Vigilantism *Official Tier Tournament: Round 1*
*Official Tier Tournament: Round 1*
Resolution: Vigilantism is morally justifiable when the government has failed to enforce the law.
Vigilantism: The methods, conduct, attitudes, etc, associated with vigilantes.
Vigilante: One who takes or advocates the taking of law enforcement into one's own hands.
Morally: In a moral manner; from a moral point of view.
Moral: Of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong.
Justifiable: Able to be shown to be right or reasonable; defensible.
Round 1 is for acceptance only.
No new arguments in Round 4.
10,000 characters per round.
72 hours per round.
Open voting, but all voters must submit a thorough RFD.
Thank you, Raisor. I look forward to an interesting debate.
Using the provided definitions, the resolution can be restated thus: "The conduct of taking the law into one's own hands is able to be defended, or shown to be right or reasonable, from a moral point of view." In order to affirm the resolution, I must show that vigilantism "is able", while Con, in order to negate, must at least show that I have failed, and at most show that vigilantism "is not able".
1. Morality is Subjective
This is my core argument, and the core argument of any moral debate that does not take place within a moral framework. If we were debating the morality of vigilantism within a Christian framework, a Naturalist framework, etc., the debate may go either way, but when debating morality generally, the answer to the question, "Is this morally justifiable?" is always "Yes."
Morality is inherently subjective. Whether one considers an action to be right or wrong is a value judgement based on one's own preconceived notions, upbringing, environment, religion, etc.
Because morality is subjective, and every person on earth may have his or her own moral code, it is of course possible to morally justify vigilantism. Looked at from the appropriate moral point of view, vigilantism is able to be shown to be morally right.
2. Specific Moral Points of View
Although I feel it may be unnecessary, I will examine vigilantism within a few familiar frameworks, just to show that it is indeed able to be morally justified.
Pragmatism is a results-based philosophy that focuses on the practical application of theories and beliefs. Therefore, if vigilantism yields the same end-result as traditional law enforcement - the apprehension or punishment of criminals - it is pragmatically justifiable. To a moral pragmatist, vigilantism is able to be morally defended.
Naturalists hold that forces of nature are the only true forces that operate in this world. Therefore, if a naturalist believes that a murderer is going against nature, it follows that any force that stops the murderer and restores balance would be a force of nature. To a moral naturalist, vigilantism is able to be morally defended.
Hedonists believe that pleasure is the primary intrinsic good. Therefore, if vigilantism is pleasurable, it is hedonistically justifiable. To a moral hedonist, vigilantism is able to be morally defended.
The above are just a sample of the innumerable ways in which any action, including vigilantism, is morally justifiable. No particular view is "right", except to the proponents thereof, but no particular view can be shown to be "wrong", either.
Morality is inherently values-based and subjective. Therefore, vigilantism is definitely morally justifiable.
Over to you, Con.
I fear that Pro is trying to spike out of having any debate at all through semantic gymnastics. Pro must do more than simply show that arguments can be created to support the Resolution, he must show that those arguments succeed in being true, i.e. are superior to mine.
able - 1a) having sufficient power, skill, or resources to accomplish an object
right- 3) Conforming to facts or truth: correct
Justifiability therefore requires that Pro show the Resolution has the power to be shown true or correct. If Pro’s arguments are inferior to mine, they lack the sufficient power to defend the resolution.
Additionally, a “moral point of view” does not equate to any point of view within a moral system. Per R1, it is a point of view “concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct…” i.e. we must evaluate the resolution from the perspective of the principles of right conduct rather than the perspective of expediency or some other criteria. We wouldn't say gravity can be disproven from a scientific view because some scientist thinks gravity is wrong- we would evaluate gravity from a scientific perspective.
Prefer my interpretations because it offers both sides fair ground and will generate a more educational debate by actually testing how both side’s arguments stack up. This is supposed to be a debate, not a game of whether Pro was clever enough to write loopholes into the Resolution. My interpretation is straightforward and fair.
Finally, the Resolution requires a defense of the universal justifiability of vigilantism in all cases where the government has failed to enforce the law. The Resolution provides a class of cases, “when the government has failed to enforce the law,” and asks whether vigilantism is able to be justified in that class of cases. If justifiability of vigilantism is dependent on a subjective perspective, then there are cases where vigilantism is unjustifiable when the government fails to enforce the law. Essentially, Pro must defend the entirety of the Resolution; and at best Pro’s argument only defends that vigilantism is justifiable for some people while saying nothing about the rest of the Resolution.
Prefer my interpretation because it tests the entirety of the Resolution.
Subjectivism violates the law of non-contradiction. Different moral systems will yield conflicting claims- if moral systems yielded identical claims they would have no discernible difference. Conflicting claims cannot simultaneously be right.
A claim is shown to by right by its reasonable justification, so any sound justification will result in a right conclusion. From this we see that if a claim is not correct, then it cannot have a reasonable justification. Since Subjectivism yields conflicting claims, we know that at least some of the claims are not correct. From this we see that the justification for at least some subjectivist claims is not reasonable. But Pro’s argument reveals that all subjectivist claims share the same justification- an individual’s preconceived notions. Thus the justification provided by moral claims is not justified.
Pro may say that hedonism relies on hedonist justification while pragmatists rely on pragmatic justification- but we can just what justifies those fundamental justifications. Ultimately subjectivism relies on the argument that any contingent facts are sufficient justification for a moral claim, or as Pro says, our preconceived notions etc. justify our moral claims.
This account of morality better captures Pro’s observation that morality is based on “preconceived notions, upbringing, environment, religion, etc.” and is inherently subjective. These subjective factors all play into our non-cognitive attitudes toward norms. Note that this is an explanatory account of moral statements- it explains what is happening when we say “vigilantism is right when the law fails.” We are not making statements which can be correct or incorrect but only expressing our approval of certain norms.
Premise 1: If X is (analytically equivalent to) good, then the question "Is it true that X is good?" is meaningless.
Premise 2: The question "Is it true that X is good?" is not meaningless (i.e. it is an open question).
Conclusion: X is not (analytically equivalent to) good.
This argument shows that any theory that equates the good (or an equivalent term for morally justified) with a naturalistic explanation will fail. For example, if we say that the good is “what is pleasurable” we can replace all claims about “the good” with “what is pleasurable.” This reduces our original claim to “what is pleasurable is what is pleasurable,” an uninformative tautology that is uninformative about the myriad of ways we talk about what is good. Moreover, if we ask the question “Is it true that what is pleasurable is good?” the answer cannot be determined based on our understanding of the terms involved. This question is “open” because one of the terms- “good”- has no satisfactory definition that can settle the question. Any answer to the question "Is X good" will require elaboration, explanation, and argument incapable of arriving on a settled conclusion. Contrast this to the question “Is it true that bulldogs are canines?” The terms are sufficiently well defined that any competent speaker of the English language can answer this question based on the terms involved- the question is closed.
Thus any natural property will fail if substituted for “X.” The good cannot be identical to a natural property.
Note that this argument shows that all of Pro’s moral examples are unjustified, since they all are naturalistic.
A Pro response that “moral claims are true if I say they are true” is a non-starter- this just explodes Pro’s moral subjectivism into a broader truth subjectivism. Pro would need to explain in what sense something is true if the only requirement for truth is my declaration. Any justification Pro gives will be applicable to other non-moral claims. I am ready to refute this, but if Pro wants to advocate truth subjectivism I encourage all voters to vote Con and leave the RFD “Con won because I say he did” purely out of spite and malice.
First, to prove that these moral systems justify vigilantism Pro must justify the moral system itself. If the system is unjustified, then so are all its claims. Pro has the BOP in putting forward these systems and as yet has not justified them.
Second, he must actually win that these systems justifies vigilantism. If he can’t do this then he hasn’t shown it to be justifiable. He can't just wave his hands and say "I'm sure that there's SOME system that justifies it," he needs to actually show that the system does so.
Third, all of these systems are incompatible with subjectivism. They each make claims about the objective nature of ethics and none of them support Pro’s contention that morality is based on subjective bias. All of his subjectivist arguments disprove the claims of Hedonism etc, thus all the systems are unjustified.
The results of vigilantism are not identical law enforcement. Vigilantism necessarily bypasses the safeguards of the state such as due process and trial by jury. Vigilantes also lack the ability to carry out the same punishments that the states does- vigilantes do not have the resources needs to carry out long term incarceration. Since the trial and error of society has resulted in widespread state based law enforcement rather than vigilantism, Pragmatist ethics does not support vigilantism.
Pro doesn’t specify what sort of naturalist system he is arguing for, so his argument is incomplete and inconclusive. A naturalist may believe murder to be wrong but I maintain they will also hold other beliefs that will find vigilantism to be unjustifiable. In the absence of Pro actually constructing a naturalist case for vigilantism my assertion is just as valid as any assertion Pro makes.
Pro doesn’t explain how vigilantism is pleasurable. Vigilantism encourages individuals to take the law into their own hands. This results in a break down of rule of law and a loss of the security that systematic justice begins. Additionally, the victim of vigilantism suffers much more than any pleasure the practicers will feel. Also, people feel sad when they hear about vigilantes killing people. This results in less pleasure, thus Hedonism fails to justify vigilantism. Really there's so much happiness and sadness in vigilantes its impossible to say what Hedonism would say about he matter.
doomswatter forfeited this round.
Extend all my arguments. Per the rules in R1, no new arguments are permitted in the final round. This means my opponent has no way of disputing any of the arguments I made in my opening argument. Since I have multiple independent arguments that win this debate, none of which my opponent will be able to respond to without violating the rules set out in R1, judges can feel free to stop reading this debate right here and award me a victory.
I apologize for the missed round. Family visited over the weekend and I lost track of time. However, Con seems to be confused about the rules. The second rule is "No new arguments in Round 4." "New arguments" are arguments that are new, and have not been previously mentioned or discussed. Obviously, this rule does not prohibit rebuttals of old, previously-mentioned arguments. My opponent has spent a significant amount of time debating on this site, and surely knows that "no new arguments" does not mean "no final rebuttals."
You will notice that there is no rule granting an automatic victory in the event of a forfeited round, so I would humbly request that voters continue to read the debate and award points based on the merit of arguments and rebuttals. I am sorry for reducing the number of rounds available for argument, but it hardly matters since Con's case is essentially unwinnable.
Con resorts to ad hominem by criticizing my motivations and intentions: "I fear that Pro is trying to spike out of having any debate at all through semantic gymnastics." It does not matter what Con fears my intentions are, the debate is no place to voice such slander. Later on in his "framework", Con again villainizes me by stating that the debate is "not a game of whether Pro was clever enough to write loopholes into the Resolution", and by accusing me of "creating a misleading Resolution and sniping a semantic victory". I would like to point out that accusations such as these are an attempt to sway readers emotionally. My opponent could have easily expressed his frustration with the direction of the debate without making unfounded accusations, and the fact that he feels misled by the resolution does not make it generally or intentionally misleading.
Now I will examine some of the statements Con makes in his opening:
"I fear that Pro is trying to spike out of having any debate at all through semantic gymnastics."
I don't believe my argument required any "gymnastics". If a literal, straightforward interpretation and application of resolutions and definitions is gymnastics, then call me Mary Lou Retton.
"...a 'moral point of view' does not equate to any point of view within a moral system."
Yes, it does. A point of view that falls within the boundaries of a moral system is a moral point of view, by definition. Any points of view one might have that conflict with one's moral system would be considered "immoral" by that individual.
"Per R1, it is a point of view 'concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct...'i.e. we must evaluate the resolution from the perspective of right conduct..."
It is important to note that Con makes this statement with an assumption in mind: the assumption that there is an objective "right conduct". More on that later.
"Prefer my interpretations because it offers both sides fair ground and will generate a more educational debate by actually testing how both side’s arguments stack up."
I'm not sure what "interpretations" Con is referring to, but that hardly matters. The only "interpretations" that matter are those that are drawn directly from the resolution and definitions, as mine are. It doesn't matter if Con feels that diverging from these will somehow improve the debate or make things more fun for him. I am debating the resolution. If my opponent didn't like the resolution, he shouldn't have accepted the debate.
"...the Resolution requires a defense of the universal justifiability of vigilantism in all cases where the government has failed to enforce the law."
I agree. The resolution of this debate is not "Vigilantism is morally justified..." The resolution is "Vigilantism is morally justifiable..."
"If justifiability of vigilantism is dependent on a subjective perspective, then there are cases where vigilantism is unjustifiable..."
There could possibly be a time when vigilantism is morally unjustified, e.g. a time when every person in the world believes that vigilantism is wrong. There could not, however, be a time when vigilantism is morally unjustifiable, because at any point in time one of those people could change their mind, i.e. their subjective opinion. Vigilantism is always "able to be morally justified" because subjective morals are always capable of change.
"The bottom line is Pro is trying to reduce the Resolution to triviality..."
Is the subjectivity of morality really a triviality? Whether it is or not, I have not "reduced the resolution". My arguments are direct extensions of the resolution.
"...by arguing around the topic of this debate."
Con may not like my arguments, but that doesn't mean they are not topical. On the contrary, they address the core issue when arguing about the moral justifiability of anything, including vigilantism.
"...my reading is grammatically better..."
I disagree. I don't see how my argument in any way suggested a grammatical misreading.
Now I will rebut Con's arguments:
1. "Subjectivism fails to justify ANY moral claim"
Basically, this argument denies that subjective morals can justify anything, implying that only objectivity can be a basis for justification. This argument assumes that justification itself is not subjective. This is incorrect, considering that justification without a conditional modifier is meaningless. Obviously, moral justification is subjective, as it is dependant on the morals and opinions of the one making the judgment.
Con says, "A claim is shown to by (sic) right by its reasonable justification, so any sound justification will result in a right conclusion. Since Subjectivism yields conflicting claims, we know that at least some of the claims are not correct." On the contrary, we cannot know that. Whether a moral claim is "reasonable", "sound", or "right" is also subjective, meaning that, whether different claims conflict or not, none are necessarily right or wrong.
For example, let's say I think classical music is most beautiful, while you think reggae music is most beautiful. These are conflicting claims. Does a conflict of claims require that one of us be wrong? Obviously, neither of us is "right" and neither of us is "wrong" because these claims are based on subjective opinions. Morality works the same way. Without a framework of conditions, conflicting moral claims are equally valid because they are subjective opinions.
2. "Moral statements cannot be justified because... they cannot be true or false"
a. "Moral statements... do not make claims which are either true or false."
Here, Con agrees that morals are subjective. He is right in saying that morals are neither true nor false, but he is wrong in concluding that they can't be justified. He is missing the subjectivity of justification. By my subjective, personal morals, I can justify anything to myself, and you can do the same by your morals. Moral justification is as subjective as the morals of the one making the judgment.
b. "The Open Question..."
This argument does more to strengthen my case than it does Con's, as it demonstrates the subjectivity of values such as "good", "right", and "moral". Thus, justification based on a subjective value, such as morals, will inherently be subjective.
c. "There is no satisfactory account of what it means for moral statements to be true."
This debate is not about the "truthfulness" of moral statements (whatever that means); it is about whether moral statements can be used to justify vigilantism. I have no need to debate the meaning of "truth", as truthfulness is not applicable to moral justification.
Con says, "...to prove that... moral systems justify... Pro must justify the moral system itself." This statement betrays a misunderstanding of the resolution that permeates Con's arguments. He is using "justify" as if it stands alone, and can be proven or disproven alone. However, justification must always be accompanied by a modifier or condition. For instance, if you were to ask, "Is vigilantism justified?" I would have to ask, "In what way or by what?" You would need to condition the justification with modifiers such as Biblically, legally, by the Bro Code, etc. Justification is a slave to it's modifiers.
In this debate's case, the conditional modifier is "morally". I do not have to justify a moral system by some other modifier in order to show that vigilantism can be justified morally. Because moral justification is subjective, whether or not a moral system can be Biblically justified, legally justified, etc. does not change the fact that vigilantism can be justified within the framework of that moral system.
I do not have to prove that any currently held moral opinions support vigilantism in order to prove that vigilantism is able to be justified morally. Again the resolution is "morally justifiable", not "morally justified". As long as it is feasible that a moral opinion could be formed in support of vigilantism, vigilantism is able to be morally defended. However, just for fun, here is a link to a poll in which 79.11% of voters answered "Yes" to the question, "Is Vigilantism Ever Moral?" http://www.mmo-champion.com...
Apparently, at least 178 members of mmo-champion.com have a moral code in which vigilantism is at least sometimes justified. Remember, if even one person could ever believe that vigilantism is moral, then vigilantism is able to be morally justified, a.k.a. is morally justifiable.
In the end, the whole debate comes down to this:
A1: Morals are subjective.
A2: Moral justification is based on morals.
B1: Moral justification is subjective.
B1: Moral justification is subjective.
B2: Subjective attitudes can be applied to vigilantism.
C1: Vigilantism can be morally justified.
C1: Vigilantism can be morally justified.
C2: Something that can be morally justified is morally justifiable.
D1: Vigilantism is morally justifiable.
I commend Con on the effort put into his arguments, but they ultimately come up short. Thank you, readers and voters, for your time and attention.
There is no rule against a forfeited round but forfeiting is rude and voids Pro’s right to respond to my arguments with new arguments.
Pro claims he can respond with new arguments in the final round because doing so would merely be responding to existing arguments. If this were true, I could have forfeited all my speeches then posted entirely new “responses” in my final round essentially blocking Pro from any chance to refute my arguments. This is blatantly unfair disproving Pro’s claim. Rebuttals are for weighing arguments, comparing cases, clarifying, and contrasting what has already been said. It is NOT for entirely novel responses. Pro’s final round is a novel response to my R2- you don’t need to consider it because in R1 we agreed to prohibit it.
I must make new arguments this round to respond to Pro’s new arguments, but if you aren’t already ignoring everything Pro said in R4 you shouldn’t have a problem with this.
There's no conduct point so ad hominem attacks don’t matter; if there was, I'd deserve it for Pro’s forfeit. Anyways I haven’t made an ad hom- claiming Pro is sniping with semantics is a critique of strategy not the individual. Honestly I think Pro knows I haven’t made any ad hominem arguments- he’s just throwing stuff against the wall hoping something sticks.
I’m going to spend a lot of time breaking down why Pro’s claims about the Resolution are terrible because without his skewed interpretation he has no way to win this debate.
First, beyond the definitions agreed to in R1 Pro has no special right to dictate what the Resolution means. I am only bound to the Resolution and definitions presented when I accepted this debate. Once the debate has begun, if Pro and Con disagree about what the Resolution means, the judges need to resolve this disagreement by evaluating the case each side made for their understanding of the Resolution. This is the only way to resolve disputes as it is the only way that gives equal consideration to both sides of the debate.
We can determine the best way to understand the Resolution by evaluating competing interpretations in terms of fairness and quality of discourse.
Why should we care about fairness and quality of discourse?
Pro’s interpretation is clearly unfair- he has made the Resolution so trivial as to be incontrovertible.
Pro’s interpretation is also unfair because it isn’t an accurate reading of the Resolution. Any interpretation that is incompatible with a grammatical reading of the Resolution is unfair because such an interpretation is inaccessible to both parties of the debate. Definitions and grammar describe how language is publicly understood.
I provided definitions in R2 showing how Pro’s reading doesn’t fit with the R1 definitions.
Looking to standard definitions of “right” and “able” the Resolution reads:
"The conduct of taking the law into one's own hands has sufficient power to be shown to be conforming to facts or truth or reasonable from a point of view concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct."
The straightforward interpretation of the Resolution is that Pro must show that morality is capable of showing the practices of vigilantism to be correct when the government fails to uphold the law.
To show that morality is “able” to justify, he must show that morality actually does justify it! If he can’t show that morality DOES justify vigilantism, he hasn’t proven the Resolution.
And justification requires the ability to be shown “right” - that’s straight from the R1 definitions!
The “defensible” clause is at best a weighing mechanism for the degree of certainty Pro needs. But if my arguments for why morality doesn’t justify vigilantism are better than Pro’s, then he has certainly failed to show it to be defensible. If it were defensible, then his arguments would be better than mine.
Pro may be right that you could call “any point of view that falls within the boundaries of a moral system” a “moral point of view,” but this is not the sense of the phrase the Resolution implies. Note that “moral point of view” doesn’t appear in the resolution- we need to take ALL the words of the resolution in context.
Pro’s interpretation makes no sense with common usage. Just because people have made scientific arguments that the world is flat doesn’t mean that the claim “the world is flat” is scientifically justified.
Finally, we can see that Pro’s interpretation is unfair and bad for discourse because it makes most of the Resolution irrelevant. To defend the clause “when the government has failed…” he must defend that all cases that meet this criteria are justified.
Even under his bizarre interpretation he has still lost because there are cases where individual’s subjective morality will render vigilantism unjustifiable even when the government fails to uphold the law. Pro says even in the cases people COULD change their minds, but this is irrelevant. If there is case X where people don’t hold the required moral beliefs, then vigilantism is not justified in case X. It doesn’t matter that a hypothetical world exists where they do hold the needed beliefs. There may also be cases where people are incapable of changing their beliefs due to brainwashing or are extreme zealotry.
Pro asserts that moral justification is subjective but ignores my argument. If the same justification can be used to make contradictory claims, it is not reasonable- it literally violates reason.
My argument can be read as an explanation of what a justification is. A justification is something that shows a claim to be right. Intrinsic to the concept of justifiability is the idea that it allows us to rationally support some claim. If we do away with this idea, we dissolve all criteria of justifiability and render the word meaningless. A justification is not mere historic explanation- I don’t justify the claim “E=mc2” by explaining I saw it on a chalkboard.
Pro’s response does exactly what I said it would- it collapses into total truth subjectivism. If you buy that all truth is subjective there isn’t any point reading this debate or evaluating arguments- Rise Up! Vote Con to affirm your ability to make the truth whatever you want! This is your one chance to vote Con and literally ANY RFD you give will be valid since Pro says truth is subjective.
Pro says that moral claims are not “right or wrong.” His definition of justify requires him to show that vigilantism is “right;” this statement shows that Pro fails to uphold the Resolution.
I agree that musical taste is like morality- you can’t be right or wrong. That’s my whole case, that moral claims can’t be true or false and so cannot be justified. You can’t rationally justify your musical taste, you can’t build an argument that shows your taste to be reasonable. Taste is a non cognitive bias just like morality. You can’t “morally justify” something anymore than you can “musically justify something.”
2) "Moral statements can't be justified because they can't be true or false"
Pro completely misses my argument.
In order for something to be “able to be shown to be right or reasonable” is must be CAPABLE of being right or reasonable. My argument is that morality is subjective but it is also non-rational and not capable of being right or wrong.
This debate is about the truthfulness of moral statements, as the definition of justifiable requires that something be “able to be shown right.”
This wins me the debate even with Pro’s interpretation of the Rez. If moral claims are incapable of being right, then vigilantism is “not able” to be justified.
Pro claims that I treat the term “justify” as if it stands alone, but really I just acknowledge that word is in the Resolution.
Pro seems to think that saying “everything is subjective” wins him the debate. Putting the word “morally” in front of the word “justified” doesn’t change the core meaning of “justified.” Any form of justification, be it legal or Biblical or moral, must still be concerned with what is right and the result of reason.
Moreover, my R1 argument shows that moral claims by nature cannot be true or false. So we might say something is Biblically justified because claims made by the Bible can be used as justifications for other claims. But this can only be done because Biblical claims can be true or false, there are Biblical facts. We are fundamentally unable to treat morality this way because there are no moral facts, there is nothing true or false about moral claims, and so they are unable to justify or be justified.
Pro ignores the possibility that morality may be both subjective AND unjustifiable, yet this is precisely what I argue. Nothing about subjectivity guarantees justifiability. In fact, I have argued that subjectivity guarantees justifiability.
Subjective traits are bare facts we live with and maybe change if we feel like. I prefer apple pie to cherry pie- this preference is not justifiable because it is a subjective preference to which terms like “true,” false,” and “reasonable” do not apply. In the same way, morality is a reflection of or contingent normative biases. Morality cannot be justified, so vigilantism is not justified, so the Resolution fails.
Vote Con because I told you so.
|Who won the debate:||-|
|Who won the debate:||-|
|Who won the debate:||-|