The Instigator
Con (against)
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The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

The categorical imperative is a preferable ethical system to utilitarianism

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 10/30/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 672 times Debate No: 64207
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




Pro should begin arguing in Round 1 and post "no round as agreed" in the final round; each side gets two total rounds to argue.


For those who do not know here is my interpretation of the categorical imperative(CI):

If you feel something[emotion[ is necessarily something[either object in the situation, or potential gain/loss], your action in this situation must be based on this and the only further reasoning regarding morality should be any feelings you may have regarding other 'something's in the situation.

This is my interpretation of UT(UT):

If something benefits the majority of people in a situation, or at the very least alleviates their potential suffering, the benefit and suffering of the minority must definitely be ignored when deciding one's action in the situation.

Now, when you look at CI at face value it seems rather like a child's moral reasoning whereas UT seems severely sophisticated and almost flawless in its capacity to help one determine what is right and wrong to do in any given situation. In fact, the face-value basis is what I predict Con's entire case will be based on. Yet, when looking deeper into the 'rightness' and 'wrongness' of certain actions in the context of the situations in which they are carried out, one realizes that in reality very critical errors in judgement can come form having a system any system that would claim that it has a perfect, objective basis for morality.

Utilitarians tend to blabber on about how great their morality is simply because the action being done will always be selected as 'good' as opposed to 'evil' by the majority of any given situation. However, the fact is that ballots cannot always be handed out before deciding what to do in a situation and the 'majority' of a situation may be of a totally different outlook than those of the majority of the world... Which creates huge problems as to what 'majority' is to begin with.

Gang rape would indefinitely be seen as moral in UT, for instance.

The common example of UT is that there is a train racing to smash five people to pieces but if a lever is pulled that kills only one person instead, you would have saved five people but now you are responsible for that one person's death and suffering prior to it. The real issue is how readily Utilitarians say they'd definitely pull that lever and yet in a similar example suddenly they squander about like bipolar sufferes fluctating between a definite yes or no. This common alternative is what I call the 'psychopath's paradox'. This is because psychopaths are suddenly more sure they'd save lives in this alternative than most utilitarians, capable of empathy, are[1]. This is where there's a fat guy/girl standing next to you ona bridge and if you push them over the train would hit their big body and slow down in time to not kill the five people at the end. A given criterion to the situation is that you are not fat enough to stop the train if you were to suicide leap onto the tracks instead (which, if it wasn't there would reveal how unsuicidal and hypocritical Utilitarians are even more so than the psychopath's paradox does). Psychopathic utilitarians, who are resorting to a rational basis for their false set of morals don't even bat an eyelid before saying 'yes I'd push that fat guy/girl over the edge'. However, Utilitarians capable of feeling the inherent 'rightness' and 'wrongness' in a situation suddenly fluctuate between UT and CI. This is because CI is the innate moral basis for all humans before they are brainwashed into other pseudo-intellectual bases for morality.

In actual fact the situation, for a true believer of CI, would not be enough to decide and hence is why some adherent of CI opt out and say they'd let the five die in both situations because that way they had no responsibility in the situation whatsoever while other adherents of Ci say the opposite or somwhere in between (I address this confusion later). Nonetheless, since people who purely use CI are in a minority since it's only what children tend to use to decide moral decisions and most learn some 'code' (Dexter reference[2]) form which to decide rightness form wrong. This is actually ironic because for those who follow a religion, what they end up doing is thinking they have a higher code of some kind but in actuality all religions are based on the CI of the God or their innate soul's 'compass' of what is right and wrong. This is also, uncoincidentally, why the majority of the world is actually non-Utilitarian[3] and hence the majority would suffer more if forced to convert to UT but remain more pleased if they could keep their current mindset in tact. This is one of many ways in which UT begins to dig its own grave as a moral code.

Now, I'm going to bring up source [2] again as I discuss the issue of psychopaths, sociopaths and those who are in capable of feeling an innate 'right' and 'wrong' and hence for whom CI is incompatible as a moral system. Con will probably argue that such people may indeed become maniacs and justify what they are doing saying they innately feel it to be right to rape and such. The sad thing is I have no rebuttal to this and toally concede that psychopaths relying on CI are truly dangeorus and volatile. On the other hand, I would also add that no psychopath truly follows a code (Dexter is a fictional character that is very unrealistic). Nonetheless, If a psychopath did truly abide by UT to the hilt they'd begin to discover that UT is just CI with a lot of cancerous mutations latched onto it. At the basis of UT is the notion that suffering has to be 'bad' and pleasure/well-being has to be 'good'. While I would agree this is a reasonable basis I would say that the only way that UT could be considered a valid ethical system in the first place is if one uses CI to determine that making a person suffer is bad to begin with and vice versa. When they have used CI to determine that suffering=bad and well-being=good then they can go on to the next step of asserting that the well-being of the majority and suffering of the majority should always be the ultimate factor in making a decision based on moral reasoning. Thus, if a truly rational individual, incapable of empathy, were to strictly stick to utilitarianism to determine what is 'right' and/or 'wrong' their lack of empathy in the first place would render UT futile as they'd require CI to determine what the 'bad' outcome for the majority is to begin with.

Now comes the knockout punch, so to speak, to completely demolish the Con case. The final angle to attack the resolution on is that since CI is so adaptable/malleable one can essentially use Ci to simultaneously say that rape is good and bad. Since emotions can fluctuate at any given time and mixed emotions of conflicting natures can exist in a human's psyche, it would mean that someone relying on CI to determine what is good and bad could end up completely incapable of ever ending at a conclusion whereas UT invariably would lead them to a concrete answer despite internal conflict. The way that I am going to counter this will seem so out-of-this-world as it is not directly addressing the argument at all but is rather like Con going for a jab to my face and me tickling then under the arm so they can't jab me in the first place. I am essentially going to say 'yeah, CI can end you up at totaly flux as to what is right and worng if you're experiencing mixed emotions about a situation but guess what, buddy, UT has such a greater flaw that that doesn't even matter'. Here is why UT will always lose to CI regardles sof the fact that Ci can lead to confusion where UT has clarity, it's because UT undeniably makes every adherent of it loathe it simultaneously by the simple fact that it forces you to label 'suffering' as a bad thing to give/receive and 'pleasure/well-being' as a good thing to give/receive. You see, ladies and gentlemen, there is no-one on earth, not even the most suicidal nor masochistic person, that would base their morality on the notion that to suffer is bad and to fair well is good and then say 'okay make me suffer for the many as my well-being gets diminshed'. This is like saying that 'red is good and blue is bad' and then saying 'okay, turn me red if it means others can be bluer'. That would essentially be stating that one would want evil to come to them for the sake of good ot come to others, which in turn means that htey are accepting that the evil coming to them is inherently 'good', if the evil coming to them is suddenly 'good' then that ends them up at a far greater situation fo flux than CI ends its adherents at.

I think that what I just wrote may be confusing so I am going to give a syllogism to represent it:

A= good
B = bad
AC = action

P1: In CI, AC is A or B based on one's feelings at the time.
P2: People can feel different things about the same situation.
P3: P1+P2 leave a person in a state of confusion.
P4: In UT AC is A or B based on the notion that suffering must be bad and pleasure/well-being must be good.
P5: An adherent of UT would be pleased and perceive a well-being to their moral stance if they were to make themselves suffer for the sake of a majority.
P6: P5 while P4 means that the person is simultaneously perceiving evil as good.
P7: It is less terrible for a moral system to confuse its adherents than to directly overlap good and evil and thus implode the entire concept of morality altogether.

Thank you to my opponent for starting this debate and thank you to the audience for reading thus far.

[1] first video to the right.
Debate Round No. 1


== Definitions ==

My opponent offers "[his] interpretation" of the Categorical Imperative (CI), which is a formulation I have never seen before. For those that don't know, the CI was first formulated by the philosopher Immanuel Kant. The CI is said to be "categorical" because it applies without any conditions. [1] So for example, the statement: "if I am thirsty, I must drink" is not categorical because it contains a triggering "hypothetical" ("if I am thirsty"). [1] The phrase, "If you must choose between saving five people or one person, save the five people" would be categorized by Kant as a "hypothetical" imperative (as opposed to a "categorical" imperative) because it only applies conditionally [as evidenced by the "if" statement]. [1] Because the categorical imperative must apply without conditions, it cannot be formulated as a case-specific inquiry. [1] Instead, Kant formulated the following principle and dubbed it the Categorical Imperative: "Never treat a person as a means to an end," you must only treat people as ends in themselves. [2]

If you look at my opponent's definition of the CI, it is basically a situation-specific inquiry that depends on your emotions at the time. Not only is this formulation not "categorical" [because people will reach different moral conclusions based on their situation-specific inquiries], but it is not even an "imperative" [because people can choose to do whatever they want in a given situation, based on their emotional state at the time]. My opponent fails to argue in favor of anything that remotely resembles the CI.

His formulation of "utilitarianism" (UTIL) is also not one that I endorse. As a general matter, UTIL tries to provide the greatest good for the greatest number. However, there are different "flavors" of utilitarianism (much like ice cream). One of these "flavors" is "act utilitarianism," which evaluates each individual action on a cost-benefit scale. In contrast, "rule utilitarianism" sets out to establish *only* broad-based moral rules (that are widely applicable) based on a cost-benefit analysis. Under rule utilitarianism, an act is always immoral if it violates one of these moral rules. Essentially, rule utilitarianism seeks to establish what Kant would call conditional ("hypothetical") rules that apply situationally, whereas the categorical imperative seeks to set only one rule that must always be followed. In today's debate, I endorse rule utilitarianism, not act utilitarianism.

My opponent's formulation of UTIL, which states that the suffering of a minority group must always be subordinated to the benefit of the majority, is simply incorrect. First, even act utilitarianism accounts for the *magnitude* of the harm and the benefit. If something will harm a small group immensely and benefit a large group only marginally, the enormous magnitude of the harm to the "minority" outweighs the small benefit to the "majority." Second, rule utilitarianism only adopts *rules* that are net-beneficial to society. A rule -- for example -- that minorities can have their property confiscated at any time is *not* net-beneficial to society because everyone has some way in which he or she can be classified as in the "minority" (i.e. race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, eye color, height, weight, etc.), and the result of such a rule in terms of the disruption of property rights, productivity, and the general "rule of law" (by allowing mass persecution of minorities) outweighs any marginal benefit to the majority group of capturing additional monies. So *rules* that attempt to treat minorities unfairly are generally going to be suspect under rule utilitarianism because such rules have disruptive effects.

== My Case ==

(1) Argument against the CI

Unfortunately, I feel like I'm arguing against a straw man because my opponent never really endorses the CI. However, I offer my reasons here as to why the CI is *not* a preferable ethical system to UTIL.

Remember, the CI says that people can *never* be used as a means to an end. In contrast, UTIL allows people to be used as a means to an end as long as the ethical *rule* that is adopted -- on balance -- leads to a better "end" than an alternative rule. The CI is obviously a much more rigid ethical system (given that it is "categorical").

Joseph Nye of Harvard University cites the following hypothetical to show the ridiculousness of the categorical imperative: you pass through a conflict area and a rebel captain has captured 30 innocent villagers. The captain is going to execute the innocent villagers for being from a rival tribe. You pass by and the captain, for his amusement, hands you a gun and says: shoot one villager and I will let the rest go free. If you refuse, the captain will order his men to shoot all of the villagers. Nye asks, "Will you shoot one person with the consequences of saving [the rest], or will you allow [all] to die but preserve your moral integrity by refusing to play his dirty game?" [3]

The CI requires you to *refuse to act.* Under the CI, you cannot kill one person to save a larger group of people because doing so uses the one person as a "means to an end." The person"s life is nothing more than a means to achieve the "end" of saving people. Kant would say that choosing to sacrifice the one person fails to respect inherent human dignity. In contrast, UTIL posits that it is pointless to refuse to act because (a) the one person dies either way, and (b) 30 deaths is much worse than one death.

Nye goes on to say that the implications are even more profound in the age of nuclear ethics, where a situation might arise where you need to kill one person (say, a potential nuclear terrorist) to save every life on the planet. [3] The CI -- because it eschews any conditions or exceptions to its categorical proscriptions -- is too rigid an ethical system for the modern age. [3]

As another example, the United States reserves the right to seize private property when it is necessary to do so to achieve a great public good. For example, imagine that California has drawn up plans to build a new super-fast bullet train throughout the state that will speed up commuting times, enable faster shipping of products, and is projected to add $30 billion per year to the state's economy. The state is offering homeowners whose houses are in the path of the proposed train a very generous price for their property. Of the 1000 property owners affected, 999 choose to sell their homes voluntarily. The remaining *one* homeowner refuses to sell. The state is currently permitted to take the home (in a "condemnation" action) and simply pay the owner the home's fair market value. The CI says that allowing condemnation actions is immoral because it uses a person as a means to an end. The state fails to respect the single homeowner's dignity because it treats him merely as a means to achieve the "end" that is the bullet train. So under the CI, the state must abandon the bullet train, despite its benefit to the state of $30 billion per year, even though there is only a single holdout landowner. In contrast, UTIL allows condemnation actions to proceed where there is a demonstrated and substantial public interest because UTIL recognizes that a single holdout should not jeopardize something that is clearly in the best interest of society.

(2) Argument against my opponent's moral system, whatever it is

Whatever system of ethics my opponent advocates, it is clearly not the categorical imperative. So technically, the resolution does not require me to argue against it. But just to be safe, I will.

My opponent's system is flawed because it is the worst form of moral relativism. His system deems any act to be "moral" as long as the person performing the act decided to perform it based on their emotions. Such an ethical system is indistinguishable for adopting *no* ethical system at all. In a world with no ethics, people would simply do whatever their emotions dictated. Societal codes of conduct and ethical rules could not be adopted because my opponent's system entitles every person to act however he or she pleases. Such a system is absurd. My opponent himself admits that his proposed system could be used to "simultaneously say that rape is good and bad," which makes his ethical system worthless. And he concedes that psychopaths pose a serious problem for his system of ethics because they have no empathy to guide their actions in the right direction.

== Rebuttal ==

My opponent says a lot of things. I'll try to tease out some coherent points from his Round 1 and respond to them.

R1) Gang rape would be seen as moral under UTIL

No, it wouldn't. Even under ACT UTIL, the magnitude of the lasting psychological harm to the person raped outweighs any fleeting sexual benefit derived by the rest of the group. Furthermore, RULE UTIL would not permit gang rape, as a general rule. A rule that requires consent to sex is preferable to a rule that allows rape because society derives benefits from establishing order and uphold sexual autonomy and choice. The cumulatively negative psychological impact and the many unwanted pregnancies that would stem from a *rule* allowing gang rape completely outweigh the temporary sexual satisfaction that the rapist achieves.

R2) The train track hypotheticals

I'll address these hypotheticals next round, *if* my opponent first explains what they have to do with the CI vs. UTIL. I think I know where he is going with this, but I don't want to presume.

R3) Suffering is not bad??

My opponent says something to the above effect. I'm not sure what he means, but I don't endorse the Benthamite calculation of suffering versus pleasure, but rather characterize the cost-benefit analysis in UTIL as weighing all "negative effects" versus all "positive effects" of a given rule.

[3] "Nuclear Ethics," p. 18-9


When the Utilitarian is questioned about morality they assert three things:

"Suffering is bad because I feel that it is"
"Suffering of the majority is worse than the minority because I irrationally will ignore the minority's value when making moral decisions."
"Death, in which one cannot possibly suffer as they are not alive to feel any agony whatsoever, is magically 'suffering' because I say so!"

This is actually CI level logic and it the basis of Utilitarianism as a whole.

The Villager Example

The CI individual holding that gun with the thirty individuals might well kill the one for the many but this is only if their CI code labels killing as neutral or good. If their moral code labels killing as bad, it's ba unbreakable rule indeed. Here is where the Utilitarian becomes stupid... They would somehow decide which of the 30 is the one worth killing based on no data at all, then they would determine that the other 29 are not only worth more in the value of their life than this individual, since by opting to kill that individual over the others Not only is there no possible way to determine which of the 30 is worth killing over the others without any data but it's also impossible to justify this by Utilitarianism since death is not suffering but living through starvation and agony and making these people have to live a long life ahead of them traumatized by this experience will be more suffering than having let them all die. The issue is that suffering is not present in death at all, so by killing people you guarantee they have no suffering at all. This is where Utilitarianism begins to fall flat on its face.

Another issue is these Utilitarians, as I stated in Round 1, would allow themselves to suffer for a majority and then feel 'good' about it. If what is happening to them is supposed to be suffering for the majority then if they feel good about their moral stance being higher than the rest then them suffering is good to them and then evil and good become the same thing. This is something Con never once addressed and if they address it next round I am not allowed to reply to which is bad conduct.

The train example showed that Utilitarians, who aren't psychopaths, inherently have CI within them and it surface sin situations where empathy is suddenly required. Pushing someone over a bridge to save five lives is perceived very differently to pulling a lever to kill the same person instead of the five. This is indeed different but in Ci the line would be drawn base don the inherent rightness or wrongness of killing (which is up to the individual to decide) whereas a utilitarian will hypocritically say "I am so intellectual I have a flawless moral system that doesn't allow me to confuse right and wrong" and then hesitate before pushing the person off the bridge due to having empathy and inherent subjective qualms about the rightness of killing regardless of the five being saved or not.

Suffering is a very subjective matter. Psychological suffering can occur by making people survive traumatic experience and them having PTSD the rest of their life wishing you'd let them die when you had the opportunity. In addition, if you have the option to rape one person to stop the rape of five others but the five others turned out to be extreme masochists with rape fantasies[1][2] while the one you were raping was a sadist[2] then you are increasing everyone' suffering as the masochists will envy the victim and the victim will hate what is happening to them.

You have no clue what 'suffering' is to one individual because what makes one person suffer can absolutely please another. A good example is spicy food, for South Asians (generally speaking) spice is actually necessary and they suffer with the blandness of mild food. For others (generally speaking) spice, at least in its extremes, is agony as opposed to pleasure. If a utilitarian was asked to make food for these individuals, they'd have no way to know unless they actually went and interviewed all of them.

In CI, the ignorance is accepted. A true adherent of CI acknowledges that they'll never really know if the people around them like spice or not, if they are worth killing or saving or raping. The individual that embraces CI will instead seek to constantly treat all the same regardless of the suffering it may cause them. In reality the Utilitarian does this too but is too blinded and hypocritical to see that they never will know if what they are doing end sup making more people suffer or not because of the subjective, individualistic nature of what suffering and pleasure truly entail.

To the follower of CI, if their code states that 'killing is wrong' they will not kill any of the 30 because it would be a huge disrespect to the one they killed to say "hey the other 29 are worth saving over you and I decided this base don momentary impulse to save 29 people here and you just pulled the short straw sucker!". They will refuse to kill any of them as they respect the equal rights of all of them to live to an equal degree. This is what Utilitarians do not understand. By attacking a minority you are being the aggressor but by allowing nature to take its course you are not the one responsible. Indirect responsibility is not an actual reality. In the end only those acting in a scenario are the ones responsible for anything that happens. By allowing five to die you allowed them to die, by killing one you are a murderer. If that one was Einstein and the five were rapists you'd think differently. Utilitarians always assume all humans are equal morally and yet contradict this notion by thinking they have the right to determine which of a group should be actively hurt, or killed, by them in order to 'save' the others. The CI adherent respects that each and every individual truly is equal and that to actively hurt any one of them in order to stop the very same kind of hurt, or suffering, to come to others would make one a major hypocrite.

If killing is bad/wrong then to kill anyone should be wrong. If it isn't wrong then it isn't wrong at all. There is no middle ground. Moral skeptics/nihilists disregard morality altogether and make decisions based on the situation. Adherents of CI have a moral code that is fair to all, regardless of one's luck to be in a majority or not. This is the fundamental reason that the resolution is true.

If you were offered as sacrifice for many, and have your eyes gouged out and your mother and spouse raped before your eyes and their heads cut off and them suffering with rigor mortis as their dead bodies act on pure nerve contractions, you'd know how wrong it was, even if this saved 4 people, and in fact this is another problem with UT. In UT, you can kill one to save many, or rape one to save many being raped. However, what if you have to kill one to stop the rape of many? How to quantify the suffering of acts? What if the acts are nowhere near the same? Would you kill someone to stop three people being flicked on the nose? This is where the entire grey area come sin that CI doesn't have and is brutally fair to all.

A last point, regarding gang rape, is that UT definitely allows gang rape. There is no objective way to measure society's well-being. What there is to measure is that five people being imprisoned and having to suffer punishment is making a majority suffer for the sake of one minority. Even if the majority of society believe that this is 'good', it is not good by UT standards. For instance, if a society suddenly happened to be a majority of rapists, the CI code would say it doesn't matter, rape is wrong no matter what (or right depending on the code). It either is or is not and applies to all. It is mercilessly fair and respects that each individual in a majority is just as worthless/worthy of respect as the minority you are about to make suffer.

An act is an act, and unless you are morally neutral you need to decide if that act is good or bad in relation to the alternative of not doing it. The CI code is concrete and openly admits it's based on irrational subjective interpretation of right and wrong. UT is just as subjective in both its basis and application but seems to take some ridiculous 'higher ground' which can only be truly taken by psychopaths ignoring that minority's right to not be treated with evil.

In conclusion, it is impossible to objectively verify suffering and furthermore impossible to create quantifiable measurements to contrast rape, murder and the likes to individuals who may be more masochistic than others. CI admits ignorance and says 'do not do this act ever' or allows anyone to do the act if it is not wrong. UT will say 'no this act is usually wrong because we irrationally have decided that these people are suffering under it even though we can't read their minds and you must not do it unless it stops many suffering in their minds form your perception'. Pleasure and pain are objectively unverifiable, you can hardly have a brain scanner ready at hand for every individual when making moral decisions in general life. CI saves time thinking but also is the fairest that any individual in a minority would be thankful and respectful that the individual with CI was doing.

Summary note: Either resort to pure moral subjective relativism, or become absolute as CI. Don't resort to some hypocriticla system that would do acts, otherwise deemed evil, due to the bad luck of one end up in the perceived minority if a situation. If you were ever in that minority you'd loathe the Utilitarian for being immoral to you and smiling with glee because they think it's okay to do these horrific acts to you for the sake of a majority who, by pure chance/luck not by deserving to be, ended up as the majority in that scenario. Thus CI is preferable over UT from the perspective of the one receiving the evil.

Debate Round No. 2


== Overview ==

There isn't really a "debate" to be had at this point: my opponent drops the definitions section and never proves that what he is advocating for even is the Categorical Imperative. It's certainly not what Kant thought of as the CI. And I don't see any other philosopher cited by Pro to prove that his system -- that people ought to make ethical decisions based on their emotions at the time -- is a reasonable understanding of the CI that I should have to argue against. At the point where Pro has BOP to uphold the CI, he already loses. I didn't define the CI in round 1 because it is so acutely associated with Kant that no reasonable person would purport to just make up their own ethical system and call it the CI. I assumed whoever took the debate would do so only if he or she knew what the CI was.

In addition, my opponent continues to argue against ACT UTIL not RULE UTIL. As I said, I don't endorse ACT UTIL. So again, there's not much of a debate to be had here. The debate is over at this point. Pro fails the BOP to prove that the CI is a better ethical system than RULE UTIL. There's no reason to continue reading. However, if you want to, you may. I'll address my opponent's last round out of an abundance of caution.

== Rebuttal ==

(1) The Villager Example

Pro essentially argues against this by asking: how does one choose which of the 30 villagers to kill. First off, Pro has changed the hypothetical. Joseph Nye said that the rebel captain has already chosen for you. The rebel captain says, essentially, "kill person #1 and I will let persons #2-30 go free." So the reason I didn't address this issue yet is because it wasn't part of the original hypothetical.

But let's consider a new hypothetical where the rebel commander lets *you* choose whom to kill. The most fair rule of thumb would be that if any of the thirty villagers *volunteer* to be the sacrifice, you choose from amongst the volunteers because they have consented. If no one consents, you consider factors like age and contribution to the community. Kill the 90-year-old crack addict over the 30-year-old businessman.

As Pro points out, it's not "fair" to have to prioritize one life over another. But the situation isn't of your choosing; it was forced upon you by the rebel commander. The CI would say that because it's unfair to value one human life above another, you must "refuse to play [the rebel commander's] dirty game" and must abstain from action. You cannot use a human life as a means to an end. However, the result of the CI is that 30 people die instead of one, which is an unjust result, especially considering that all 30 people would prefer that you shoot one of them over not acting (although none of them wants it to be them, even though they are no worse off than if you refuse to act, and the rebel commander kills them all). The CI results in an obviously immoral outcome: people unnecessarily die.

My opponent claims that the PTSD from survival is worse than death because death ends suffering. However, as I said, UTIL cares about costs and benefits, not necessarily "suffering." Death is obviously worse than PTSD because at least if you are alive, you can work through your PTSD and still have a relatively happy, productive life.

My opponent says something to the effect that under his moral system (which I refuse to call the "CI"), if a person's subjective moral code says killing is wrong, they should not kill the one villager to save the many. If a person's personal moral code says murder is okay, they should kill the one person. So basically, under my opponent's system, only a murderer acts morally in the situation (by saving lives). This seems ironic. In addition, this example shows how my opponent is really advocating moral relativism, not the CI. The outcome depends entirely on who happens to be there in that situation , and the person simply follows his or her own personal, intuitive moral code. That's not what Kant envisioned. My opponent's advocacy amounts to saying morality doesn't matter because it does not dictate that you act in a certain way. Just do whatever you feel is right. My opponent's advocacy in fact almost borders on moral nihilism, advocating that we shouldn't bother trying to craft an ethical *system.* Just let people do whatever they want.

(2) The train examples

To review, the train examples involve two hypotheticals.

Scenario 1: Six people are on train tracks, when they shouldn't be. Five of them are on Track A. One of them is on Track B. A train is coming and is going to hit the people on Track A. Would you pull a lever to divert the train to Track B.

Scenario 2: Five people are on Track A. A fat man is on a bridge overlooking Track A. You know, with certainty, that the fat man is heavy enough to stop the train before it hits the five people. Do you push the fat man off the bridge?

Most people say that they would pull the lever in Scenario 1, but would not push the fat man off the bridge in Scenario 2. There's an obvious reason, under RULE UTIL, that you would want a rule that allows you to save lives in Scenario 1, but not Scenario 2. In Scenario 1, there is one major difference: all six people have done something wrong. They should not be on the train tracks. They actions have put you in a situation not of your choosing. You either have to save five people or one person. So you save five people. Scenario 1 is similar to the Villager Example from Joseph Nye.

In Scenario 2, the fat man has done nothing wrong. He just happens to be there. If you choose to push him off the bridge, that is a situation of your choosing. There is no "proximate relationship" between the fat man and the train. If you push him, you have unfairly involve his life in a situation that had nothing to do with him. If RULE UTIL allowed murder whenever it saved lives, this would be problematic because it would allow murder *in every scenario*, since every murder victim could potentially be an organ donor. RULE UTIL cannot tolerate such an outcome. In contrast, Scenario #1 involves something that American law calls the "necessity defense" to murder: you had no choice in the matter. Someone was going to die and you acted to save lives. The train was going to hit someone either way. But for the fat man, the train was *not* going to hit him but-for your actions, so you can't murder him for the greater good.

RULE UTIL is preferable because it leads to clear rules for society. In contrast, my opponent's moral relativism permits murder. My opponent says his ethical system "acknowledges that they'll never really know if the people around them like spice or not, if they are worth killing or saving or raping." My opponent says as long as you treat everyone the same (i.e. murder anyone you feel like killing or rape anyone you feel like raping), then murder and rape are okay. I ask you, is an ethical system that permits murder and rape really a coherent ethical system?

(3) Continued attacks on ACT UTIL

My opponent says that UTIL permits you to rape one person to prevent the rape of many (or to gang rape someone for pleasure). However, RULE UTIL would prohibit rape as harmful to society, so rape would never be permitted. Same with murder. However, RULE UTIL can have conditionals (i.e. exceptions). If you need to protect your own life, you may kill someone. The CI -- as my opponent acknowledges -- does not allow hypotheticals. If killing is wrong, it must always be wrong in all scenarios, regardless of circumstances. RULE UTIL is *somewhat* similar to the CI in that it tries to prescribe broader rules for society, rather than telling people to run their own subjective utilitarian calculation in every circumstance, but it is *less rigid* because it can proscribe contingent, hypothetical rules that have exceptions, whereas the CI has to apply categorically. RULE UTIL can create *multiple rules* to fit various situations, whereas the CI only has one rule: you can never treat someone as a means to an end. The problem is that sometimes people's rights come into conflict: one person's right to life comes into conflict with other people's rights to life. One person's property comes into conflict with the greater good (such as in the bullet train example from the previous round). RULE UTIL allows us to adjudicate these competing rights claims, whereas the CI forces us to choose *inaction* because to prefer one person's rights over another's treats that person as a "means to an end."

Because it is a more flexible ethical system, RULE UTIL is preferable to the CI. Vote Con.


I didn't need this round, I already won anyway.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by UchihaMadara 1 year ago
wow... Imperfiect was RM.
Posted by Imperfiect 1 year ago
why is it hard?
Posted by UchihaMadara 1 year ago

If you ever wanna redo this debate, I would totally take you on.
I'd probably advocate for something along the lines of the Non-Aggression Principle.

I would vote, but tbh I'm having a really hard time reading through Pro's argument...
Posted by Imperfiect 1 year ago
you redefined utilitarianism and brang up 10 new points u shud be banned from ddo
Posted by Imperfiect 1 year ago
you ahv eno evidence that any one of those 30 woudl wan to be shot by you.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by UchihaMadara 1 year ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: This was a pretty confusing debate... Pro is supposed to be advocating for the categorical imperative, yet he seems to advocate some sort of relativistic ethical system. Con could have set some definitions in round 1 to avoid this, but I think it was fairly clear what type of debate he was looking for-- Pro should lose on non-topicality alone. Aside from that, Pro is unable to support his relativistic system anyways, as Con successfully demonstrates that an ethical system which lets you do whatever you feel like is pretty much like no ethical system at all, and is thus obviously inferior to util. As for Pro's objections to util, I think all of them were soundly refuted by Con's advocacy of rule util-- an ethical system which creates moral rules based on a logical cost/benefit analysis of their impact on society is generally able to make the best of any scenario. Pro actually had a couple good points against util buried in his case, but he never followed up on them enough. Con vote.