The Instigator
Johnicle
Pro (for)
Winning
35 Points
The Contender
Noblethe3rd
Con (against)
Losing
25 Points

It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of many innocent people.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/19/2008 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 11,762 times Debate No: 4451
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (16)

 

Johnicle

Pro

Round 5 of the tournament… getting down to it, good luck Derek:

Resolved: It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of many innocent people.

Analysis: Under this resolution, there is really two ways to view it, 1) Realistically and 2) Philosophically… In this debate, I will use both (in a weird mesh together) as a tool to prove that it is indeed morally permissible to kill one innocent to save many innocent people. Before beginning with my arguments, let's first look at a few definitions.

(from dictionary.com)

1. morally- Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character

2. permissible- allowable

Onto my arguments…

I. More people live on the pro side.
--> It is simple, only one person dying is better than many people dying. When looking at the definition of morally, you have to see that the action of killing someone is ALLOWABLE when you view the saving of the many people that takes place. NOW is when you must view the difference between realism and philosophy…ism? Realistically, moments that this resolution might come into play would be "heat of the moment" times. You must first realize that the person who kills the innocent to save the many innocent KNOWS that he is attempting to save the many innocent people… This alone makes the action ALLOWABLE. It IS a good thing to save many people even if you have to hurt someone else to do it. As far as good "judgment" goes, saving the most people is the right thing to do which goes for both realistically and philosophically.

II. More people die on the con side.
When you say that it isn't morally permissible to try to save people (which is really what you are doing), you have to see that the many people will end up dying. In other words, more people are killed.

III. Example: Train Tracks…
If there are 10 people on track A and 1 person on track B and a train is heading on track A, it would be morally permissible to use the switcher to track B to save the many innocent people…

--> When you combine these two things, you MUST see that both realistically and philosophically, it is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of many innocent people.

So please vote PRO… I reserve the right to extend and add new arguments next round…

Thanks and good luck!
Noblethe3rd

Con

Liberty is to the collective body, what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society. - Thomas Jefferson.

To sacrifice the rights of the few or one to satisfy the needs of the many means sacrificing the very foundation in which America was founded and contradicts the idea of human rights. That is why I strongly oppose the resolution.

Resolved: It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of many innocent people.

I would like to wish my opponent good luck an thank the judges in advance simply because it seems they are becoming harder and harder to keep returning to judge.

To the definitions debate, I agree with my opponents definitions and would like to define a few other word.

Innocent - free from moral wrong; without sin; pure

Kill - to deprive of life in any manner; cause the death of; slay

I just wanted to make it clear that the resolution calls for Pro to justify slaying a person free from "moral" wrong. There is no reason other then circumstances.

First, let's look at why the idea of killing and morals are contradictory terms in this situation. The fact is, killing of an innocent human being, who has the right to life just as much as any of us and has done no wrong, can never be deemed "morally" allowable. Numerically, yes, the greater number of lives may be saved. But morally you are taking away one person right to life for no justifiable reason other than "the greater good." It does not seem logical to punish one person in the most extreme form just so that others will live. It is not in any way, shape or form just towards the individual. The rights of one should not be sacrificed for the rights of many. The second we sacrifice the individual's right to life we sacrifice one the principle idea of what this nation was founded upon. That is, the right to LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness my friends. Without life, how can we enjoy liberty and pursue happiness?

Now, let's move on to my opponent's arguments.

Combine 1 and 2 because they are intertwined by the idea of the numerical advantage that is gained through siding with the Pro.

1. It is without a doubt that there are more lives saved through siding with the Pro. There is no way I can argue that. But the idea of the matter is not how many lives are saved, but whether or not it is morally permissible to allow one to be killed for others. At this point I would like the Pro to draw a clear line between when it is acceptable to sacrifice one innocent person for a group of people. Is morally permissible to allow one to die for 50? Is it still permissible if it only saves 20? What about 10? Or maybe even 2? The question is how much do you consider "many" in the resolution to be? Realistically at some point you are just turning human lives into numbers and statistics and

2. There is a question about whether or not you can claim that this is "philosophically" the right thing to do. According to Immanuel Kant, the only way for the "end" or results of decisions to be justified is whether or not the means met with categorical imperatives (concepts revolving around duty). The means by which the lives are saved in this resolution would be the killing of an innocent person. The act of killing an innocent person is not just and thus, the means (killing) do not justify the ends (saving lives). So you see, philosophically, Pro does not have the advantage of filling that criteria.

Off of my opponents 3rd argument, the example a "real world" example.

1. I may not fully understand the depth and detail of this example to where the person on 1 train must be sacrificed to save the 10 on another train, but I think I mildly see what my opponent is saying. I mean no offense when I state this, but it seems to be a rare event that is may or may not require the death of the one to save the many. I would like to provide another example that may be of a frequent occurrence. We are all aware that many people die because they do not receive the necessary transplants in time. Transplants only come from people who have passed on and have willingly offered their organs for the sake of others. Say we have 5 people in need of a transplant. One needs a heart, another needs kidney, 2 of them need new lungs, and the last one needs a liver. In this situation one of the 5 could be sacrificed to provide for the other 4. Each one of them would likely be able to give up their lives for the others but how do you decide who to sacrifice and why? At no point ever will the doctor say "may we kill you so that we can have your organs to save these other people?" It is pretty much not considered at all due to the fact that it violates the hippocratic oath, the idea to do the best to save everyone .

So with this fundamental ideas laid out, I want the judges to begin considering their decision and ask these themselves these questions. Is it morally acceptable to kill? Is it morally acceptable to punish some one who has done no wrong? What makes the large number of people any better or worthy of life than the one innocent person? Do not so quickly throw the rights of the individual away for the sake of the crowd, for that in and of itself is the tearing down the idea of democracy. Judges, I find that there is no acceptably moral justification for murdering an innocent person. With this in mind I urge you to vote Con.
Debate Round No. 1
Johnicle

Pro

I'll just go paragraph by paragraph with my responses…

Off the first paragraph it is simple. Who do you determine to punish, the one person or the group? There is no moral ground as to who to let die (because it's one or the other). However, it is morally PERMISSIBLE to do either of them. It's sort of like the first Spiderman, when the Green Goblin had the group of people and Mary Jane over the bridge. It doesn't matter which one he chose, it was morally permissible and just because he was amazing and saved both doesn't mean that when a real life situation arises that the "actor" will be so lucky.

(1)--> Under one, my opponent asks about the numerical value and where I draw the line. My response is that the line is up in the air. The true answer to that question is simple, it is morally PERMISSIBLE to kill one to SAVE one… it is morally PERMISSIBLE to kill one to save two, and three, etc. The fact of the matter is that one of them will die and the other will live. My opponent is right in the fact that there is no moral ground to determine which one to save, but there is an allowed moral ground to which one you choose and the understanding of the community that you may not have been able to save both of them. If someone saved the one, than he would have killed the many. But like in Spiderman, it is not our place to say which is moral but simply that whichever is chosen is permissible.

(2)--> Here is where my opponent makes his greatest mistake. He argues that the ends must fit the means… so let us analyze the means for a second. As dictated by the resolution, you are "killing" one to SAVE many. That alone makes the means good. To attempt to save is one of the greatest acts possible. The train example is perfect to prove good means. One person on one track and ten people on the other track. You try to save as many as possible so you switch the train to go down the track with the one person. It is permissible (and good means) to try to save the greatest amount of people.

On the transplant example: You're are right (again) in saying that it is not moral that someone would have to choose who dies. But once again, it is permissible in whichever choice is made. My stance is not to say that the greater amount of people is ALWAYS the right way to go, but it IS a morally permissible ground to take. And that alone makes PRO's stance acceptable.

In the end: You have a group of people and one person. One of them will survive and the other will die. His end questions seem abusive because he takes away from that idea. There is no moral ground to say you can't live, but you have to say it to one of them. Whichever is chosen is a permissible route and is understandable. I too will end my speech with a few questions. Are you willing to kill a group of people to save one? Is this one person so important that he/she is able to single handedly be put above the rest? My opponent asked me, "What makes the large number of people any better or worthy of life than the one innocent person?"… my answer: I don't know, but whichever is chosen IS morally permissible.

So please vote pro.
Noblethe3rd

Con

I think this paragraph argumentation will do fine for now

Off his first paragraph - As interesting as the Spiderman analogy is, the fact of the matter still remains, some one will be KILLED to save the lives of others. The situation with Spiderman is a little different. He is not choosing to kill some one; he is choosing to save one or the other. I know I stressed this idea, but it's the crucial factor in voting in this round. Plain and simple, some one must KILL some one (who is innocent by the resolution) to save a group of people. I find that there is no justification for murder in any way shape or form. I want to also point out that the resolution does not call for a person to make an ethical decision about whom to save (i.e. allowing one person to die while others to live) this calls for the act of killing another person to save others. An example of this would be a hostage situation, where the hostages want a specific person to die otherwise they will kill everyone else. I find that there is no moral justification to murder that one person to meet the demands of the terrorists. I think Harrison Ford proclaims the strongest idea hear when he states in Air Force One "We will not negotiate with terrorists." My interpretation of that statement is that we will not willing kill our citizens and peers to satisfy the demands of terrorists because terrorists demand unethical and immoral things in situations such as that. I am sure everyone is tired of hearing about terrorism, but the fact is that it is a realistic situation of what the resolution describes then that of what Spiderman dealt with.

Ok on to 1. So now that example and argument is out of the way, lets move on to the next paragraph. Obviously there is a numerical advantage that the pro gains automatically, but the fact of the matter is, this advantage comes at a price. In order to gain this advantage, the pro must admit that the sacrifice of individual's right to choice and the right to life are taken away by other individuals without the person having any say. You have to see that the second that rights are taken away, that you can not claim that it is morally permissible. Morally, you should not be able to take rights away from an individual unless they have abused those rights (which is not the case in this debate).

Off of #2. I think my opponent misinterpreted my example or I did a poor jump of explaining it (probably the latter). I agree totally that saving lives is a great deed. BUT it's the means by which you save lives. The fact that you are killing means that it no longer because a justifiable action. You can not justify murder on the simple basis that you are saving lives. I seriously doubt that if you stated in the court of law that you killed another person to save other people that it would go over very well. So keep in mind that the END is the saving people and the MEANS is the killing. The end should not justify the means otherwise, by that philosophy(that you can do anything as long it achieves good), unethical practices can be committed just by claiming "good" will come of it, such as killing off babies for the sake of using their body parts as food for the poor.

Off his next paragraph, the transplant example. - My only problem with my opponent's argument is that he is justifying that because you are saving people that murder is permissible. Ultimately all our arguments come down to the same ideas. But I would like to extend this example of the transplant patients and say that all these individuals deserve a fair chance at getting a new organ to live, and that killing any one of them for the sake of the others is not morally permissible in any way. No one has the right to take another person's life if that person is innocent for that person has the right to life. I do not want to come off as overly aggressive or belligerent, but I want toe pro to come up with a viable, real-world scenario where some one, an innocent person, must be killed for the sake of saving others. The fact is, in every one of those situations, no decision is morally "permissible" in the sense that murder is not justified on a small scale or a large scale.

So I strongly urge the judges to consider that every person has a right to life, especially one who is without fault. Look to the example of the hostage situation that I stated. Look to the transplant situation I stated. In neither of those situations is it ever justified morally to murder one individual for the sake of others. Judges, I strongly urge you to consider the "means" or action by which we are achieving this "good" of saving other people. Though you are achieving the "good" the means by which you are doing it is largely unethical and can never be deemed "morally permissible." With that I urge you to vote Con.
Debate Round No. 2
Johnicle

Pro

Since most of the paragraphs contain the same idea, I will just spend my final round summarizing the round to prove this idea IS morally permissible.

1) There is no moral difference between killing a person and letting a person die.
-My most important argument in the final round which I have been trying to stress is that the resolution specifies that when you kill the one, you SAVE the many. In other words, if you were not to kill the one, the many would die. "Killing" could very well be interpreted as not saving. The resolution seems to be a heat of the moment time and you can only save one of the two "groups". This is why I brought up the Spiderman example. Let's just say that you COULD only save one (and you didn't have super powers and a little luck)… which would you save?

2) The choice of who lives and who dies is always morally permissible if you had no choice.
-The resolution implies that no choice can be made to save both "groups" of people. Therefore one of them HAS to die (which implies the killing in either situation). My opponent keeps pointing out that killing can never be justified which is NOT true by any means. It isn't true when dealing with self defense (which you kill to save JUST like the resolution), it isn't true in times of war, and it sometimes is even true in death penalty cases. But as far as the resolution goes, killing IS justified (or morally permissible) when one innocent, or many innocent HAS to die. Which would you save?

3) There is only one choice that is not morally permissible.
-So I have asked many times "Which would you choose?" Well, there is really only 4 choices (dealing with the Spiderman example (or possibly even the train example from my initial speech))… choice A- TRY to save both of them (which in this resolution doesn't seem very viable); choice B- Kill the one (you may love such as in Spiderman); choice C- Let the group die (and save the one) choice D- Coward out and let both die… Now, the ONLY choice that is wrong is the one that you take no action. The resolution implies that both can not be saved, but saving one and not having a choice in the other one is not wrong. It IS morally permissible to try to save as many people as possible.

-Because of these arguments, the resolution is PROVEN to be philosophically true. However, I did say that there were two ways to analyze this resolution which includes realistically. My opponent pushed for some examples that proved that it could be morally permissible. I will, however, provide multiple examples:

1- Spiderman example (cross-applied)
2- Train example (cross-applied)
3- Maximilian Kolbe:
--> The story of Maximilian Kolbe is the story where a Polish Priest sacrificed his life in a concentration camp to save one other man who had a whole family that would miss him greatly. Maximilian Kolbe killed himself (one innocent) to save ONLY one other innocent let alone many. Now, not ALL situations will be self induced, but it still shows the idea that one should NOT be considered more than many in almost every example.
4- Made up example that could very well happen.
--> Imagine a group of 20 people are in a submarine and a leak begins to happen. The ONLY way to stop the leak is to go into the room where the leak is slowly growing speed (of entrance into the sub). The leak can only be stopped by closing the door and the door is so hard to close that one person has to be on both sides to close the door. You draw straws to determine who does it and in effect, the person is "killed" but everyone else is saved.

5- This example could also be extended to 20 people in a concentration camp who need to escape but the only way to get enough time is to have one of them distract the guards.

By the way, these examples are not to be in depth. I understand that you can find loop holes (such as the sub by having 2 people on the safe side of the door.) Just imagine that you couldn't find any other way to do it. When it is in the heat of the moment (such as the sub example) you may have to kill the one to save the many. And when that happens, it is morally permissible.

-In the end- Either the one person will die, or the group will die. Either way you look at it, they are being "killed". It doesn't matter if you choose the one over the group or the group over the one (it is difficult sometimes (Spiderman))… All that I know is that whatever you choose, it is morally permissible. When you can't save them all, save as many as possible. You may have to let one die (or kill) but that is morally permissible…

So please vote PRO!

Thanks for this GREAT debate Derek!
Noblethe3rd

Con

Judges, I intend to just summarize and focus my arguments on the key interpretations of the resolution that I provide and the reason why killing in any way is never morally permissible.

1).There is a MAJOR difference between choosing to not save some one and killing some one out right. By the resolution, one person must be killed in order to save the rest. Now if the resolution had stated that some one must die, then the resolution debate becomes a different shade of gray and would probably fit the Spiderman scenario better. The interpretation of the resolution that I would like the judges to consider is that some one has to make the conscious decision to murder another person, to take an innocent person's life willfully and totally aware of what they are doing, for the sake of saving many other people.

2).Killing in any way, shape or form is immoral and unethical. To take some one's life is the ultimate crime against humanity and can't be taken lightly. Let's consider how we punish people who commit crimes of that nature: A lifetime (or a very substantial length of time to say the least) in prison or the death penalty. The only justification for using the death penalty revolves around the nature of guilt, and seeing as the victim in the scenarios is guilty then the idea of the slaying another person is even more unjustified. I would like to point out my philosophical interpretation of how this scenario should be looked at. The end should never justify the means. The end results, no matter how beneficial they may be, should not be achieved through unethical and immoral practices. Thus saving people at the cost of murdering another person is unjustified and not morally permissible.

3). Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is committing the murder. If this deed were "morally permissible" why is it that you are often times very likely to be haunted by the fact that you had to plunge the knife in to the person, or unplug the cord, or fire the gun or any other means by which you willfully take the life of another person. Even if it is for the sake of many people, the idea that many people who claim to have morals are wrought with guilt over the decision means that it must not be very ethical. Also, if it was morally permissible, why is it that it seems like it would be a difficult decision to make? I think that is because of the fact that by taking some one's life that there is no going back from that point. The person is dead and nothing in modern science today can hope to change that fact.

4). The examples debate. If I have the space, I will attempt to show you how all the examples provided in this debate are not morally permissible.

A. Spiderman. I have argued this in the above arguments so I will skip this.

B. Train example. Let's assume that it's based on the idea of 2 trains about to collide and let's say you have to decide. Is it morally permissible to purposefully derail the train so that the group or one person would live? The decision has to be made but that does not make it morally permissible. Like I have stated before, to purposefully cause the death of those people means that you murdered them, plain and simple. You will likely have to go a series of motions explaining your actions and it is questionable whether you would be let free to go, little alone unaffected by the incident. Think about the families who would lose valued members. If it where morally permissible, then you would think that they would be content with knowing that you choose to kill their family member over some one else. This is often times not the case.

C. Maximilian Kolbe example. I find this to be flawed in the fact that he took his own life instead of willfully choosing to kill some one else. It comes down to the matter of rights at this point. Kolbe had the right to life and he was in control of his own right, where as the innocent person that would be killed in other examples did not have any choice in the matter. I would also like to point out that suicide is often times looked down upon, especially by the Catholic Church so logically it must not be "morally permissible."

D. Transplant example. This would should be rather straight forward in that it is the perfect example where everyone would die with out new organs in the scenario unless one of the group was killed and his/her organs given to the others. Seeing as doctors never do this for the sake of other patients, it must not be morally permissible to do.

E. Submarine example. The problem with this example is that the straws were drawn and if you didn't want to go along with the idea then you probably wouldn't have drawn it, thus there is still the factor of choice as well as the person must give their life for the rest. This sort of doesn't fit the definition of the resolution for the person to be killed simply because the person has choice and willingly gives up his life for the crew.

So my points revolve around these things:
1. The person involved has no choice in the matter at all, which rules out suicide for a cause or person(s).
2. The resolution calls for killing of a person and murder is never justified morally, no matter what the reasons.
3. Everyone has the rights to life and to choice and no one has any right to take that away from some one. Taking the right to life and choice away from some one is never morally justified or even permissible.

So judges, you have to see that even though good may come out of the situation, murder in and of itself is never justified and is not permissible in the moral sense. Murder in this situation maybe logically justified as my opponent tries to argue, but in the MORAL sense you have to see that it will never be permissible.

Thanks for the good debate Luke, Good luck if you advance and thank you judges for your time.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by DrAlexander 6 years ago
DrAlexander
I read this twice. This was a difficult round to judge. I apologize for being late, I am a debate camp, and if you've been in one before, you understand how much work load they pour on you. :/
Anyways, good round guys, I voted CON. I am about to walk into a debate round, but i'll give you an RFD afterwards.
Posted by Pluto2493 6 years ago
Pluto2493
I was just kidding around... I did vote for you ;)
Posted by Noblethe3rd 6 years ago
Noblethe3rd
Ouch, getting on me for making a few errors. I mean I did type my arguments up in about 15 minutes during my break at work so a little slack would be nice.
Posted by Darkfire62 6 years ago
Darkfire62
Seriously, what is with these quotes from Spiderman? It's alright but I mean come on, Spiderman?!
Posted by Pluto2493 6 years ago
Pluto2493
"I think my opponent misinterpreted my example or I did a poor jump of explaining it"

~Noblethe3rd.
Posted by Johnicle 6 years ago
Johnicle
Good luck round 3 Derek! Whoever wins, it has truly been a great debate!
Posted by Noblethe3rd 6 years ago
Noblethe3rd
Why thank you Luke, I am glad to see that you accept that I have a little bit of understanding of what I am talking about. Sorry if I came off as abusive, I am only trying to prove my point, not degrade the debate to petty arguments(like what we do in person lol).
Posted by Johnicle 6 years ago
Johnicle
Wow Derek, as time goes on it seems that you were truly meant to be an LD debater. You're good at this moral stuff.
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