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

Spanking children is immoral.

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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: 10/3/2012 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,454 times Debate No: 25960
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (1)




I believe that striking a child or "spanking" is detrimental to the personal growth of the child intellectually and therefore harmful to the child and immoral.

I accept the burden of proof as I can and will prove that spanking is immoral.

Con simply has to negate my arguments or prove themselves that spanking is moral and they should win the debate.

1st round is for acceptance. No arguments please
2nd and 3rd round are for new arguments and rebuttles.
4th round is restating previous arguments, rebuttles, and closing statements.


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to my opponent for accepting this debate.

My first argument is that most children are taught not to lie, cheat, steal, disobey, or hurt people. If a child is spanked because they hit someone else, the child is getting mixed signals from the adult administering the punishment. They are being hurt for hurting someone else. This leads them to believe that as long as they are "right" or have the right intentions, it is okay to hurt someone else. They also believe that physically striking someone is an acceptable method of communicating disappointment. Spanking has been known to lead to increased aggression and domestic violence:

"One important question was the direction of causality: Did aggressive, difficult children get punished or did punishment lead to aggression?

Large prospective studies in the mid- to-late 1990s, controlling for children's antisocial behavior and a host of other possible confounders, showed that physical punishment predicted later antisocial behavior."[1]

My second argument is that spanking has no positive effect:

"An analysis of research conducted since the 1990 adoption of the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child suggests that no studies have found positive consequences of physical punishment, according to Joan Durrant, PhD, of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, and Ron Ensom, MSW, of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa."[1]

My next argument is that studies have linked spanking to mental disorders such as:

" The risk of major depression was 41 percent higher;

The risk of mania was 93 percent higher;

The risk of any mood disorder was 49 percent higher;

The risk of any anxiety disorder was 36 percent higher;

The risk of any alcohol abuse or dependence was 59 percent higher;

The risk of any drug abuse or dependence was 53 percent higher.[2]

My last opening argument is that spanking has been shown in studies to lower a child's intelligence:

"Straus and colleagues measured spanking and IQ level in 806 children aged two to four and 704 children aged five to nine. Four years later, children aged two to four who were spanked had IQ scores on average five points lower than children who were not spanked in the same age group. Similarly, children aged five to nine who were spanked had IQ scores 2.8 points lower than children who were not spanked in the same age group. The researchers also found that the greater the number of times a child was spanked, the slower the development of the child"s mental ability." [3]

Seeing that recent studies can not show any benefit from spanking to the child and that it has the potential to cause them to become more aggressive, less intelligent, and a wide array of social and mental disorders; spanking is detrimental to the personal growth and intellect of children and is therefore immoral.





Pro's argument goes as follows:

P1: Spanking children is detrimental to their development and has no positive effects.
C: Therefore, spanking children is immoral.

I won't argue that Pro's premise is false. I think it's pretty well impossible to forward a legitimate counter-argument to dispute the overwhelming amount of evidence supporting the conclusion that spanking has overall detrimental affects on children. However, this doesn't mean Pro's argument is sound. The conclusion in fact doesn't follow from the premise.

Pro has failed to overcome what is known as the is-ought problem in ethics[1]. The problem refers to the apparent impossibility of concluding how something ought to be from how it simply is. This debate is regarding normativity, or prescriptions on how to act. Pro's argument however focuses entirely on a descriptive account of spanking and its effects. The reason this fails to justify the conclusion is because Pro hasn't inserted or defended an evaluative premise.

For instance, arguing that actions which are detrimental to a child's development are immoral would have allowed the conclusion to follow from the argument. However, we can see that Pro has presupposed it without argument. Until Pro inserts and justifies his presupposed evaluative premise, his argument remains invalid.


[1] (Sec. 4)

Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 2


Okay, since we want to use the least possible effort...

My arguments are valid above. They all prove that spanking has had detrimental affects on children and that spanking has not show the desired effects from the perspective of the parent or the child. I didn't want to make con's arguments for them, but since they don't want to debate the issue, I will.

If something has a negative affect, it should be considered immoral. If something has a positive affect that outweighs any negative affect based on scope or probability is not immoral. Since we can only find negative affects from spanking and we lack any proof of positive affects, we must conclude that spanking is immoral.

What morality can come of spanking if it does not teach the child discipline and self-control? Are not these the implied goals of spanking? Since it is ineffective as I have shown, it is basically just hitting a person in order to satisfy the anger and frustration of the parent. It would stand the test of reason that if one would spank a child to teach them right from wrong, it would not be immoral as it would prevent the child from getting into trouble later in life. This, however, I have shown is not the case and so based upon this new information, spanking is immoral.

I have proved that spanking decreases intelligence, increases aggression and anti-social behavior, and that it can cause mental disorders. I have also shown that it can not be attributed with the previously believed myths of better behavior. Some information would be available to Con to disprove any of these claims if they were false.
Thank you.
Vote pro.


First, I'd like to refute Pro's claim that I am putting in minimal effort for this debate. This is surely not the case. I knew coming into this debate the effects of spanking children and never thought to try to contest or dispute them. It was Pro's presupposed jump from the descriptive nature of spanking to the normative claim of immorality that I was more interested in. Debates dealing with the ethics of specific acts often fail to justify whatever standard they're applying and it was this meta-ethical topic I have interest in debating. And since specified ethical prescriptions are contingent on meta-ethics, Pro is burdened to meta-ethically justify his standard before the application of it can be justified.

Pro has done nothing to bridge the is-ought gap which I brought attention to in the last round. Though he has refashioned the wording of his argument somewhat, the basic premises remain the same. Pro is arguing that since spanking has X effects, it is wrong. However, the whole point I brought last round was that there is no reason to think that X effects are wrong in the normative sense. Pro can call to attention every single outcome, effect, or characteristic of 'spanking' and we would still not have a legitimate meta-ethical evaluative premise concerning what it is exactly makes an action 'good' or 'bad'.

Obviously, based on a hypothetical imperative[1], Pro's case would be legitimate (in a sense). A hypothetical imperative is used to determine future actions based on assumed goals. For instance, if I want a Tv, then I should get a job. Pro's argument is of a similar nature. He argues that if you want your children to become well adjusted, then you shouldn't spank them. But an if-then imperative is wholly different from an is-ought imperative. And the latter is what normative morality is about. The former is contingent on agreed upon goals.

See, in a hypothetical imperative, we can logically deduce the conclusion from the premise. The proposition that you want a Tv has contained within it other propositions as well. For instance, Tv's cost money --> money is scarce --> and getting a job is among the most common ways of getting money. There's a very clear and consistent flow of reasoning here. Hence, no further premise is needed. And yet again, there are major differences with is-ought imperatives. There's nothing contained within the effects of spanking a child that would lead one to logically conclude that spanking is wrong, because we don't have a consistent or justified valuation of what exactly 'wrong' is.

To conclude, Pro's reasoning would be great if a universal goal was assumed (i.e., creating well adjusted people). However, this just isn't the case. When dealing with morality (i.e., a categorical imperative of sorts), we are dealing with a universal prescription of behavior. And as my hypothetical imperative example has shown, prescriptions of behavior can only be logically deduced by an assumed goal. So since creating well adjusted people is not a universally sound ethical goal (although it sounds like common sense, it isn't justified in a logico-philosophical sense), Pro's reasoning by hypothetical imperative fails.


Debate Round No. 3


I say Con is being lazy because instead of implying the goals of my argument for me, that everyone has by the way, they insist I state that it is bad to hurt children and try to invalidate my entire argument on that nomenclature alone.

Based upon the information in my first argument and the reducing of their terms in the second, I would like to propose that for the sake of this argument, a universal responsibility (not goal) to all parents raising children is to take care of them until they are able to take care of themselves by law and not neglect or abuse them. I think my arguments previously stated show that spanking is abusive mentally and physically. Therefore, it is immoral for parents to not feed their children since it is their implied and self-assumed responsibility to do so. Neglecting or abusing children is immoral. Spanking is abuse. Spanking is immoral.

Not everyone who wants to have a debate regarding is-ought and normative crap. It may be the right way to do things, but good luck getting past the first round with most people. Your bourgeois civility is a disgusting waste of time.
Vote Pro.


I apologize if Pro doesn't want to justify his meta-standard and that it irritates him that I push for some sort of justification on this point. However, the fact remains that when trying to justify normative claims, ultimate grounding is necessary. We're having a debate, therefore unjustified presuppositions must be viewed as just that. And just because Pro doesn't want to debate this "crap" (his wording) doesn't mean that anyone besides him has to presuppose his argumentatively unjustified standard.

Universal Goals.

The burden shown by the is-ought problem is a goal which is universally acknowledge and presupposed unconditionally, a categorically prescriptive imperative as opposed to one which someone holds practically in an effort to reach a stated goal. Pro seeks to show that one exists by way of "universal responsibility" on the part of the parent(s). No argument is ever forwarded by my opponent, merely a statement of what he takes that responsibility to be. He states that the responsibility "is to take care of them until they are able to take care of themselves by law and not neglect or abuse them." Nothing further is ever provided.

Pro simply makes his claim as to supposed responsibility and goes on to apply that standard to the case of spanking. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding. The point of my normative criticism was not to argue that Pro needs to state outright his premise, though that was included. It's a necessary though not sufficient condition on Pro's part. It's not enough. Pro has to show why it is actually justified as a meta-ethical standard. Why do parents have this responsibility? Why should anyone accept this standard? Pro offers no reason, simply a description of the standard itself.


Pro has offered literally no reason for anyone to accept his standard of moral criticism. While I agree that his position is a re-statement of what many to take as common sense morality (and while I can't help but agree with him on a personal level), in a debate, presuppositions don't count as justification. And since Pro never responded to this in a constructive way (he merely called my asking for justification "a disgusting waste" of his time), his argument falls completely flat. Sorry for my "bourgeois civility". Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by philochristos 5 years ago
I'm not using epistemic nihilism as a reductio. I'm not claiming that you CAN'T ground knowledge in first principles. I'm claiming that it's unreasonable to EXPECT somebody to in every debate.
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
you can't really use epistemic nihilism as a reductio since it isn't clear that it's flawed.
Posted by philochristos 5 years ago
If somebody initiates a debate on the subject of whether it's immoral to spank children, they should not have to prove the existence of morality any more than they should have to prove the existence of children or the laws of logic. If somebody wants to dispute the existence of morality, they should do that in a debate over the existence of morality.
Posted by philochristos 5 years ago
I don't think I agree with sociopinko that before a person can make a sound argument for a moral conclusion that he must first ground morality. Daniel did give the moral premise from which he drew his moral conclusion. He said parents have a moral obligation to give the best care for their children. This argument goes like this:

1. Parents have a moral obligation to give the best care to their children.
2. Spanking is detrimental to the care of children.
3. Therefore, it's immoral for parents to spank their children.

Now, social pinko may claim that daniel hasn't proved his first premise. But suppose he gave another argument with a more basic moral premise to arrive at the conclusion that parents should give the best care to their children. socialpinko could then require proof for THAT moral premise. And he could keep doing that until daniel ended the infinite regress by finding a way to ground morality or he could concede defeat.

Think about that, though. Essentially, sociopinko is saying that you can't use a premise in an argument unless you can defend it from first principles or a-priori knowledge. But that is an unreasonable request. By this reasoning, sociopinko could've just as easily disputed Daniel's claim that spanking harms children. Every time he gives a reason for why we should believe spanking children harms them, socialpinko could say, "Well how do you know THAT?" When Daniel gives a reason, sociopinko could say, "Well, how do you know THAT?" This leads to an infinite regress unless Daniel can ground knowledge in a priori concepts or first principles.

All arguments require laws of inference. Must we prove the validity of the laws of logic before we can use them in a debate?

For those who don't know, I'm using a reductio ad absurdum argument in response to how sociopinko argued his case in this debate.
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
And I'd love to debate you on Hume's law. Hopefully with less bitching this time?
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
"Con, why do you debate morality if your point in every debate is that it is impossible to debate morality? Can't you just let us believers in morality have our own debates and settle this in a debate about the existence of morality?"

Would you say discussion concerning meta-ethics doesn't count as ethics-centered debate?

"This is how I feel the debate went:
I believe X is Y
x can't be y because y doesn't exist.

That is about how much, I feel, we accomplished in this debate."

If you've been swayed than that's enough. You argued from an unjustified presupposition. Nothing is left out of scrutiny in debate.

"Con, in your last round you said you agree with me on a personal level. That is all the level I need for a personal victory. If you agree with me on a personal level, that spanking is immoral, you must not be intellectually consistent."

I don't have views concerning morality/immorality because I don't think such concepts hold intellectual weight. I do however have personal feelings that I can't escape regardless of what can be actually justified.

"I would be surprised if you believed anything at all was real or true."

Meh, it's a work in progress.
Posted by daniel.droege5 5 years ago
Would you mind if I challenged you, Con, to a debate on Hume's law?
It won't be for a week or so, to give me some time to do more reading.
Posted by daniel.droege5 5 years ago
I get your point Ryder_Smith, that was along the lines of the debate I was hoping for.

Con, why do you debate morality if your point in every debate is that it is impossible to debate morality? Can't you just let us believers in morality have our own debates and settle this in a debate about the existence of morality? This is how I feel the debate went:
I believe X is Y
x can't be y because y doesn't exist.

That is about how much, I feel, we accomplished in this debate.

Con, in your last round you said you agree with me on a personal level. That is all the level I need for a personal victory. If you agree with me on a personal level, that spanking is immoral, you must not be intellectually consistent.

I would be surprised if you believed anything at all was real or true.
Posted by Ryder_Smith 5 years ago
Think of it this way, if a small child gets in a chair and smacks their hand against a red-hot stove, do you think they'll touch it again? No, that stove pretty much said don't ever put your hand there again.

now if that stove was cooled down, it wouldn't hurt them, so they would think it's ok to put their hand on it. Imagine the red-hot stove as a parent that spanks their child, now, imagine the cooled down stove as a parent that doesn't.

If a parent tells a child don't you dare turn that TV back on, and they do it, they (the child) pretty much just slapped their hand on that hot stove. Now of course a TV wouldn't burn them (generally) but the parent will with a belt, switch, their hand etc.

I hope I got my point across.
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
"Oh well, at least you conceded that I was right."

I never conceded anything.

"If we are not to base how the world ought to be off how the world is, then where do we get facts or information to support how we think the world ought to be?"

We don't. Morality is a human construction.

"Wouldn't this line of thinking lead everyone to the path of moral skepticism?"

If they're intellectually consistent.

"How would anyone be able to tell how they ought to behave if they are unable to base their logic on prior experience?"

They wouldn't

"Do you believe that the only morals we should have are supernatural and come from a God?"

I don't believe in God and don't see how they can be grounded simply in a being's ontology.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by AlwaysMoreThanYou 5 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: I feel Con's arguments were a little bit cheap, so I gave conduct to Pro. However, they were still fully effective, so arguments to Con.