The Instigator
funwiththoughts
Pro (for)
Winning
3 Points
The Contender
2722
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Utilitarianism is a self-consistent moral system

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
funwiththoughts
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/9/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,372 times Debate No: 38713
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (0)
Votes (1)

 

funwiththoughts

Pro

This debate is about whether utilitarianism is a system that is consistent within itself. Utilitarianism is the idea that the most moral course of action is that which maximizes happiness and reduces suffering to the greatest extent. BOP will be on my opponent. Keep in mind that this debate is just about whether or not utilitarianism is consistent within itself, not necessarily whether it is the ideal moral system. My opponent will present opening arguments in the first round.
2722

Con

Utilitarianism is not a self-consistent moral system because utilitarianism is not moral in the first place. Since utilitarianism is doing the greater good for the greatest amount of people, we are forgetting about the minority. According to probe.org, ""utilitarianism cannot protect the rights of minorities if the goal is the greatest good for the greatest number. Americans in the eighteenth century could justify slavery on the basis that it provided a good consequence for a majority of Americans. Certainly the majority benefited from cheap slave labor even though the lives of black slaves were much worse." Also, Adolf Hitler justified the Holocaust by using utilitarianism. He thought that in the end, the majority would be much happier once he had "purified" the human race.

Utilitarianism cannot be self-consistent because morality is not constant. To be self-consistent, utilitarianism has to be constant. Situations are always changing and something that might have been moral once is not anymore. In different communities and areas of the world, morality is very different. In addition to that, morality varies from person to person.

Another reason why utilitarianism is not self-consistent is because it cannot uphold itself. Utilitarianism goes hand in hand with the quote "the ends justify the means" and crumbles without it. Being self-consistent means to agree or be accordant with oneself but there are different types of utilitarianism, many of which disagree with each other. There is negative, act, rule, preference, and hedonistic utilitarianism. Negative utilitarianism is preventing the most harm from harming the most people while hedonistic util. is producing the most pleasure for the greatest number of people. Preventing harm and providing pleasure are completely separate things.

To go over my case one more time:
1 Util. is immoral

2 If morality is not constant, neither are the moral systems
a) When situations change, morality does too
b) Morality is different in different communities and areas of the world
c) People have different opinions on what morality is

3 Util. is inconsistent
a) Can"t stand alone
b) Different types disagree with each other
Debate Round No. 1
funwiththoughts

Pro

"Utilitarianism is not a self-consistent moral system because utilitarianism is not moral in the first place. Since utilitarianism is doing the greater good for the greatest amount of people, we are forgetting about the minority. According to probe.org, ""utilitarianism cannot protect the rights of minorities if the goal is the greatest good for the greatest number. Americans in the eighteenth century could justify slavery on the basis that it provided a good consequence for a majority of Americans. Certainly the majority benefited from cheap slave labor even though the lives of black slaves were much worse." Also, Adolf Hitler justified the Holocaust by using utilitarianism. He thought that in the end, the majority would be much happier once he had "purified" the human race."

I specified in my opening that when I said "utilitarianism" I referred to maximizing happiness while also reducing suffering. Neither of the examples given minimizes suffering, rather, they increase it hugely. Also:

moral system, n.
1. The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.
2. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct: religious morality; Christian morality.
3. Virtuous conduct.
4. A rule or lesson in moral conduct.[1]

Here, I am referring to the second definition. As I stated, this debate is not about whether utilitarianism is ideal or even good, but only whether it is consistent.

"Utilitarianism cannot be self-consistent because morality is not constant. To be self-consistent, utilitarianism has to be constant. Situations are always changing and something that might have been moral once is not anymore. In different communities and areas of the world, morality is very different. In addition to that, morality varies from person to person."

To say something "might" happen is meaningless without any kind of backup or examples, hypothetical or real. And while it may be true that different people follow different rules, this does not make utilitarianism inconsistent.

"Another reason why utilitarianism is not self-consistent is because it cannot uphold itself. Utilitarianism goes hand in hand with the quote "the ends justify the means" and crumbles without it. Being self-consistent means to agree or be accordant with oneself but there are different types of utilitarianism, many of which disagree with each other. There is negative, act, rule, preference, and hedonistic utilitarianism. Negative utilitarianism is preventing the most harm from harming the most people while hedonistic util. is producing the most pleasure for the greatest number of people. Preventing harm and providing pleasure are completely separate things."

Again, I stated in the opening that when I say "utilitarianism" I refer to the idea that the most moral course of action is one that both reduces suffering and maximizes happiness to the greatest degree. Anyways, two different philosophies that stem for the same idea disagreeing does not make the stem idea inconsistent with itself.

[1]http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
2722

Con

"I specified in my opening that when I said "utilitarianism" I referred to maximizing happiness while also reducing suffering. Neither of the examples given minimizes suffering, rather, they increase it hugely."
Europeans and Americans thought they were maximizing happiness for the Africans because 1) they thought they were already being overly kind to "animals" and 2) the Africans were already being enslaved by other Africans and being a slave in Europe/America was much better than being a slave in Africa. Also, they were maximizing happiness for themselves because they could leave most of the hard work to the slaves. We know now that the Holocaust increased suffering, but Hitler and the majority of Germans believed they were maximizing happiness by ridding the world of lesser beings. So both these examples show the immorality of utilitarianism.

"As I stated, this debate is not about whether utilitarianism is ideal or even good, but only whether it is consistent."
The topic is "Utilitarianism is a self-consistent moral system" but utilitarianism is not a moral system much less a self-consistent moral system. So although the debate is not about whether it is ideal or even good, whether it is moral or not must be involved for the debate to work. Again, the topic says "Utilitarianism is a self-consistent MORAL system." Utilitarianism cannot be a moral system if it is not moral.

"To say something "might" happen is meaningless without any kind of backup or examples, hypothetical or real."
Example: You are texting and driving and when you look up, you see five kids crossing the street in front of you. It is too late to stop so your only option is to swerve to the side but if you do you will hit one kid reading on the sidewalk. In this case, you only have to choices, hit five kids or one. Although it is neither choice is right, it is most likely that you will hit the kid on the sidewalk because you would be saving more lives.
Now let"s change the situation. Instead of five kids crossing the street, there are felons and you are aware of that. Instead of child reading on a sidewalk, there is a well-known philanthropist checking the time so he doesn"t see what is going on. Which would be moral? If you kill the philanthropist you will have saved five lives but the philanthropist is now no longer able to help more people in need. But if you kill the felons, you have no idea whether they have changed their ways or not. You may have destroyed five lives and families. In this case, neither choice is more moral than the other. You don"t know which choice would bring greater happiness to more people and thus proving my point that morality is immeasurable and so are the moral systems.
Also, if something is meaningless without backup or examples, then I should win this debate because my opponent has no evidence, sources, or examples.

"Again, I stated in the opening that when I say "utilitarianism" I refer to the idea that the most moral course of action is one that both reduces suffering and maximizes happiness to the greatest degree."
This is unrelated to my point so this attack is void.

Utilitarianism is inconsistent and I will prove that using each of these definitions from the freedictionary.com.

Consistent, n.
1 In agreement; compatible
2 Being in agreement with itself; coherent and uniform
3 Reliable; steady
4 Holding true as a group; not contradictory

1, 2, 4: So my opponent said, "Anyways, two different philosophies that stem for the same idea disagreeing does not make the stem idea inconsistent with itself." But if consistent means in agreement and not contradictory, the different kinds of utilitarianism must agree with each other to be consistent.
3 Reliable; steady: Utilitarianism is not reliable or steady since the Holocaust, slavery, Stalin"s genocides, and many more horrible things were justified using utilitarianism.
Debate Round No. 2
funwiththoughts

Pro

"Europeans and Americans thought they were maximizing happiness for the Africans because 1) they thought they were already being overly kind to "animals" and 2) the Africans were already being enslaved by other Africans and being a slave in Europe/America was much better than being a slave in Africa. Also, they were maximizing happiness for themselves because they could leave most of the hard work to the slaves. We know now that the Holocaust increased suffering, but Hitler and the majority of Germans believed they were maximizing happiness by ridding the world of lesser beings. So both these examples show the immorality of utilitarianism."

You just completely ignored the definitions of "moral system" I posted. And my opponent still continues not to explain how the Holocaust was "minimizing suffering". I also would argue that it is inaccurate to say that the reason these actions are immoral is not because of utilitarianism, but because of the inaccurate assumption that there are in fact "higher" and "lesser" people.

"The topic is "Utilitarianism is a self-consistent moral system" but utilitarianism is not a moral system much less a self-consistent moral system. So although the debate is not about whether it is ideal or even good, whether it is moral or not must be involved for the debate to work. Again, the topic says "Utilitarianism is a self-consistent MORAL system." Utilitarianism cannot be a moral system if it is not moral."

Yes, it can. I explained the definition of "moral system" that I would be using in R1, yet you continue to ignore it. To reiterate: "A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct; religious morality"

"Example: You are texting and driving and when you look up, you see five kids crossing the street in front of you. It is too late to stop so your only option is to swerve to the side but if you do you will hit one kid reading on the sidewalk. In this case, you only have to choices, hit five kids or one. Although it is neither choice is right, it is most likely that you will hit the kid on the sidewalk because you would be saving more lives."

In a utilitarian mindset, yes.

Now let"s change the situation. Instead of five kids crossing the street, there are felons and you are aware of that. Instead of child reading on a sidewalk, there is a well-known philanthropist checking the time so he doesn't see what is going on. Which would be moral? If you kill the philanthropist you will have saved five lives but the philanthropist is now no longer able to help more people in need. But if you kill the felons, you have no idea whether they have changed their ways or not. You may have destroyed five lives and families. In this case, neither choice is more moral than the other. You don"t know which choice would bring greater happiness to more people and thus proving my point that morality is immeasurable and so are the moral systems."

Here is the thing. If you change the premises, but keep the same fundamental logic, you are going to come to a different conclusion. Anyways, a system does not have to make a statement on absolutely everything to be self-consistent, unless you want to argue that climate change theory is inconsistent because it doesn't explain why gravity exists.

"Also, if something is meaningless without backup or examples, then I should win this debate because my opponent has no evidence, sources, or examples."

BOP is on you, as I established in R1.

"This is unrelated to my point so this attack is void."

It is not related, because both of the examples of subsections of utilitarianism only fulfill one criterion without consideration for the other.

"But if consistent means in agreement and not contradictory, the different kinds of utilitarianism must agree with each other to be consistent."

This is not true. To apply this thinking to another situation: Say two people like cars, but one person likes Toyotas better than any other cars, and another person likes Hondas better than any other car. The two claims are inconsistent with each other, but the root idea of "liking cars" is still SELF-consistent.

"3 Reliable; steady: Utilitarianism is not reliable or steady since the Holocaust, slavery, Stalin"s genocides, and many more horrible things were justified using utilitarianism."

These things can only be seen as utilitarian if one takes the view that there are in fact "superior" or "inferior" races (as the perpetrators did, but I do not, and I am sure my opponent does not either.)
2722

Con

"You just completely ignored the definitions of "moral system" I posted."

I did not ignore the definition of moral system my opponent posted. I did not attack it because there was merely nothing to say about it. A moral system is a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct. That's great, that's wonderful. Now let"s move on.

"And my opponent still continues not to explain how the Holocaust was "minimizing suffering"."

It minimized suffering because Hitler and the Nazis believed that they would be better off if they did not have to deal with "vermin" anymore.

"I also would argue that it is inaccurate to say that the reason these actions are immoral is not because of utilitarianism, but because of the inaccurate assumption that there are in fact "higher" and "lesser" people."

Hitler, although he was not a moral person, he was an amazing orator which is how he convinced many people that Jews were less than them. He justified himself by using utilitarianism. He convinced most of Germany that he would be increasing happiness and decreasing suffering by starting genocide against the Jews. Without utilitarianism, it would be much, much harder to persuade people to kill an entire race.

"Yes, it can. I explained the definition of "moral system" that I would be using in R1, yet you continue to ignore it. To reiterate: "A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct; religious morality"."

If the definition was "a system of ideas of right OR wrong conduct", then utilitarianism would be able to be a moral system without being moral. It would mean that a moral system could be a system of ideas of right conduct or a system of ideas of wrong conduct. But the definition is "a system of ideas of right AND wrong conduct". This means that a moral system is a system of ideas showing the difference between the right things we should do and the wrong things we should avoid. An immoral concept cannot be a system of ideas showing the difference between the right things we should do and the wrong things we should avoid if there is nothing right about it.

"Here is the thing. If you change the location, but keep the same basic logic, you are going to come to a different conclusion. Anyways, a system does not have to make a statement on absolutely everything to be self-consistent, unless you want to argue that climate change theory is inconsistent because it doesn't explain why gravity exists."

I did not say that a system has to make a statement on absolutely everything; I just meant that morality is not constant since situations will change and there will not always be a choice that is more moral than the other or a choice that may have been moral before becomes immoral because of a change in situation.

"This is not true. To apply this thinking to another situation: Say two people like cars, but one person likes Toyotas better than any other cars, and another person likes Hondas better than any other car. The two claims are inconsistent with each other, but the root idea of "liking cars" is still SELF-consistent."

Utilitarianism is a completely separate idea than liking cars. Although two different claims of liking cars do not make the idea inconsistent, it does for utilitarianism because there is no root idea of utilitarianism. There is no such thing as "just utilitarianism". We are not even debating plain utilitarianism right now; based off the definition my opponent has provided for utilitarianism, we are debating about negative utilitarianism. If two different ideas of utilitarianism disagree with each other, it makes it inconsistent because there is no root idea.

"These things can only be seen as utilitarian if one takes the view that there are in fact "superior" or "inferior" races (as the perpetrators did, but I do not, and I am sure my opponent does not either.)"

Although, I do not believe in superior or inferior races and my opponent has made clear that he does not either, there are many people who believe so and like I stated before, a great orator, such as Hitler, can convince masses of people that there are higher and lesser people. There are many utilitarianistic extremists and they could start another genocide using utilitarianism as their foundation. So since there are still many racists in the world today " some of who may be utilitarianistic extremists " utilitarianism is not reliable or steady.
Debate Round No. 3
funwiththoughts

Pro

"It minimized suffering because Hitler and the Nazis believed that they would be better off if they did not have to deal with "vermin" anymore."

Jews, gays, disabled, etc. are not vermin.

"Hitler, although he was not a moral person, he was an amazing orator which is how he convinced many people that Jews were less than them."

How does this relate to utilitarianism?

"He convinced most of Germany that he would be increasing happiness and decreasing suffering by starting genocide against the Jews. Without utilitarianism, it would be much, much harder to persuade people to kill an entire race."

The majority of people being convinced of something does not make it true.

"An immoral concept cannot be a system of ideas showing the difference between the right things we should do and the wrong things we should avoid if there is nothing right about it."

Yes, it can-it just wouldn't be an accurate system of ideas.

"I did not say that a system has to make a statement on absolutely everything; I just meant that morality is not constant since situations will change and there will not always be a choice that is more moral than the other or a choice that may have been moral before becomes immoral because of a change in situation."

You are saying a moral system must make a statement even when neither choice is more moral than the other in order to maintain self-consistency. In other words, if there's something it doesn't make a statement on, it is a bad system. You may as well have said "utilitarianism is inconsistent because it doesn't tell you whether or not cheese or pepperoni pizza is better.

"Although two different claims of liking cars do not make the idea inconsistent, it does for utilitarianism because there is no root idea of utilitarianism."

As clarified in R1, I am using the definition that it is "the idea that the most ethical course of action is the one that maximizes happiness and reduces suffering to the greatest extent." This is a root idea, and one which excludes both of the examples you provide.

"based off the definition my opponent has provided for utilitarianism, we are debating about negative utilitarianism."

The definition is a mixture of both.

"If two different ideas of utilitarianism disagree with each other, it makes it inconsistent because there is no root idea."

Please refer to R1, where I explained the definition of utilitarianism that would be used for this debate.

"So since there are still many racists in the world today " some of who may be utilitarianistic extremists " utilitarianism is not reliable or steady."

The fact remains that to a non-racist these views cannot be considered "utilitarian".
2722

Con

"Jews, gays, disabled, etc. are not vermin."

I do not believe they are vermin which is why I put the word vermin in quotation marks because that's what they believed back then. In fact, some people still believe they are.

"How does this relate to utilitarianism?"

This was just a lead in to the rest of the paragraph; it was never meant to be part of the debate.

"The majority of people being convinced of something does not make it true."

Since the majority was convinced, it was maximizing happiness for them because they had fallen into a pit of believing they were higher than the Jews. Hitler's lies became their reality and even after Hitler died, some continued being cruel to "lesser" races. Once enough people believe something, it can become true in our society.

"Yes, it can"

How?

"It just wouldn't be an accurate system of ideas."

Exactly. If we attempt to follow an inaccurate system of ideas, we will be messed up. It's like believing two plus two is five for our whole lives.

"You are saying a moral system must make a statement even when neither choice is more moral than the other in order to maintain self-consistency. In other words, if there's something it doesn't make a statement on, it is a bad system."

My opponent has ignored my entire point where I explain how morality must be constant, not that it needs to make a statement on everything. Morality is immeasurable; it is not something you can compare something else against.

"You may as well have said "utilitarianism is inconsistent because it doesn't tell you whether or not cheese or pepperoni pizza is better."

This is not related at all to morality or utilitarianism.

As clarified in R1, I am using the definition that it is "the idea that the most ethical course of action is the one that maximizes happiness and reduces suffering to the greatest extent." This is a root idea, and one which excludes both of the examples you provide.

"The idea that the most ethical course of action is the one that maximizes happiness and reduces suffering to the greatest extent" is not a root idea because like I said before, that is negative utilitarianism not a root idea of utilitarianism.

"The definition is a mixture of both."

A mixture of negative utilitarianism and what? Also, if the definition is a mixture, it is not a pure, root idea.

"Please refer to R1, where I explained the definition of utilitarianism that would be used for this debate."

As I have stated multiple times, the definition is still not a root idea.

"The fact remains that to a non-racist these views cannot be considered "utilitarian"."

That is true but what I mean is that utilitarianism is not reliable because there is still a high chance that utilitarianism may be used for the wrong reasons.
Debate Round No. 4
funwiththoughts

Pro

"I do not believe they are vermin which is why I put the word vermin in quotation marks because that's what they believed back then. In fact, some people still believe they are."

Yes, but that does not make it right.

"Since the majority was convinced, it was maximizing happiness for them because they had fallen into a pit of believing they were higher than the Jews."

Had they not fallen into this pit, would it have made them less happy? Not likely.

"How?"

It would be a system of inaccurate ideas of right or wrong conduct.

"Exactly. If we attempt to follow an inaccurate system of ideas, we will be messed up. It's like believing two plus two is five for our whole lives."

That wouldn't be accurate, but it would not be inconsistent either.

"My opponent has ignored my entire point where I explain how morality must be constant, not that it needs to make a statement on everything"

I have done no such thing. The point is that you are saying that utilitarianism is not a consistent moral system because it doesn't make a statement on a circumstance where neither course of action is inherently more moral. This is no different than saying it must make a statement on absolutely everything.

"This is not related at all to morality or utilitarianism."

I was using it as a comparison, showing your logic applied in a more absurd fashion.

""The idea that the most ethical course of action is the one that maximizes happiness and reduces suffering to the greatest extent" is not a root idea because like I said before, that is negative utilitarianism not a root idea of utilitarianism."

You said that negative utilitarianism was exclusively reducing suffering without consideration for maximizing happiness, this definition involves both, and it is a root idea. Also, it is the definition established. This means that it is used as the definition for the purposes of this debate. And it is a root idea. If it is not a root idea, then why don't you tell me what it's a mixture of?

"A mixture of negative utilitarianism and what? Also, if the definition is a mixture, it is not a pure, root idea."

Negative and hedonistic, duh. And if there are more than one philosophies stemming from utilitarianism (as you are arguing), then it is a root idea.

"As I have stated multiple times, the definition is still not a root idea."

Then why can you not tell me what it is a mixture of?

"That is true but what I mean is that utilitarianism is not reliable because there is still a high chance that utilitarianism may be used for the wrong reasons."

This immorality is not caused by utilitarianism, but by bigotry. Utilitarianism can only cause such things when mixed with bigotry. Utilitarianism is not immoral, bigotry is. One may as well blame the Holocaust on painting, after all Hitler was a painter.
2722

Con

I will not be attacking in this round because it would be unfair to my opponent since he is unable to respond. Instead, I will be presenting my voting issues (reasons you should vote for me).

1 I have proven the topic to be false.
I have shown that an immoral concept, such as utilitarianism, cannot be a moral system. And even if utilitarianism was a moral system, it would be inconsistent.

2 He has not supported the topic at all.
My opponent does not have any points showing that utilitarianism is a self-consisting moral system. He has failed to explain how utilitarianism can be a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct if there is nothing right about it. He has also failed to show how utilitarianism is consistent. I had four definitions of consistency and utilitarianism did not agree with any of them.

3 My case was much more solid than my opponent's.
Because I had the burden of proof, I had evidence, examples, definitions, etc. to backup my case.

I would like to thank my opponent for this debate and please vote in negation (con) today.
Debate Round No. 5
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by OtakuJordan 3 years ago
OtakuJordan
funwiththoughts2722Tied
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Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con used a fallacy to attack utilitarianism. Although the minority and majority may shift, the principles of utilitarianism remain constant and therefore do not contradict in the way Con claimed.