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

What is the best moral theory for a government to follow?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/30/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 621 times Debate No: 66093
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




Pro: I will argue in favor of Utilitarianism as the best way to determine morality in policies.
Con: You may choose whatever moral theory you would like to defend.

Rules are standard, first round acceptance, no plagiarism, etc.

First Round: Acceptance and stating which moral theory you are defending
Second Round: Your case
Third Round: Rebuttals
Fourth Round: More rebuttals and voter issues


I'll be defending the ethical theory of Objectivism, or, in other words, a system which holds that certain rights, no matter what violating them would result in, cannot be violated, and all actions that do not violate rights should be chosen based on roughly the same metric a utilitarian would use. The main distinction between what I will argue for and utilitarianism is the inclusion of inviolable rights.
Debate Round No. 1


In normative ethics, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill dictates that an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce the reverse of happiness—not just the happiness of the performer of the action but also that of everyone affected by it. Such a theory is in opposition to egoism, the view that a person should pursue his own self-interest, even at the expense of others, and to any ethical theory that regards some acts or types of acts as right or wrong independently of their consequences. Utilitarianism also differs from ethical theories that make the rightness or wrongness of an act dependent upon the motive of the agent; for, according to the Utilitarian, it is possible for the right thing to be done from a bad motive.

The nature of Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is an effort to provide an answer to the practical question “What ought a man to do?” Its answer is that he ought to act so as to produce the best consequences possible.

Basic concepts

In the notion of consequences the Utilitarian includes all of the good and bad produced by the act, whether arising after the act has been performed or during its performance. If the difference in the consequences of alternative acts is not great, some Utilitarians do not regard the choice between them as a moral issue. According to Mill, acts should be classified as morally right or wrong only if the consequences are of such significance that a person would wish to see the agent compelled, not merely persuaded and exhorted, to act in the preferred manner.

Governments use Utilitarianism as a fundamental tool in determining a policies morality and to helping the majority of citizens. Util has arguably been the most influential throughout history.


Ayn Rand, in novels such as Atlas Shrugged and collections of essays such as The Virtue of Selfishness, was able to put forth one of the only ethical systems that takes into account the nature of man. She argued that any value has to have a valuer, and that all values are desired because they lead to an “ultimate value”. This ultimate value is that which the other values are impossible without, and, as such, must be considered a value before anything else can be. Since values require a valuer, the “ultimate value” is that valuer’s ability to value (i.e. his life as a valuer). Therefore, only those things that support the “ultimate value” of life can be moral, as, without that value being supported, no other values could be established, and no other moral theory could be put forth.

After identifying that those things which support and further life are the good, we now must find what those things are. Since all things have a nature, and moral systems are systems concerning the conduct of man, it is the nature of man which is under question. Rand uses the traditional Aristotelian definition, claiming that man is the “rational animal”, and that man’s distinguishing characteristic is his dependence on reason. If man cannot live without reason, then it is necessarily virtuous to be rational.

From the identification of life as the value to which all others are means and rationality as a virtue, the rights of man can be established, and, from those, the proper role of Government. Man can act rationally only if given self-ownership (the right to life and liberty), as a slaver necessarily imposes the thoughts and conclusions of himself on the slave. One cannot sustain his right to self-ownership if he does not have a right to translate his thoughts into action (the right to property), as grain still needs to be grown, shelter built, etc., for the man to stay alive. If any of these rights are violated, the violator is attacking morality itself – he is attacking the basis of any moral theory, the life of man qua man.

If, then, rights violations can never be justified, a government can only work when it is not exempt from recognizing these rights. Any government that ignores them is morally abhorrent. Systems such as Communism or Fascism can never be just, as they act to destroy that which gives the word “just” any meaning. If there are certain bounds that the government should, morally, stay in, then theories such as Utilitarianism cannot be rightfully applied to politics. A government should, instead, act only to prohibit the violations of rights - anything else is self-defeating.

Debate Round No. 2


TheNamesFizzy forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


TheNamesFizzy forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by missmedic 1 year ago
logic and reason
Posted by dhardage 1 year ago
The government should have no 'moral theory'. Laws are meant to protect one person from the actions of another. If there are morals involved then those in power will attempt to project their morals onto the people under the law. I agree that each person has rights, rights to the sanctity of their person and their homes, rights to safety and security where they work, worship, and play, rights to believe what they want without fear of reprisal, but the only act a government should make is to keep one person from impinging on the rights of another. If that's a moral stance, then so be it.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by lannan13 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture