The Instigator
UchihaMadara
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
TrasguTravieso
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

The Non-Aggression Principle is ethically sound

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
TrasguTravieso
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/15/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,808 times Debate No: 61579
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (55)
Votes (2)

 

UchihaMadara

Pro

1. First round for acceptance

2. No new arguments in the final round

3. The debate should be impossible to accept. Finding a way to accept without permission will result in an automatic loss for Con. If you would like to accept, please say so in the comments section, and I will challenge you in a few days.

4. By accepting the debate, Con agrees to use the following definition(s)

Non-Aggression Principle: the moral principle that all humans have natural rights such as life, personal liberty, and ownership of their property, and that only actions which violate another person's natural rights can be considered immoral.

Ethically sound: capable of upholding moral values

5. Arguing for the nonexistence of morality is disallowed.

Good luck, Con
TrasguTravieso

Con

I accept, and look forward to an interesting debate.
Debate Round No. 1
UchihaMadara

Pro

Thanks, Mr.Travieso. Based on your formidable debate record, I have no doubt that you will provide a very strong opposition in this debate. I will be using this round to provide a brief constructive case for the Non-Aggression Principle.... the obvious place to start would be with a justification for the existence of natural rights:

One of the fundamental axioms of any ethical system is that every human being has ownership over his or her own person/self. This is simply a meta-ethical truth that must be assumed for the sake of continuing with any sort of ethical discourse; to deny that humans have personal autonomy is to deny that there is anything morally significant about humans in relation to the rest of the amoral universe, which basically removes the need for morality to exist at all. In other words, the only way to rationally deny that humans possess personal autonomy is to take up a nihilistic framework, which is disallowed by the nature of this debate. I challenge my opponent to try coherently negating this premise; until he successfully does so, we can (and must) safely assume that self-ownership is an intrinsic property of human beings.

On the basis of this self-ownership, we can justify all the major natural rights advocated by the NAP: the right to life, the right to personal liberty, and the right to privately own property. It is not at all difficult to see why self-ownership justifies the rights to life and personal liberty. Life is the most essential component of the "self" without it, the entire concept of the "self" becomes meaningless; thus, by owning myself, I own my life and have the right to keep it. Personal liberty is necessitated just by the definition of "ownership"-- if I "own" myself, I am rightfully allowed to do whatever I want to do as my own person (i.e. basic first amendment freedoms, "pursuit of happiness", etc). The right to private property is also derived from self-ownership-- since I am the ultimate source and sole producer of my own labor, I necessarily own that labor, and by extension, the results of that labor; ergo, humans have the natural right to the private ownership of property which they have earned (includes raw materials obtained directly from labor, currency, material goods bought with currency, etc).

Therefore, the inherent self-ownership possessed by all human beings does, indeed, justify natural rights existing as intrinsic human characteristics. Since all humans are similarly autonomous, we are morally obligated to acknowledge and respect the natural rights of everyone else, just as we acknowledge and respect our own natural rights. And that is exactly what the Non-Aggression Principle is: an ethical principle allowing us to fully exercise our natural rights (i.e. do whatever we want), with the only limit being that we cannot infringe on others' natural rights (because that is the *only* limit on our rights that has any rational basis for existing).

In conclusion, the Non-Aggression Principle has been shown to be fully substantiated and therefore ethically sound. The onus is now upon Con to try discovering flaws with the NAP so as to render it ethically unsound. However, as of now, the resolution is affirmed.
TrasguTravieso

Con

I thank my opponent Mr. Madara for his kind words. For my part, I only hope not to let him down.

It seems to me that the case set forth here in favor of the libertarian non-aggression principle rests on the idea of self-ownership (having oneself as property). This is so much the case that my opponent is quick to assert that its acceptance is not an object of ethical discourse but a premise to it. I am afraid, however, that this is far from uncontroversial, and I am far from willing to take it for granted. In my turns during this debate I hope to show that taken strictly the idea of self-ownership has tremendously problematic ethical implications, and that when more loosely considered it is too open to interpretation to provide a firm framework for any system of ethics. I also hope to show that, aside from its internal inconsistency, it is rather circular logic to state that rights stem from a property right to oneself.


Problems with self-ownership

Pro conflates self-ownership with personal autonomy, makes an argument for the latter, and then hopes we will be satisfied with the former on pain of being declared nihilists. Now, although it would pain me greatly to be counted amongst the Nietzcheites, I must disagree. Rights, including the right of property, are a characteristic of relationships and therefore require a subject and an object. Humans, as rational beings capable of entering into relationships which entail duties and privileges are the subjects of rights. This necessarily excludes self-ownership for two reasons.

1. Humans are not objects of rights:

The main contention against slavery is that human beings cannot be objects of rights but only subjects of rights. Their relationships to others, to community or to property entail obligations, but they themselves remain autonomous. As the right to property is transferable by definition (by sale or lease or gift) the idea of self-property contradicts this basic principle.

2. Ubi societas ibi ius (where there is society there is law)

Where there is only one individual there are no relationships, therefore no rights, property or law. Property cannot be an innate characteristic of personhood because not only are we positing the rather odd notion of the subject and object of a right being one and the same entity, we are also implying that property exists as some sort of platonic idea, apart from and previous to the interaction of subjects.

Once having seen that the idea of personal autonomy does not necessarily rest on a notion of self-property, the rest of the argument falls apart. The exclusive recognition of the rights to life, liberty and property become arbitrary. Given the non existence of self-property and this arbitrary nature of the libertarian ethical system we simply cannot posit this principle as one capable of upholding morals, and must therefore conclude it to be ethically unsound according to the definitions of this debate.

Even if we did accept that we could own ourselves, however, it would not provide a firm basis for rights, and much less for a list of rights that includes property. If it is property that justifies property we are in something of a predicament. I mentioned before that the initial argument for the right to self-property was not supported by anything beyond the mere (and in my view false) assertion of its necessity for any moral argument. I would go further and say that there is no further justification because any argument for self-ownership would have to justify property, and make the circular nature of this particular instance of libertarian reasoning painfully evident.

A proposed alternative

There is, of course, an alternative. The view could be taken that the reason that human relationships (their relation to people, groups, institutions or objects) foster rights is the dignity inherent in them as creatures endowed with the faculty of reason. Due to this dignity we must recognize personal autonomy, recognition of this dignity and personal autonomy requires a respect for life, and this respect for life requires the defense of private property as the best way to sustain human life. It also, however, serves as a limit to rights such as property as the same principle which justifies property (respect for human life and dignity) would hold it to be a criminally immoral act to withhold a vial of insulin to a diabetic going into a diabetic shock, for instance. Under the non-aggression principle, this would be moral behavior, as the man is not actively infringing the sick man's right to life, but merely exercising his own right to property. While we may hold this to be the very epitome of depraved greed, a rigorist interpretation of the non-aggression principle would not only be forced to accept this, but even to go so far as to consider a thriving slave trade perfectly moral, so long as the initial enslavement of each man were voluntary.


As things stand, and unless Mr. Madara can give a reasoned defense of the idea of self-ownership and either show that his view is sufficient to condemn (or morally justify) these and other universally condemned behaviors, I hold we must consider this principle somewhat less than sound as an ethical principle.

Debate Round No. 2
UchihaMadara

Pro

Many thanks to Mr. Travieso for a great round of rebuttals!
It seems that my opponent has chosen to attack the NAP primarily by objecting to the notion of self-ownership. I will separately address each of his objections.

1. Subjects vs. Objects

Con claims that humans cannot be the objects of rights, but his only support for this assertion is that by accepting such a notion, we get an argument against slavery (i.e. objects of rights are transferable, and transferring humans = slavery). There are several problems with this.
Firstly, we cannot accept a premise solely on the grounds that by doing so we can derive a conclusion that we know to be true. Consider the following syllogism:

P1: If I am a monkey's uncle, the sky is blue
P2: I am a monkey's uncle
C1: The sky is blue

It would be absurd to accept either of the premises on the basis that we know the sky is blue. Similarly, we cannot accept Con's assertion that humans cannot be the objects of rights on the basis that we can use it to create a valid argument against slavery.
Secondly, the concept of self-ownership results in the condemnation of slavery, as well. If I am the sole owner of my own person, then it becomes logically impossible for anyone else to proclaim ownership over me and my labor (i.e. enslave me). Con claims that because property is transferrable, accepting self-property equates to allowing slavery. But this totally ignores the role of *consent* in property transfers; it is true that accepting that self-property would allow me to "sell" myself to someone, but since it would be occurring with my consent, it would no longer be considered slavery (coerced labor).

2. Rights and Relationships

Con's argument here does not make much sense... he proclaims that by accepting rights as being intrinsic properties of human beings, "we are also implying that property exists as some sort of platonic idea, apart from and previous to the interaction of subjects." Yet Con never goes on to explain why this is implausible or why this has any bearing on the NAP's ethical soundness. Even if there was some hypothetical situation in which only one person existed, it is true that this individual would still have the rights to life, liberty, and property... the question I pose to Con, then, is why does this matter?

3. Personal Autonomy vs. Self-Ownership

Con claims that I wrongly conflate personal autonomy and self-ownership, yet he never draws a clear distinction between the two himself... There are a variety of definitions of personal autonomy, but all of them generally refer to a person's ability to independently control their own person free from external influence. This does more than simply rely on the idea of self-ownership-- it *assumes* self-ownership simply by utilizing a possessive pronoun (i.e. his, their, my, etc). Unless Con gives us a compelling reason to differentiate the two, we must continue to assume that the two go hand in hand. Furthermore, as far as I can see, Con accepts the idea of personal autonomy being a distinguishing characteristic of human beings, so until he draws a distinction, he has also conceded that self-ownership exists.

4. Circular Reasoning

Con argues that it would be circular reasoning to derive the existence of property rights from self-ownership, since self-ownership is a form of property right. However, circular reasoning is a very specific logical fallacy in which proposition X is used to support proposition Y and proposition Y is used to support proposition X. We do not see this here at all; self-ownership leads us to the conclusion of property rights, but property rights are not used to justify self-ownership. Self-ownership (i.e. personal autonomy) is assumed as a result of it being a meta-ethical truth underlying any system of morality. It is similar to the notion of an uncaused ultimate first cause (ref: Kalam Cosmological Argument).

~ An Alternative ~

Con provides an alternative ethical system to the NAP. Since this alternative system directly contradicts the prescriptions of the NAP, it certainly can serve as a contention against the resolution; however, the burden of proof is on Con to demonstrate that this alternative is superior to the NAP. His primary approach to doing so seems to be to simply point out that his previous 4 objections do not apply to it, but seeing that all 4 have been refuted, it will take more than just that for us to prefer his alternative ethical system. And he does, indeed, attempt to provide "more":

"[The alternative ethical system] serves as a limit to rights such as property as the same principle which justifies property (respect for human life and dignity) would hold it to be a criminally immoral act to withhold a vial of insulin to a diabetic going into a diabetic shock, for instance. Under the non-aggression principle, this would be moral behavior,"

I have three responses to this...

a. Ethical Intuitionalism

Con's point, here, relies heavily on ethical intuitionalism, or, as Con himself put it in another debate, "argumentum ad idontlikeitum". The major problem with ethical intuitionalism is that there is no reason at all for us to accept the conclusions of our ethical intuitions, which are nothing more than the product of evolution-- a feature of human psychology existing for the purposes of adaptation. The purpose of ethics is to objectively prescribe what we ought or ought not to do under the assumption that humans possess some sort of moral significance (i.e. possess personal autonomy)-- whether or not those ethical conclusions we reach coincide with our ethical intuitions is irrelevant.

b. Moral Desirability

And besides that, there is definitely some ethical incentive for providing the diabetic with the insulin; withholding the insulin and providing the insulin would not be morally equivalent acts. Since the NAP is entirely centered around the protection of rights, preserving someone's right to life would be the ethically superior act because it advances the cause of of the NAP. So, while no moral obligation to provide the diabetic would be generated, the NAP would still render acts of generosity to be morally desirable.

c. Commission vs. Omission

Furthermore, there does exist some potential justification that even under the NAP, such an act would be considered immoral. An act of commission is one in which harm is actively inflicted upon someone; an act of omission is one in which harm is passively allowed to be inflicted upon someone. From a consequentialist outlook, these acts become morally equivalent (assuming equal degree of control)-- pushing someone off a cliff is just as bad as watching someone fall off a cliff when you could have easily saved them because both result in a person falling off a cliff and dying, and in both cases, abstaining from "committing" the act would have spared the victim that fate.
In that sense, abstaining from offering the diabetic insulin (an act of omission) would be just as bad as causing him to go into diabetic shock in the first place (an act of commission), which would have been considered a rights violation. Thus, the NAP could, indeed, render such acts of omission to be immoral.

Another objection by Con: "[The NAP would] consider a thriving slave trade perfectly moral, so long as the initial enslavement of each man were voluntary."
There is not much more to say to this than "so what?". As explained before, it isn't really "slavery" anymore if the "slaves" are giving their consent to being "enslaved", in which case there is nothing about it that can rationally be called immoral.

===============
CONCLUSION
===============

The existence of personal autonomy is a fundamental meta-ethical truth that must be assumed in order for morality to exist in any form, as it is the defining characteristic that grants humans moral significance in relation to the rest of the amoral universe. Self-ownership is an essential component of personal autonomy, and from it, we are logically led to the conclusion of the NAP, as shown in my constructive case.
None of Con's objections to the concept of self-ownership hold up to scrutiny, and thus, all of the above does hold true. Con proposes an alternative ethical system to the NAP, but he has the burden of proof to demonstrate that we should prefer it and accept it as evidence of the NAP's unsoundness, and I have refuted all his attempts at doing so.
The resolution is affirmed.

I look forward to Mr. Travieso's response!
TrasguTravieso

Con

1. Subjects vs. Objects

It seems I was unclear as to what I was trying to say. The impression seems to have been given that I have given as a mere opinion what is a common understanding of what constitutes a property right in Western legal systems from the time of the Romans (the system which gives us the very language of "rights" in the first place, and under which we necessarily labor if we speak of them). Since this is central to the topic under examination it is worth going into with greater detail than my previous (evidently excessive) simplification.

For rights to exist there need to be three elements: an active subject, a passive subject and an object. A subject is the person (juridical or physical) or group party to the juridical relationship which entails a right while the object is the "thing" (whether a physical object, a service or a faculty) at issue. The active subject is that which holds title to the right (for the purposes of this example let's say the right to property over a particularly shiny piece of obsidian rock), while the passive subject is the one that is obliged by this right to a certain conduct (positive or negative), in this case the negative conduct of abstaining from its use without the active subject's permission.

In the case of self-ownership we have departed from this schema in which it is people who are regarded as subjects of law who have rights over things, the which rights must be respected by other persons; we say instead that people are objects which can be owned by other objects (or the selfsame object) but also can sell themselves to other objects as long as this is done with consent of said first object. This certainly sounds confusing, but only because it is absurd.

Mr. Madara is correct to say that the premises of a syllogism ought not to be accepted simply because the answer is one we wish to accept, but rather the conclusion of must be accepted if the premises both be true and the logic valid. My argument, however, does not hinge on slavery being an outcome. The idea of self-ownership is contradictory in itself, I merely point out that as a consequence of its acceptance debt-slavery, among other aberrations, would once again be considered morally appropriate. A particular which would be avoided under my view of rights stemming from the dignity of man rather than from a particular right to property which we leave unjustified.

2. Rights and Relationships

"Even if there was some hypothetical situation in which only one person existed, it is true that this individual would still have the rights to life, liberty, and property... the question I pose to Con, then, is why does this matter?"

It matters because they wouldn't. Rights are not metaphysical entities. Due to pre-legal considerations such as the dignity of man, those rights flow immediately from any interaction of one human being with another (both becoming in the instant of their interaction subjects of rights). We cannot, however, speak of a right to property (of oneself or anything else) as a "Meta-ethical" axiom, much less base an entire ethical system on this misconception.


3. Personal Autonomy vs. Self-Ownership

"Unless Con gives us a compelling reason to differentiate the two, we must continue to assume that the two go hand in hand."

We must do no such thing. When one sets forth the claim that personal autonomy and self-property go hand in hand, one cannot eschew the burden of proving this is so. No one has the obligation to assume the libertarian worldview as if it were neutral, and much less when faced with its evident contradictions. In any case, this debate has given more than enough compelling reasons not to accept the novel idea of self-ownership and to inst
ead consider autonomy as stemming from mankind's nature as individuals endowed with reason and free will.

Personal autonomy does not stem from reducing people to the status of objects, but rather from the very nature and exercise of free will, which cannot truly be bought or sold. I can no more own my free will than I can hand it to someone else. I could, if I were forced to or felt there were compelling reasons for it, submit my own will to that of another; this submission however would either be one of mere actions (I only do what I am allowed or compelled to do, even if I will the contrary) or would be a willing submission, which could not be contrary to my free will. In no case would another be able to will for me. We do not need property to justify what stems necessarily from the object being considered


4. Circular Reasoning

"Circular reasoning is a very specific logical fallacy in which proposition X is used to support proposition Y and proposition Y is used to support proposition X. We do not see this here at all"

We do indeed: Self-ownership leads us to the conclusion of property rights, but self-ownership is a property right over oneself. This is self-evidently circular reasoning, no matter how we try to hide our fallacy in unsubstantiated metaphysical language. Now, I am as much a fan of metaphysics as the next Thomist, but one can hardly posit a contingent reality such as a right to property as the first cause of legal rights and moral duties. Much less when one of the legal rights it is supposedly the cause of is the right to property itself. A self-caused cause to replace the uncaused cause. Odd to say the least.


~ An Alternative ~

As to my opponents three responses:

a. Ethical Intuitionism

While I am thrilled and flattered that Mr. Madara has enjoyed my desecration of Latin I must disagree that this is a correct portrayal of my argument. I do not propose in proposing the alternative of an ethical system based on the recognition of human dignity that self-ownership allows for slavery and is therefore wrong. What I am dong, however, after proving the inconsistency of the idea of self-property is showing that an alternative moral framework can exist which does not fall into nihilism and yet affirms the rights spoken of before, as well as offering greater protection of human dignity than that which is provided by my opponent's model. This model cannot be said to depend on ethical intuitionism because it does not begin with the conclusion but first affirms that human dignity must be recognized due to mankind's free will and capacity for reason, then it notes that slavery (even when initially not a fruit of coercion) is opposed to this dignity and is therefore immoral. From here it would no longer be a matter of simply not liking the conclusions of the non-aggression principle, but of openly rejecting them as immoral.

b. Moral Desirability

My opponent seems to think that, as under the non-aggression principle it could conceivably be held that not allowing the death of a fellow creature due to our own greed could be less desirable than parting with what he needs to survive, we ought to excuse the fact that it deems both behaviors to be morally sound. Providing insulin to a man in death throes would in this scheme of things not be a moral obligation, but an act of extraordinary (even heroic) virtue. Something along the lines of St. Francis kissing the wounds of a leper. This hardly satisfies the accusation of being an insufficient moral code.

c. Commission vs. Omission

Let us remember that, as per my opponent's definition, the non-aggression principle states “that only actions which violate another person's natural rights can be considered immoral”. In attempting to add acts of omission he is stretching the definition to its breaking point.

If we base the right to life on the right to self-property, then we must consider there is a moral equivalence between helping a man avoid injury and helping a man not to stain his new suit. We do not ordinarily accuse a man of staining a suit simply because he didn't warn his fellow that the finger-food he is sampling has somewhat more sauce than he anticipated. We cannot accuse a man of taking another man's property right over his life simply because he did not want to lose his property right over his vials of insulin. It is only in recognizing the intrinsic dignity of mankind that we can see that the life of one man trumps the property of another. It is the recognition of the dignity of man which leads us to affirm that it is not only aggression but also inaction that can be regarded as a callous act of immorality.

The impossibility of the non-aggression principle to truly protect the dignity of man is also evinced by Mr. Madara's answer to my objection to a possible slave trade. He says: “It isn't really 'slavery' anymore if the 'slaves' are giving their consent to being 'enslaved', in which case there is nothing about it that can rationally be called immoral.”

Quite the contrary. Under the view of self-property once a man has sold himself into slavery (say to pay the college debts of a prodigal son) he no longer owns anything that could be considered to flow from his person. He no longer owns his free will, his work or even his life. He can be sold to another whatever his preference be on the matter, he can be separated from his family, whipped, worked to extenuation or even hanged for disobedience. Under a view which first defends the primacy of human dignity, there is nothing about this that can rationally be called moral.

===============
CONCLUSION
===============

The existence of personal autonomy does not justify a belief in the self-contradicting notion of self-property. The moral significance of man stems from his intrinsic dignity and not from a right to property which has not so far been justified (mostly because such a prospect would involve evincing some of the internal contradictions).

The non-aggression principle, in assuming the idea of self-ownership rather than human dignity as the basis of rights and morality is insufficient to uphold anything remotely recognizable as moral values and therefore must be considered unsound as an ethical system.

Debate Round No. 3
UchihaMadara

Pro

Since I will most likely be busy attempting to leave an impression upon the voters towards the end of the round, I would just like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to Mr. Travieso for his participation in this debate; it has been the most enjoyable debate I've done on this site so far, and also one of my most challenging ones. I will now proceed to present my final rebuttals and a closing statement.

1. Subjects vs. Objects

Con gives a more elaborate explanation of the concept at hand, pointing out that there are generally three parties involved when discussing a "right"-- the active subject (possesses the right), the object (what the right applies to), and the passive subject (is obligated to respect that right). He then engages in some convoluted rhetoric to try proving his point: "we say instead that people are objects which can be owned by other objects (or the selfsame object) but also can sell themselves to other objects as long as this is done with consent of said first object. This certainly sounds confusing, but only because it is absurd."
However, that only sounds absurd because Con is already having us assume that 'objects' refer to *inanimate* things which are incapable of 'giving consent' and 'selling themselves'. In other words, Con is assuming that objects are inanimate in order to show that humans cannot be objects (because humans aren't inanimate). Without first establishing that objects *must* be inanimate, Con's argument is fallacious, as it basically assumes its conclusion.
Regarding Con's argument that self-property justifies slavery (which I refuted), he simply shifts the focus of his argument from actual slavery to debt bondage; however, he makes no attempt at showing why debt bondage is unethical... what is so bad about a person *agreeing* to work to pay off his debts? No answer is given. Over all, Con has provided no compelling reason for us to accept that a human being cannot simultaneously be the subject and object of a right. This objection is refuted.

2. Rights and Relationships

I have clearly shown in my constructive that that by assuming self-ownership, we can logically reach the conclusion that rights exist as intrinsic human characteristics. Con tries to form an argument against self-ownership by pointing this conclusion out and calling it false on the basis that "rights are not metaphysical entities"; however, this is nothing more than a bare assertion-- where is the support for that claim? If only one human being were to exist, there is no reason for us to believe that he wouldn't still possess all his rights; those rights may lose their relevance, since there is no chance of them being purposefully violated by an external entity (i.e. passive subject), but this does *not* entail the non-existence of those rights.

3. Personal Autonomy vs. Self-Ownership

Con misses the point of my rebuttal, mistakenly claiming that I have not fulfilled my burden of proof and declining to say anything further on the subject. But I did, indeed, fulfill my burden of proof by showing that the very definition of personal autonomy *assumes* self-ownership by its inclusion of possessive pronouns; we cannot possess personal autonomy/free will (i.e. the ability to make choices and act of our own volition) without first having exclusive control and ownership over our own person. That, alone, serves as sufficient basis for us to believe that the two go hand in hand. Thus, Con did have the burden of proof to differentiate between the two, and he failed to meet it. And, in accordance with the debate rules, it is now too late for Con to do so, as I would not get a chance to respond.
Instead of fulfilling his BOP, Con simply confirms his concession that personal autonomy exists, and by extension, his concession that self-ownership exists.

4. Circular Reasoning

Reading over Con's rebuttal, it becomes clear that we must distinguish between 'self-ownership' and 'property rights', two similar terms which Con conflates in order to make his semantics-based case regarding my supposed circular reasoning more convincing. Whereas property rights refer specifically to the the products of our labor, self-ownership / personal autonomy is a meta-ethical truth justified by the fact that it is necessary for humans to have any sort of moral significance (just like how the uncaused ultimate first cause's existence is justified by it being necessary for the universe to have any sort of starting point). Property rights are not at all used to justify self-ownership-- they are solely the *implications* of self-ownership; the justification for self-ownership is completely independent of property rights regardless of the similarities between the two. Thus, the essential Y >> X component of circular reasoning fallacy is missing, and Con's objection fails.

~ An Alternative ~

Con claims that his alternative ethical system was merely meant to show that there are ways to affirm the existence of rights without acknowledging self-ownership. However, that only means that his ethical system ignores an important factor of ethical relevance in order to more closely match up with our ethical intuitions; it is the equivalent of creating the 'perfect' solution to the problem of national debt by ignoring the roles that inflation and international relations play in it. We are given no compelling reason to give precedence to an undefined, vague, and subjective concept such as 'dignity' over the much more objective, axiomatic idea of self-ownership (besides the irrelevant notion that it coincides more with our ethical intuitions, I mean). The mere existence of this alternative has no bearing on the ethical soundness of the NAP; Con must show that it is *preferable* to the NAP, and his only viable attempt at doing so thus far is with his insulin hypothetical, which *only* favors Con's alternative on the basis of ethical intuitionalism and ignores the NAP's ethical incentives and potential condemnation of acts of omission.

=========================
CONCLUSION
=========================

None of Con's objections to the concept of self-ownership hold up, with all of them having their basis in bare assertions and semantics; by failing to make a significant distinction between personal autonomy and self-ownership, yet evidently accepting the existence of personal autonomy, he essentially concedes that entire line of argumentation. Regarding his alternative ethical system, we are given no substantial reason to prefer it over the NAP, and thus, it cannot really serve as an argument against its ethical soundness.

Thanks to Con for an excellent debate and to anyone who takes the time to read and vote on this :)
Vote Pro!
TrasguTravieso

Con

As per the rules of this debate I cannot make any new arguments in this round. This leaves me space enough to reciprocate my opponent's kind words and perhaps clear up what seem to be misunderstandings about my argument thus far. I have not enjoyed a debate so much since I argued about infinite regress, and can count on one hand the times I have been so interested in a debate as to check its progress on my phone at regular intervals. For this I thank Mr. Madara and hope to spar with him, be it on the subject of Libertarianism or otherwise, in the future.

1. Subjects vs. Objects

My argument against self-ownership does not stem from a reduction of the concept of legal object to inanimate objects. The reason self-ownership is self-contradictory is that the active subject and the object purport to be one and the same. Slavery is not illogical but immoral (the justification for this has been mentioned and may be mentioned again), self ownership is not merely immoral but illogical. For a right to exist those three distinct elements need must be present. If they are not, we are laboring in the realm of the absurd simply for the sake of maintaining our ideological mirage of rationality.

As to the contention that I have attempted to "[shift] the focus of [my] argument from actual slavery to debt bondage", I must disagree. The matter of debt bondage or indentured servitude is an evolution of the institution of slavery, but is much more generous to the slaves than what we are discussing. In the case in which one offers one's work to pay off debts we could have no qualms. Work is an act of the will, not the will itself; or in other words, work is what a person does and not the person itself. We may accept that someone be entitled to our work as they would be when we sign a labor contract; while personal autonomy is not compromised by a claim to ownership. What we cannot accept is one person owning another, which is a necessary corollary to self-ownership once we realize that ownership implies the right to use, gift and sale of what is owned. Thus, these objections are not so much refuted as misunderstood.

2. Rights and Relationships

The language of rights is eminently juridical, and none can exist outside of human relationship. This is not a bare assertion, but an accepted fact of legal theory since the days of the early Romans. Ubi societas, ibi ius. I had mentioned this legal maxim before. It is usually used to show that law is necessary for any society (even if it is unwritten) but can also be taken to show that, as rights and obligations flow from relationships, they cannot be taken to have their own existence. Rights are contingent upon the existence of society and are not a prelude to it. The entire point of rights is to regulate interactions between people, to posit their autonomous existence is to make a totem of them.

3. Personal Autonomy vs. Self-Ownership

Mr. Madara accuses me of making a semantic case after giving us a textbook perfect case of a case built upon wordplay. He says that personal autonomy assumes self ownership by it use of pronouns, and then goes on to entirely miss the point of my previous rebuttal. Now, I am not sure whether my opponent owns or is owned by his mother, but as for me I will continue to look for the basis of personal autonomy elsewhere. One need not go further to accept personal autonomy than to recognize the nature of free will. Human beings are autonomous, not because they are granted a property right to their persons any more than slaves lost their autonomy in any sense other than the legal recognition of this autonomy and their physical shackles. A prisoner in the gulags or any other prison may be obliged by outside forces to conform his will to another's, but he cannot be said to lose his free will. Personal autonomy, therefore, is a simple corollary to the very nature of free will, and not a function of ownership.


This said we cannot but take Con's case for the identity of personal autonomy and self-ownership as unsupported and unsupportable.


4. Circular Reasoning

One can hardly accuse one's opponent of making a semantics-based case and then argue that ownership does not imply property in the case of personal ownership. Ownership by definition is a property right. Con has no way of getting around this. The fact that my opponent insists on embroiling himself in disquisitions about what he considers meta-ethical truths cannot distract us from this fact. Either self-ownership means a property right over oneself, or it means nothing at all. If it means nothing at all we have nothing to argue about and this entire debate has been a house of cards built on the foundation of a misunderstanding of the concept of personal autonomy; if it is a property right then it is a case of circular logic which cannot be affirmed apart from wilful ideological blindness.

~ An Alternative ~

My positive case, mostly there to stave off accusations of Nihilism, is not a case of taking the traditional moral view and building a case on them. Rather it is a case of taking the idea which founds the traditional moral view and reaffirming it. It is not that the idea of human dignity is based on a distaste for slavery, but that our distaste for slavery has grown organically (albeit slowly) from these pre-existing notions. What I can in no way accept is that the idea of dignity becomes any more doubtful after one puts it in quotation marks than the idea of self-ownership as a meta-ethical concept would. In order to affirm or reject either principle one must examine and not simply type it ironically. In my previous rounds I have affirmed the idea of human dignity by saying it stems from our faculty of reason and capacity for free will and rejected the non-aggression principle due to the inherent contradictions in self-property and the despicable actions its logic forces it to regard as moral. Mr. Madara neither gives solid reasons to affirm his theory nor does any more to reject the alternative than object to the fact that it affirms our ethical intuitions.

This, by the way, is not the same as basing itself on ethical intuitions. As I have already noted, and my opponent has failed to address, my own case affirms a principle and follows it to its consequences rather than affirming consequences and following them to a principle. The arguments from the thankfully hypothetical case of the diabetic man (hypothetical indeed, but not without its parallels in real life) cannot be said to only favor my position due to ethical intuitionalism because none is present. As to Mr. Madara's statement that I "ignore" the argument from ethical incentives and the potential condemnation of acts of omission I must say I can hardly be said to ignore what I dedicated two separate sections to answer. We must therefore take these to be dropped arguments.

=========================
CONCLUSION
=========================

Pro has not given a satisfactory answer to a single argument, other than a reaffirmation of his position. He has simply refused to address (or even recognize the existence of) arguments against his position. His entire case is based on the conflation of self-ownership and personal autonomy, the only argument in favor of the equivalence that has been given is the bare assertion that this is a necessary meta-ethical truth and the bizarre claim that in accepting personal autonomy I am automatically affirming his case. He has ignored the argument for personal autonomy as a necessary corollary to the existence of free will and has sidestepped both the alternative moral framework and the arguments for the inferiority of the non-aggression principle in, as he put it, "upholding moral values". As things stand I see no way to rationally justify affirming the resolution.

My thanks again to Mr. Madara.
Debate Round No. 4
55 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TrasguTravieso 2 years ago
TrasguTravieso
Craig, rather.
Posted by TrasguTravieso 2 years ago
TrasguTravieso
I'm thinking of sending all of my arguments to debatability to get them translated. For all the claims of philosophical stupidity those were more often than not better renditions of my arguments than my own!

As to the KCA, I'm not crazy about it, being more of a Thomist, but I think it sound. Particularly the version now popularized by William Lane Crieg.
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
UchihaMadara
Same to you ^_^
How do you feel about the KCA?

Yeah, we got pretty lucky. Both of the ones who happened to find this debate worthy of their attention are among the best voters on the site. Whiteflame, especially, has given me very valuable feedback on several of my debates, now.
Posted by TrasguTravieso 2 years ago
TrasguTravieso
Thanks, I quite agree. You are a challenging opponent and I enjoy someone who keeps me on my toes.

I'm surprised at the voters as well, I hadn't expected such throrough RFDs. Usually they simply justify their vote, this time we were able to actually get some constructive criticism which might help us improve our style.
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
UchihaMadara
Congrats on the win, Mr. Travieso!
It was a pleaure debating you.
We should do it again sometime :D
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
UchihaMadara
Thank you, whiteflame.
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T.T
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
RFD:
I think the biggest problem for Pro was that he threw all of his eggs into one basket " Pro had to win the argument that self-ownership as a concept exists, that is decidedly fundamental to our personal autonomy. In order to win this, Pro had to defeat every response that came his way, making his burden an all or nothing one. And Con presents me with enough in the way of arguments to see the faults.

He tells me that a right requires three elements, stating that they must be separate for that right to exist, something Pro's case can't really address. I get enough from Con to believe that these three separate elements are important, and not enough is done to counter them. Lacking those three elements, self-ownership seems an impossible concept. I could also vote on the argument that rights come from laws rather than being inherent to our beings, as Con showed that those rights only have any meaning in interactions. There are some issues with hypocrisy on the semantics, and certainly some concerns regarding who had BoP on various issues (I think, more often than not, that Pro's attempt to point to Con's BoP was deleterious to his case, pointing out gaps that existed in both of their arguments), but these didn't factor much into my decision. Neither did the circular reasoning argument, though I can see where Con is going with it, because I don't think it does enough to defeat self-ownership as an idea. I also think that the purpose of the alternative and its ability to compete with the plan is not articulated well enough early enough to make it function for me. Nonetheless, Con gives me enough to go off of to win the debate on the basis of the first 2 contentions. Ergo, that's where I vote.
Posted by UchihaMadara 2 years ago
UchihaMadara
Thanks for the vote and the RFD, debatability!
For someone who claims to be "philosophically stupid", I think you understood the debate pretty well :P
Posted by debatability 2 years ago
debatability
RFD:

Pro begins with an argument explaining that humans all posses autonomy (and that the only way to negate this thought would be through nihilism). Further explaining that since all humans are similarly autonomous or posses self-ownership, we should be expected to acknowledge eachother's natural rights. Con lays out a case talking about the problems with the idea of "self-ownership" by bringing up several points. Con's points adequately show that personal autonomy is totally different from the idea of self-ownership. Pro seems to have made a mistake by assuming that as long as autonomy exists, self-ownership exists. Con also points out justifying rights through personal ownership is circular logic. Con's counterplan to the non-aggression principle is interesting, though I will point out that I buy Pro's point about Con having to legitimately show that his principle is "more ethical" than the NAP. Con's ethical system basically explains that human relationship fosters rights due to dignity. Dignity and personal autonomy require the right to life, which is best achieved through the defense of private property. However, he does note that the right to life can also necessitate the limitation of property in some cases, if I am correct. Con further validates this plan by giving instances where NAP would be ethically unsound. Such as someone withholding insulin from a diabetic as well as the example of slavery. I'll go ahead and continue my rfd by dividing it into parts pertaining to each argument that I feel will be important during the debate. I'll make two categories. First category will be "personal autonomy and self ownership." Second category will be "alternative ethical system."
Posted by debatability 2 years ago
debatability
PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND SELF OWNERSHIP:

Pertaining to Con's first point about humans not being objects of rights, I can't quite buy pro's attack explaining that con is justifying a premise based on a conclusion. Pro also explains that con's slavery argument is invalid because property transfers would obviously require consent. I don't know if I can buy that if a person consented, It wouldn't be considered slavery. Pro needs to clearly define "slavery" for this point to go through. Con says that he is not justifying a syllogism based on the conclusion because his argument does not hinge on slavery as an outcome. Whether or not I buy this depends on whether or not I buy con's ethical system because if dignity should be valued due to human's reasoning, slavery would be immoral (regardless of coercion factor). The thing is, con has not yet established a compelling reason that one cannot be a subject and an object of a right at the same time (as pro points out). In the last round, I believe that con is finally able to adequately bring his argument tougher to show that humans are objects of rights, as he explains that ownership impales the right to use/gift/sell.

Con also needs to elaborate more on his second point (society necessitates law) by providing a strong link between this point and how NAP is unsound, otherwise this point is relatively nonunique. Con begins to provides a link between NAP's unsoundness and the idea of humans not possessing self ownership in R3. Pro points out that there is still no reason to believe rights don't exist without relationships. I don't know if I buy this because pro provides no compelling reason to believe they *do* exist without relationships. Con shows that rights regulate exchanges between people, thus proving that rights require relationships, causing me to buy this point.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 2 years ago
whiteflame
UchihaMadaraTrasguTraviesoTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by debatability 2 years ago
debatability
UchihaMadaraTrasguTraviesoTied
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Reasons for voting decision: A side note before I begin to post my rfd: the reason i'm voting is because I can't stand to see this debate go unvoted. I am almost tempted to leave this at a null vote because I have a strong adversion to philosophical topics. I really struggled getting through this debate, and (after voting period) I would appreciate any critiques on my vote. If I have blatantly misunderstood anything, please forgive me. The rfd shall be posted in 2 or 3 hours hopefully.