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Dueling should be legalized

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/1/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 978 times Debate No: 95800
Debate Rounds (5)
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"Dueling" is defined as "an arranged engagement in combat between two consenting individuals with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules." I will argue in favor of this up to, and including, the death of participants.

Round 1 - Acceptance.
Round 2 - Debaters state their case.
Round 3 - Debaters rebut one another's cases made in Round 2.
Round 4 - Debaters defend their cases against rebuttals made in Round 3.
Round 5 - Debaters make closing statements, argue as to why voters should select them.



This will be my first debate on this website. I look forward to a rousing yet logical exchange. I believe I can establish through multiple means why dueling should remain illegal.

For the purposes of this debate, I will be referring to various social mores and/or legal structures in reference to two concepts, defined below:

Public benefit / public detriment: With respect to a given action by a person or persons, all the associated drawbacks and benefits OF that action TO the general public and/or people unassociated by any particular relationship with the actors. Actions which have a net positive effect (without undue burden on a minority) on the populace's quality of life are a public benefit. Net negative effects of the same are a public detriment. This could include but is not limited to externalities, psychological effects, monetary impacts, social pressures, property gain/loss, etc. Synonyms: Social good, social ill.

Morally good/evil: Any action of one individual which has an effect on another individual of a non-neutral nature. Good actions are defined as that set of behaviors and standards which, if all members of that society were to follow the mores associated with that action, results in a net positive increase in quality of life on average. Evil actions are the actions that, if all members etc., incur net negative decreases in QoL, most particularly incurring or allowing nonconsensual pain and suffering.

Quality of Life: An individual's circumstances and environment as it relates to the opportunities given and pressures on that individual's happiness. An increase in Quality of Life (QoL) is associated with a higher chance of an individual experiencing happiness and satisfaction, whereas a decrease in QoL is associated with a higher chance of stress, pain, and loss, risk, and negative emotions.

I'm hoping that covers everything, and that these are acceptable definitions. I think they may be unnecessarily specific, but.. *shrug*
Debate Round No. 1


First off, many thanks for accepting this debate. From what I've seen of your comments on this site, I'm sure this will be an engaging and challenging debate and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Thanks for laying out the concepts you intend to reference as your framework; they are noted and I don't object to anything you've put forward being used to support an argument.


I will argue that dueling should be legal on two separate but complementary grounds:

-Dueling is an individual right in accordance with the libertarian non-aggression principle.

-Dueling is beneficial to society from a utilitarian perspective.

==LIBERTARIAN ARGUMENT - Dueling is a Right==

The libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP) states that it should be legal for individuals to do things unless they initiate, or threaten to initiate, physical force against another person or legitimately owned property of another person (1). This is a principle underlying the values of freedom on which Western liberal democracies are currently based.

It may seem unusual to apply this principle in the context of a violent act such as dueling, but the central issue of mutual consent invalidates any objection on the basis that dueling involves the initiation of physical force. With consent and in the absence of coercion, dueling is no more a violation of the non-aggression principle than boxing or BDSM, both of which are legal and widely recognized to not contravene the NAP.

There are a wide variety of voluntary, dangerous lifestyle choices that are not prohibited by the government, including violent sports, smoking, automobile driving, skydiving, scuba diving, rock climbing, and much more. Consent fights are even already recognized as legal in many jurisdictions in Western liberal democratic societies (2)(3). Prohibiting dueling is completely arbitrary and fundamentally inconsistent with this pattern.

==UTILITARIAN ARGUMENT - Dueling Increases Public Safety==

Street violence runs the risk of innocent bystanders being caught in crossfire, or responding law enforcement officers being subject to violence.

Duels, on the hand, provide an outlet through which to settle violent disputes which guarantee that only the involved parties run risk of injury. Parties must consent and abide by stipulated rules, and the event is set up in such a way as to eliminate risk to third parties.

==UTILITARIAN ARGUMENT - Dueling Enables Faster Medical Response to Injuries==

Duels are prearranged, consensual agreements that follow strict rules and are attended by witnesses. They usually do not result in death, and medical personnel could be on standby to immediately treat injured participants.

By contrast, an act of violence outside the bounds of such an arrangement which is criminalized by the state (in the absence of a legalized dueling framework, this is what people would and do turn to) is an unknown and dangerous scenario that is treated by first responders as an active shooter situation. In active shooter situations, "waiting for tactically trained personnel to arrive may represent a deadly delay to the injured victims" (4) as emergency medical responders must wait for police to secure the area before they can approach and treat an injured party.

==UTILITARIAN ARGUMENT - Dueling Promotes a Culture of Honour and Justice==

There are a number of ways in which individuals can behave obnoxiously, offensively and maliciously and our legal system can't, and shouldn't, take action against them in response (because justifiably there need to be limits on state power and certain precedents can't be set). Currently this leaves nearly infinite ways in which an unscrupulous individual can harm others, and leave their victims impotent to respond in any legal fashion (this could include the spread of negative rumours that don't rise to the level of defamation, obtaining money through unethical and dishonest pretenses without rising to the level of fraud, committing crimes which leave insufficient evidence for law enforcement to take action, etc). These situations leave victims feeling disempowered and damage their self-worth. The psychological impact of such actions can be enormous.

Legal dueling would provide an avenue of recourse for these situations in which the legal system is powerless to rectify wrongs. Retribution, incapacitation and deterrence are all recognized justifications for punishment under criminal law (5), so even the state has recognized the value of such concepts and enshrined them in principles of the legal system. Legalizing dueling would extend the avenues of recourse for victimized people, and endow them with a sense of honour and self-worth they would not otherwise be able to attain.

(4) (Page 1)


== Definition Addendum ==

I had not realized the terms were necessary, so I must break with good form by appending a pair of definitions central, I believe, to both our arguments:

State Interest " A matter of public concern that is addressed by the government in law of policy (1). Specified here by the judicial application of discrimination in favor of the public benefit (see prior definition), subject to application of the Rational Basis Test.

Rational Basis Test " A judicial standard of review enforcing a reasonable and not arbitrary basis for enacting a particular statute (2).

My apologies for the late addition. The need was clear once I started working through the argument.

== Introduction / Framework ==

I will argue that dueling should be illegal based on three rational bases serving the public benefit:

1)Dueling is counter to the state"s interest in the preservation of sapient life,
2)Dueling is unusually vulnerable to exploitation against personal interest via undue influence,
3)Dueling, unlike "safe" methods of conflict, inflicts egregious externalities on interested parties.

== Framework ==
In any judicial system that is interested in promoting the social good, individual liberty must only be restricted when there is a rational basis to expect that an individual"s exercise of that right will impose unreasonable costs to other parties, whether proximally or to the society. This demands that whatever (dis)incentives a law imposes be balanced on all expected consequences on legitimate grounds. The reasonable standard for this applies to both of our arguments, as implied in your citations of utility arguments for dueling. I will deal with these utility arguments in my future rebuttal.

== Public Benefit Argument " Preservation of Sapient Life ==
As established in a wide variety of case law (3), the social good is served by a legal framework that encourages the preservation of sapient life, even against a person"s wishes in many cases. The reasoning should be clear: Societies are made up of living people, and quality of life is enhanced at a very basic level by maximizing the duration of life. Although I might argue that qualify of life should weight the remaining duration quite heavily (there"s no use keeping a terminally comatose person alive), this does not apply to duelists, or indeed, to anyone whose life expectancy is reasonably expected to extend for some time with quality of life intact (Cruzan vs. Harmon, (4)).

Every sapient entity"s life and contributions to society, tautologically, has both an additive and multiplicative effect on every other member of that society. So long as this effect is at least unambiguously neutral, we see a legitimate state interest in preventing suicide or even self-mutilation. If either practice was made legal, it would result in a noticeable loss of life and well-being for significant numbers that compose that state, and hence to all other members of that state.

If we disallow suicide and self-harm for this reason, then by extension we must also disallow dueling, which has an identical effect save for it being assisted by a third party. This, by itself, might not weight heavily enough to overcome the liberty argument, but I have two complementary arguments.

Note that this doesn"t even get into the moral value of the sanctity of life, which would be an innate reinforcement of the Public Benefit argument so long as one is willing to legislate morality (which I"m not, but completeness compels).

== Public Benefit Argument " Undue Influence ==

State interest is served by preventing its constituents from being harmed, whether by loss of life, health, or property, by the actions of others.

Society is materially harmed if there are no consequences for con men and tricksters who influence people into making "conscious choices" that go against their own self-interest, be it through inaccurate information, emotional manipulation, social pressure, extortion, and other "unfair playing fields". By your own admission, duels would be instigated by angry people. At least one of the participants would, in all probability, fit the definition of "emotionally compromised".

Permitting a legal contract to be formed during such is already on shaky ground. The potential for abuse by manipulative people incentivized to kill is too great; we"ve already, as a society, decided it"s risky enough in cases of the terminally ill or permanently disabled, via assisted suicide (Washington vs. Glucksberg(5)). Permitting contracts that allow healthy parties to risk their lives for no other reason than that they"re pissed off does not pass the Rational Basis Test.

Consider the classic scenario as shown in "Shindig" (Firefly, 2002 (6)), where an aristocrat hurls verbal abuse at a humble freighter captain until the captain provokes a duel, only to discover the nobleman is a veteran of dozens of duel victories. This entrapment would be trivially easy to engineer, and society would be the worse off for its allowance.

== Public Benefit Argument " Imposes Externalities ==

Externalities are central to many laws because they attempt to systematize the costs to 3rd parties from actions that might otherwise be mutually agreeable to the 1st and 2nd parties. To make this argument, I need only refer to the note by Alexander Hamilton, penned on the eve of the duel with Aaron Burr which took his life (quoted from Wikipedia (7)):

"Hamilton viewed his roles of being a father and husband, putting his creditors at risk, placing his family's welfare in jeopardy and his moral and religious stances as reasons not to duel, but he felt it impossible to avoid due to having made attacks on Burr which he was unable to recant, and because of Burr's behavior prior to the duel. He attempted to reconcile his moral and religious reasons and the codes of honor and politics. He intended to accept the duel and throw his fire in order to satisfy his morals and political codes, respectively. His desire to be available for future political matters also played a factor." (7)

By sacrificing his life on the altar of his own morals and politics, he imposed all these externalities on his family, his creditors, and the society in the form of depriving them of a seasoned politician only barely past his prime. As the law should have no interest in Hamilton"s own sense of morals, that provides insufficient justification to allow him to jeopardize all these third parties with whom he has already contractually and emotionally obligated himself to exist.

He caused a material drop in quality of life for all of them by dying foolishly at the hands of an enraged enemy; the same could be said of Aaron Burr, had he lost. The same could be said for anyone who has any sort of stakes with other people at all; one would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn"t.

== Initial Conclusion ==
Liberty is important. The state"s interest must weigh liberty carefully when deciding to take it away. The Rational Basis Test shows at least these three legitimate reasons for disallowing duels, just as we disallow assisted suicide, lethal drug use, driving while drunk, and a host of other risky behaviors.

When all three and their risks and probabilities are weighed against the liberty to engage in duels, even considering the Libertarian NAP, the balance in my view rests with maintaining the illegality of dueling.

(7)Freeman, Joanne B. (April 1996). "Dueling as Politics: Reinterpreting the Burr"Hamilton Duel".
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks for your thought-provoking arguments. I take no issue with any of the definitions you've added, thanks for the clarification. Now on to my rebuttals...

==Rebuttal: Dueling is Counter to the State's Interest in the Preservation of Sapient Life==

--Rebuttal: On Social Good and the Preservation of Sapient Life--

Concerning your argument in regards to preservation of life and how individual contributions impact society as a whole, I would argue that this reduces human beings to machines without personal interests and ignores individual rights. If taken to its logical conclusion it could be used to justify any number of violations of personal autonomy on behalf of the state for the benefit of the collective.

Further, one could apply that argument to actually be in favour of legalizing dueling, so long as the casualties of dueling are considered to have an overall negative impact on society. And if, as you suggest, duration of life is an important aspect of quality of life, and quality of life is something the state should pursue at the expense of individual rights, then the sort of individual who would willingly engage in a duel is willing to produce a negative effect on society and therefore duelists killing one another would be ridding society of negative influencers.

--Rebuttal: On Suicide and Self-Harm--

You wrote that "if we disallow suicide and self-harm for this reason, then by extension we must also disallow dueling, which has an identical effect save for it being assisted by a third party."

This might have been a compelling line of argument except for the fact that, contrary to your implication, suicide itself is legal in the majority of liberal democracies, including (but not limited to) the US, Canada, Australia, England, Germany (1). Now, I understand that alternatively you could have been referencing mental health related laws permitting suicide prevention by authorities and forcible hospitalization of actively suicidal patients. But I would respond that there is a fundamental difference between intervention when someone is not of sound mind and is unable to make rational, autonomous decisions, and premeditated decisions in which an individual is fully cognizant of the consequences of their actions. Increasingly, legal systems in liberal democracies seem to be recognizing that as well, as in recent years there has been increasing legalization of assisted suicide globally (2).

==Rebuttal: Dueling is Unusually Vulnerable to Exploitation Against Personal Interest via Undue Influence==

I'm glad you brought up emotionally compromised states and legal contracts. Because it is actually a function of, and a defense of, dueling that it would require affirmative consent and a legal contract to undertake. This would mean duress (3), undue influence (3), unconscionably (4) and other defenses in contract law would apply. Parties would have to go through the process of obtaining and signing contracts and could be held criminally and civilly liable if they injured or killed an opponent in a duel under a contract that was found to be inequitable. Therefore, both parties have an interest in ensuring they both enter the duel in a condition of sound mind and in a voluntary fashion. The process of having to do this would also constitute a "cooling off" period in which participants can let initial emotions subside to an extent and properly determine whether they want to commit to the course of action.

Dueling is intended to settle grudges and grievances, but they are conducted under controlled circumstances in accordance with rules and are not heat-of-the-moment street fights.

Where "entrapment" potential against skilled duelists is concerned, a contract formation period would give the other party a chance to research their opponent and determine if they want to withdraw on the basis of being over-matched (albeit with a loss of face). Legalized dueling accompanied by a proper contract system and enforcement would also enable the rise of "professional duelists" who could be hired to duel skilled duelists with histories of provoking people. Eventually it would be would prove dangerous to go around trying to provoke people into dueling, regardless of one's skill level.

If anything, legalized dueling would provide a process and safeguards that would serve as an alternative to more reactive and ill-conceived expressions of violence.

==Rebuttal: Dueling, Unlike "Safe" Methods of Conflict, Inflicts Egregious Externalities on Interested Parties==

This goes back to the initial argument on social good and the preservation of sapient life. I reject the argument that debts and personal obligations to third parties obligate a human being to take every possible step to preserve their own existence at the expense of personal autonomy.

I'll note that this same argument could be applied to a range of dangerous lifestyle activities (I provided examples in my opening so I'll refer readers back to them instead of repeating them). If one is to apply this logic to dueling, could they not apply it to arguing that the state should forcibly impose specific dietary and exercise programs on the populace, while denying the right to engage in lifestyle choices that are arguably harmful? At what point do these impositions that are supposed to improve "quality of life" end up infringing on personal autonomy to the point that quality of life is reduced as the population live under stressfully excessive restrictions on their freedom?

==Rebuttal: Initial Conclusion==



Good stuff. I'm pleased to be engaged with a cogent opponent. I look forward to the second rebuttal phase, as well.

== Dueling is a Right ==

You are nominally correct in that mutual consent would seem to override danger concerns. This might suffice as an argument if one is the type to take the warning labels off of cleaning supplies and let nature take its course. Those of us who rate life as equal to or higher a right than liberty take a different tack.

The major flaw in the comparisons you draw with other activities is that in matters such as boxing or BDSM is that the law still very much frowns upon inflicting actual damage, especially permanent damage. As I established in my own argument, the state has a vested interest in its participants not dying. If for no other reason than that externalities abound, voluntarily taking yourself out of circulation, so to speak, is disallowed. A severe injury imposes externalities in that your contractual obligations to your job and your family are violated, and society is harmed marginally by your visit to the hospital and your recovery thereafter, consuming medical supplies, medical staff, and other resources that might otherwise have been used or held in reserve for the unfortunate victims of accidents or crime, with the attendant price increases that put upward pressure on insurance.

Drawing analogues to other 'dangerous activities' does not help your case. All the activities you listed -- boxing, skydiving, scuba, automobiles -- are regulated to hell and back so as to minimize the chances that you can hurt yourself. Skydiving, for one, seems like a good analogue for dueling until you realize that the fatality rate is at 0.005 deaths per 1,000 jumps. All of the leisure activities especially carry the illusion of risk, but their regulating bodies are so stringent that one is literally more at risk on the highway.

Dueling with deadly weapons, meanwhile, seems destined to an injury rate of 50% at minimum. Though I doubt research exists, I can only imagine the fatality rate would be unconscionably high.

There's also a thing called the 'right to life', which is innate to all sapient life. I will be the first to admit that waiving your own right to life should be allowed by the law, but some minimum standard of justification should be present. The law might see prolonged, unremittingly poor quality of life might be an excellent reason. "Because he pissed me off," really would not. It meets no test of a rational basis.

== Increase Public Safety / Medical Response ==

These both boil down to the same concept, to whit: There would be a net reduction in risk from violent exchanges. You have yet to establish this. Since there's likely to be no research on the subject, I must instead resort to applied game theory.

To make any serious impact on these numbers, duels would need to displace more unregulated clashes than new duels crop up where there would not have been violence in the first place. I find this hard to believe for one big reason:

Exactly who do you think is going to be your 'customer base', so to speak, for dueling?

The people most likely to engage in deadly armed conflict in our society are criminals. This is not tautological; law-abiding citizens have a HOST of options for legal redress without resorting to violence. Criminals otherwise engaged in illegal enterprise do not have this luxury, for to expose oneself to the legal system is to invite scrutiny that they can ill afford; this makes violence and extortion one of the only forms of redress to which they have access. Making dueling illegal would have little to no impact on this violence, because it would STILL require engaging in the legal system, thus provoking the very exposure they are seeking to avoid.

Furthermore, the criminals who are doing violence are not doing so to satisfy some honor code. This isn't the Wild West, pistols at dawn sort of underworld. It is a world of ambushes, drive-bys, and hostage-taking. When trying to survive the cutthroat environment of the drug trade or similar, the very LAST thing they are incentivized to want is a fair fight.

Even amidst the tiny proportion of people who are STILL inclined to arrange such a strange thing as a fair fight between criminals, they hardly need legal permission to do so. I mean, you know, by definition.

This leaves your dueling proposal catering to a very tiny demographic of law-abiding dilettantes, rednecks, meatheads, and sundry who would otherwise NOT be engaged in potentially-lethal violence. With little or no reduction in criminal violence, the conclusion seems inevitable: Public safety would actually fall, especially if adoption spread due to the 'enforcement' of a cultural moral system of honor.

== Dueling Promotes Honor and Justice ==

This is the weakest and also the most insidious point you've made, in my view.

First off, if the legal system offers no redress, one must wonder if the offense is severe enough to warrant the risk of death. While there are flaws in our system, including that large companies can abuse individuals with near-impunity, I think most would agree that we are TOO litigious as a society. Of the few matters which you cited that don't 'rise to the level of' litigation-worthy, none seem to rise above the level of 'hurt feelings'. In no society that takes life seriously should those offenses warrant blood-sport.

What's more, there is no innate incentive for someone to accept such a duel in redress. What rational reason would a con-man, or a spiteful coworker, or an inveterate gossip have for agreeing to personal combat over something they did? What possible benefit would there be?

The answer to that is where it gets scary. The only rational reason there COULD be is if societal pressure and a widespread cultural norm of honor made turning down a legit-seeming duel so scandalous and scorn-worthy that the challenged feels compelled to accept. This is one of the very textbooks definitions of 'undue influence' which the state is interested in preventing.

Indeed, such a society would be terrifying to live in. The only point of a code of honor is to prescribe a course of actions, ironclad, counter to that which one would otherwise take as a rational, self-interested individual. To live by that code of honor -- whether self-imposed or enforced by the scorn of peers -- is to be forever at risk for being 'forced' to take an action you would otherwise not.

Consider the difference: Horatio rode to save the maiden from the dragon because he feared for her life. Horatio rode to save the maiden from the dragon because he thought he probably should.

Note the terror and reluctance Hamilton faced on the eve of his duel with Burr; he feared leaving his family behind, his creditors cursing his name, his political achievements left unfinished. He was TRAPPED, though, by his code of honor. He intended to throw the match, to avoid killing, but he felt he had no choice but to risk his life on the altar of honor. And, indeed, he paid for it with his life.

That is far too steep a price to pay for an ephemeral sense of self-worth, the relief of peer pressure, and the schadenfruede of seeing a nominal enemy bleeding at your feet. As a society, why would we willingly, knowingly choose to plunge ourselves once more into such a medieval mindset?

Debate Round No. 3


Thank you, I'm enjoying this as well.

==Defense: Dueling is a Right==

--Warning labels on cleaning supplies--

This is an analogy I really have to take issue with. Explicit consent and knowledge about what involved parties are getting into is central to what I am defending. I don't think that a scenario where dangerous chemicals are being dispersed without proper information regarding associated risks is comparable.

--Costs to society--

You raise a valid point about costs to society as a whole where medical treatment is concerned, but I would respond with a few counterpoints:

-Since you specifically reference "resources that might otherwise have been used or held in reserve for the unfortunate victims of accidents or crime," I will mention that to an extent lifestyle choices are factored into medical decisions. An example being that smoking, alcohol and/or drug use or a history of such self-harming behaviours are already taken into account in determining who is qualified to receive organs, for example (1). The issue of whether convicted criminals should be discriminated against on organ transplant waiting lists is also a prominent and controversial issue in medical ethics (2)(3). I would argue for extending medical "discrimination" much further but I don't want to stray from our topic (and medical ethics is a very complex subject that I couldn't do justice as a secondary topic here), so I'll just say that I think it would be completely reasonable for duelists to be classified as lower priority for a variety of medical treatments.

-Where medical costs incurred by the state are concerned (which would vary by country, of course), this is not something that an individual can voluntarily opt out of, so I don't think it is reasonable to impose any moral obligation of safe lifestyle choices upon people for being subject to it.

--Dueling is more lethal than other dangerous activities--

I'm willing to concede that dueling is more dangerous than the other activities mentioned (although I agree that reliable statistics on this don't exist) but I don't think it successfully refutes the principle at hand. Ultimately, your argument is that it is a question of degree and that makes all the difference. But in that case, what is the magic number where an activity crosses a threshold of being illegal? 1 in 1000 chance of dying per attempt? 1 in 100? 1 in 10? It's an arbitrary and subjective metric, at whatever point you want to start deeming a voluntary and consensual dangerous activity as somehow unacceptably dangerous. The principle is what matters and the principle applies the same across all mentioned activities.

--Right to life--

You (quite rightly, in my view) acknowledge that people should be permitted to waive their own right to life, then you say that justification should be required. By your "rational basis test" on this matter, shouldn't suicide be criminalized again?

Ultimately this goes back to the point of contention where I believe that individuals should have personal autonomy over their own life and should not require state permission to do something that has a chance of ending it.

==Defense: Increased Public Safety/Medical Response==

Ooooh, I enjoy game theory!

Pretty much all of your points in this section relate to existing violence being the purview of criminals and arguing that they do not want to fight fair, they don't care to abide by any code of honour, they would not want to involve themselves in the legal system, and they don't care about having legal permission to do things.

All good arguments, but I would counter that if legalized dueling were combined with a stern and effective criminal justice system that was able to consistently secure convictions for murderers as well as provide heavy punishments for them, it would deter people from committing murder and incentivize dueling. Why spend decades in prison when your gang's best duelist could take someone out openly without legal repercussion?

Obviously this would not prevent heat-of-the-moment rage killings, but I'm not proposing it as a catch-all solution to violent crime. I'm simply saying that in certain contexts in which a violent altercation were to happen regardless, if dueling were legal it could instead happen in a more regulated environment.

Conversely, I think that there would be *very* few people who are currently law-abiding and non-violent people who would take the opportunity to duel if it was legalized. Therefore, it wouldn't take a whole lot of criminal violent crime being redirected to organized dueling to offset the increase in violence.

Alternatively, this might change if a culture of dueling was able to emerge. If that were the case, more currently law-abiding people would duel, however it would also encourage people to be more civil and avoid conflicts because they had the potential to escalate this way.

==Dueling Promotes Honour and Justice==

--If the legal system offers no redress, it's not severe enough to warrant risk of death--

It's up to the individual to determine what is "worth" risking themselves for. At the risk of boring you I have to reference the "rights" argument again.

In some circumstances, civil law may apply but an individual may deem that insufficient to satisfy the situation. In others, there are times when sensible legal principles to apply broadly unfortunately leave specific situations in which harm is done but can't be addressed.

--No incentive to accept--

Public shaming and evidence of cowardice. This is something that would already carry weight in some rougher circles, but it would require some time for culture adjustment upon dueling being legalized for this to extend to the same extent to the general population. When dueling was a common practice historically, there was a culture surrounding it and declining it legitimately made one a subject of contempt and ridicule.

But regardless of the incentive of the challenged, it could still be a very cathartic experience for the person issuing the challenge to simply be declined. It would equip them with the psychological relief of knowing that they had the courage and conviction to place themselves in physical risk for a cause they believed in, and the person on the receiving end of their ire did not have the same qualities. They could receive satisfaction from the loss of face of the other party.

--Societal pressure and undue influence--

As you can see from my defense above, to an extent I accept that there would be social pressure to accept.

However, this completely fails as an analogy: "Consider the difference: Horatio rode to save the maiden from the dragon because he feared for her life. Horatio rode to save the maiden from the dragon because he thought he probably should." Facing social pressure to do something to avoid looking like a coward is not on the same level as being forced to do something in order to save someone's life.

Additionally, I do believe there is a degree of contradiction in your criticism here, as before you downplayed the suggestion that people should take drastic action based on 'hurt feelings' when the argument was whether a victimized party should be allowed to challenge an offending party to a duel. Now you are arguing that the prospect of facing social humiliation is an all-powerful coercive element on the same level as having to act to preserve a life.

With that I conclude my defense. I very much appreciate you presenting these points; this was a very interesting exchange.



== Counter: Social Good / Sapient Life ==

Your argument in regard to this only works if there is a Slippery Slope argument to be made. In reality, modern democracies use the 'rational basis' principle I outlined in order to perform a reasonable measure between an individual's liberty and the marginal rights of others using the Harm Principle (discussed in (3) and further below). This philosophical tug-of-war is one of the primary battlegrounds for all the laws and regulations in modern democracy. Where one draws the line is a matter of much debate, but the point is that so long as the state values individual liberty, the risk that they will tumble down the 'slippery slope' of collectivism is nil thanks to the very construction of the legal basis for treading on liberty.

The second part of this relies on an inaccurate reading of my argument, best as I can make out. I did not, at the time, have the legal terms I needed to be more clear. Regardless, the state is not equipped to judge on a case-by-case basis whether duels should be 'approved' based on the duelists' relative merits, and that IS a slippery slope which precedent we should not like to set.

== Counter: Suicide/Self Harm ==

You are correct about suicide and its legality. I was working on old information. I withdraw that comparison, at least partially. The term of art I was groping for is, upon further research, "Legal Paternalism" (1). I'm hoping this doesn't step on the 'No new arguments' rule to introduce a new term, but it's the legal philosophy which truly justifies my No Self Harm argument. To rephrase my argument: The state has a legitimate interest in stopping you from doing retarded shite that will harm or kill you. If you're too macho to ride a motorcycle with a helmet on, the state, like a parent, -knows better- and may coerce you into being safe, in loco parentis. Much like a parent, if you want to engage in this risky behavior, you'd best come up with a convincing argument for why you should be allowed.

To cite (and paraphrase) my source, the state applies three tests:

A) Are you trying to pull some harmful shite no sane person should want to do on its own? (Dueling: Yes.)
B) Do the risks of said insane shite significantly outweigh the benefits? (Dueling: Yes.)
C) Is the proposed restriction the least restrictive alternative for protecting against the risks of harm?

This last one could be debated, but in short: We've already got legalized dueling where the risks are reduced. It's called boxing. You need to learn how to NOT kill or injure your opponent badly before they'll let you do it. Amateurs fighting with lethal weaponry is too risky and pointless to pass the first two tests, and making it legal but with restrictions does not reduce that risk.

Assisted suicide passes, by the way, because the cessation of a truly horrid life satisfies test B.

== Counter: Undue Influence ==

I dealt with this in my first rebuttal to your main argument. To reiterate: No rational person would WANT to put their lives at risk over the kinds of disputes that aren't already addressable with tort law. That is, unless they were being pressured with the shame and social pressure of turning down a duel. This is akin to telling a kid that peer pressure is a valid excuse to take hard drugs. It's also one of the ways which we mean "duress", more specifically psychological coercion, and even more specifically a mass cultural emotional blackmail (2), depending on how severe the scorn or threats of reprisal are. Complete loss of reputation and livelihood would about do it.

You've admitted yourself that this form of pressure would necessarily be the vast majority of conditions under which an otherwise law-abiding citizen would accept a duel. By your own insistence on the protections against duress, etc. under contract law, either there would only rarely BE a duel (making the law all but pointless), or accepting under the influence of the culture's psychological duress would be legitimate cause to nullify the duel contract.

== Counter: Externalities ==

We tangled on this one in your rebuttal AND your counter, but I'll deal with it now: By the process of engaging in society, you enter into contracts and entangle yourself with the lives of others. If you pike off and move to Mexico (or other effective nonexistence), you leave these people in the lurch. You have, in effect, deprived them of some of their rights and their wellbeing, their Quality of Life, by removing yourself from the equation. By application of the Harm Principle (3), which I alluded to in my argument (even if I didn't know what to call it), the state has a perfectly legitimate interest in preventing YOUR actions from harming OTHER people, or from failing to live up to the obligations which you have already entered into at a prior time.

If you sign a contract to ship all your goods with AA Freighter Company for three years, the state has a legit interest in restricting your freedom to sign a contract one year later to ship all your goods with Black Lagoon Shipping for the next year. The prior contract which you agreed to takes precedence, or the penalties in the prior contract can take effect, and a court may demand even more.

It becomes much more significant when we speak of the family, friends, colleagues, and associations by contract which you would be leaving behind after dying in a duel or being laid up for months from a sucking chest wound. Your prior entanglements (entered into by you with full prior consent) are a legit reason to restrict that freedom, and you would have to dispense with all of them, paying fair recompense and arrangements for your extraction, before you could be allowed to throw your life away freely. You could, anyway, but say goodbye to your last will and testament. They won't be referring to it.

In effect, this is not just your liberty vs. everyone else's wellbeing. It's your liberty vs. the liberty you -already exercised- in forming commitments prior to this.

The second point you make is also handily dispensed via the Legal Paternalism concept mentioned prior and (clumsily) alluded to in my initial opening. You seem inclined to leave the warning labels on cleaning supplies, so clearly you accept Legal Paternalism at least -partially-. Preventing the 50%+ prospect of injury and the significant chance of death is well worth 'trampling' on your right to make very bad decisions.

Again, everything is the tug-of-war between individual liberty and your effects on others' liberties and choices around you. Dueling falls squarely on the wrong side of that line.


Debate Round No. 4


Thanks for the engaging and fun debate! I must say that you have introduced me to certain concepts that I now wish to explore more thoroughly, and that is much appreciated.

I'll be very brief here as this is just for a conclusion and I can't introduce new arguments or rebuttals:

I believe that the most significant argument I had to make was in regards to rights, and I don't believe my opponent was able to sufficiently refute that. I wasn't satisfied that a clear line was drawn in terms of what places dueling into a separate category than the wide variety of legal but "harmful" activities and behaviors we touched upon. I also believe I refuted the objection that if states provide services, individuals should therefore be ethically or legally obligated to modify their behaviour on the basis of being subjected to these services that they did not elect to receive.

I also believe that, although my opponent had some very cogent points more broadly, he made a number of arguments from analogy that were not sufficiently relevant or similar to the scenarios they were intended to criticize, and that I was able to point this out and refute them.

Thanks to JCDenton for participating and thanks to anyone else who reads or votes on this.


Thanks, Civiero, for your articulate and spirited Libertarian argument for dueling. Given the ubiquity of prohibition of dueling in modern nations, your fight was always going to be an uphill one. I look forward to seeing what the voters think.

== Closing Arguments / Summary ==

My opponent advocated for making dueling legal based on two grounds. I will summarize my perspective of the flow and final conclusions of the argument on these two points.

-- Dueling is a Right --

My opponent's Libertarian argument is, at its basis, well-founded. My rebuttal, however, used one of the very few defenses accepted (in U.S. law, anyway) for overriding a person's rights: The Harm principle and the Legal Paternalism principle. Neither were explicitly named in my first rebuttal, but were nonetheless used.

My point about cost to society was admitted by my opponent to have merit. His most effective counter was that nonconsensual medical treatment can't oblige the patient to change their behavior. This is not true; we are, in fact, obliged to pay for medical care given to us while unable to refuse that care. As I did not have space to introduce the principles for why that is, the reader is left to decide whether the medical consent argument is sufficient on its own.

His other two counters still run aground, in my view, of the Harm principle and Legal Paternalism. Just because the line of 'too risky' is difficult to draw does not mean the state should decline to make any judgment about safety whatsoever, as well-evidenced by reasonable regulations on dangerous activities. A fuzzy line is still a line, and the precise location of that line is less important than when an activity is blatantly on the wrong side of it.

Legal paternalism is the concept which my opponent most needs to dismantle. However, he has given no evidence to refute the state's interest in acting in loco parentis. He simply states that we have the right to risk ourselves at will. This is not a rebuttal to legal paternalism; it is a statement of preference. Even if we did have this right, this does not erase the responsibility of the state to try to prevent it.

Indeed, my opponent mischaracterizes my argument. Far from wanting to draw a difference between dueling and other dangerous activities, legal paternalism treats them the same: Regulate them with the minimum amount of restrictions necessary to minimize the risk to life and health. It is the NATURE of dueling that makes the 'minimum restrictions necessary' a full prohibition. The lethality rate is far too high; other dangerous activities have, in the wake of this minimum regulation, been reduced to acceptable lethality rates. Non-lethal dueling, as ever, is known as boxing or martial arts exhibition matches, and are regulated, as usual, the minimum amount to be reasonably assured of safety for both participants.

As I am applying the same standard to dueling as I am to all dangerous activities, and this standard has gone unaddressed save for what amounts to, "I would prefer that legal paternalism not remain in force", my opponent's rebuttal on rights grounds is ineffective. John Stuart Mills is not the only authority on the rights and liberties of mankind.

-- Increased Public Safety, Culture of Honor --

We seem to have come to no solid conclusions in these matters. Who describes the more likely effects on our culture, and which of those effects is more desirable, is left as an exercise to the reader. I can only confidently say that I would not prefer to live in a society in which dueling was considered an acceptable form of conflict resolution.

-- My Analogies --

As a note of clarification: My 'warning labels off chemicals' was intended as a wry rhetorical device for illustrative effect.

The entire point behind the knight, the dragon, and the maiden was to contrast how incomparable those two motives were, and how the 'social pressure' reason was incompatible with rational decision making. My opponent actually correctly stated the point of the analogy even as he expressed the confusion of why I was using it. This means I need to refine my usage to make the relevance more clear.


Thanks to Civiero for a rousing debate. He was a tough opponent, demanding that my brain undergo a healthy workout. Regardless of the winner, that's the best possible result, from my perspective.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by civiero 2 years ago
Thanks @jcdenton80 for accepting this debate!

I can tell from your thoughtful opening, as well as other comments I've seen from you on this site, that this will be a good one. I'm very pleased I can be your first opponent, and I look forward to sharpening my skills against you. Best of luck!

It's 2am so I need to get some rest before I can tackle this competently, but I will post arguments and won't flake, I assure you!
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