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Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/28/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,323 times Debate No: 55564
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (14)
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Ok, so this is an LD topic from a while ago that sounded pretty interesting to me. The debate will be in LD format (which means you must state a value and value criterion, etc. Please make sure you know how to debate LD before acccepting!) I will be negating the resolution (I want to play devil's advocate for this debate. [please do not vote for pro based on personal beliefs, because I know that it is very instinctive to vote pro. I do wish the voters read all of the arguments and vote for who debated better]). 10,000 characters. Rounds will go as follows:

Round 1 con: Presents rules
Round 1 pro: Presents his case

Round 2 con: Presents his case and rebuts to pro's case
Round 2 pro: rebuts to con's case

Round 3: Con rebuts to pro's case
Round 3: Pro rebuts to con's case again


Hello. I'd like to thank my opponent, the judges, and any spectators for their participation or interest held in this debate. Without further ado, I will begin my case.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without also helping himself." Good evening, and I affirm.

Resolved: individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need.

Oxford Dictionaries defines assist as (To) Help (Someone), typically by doing a share of the work.

The value is altruism.

The criteria is utilitarianism.

Thesis: With consideration of the greatest good to the greatest number of people, putting the needs of others before ourselves must be considered a value. The resolution that we have an obligation to assist people in need is valued as we ought to do things with other people's needs in minds.

Contentions: Helping others is a necessary act if we wish to maximize positive value. This is because a lack of mutual assistance in a society cripples the ability to have goodness, and because utopia is a subset of generosity.

A society that refuses to help those in need is a powerless society, in the terms of morally sufficient qualities. A great example of this is the Ik, an African tribe who were forced into egoism after being removed from their location to make way for a national park. They began sending of children to fend for themselves and stealing from weak elders in order to survive. The key aspect of this tribe is their inaction towards needing people, and it leads solely to a dying and morally plagued area. Children die regularly, and that cannot stand within utilitarianism without any justification.

Utopia is a subset of generosity, because an ideal society is one where everyone is given purpose by helping others, and supported in doing so by others as well. The chemicals involved with the assistance of others is the epitome of satisfaction. If everyone did that, everyone would be happy, and therefore utilitarianistic criteria would be met.

Unto my opponent.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent, and I will now present the negative case and then go on to talk about the affirmative.

Value: Human Agency

Value Criterion: Ethical Egoism

Edward Regis explains Ethical Egoism as:

"Ethical egoism is the view which holds both that one ought to pursue one"s own well-being and
happiness and that one has no unchosen moral obligation or duty to serve the interests of others".

Contention 1: Ethical egoism is the best way to achieve justice

First, it must be recognized that human beings have inherent value because we were given the ability to function
as autonomous agents who pursue their interests in life. Thus, a person"s single greatest duty (from the point of
view of respect for human worth) is first and foremost to pursue his own goals in life and exercise the
intelligence and freedom bestowed upon all humans.

Ayn Rand explains in her work "The virtue of Selfishness":

"Individualism regards man -- every man -- as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an
inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds
that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful co-existence among men, can
be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights -- and that a group, as such, has no
rights other than the individual rights of its members."

This duty, and the corresponding negative obligation not to interfere with the ability of others to live their lives,
is the only true moral obligation. If another individuals is in need of assistance, the burden is on the government
or aid organizations to offer assistance, not on free willed individuals. Indeed, placing excess moral obligations
on the conduct of individuals stifles human creativity and undermines human worth.
I will now move onto the affirmative case.

First, my opponent's value is altruism. There is a big problem with altruism, but first, let me state one thing about Ethical Egoism. While Ethical Egoism is about doing things that are in one's own self interest - it doesn't imply that people shouldn't help other people. For example, If I like to volunteer, and it makes me feel good inside, I can go volunteer. It's in my own interests that I'm doing so, but I'm still helping other people. Or, if I need volunteer hours in order to get into a particular college, i'll volunteer - It's for my self interest, but it also helps the public. In order to prove why altruism is flawed, consider the following scenario:
On a flight I took the other day, I watched the stewardess give the usual five minute safety presentation, and for the first time stopped to think about the implications of some of her words, which I had heard hundreds of times before without noticing them.

In the event the cabin depressurizes, oxygen masks will automatically drop from the ceiling. The stewardess warned us to make sure we put our own masks on before attempting to help our seatmates with theirs. This is part of an FAA-approved script, from which they never depart in making these presentations.

I imagine that this warning is aimed at the following scenario. The cabin depressurizes and anyone without a mask will become unconscious in moments. Your seatmates are children or otherwise helpless. If you attempt to help them without securing your own mask first, you will pass out without succeeding and everyone will die or become incapacitated. If you put your own mask on, your seatmates may pass out but will revive as soon as you have placed their masks on their faces. Thus, your attempt to help them will only succeed if you help yourself first.
First of all, Ethical Egoism is pursuing one's own self interest, and then thinking about others is ok, if one wants to do so. Obviously in this scenario it can be seen why Ethical Egoism is superior to Altruism.

Next, my opponent's Value Criterion Utilitarianism. There is also a huge problem with utilitarianism:

1. A problem with utilitarianism is that it leads to an "end justifies the means" mentality. If any worthwhile end can justify the means to attain it, a true ethical foundation is lost. But we all know that the end does not justify the means. If that were so, then Hitler could justify the Holocaust because the end was to purify the human race. Stalin could justify his slaughter of millions because he was trying to achieve a communist utopia.

2. Utilitarianism cannot protect the rights of minorities if the goal is the greatest good for the greatest number. Americans in the eighteenth century could justify slavery on the basis that it provided a good consequence for a majority of Americans. Certainly the majority benefited from cheap slave labor even though the lives of black slaves were much worse.

3. A third problem with utilitarianism is predicting the consequences. If morality is based on results, then we would have to have omniscience in order to accurately predict the consequence of any action. But at best we can only guess at the future, and often these educated guesses are wrong.
My opponent's only contention is that, "Helping others is a necessary act if we wish to maximize positive value."

"Some ethicists argue that rich nations have no obligation to aid poor nations. Our moral duty, they claim, is always to act in ways that will maximize human happiness and minimize human suffering. In the long run, aiding poor nations will produce far more suffering than it will alleviate. Nations with the highest incidence of poverty also have the highest birthrates. One report estimates that more than 90% of the world's total population growth between now and the year 2025 will occur in developing countries. Providing aid to people in such countries will only allow more of them to survive and reproduce, placing ever greater demands on the world's limited food supply. And as the populations of these countries swell, more people will be forced onto marginal and environmentally fragile lands, leading to widespread land degradation, further reducing the land available for food production. The increase in demands on the limited food supply combined with a decrease in the production of food will threaten the survival of future generations of all peoples, rich and poor."[1]

I apologize for this quote being so long, but if my opponent reads it, he will understand why assisting hurts more than it actually helps people.
My opponent is moving, so I wanted to give him a lot of before he would have to respond to my arguments, which is why i'm posting this so late. I hope to have a good debate. Vote con!
[1] World Hunger: A Moral Response; Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez, Santa Clara University


creedhunt forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Sadly my opponent has forfeited. I have nothing to rebut, so I can't really post anything Vote Con!!


I thank Con, and move on to a defence of my case, followed by an analysis of the negative case.

My opponent has criticized my value of altruism. I feel that in order to effectively present my case, I must explain some of the workings within such an ethical system. Altruism is about acting for the good of others, but to say that it implies that one should not help oneself would be a wildly inaccurate statement. Altruism dictates that the needs of everyone else are more important than the needs of the individual, not that one should forget about them self. For example, if eating helps me live, and living allows me to help people, I can eat. It's in the interest of others, but it sill does me good. Another example, would be if I was volunteering to help others, and the oxytocin levels increased as a direct result; more people than just myself would be in a better place, but I would be included in that. In order to prove why ethical egoism is flawed, I will present the following scenario:

On a flight my opponent took the other day, he noticed the policy of caring for one's own oxygen before caring for other people's oxygen. This is because they want as many people as possible to be safe, and that's impossible if the people who are helping pass out.

First of all, Altruism is about taking actions to ensure the well being of others. Obviously, altruism is better in this scenario. The altruistic response is to help yourself so that others may be helped. Egocentric ethics dictate that you help yourself, but then helping others it optional. With ethical egotism, less people will be safe.

My opponent then delivers a faulty case against utilitarianism.

1. The ends do indeed justify the means, but the ends need to be evaluated in a much more fair manner than you suggested. Stalin may have killed millions in an attempt to create a utopia, but the ends involved millions of people to be dead and no utopia. According to utilitarianism, those ends are extremely insufficient for such means.

2. If slavery ultimately made the lives of enough people better, it would be justified.

3. The methods we use for the results are irrelevant. If we figured out that the greatest good came from using egoism, that's what would be best.


My contention stands, and it stands for good reason.

I really hate to respond to such a long quote with such a simple reply, but if a failed attempt at helping hurts, it cannot be considered a fulfilment of the moral obligation to assist. If the best course of action to take in helping those in need is to ignore their issues, that's what altruism and utilitarianism dictate we do. The best way to assist people is to make everything as good as possible. If allowing people to die will save more people in need, then that is the altruistic way. Ethical Egoism could easily permit the "allowing people to die" without making way for the "saving more people in need". Ethical Egoism is clearly not as valid a system of ethics as altruism is.

The reason that the priority is in other's needs, is simply because there are more of them to serve than egos. If given the choice between saving a million people and one person, altruism suggests the million get saved, whereas egoism only accounts for the one. The same goes for a billion-to-one ratios, trillion-to-one ratios, quadrillion-to-one ratios, all the way up to infinity-to-one ratios. Altruism merely dictates that more people have better lives. Ethical Egoism dictates that the self is somehow more important than any number of other people.

I will now address my opponent's case.

The issue here relies entirely in the Ethical Egoism.

My opponent states that every human being has value, but Ethical Egoism only accounts for the value of one person.

The best course of action in every scenario is the one that satisfies one person's desires. My opponent says that too many moral obligations stifle creativity, but look at the following example:

If given the choice between an individual gaining a creative side and never using it, and the rest of society gaining a flourishing and beautiful culture, Ethical Egoism suggests that the first option is a better option than the latter.

A better society has no place in an Egoist's obligations. If a better society is truly what Ethical Egoism is attempting to bring about, then it is simply choosing a very misguided method of utilitarianism. If a great society is better than a contented individual, then Egoism is invalid.

I apologize for my forfeit of the previous round. Please deduct conduct points in your vote. I was moving and had minimal time to respond.

I would also like to thank my understanding and very worthy debater. This has been an entertaining debate.

In the end, please consider my argument for its superior contentions and validity. I urge the floor to side with Pro.
Debate Round No. 3
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 11 through 14 records.
Posted by creedhunt 7 years ago
Sorry its taking so long, I've had very little time to spare. I should have it up tomorrow.
Posted by KingDebater369 7 years ago
Thanks for accepting creedhunt. I look forward to a good debate.
Posted by KingDebater369 7 years ago
well, if you are going to debate me, you must follow the resolution word for word.
Posted by Burncastle 7 years ago
I don't know about moral obligation, but we do have a LEGAL obligation.
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