that is the cornerstone of Pro's argument. So, even if Pro wins that glory has value, my Einstein example shows that dying in a blaze of glory is useless.
The pursuit of glory does not result in any form of happiness that we are familiar with. Why would anyone be happy that what they are doing will cause them to be remembered as a legend when in fact, they know that how they are remembered will no way affect their life?
Pro is flat out wrong to say that "all men and women feel the same intrinsic value of happiness" because I may be happy about my own achievements but may not be happy when a colleague beats me to a coveted promotion for instance even though he will be.
Pro concedes that humanity will eventually fade out but offers no argument as to why we must value the welfare of humans a few millenia from now over that of ourselves.
Alexander caused more harm than good. Spread of knowledge (or Greek Philosophy) can happen through less violent means as in my Einstein example. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. Pro advocates for this position. Neither of these are beneficial.
Pro claims that I concede that longevity has no inherent value. That is not within the scope of the debate. We are specifically debating the value of long, HAPPY, PEACEFUL life which I argue has abundant value. A long happy, peaceful life is more valuable than a short, happy peaceful life so Pro claiming that longevity has no value is a red herring. When peae and happiness tie in to longevity, then longevity has value.
To conclude, long, happy lives like Einsteins provide all the benefits that Pro claims are provided by short, blaze of glory lives. Pro never countered this. They also have none of the drawbacks of short lives. They also lead to maximal happiness of the individual. Pro not countering my Einstein example means I win the debate even if he wins that glory has value.
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