The Instigator
wrichcirw
Pro (for)
Winning
10 Points
The Contender
DanT
Con (against)
Losing
4 Points

The US Constitution Legislates Morality

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
wrichcirw
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/26/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,360 times Debate No: 30598
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (137)
Votes (3)

 

wrichcirw

Pro

I am curious to see how anyone can argue that any law does not legislate morality. To this end, I made the statement that the Constitution legislates morality, a point to which CON contested.

Resolution:

The US Constitution Legislates Morality

(i.e., the purpose of the Constitution is to legislate morality - obviously the Constitution is not a person that can enact laws)

Definitions:

The US Constitution - the Constitution and all amendments

Legislate - make or enact laws
https://www.google.com...

The term “morality” can be used either

  1. descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
    1. some other group, such as a religion, or
    2. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
  2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.
http://plato.stanford.edu...

Normative morality deals more with objective morality. Both PRO and CON are moral subjectivists, thus the resolution refers to what is defined here as subjective i.e. descriptive morality.

Rules:

Round #1 - acceptance only
#2, #3 - arguments, rebuttals
#4 - closing only (no new arguments, no new sources).

4,000 character rounds
No abuse of semantics - semantics abuse will result in conduct, S&G, and sources going to the other party
3 month voting period
Imposing a framework on your opponent is prohibited
DanT

Con

I accept this debate. Good luck.
Debate Round No. 1
wrichcirw

Pro

Thanks CON for accepting this debate.

My argument is very, very simple.

It's obvious that the Constitution is a set of laws that was enacted, so that portion of the resolution, that the Constitution is legislating something, is not up for debate. The main point of contention deals with exactly what it is legislating. Is it morality? Recall the definition of morality from round #1:

The term “morality” can be used either

  1. descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
    1. some other group, such as a religion, or
    2. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
Does the constitution "refer to some codes of conduct put forward...by...some other group, such as a [state]?" Of course it does. Therefore, by the definitions agreed to by PRO/CON in round #1, the purpose of the constitution is indeed to legislate morality.

I move to win this debate by this simple argument. I will add some descriptors, but I want to make clear that my key point is bolded above. As long as my key point remains uncontested, I win this simple debate.

---

Is this a subjective form of morality? Yes. The constitution embodies a code of conduct put forward by the founding fathers and embody their subjective views, and the amendments embody codes of conduct put forward by subsequent Congresses and embody their subjective views, and the amendments were validated by Supreme court justices in various court decisions whenever applicable, and thus embody their subjective views. This code of conduct, this subjective morality, is the law under which we abide, else we face some form of punishment from the state.

Is this a religious form of morality? The founding fathers were certainly religious, but they went to great pains to keep religion separate from the state. Therefore, this would be a secular form of morality. Religion does not own a monopoly on morality.

---

Again, I am curious as to how anyone could think that any law does not legislate some form of morality. I await CON's argument.
DanT

Con

Pro is using a semantic argument, which is the very reason I was hesitant to accept this debate. He is changing the context of the word “conduct” from “the manner in which a person behaves”, to “the manner in which an organization is managed or directed”.

http://oxforddictionaries.com...

It is clear that the definition agreed upon refers to a code of socially acceptable behavior.

The 1st source refers to the aggregated community, the 2nd source refers to a sub-community, and the 3rd source refers to each individual member of the community.

Pro claims that the constitution falls into the 2nd category, which it clearly does not. The 2nd category refers to a sub-community, such as a religion, which determines socially acceptable behavior. For example a religion may tell its followers that sex before marriage is taboo. The constitution makes no such ethical prohibitions, but rather determines what the government does and does not have the authority to do.

If we assume that the constitution is categorized under the 2nd source, we assume that the constitution is related to the example for the 2nd source; religion. The 1st amend. makes clear that congress cannot promote nor deter religious beleifs.

http://www.archives.gov...

Pro claims that we all must abide by the constitution, or face punishment by the state; this could not be further from the truth. The restrictions put forth by the US constitution only apply to the government, not to its citizens. The states were prohibited from printing money, but in the free banking era the states often hired these private banks to create a state currency.

In BRISCOE v. BANK OF KENTUCKY the Supreme Court ruled that the Bank of Kentucky was constitutional because the Bank Notes were issued on the Bank’s credit, rather than the credit of the State.

http://www.oyez.org...

The founders did not base the constitution on subjective morality; they based it on objective natural rights. The founders believed that the laws of human nature dictate that “All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights - among which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property; and, in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness… When men enter into a state of society, they surrender up some of their natural rights to that society, in order to ensure the protection of others; and, without such an equivalent, the surrender is void.”

http://www.nh.gov...

This is reflecting by the 5th amend. to the US constitution.

http://www.archives.gov...

Just because you have a right to something does not mean it is ethically right to do it. A “right” and being “right” are homonyms.

The constitution was constructed with a realist view of the natural laws, as opposed to the personal ideals of the founders. In Jefferson’s “Commonplace Book” he quoted chapter 40 of Cesare Beccaria’s book “of Crimes and Punishment”.

“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity...will respect the less important and arbitrary ones... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants, they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

http://www.tysknews.com...

Laws are not the same thing as morals. Morals and laws may overlap, but laws can still be immoral. Unjust laws prove that laws are not necessarily moral, while laws that serve to defend basic moral values (such as outlawing murder) prove that laws can coincide with morals.

http://people.wku.edu...

Debate Round No. 2
wrichcirw

Pro

Rebuttal

A) Semantics

1) I find it funny that CON is charging me with semantics abuse. It took 58 comments in the comment section for CON to agree to a simple definition of "morality". This is why I added the severe penalty for engaging in semantics abuse.

CON attempted a semantics argument with the word "conduct". I have no idea to what he is referring to when he states: "The 1st source refers..., the 2nd source refers..., and the 3rdsource refers..." After all, he only brought out one source for the word "conduct".

Regardless, it should be clear that, like morality, there is nothing in either the words "morality", or "conduct" that would require social acceptance. Everyone has their own code of conduct. Some people's code may coincide with Christianity's code of conduct, but that need not be the case. This code of conduct would be the individual's moral code. This fully conforms to the definition of morality in round #1, which also makes allowances for an individual's moral code. I want to remind CON and the audience that this round #1 definition was CON's definition, not PRO's. My own (rejected) definitions were from wikipedia or a dictionary.

CON also attempted semantics in defining the word "right". This has nothing to do with the resolution and is not worthy of comment.


B) The Constitution's Jurisdiction

CON asserts that the Constitution does not apply to all the people, but only to those in government. I must point out that, true or not, this does not negate the resolution. The Constitution is still a code of conduct people must abide by, in CON's case people in the government, else face punishment. Regardless, the preamble to the Constitution properly defines its jurisdiction:

"We the people of the United States...do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America"

http://www.law.cornell.edu...


Regarding BRISCOE vs. KENTUCKY, a case dealing with money printing, is money printing a moral issue? Secularly, yes. The Constitution does not explain the reasoning behind this; one possible explanation is that without centralized money printing, simple transactions would be harder to conduct. An example relevant to the Founders would be food growers having more difficulty finding customers - more people would then starve. Similarly, Exodus 20:13 does not explain the reasoning behind "Thou Shalt Not Kill". (http://www.esvbible.org...) A possible explanation for Exodus 20:13 is the golden rule - love thy neighbor as yourself. Both are versions of morality - one secular, one religious.

Just think about how many other moral issues one typically associates with handling money - theft, usury, etc. Regulating money printing is indeed a moral issue.

C) Objective Morality

I don't know why CON found it proper to introduce objective morality into the debate, which in CON's case would be the rights to life, liberty, acquiring property, and the pursuit of happiness.

Regardless, each and every person has their own perspective. This perspective is subjective. The Constitution was written by persons. They combined their subjective perspectives to encode a document that may be relatively more objective than any of their perspectives, but is still ultimately subjective. This subjective morality is what we follow when we follow the law.


D) Unjust Laws

Whether or not one thinks a law is just or unjust is that person's subjective judgment on that law. It does not change the fact that the law is part of "codes of conduct put forward...by...some other group, such as a [state]," and that it encodes a secular morality.

E) Misc.

I don't know how CON's points about the 2nd and 5th amendments negate the resolution. Is he arguing that the right to bear arms is a natural right, akin to some sort of objective morality? Wouldn't it be more believabe to think that the right to bear arms is part of the "codes of conduct put forward...by...some other group, such as a [state]..." in essence, part of a secular, subjective morality?
DanT

Con

A) Semantics

1) Con claims it took 58 comments for me to agree to a definition of morality. 1
st off, the comments have no bearing on this debate. Furthermore, the reason I disputed the original definition was because I was afraid he would use semantics to alter the context of the definition; a fear that pro confirmed in his 1st argument.

By source 1, 2, and 3 I was referring to the sources of morality listed in the agreed upon definition, not a source for an argument.

Pro stated that only Christians adhere to the morality of Christianity and those other members of the greater community may not agree with these subjective moral principles. This is exactly what I was referring to in the first round, when I said “some other group, such as a religion” refers to a sub community.

Pro claims that I tried to semantically define rights, but the opposite is true. I pointed out that I was referring to a right, not being right, and that the two are homonyms. I gave no definition for the term “right”; I simply pointed out the manner in which I was using it. In Pro’s rebuttal he ignored this and semantically tried to shift which “right” I was referring to, from “a right” to “being right”.



B) The Constitution's Jurisdiction

Con claims that the constitution is still a moral code, despite only applying to the government. Even if this was true, politicians would only obey the law out of fear of repercussions, whereas a virtuous person is not coerced into morality. The very idea that laws are identical to morality implies that one can be coerced into being virtuous. Laws can sometimes be based on morals, but they are not themselves a code of ethical conduct.

http://people.wku.edu...

The printing of money is not a moral issue, it is economic. It came about because due to inflation the continentals were only worth 1/40th its face value.

http://www.lib.uchicago.edu...

C) Objective Morality

Pro claims that natural rights (ius naturalis) are objective morality; they are no such thing. Again, a “right” (ius) and being “right” (rectus) are homonyms. One refers to an entitlement, while the other refers to something which is morally acceptable. Just because you have a right (ius) to do something does not mean it is right (rectus) to do it. I both advise and request that my appointment stop using semantic arguments.

http://www.princeton.edu...

D) Unjust Laws

Pro claims that morality can be forced on the individuals within a community, and that if individuals disagree with the law, it is still part of the dissenting individual’s moral code. That is like claiming that the morality of Christianity is part of an atheist’s moral code. If an individual’s moral code conflicts with an organization’s moral code, such as a religious code, the individual’s code trumps the organization’s code. This further proves my point that laws (lex) are not a moral code (moralis).

E) Misc.

My point about the right to bears arms had nothing to do with morality. The constitution was not based on the ideals of the founders, but rather the constitution was constructed in order to best protect our natural rights. We first tried a confederation, and after realizing the problems with the confederation we improved on it with the constitution. The constitution included an amendment process so that the constitution could be changed or altered if need be. The right to bear arms was not idealist, it was realist and utilitarian. The effect of an arms ban is counterproductive, and therefore the government was prohibited from banning arms. It had no ethical basis, but rather a historical basis; the battles of Lexington and Concord were a direct result of a British arms ban. The founders based our constitution on lessons from history, and they often used words such as “Experience hath shewn” when referring to the Laws of Human Nature (lex naturalis).

Debate Round No. 3
wrichcirw

Pro

First of all, thanks CON for the debate. As agreed to in round #1, neither PRO nor CON will bring forth any new arguments or sources. I will clarify points made by CON by linking them to my previous arguments, and then close.

Clarification

1) CON claims I have somehow altered the definitions used in round #1. I have been consistent in my usage. CON instead has indeed tried to continually alter the definition of morality by assuming that "conduct" requires social acceptance. It does not. This is clear in the round #1 definition of morality. I have been consistent in pointing this out. CON continually plays these semantics games.

2) Again, there are no sources in the link defining morality, so I have no idea where CON is getting the information for his points on "aggregated community", "sub-community", and "individual". As I've stated before, these are wholly unsubstantiated, and have nothing to do with the resolution.

3) I did NOT state that "only Christians adhere to the morality of Christianity." I made it clear multiple times that an individual's sense of morality may easily coincide with Christian morals. Maybe someone's sense of morality encompasses ALL of Christianity, and then some. Who knows? Morality is subjective, after all.

4) I did NOT state that "the constitution is still a moral code, despite only applying to the government." This is what CON stated, not me. I quoted the preamble to the Constitution, that made it clear the Constitution applies to "WE THE PEOPLE."

5) CON brings out a false dichotomy: "The printing of money is not a moral issue, it is economic." It can be an economic AND a moral issue, like theft and usury - a point I stated in round #3.

6) One day CON might convince me that his semantics on the word "rights" have any relevance to this debate.

7) I did NOT state that "morality can be forced on the individuals within a community." As I've continually stated, a group of people may have their own moral code, and an individual may have his/her moral code. CON's point about individual morality "trumping" state morality does NOT negate the resolution but indeed affirms it. He clearly states "If an individual’s moral code conflicts with an organization’s moral code, such as a religious code, the individual's code trumps the organization’s code." The relevant organization for this debate is the state. The individual's code trumps the STATE'S MORAL CODE. I fully agree. This affirms the fact that the laws of the state are indeed a moral code. The resolution is affirmed here. CON has forfeited the debate, unless he backtracks and somehow negates his own argument here.

8) Again, the 2nd amendment is a moral judgment. According to the state, people should be allowed to protect themselves, in this case through "arms".


Closing Comments

Morality is a very simple term that has been complicated by the preponderance of religious influence in the West. At its core, it's simply about a code of conduct - that there are some thing we should do, and some things we shouldn't do. Whether or not a religion is telling you what to do, or a government, your Aunt Suzy, or yourself, does not change the fact that they are all defining a sense of morality by telling you what you should do.

Laws do exactly this - they tell people under the jurisdiction of the state what they should and shouldn't do.

Religion does exactly this - it tells people under the jurisdiction of the religion (i.e. not excommunicated) what they should and shouldn't do.

Your Aunt Suzy does exactly this - she tells you what you should and shouldn't do. You fall under her jurisdiction because you're a child compared to her, and you must (supposedly) respect your elders.

An individual's own moral code does exactly this - an individual thinks for him/herself, and tells him/herself what he/she should and shouldn't do.

There's nothing magical about this. Morality is a very simple concept.

All laws legislate morality. The Constitution is not an exception. Vote PRO, thank you.
DanT

Con

Rebuttal

1) I have not changed the definition as Pro claims. Social acceptance is much different than societal acceptance. Social acceptance is the acceptance by one’s peers, whereas societal acceptance is acceptance by the aggregated community. I am claiming that morality is social not societal, whereas Pro can’t seem to differentiate between the 2. My interpretation of the definition stems from the article the definition was pulled from. Pro’s interpretation stems from a semantic shift of the words in the definition. The article clearly states

"in small homogeneous societies that have no written language, distinctions are sometimes made among morality,... [and] law.... So, even for these anthropologists “morality” does not often refer to every code of conduct put forward by a society….

Law or a legal system is distinguished from morality or a moral system by having explicit written rules, penalties, and officials who interpret the laws and apply the penalties. Although there is often considerable overlap in the conduct governed by morality and that governed by law, laws are often evaluated on moral grounds."

2) As I’ve already stated;

a. “society” refers to the aggregated community

b. “some other group, such as a religion” refers to a sub-community. Religion was given as an example, because a religious group is a sub-community. Just as the agreed upon definition explains the individual source of morality, so does it explain the sub-communal source.

c. “An individual for her own behavior” refers to an individual’s personal moral code.

3.) When someone converts to Christianity they adopt Christian morals as their personal code.

4.) The preamble does not say the constitution applies to “We the People” it instead states that the People/Citizens established the constitution for the United States/Federal Government.

5.) As I already pointed out, the printing of money does not have an ethical basis, it has an economic basis. We already tried letting the states print money, but that caused inflation, so we switched to a centralized currency. It was a correction of an economic issue, not a moral issue.

6.) Pro claims that I have used semantics on the words “rights”, but in reality Pro was using semantics to attack the words I used rather than addressing my actual points.

7.) Pro agreed with me that if an individual’s moral code conflicts with an organization’s moral code, that the individual’s code trumps the organization’s code. Pro saw this as an affirmation of the resolution. In reality a politician, cannot choose to ignore parts of the constitution they disagree with. By agreeing with me on this point Pro has unintentionally seceded the debate.

8.) The 2nd amendment is not a moral judgment; it is a practical one, because gun bans don’t work. As I already stated the 2nd amendment has its history in the start of the revolution. The 2nd amendment is not only to protect ourselves, but to overthrow a tyrant should one arise.

Closing Case

Throughout this debate Pro has relied solely on Semantics in order to prove the resolution. The only real argument Pro has made was in his rebuttal for BRISCOE vs. KENTUCKY; in all other rebuttals Pro has resorted to semantics in order to avoid addressing my actual arguments. Throughout this debate pro only provided 2 sources;

a.) an irrelevant passage from the bible, as a rebuttal to BRISCOE vs. KENTUCKY

b.) a source for the phrase “We the people of the united states”, as a rebuttal to the claim that the constitution only applies to the government.

Pro has failed to address most of my arguments, and has resorted to semantics to avoid addressing the other arguments. Pro’s entire argument in favor of the resolution is a semantic interpretation of the word “conduct”. In round 1 pro moved to win the debate based solely on the definition of morality, without introducing an argument.

Pro relied on semantics to affirm the resolution, and failed to meet the BOP.

Debate Round No. 4
137 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
"DanT is always right."
Posted by DanT 3 years ago
DanT
>.< I didn't say "I'm always right", in fact I didn't say anything about my arguments. I was speaking of your arguments, which relied on semantics (as usual). You are like the king of semantics. I've never seen anyone on this site who uses semantics as much as you, and that is saying something. The sad thing is, you actually think semantic arguments are legitimate.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
"DanT is always right."
Posted by DanT 3 years ago
DanT
Once again I lost a debate because of vote bombers. Pro's own rules state that I should have received conduct, S&G, and sources, but likespeace and rrose ignored the rules. If they followed the rules, I would have had 12 points. Technically I won the debate.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
BTW, I don't believe the Constitution is objectively morality because of the reasoning in my prior comment. We are simply incapable of comprehending objective morality, if one assumes it exists.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
"Violating my objective rights can be immoral, depending on the circumstance."

No, I would contend it is immoral in all circumstances. Prove otherwise.

---

"If I violate your right to life, in defense of my right to property, than it is justified. "

How do two wrongs make a right? Both actions are immoral.

---

" If you are imprisoned after being convicted of murder, your right to liberty has been violated, but it is justified."

How do two wrongs make a right? Both actions are immoral.
Posted by DanT 4 years ago
DanT
I believe in normative morality, but I believe it is very limited. Most moral values are subjective.

The reason I did not use that as an argument is because it would be a waste of the character limit. That and I would be playing devil's advocate, because I don't believe it is based on objective morality either.

It is based on utility, that is why we have amendments, and that is why we switched from a decentralized government to a more centralized government.

Laws =/= morals.

Violating my objective rights can be immoral, depending on the circumstance. If I violate your right to life, in defense of my right to property, than it is justified. If you are imprisoned after being convicted of murder, your right to liberty has been violated, but it is justified.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
Otherwise, you're technically votebombing. Just saying.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
Because he doesn't believe in normative morality.

And, please describe "abuse of semantics". I'd like to hear this one, lol.
Posted by FourTrouble 4 years ago
FourTrouble
DanT, why didn't you just say that the Constitution is normative whereas Pro's definition of morality is explicitly descriptive? You could have won this argument much easier that way.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by FourTrouble 4 years ago
FourTrouble
wrichcirwDanTTied
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: wrichcirw's argument abused "semantics," so per his own rules, he loses conduct, S/G, and sources.
Vote Placed by likespeace 4 years ago
likespeace
wrichcirwDanTTied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Arguments: Pro's resolution flowed smoothly from the agreed upon definition of morality. It explicitly describes morality as,"Codes of conduct put forward by a society." The one hiccup was when Con pointed out the jurisdiction of the constitution is the state, but Pro pointed out that the state is made up of people. Con did not rebut that. "The very idea that laws are identical to morality implies that one can be coerced into being virtuous." While this may conflict with how Con sees things--it's not a rebuttal of Pro's point at all. Certainly, if there were no penalty for not coming to a complete stop at stop signs, I would've made a rolling stop this morning, despite the nearby cop! UPDATE-- Conduct: I retract my conduct vote.
Vote Placed by rross 4 years ago
rross
wrichcirwDanTTied
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: See, to me, a debate like this always comes down to semantics. How can it not? Something like "morality" is so vague, that it has to be defined carefully and the debate will depend on that definition. So when Con says that Pro "relied on semantics to affirm the resolution" I really can't see how that's a problem. Really interesting debate. I can sympathize with Con's frustration, because I'm sure Pro is wrong on this, but it's hard to say where. Very tightly argued. Grammar: "Social acceptance is much different than societal acceptance." should be "is very different to" or possibly "very different from". Sources. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think people should have to access links to understand your argument. It should be complete in itself, and the links are just there to check the facts.