The Ethics of Star Trek: The Resolution
Debate Rounds (5)
This is my third installment in 12-part series on the "Ethics of Star Trek." I think Star Trek holds a wealth of moral and philosophical quandaries that are fertile ground for debate and controversy. While some may see these kinds of TV show-related debates as "fluff" topics, I think that the serious ethical implications that underpin the topics I have selected belie that idea.
My hope for this debate and for this series is that I will be able to have some fun delving into my inner nerd and my inner trekkie, while still having some lively and informative discussions.
In this debate, particularly, I hope to explore the concepts behind and ethics of cultural relativism, euthanasia, and suicide through the example of Kaelon II's "Resolution." I am, I think, taking the harder side of this issue, so it should be an interesting challenge...!
Kaelon II’s custom of “resolution" is ethical.
Ethical - conforming to accepted standards of moral conduct
Resolution - age-induced ritual suicide 
This debate stemmed from events portrayed in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Half a Life." In it, a Dr. Timcin explains that it is the custom on his world that when people reach the age of 60, they commit, after a celebration with family and friends, ritual suicide. Amb. Lwaxanna Troi, appalled at this idea, attempts to persuade Timcin to not go through with the ritual. While Timcin initially files for asylum aboard the Enterprise, he ultimately recants and decides to return to Kaelon II to complete the Resolution to Amb. Troi's despair. 
1. No forfeits
2. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling or semantics
6. Con accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add definitions
7. The BOP is shared: Pro must show it to be ethical, Con must show it to be unethical
8. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss
R2. Constructive Cases are Presented
R3. Pro rebuts Con's Case, Con rebuts Pro's Case
R4. Pro defends Pro's Case, Con defends Con's Case
R5. Pro rebuts Con's Case, Con rebuts Pro's Case, both Crystallize
...to whomever takes me up on this debate. This should be fun!
I want to thank Headphone for this debate! I am looking forward to the discourse. I would also take this time to urge Judges to please read the "Context" section of the OP; it will provide useful background into the debate that is about to unfold.
Ethics is defined as "conforming to accepted standards of moral conduct." The questions I will be exploring in my case are "wherefrom do these standards of conduct arise?" and "who or what has to accept them for them to be legitimate?". I will be taking a morally relativistic position, meaning that morality is essentially a cultural construct and that, as a consequence, if X accepts something as ethical or moral, it is ethical or moral for X. In other words, it is my claim that, "moral statements are true (or false) relative to some normative standpoint, usually one characteristic of some particular culture."  With this outline now clear, I will proceed to my arguments.
We should choose the evaluate ethics and morality through a relativist standpoint for a number of reasons, but I will cite two reasons as my primary justifications. "[R]elativism holds that (a) the truth value of any judgment is relative to some particular standpoint (for example, a conceptual scheme or theoretical framework); and (b) no standpoint is metaphysically privileged over all others--there is no 'God’s eye point of view' that yields the objective truth about reality."
Regarding (a), this just seems obviously correct. If I make the judgment that homosexuality is wrong, I making that judgment relative to some cognitive framework, perhaps a strict interpretation of Catholic dogma. If I make the opposite judgment, I might be making it in relation to a conceptual scheme such as libertarianism. Whatever the judgment I make, it is always couched in relation to some theory or core set of ideals. This debate is itself an excellent example of this phenomenon--I have offered a culturally relativist means of evaluating the topic, and my opponent will no doubt offer a competing means of interpreting the topic. In this way, we make competing judgments, each rooted in separate conceptual bedrocks; each of our judgments is then situated in relation to those bedrocks. So, oddly enough, this very debate confirms why we should prefer my philosophical structure.
Regarding (b), unless Con can prove that morality is objective, it seems logical to agree that there are a plurality of potentially viable views on morality. With no way of identifying any single one as "the" moral system, we cannot conclude that any of the possible systems is necessarily wrong. In other words, no "God's eye view" truly exists, and we must bow to the fact that morality can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
We can also prefer cultural relativism for three other reasons: (c) it promotes tolerance and understanding, (d) morality is a human construct, (e) moral "facts" are not necessarily "facts."
Regarding (c), if we are wiling to recognize that our moral or ethical values are not necessarily privileged above others, then we are less willing to look down and condescend others for having contrary value sets. Certainly, when we look at groups like ISIS, for instance, it is, in part, their belief in their own philosophy's superiority and Quranic accuracy that motivates them to commit violent acts against "infidels" or those whose beliefs differ from theirs. Certainly, "becoming aware of the merely relative validity of one’s own moral norms makes one less likely to fall into arrogant ethnocentrism and less inclined to pass moral judgment on the beliefs and practices found in other cultures." 
Regarding (d), it seems true that morality is a human construct. We only need to look as far as Earth for our evidence of this fact; it just seems historically true. If morality were a universal constant, it would seem like moral values would be affirmed universally everywhere. Yet, it appears that different societies have very different moral norms; they have constructed different sets of moral constraints to operate under. In fact, "Examples of moral practices that appear sharply at odds with moral outlooks common in the United States are not hard to come by: polygamy, arranged marriages, suicide as a requirement of honor or widowhood, severe punishments for blasphemy or adultery, female circumcision or genital mutilation (as it is variously called), and so on."  "An objectivist has to explain why so many people seem to have failed to discover the one true moral code." 
Regarding (e), to properly evaluate ethical claims, we need logic. If we rely on arbitrary claims to come to ethical decisions, then we cannot rationally justify our decisions. It would all be just a jumble of randomness. For us to affirm any form of moral objectivism, we have to acknowledge that "moral facts" exist. But, unlike math or science, where truths are empirically provable or observable, morality is far more nebulous. There is no way for us, as humans, to verify that any such moral "facts" are actually facts. Consider, "a critic of slavery could no doubt prove the truth of what she says to anyone who accepts her basic premises--for example, that all races are equally human, and that all human beings should enjoy the same basic rights. But the argument will not convince someone who denies these premises. To them, such a 'proof' of slavery’s wrongness will appear question begging, and they can reject it without being inconsistent or irrational."  Because we cannot claim any moral "facts" to be actual facts, we have to conclude that we affirm them as facts due to our own, arbitrary preferences. That itself seems to undermine any rational discussion of ethics--it makes presuppositions we ought not be making.
So, once we decide to use moral relativism as our evaluative standard in this round, we can easily uphold the idea that the "Resolution" is ethical. We can do this via Cultural Relativism. We can make the argument that cultures, as expressions of belief sets, are also moral groupings, not just social groupings. A culture is "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group."  Each culture has a predominant conceptual framework that has arisen overtime and that it has ingrained/enculturated in its members. It can even be said that, by choosing to remain part of a culture, one consents to that prevailing framework and the actions taken or not taken under it. Clearly, the culture on Kaelon II is one in which the Resolution is ethical. Using that culture as our normative standard, we can see that the Resolution is thus ethical in relation to it.
Thus, the resolution is affirmed.
1 - http://www.iep.utm.edu...
2 - http://plato.stanford.edu...
3 - http://www.merriam-webster.com...
headphonegut forfeited this round.
headphonegut forfeited this round.
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