The Instigator
Tatarize
Pro (for)
Losing
27 Points
The Contender
leethal
Con (against)
Winning
39 Points

These two situations are just as moral.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/14/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,074 times Debate No: 6931
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (22)
Votes (11)

 

Tatarize

Pro

Changing the tracks on a runaway train so that it kills one homeless man rather than 50 children (lets suppose they are all roped to the tracks).

Murdering a homeless and using his body parts to save 50 children.

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The train would kill the children if the tracks were not switched. The children in both cases will live equally productive lives. There are no extenuating circumstances which apply in one and not in the other.

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I'm not arguring that switch the tracks is moral or murdering the person outright isn't. In fact, I would switch the tracks and wouldn't murder the homeless man for body parts. I'm simply arguing that the inherent morality of the actions are the same.
leethal

Con

Thanks to Tatarize for posting a very interesting debate. I have been a fan of his religious debates for some time, and I know I'll get a good debate out of him. I will state from the outset that I, like my opponent, would personally switch the train tracks, but not murder the homeless man for body parts. It seems like such a natural decision that it took me some time to work out WHY I would make those decisions. I am happy to say I've reached an answer, and I will attempt to explain why the train track case is not as immoral as the body parts case:

The main reason I believe the train track man acted morally while the body parts man didn't, comes down to choice. The man who stumbled upon the train tracks had 2 choices; pull the switch or don't. These 2 choices would yield 2 consequences; 1 person dies or 50 people die. He acts based upon those 2 choices, and makes the natural decision to change the tracks and kill the homeless man.
The body parts situation isn't so cut and dry. The man who discovers 50 children in need of body parts doesn't just have 2 choices; he has many. He could appeal to the public to donate body parts, or appeal to friends and family for the same. Hell, he could even give up his own life so that the children could live, seeing as he's so concerned about their well-being. But of the many choices and options the man has available to him, he somehow arrives at the decision to murder an innocent vagrant in cold blood to harvest his organs. This is clearly not a moral decision to make given the alternatives available to him.

My opponent's main argument seems to be that with morals, the end justifies the means. This, essentially consequentialist, viewpoint is good in theory but doesn't hold water in reality. My opponent's own admission that he would make different decisions for the two cases is evidence of this. Following my opponent's line of reasoning, there is no difference between hunting down and stabbing someone to death, and punching someone in self-defence (to save your own life), accidentally killing him in the process. The end is the same (a man is dead), but nobody would suggest both men acted equally as immoral.

I will leave my first round here. I have argued against my opponent's suggestion that the end necessarily justifies the means in moral situations, or at the very least in the situations he presented. I have also shown that the reason one situation is more morally correct than the other is the number of choices available to the person in each situation. My basic argument is that of the 2 options available to the train track guy, he chose the most moral, whereas of the many options available to the body parts guy, he chose the least moral; namely, to murder an innocent man. I await my opponent's rebuttal arguments.
Debate Round No. 1
Tatarize

Pro

I thank my opponent for his kind words and well thought-out argument. However I must point out that the original resolution required that: There are no extenuating circumstances which apply in one and not in the other.

These differences cited by my opponent are simply situationally supposed extenuating circumstances which can be clearly remedied by varying the situation slightly.

What if the homeless man was the only person who had the required blood type. What if rather than an indepth action, the homeless man was already wired to a machine which would drain his life and by some unknown mechanisms save the children. What if the body parts weren't specifically for transplant but you had a generator that ran on human fat and could be powered to keep these children alive during a known ten minute black out.

In short, let us suppose there are no alternatives available to him. This homeless man is the children's ONLY chance. No weaseling out is permitted in either case. Either the train kills the children or the homeless man. Either the illness kills the children or you sacrifice the homeless man. There are no secret third options available to you.

However, again... I would switch the tracks and watch the children die of the illness. Even if, by virtue of this hypothetical, there are no potential other options.

The situations are alike in every morally significant way. What you supposed was the difference in one, is when rectified by decree, not changing a damned thing. Even if we know for a fact that there are no other options for the children the situations and decisions do not change.

In order to tell if you have a real solution verses a non-solution, if that difference you propose didn't exist would you thusly do the same in both situations?

Without a substantive difference between the two, is my resolution not proven by that failure?

Thank you.

Depending on whether my opponent finds real difference fitting this proposed test, vote pro.
leethal

Con

For my opponent's assertion that the original resolution required there be no extenuating circumstances which apply in one situation and not the other, I should say that I feel that this debate would be more aptly titled "Given no extenuating circumstances, these two situations are equally as moral." Were that the title of the debate, I would not have accepted it.

When my opponent stated in Round 1:

"The train would kill the children if the tracks were not switched. The children in both cases will live equally productive lives. There are no extenuating circumstances which apply in one and not in the other."

I presumed that he was through defining the debate and was now providing his arguments. I figured that his suggestion that there are no extenuating circumstances was his opinion of the 2 situations, not a stipulation built into the situations. To make it a stipulation built into the 2 situations, it should have been included in the resolution title, or else the resolution should have been defined more clearly in the first round.
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That said, I may as well finish up the debate, as it's the last round and, well, what the hell. Also, my opponent has essentially quashed my 'choices' argument, but he still only has one basic argument of his own; that the end justifies the means in moral situations. I showed in Round 1 that this was not necessarily the case, and will further my argument here.

The basic argument my opponent is making is that due to the end justifying the means, the two situations are equally as moral. I would suggest that my opponent's and my own assertion that we would make the decision which killed 1 person in one instance, but would make the decision that would kill 50 people in the other instance, shows that the INHERENT morality present in both cases is DIFFERENT, so long as there are no extenuating circumstances which apply in one and not in the other. The example shows the subjectivity of morality, that it can seem moral to kill 1 person to save 50 in one instance, but completely immoral to do the same thing in the next. This admission by my opponent is him inadvertently conceding the debate, and for this reason I urge you to vote PRO.
Debate Round No. 2
22 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
" Tatarize specifically stated in Round 1 that they were tied to the tracks."

I was referring to the homeless guy, not the children.

The rest is in the intent of the actor that preceeded each death
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
Not arguing that deliberate action was not taken, just that in scenario 1 that action was not targeted at the homeless person - its not explicit at any rate. And agreed with the children.
Posted by leethal 8 years ago
leethal
"Being on the line where trains frequent. Being in a position where stepping to the side to evade any trains was apparently not available."

- Tatarize specifically stated in Round 1 that they were tied to the tracks.

"Scenario 1 the homeless man is a victim of circumstance - he is not directly actioned against. He has placed himself there however. The risk of being hit by a train is unsurprisingly is much higher when on train tracks. Expected or not.

Scenario two the man's rights are directly violated against."

- I still don't see the difference. I'm sure when the guy goes out to find a vagrant to murder, he is not too selective about it. He would probably choose the first one who walked past. So the scenario 2 vagrant was also just a victim of his circumstances, because he just happened to be walking past at the wrong time. When the protagonist in each case stumbles upon each situation, we have 50 children who will DEFINITELY die if action is not taken. Circumstance (being tied to a track) has positioned our first vagrant to be killed in order to save the children. Circumstance (walking past at the wrong time, being 'tied' there by fate, so to speak) has also placed our second vagrant in a position to be killed in order to save the children. Neither man is more 'innocent', in my opinion.

I think Tatarize summed it up nicely:

"You are not inclined to take moral actions if you think somebody will blame you for it. This is because rather than some divine sense of right and wrong granted from on high, morality is a set of somewhat intuitive notions developed via evolutionary and cultural processes."
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
"However the situations are not equitable - the driver in control of the car would have to deliberately action against the person"
In the tracks situation, they'd have to deliberately act too :).

The homeless person might have accepted some risks (the train being wrong, or their reading of the schedule,) but not the risk of someone deliberately altering the schedule, unless the schedule specifically states "Times may vary."

In either case, he's still more innocent than the children :).
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
Justified? No. However the situations are not equitable - the driver in control of the car would have to deliberately action against the person. - I'm not sure what scenario where the lines are switched someone cannot then if seeing someone warn prior. My take was that lines were switched somewhere down the line it hit a homeless person.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
So someone who is in a crosswalk when the walk light is blue when they know for a fact a car is forbidden to move justifies running them over?
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
Being on the line where trains frequent. Being in a position where stepping to the side to evade any trains was apparently not available.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
"
Being on a train line where trains travel at speeds likely to make one a red smear does not make one an innocent, timetable of the rail known or not. :P"

How so? I mean, unless the trains are private property which provide an alternative crossing route, and have a sign posted to that effect...
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
An excellent thoughtful topic.

Morality is derived from instinct. Moral instincts derive by evolution from the survival benefits accruing to social organisms that benefit from a social resolution of choices. There is an instinct to protect children and an instinct not to murder someone who has done you know harm. Both have obvious benefits for social animals. The instincts are in conflict in the case used for the debate. The "no extenuating circumstances" clause is to prevent any other instinct from kicking in and helping to resolve the dilemma. To have a survival benefit, instinct doesn't have to provide a clear resolution of every case, just an overall benefit from the general rules.

So morality is subjective. It is also transcendental, since humans have an inherited common nature. Since that nature benefits survival of the species, it is reasonable to have, encourage, and sometimes enforce the common moral rules.

Note that the praying mantis female eats her mate after mating. It has something to do with recycling protein for the benefit of offspring. Praying mantis morality would have to not only allow the practice, but demand it. Morality depends on the nature of the beast.

I would be more likely to kill the homeless man than most, figuring that logic ought to force an override of instinct for the good of the tribe. However, I might well chicken out. In real life, the "no extenuating circumstances" clause never comes into play, so there would always be some way to rationalize doing what you don't want to do.
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
minus an 'is' there somewhere
11 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by Tatarize 6 years ago
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