The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

Individuals Have A Moral Obligation To Assist People In Need

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/28/2011 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,275 times Debate No: 19537
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (8)
Votes (1)




Affirmative Case

"Each of us is being in himself and being in a society, each of us needs to understand himself and understand others, take care of other ad be taken care of himself."-Haniel Long

Because I agree with philosopher Haniel Long, I affirm the resolution.


Here are a few key terms that need to be defined before I begin: (Black Laws Dictionary)

Individual: single person

Moral: conforming to a standard or good behavior

Obligation: a person is bound to do or forbears any duty imposed by law, promise, contract, relations of society, courtesy, kindness.

Assist: help; aid

People: human beings making up or a group or assembly

Need: lack of a factor that is desirable or useful

The best Value for this round is Quality of Life which the well-being of a population

The best Criterion that best achieves my value is Security which is defined as precautions taken to maintain society

Contention 1: Preservation of Human Life in Third World Countries
{[Abdullahi Hassan Mohamed, THE REPORTER, Aug. 20, 2011.]}
More than 13 million people in Africa have been experiencing the most unparalleled drought and starvation for 60 years, according to a recent UN report. More than 3.7 million people are exposed to famine and starvation.
Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost already in Somalia and other third world countries, many more are at stake. Yet, the international community remains slow in its humanitarian response to this worsening crisis. Unless there is a miraculous increase in aid the famine will spread rapidly and violently. If the world doesn't act quickly, nearly 566,000 children fighting severe malnutrition could lose their struggle to survive.
{[Kristina Georgieva, (European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response), HUMANITARIAN AID TO THE HORN OF AFRICA, Sept. 24, 2011.]} The drought in all of the third world countries is one of the most tragic humanitarian crises for decades. Despite the efforts of the international community millions of people are still suffering. We must continue the acute needs of people across the entire area. Our intention is to constantly improve the ways in which we perform our humanitarian work. We have a moral obligation to help the vulnerable victims of this and other crises.
In which there is a good source of security that we can only hope to provide for third world countries, we can furthermore achieve the quality of life. If not attempting to provide proper security for other third world countries, then a war might break out between these countries in a fight over lacking resources. This would lead to no quality in life.

Contention 2: Assisting others is Essential to Human Survival

{(Ben Zion Eliash, (Prof., Law, Temple U. School of Law), St. Louis University Law Journal, 1994, 619.)}
The hypothesis was written approximately one hundred years ago by the Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court in a court case: Suppose A., standing close by a railroad, sees a two-year old child on the track, and a train approaching. He can easily rescue the child, with entire safety to himself, and the instincts of humanity require him to do so. If he does not, he may justly be styled a ruthless savage and a moral monster; but he is not liable for the damages of the child's injury or liable under the statue of the child's death. The legal explanation for this state of affairs is given by the court in short terms: "the duty to do no wrong is a legal duty. The duty to protect against wrong is a moral obligation only, not recognized or enforced by law." Most European countries impose criminal liability on the bystander who fails to fulfill his legal duty of rescuing someone else who might be a total stranger. The common law tradition has long viewed this duty only on a moral one, and "with purely moral obligation, the law does not deal."
{(Liam Murphy, (Prof., Law and Philosophy, New York University), GEORGETOWN LAW JOURNAL, 2001, 625.)}
Though all agree that the person who fails to affect an easy rescue is a moral monster, there is a good deal of disagreement about why. At the level of moral theory, there should be no room, for disagreement: The duty to rescue is a duty of beneficence, a positive duty requiring people to benefit others, even total strangers.
By requiring people to benefit others, even total strangers, we achieve a high security and preserving the quality of life for others. If we do not benefit others, or at least attempt to, then this will cause a collapse in security and fall in the quality of life in human beings.

Contention 3: There is a Strong Societal Consensus on the Moral Obligation to Assist People in Need

{(James Waldron, (Prof., Law Columbia. U.) SANTA CLARA LAW REVIEW, 2000, 1076)}

There is almost no disagreement in our society about the existence of a moral requirement to rescue. The disagreement is only over the question of whether this acknowledged moral duty should be enforced by a legal duty. Thus, people who argue for Good Samaritan laws and those who oppose them mostly agree about the moral wrongness of failures to rescue. Indeed, opponents of Good Samaritan are often the most vocal in their moral condemnations.
{(Melody Stewart, (Prof. Law, U. of Toledo College of Law), AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LIFE, 1998.)}
People feeling a moral obligation to do so have in the past aided others in peril. People will continue to assist others-lack in familiarity, inconvenience, and risk or harm or death to oneself notwithstanding. Altruistic behavior is still alive and well in this country. The willingness to help others and even undertake heroic efforts to rescue another need not be legally mandated. Indeed, such compassionate conduct can be found in the youngest of citizens who are not even required to have an appreciation for legally imposed obligations.


Though we could certainly conceive of a world in which it is morally obligatory to assist the needy, it isn't clear to me, based on DP's opening arguments, that this is the case in our world. Thus, I'm forced to negate.

Let us first consider quality of life. Though undeniably valuable, the conception he lays out leaves much to be desired. While he defines quality of life in terms of well-being, we are left without a clear understanding of what this actually entails. There are, I think, various sorts of well-being (e.g. financial, social, physical). Unfortunately, the only weighing mechanism with which we're provided is a concern for security. While the need of safety is important, there are two critical errors with this approach:

First, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs [1] suggests that, with respect to the maintenance of a society, there is more at stake than superficial security concerns. There are other concerns, however, even within the realm of safety: for example, security of employment, reliability of income, and a reasonable guarantee of health. Though these could potentially be construed as "security" concerns, these don't seem to be significant considerations in DP's security calculus.

Second, bare security seems insufficient to maximize average quality of life. We can, for example, think of states which place much emphasis on security and protection while falling far short of other developmental indices (e.g. infrastructure, health, education). Therefore, I don't find compelling the claim that security is the optimal route to maximizing quality of life. At most, I would agree that security is a necessary (albeit insufficient) condition.

Moving on from here, however, he presents us with a contention which details the high casualty levels in the less-developed states. The line seems to be, due to a shortage of international humanitarian aid, that these crises will not only linger, but perhaps worsen. Though I sympathize heavily with this argument, I disagree that these crises imply a moral obliagtion. If my understanding is correct, then the argument is as follows:

Preserving life is good.
Humanitarian aid to suffering countries preserves life.
Therefore, humanitarian aid to suffering countries is good.

Assuming the premises to be true, it's perhaps a strong argument for greater international contributions; however, there isn't any concrete discussion of moral obligations. It seems that DP is jumping from the empirical fact of suffering to an ethical obligation to assuage that suffering. Again, while I think that lending aid to minimize these individuals' suffering is something to be proud of, it doesn't seem as though DP has bridged the is-ought gap. In leaping from the fact of suffering to a moral obligation, there is an implicit premise that there exists a moral obligation to prevent suffering; however, because this is the subject of our debate, you cannot accept this hidden premise at face value.

Let's move now to the second contention, in which he argues that assisting the needy is useful, perhaps necessary, for the survival of our species. Though I grant this may be true, it seems we must revisit the problem previously discussed: from some mere fact, one cannot thereby deduce a moral obligation. Hidden between the first premise and the conclusion is an implicit value judgment which declares a moral obligation to promote the survival of one's own species. I wholeheartedly agree that our instincts ask us to promote those interests; however, I disagree that such a proposition carries any ethical connotations.

Further evidence of this implicit premise is that, near the end of this contention, he makes it explicit:

"Though all agree that the person who fails to affect an easy rescue is a moral monster, there is a good deal of disagreement about why. At the level of moral theory, there should be no room, for disagreement: The duty to rescue is a duty of beneficence, a positive duty requiring people to benefit others, even total strangers."

I submit again that one cannot accept this obligation to beneficence at face value, as the question of an obligation to others is the subject of our discussion. Still, DP does refer back to the standards earlier mentioned, arguing that accepting such an obligation results in increased security and quality of life. I accept that this, too, may be true; however, we must make a distinction: what DP's argument suggests is that a particular pattern of behavior could result in desirable consequences. This is not what I am contesting. Rather, I take issue with the equation of this fact and the proposition that such an obligation does exist. The consequences of acting in accordance with this proposed obligation, no matter how desirable, do not affect the truth-value of the proposition. Imagine a world in which the world is mysteriously unified under a single religion. Such a world would almost certainly be devoid of any further religious conflict. The standards DP has set before us might suggest that this conflict-minimal world in an excellent one in which to live. True or not, the fact that unifying our species under a single religion would reduce conflict does not demonstrate that the content of that religious belief conforms to reality. In other words, the fact that we might benefit from a particular pattern of behavior, e.g. a religion or supposed moral obligation, does not in itself justify accepting the principles underlying that behavior as true.

Finally, let us deal with the third contention, which argues that there is a strong consensus on the obligation of beneficence. Like the facts underlying the other two contentions, this is likely true. His evidence, in fact, indicates that there is really no outstanding disagreement on the subject; however, appeal to a social consensus does not constitute incontrovertible proof. Consider 2 + 2. By basic arithmetic, we know the answer to be 4; however, suppose that we introduce mathematics to a sentient species on a distant planet not yet cognizant of mathematical operations. Though they try hard to master addition, there emerges a strong, solid consensus that 2 + 2 is 5. Though we know this is not the case at all, the strength of this other species' agreement is so high that they refuse to entertain dissenters. Similarly, there may or may not be a consensus on the question of a moral obligation to the needy; however, that consensus has no justificatory bearing on the answer to that question. If we suppose that, in fact, there is no such obligation, we must then acknowledge that the consensus was misguided.

So, although I acknowledge a possible world in which we may actually possess an obligation to assist the needy, I am skeptical that DP case provides a sufficient ontological grounding from which to claim that our world is such.

Debate Round No. 1


Note that my opponent used an improper source for his/her evidence/source. wikipedia is not trustworthy because it can easily be edited.

My opponent also attacked my third contention poorly by stating the example of 2+2=4 and he/she used arithmetic to back up his warrant. Nothing in this resolution says anything about arithmetic and is merely doubted.

Consistently, we all have a duty to care for others based upon our own dependency. But what is immoral about withholding care from others in need is not the in consistency of our action but the fact that in doing so we deprive them of the support necessary for their survival and basic functioning. We contribute to the destruction or degradation of other people's lives, and implicitly renounce the basic practices and values that make possible our own lives, the reproduction of society, and the propagation of humanity as we know it. The moral obligation to meet others' claims for caring thus rests upon the intuitive idea that human life and basic well being are valuable and should be supported when possible Our continued conscious existence implies that we value or lives[QUALITY OF LIFE] and our lives depend upon the care of others. [SECURITY] Our unavoidable dependency combined with the value we place on our lives thus commits us to caring for others in need. {(HYPATIA, Summer 2005.)}


From the start, there are a few points of interest to which I'd like to direct your attention. In his brief response, DP left much of my commentary unaddressed. The untended areas include not only his first two contentions, but also the very weighing standards, quality of life and security, which he established at the beginning of the round. I think that these comments are particularly important because they call into question the legitimacy of the respective weighing mechanisms. Quality of life remains a dubious goal in virtue of the vague conception of well-being laid out in the first round. Security, on the other hand, remains suspect for two reasons:

First, Maslow's hierarchy suggests that there is more to consider than pure security. I gave a couple of examples which include economic flourishing and a reasonable guarantee of personal health. While on the subject of Maslow, I want to briefly address a concern voiced by DP:

"Note that my opponent used an improper source for his/her evidence/source. wikipedia is not trustworthy because it can easily be edited."

My immediate response is that, should one simply Google "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs", one will find similar articles with pyramidal charts similar, if not identical, to the chart on the Wikipedia page. To substitute for my allegedly suspect source, I offer three supplementary citations. [3][4][5] To avoid being sidetracked into an argument concerning the legitimacy and reliability of Wikipedia, I'll just endeavor to move on to the next spot of interest.

Second with respect to the inadequacy of security as a weighing standard, keep in mind the possible world I proposed in which you have a preponderance of hypersecure states which at the same neglect other quality of life metrics, e.g. infrastructure and education.

Reconsider also the primary objection made to his first two contentions: the bare facts about high casualties in underdeveloped countries or the necessity of mutual aid to the continuation of our species notwithstanding, the hidden premise and value judgment, which asserts a moral obligation, cannot, by virtue of being the subject of this discussion, be accepted at face value.

With these responses fresh in our minds, let us move on and consider DP's remaining arguments.

First, he asserts that my comments regarding his third contention are inapplicable due to the irrelevance of arithmetic to questions of moral obligations; however, I'm afraid DP has misunderstood my thought experiment. The experiment posits a world in which we introduce basic arithmetic to a sentient species lacking experience with mathematical operations. Although they put forward a marvelous effort to comprehend these operations, they arrive at a strong consensus that 2 + 2 is 5. While we understand that this is patently false, the strength of their consensus leads them to refuse to entertain dissent. Presumably, we would not claim that the laws of mathematics are anything other than what they are as a result of this other species' consensus on the matter. Similarly, one cannot demonstrate that we possess an obligation to the needy by mere appeal to a consensus. The experiment, as you see, is intended to suggest that a consensus, even if the result of a sincere effort, can be quite misguided. In this case, it may be that the consensus on this moral obligation is misguided. As such, using this consensus, i.e. this aggregation of beliefs, as a justificatory tool leads to error.

Second, DP again brings to the table this notion that our survival as a species depends on accepting this obligation. As I've noted prior, an immediate objection is that there must be a distinction between beneficial behavior patterns and the truth-value of the underlying proposition(s). Reconsider the world I posited in which all individuals live a conflict-minimal world by virtue of being united under a single religion. That conformity clearly yields desirable outcomes does not demonstrate that the content of the unifying religious doctrine is true. Similarly, it may benefit us to pattern our behavior after the supposed obligation to beneficence. Whether this is true or not, however, the question of whether we actually do possess such an obligation remains unanswered. In leaving this objection unaddressed, I think that his case, while perhaps factually accurate, fails to aim at the correct target.

Additionally, the only new justification offered is an appeal to a joint intuition that 1) human life is valuable, and 2) when possible, human life and well-being ought to be supported. Though my previous criticisms about the distinction between truth-value and benefit-value of propositions applies here, I think it might be prudent to note also that intuitive appeals are equally unsatisfactory. There are several reasons to think so, including not only the inconsistency of intuition (both within a single individual and between a number of individuals), but also intuition's lack of explanatory power. In terms of justificatory ability, appealing to intuition is similar to making a bare assertion or arguing based on what one's feelings about a particular situation are. Overall, I'm left with the impression that a more rigorous justification is in order.

In closing, I must say that, while I remain skeptical of the ontological grounding of this obligation, I am also hopeful that my commentary will be more thoroughly addressed in the following rounds.

Debate Round No. 2


First, I would like to point out the fact that my opponent does NOT have a case! You cannot properly attack my case without defending his case and attacking mine and comparison. My value and criterion still stand because my opponent has not either one and cannot give a legit defense on his value and criterion; however, since my opponent does not, we must look to my value and criterion. Without proper and organized security in our modern civilization, we cannot achieve quality of life. He does not give any contentions to defend and/or properly attack my case. So basically he drops my whole case because he does not have valid evidence to be given.


Consider, if you would, a thought experiment. Suppose that I am a student of physics relatively new to the discipline. Suppose further that, during a lecture, the professor asks why fire rises. Not knowing myself, I ask the professor why this is so. In turn, the professor points me to an Aristotelian theory which claims that, because the telos of fire is "up", there is no other direction in which fire may proceed. As you might expect, this answer comes off as peculiar to me, even if my understanding of physics is limited. After I provide reasons in light of which this theory is unlikely to be true, my professor calmly rebuts, "You can't disagree with my theory. You have no idea what the answer is, by your own admission, and you have offered no alternative theory; therefore, my theory, which explains everything, is the one you must accept."

The prevailing question regarding this experiment, I think, is whether I actually must accept a particular theory in light of ignorance and an absence of counterargument. Similar to the professor's rejoinder, DP seems to have made an argument that, because I have not proven the converse to be true, and because I have not presented a case of my own, we must necessarily accept the affirmative position; however, it seems to me, as is hopefully made clear by the thought experiment, that neither proof of the converse nor even a case of one's own are necessary conditions for negation. One is still perfectly justified in claiming that fire does not rise because of its telos, even if one does not know the actual explanation. Similarly, I believe that I am quite justified in explaining the inadequacies of DP's position, even if I do not aggressively argue the opposite. As I've noted, it is quite possible that such an obligation exists. We could certainly conceive of a world in which this is the case; however, my task, as the negative, is to demonstrate that the affirmative is unsuccessful in proving the resolution. I believe my critique has done such. It seems, to me, that the affirmative counterargument relies upon two fallacies, then: first, a fallacy of ignorance, in which one assumes the necessary truth of one proposition through the absence of proof to the contrary. For instance, even if I am unable to demonstrate that two and two is four, we cannot thereby conclude that it is actually five. Second, a fallacy of silence, in which one assumes, because there are no objections or countervailing theories, that the theory one has presented is necessarily true. Unfortunately, the mere fact that I have not argued definitively for the absence of such an obligation does not entitle DP to think in such a way. Recall that, while I am open to the possibility of this obligation, it stands to reason, based on my commentary, that DP's case fails to establish this obligation beyond a reasonable doubt.

Given, then, that these fallacies form the foundation of DP's counterarguments in Round 3, and given further that my commentary--which deals specifically with the adequacy of the standards and the logic employed by the contentions to ground the obligation--remains unaddressed, it seems as though you have many reasons to adopt my heavy skepticism about the grounding of this obligation. Though DP does suggest that I lack evidence suggesting the non-existence of the obligation, I think the logical issues in the contentions provide me with sufficient non-empirical such that evidence of non-existence seems unnecessary. I leave these judgments to your reason, however, and remain as hopeful as I can that my commentary will be directly addressed in the following rounds.
Debate Round No. 3


DebatingPassion forfeited this round.


Extend my commentary, with particular emphasis on the following:
  • Nearly all of my critical comments on DP's case remain unaddressed.
  • DP's most recent counterarguments are based on two fallacies: the argument from ignorance, and the argument from silence.
Debate Round No. 4


DebatingPassion forfeited this round.


Unfortunately, DP has again forfeited. With respect to interpreting and evaluating the arguments as they stand, well, I leave such judgments to all of you.
Debate Round No. 5
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Mestari 6 years ago
There was a school that ran the variant of Con's case on aff. It was fun to turn it every round against them.
Posted by Amazi 7 years ago
The negation, Homo_Sacer, has by his thorough argumentation and sophistication proven himself extremely knowledgeable about Lincoln-Douglas debate. When I read the arguments of DebatingPassion, the Instigator, I physically cringe because he has no apparent capability to withstand the logos of the Contender nor make an effective argument for his own position. His attempt to address the resolution was feeble and perfunctory- I almost wonder if he considered that the fact that an action being good does not morally make it obligatory. If he were to adopt the Categorical Imperative of Immanuel Kant as a contention, then I might regain some respect for his sanity as this would help shore up his already failing position in this debate. My faith in the reasoning of humanity will be severely shaken if the Instigator is voted the winner if the status quo continues. Allow me to go on the record and say that I respect the fact that DebatingPassion may be a good debater in person, but on paper his argumentation is weak, loosely tied to the resolution and in serious need of renovation. In any fair round at any tournament, the Instigator would be ripped apart by the Contender if their words are all we go by. I agree with Homo_Sacer when he says that his refutations are significant evidence of the logical superiority of his held position, though solely being the party of "no" is a slippery position (just ask John Boehner).
Posted by Homo_Sacer 7 years ago
On the contrary, I do, from my past, have LD experience; however, it is not unheard of to present a purely critical case. Given that I have commented thoroughly on DP's arguments, demonstrating the logical issues within in the contentions and the inadequacy of the standards presented, I have not only fulfilled the negative burden of clash, but I have also, I think, made a compelling argument about why one should negate due to the affirmative's failure to establish beyond reasonable doubt that such an obligation exists as is suggested by the resolution.

In other words, while LD typcially follows the dual-constructive format, it is perfectly acceptable, given the negative burden of clash, to choose to forego a case in order to devote all energy to a refutation of the affirmative advocacy.
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 7 years ago
Tips for Aff:

Spend around 30 seconds explaining your value; spend around 30 seconds explaining your value criterion. Online LD debates would be a small paragraph.

Take a stance with the assertion (first line) of your contentions. "Preservation of Human Life in Third World Countries" should be changed to: "Individuals have a moral obligation to preserve human life in third world countries" or "Societies/governments have a ..."

Lincoln-Douglas is not a source war. You do not have to list a source for every single statement, warrant, or implication. LD is a value debate that is more about one's own reasoning, rhetoric, and thoughts. Back up your thoughts with philosophical concepts.

"on a moral one, and 'with purely moral obligation, the law does not deal.' {(Liam Murphy, (Prof., Law and Philosophy, New York University), GEORGETOWN LAW JOURNAL, 2001, 625.)}"
to "on a moral one, and as the Philosopher Liam Murphy states, 'with purely moral obligation, the law does not deal.'"

LD is very concerned with laconic speech (good word economy). Keep this in mind.

Other than that, just make sure that your contentions are directly related to the core subject matter of the resolution; in this case, the core subject matter is whether or not these individuals have this moral obligation. Primary concern is the allocation of obligation/duty to them. Secondary concern is morality. Something has to fit the criteria of an obligation before it can fit the criteria of a moral obligation.

Good debate.
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 7 years ago
Uhh..... Is it just me, or does the Neg not have a case?
DebatingPassion asked for someone with LD experience. Someone with LD experience would not fail to present a case. Clearly Homo_Sacer does not have any LD experience.
The entirety of his argumentation is a rebuttal to everything the Aff posted... If he has a case, what are his value, value criterion, and main assertions?
Posted by DebatingPassion 7 years ago
I am apart of an award-winning phenomenal debate team and this is the LD(Lincoln-Douglas) debate topic for 2011 November/December. If any of you would like to debate or have any questions or comments, please leave your input below. Thank you.
Posted by thett3 7 years ago
Double_R, it's the current Lincoln Douglas topic. Just like a few weeks ago the topic of direct popular vote vs. electoral college became popular, and now the debate of income disparities and democratic ideals are becoming common (both public forum topics)
Posted by Double_R 7 years ago
Why did this resolution become so popular all of a sudden?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by QT 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit