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The Contender
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Inaction in the face of Injustice makes an individual morally culpable

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/3/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 13,437 times Debate No: 58532
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)




Contention 1: Inaction allows bullying and discrimination to be legitimized
By not standing up to a major problem within our world, we legitimized bullying and discrimination. An estimated 77 million people in the United States alone go to school, and 77% of these children are bullied. Eliza Ahmed, a professor at the Australian National University argues "When it comes to verbal bullying, this type of bullying is the most common type with about 77 percent of all students being bullied verbally in some way or another including mental bullying or even verbal abuse. These types of bullying can also include spreading rumors, yelling obscenities or other derogatory terms based on an individual's race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc." By taking inaction against bullying, discrimination is allowed to continue, and bullying is legitimized because no one ever stands up or will tell them that its wrong. If this is allowed to continue then the bullies will find that discrimination, and physical or verbal abuse is correct, making them into criminals. "Bullying can be a gateway behavior, teaching the perpetrator that threats and aggression are acceptable even in adulthood. In one study by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, nearly 60 percent of boys whom researchers classified as bullies in grades six to nine were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24, while 40 percent had three or more convictions." This is the key issue that we must first resolve in order to be able to resolve other issues such as murder and rape.
Contention 2: Protecting the collective allows for survival of the race
Acting in order to prevent injustices in order for the general wellbeing of society is better. Darwin argues "a tribe including many members who...were always ready to give aid to each other and sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection" If we don"t have to obligation to act we don"t preserve our species and we don"t allow us to continue to live in the way that we currently do.
Subpoint A: Lack of action creates fascism
Fascism relies upon the complacency of individuals

Arendt, 1963 [Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem p. 150]

And just as the law in civilized countries assumes that the voice of conscience tells everybody "Thou shalt not kill," even though man"s natural desires and inclinations may at times be murderous, so the law of Hitler"s land demanded that the voice of conscience tell everybody: "Thou shalt kill," although the organizers of the massacres knew full well that murder is against the normal desires and inclinations of most people. Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it"the quality of temptation. Many Germans and many Nazis, probably an overwhelming majority of them, must have been tempted not to murder, not to rob, not to let their neighbors go off to their doom (for that the Jews were transported to their doom they knew, of course, even though many of them may not have known the gruesome details), and not to become accomplices in all these crimes by benefiting from them. But, God knows, they had learned how to resist temptation.

Individual action in the face of injustice is the only way to prevent fascism

Ahmed 2008 [Saladdin Said "Mass Mentality, Culture Industry, Fascism" Kritike accessed 6/29/14]

In "Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda," Adorno studies the relationship between the bonds that turns "individuals" to masses. He credits Freud"s study of mass psychology for predictingfascism in the twentieth century. "According to Freud, the problem of mass psychology is closely related to thenew type of psychological affliction so characteristic of the era which for socio-economic reasons witnesses the decline of the individual and his subsequent weakness."44 According to Adorno, Le Bon"s contribution is also crucial in the realization of "psychology of masses," though Freud was the first psychologist who did not disgust the masses and instead he wondered what turned groups of individuals into masses. Adorno writes, "he [Freud] tries to find out which psychological forces result in the transformation of individuals into a mass. "If the individuals in the group are combined into a unity, there must surely be something to unite them, and this bond might be precisely the thing that is characteristic of a group." This quest, however, is tantamount to an exposition of the fundamental issue of fascist manipulation."45

For Freud, Adorno explains, what happens to individuals when they form masses can be explained in terms of libidinal phenomena. Individuals lose their rationality when they join masses.46 Adorno tries to connect that with fascism as a "rebellion borrows its energies partly from other psychological agencies which are pressed into the service of the unconscious."47 Adorno then searches for the mechanisms that change sexual energy to feelings on which masses are constructed internally.48 He says Freud noticed how "love" in organized groups is masked by religious images and rituals.49 Fascism needs to turn "love" to authoritarian fetishism and that is exactly what shapes the pattern of fascism.50 Freud explains the relation between a leader and the followers (masses) in terms of a father-children relation. The children feel the need for total obedience to the father, who is the representative of the super ego. The herd feels the need to submit to an absolute authority. They want to be governed because they cannot bear their freedom.51 Fascist propaganda, Adorno explains, relives the primal image of "the father" which stimulates the psychological thirst for obedience. That is why fascist media concentrate on the "greatness" of the leader rather than the problems in reality and possible objective corresponding politics.52 In Saddam Hussein"s Iraq, the media did little else besides extol the "wisdom of the father-leader," to use one of their own expressions. Even after Saddam Hussein was executed, some Iraqis claimed that to have seen his image on the face of the moon, which for them is a sign of divinity. "Idealization," according to Freud, is the process according to which sexual energy is transformed to a fascist bond among the members of the herd and between themselves and their leader.53

Totalitarianism is a massive impact.

Caplan 06 [Bryan, Department of Economics and Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University, "The Totalitarian Threat," January 06]

It is obviously harder to refine my numbers than it is to refine estimates of the probability of an extinction-level asteroid impact. The regularities of social science are neither as exact nor as enduring as the regularities of physical science. But this is a poor argument for taking social disasters like totalitarianism less seriously than physical disasters like asteroids. We compare accurately-measured to inaccurately-measured things all the time. Which is worse for a scientist to lose: 1 point of IQ, or his "creative spark"? Even though IQ is measured with high accuracy, and creativity is not, loss of creativity is probably more important. Finally, it is tempting to minimize the harm of a social disaster like totalitarianism, because it would probably not lead to human extinction. Even in Cambodia, the totalitarian regime with the highest death rate per-capita, 75% of the population remained alive after three years of rule by the Khmer Rouge. (Margolin 1999b) But perhaps an eternity of totalitarianism would be worse than extinction. It is hard to read Orwell and not to wonder: Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy " everything... There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except for the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. (1983: 220)


I thank Pro for this debate! In this round, I shall endeavor to achieve two objective: (1) to better understand the resolution, and (2) to offer a constructive argument in negation of the topic.


The resolution reads: "Inaction in the face of Injustice makes an individual morally culpable." I will begin by defining terms from the resolution, excerpting those definitions from Merriam Webster. [1]
  • Inaction - "lack of action or activity"
  • Injustice - "unfair treatment: a situation in which the rights of a person or a group of people are ignored"
  • Individual - "a particular person"
  • Moral - "of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior"
  • Culpable - "deserving blame: guilty of doing something wrong"

From these definitions, we can see that the phrase "morally culpable" refers to a situation where a person was guilty of acting against the principles of right and wrong. But, what makes someone culpable? In law, "an accused is culpable when he or she is sufficiently responsible for criminal acts or negligence to be at fault and liable for the conduct." [2] In much of the world, the threshold for responsibility is extremely high, and would only be triggered in limited instances, (a) where a person creates a hazardous situation that another person falls into, or (b) where a special relationship exists, e.g. a parent to a child. [3] So, what does this have to do with the resolution?

The resolution is asking us whether inaction in the face of injustice makes an individual morally culpable, where culpability implies responsibility and liability. Thus, Pro must show that inaction makes an individual responsible for the injustice they are witnessing.

Additionally, observe that the resolution is not making a on balance claim. Rather, it is presenting a moral maxim much in the way Kant does, where it should be either rejected as valid or invalid. I would draw your attention to the fact that the resolution is not asking us what is desirable or generally accepted, but instead it is putting forth a question of moral fact. If X condition is met, the result is Y. That is essentially what Pro is being forced to uphold. Consequently, I would posit that if I can show just one example in which the Condition X does not result in Y, the resolution is negated. After all, logically, something cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time; we cannot affirm that inaction makes an individual morally culpable while at the same time deny that this is true in any case.

Finally, this is not a topic about whether people should or should not act in the face of injustice. I can say that bystanders should act without assigning moral culpability to them for choosing not to act. Let me put it like this, culpability is about blame, and so the resolution is implying that inaction is blameworthy. It is my job in this round to argue that inaction is not blameworthy, but that is not the same thing as saying that people should not act to help. Blameworthiness implies a breach of obligation or duty, it implies that you have done something wrong. I intend to argue that inaction is not always wrong, even if acting might be better or advisable.


I will make two types of arguments. One will be a generic analysis of why inaction would not lead to moral culpability. The other will be to provide some scenarios or conditions under which inaction would be justified. These two sets of arguments function independently of each other.

General Analysis

Much of the support for good samartian law or moral theory stems from the idea of universal human dignity. I will attempt to show how an understanding of human dignity leads to a contrasting, albeit counterintuitive, outlook

According to G.W.F. Hegel, autonomy separates us from all other things. A table cannot be blamed for a moral failing because it cannot choose to do something wrong. A human, on the other hand, is morally relevant insofar as we have this autonomy. This moral worth grants every person an inherent dignity that should be respected. "The idea here is that a human being, as a rational agent endowed with self-awareness, free will, and the possibility of formulating a plan of life, has an inherent dignity and cannot properly be treated as a mere thing, or used against his will as an instrument or resource in the way an inanimate object might be. In line with this, Nozick also describes individual human beings as self-owners. The thesis of self-ownership, a notion that goes back in political philosophy at least to John Locke, is just the claim that individuals own themselves--their bodies, talents and abilities, labor, and by extension the fruits or products of their exercise of their talents, abilities and labor." [4]

This understanding of human dignity has very clear political implications, in the sense that, morally speaking, "a state cannot regulate what citizens eat, drink, or smoke (since this would interfere with their right to use their self-owned bodies as they see fit), cannot control what they publish or read (since this would interfere with their right to use the property they’ve acquired with their self-owned labor—e.g. printing presses and paper), cannot administer mandatory social insurance schemes…(since this would interfere with citizens’ rights to use the fruits of their labor as they desire, in that some citizens might decide that they would rather put their money into…private retirement plans), and cannot regulate economic life in general via wage laws and the like.” [4] Now, this debate is about individual, not governments, but this excerpt underscores the power of the notion of self-ownership.

Human dignity requires that we respect other's rights, and that it is wrong to violate those rights. However, just because we should respect the rights of others does not mean we are called up to intercede when we see rights violations. The libertarian paradigm evoked by these arguments is best stated by Mills, whose argument posits that "the only actions that can be prevented are ones that create harm." As self-owners, with total control over our own actions, we are not required to intercede where we see injustice, because our actions do not create harm. Rather, we are free to exercise our control over ourselves and refuse to intervene. Moral culpability is obviated because the course of action--or, in this case, inaction--that was taken was completely morally licit.


Ex. 1 The idea here is simple. Let's say I live in a authoritarian state, and a person being persecuted for being a certain ethnicity. They ask me for shelter. I know that if I am caught, the person will die, as will myself and my entire family. It would actually cause more harm to take this person in if I am caught. Should I really endanger innocent lives to rectify this injustice? Utilitarianism would say no.

Ex. 2 Let's say someone is drowning in a pool. I could choose to dive in and attempt to save them, or choose to do nothing. It would take too long to summon help. I cannot swim and am apt to die as well if I jump into the pool. In such a scenario, I shouldn't be called upon to risk my own life to remedy an injustice.


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I apologize for the brevity of my response; I've had an insanely hectic day. I will respond to Pro's arguments (ultimately this is more crucial than the constructive) in the next round.
Debate Round No. 1


silu_men forfeited this round.


Thanks for this debate! I hope that forfeit was a one-time thing...In this round, I'll briefly address Pro's case.

C1: Bullying

Pro is making a fundamental mistake here. His argument goes as follows:

P1: Bullying is bad
P2: Inaction enables bullying
C1: Inaction is bad

Firstly, Pro has failed to sufficiently warrant why P2 is true. Perhaps, if a student intervenes, they too will become the target of bullying. This may inflame rather that snuff out the problem. Secondly, this argument does not affirm the topic. The topic is not "inaction is bad" but rather it is that inaction leads to culpability. So even if inaction is bad, that does not make people who don't act culpable for the injustices they are witnessing. For instance, it might be bad to accidentally kill someone, but that does not make you legally (or even morally) culpable for their death. Pro makes no arguments about culpability, just badness, thus, there is no link to the resolution.

C2: The Collective

Same as the above. Moreover, what if the collective is the one perpetrating the injustices? If so, then the affirmative would require that we take action against the collective. So really, this argument is either potentially contradictory, or, at the very least, non-unique.

SA: Fascism

Really this is just taking things to a ridiculous extreme on the most tenuous of link stories. Look at society in real life, people do act against injustice, so these impacts aren't unique to the affirmative world. The negative doesn't have to argue that people don't act or shouldn't act, merely that they are not culpable should they choose not to act. And ultimately these impact don't matter if you fail to show culpability, because that's the baseline you need to meet in order to affirm.
Debate Round No. 2


silu_men forfeited this round.



Please vote Con. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by bsh1 7 years ago

You read policy-debate style claptrap, encroaching upon an LD topic.
Posted by odbwu0c 7 years ago
Please ignore all but the first paragraph of the previous post. Sorry.
Posted by odbwu0c 7 years ago
I don't think most people disagree that inaction in the face of injustice leads to bad, sometimes really bad, consequences. Where people disagree is on whether an individual is morally culpable for those consequences, based on his/her inaction. This latter point is what I feel this debate should focus on, given its title.

The crux of your thesis is not that inaction in the face of injustice leads to bad consequences, nor is it that inaction in the face of great injustice leads to horrible consequences. The crux of your thesis is that inaction in the face of injustice, WHICH WILL VERY LIKELY HAVE BAD OR VERY BAD CONSEQUENCES, is MORALLY CULPABLE. MThat inaction in the face of injustice leads to bad consequences, i don't think anyone would deny. TheThe allure of your

In your opening statement, you brought up examples where inaction in the face of injustice leads to bad consequences. However, if I'm not mistaken, this does not address the
Posted by Kc1999 7 years ago
Did someone just quote Freud? What did I just read?
Posted by Strycora 7 years ago
I actually agree with the guy.
Posted by Domr 7 years ago
You have rattled of numerous stats and excerpts and I still don't understand what you are trying to debate.

I think, based on your contending points you are arguing as follows:

"Contention 1: Inaction allows bullying and discrimination to be legitimized"
When no one stands up to a bully, the bully will keep being a bully. (You did not give any stats to say whether or not bullies were deterred when they were approached about their bullying.)

"Contention 2: Protecting the collective allows for survival of the race"
To connect this to bullying, I assume you are stating that as long as we stand up to bullies, for ourselves and for others, we won't become a fascist nation.

Because based on the title: "Inaction in the face of Injustice makes an individual morally culpable"
That is stating those who do not stand up to 'bullies' are to blame.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: ff
Vote Placed by Splenic_Warrior 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: forfeit

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