The Instigator
OMGJustinBieber
Pro (for)
Losing
4 Points
The Contender
J.Kenyon
Con (against)
Winning
15 Points

The Non-Aggression Principle Is a Flawed Moral Position

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/30/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 5,797 times Debate No: 16787
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (33)
Votes (5)

 

OMGJustinBieber

Pro

Res: The Non-Aggression Principle Is a flawed moral position.

Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) - The idea that no matter how disgusting, immoral, or improper you believe an act to be, you have no right to use force to stop someone from committing that act, unless that act itself involves the initiation of force against another person (or person's property).

Round one is just for acceptance.
J.Kenyon

Con

Thanks, OMGJustinBieber for issuing this challenge. I look forward to a competitive debate.

Round one is for acceptance only, as agreed.
Debate Round No. 1
OMGJustinBieber

Pro

What is a flawed moral position?

My argument is normative and reliant on the human capability to reason right from wrong. The criticisms of NAP that I provide below will essentially all be trying to argue that NAP can strongly interfere with the ability of humans to prosper and thrive by placing unfair restrictions on individuals.

1. The Utilitarian Critique

Imagine a sinking ship, and a few life boats. On board, there are several highly obese individuals. The crew is thrown overboard and 4 of these obese individuals weighing 500 lbs. quickly swim to 2 lifeboats with a weight capacity of 1000 lbs. each. The obese individuals climb aboard, and start rowing away from the crew in the water who will drown or freeze in a short time. However, you were out hunting on a nearby island and witness this event and have a clear shot at the innocent obese rowers. Under the non-aggression principle, using force here is inherently unjust since the obese rowers technically are not aggressing against anyone. By shooting a single fatty, you could make room for 4 individuals (assuming 125 lbs. crew members), and by shooting all of the fatties you would be saving 16 lives. Granted that you have shot 4, the net benefit in terms of lives saved would be 12. That's 12 families who now have a loved one home safe, in the balance of things.

Additionally, the situation could be made even more unbalanced either by increasing the number of fatties, lowering the average crew member weight, or even giving the fatties cancer or AIDs that would kill them within weeks of arrival on the shore. The fact is, under the dogmatic NAP you are not allowed to save lives in this event. This should be considered a glaring error in the NAP due to the fact that if you can save more lives with little inconvenience to yourself, you should do so. You should act to produce the largest net benefit to those involved. Saving lives is good.

2. The Appeal to Basic Necessities

You and your family have plane crashed in the desert. Luckily, you have all survived but are burnt and scared. After walking for days, you approach a house with enough food and water to feed your family for at least a few days. Unfortunately, you have no money and the owner refuses to sell. Negotiations fail, and the landowner kicks you off his property. Given that the owner has not aggressed against those in dire need, the NAP would not justify breaking into the house and stealing food. This would seem to be another pitfall in the principle since human life is more important than the relatively small amount of food the man would have had to spare. An exception to NAP clearly must be made in life or death scenarios.

Another case would be an attempt to enforce a 'good samaritan' law. Say you are a lifeguard walking to work in the summer, and on the way you spot a little girl unconscious with her father trying to attract attention. He notices you in your uniform, and pleads for you to help. Unfortunately, you know if you are late for work one more time you risk being fired and turn your back on the father and child. Infuriated, the father threatens to beat you if you do not perform CPR. Common moral sense and reason would support the father's actions due to the much higher importance of human life over a summer job.

3. The Unjust Society

You are a serf in a medieval feudal land. For as long as you have known, your family has been impoverished by a feudal lord along with 20 or 30 other families. You farm the Lord's land in exchange for protection and to pay for the lease, but there is no chance at social advancement and the situation is effectively slavery even though you could walk away at any point. However, peasant anger has reared its head towards the Lord's luxurious estate in recent times. The Lord becomes aware of this, and in response claims that he has never aggressed against the peasants and that the peasants have no right to his property. Unsatisfied, the oppressed peasants threaten the use of force against their Lord and demand half of his possessions.

I would argue that the peasants are morally correct in their actions here, given that the economic system being used was exploitative in nature and denied the peasants any chance at social advancement or education. When such a rigid social order is in place, it is only fair that the peasants are given some start up capital to make a positive change in this setting. This should not be interpreted as a socialist argument saying that the poor have a right to rob a rich man simply because he is rich. The situation is entirely different here in that this is the peasant's only conceivable way up the social ladder, and that a change in the system towards perhaps a more market-based economy will create a fairer playing field and greater happiness and net benefit.

4. Suicide and Accidents

Our moral reasoning would tell us that saving lives is generally a good thing. However, the restrictions that NAP places on the use of force can interfere with this principle significantly. For example, if a mentally ill individual tries to jump off a roof and you restrain him, this would appear to be a violation of the NAP. Perhaps Con believes that a grown adult should have the right to choose for themselves whether to live or die, but does NAP not apply to children or people suffering from mental illnesses?

Additionally, in the case of an oncoming train coming quickly towards an unaware woman, would it be wrong to push her away if there was no time to warn her? If pushing in this case can be moral due to the train being the aggressor, does this mean we are now allowed to use aggression towards the victim to "stop" the aggression in all aggressive acts?

4. What is Aggression?

This one is particularly relevant towards wars, because countries rarely just outright attack another. One example I would like to bring up is Fort Sumter during the American Civil War, because each side claimed that the other aggressed first. After SC seceded, the rebels seized federal property in under the premise that the North should have no more control over their newly freed state, the North send troops to Ft. Sumter to reinforce the position. Interpreting this as an act of aggression against their newly independent state, southern forces attacked and the Civil War began. Another example would be the role of economic sanctions, which libertarians tend to agree that businesses have a right to refuse serve to individuals. However, these types of sanctions can greatly damage the welfare of families more than a minor attack on property, like a kicked-in fence would as a result of those sanctions. Say, for example, that we get into an argument over a woman and as a result you don't allow me or my family into your store. Additionally, given your popularity a few other stores in the area follow suit and close their doors to me. Now I need to drive much further to pick up basic necessities, yet this is not considered aggression but rather "practicing a right" in the libertarian view. If in anger I were to kick in your fence, under this logic the act would be a blatant act of aggression that would demand compensation.

All I am saying here is that the definition of aggression is often quite ambiguous, especially in times of war - but also in the economic realm. In reality, a strong economic embargo hurts a group of people much more than minor property damage. The view that economic sanctions are not a form of aggression is a dubious that needs to seriously undergo a re-examination.

Conclusion

What I have sought to do here is appeal to moral reasoning, as reasoning is the main tool we have to make sense of this world as human beings. I believe some reasoning is better than others, and I welcome Con to provide his own take on both aggression and how his morality justifies the persistence of NAP in even the more dire circumstances. The inability of the NAP to draw contextual distinctions is a major flaw.
J.Kenyon

Con

Because Pro has opted for the "shotgun method" of attacking our ethical intuitions from every possible angle, I won't be able to address each of his points as fully as I would like to. However, this method has also made the bulk of his case vulnerable to the same sort of of critique. Consequently, most of Pro's points will be answered in my own affirmative case, as well as in response to his first and second contentions.

=== Con Case ===

1. Justification for the non-aggression principle

Whether or not one has any rights, and if so which ones, can only be decided by argumentative appeal. Moreover, in order to participate in ethical discourse, the right to exclusive ownership and control over one's person must be presupposed. To negate this would result in a performative contradiction, which occurs when the propositional content of a statement contradicts the non-contingent presuppositions that make the speech act possible.[1] For this reason, no one can ever coherently affirm slavery: at best you might convince me to perform uncompensated labor for you, but insofar as I agreed to be your slave, I wouldn't really be a slave at all.

2. Problems with ethical intuitionism

Pro is just relying on our ethical intuitions to try to "disprove" the NAP. But just because we have ethical intuitions doesn't mean that they allow us to reliably ascertain objective moral truth. The results we get from using such intuition pumps are often contradictory and are largely contingent on the way the thought experiment is framed. For example, Robert Nozick's slave allegory makes any ethical system other than libertarianism look positively barbaric.[1]

=== Pro Case ===

1. The Utilitarian Critique

A) Circular reasoning

This is not really a critique at all. Pro's argument is basically "utilitarianism is utilitarian" and "deontology is not utilitarian," but this is circular reasoning. Why should we adopt utilitarianism in the first place? Pro is just begging the question.

B) Utilitarianism is praxeologically unstable.

There are two basic forms of utilitarianism: act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. The former thesis is that the right action is that which maximizes happiness for the greatest number of people. The obvious problem with act utilitarianism is that it would permit things like gang rape, murder, or torturing innocent people for fun as long as the rapist/murderer/torturer derives more positive utility from the act than than the victim derives negative utility.

To "solve" the problem, some philosophers have turned to rule utilitarianism, which is the thesis that actions are moral if and only if they conform to the rules that bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of people. For example, imagine that one healthy person walks into a clinic with five dying patients. If we kill the healthy person and harvest his organs, we could save the other five. An act utilitarian would consider this morally permissible. By contrast, a rule utilitarian would likely hold that it's immoral on the grounds that nobody would want to live in a world in which we might at any moment be sacrificed for the "greater good."

But wait, this is just an isolated event. What if we do it secretly and make it look like the healthy person's death was an accident? The problem is, if everyone thinks this way rule utilitarianism just collapses back into act utilitarianism and we are again faced with the same problems. It seems as if in order to be truly utilitarian, we have to view individual rights not as instrumentally useful, but as good in and of themselves. But at this point we cease being utilitarians altogether.

C) Utility monster

Imagine that we can make interpersonal comparisons of utility (without which, utilitarianism is even more doomed). Suppose a certain entity derives exponentially more utility for each unit of resources it consumes than any other being in existence. Under utilitarianism, we would be compelled then, to allocate as many resources as possible to this "utility monster" at the expense of everyone else, starving children be damned!

2. The Appeal to Basic Necessities

A) Appeal to consequence

There is no metaphysical law written in the sky that says ethical rules have to have rosy outcomes. Pro's argument here essentially reduces to "but what if I don't like ethics?" Unless we accept Pro's utilitarian framework, this is just a fallacious appeal to consequence.

B) Improper framing of the question

Pro mistakenly believes that libertarianism is an moral guide to good behavior. This is incorrect. The non-aggression principle deals strictly with the justified use of force with respect to property rights. The issue at hand is not whether or not one ought to break into someone's house to save himself or his family from starvation, but whether or not the homeowner would be justified in using force to prevent anyone from doing so. The answer, of course, is yes. This follows from the estoppel principle, which essentially states that you forfeit your own rights to the same extent that you violate the rights of others.

C) Paradox of rights

In order to maintain that the father of the dying girl has the right to aggress against the passing lifeguard, he will also have to maintain that the lifeguard has no right to resist. After all, as Jan Narveson points out, "the prevention of infractions of that right is precisely what one has a right to when one has a right at all." If this is the case, then the right to self-ownership is null. But this very idea is logically incoherent as I argued in C1 of my affirmative case.

TURN - Utilitarianism may yield satisfactory answers in the extreme situations Pro brings up, but these special exigencies are far more common than you might think. At this very moment, tens of thousands of people in third world countries are dying from treatable diseases and malnutrition. Every single user on this site who enjoys an above-average standard of living is a horrible person directly responsible for their suffering. If Pro takes his own critique seriously, he'll sell everything he has, including the computer he is using to access this site, and donate it to the poor. Pro won't be able to post his next three rounds and I'll win the debate by default.

3. The Unjust Society

I agree with Pro here. The legal institutions of entail and primogeniture are largely responsible for the concentration of wealth in relatively few hands that existed under feudalism, privileges that are totally illegitimate under libertarian law.[2] Moreover, the vast majority of feudal landowners had no legitimate right to their estates, having neither homesteaded it themselves nor acquired it through trade.

If my opponent wants to make the argument that capitalism inevitably leads to the concentration of wealth, I'll address it in the latter rounds.

4. Suicide and accidents.

Pro's reasoning here is essentially the same as in Contention 2. Cross-apply my rebuttal.

5. What is aggression?

Aggression includes the initiation of force, the threat of force, and fraud. There is no ambiguity in the definition of aggression libertarians use. Regardless of which ethical rules we follow, there will always be some difficulty in determining who the actual rulebreakers are. This is not necessarily an argument against the rules qua the rules.

Conclusion:

Most of Pro's hypotheticals are highly implausible, particularly those involing economic sanctions, and I think both he and the readers realize this. I could address each problem in detail, but I lack sufficient space. Moreover, to do so misses the bigger picture: Pro hasn't actually justified his own moral framework, while I have. He's just pumping our intuitions. This approach is flawed, as I have already pointed out, and in many cases Pro's arguments actually conflict with each other.

1. Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia, pp. 290-292.
2. Rothbard, Murray. For a New Liberty, pg. 6.
Debate Round No. 2
OMGJustinBieber

Pro

Con sets forth some well thought out responses to my first round argument.

Addressing the earlier points:

1. NAP suffers similar pitfalls to other deontological theories. It fails to contextualize, and due to the variability of human experiences it can easily become morally incorrect to follow these maxims regardless of circumstances. Our reasoning would tell us that due to this variability, our morality should be a little more flexible in order to deal with the multitude of scenarios.

2. I have never explicitly endorsed ethical intuitionism, or at least solely relying on intuitions. I prefer to frame my ethical foundations in terms of reason.

A) I am somewhat Utilitarian in my beliefs. I feel Utilitarian arguments, especially in the case I selected, tend to make much more sense that an outright refusal to aggress due to faith in an all-encompassing ethical principle.

B) I agree with Pro that act and rule tend to have some overlay, but I feel some of his criticisms were a little off base. In reality, acts like gang rape do not produce a "net benefit" because a thousand negative utility points and lifetime of remembering a scarring event, as well as "ripple" effects - really don't make rape a positive utility event in any normal circumstance. Perhaps if raping a woman would give you the disarm code to a bomb the act is justified, but I don't see the act as ever practically creating a net benefit. Regardless, utilitarianism advocates "the right action is the one that directly produces the best balance of happiness (or utility) over unhappiness for all concerned" [1]. That said, there is only one "right" action in Utilitarianism rather than any plus utility action being correct, so raping would need to be the best action out of all choices.

Con also brings up the case of potentially harvesting a healthy man for organs to save 5. This is clearly a difficult question, but I really want to get back to the lifeboat case here because it's much more apparent. I don't see the fact that Utilitarianism brings up difficult questions (as any moral philosophy does) as detracting from the lifeboat case that I set out earlier. Instead of confronting this example directly, Con is attacking some of the more ambiguous parts of Utilitarianism. However, there are vast differences in these two cases including one being in an entrenched social institution, carried out by a Doctor who is tied to the Hippocratic Oath, and may carry enormous ripple effects. Contrast this to the lifeboat case where it's a one time experience, and most of us would agree that it is better to save 4 than 1 - on balance. Many utilitarians have a concept of individual rights, but these rights are considered in the context of the greater good. Moreover, once can generally reject Biblical morality while agreeing with principles such as the Golden Rule without inconsistency.

C) We need to differentiate between Mill's Utilitarianism and Bentham's. Bentham's utilitarianism was concerned with utility only in the aggregate, so the "utility monster" would have been a pitfall for Bentham, if such a figure exists. Mill, on the other hand, takes into account the spread of utility being equal ("the greatest happiness for the greatest number.") Second, starving children would tend to derive more utility from a tangible benefit such as $10,000 worth of food than someone who's basic needs have already been satisfied. Physiological needs comprise the base of Maslow's hierarchy pyramid, and this would imply a large value on utility assuming it can go directly towards those who most need it [2]. However, if a particular firm has a massive potential for a scientific break through that could drastically boost utility clearly some resources should be going there. Additionally, Utilitarianism does not demand communism. Nowhere does it say that everyone must enjoy the same standard of living, and while certainly setting up a school in Nigeria is a great feat, educated individuals with the proper resources can make huge benefits.

2A) I strongly believe that ethics should take account of consequences, because the purpose of ethics is to make this world a better place by the results of the actions taken. If you acknowledge your ethical system does not bring about "rosy" or positive consequences (it's not making the world a better place) then it's time to re-examine those ethics.

B) I'm not entirely sure how Con is interpreting NAP to mean this. Perhaps Con's interpretation is unique? The NAP is a universal guide i.e. "the non-initation of force is universally preferable" [3].

C) Morality must have roots in practical affairs. Imagine I am hanging from a balcony, and my only option for survival is to swing into Kenyon's two-room apartment on the floor below, breaking one of his windows. The question of how Kenyon will handle this is, in practice, is entirely secondary to immediate concerns. Under NAP, my falling is a non-aggressive act that directly violates no one's rights. However, breaking into the apartment is considered a use of force with no self-defense component and is inherently wrong. It's really a no-win situation in NAP. The idea that I have "no right" to do so demonstrates the general lack of power of rights based statements. In this case it's a clear decision of my "right to life" vs. Kenyon's property rights, but in NAP my action becomes wrong simply because I initiated force.

Similarly, saving a man from committing suicide when viewed in terms of human wellbeing is usually right. The question of whether he has a "right" to resist is entirely secondary. Secular ethics focuses on ways to contribute to humanity thriving. The fact that following a certain ethical rule leads consistently to poor consequences is reason enough to abandon it (or at least apply it more selectively.) The TURN objection was addressed earlier.

3. I'm not sure what Con means when he claims that the land was not acquired legitimately. In many cases, the land was just settled and claimed and later leased out to peasants who worked subsistence farming.

Moreover, I doubt it is only those who label themselves "Utilitarians" would believe it's morally correct to kill 1 to save 10. NAP objects. How about kill 1 to save 100? The scale could be tipped even further, and certainly it is with no great happiness that we kill the one, but it is necessary. I don't want this debate to become about Utilitarianism, because as we can see ethical systems that fail to address context fail in many cases to maximize the ability to thrive as human beings, nor does one need to agree with the whole of an ethical framework to agree with some statements in it.

To summarize, despite attempts to divert NAP away from those in desperate economic need or those about to throw themselves off a roof, NAP applies universally and as a directly moral matter in what the resolution has spelled out. NAP is not solely about the justified use of force in defense of property rights in this debate, but rather whether the initiation of force is inherently illegitimate when not in self defense. I don't know how else to argue secular morality besides appealing to human well being. In this sense, there are clearly instances were applying NAP would interfere with that premise.

[1] Vaughn, "Doing Ethics" p. 83
[2] http://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com...
[3] "Universally Preferable Behavior" p. 54
J.Kenyon

Con

Pro's entire case just begs the question. He repeatedly asserts without justification that secular ethics is about maximizing utility. But why? I've offered arguments against this position while he has offered none for it. Moreover, Pro doesn't even take his own position seriously. He avoids answering the hard questions that utilitarianism raises. He really has no coherent moral philosophy. In general, he thinks maximizing utility is good, but he doesn't like the idea that it's possible rape could positively contribute to human well-being. He starts by arbitrarily decided on emotive grounds what he thinks the moral landscape looks like, and then just jockeys back and forth between different moral theories until they paint the picture he wants.

=== Con Case ===

1. Pro doesn't actually respond to the logical justification for the NAP. Just to be clear, my position is that arguing against the NAP is not just wrong, it's logically incoherent. "Failure to contextualize" is just another way of saying "not wishy washy." This is basically a repeat of Pro's other points in the debate, which I will get to shortly. Flow this argument to the Con side.

2. Regardless of whether or not Pro considers himself an ethical intuitionist, but he is relying completely on the intuitionist approach. He is not relying on moral reasoning -- my approach of formulating a categorical imperative is an example of deriving ethics from reason.

In addition to the issue of our moral intuitions being so dependent on context, culture, and the way that various thought experiments are framed, we also need to ask whether or not they are even meaningful. The fact that I react negatively to X and feel warm and fuzzy about Y does not logically entail that X is morally wrong or that Y is morally good. Pro gives no reason to consider moral intuitions truth-apt. At best, this approach can only justify emotivism -- a form of non-cognitivism.

=== Pro Case ===

1. Utilitarian critique

A) This doesn't really answer what I said. Pro's argument is still circular unless he can give us a meta-ethical reason to prefer utilitarianism.

B) Pro's response to the rape problem doesn't really answer the question. The issue is that if utilitarian philosophers are correct, then the property of maximizing well-being is identical to the property of moral goodness. Even if the odds that gang rape would have a net positive effect on utility are slim, the fact that it's even possible acts as a hard defeater for this identity claim.

The issue of killing one healthy person to save five sick people was not meant as a direct attack on utilitarianism, but rather to illustrate the collapse of type-utilitarianism into act utilitarianism, which carries with it so many problems that few philosophers today are willing to defend it.

TURN - Pro has literally no way of knowing whether or not shooting fat people will actually maximize utility. Maybe one of the skinny women is two months pregnant with the next Hitler. Maybe some fat man is a brilliant scientist on the verge of a brilliant discovery that would cure cancer. Even if the issue is not as clear cut as in either of these cases, our actions can have massive, fractal-like repercussions. He has no way, really, of even approximating what will have the greatest net positive effect on utility. In fact, regardless of what we do with our lives, none of our actions will have any impact on the grand scheme of things. Eventually, the sun will burn out, life on earth will be extinguished, and the entire universe will succumb to heat death.

2. Appeal to basic necessities

A) Pro is just begging the question again; "I think ethics should be utilitarian because utilitarianism is what ethics is." He's also equivocating. He says the purpose of ethics is to make the world a "better" place. But does he mean "better" in a non-specific ethical sense of the term, or in the pragmatic sense of the term?

B) My interpretation of the NAP is more or less orthodox. I don't disagree in any significant way with Hans-Hermann Hoppe as he outlines the principle in The Economics and Ethics of Private Property. I don't claim that non-aggression is universally preferable, my position is that it is logically incoherent to argue against it. Refer back to 1A of my constructive. Pro has offered no refutation of this point, flow the argument to Pro.

C) Pro is ignoring my counter-argument and further demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what the non-aggressions principle actually entails. The NAP is theory of rights based on property. He can't simultaneous assert that he has a right to save a suicidal man from killing himself and that the suicidal man has a right to defend himself; this view is not logically coherent given the definition of a "right."

Further, he is trying to blur the distinction between preferences and morality. If I'm hanging from a balcony outside of Pro's apartment, of course I'm going to break in if that's the only way I can save myself. However, the difference between Pro and myself is that I don't try to maintain that I am actually entitled to use someone else's property for this purpose.

3. The Unjust Society

You can't just claim large swathes of unowned land for yourself, you have to acquire it through homesteading. Pro hasn't made any attempt to extend this argument into a general point about libertarian economics, so I think I can safely consider it dropped.

4 & 5. Dropped by Pro.

I have to end my round here. I apologize for being overly brief, but I was extremely pressed for time and wrote my case in the space of about an hour. I think I've at least touched on all the main points and I will be back in the last round with a more thorough rebuttal.
Debate Round No. 3
OMGJustinBieber

Pro

I was seriously rushed for time in this response but I figured it was better to post something rather than concede it. I know I don't address all his points but I miscalculated on time so I'll just post some of the notes I have jotted down.

1A) I don't believe in meta-ethics. Like most of us, I hold certain truths to be self-evident, namely a thriving humanity is better than a suffering one. If you want humanity you thrive, in my view, your idea should account for consequences.
1B) Pro reiterates textbook criticisms to Utilitarianism here, even though I have already addressed all of them. Again, the right act is not the one that produces a benefit – it's the one that produces the most benefit.
TURN – The turn here is the information gap criticism. Utilitarianism does not require that you act knowing all the information, and in this sense the theory transcends strict Consequentialism. You are only required to act in a way which given the available information, or through looking to the past, will produce the best consequences. All else being equal, it is better to kill 1 and save 5 than the reverse. Ethics would be utterly meaningless if we were required to have complete knowledge.

2b. The point we seem to be hung up on is "no right" issue and the role of rights in moral judgments. On one hand, I have consistently stressed the ought interpreting the "no right" as being synonymous with "not being in the right." Hence, the secondary definition "the non-initiation of force is universally preferable." Con has consistently attempted to remove the issue of ought and frame it purely from a rights-based perspective. However, Con does not have a monopoly on the definition of the term "no right."

2c. What definition of right is this? Your definition is simply one thinkers take on the word.

1right adj \ˈrīt1
: righteous, upright
2
: being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper

There is nothing about how in the grand scheme of things one person is – with rights – always completely in the right or completely in the wrong.

In the balcony case, like in all moral situations, there is usually one right and one wrong action to take unless the actions happen to be morally equivalent. In NAP, if given from a moral standpoint, it implies falling is the correct action. The premise specifically is about NAP and its moral implications.

3. What if it was homesteaded and later lent out? The history of the estate is hardly relevant to its current conditions. I don't see this factor as satisfactory whatsoever, and unless you address this strongly in R5 I don't see it being a sufficient rebuttal. This one doesn't even fall under the Utilitarian part of the argument, but rather something you accepted yourself and then went onto argue that most feudal estates were not homesteaded. Is the feudal estate that was homesteaded several centuries ago and contains 30 families living on subsistence wages moral while the one that was not homesteaded and contains the same conditions immoral?
J.Kenyon

Con

Let me begin by pointing out that Pro has dropped both of my constructive arguments - the justification for the NAP and the problems with relying on ethical intuition. This should mean an auto-win for me. To summarize Pro's case, he expects us to just agree with utilitarianism without giving any argument for it while dismissing my objections with a wave of the hand.

=== Pro Case ===

1. Utilitarian critique

A) Pro doesn't answer my point that his argument is circular. "Utilitarianism is utilitarian" is not an argument. He says he doesn't believe in meta-ethics. I'm not sure how to respond to this other than to point out that this is not an argument either. This whole debate is centered on meta-ethics; imagine two biologists debating the phylogeny of some newly discovered organism when one side suddenly announces that he's not sure he believes in the scientific method. This is a huge concession by Pro.

Pro states "if you want humanity you thrive, in my view, your idea should account for consequences." This is problematic for several reasons. First of all, he is again blurring the line between individual preferences and ethics. What I really want is a society where I'm King and I get to do whatever I want; I'm defending libertarianism as the only consistent and ethically sound political philosophy. Second, this makes ethics a wholly contingent matter. If everyone prefers something other than the betterment of mankind, then the betterment of mankind is no longer of moral value. Third, the idea behind "ethics by consent" is that morality is a social contract with universal affirmation. But if everyone voluntarily agrees to act a certain way, there is no essential conflict with the non-aggression principle.

B) Using the rape example, I've tried to drive a wedge between "human thriving" and the property of moral goodness. Pro responds that good actions must not only produce a net benefit, but the greatest possible net benefit. First of all, this doesn't really answer the objection. It's still logically possible that gang rape could be the best course of action in a given situation. Pro has no response to this. Second, I think this approach creates more problems than it solves. Cross-apply the knowledge problem; it's virtually impossible to know what the best possible course of action is in any given situation. If I'm a fireman and a car crashes right in front of a burning building, I have to make a decision about who to help first. I might not know how many people I can save through either course of action. If I run in to the building and save three kids and a box of kittens instead of four kids and a puppy who die in the car crash, I've behaved immorally according to Pro.

C) I didn't have time defend the utility monster argument in the previous round, so it would be poor conduct to revive it at this point.

TURN - Pro tries to attack the uniqueness here by arguing that if we take the knowledge problem seriously, then ethics is meaningless. I disagree. Even if it is a problem for all ethical theories, it is much more damaging to utilitarianism, as Pro's argument seems to implicitly admit. Pro thinks certain outcomes are good while others are bad. But if outcomes can be intrinsically good or bad, why can't actions? Under a system of deontological ethics, certain actions are categorically wrong. By contrast, on utilitarianism, it's literally impossible to know how your actions will affect the grand scheme of things. Utilitarianism fails to provide any sort of guide to how one ought to lead a moral life.

2. Appeal to basic necessities

A) Dropped by Pro.

B) I'm not sure what Pro is getting at here. I don't see what universal preferability has to do with anything.

C) My argument here doesn't rely on any particular conception of rights, I'm just pointing out the logical implications of Pro's position. You can't have two equally valid yet conflicting rights claims; that's just how the law of non-contradiction works. So in order to maintain that person A has a right to aggress against some random stranger, B, for the "greater good," one would also have to affirm that B has no right to try to defend himself, which is counter-intuitive to say the least.

Again, the NAP is theory of rights based on property. It doesn't say whether I ought or ought not break into someone's apartment to save myself if I'm hanging from their balcony; it merely explains that I forfeit my own rights to the same exent that I violate the rights of others. This is not relevant to the debate.

3. The unjust society

The history of the estate is very relevant. Assuming the initial distribution of property is just, any subsequent changes made through voluntary transaction "preserve" the justice of the original distribution. Thus, by definition, any theory of redistributive justice is incompatible with the right of individuals to make free choices. As I've already pointed out, the institutions of entail and primogeniture were largely responsible for feudalism. These legal constructs are totally illegitimate under libertarian law, so the property owners have essentially forfeited any right they may have had to the land.

Conclusion:

All of Pro's arguments are all essentially the same: what if the NAP leads to bad things? But absent a metaethical case, this is just circular reasoning. I could try to defend libertarianism by pointing out how each scenario is unlikely to arise, but this pointless since one can always think of new possibilities. Moreover, this approach ignores the bigger picture: Pro has given us absolutely no reason to accept utilitarianism, nor has he given any metaethical reason to reject libertarianism.

Thank you for reading, and vote Con!
Debate Round No. 4
33 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by J.Kenyon 3 years ago
J.Kenyon
"understand that you strongly attacked ethical intuition and utilitarian. However it was not your case that ethical intuition and utilitarianism lead to wrong moral conclusion in ALL cases."

My God, you're stupid. I never set out to prove util gives the wrong conclusions in ALL cases; I set out to prove it's not a sound ethical framework and thus not a valid basis on which to criticize deontology.

"If everyone (INCLUDING YOU) agree that a position is morally wrong (no matter what the justification), then we can conclude that it is wrong for the purpose of this debate."

I never agreed that any situation permissible under NAP is morally wrong.

"Historically the endowment by the government was based on homestead principle only. You were given a village to manage agriculture production over there."

You can't homestead a fücking village.

"As per you, feudalism may or may not be correct depending on history of original occupation - even if the current situation is same!"

Wait, so you're contradicting your previous statement about how I supposedly agreed that feudalism is unjust? Downie....
Posted by baggins 3 years ago
baggins
"you either didn't read"

That is lie.

"..or don't understand the debate."

That might be possible.

I will suggest that if you want to respond, do it without personal attacks. In any case, I am not going to react that way.
Posted by baggins 3 years ago
baggins
"Wrong. If Pro's argument is "deontology is flawed because it's not utilitarian," and I can negate the case for util, that means there is no basis for this argument.

+

1. Pro DROPPED my point about relying on ethic intuitions. That means I auto-win.

2. "The fact that I react negatively to X and feel warm and fuzzy about Y does not logically entail that X is morally wrong or that Y is morally good. Pro gives no reason to consider moral intuitions truth-apt. At best, this approach can only justify emotivism -- a form of non-cognitivism." "

I understand that you strongly attacked ethical intuition and utilitarian. However it was not your case that ethical intuition and utilitarianism lead to wrong moral conclusion in ALL cases. I am intuitively (ah well) sure you will not make such an assertion either. This leaves another way for Pro's attack to work. If everyone (INCLUDING YOU) agree that a position is morally wrong (no matter what the justification), then we can conclude that it is wrong for the purpose of this debate. This is true even if the basis for the conclusion is still being debated. But then if you can't defend it based on NAP ...

"What if the original feudal received an endowment from government (legal at that time) which remained largely unsegmented because of small family size or accidents in the family."

The original endowment was illegitimate. "The vast majority of feudal landowners had no legitimate right to their estates, having neither homesteaded it themselves nor acquired it through trade." Government can't can't just derp and say "here ya go, take this 1,000 sq/mi area of land." Under the NAP, you have to homestead it.

Historically the endowment by the government was based on homestead principle only. You were given a village to manage agriculture production over there.

As per you, feudalism may or may not be correct depending on history of original occupation - even if the current situation is same!
Posted by baggins 3 years ago
baggins
"Wrong. If Pro's argument is "deontology is flawed because it's not utilitarian," and I can negate the case for util, that means there is no basis for this argument.

+

1. Pro DROPPED my point about relying on ethic intuitions. That means I auto-win.

2. "The fact that I react negatively to X and feel warm and fuzzy about Y does not logically entail that X is morally wrong or that Y is morally good. Pro gives no reason to consider moral intuitions truth-apt. At best, this approach can only justify emotivism -- a form of non-cognitivism." "

I understand that you strongly attacked ethical intuition and utilitarian. However it was not your case that ethical intuition and utilitarianism lead to wrong moral conclusion in ALL cases. I am intuitively (ah well) sure you will not make such an assertion either. This leaves another way for Pro's attack to work. If everyone (INCLUDING YOU) agree that a position is morally wrong (no matter what the justification), then we can conclude that it is wrong for the purpose of this debate. This is true even if the basis for the conclusion is still being debated. But then if you can't defend it based on NAP ...

"What if the original feudal received an endowment from government (legal at that time) which remained largely unsegmented because of small family size or accidents in the family."

The original endowment was illegitimate. "The vast majority of feudal landowners had no legitimate right to their estates, having neither homesteaded it themselves nor acquired it through trade." Government can't can't just derp and say "here ya go, take this 1,000 sq/mi area of land." Under the NAP, you have to homestead it.

Historically the endowment by the government was based on homestead principle only. You were given a village to manage agriculture production over there.

As per you, feudalism may or may not be correct depending on history of original occupation - even if the current situation is same!
Posted by J.Kenyon 3 years ago
J.Kenyon
Wow, fucktard, you realize the conduct vote is based on the interactions between the debaters, right? I don't care that you voted against me. People vote against me all the time and I rarely react. I'm pïssed because you gave a bullshït reason for voting against me that clearly demonstrates you either didn't read or don't understand the debate. I would consider it poor conduct if I *didn't* react negatively to your stupidity.
Posted by baggins 3 years ago
baggins
"Oh boy, here we go. Let the stupidity begin...

...Dude, are you retarded? I can't tell if you're being serious...

...Lrn2 metaethics, downy, and READ THE DEBATE before voting...

...dipshit..."

So much anger because I voted 2:1 against you? I am changing my vote slightly... I will respond to your comments in a moment.
Posted by Cody_Franklin 3 years ago
Cody_Franklin
The debate was very interesting up until Pro said this:

"I don't believe in meta-ethics. Like most of us, I hold certain truths to be self-evident, namely a thriving humanity is better than a suffering one."

On this point alone, Con essentially curb-stomped Pro in two ways:

1. Con's argument is clearly right--without a meta-ethical case, there's no way to call the NAP a flawed moral position. There's no ground to make the argument on.

2. Con was also right in pointing out the implicit meta-ethics that Pro included anyway, which amounted to an assumption that utilitarianism is "self-evidently" correct, and that the NAP is therefore flawed because it isn't utilitarian.

Still, there were a couple other arguments that I picked up on. Con's analysis about how the NAP isn't an "ought" principle, but rather a negative "ought not" principle stopped Pro's critique about how the NAP doesn't inherently promote good outcomes (a criticism which, like most of the others, Con explained, rested on the meta-ethical mess put out by Pro). There was also the drop on Pro's part of the justification for the NAP, which you can't really drop without conceding the principle's legitimacy. It was a good debate overall, but Pro made some really nasty mistakes in the endgame that cost him the points.
Posted by J.Kenyon 3 years ago
J.Kenyon
Oh boy, here we go. Let the stupidity begin...

"Since the topic was - "The Non-Aggression Principle Is a Flawed Moral Position" - the defense of Utilitarianism is irrelevant. If both are wrong - Pro will carry the resolution through."

Wrong. If Pro's argument is "deontology is flawed because it's not utilitarian," and I can negate the case for util, that means there is no basis for this argument.

"So if the Pro can show that NAP leads to a conclusion in a particular case which is acknowledged by most people INCLUDING CON to be wrong, the resolution is affirmed."

Dude, are you retarded? I can't tell if you're being serious. I addressed this TWICE in the debate.

1. Pro DROPPED my point about relying on ethic intuitions. That means I auto-win.

2. "The fact that I react negatively to X and feel warm and fuzzy about Y does not logically entail that X is morally wrong or that Y is morally good. Pro gives no reason to consider moral intuitions truth-apt. At best, this approach can only justify emotivism -- a form of non-cognitivism."

Lrn2 metaethics, downy, and READ THE DEBATE before voting.

"Con admits that peasant are morally correct in rebellion - but asserts that the original property rights are void as per some legal principle. What if we disagree with the legal principle."

Then you're not upholding the non-aggression principle, dipshit.

"What if the original feudal received an endowment from government (legal at that time) which remained largely unsegmented because of small family size or accidents in the family."

The original endowment was illegitimate. "The vast majority of feudal landowners had no legitimate right to their estates, having neither homesteaded it themselves nor acquired it through trade." Government can't can't just derp and say "here ya go, take this 1,000 sq/mi area of land." Under the NAP, you have to homestead it.
Posted by baggins 3 years ago
baggins
RFD

Since the topic was - "The Non-Aggression Principle Is a Flawed Moral Position" - the defense of Utilitarianism is irrelevant. If both are wrong - Pro will carry the resolution through.

Moreover the 'shotgun method' is perfectly valid attack. In a public debate it may constitute poor debate etiquette as it gives the Con very little time to address each point in details. I don't think that applies in this particular debate.

So if the Pro can show that NAP leads to a conclusion in a particular case which is acknowledged by most people INCLUDING CON to be wrong, the resolution is affirmed.

All the examples presented by Pro are either extreme or unlikely to occur. Con has shown that all of them lead to morally ambiguous answers in any case. The only case which sticks is the feudal-peasant problem.

Con admits that peasant are morally correct in rebellion - but asserts that the original property rights are void as per some legal principle. What if we disagree with the legal principle. What if the original feudal received an endowment from government (legal at that time) which remained largely unsegmented because of small family size or accidents in the family.
Posted by mcc1789 3 years ago
mcc1789
That's very unfortunate, but I'm not surprised. If someone is really injured, they should have remedies to sue. However, as you pointed out: "Justice Marvin R. Baxter said the ruling was "illogical" because it recognizes legal immunity for nonprofessionals administering medical care while denying it for potentially life-saving actions like saving a person from drowning or carrying an injured hiker to safety." Double standard, as usual.

"That law isn't worth the paper it is written on much like the Constitution."
Amen.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 3 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
OMGJustinBieberJ.KenyonTied
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: Respect for Bieber, but this was not close on argument. Justin should have taken 1-2 lines of argument and fully developed them. As it was he barely had the ability to defend let alone attack Kenyon's case including the all important foundation for NAP.
Vote Placed by mcc1789 3 years ago
mcc1789
OMGJustinBieberJ.KenyonTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Con answered all of Pro's criticisms and then some, while Pro failed to support his resolution.
Vote Placed by CiRrK 3 years ago
CiRrK
OMGJustinBieberJ.KenyonTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pretty easy decision - Pro made an execution error by dropping the two justifications for NAP. Plus the major critique, namely the util critique was rendered useless by Pro's admission to fact he doesnt buy into ethics.
Vote Placed by baggins 3 years ago
baggins
OMGJustinBieberJ.KenyonTied
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Total points awarded:31 
Reasons for voting decision: 2:1 to Pro. Analysis in comments. Changed 3:1 to Pro. Con loses conduct because of personal attack on voters.
Vote Placed by Cody_Franklin 3 years ago
Cody_Franklin
OMGJustinBieberJ.KenyonTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD coming in the comments.