The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Is it morally required for one to help others when their lives are at risk?

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Debate Round Forfeited
LIFEISNEVEREASY has forfeited round #3.
Our system has not yet updated this debate. Please check back in a few minutes for more options.
Time Remaining
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/2/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 514 times Debate No: 100498
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (0)
Votes (0)




As the pro side, I argue that it is morally required for one to help another in certain ways when that person is in serious danger. Both not acting and not requiring one to act in a certain way when they see another being in serious danger are morally unacceptable.

Rules for this debate:
1. This debate shall only focus on this specific topic.
2. This topic shall be argued in a polite and logical manner.
3. Round 1 is for opening statements.
4. Round 2 & 3 is for arguments
5. Round 4 is for closing statements.


I take it first round is acceptance only, best of luck.
Debate Round No. 1


Before I present my arguments, certain concepts shall be clarified so that the idea I am trying to put forward is clear.

(1) My stance/statement ONLY covers cases that satisfy these two scenarios:
a) responsibilities are ACTIVELY ASSIGNED to one(details next round, run out of space...).
b) before the action of ignorance, the one already REASONABLY INFERS or ACKNOWLEDGES that severe physical/mental injuries are imminent and that the well-being of the INNOCENT(S), or live(s) is(are) seriously at risk.
c) The one HAS the capabilities to perform AT LEAST some actions that will indeed help the innocent(s).

(2) "ACTIVELY ASSIGNED" means(in this debate) responsibilities that happened to be SPECIFICALLY ASSIGNED to you at a particular time and place(details in argument 3). EX: walking pass a person who is having a stroke on the street(ignorance is wrong).
*Found a charity that is asking for donations(PASSIVELY ASSIGNED, ignorance is nor right or wrong).

(3)The phrase "help another in certain ways" in my opening statement means to AT LEAST act (WITHIN one's capabilities) in particular ways that aim to help the victim(s), including the calling of appropriate emergency services for example.

(4) Though I used plurals "others" and "their" in the topic of this debate, my statements also apply to individuals.

Here are my arguments from different perspectives:

1. Immoral Behavior
Leaving people exposed to serious harm and even death when one can certainly help him/her/them in ways that would not have a significant impact on yourself is immoral. Imagine you believed that you have witnessed someone got robbed and murdered on the street one day. However, for some reason, you decided not to call the police because you had convinced yourself that it was not necessary for you to do so. In this case, it is unarguable that you understood the probable situation but failed to perform the task of calling the police, which played a role in his/her possible death(if what you saw is real). The failure to act like such is not much different (similar) to killing the person and therefore, that action is morally unacceptable. One might also argue that killing/murder and leaving one to serious harm or death are not similar actions because in one you are actively killing someone, while the other you are not doing anything but only trying to avoid involvement. Therefore, the act of doing nothing is justifiable. One might also argue that it is within one's right to choose to or not to help the individual and that people do not have a right to expect help from others. Both these arguments are going to be addressed in the second argument I am going to make. As a conclusion, for the first argument, I claim that by completely ignoring the person(people), the one who happened to come across and infer or acknowledge that he/she/they is(are) in serious danger has indirectly participated in his/her/their sufferings which, makes the act of not doing anything morally wrong.

2. The Right of Choice + Engage vs. Ignore
Understand that one has the right to choose what to do, having a right to do something does not automatically make that action justifiable. For example, does having the freedom of speech make yelling "Fire!" in a cinema morally acceptable? No. This is because regardless of having the right or not, the action leads to panic and can result in serious injuries and maybe even deaths. One might argue that in the case I presented, the person acted in the situation(by yelling "Fire!") while in the case of choosing not to help the one who's well-being or life is seriously at risk is not. I disagree and argue that ignorance is an action, a type of involvement as well. Such ignorance is a behavior that you consciously choose to accept and do. Now, one might further argue that though ignorance is an action, it is not an involvement because the person who decides not to help the innocent(s) did not create the situation while in the cinema case you created the situation. I agree with the point that there is a difference between who created the situation. However, that does not mean ignorance is not an involvement(Because responsibilities are actively assigned to you, your actions are involvements). It also does not justify the action: ignorance. When one acknowledges that a certain action can make a difference in the outcome of a given situation, the one who performs that certain action should also be held accountable for the result, not just who created the situation in the first place. As a conclusion, in the cases I limited to (at the beginning of my round), killing(involvement & self-created situations) is not much different than letting die(involvement & other-created situations) and similarly, harming is not much different than letting one be seriously hurt. Therefore, the action of ignorance is morally unacceptable.

3. Kant's Theory
*Maxim means the intention of an action.
For the third argument, I would like to introduce Immanuel Kant's Formula of Universality and the Law of Nature. This formula states that one must"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." Imagine where you are dying, lying on the street, and people just ignores you because they argue that they have a right to choose to help you or not. Will you be willing to accept that situation? Probably not. This is an example of
"Contradiction in Will." Under the same maxim, you made an exception for yourself. You want others to help you when you are in serious danger, but choose not to when you see others are in serious danger. Such act, therefore, is morally unacceptable.

4. Suicide?
One might raise a special case: suicide. What if one happens to come across someone who is trying to commit suicide(EX: witness someone is about to jump off a building)? Is it morally required to help them? The answer is yes. It is morally required to within one's capabilities, AT LEAST try to save the person in certain ways (Ex: calling the police) because responsibilities are actively assigned to you and that you know certain actions can make a difference in the result. One might again argue that individuals have a right to take their lives. I agree. However, the question I am trying to raise is that does such right the victim(s) has(have) justifies your ignorance? No. Even though you have the right to choose and the victim(s) have the right to die or not, it still does not justify the act of ignorance because such act is to let die, a type of involvement that leads to the death of the victim.


I will be playing devil's advocate and argue that it is not morally required to help others when their lives are at risk.

The biggest flaw in your arguments is the assumption of what is moral and immoral, since these terms were never defined from the beginning. Now, I understand you wanted to debate this specific topic, yet defining what is considered good/evil, moral/immoral is fundamental to the issue at hand. My position on morality is that whatever we want to be moral is, and what we want to be immoral, is. In other words, we chose what morality is however we see fit. That being the case, it is no longer immoral to not help others, unless we choose that logic as our basis of morality.

Now, you do, to some extent, address this issue with Kant's Theory. However, the theory does not give any reason as to why it should be accepted as true. If you held Kant's Theory as true you would be obliged to help others, but there is no reason to accept it in the first place.

The crux of my argument then, is that we have no responsibility to save others because it is not necessarily immoral. Unless we have absolute certainty about what is moral/immoral, we can not say that is morally required to help others when their lives are at stake.
Debate Round No. 2
This round has not been posted yet.
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 3
This round has not been posted yet.
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 4
No comments have been posted on this debate.
This debate has 2 more rounds before the voting begins. If you want to receive email updates for this debate, click the Add to My Favorites link at the top of the page.

By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use.