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RFD - Mikal vs Spacetime - Ethical Egoism

tejretics
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1/23/2016 4:41:03 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
This is an RFD for for the following debate: http://www.debate.org...

The resolution states: "On balance, humans should adopt ethical egoism as a worldview." It is split into the following parts.

a) "On balance." Mikal defines "on balance" as "with all things considered or being taken into account." This means that, for a judge to evaluate the debate, they must consider all the arguments and weigh the impact of the arguments against each other. It's a default position in the debate, which inherently means both sides must present arguments which are all considered. More about this can be seen in my analysis of the burdens.

b) "Should." The definition of "should" merely means what is desirable. The question is - desirable to whom? Establishing any definition of desirability would beg the question, since egoism holds that desirability is weighed according to the self. But seeing as the subject of the resolution is "humans," the desirability applies to humans as a whole. This also is further addressed under my analysis of the burdens.

c) "Adopt." Mikal's definition of "adopt" is "start to use or follow." This means that humans, as a whole, should start making decisions based on ethical egoism. They should follow the worldview of ethical egoism and perform actions in their self interest. This word defines the resolution, since it shows that the debate itself is about whether humans' following ethical egoism would be desirable to them. Should humans act in their own self interests?

d) "Ethical egoism." This is the key phrase which the resolution debates. Mikal's definition is sufficient; it states that ethical egoism is the ethical worldview where morality is based on acting in one's own self interest.

Burdens

Before I start the substance of the RFD, a note on the burdens. There is no single side that possesses the greater burden in this debate. To claim such is a flawed interpretation of the resolution. The resolution is hinged by the term "should," which analyzes which side is more desirable. That makes the debate a matter of opinion, rather than a discussion of facts. The resolution discusses what people should do, and, therefore, bases itself on normativity. In such a resolution, there's no discussion of facts, and there's nothing to prove. As such, there's no burden of proof, but, rather, a burden of persuasion. Such a burden rests on both sides to provide offense. Furthermore, the term "on balance" suggests to weigh offense against each other, which reinforces the claim that the burdens of persuasion are split evenly.

What are the burdens in this debate? That's a more important question, because both sides seem confused on what they should do to fulfill their burdens, but they barely even discuss it. Specifically, there seems to be a lot of confusion on Con's burdens. What does Con have to do to win? Con says he must show egoism to be undesirable for humanity. Pro says he must defend another ethical system to counter it. In my opinion, Con doesn't have to defend an advocacy. There's no indication that he must do that. Pro is changing the burdens in that. But Con is also partially wrong that he merely needs to show that ethical egoism is undesirable. He needs to show that ethical egoism is more undesirable than at least one alternative. Because even if ethical egoism is net undesirable, it could be the best ethical system regardless, which would mean I vote a tie or vote Pro on the basis that Con's burden isn't fulfilled. But if Con does show that there's something better than egoism, or that egoism is so flawed that it is unsound and shouldn't be adopted at all, then I vote Con. The second aspect is probably easier on Con - if Con shows that egoism is so unsound that you can't adopt it without diverting to something else, I vote Con.

There's seriously insufficient discussion on the burdens in this debate, and I'd recommend that both debaters start analyzing the burdens in their arguments.

Pro's arguments

Pro's first argument is that ethical egoism offers a consistent system for humans to adopt, which is good seeing as humans need consistency in making day-to-day decisions, and ethics are critical to making such decisions. Under this argument, he also says that (1) under egoism, some basic values that are critical to our perception of ethics are justified easily, and (2) the amount of damage from a non-consistent system is huge. I don't really buy this argument, in that it isn't unique to egoism. It seems like, from the start, Pro is trying to measure his system against an unnamed system of Con's, but Con's burden does not require him to do that. The benefits of a consistent system are non-unique to egoism. I don't really buy the first argument, since there aren't any "basic values critical to our perception of ethics," since, as Pro notes, that is the status quo -- lack of a single system. Con notes this in that Pro is using utilitarian reasoning to justify egoism. Util is the framework Pro is using to justify "acting in a way that benefits society." In fact, Pro is justifying egoism in that it would benefit the society. That is utilitarianism.

Of course, Pro disagrees. He says that utilitarianism and egoism are different, and that util is all about acting in what benefits society most. He says egoism is about what benefits the self. But he doesn't even adequately contest the turn. He misses the point of the argument, which is to show that despite the differences between util and egoism, egoism devolves into util. Pro even concedes that the reason he's for ethical egoism is "reducing harm," or "helping society," which Pro concedes is utilitarianism.

Pro makes the same problem in the major point of his offense. He concedes that utilitarianism, for instance, would allow a consistent worldview but "harm society" by discarding the mentally ill, et cetera. The point is, the definition of util is benefiting society. It would only discard the mentally ill if it benefited society, which explicitly contradicts Pro's point. Pro is justifying his case against utilitarianism by appealing to utilitarianism, and contradicting himself. He's justifying egoism by utilitarianism. Pro also makes another flaw: he still holds that Con's burden is to defend an alternate ethical system, and therefore limits his attacks to util until Con brings up that ethical system. But Con's burden doesn't require him to do that.
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass
tejretics
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1/23/2016 4:41:26 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
Pro then argues that egoism is moral. He just provides an analogy of losing one's wife, and comparing it with the utilitarian alternative. But Pro doesn't even explain why that's moral. Pro already established a framework of what benefits society best being "moral," and his example doesn't even fit that. Con further argues that egoism doesn't benefit society -- it allows people to fulfill their own self-interests without any regard for the benefit/harm to society. Under Pro's own framework, Con shows that egoism doesn't benefit society. Pro's whole conclusion just confuses Con's burden, and Pro bases his "reasons for victory" on that -- which costs him the debate.

Con's argument

Con's case against egoism is that it's irrational. He says egoism isn't a strong ethical system since it values oneself over others without justification. Pro's response is that it doesn't really have relevance over whether humans should adopt it, and that any person would rationally pick a selfish choice. But Con says he had more explanation than that -- he showed that since humans were similar, they all have inherently equal moral worth, therefore it isn't just to discriminate like that. I also don't buy that the decision that most people would make is the "rational" one, and the wife example is addressed in my RFD above -- it isn't a good one. But Pro's response, once more, misunderstands the burdens; Pro says Con must advocate an alternative that doesn't run into this. But Con shows that (a) there are many ethical systems that don't run into this, e.g. util, and (b) his burden doesn't require him to show that. Con clearly clarifies how his argument works -- all humans have equal moral worth, and it doesn't work if you violate that. Con also says that Pro's argument isn't exactly egoism, but a mixture of Kantian philosophy and util.

Conclusion

Con wins largely on account of the turn. Con completely turned Pro's justifications, because Pro was arguing for egoism from a utilitarian perspective. Con has a lot of offense: (a) the turn, (b) egoism doesn't work under Pro's own framework, and (c) egoism isn't allowed by intellectual honesty. While (c) doesn't have much of an impact, the turn entirely devalues Pro's whole argument, since it showed that egoism devolves into util. Con also showed that Pro's own "benefits society" framework isn't fulfilled by egoism, and egoism is destructive.

Pro's analysis of the burdens was deeply flawed. Pro places a burden on Con to present an alternative, but Con is able to weigh against multiple frameworks. Con even presents a potential alternative of util, and even if Pro's analysis of the burdens was correct, Con would win because of util. Egoism would devolve into utilitarianism, and Pro's contradictory framework would also not permit egoism. Pro's framework is Con's alternative.

Ergo, I vote Con.
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass
Stennes35
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10/24/2016 6:49:47 PM
Posted: 1 month ago
Hello All~
I post for a college education assignment at CCU in Colorado.

Ethical Egoism is a wonderful concept. The rough idea behind ethical egoism is that the right thing to do is to look out for your own self-interest. We are morally required only to make ourselves as happy as possible. We have no moral obligations to others (Ethical Egoism - University of Colorado Boulder. (2012). There are many pros and cons as described by other learners to this particular way of thinking. While many people can find light in the pros, many find light in the cons as well.

I think as a whole, ethical egoism is a right and wrong concept. I come from a background in which I was taught to be a light to the people around me. There is no better way to be a light than to put others first. However, one can't be the best they can be for the people around them if they aren't first.....self-fulfilled. I think that there are many life situations in which we can apply ethical egoism, but also in the business office as well. There are many business directors who struggle to practice ethical egoism, or do too much of it. I can appreciate that this is a concept that is hard to find a happy medium on.

Overall, ethical egoism is kind of a hard concept, as shown through business processes and practices, and through the day-to-day life decisions that humans are forced to make. However, it remains important for executives to make conscious and ethical decisions. Leaders who lead ethically are role models to their subordinates and peers, communicating the importance of ethical standards. Ethical executives are the ones holding their employees accountable to work standards. In fact, ethical leadership has been shown to cause an immense number of positive outcomes, and to reduce the risk of many negative outcomes. In conclusion, ethical leadership may be the most important factor in a work system designed to support ethical conduct.

Reference:

Ethical Egoism - University of Colorado Boulder. (2012). Retrieved October 24, 2016, from http://spot.colorado.edu...