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

There is no possibility for human action without moral consequences.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 0 votes the winner is...
It's a Tie!
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/22/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,094 times Debate No: 35873
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (0)
Votes (0)




Philosophers throughout time have examined the motivations behind human actions and their consequences. One of the philosophies that developed to answer these questions is Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism concluded that all human action has a moral value based on the moral consequence (pleasure/good, pain/bad) that it produces. Based on these criteria, is there possibly human action without moral consequences?

The answer to this question can be found in this argument:

  1. 1. Humans choose which action to take based on the amount of pleasure or pain that it creates. (Utilitarianism)512.4.2-4)
  2. The human action has a moral value because it affects the happiness of the person performing the action, and the happiness of others.
  3. The amount of pleasure or pain caused by human action determines whether the human action is morally right or wrong. (Utilitarianism)512.2.12-22(Utilitarianism)512.2.14-23)
  4. The moral value of a human action makes it impossible for human action to have no moral consequences.

Utilitarianism, along with other philosophies, is aware of the moral consequences of human action for the individual, as well as for the community. In fact, these philosophies either take this idea for granted, or use this idea as the foundation.



I accept this Challenge, and I will show you that. As seen throughout history one"s action good or bad does not necessarily mean that moral consequences will follow. In fact people try new things just to experience some happiness in their life and break away from the norm. Mill argues that "the rightness or wrongness of an act depends not on any intrinsic worth, but on the results it produces or tends to produce." (512.1.8-10). by this he means that a person actions whether it is right or wrong does not necessarily have a moral consequence attached to it. The only thing that seems to matter is the outcome of the whole situation, the outcome being whether or not the person is happy or not. However others like Bentham argue that human action rather than have a moral consequence, will show our true desires. Both argue that human action deals more with desire and there could possibly be a situation in which there is no moral consequences whatsoever

Lets Start with John Stuart Mills argument.
Mills argued that "the rightness or wrongness of an act depends not on any intrinsic worth, but on the results it produces or tends to produce." (512.1.8-10), and through his principle of utility one can act upon something without a moral consequence and it will create happiness. For example
(1.) Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce reverse of happiness. (513.2.1-3)
(2.)By happiness are intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure. (513.2.4)
(3.)pleasure and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends; and that all desirable things are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain.(513.1.
(4.)Hence, true happiness according to principle of utility has no moral consequences

In sum, Mill"s argued that true happiness has no moral consequences, and depending on the human action one try"s to gain the desired end (happiness) through pleasure and freedom from pain.
Debate Round No. 1


Some may argue that motives do not always have the same moral value as human action; however, it is important to remember there are motives that can be seen as “good” and others as “bad” and even morally neutral motives. (Bentham (132.2.1-7) For example, my motive to drink coffee this morning is not necessarily bad or good. What makes this motive a negative or positive one comes from something else. The moral importance of motives really comes from the effects, as in the actions that follow or are supported by motives. Motives that are not supported by actions do not have as much moral weight because their effect stays in the mind. Although, the effect of motives that are not put into action is mental, it can increase or decrease the happiness of the individual.

For Example:

1. I want to bake a chocolate cake for my daughter’s birthday.
2. I notice that I have no baking supplies.
3. I find that the supermarket closed early.
4. I am unhappy because I cannot bake a chocolate cake for my daughter.

Motives for human action are neither inherently good nor bad, and are sometimes neutral. However, when these motives are not made into action, they can also have moral consequences.



As you have stated, motives do not always have the same moral values as human actions. The way I see it Moral Values = Moral Consequences, Therefore it is possible to have a situation in which human action does not involve moral consequences.

As Stated by John Stuart Mills

As an addition to his principle of utility Mill"s also distinguished the fact that there are two qualities of pleasure, He distinguished higher from lower pleasures: some kinds of pleasure, those involving our more elevated intellectual faculties are more valuable than others. (512.2.20-23) However even though they have value it does not mean there is a moral consequence. For example

(1.)If I am asked what I mean by difference of quality in pleasures, or what makes one pleasure more valuable than another, merely as a pleasure except its being greater in amount, there is but one possible answer.(514.2.1)

(2.)Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective (without regard) of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure.(514.2.3-4)

(3.)Whereas, if one of the two is by those who are competently acquainted with both, placed so far above the other that they prefer it, even though knowing it to be attended with a greater amount of discontent. This is considered to be the undesired pleasure. (514.2.4-5)

(4.)Hence, if one were to prefer both items without any discomfort, or moral obligation, then that is the desired outcome. If one were to feel discomfort than it is not a desired outcome. (514.2.5-6)

In sum, Mills argued that there are different qualities of pleasures, if one were to prefer both items without any discomfort then that would be a desired outcome, if one felt discomfort towards one item then it is an undesired outcome, Human actions depend on desires, and actions could be made without moral consequences.
Debate Round No. 2


We have seen that human actions have moral consequences. We have also seen that the motives behind these actions (realized and unrealized) can have moral consequences. In this third part, we move from the fact that all human action has moral consequences to the fact that sometimes the motive can be “good”, but the action resulting from it can be bad, or vice versa. Martin Luther King explained it best when he was describing the professional, “good”, conduct of the police officers in their interactions with protestors: “…it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.” (King (11.4.5-9)
The fact that Martin Luther King was not a utilitarian shows an outside acknowledgment or support for the idea that all human action has moral consequences.

Even Socrates was the victim of the effect of the Oracle’s words. We do not know what the intention of the Oracle (or the gods) was, but there was an undeniable effect that took place in Socrates mind. It caused him to begin challenging all the “wise-men” in Athens. This action turned out to have a negative moral consequence. He had made so many enemies that he was eventually put on trial and condemned to death. Socrates’ intention in response to the Oracle was honest: he only wanted to clear up any false idea of his wisdom, but his action had negative and fatal moral and physical consequences for him.

“Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him – his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination – and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me.” (Plato (3.7. 1-19)

The dilemma for MLK and everyone else is to determine whether these moral consequences are good/bad, bring
happiness or unhappiness.


you bring up a valid point, Martin Luther King and Ancient Philosopher Socrates both stumbled upon utilitarian ideals without really confirming the fact that they believe in any of it. MLK's fight against injustice in Birmingham may seem to fuel utilitarian ideals by showing that human actions will not go without moral consequence, however that was not the case. MLK did not fight back not to morally show the opposing cops off,he just did not want to fight back because he knew he would never be able to win when violence is fighting violence. as for Socrates, he was just a crazy old man who believed in something, that he really did not believe in. what I mean by this he was teaching atheism, yet he believed in a god. something seems to be up with this guy.

Bentham proposed that causation and rightness govern us in all we do, in all we say, and in all we think; every effort we can make to throw off our subjection will serve, but to demonstrate and confirm it (128.1). Even though we try to deny causation and rightness control over our minds it seems to seep further and further into our lives, showing our true desires. Bentham suggests that we follow the principle of utility, which will aid in showing our true desires, without moral consequences.

(1.)Bentham states that one should follow his principle of utility due to the fact that is the utmost moral principle, The principle of utility is meant to approve or disapprove of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have augment, or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question. (128.3.1)
(2.)Utility is also meant to promote or to oppose happiness.
(3.)The principle of it will not shut down every action it will allow people to decide what is a good argument and what is considered to be a terrible argument.
(4.)Hence, the principle of utility is the foundation of the present work; then it must be the proper principle to follow (128.2.1)
(5.)Even though, it is the utmost moral principle, people base their actions on decisions made, and not on moral consequences.

In sum, Bentham argues that one should believe in principle of utility due to the fact that it"s the foundation of present work, plus it will aid in approving or disapproving every action of the government.
Debate Round No. 3


I can see where the argument that there are human actions which are neutral, as in neither good nor bad, comes from. However, the problem with this idea is that by themselves, actions may hypothetically be neutral, but their effects are never neutral. Humans take actions to produce effects or consequences that they desire. If the effects that they desire do not appear, then they can become unhappy: therefore, the action that they took had a negative moral consequence. Whether there is an intention behind the action, there is always an effect on the individual and/or others, whether it is happiness/unhappiness or good/evil.

Works Cited

Bentham, Jeremy

King, Martin Luther, Letter from Birmingham Jail

Mill, John Stuart, Utilitarianism

Plato, Apology (Translated by Benjamin Jowett)


After reading what philosophers like Mill"s and Benedict wrote, I believe that it is possible to have human action without moral consequences. due to the fact that human action relies on three things causation, rightness, and desire.

Bentham shows that causation and rightness govern our actions and if we are to follow his principle of utility, we can break from causation and rightness and achieve happiness granted the fact there is no moral consequences.

Mills took Bentham principle of utility a step further just by adding the simple fact that human desires also play an important role in human action, and when desire is broken down into higher and lower pleasure we see that the most preferred will be the one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure. notice the fact he said "irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation" break it down and you get something along the lines of when considering a human action, desire should not regard moral consequences. hence the fact that it is possible for there to be human action without moral consequences.
Debate Round No. 4
No comments have been posted on this debate.
No votes have been placed for this debate.