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Resolved: On balance, violence is a just response to political oppression

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/1/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,652 times Debate No: 55874
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)




Hi whiteflame! Not sure if you forgot about this debate, that we talked about starting today. I'm not sure if you are busy are anything, so it's alright if you decline.The rounds will go as follows:

Round 1 con: States 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.

Good Luck.


Alright, I'd like to thank KingDebater369 for inviting me to debate this (and no, I didn't forget), as it is a topic of some interest to me. He's asked that I state my case this round, and so I will do so.

First, however, I think we have to establish two things in this debate.

The first thing to establish is a definition for the word "just," as this is central to the debate.

Right; in accordance with law and justice. "The words "just" and "justly" do not always mean "just" and "justly" in a moral sense, but they not unfrequently, in their connection with other words iu a sentence, bear a very differeut signification. It is evident, however, that the word "just" in the statute [requiring an affidavit for an attachment to state that plaintiff's claim is just] means "just" in a moral sense; and from its isolation, being made a separate subdivision of the section, it is intended to mean "morally just" in the most emphatic terms. The claim must be morally just, as well as legally just, in order to entitle a party to an attachment."[1]

As we are discussing revolutions and the act of fighting against an oppressive system that likely utilizes oppressive laws, we are discussing what is morally just and what is legally just in the broader sense, acting beyond the legal system in which the oppression is occurring. Thus, the basis of this debate is establishing whether it is morally correct for those that are politically oppressed to engage in violence as a response to that oppression, whether those morals are made clear via a moral framework or a legal one.

Now, let's establish our burdens.

The resolution says "on balance," and thus what we're discussing is whether or not, in a sufficient number of instances, violence is a morally justified act. I don't think it's necessary that either of us provide instances where it was necessary, though those will come into play, but rather we must show that, within a reasonable moral framework, violence is a just response to political oppression. So our burdens in this debate are to present said moral and/or legal frameworks and provide analysis as to why violence is either just or unjust under those frameworks.

So with that, I will now launch into my analysis of why violence is a just response to political oppression.

1. Retributive justice is morally justified.

This position is pretty basic, but let's define what is meant by the terms:

"Retributive justice is a theory of justice that considers punishment, if proportionate, to be the best response to crime. When an offender breaks the law, justice requires that they forfeit something in return. Retribution should be distinguished from vengeance. Unlike revenge, retribution is directed only at wrongs, has inherent limits, is not personal, involves no pleasure at the suffering of others, and employs procedural standards."[2]

To put it simply, the basis for this argument is that the politically oppressive society, which often will engage in physical oppression utilizing the police or military, has broken an internationally held legal tenet, and has thus forfeited their ability to engage in a non-violent, civil discourse with those who are oppressed. By engaging in violence themselves, the just response becomes one of bringing violence in return.

Con is effectively limiting the actions of one group, no matter what is perpetrated against them. Should that oppressive society decide to savagely beat individuals until they are black and blue, Con suggests that they would be unjust in defending themselves, since that too would involve violence. I'm uncertain what responses Con would afford individuals who are having violence perpetrated against them, and I hope he will make this clear in R2, but no matter what may be on that list, it will not include any retributive option.

To do as Con suggests is to accept an inherently unjust situation where one group perpetrates violence on the other, thus disrespecting their basic human rights, while the other group is forced to abide by the broader moral code. This is neither just nor reasonable.

2. It is just to bring intervention

Violence attracts attention. The main reason why the UN and other countries choose to become involved in a given conflict " when they see not just oppression, but a violent conflict between the oppressors and the oppressed. While such a system for intervention ought to exist, the lack of such a system is easily apparent. We can see this in both Libya [3] where intervention was only considered after armed rebellion was initiated. This is all the more obvious in Syria, where "the first long phase of the revolution from mid-March 2011 to the middle of the summer was militantly nonviolent, with 'peacefully, peacefully' the continuing refrain as nonviolent protesters were mowed down by government forces. Even as the nonviolent casualties mounted, the revolutionaries themselves resisted calling for outside military intervention, partly because such intervention seemed to contravene the very nature of nonviolent resistance. Since the revolution turned violent about a year ago, the call for outside intervention, even military intervention, has multiplied several-fold."[4]

That intervention is necessary to end abuses sooner, and thus to end deaths and injuries. Without the intervention of the international community, which forces an end to conflict and requires negotiation of all parties involved, the country leadership is unlikely to listen to the will of the public. Without that pressure, the oppressors, often backed by a formidable and organized military force, have little incentive to pursue long-lasting solutions that both parties can agree to, something lost in a world where the only way to bring them to the table is to make them uncomfortable enough to.

I would argue that the most just action is the one that is likeliest to ensure the best long-term stability, the least drawn-out oppression, and the fewest overall deaths/injuries. Thus, I am arguing for anything that increases the likelihood of intervention, as it brings about these results on a far more frequent basis than non-violent revolution.


The basis for my points is two-fold. The first is that violence is necessary as a means, as retributive justice is the most morally just and reasonable system for responding to violent oppression. The second is that violence is necessary for achieving the most effective ends, ensuring the highest likelihood of an effective outcome.

With that, I eagerly await my opponent's case and responses.

Debate Round No. 1


I thank whiteflame for accepting this debate. He is a very very good debater and I'm privileged to be facing him. Hopefully I will be a decent challenge. In this round I will present my case and rebut to my opponent.
Balance - with all things considered

Justice - giving each their due

Political Oppression - this one is by far the hardest to define. However, oppression is defined as: Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority. Since the political part of the resolution is referring to the government it should be defined as: The government prolonging cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority.Ok, so now that we have our definitions, let' move onto to my case:

The most important thing to consider in this case is weather violence is a just response, when faced with political oppression. If we look at violence itself, we will see that it is not justified. I would never say that killing is justified. However, the resolution is asking about violence, when faced with political oppression, which is a completely different scenario. And in this particular scenario I would say that violence is permissible and not justified

.Let me clarify this point:Let's say that someone is walking down the street, and a mugger comes up, trying to mug the person. The person has no other option but to use violence and try his best to fend off the mugger, or even try to kill the mugger, depending on the severity of the case. Does that mean violence is justified? No. It simply means that violence is permissible in certain situations. In this particular case, the person is committing a permissible act. Like I stated, killing (which is violence) is never justified, but it is permissible in certain situations. In the same way, violence is permissible the case of political oppression but it is never justified.

So this means that even if my opponent is winning every argument on his side of the flow, he will never be proving the burden of the resolution. He will always be proving to you that violence is permissible in certain situations, but he can never state that violence is justified.

1. Killing is unjust
The use of violence will often involve killing. I think it is self explanatory that killing itself is unjust. The reason for this is simple - if justice gives each their due, then killing is defiantly not giving people what they are due. Since violent revolutions use killing as a key part of the revolution, then they are unjust as well

2. I would also like to point out the fact that violent revolutions never provide equality, liberty, and political freedoms to all of their citizens immediately after the revolution. For example, my opponent might argue that the United States of America was a successful violent revolution. However, this is argument is completely flawed. The reason being, after the American Revolution:
1. Women weren't allowed to vote
2. African americans were denied the rights of even being citizens
3. African Americans couldn't vote
4. If you didn't have property you weren't allowed to vote.

All of the things that are on this list are today no longer applicable. But why are they no longer applicable? Because non-violent methods were used to get them repealed.I will now move onto the Affirmative Case: _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Retributive Retributive Justice:
Rebuttal 1: I must point out that my opponent's definition of retributive justice is unfair, and is very biased to suit his case. Furthermore, his source is from Wikapedia, which is not the most trustworthy source. Also, when reading the wikepedia article, it states that their needs to be a better citation for the definition given, meaning that the definition is very poor. The reason I say this definition is biased is because it states, "Retribution should be distinguished from vengeance. Unlike revenge, retribution is directed only at wrongs, has inherent limits, is not personal, involves no pleasure at the suffering of others, and employs procedural standards." Now in this definition it says that there is no vengeance involved, but I have found a reliable source that state otherwise. Because my source is more reliable I believe that we should use my definition instead of his:"The idea is that one who does harm deserves to suffer, that punishment is just and even necessary to 'right the wrong' and restore the moral balance... often linked with the popularly expressed goals of retribution, revenge, vengeance, an eye for an eye." [1]

Rebuttal 2: The problem with retributive justice, is the fact that two wrongs don't make a right. In the case of political oppression, violence simply escalates the problem instead of actually solving anything. It leads to harm and bloodshed. Furthermore, the biggest problem with retributive justice is that it is often linked to vengeance. Despite the fact that the idea of retribution justice is to provide proportional punishment, often times this doesn't end up being the case. But there must be proportionality in order for it to be justified. For example, if I steal a dollar from someone, they are not justified in breaking my arm. The punishment is not proportional. Since there needs to be proportionality, and retributive justice is often linked with vengeance, and is not proportional, it is not just.

Rebuttal: As I stated in my case, violence is permissible in certain situations but it is never justified. I would never want to tell my children that killing is justified. I would tell them that killing is permissible in certain situations which is what my opponent brings up in his case, but I would never tell them that killing is justified. My opponent specifically says, "Should that oppressive society decide to savagely beat individuals until they are black and blue, Con suggests that they would be unjust in defending themselves, since that too would involve violence." Similar to the example I used with the mugger earlier in my case, it is permissible for me to be using self-defense against the oppressive society, but it's not justified.

Intervention come sooner:

Rebuttal 1: First of all, my opponent states that intervention is necessary because it ends abuses, deaths and injuries sooner. If violent revolution causes abuses deaths and injuries, how is it justified in the first place?

Rebuttal 2: So the key argument from my opponent is that violence allows for their to be intervention from other organizations or countries that will stop the oppression. That's fine - but how does that make violence just?

Wow.. what a great argument my opponent had.... It took me almost 4 hours to write the rebuttal. My opponent's case was very good. I apologize for a very weak case. I tried to put a lot of effort into it, but it proved to be a rather difficult topic. Anyways, I look forward to my opponent's arguments.Vote CON!


Thank you to my opponent for presenting an intriguing case and rebuttals. I appreciate that he thinks I'm such a good debater, and I've been impressed with the debates of his I've read thusfar.

With that, I'll get into it.

The justice definition is a bit of a problem. First off, we're not talking about justice. We're talking about what is just. And yes, there is a difference.[5] So while justice is itself not so simple as "giving each their due" (a much more extensive and accurate definition is seen in the link, though it does include the basic idea as well), we're not discussing what supports justice, since that isn't the word that appears in the resolution. Second, I provided a much more extensive definition of just from a legal dictionary in R1 (and you'll find it agrees with [5]) that goes untouched. My definition should be preferred based on its specificity, applicability, and quality. Third, I meet his definition better. No one is "due" oppression, and yet Con would relegate many to extensively continued oppression. Criminals are "due" punishment, and yet Con would afford them none at all, as any punishment would be violent.

Con attempts to define political oppression. I mostly agree to this, but we must realize that since a government has many means of oppression, this is a broad issue with a lot of pieces to think about. However, governments will always have militaries and usually have police forces, providing them with the capacity to impose force on their populace. Whether they use that force or not, its very presence can be used to oppress, enforcing the will of an oppressive regime. Their capacity to engage in violence on this large scale should be considered when we consider what political oppression means.

Onto Con's case.

Con makes a delineation between the terms "permissible" and "justified." He says that it is permissible to protect oneself from someone inflicting violence using violence, but that it is not justified. However, he never warrants this statement at all, and there is nothing mutually exclusive about these terms. Something can be both just and permissible " in fact, an action being just can be what makes it permissible, as is the case here.

The main claim here is that the violence is inherently unjustified in any context. This is a massive unwarranted statement. It assumes that all violence = killing, but since we're talking about revolutions, we can certainly assume some killing is likely. However, the most important implicit assumption here is that killing is the MOST unjust action, and therefore can never be justified. I'd argue that context matters.

Should violence prevent the loss of more life, even by Con's own standards, this would be just, as it would reduce the amount of killing that occurs. This includes reducing the propensity for future violence.

Should violence result in higher quality of life for a much larger number of people, thus producing increased freedoms, improved equality, better health and less hunger (just to name a few examples), it is just, as their suffering from a lack of any of these is unjust and their restoration, thus, just.

This is where Con's analogy to a mugger turns on him. If said mugger is allowed to proceed, they could kill or further injure the person they're stealing from. That mugger won't be stopped due to a lack of violence (this can involve subduing him, not just killing him), and thus will go on to kill or injure others, or at the very least reduce their quality of life by breeding fear and stealing valuables. It is unjust to allow that mugger to continue in their actions. It is therefore just to ensure that said mugger is stopped.

Con then states that, even if voters are buying my arguments, I wouldn't be meeting my BoP. On the contrary, it is Con who needs to see to his burdens, as he needs to show a clear delineation between permissible and justified, and demonstrate why killing, in any instance and for any reason, is unjust.

Onto his point regarding the view that "violent revolutions never provide equality, liberty, and political freedoms to all of their citizens immediately after the revolution,"

1. He's wrong. The American Revolution is a great example. Yes, it didn't usher in an age of unprecedented freedoms and equality, but that shouldn't be the standard here. Oppression of these groups existed prior to it as well. The aftermath of the American Revolution improved basic freedoms and equalities for some, that's what matters. We cannot proceed to evaluate all past revolutions based on our current views of oppression, and we certainly cannot treat the violence as the cause for those deficiencies.

2. Even if Con was right here, that doesn't change whether the revolution itself was just. The fact that a given government that comes to power isn't benevolent doesn't change the fact that the original government was oppressive. The revolution itself was effective in producing change, it is not to blame for the outcome that follows it.

3. All the end of this position shows (and note that this is solely an unwarranted, sourceless claim on Con's part) is that some political oppression can be solved with non-violence. This doesn't mean that violence would have been ineffective, nor does it prove that violence is unjust. The existence of a non-violent alternative, which Con has not specified, doesn't make violence unjust. Both can be just.

Now, back to my case.

Start by extending my analysis on frameworks and burdens. Con has failed to produce a framework with any meaningful analysis, and he has not yet met his burden to show that there is an inherent moral wrongness to engaging in violence as a way to end unjust oppression.

1. Retributive justice

Con states that my source is biased, but doesn't provide any reason to believe that to be the case. Even if it is true, that's an appeal to motive fallacy. He's ignoring what was actually said and instead insinuating that no one should pay attention to the link on the basis that it might be biased. Unless he actually shows a fault in the definition provided, it stands.

Similarly, he proceeds to call out Wikipedia as an untrustworthy source. He could have looked down at the citations given and addressed them specifically, but he decides not to do that (it is interesting that he trusts some of the people who post on the website who say the links might not be enough and not the others who posted those links). Both of the sources provided in the Wikipedia link are sufficient, as one comes from a Stanford encyclopedia, and the other from a book of philosophy written by Robert Nozick, a Harvard professor.[6, 7] If Con wants to challenge these, challenge them directly. These sources are actually better than his, as Con's source is focused on retribution against an external force by governments. My sources address retributive justice as a whole.

Con proceeds to say that two wrongs don't make a right, asserting that violence in response to violence is inherently wrong, but this goes back to his fundamental, and still unwarranted, assertions about violence. He's just restating it differently.

My definition shows that vengeance and retribution are separate. His link doesn't conflate the two either. The fact that some people move from retribution to vengeance doesn't mean that the original act of violence, aimed at securing retributive justice, is immoral or unjust. The fact that some violence is taken too far doesn't mean that all violence is inherently unjust.

Con doesn't respond to my analysis that he's effectively limiting resistance groups in their response to oppressive regimes. He hasn't stated what non-violent options are more useful, nor has he supported any specific methods as alternatives, just assuming that violence is never morally necessary or just. His only response to this is pulled out in a "self-defense" point, which is a rehash of his mugger argument.

He ignores the reality that he is telling people who are defending themselves physically that they are all acting unjustly, and that their only just action is to accept that they are being treated violently and respond only in a broadly acceptable manner, no matter what the situation might be. Under many oppressive regimes, non-violent methods are commonly made illegal, and thus those who use them are effectively silenced, resigning them to their continued oppression.

If Con feels that it is unjust to engage in violence for the sake of bucking oppressive leadership, then he has to provide some specific just methods that will work for people under tyrannical governments. We agree that it is unjust to be under a tyrannical government, so as long he gives them no just recourse, making violence the only method available to them, making it just.

2. Intervention

Con's responses on intervention are just questions, neither of which get at the point. If Con's case is that violence and killing is morally bad and unjust, then ending them sooner is morally good and just. In oppressive regimes, violence and killing are common, independent of the response of the oppressed. Violence on the part of the oppressed brings in external intervention, which ends the violence sooner, thus resulting in fewer deaths overall. Thus, violence can be an effective mechanism for reducing loss of life in the long term, and it can therefore be justified. I've provided two examples, neither of which were attacked by Con, that show how violence is the sole effective mechanism among those available for attracting foreign intervention.

So this point stands strongly - it provides a powerful justification for pursuing violence with the goal of ending both violence and oppression and bringing about long-lasting stability.

Debate Round No. 2


KingDebater369 forfeited this round.


Well, disappointing as this is, I won't be taking my final round. My opponent likely just got too busy and ran out of time. I leave it to the voters to decide the debate based on what has been prevented thusfar.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by whiteflame 7 years ago
Huh, didn't know Rage Against the Machine wrote the soundtrack to my life.
Posted by MyDinosaurHands 7 years ago
Read the first round of arguments from whiteflame while listening to Killing in the Name. It was pretty hard not to get a little pumped, given the combo.
Posted by whiteflame 7 years ago
Will do.
Posted by MyDinosaurHands 7 years ago
I will try to vote on this tomorrow. One of you should leave me a reminder tomorrow, as I can be quite forgetful.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by iamanatheistandthisiswhy 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Very nice debate and unfortunate that Con had to forfeit the last round, as such I am awarding Pro conduct points. Regarding arguments, I am awarding these to Pro as Pro adequately showed that there is a difference between just and justice. Additionally, Pro used the examples presented by Con to prove that in fact these argument support the proposition. I was worried this debate was going to turn into a semantics debate and I congratulate Pro for keeping it on topic. Source points are awarded to Pro as Con only supplied one, but also Con inadequately attacked Pros sources. If you attack a source you need to be very convincing.
Vote Placed by TheLastMan 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit. I was looking for a better was going really good.

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