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The Contender
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There are NO absolutes ethically.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/13/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 774 times Debate No: 52409
Debate Rounds (2)
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My premise is simple and my introductory statement will be short. There are NO absolutes ethically. The entire world of ethics revolves around a principle that I call "Utilitarian Situational Rights". This proposed theory of "right and wrong" takes the useful elements of the three prominent ethical theories in the following manner. 1.) Utilitarian- Doing the greatest good for the greatest number. 2.) Situational- What is the moral/ethical course of action is determined entirely based upon the given circumstances 3.) Rights- The concept that each human being has certain inalienable rights. These three concepts combine to form a makeshift equation. The first necessity of this equation is the order of priority of the before mentioned inalienable rights. For that I refer to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The situational right is determined in a utilitarian way, but utilitarianism is immoral when it ceases to balance the needs of all according to Maslow's theory. In short- until EVERY individual has the right of survival, none are to be given precedence to attain safety. Even if 999,999 individuals achieved safety at the cost of the survival of one, that would be immoral. However, if 999,999 gained survival at the cost of the active taking away of one's survival, that act would be justifiable. I believe this adequately summarizes my theory in its entirety, but if there is any lack of clarity or seemingly flawed reasoning, I will be glad to address it in my rebuttal.


Thanks pro. I accept.

You've argued that morals are set in place for a purpose. That purpose is to 1) do the greatest good for the greatest number, 2) do what is ethical based on circumstance, and 3) to treat humans with inalienable rights.

If no objective purpose for the human race exists, purposeful morals for doing "the greatest good" cannot exist because good and bad don't exist. You presuppose a purpose when you argue for morals promoting survival. Natural selection promoting the ongoing propagation of our species is a process, not a purpose. If you derive purpose from natural processes, should we derive purpose from all natural processes? Including the natural process of death?

Ethics, in the form of absolutes, must exist. The existence of absolute ethics are supported by the fact that regardless of culture, nation, or time-period, murder without cause and rape against someone's will is always wrong.

I'm NOT arguing that all morals are objective. I am arguing that objective morality exists because there is at least one case in which this is true.

Debate Round No. 1


My theory does not treat survival as a purpose but as the first and most important of our guaranteed rights. The purpose for existence is subjective to the individual. We all hold high and unique values (I may value science, you literature. I may value religious faith, you proven fact). The inescapable moral truth is that in the consideration of equality and of justice that we cannot give precedence to anyone of any specific value system, but instead must treat each life with equal respect. That is why Maslow"s Hierarchy comes into play as a decision making tool. It gives us an order of rights and the closest thing to an absolute SYSTEM of decision making that my theory suggests. When you proceed to define survival, you do so in a natural way (survival of the fittest/natural selection, procreation/propagation). Obviously those cannot be held to any moral standard, because as you stated and is undeniably so, these are simply the realities of existence. Survival becomes the first obligation of morality when life and death is directly correlated to the choices of the moral decision maker. When we can save any life, that must be our most earnest endeavor, in any quantity, before more trivial issues like safety and quality of life come into question. For example, it is immoral for us to contentedly eat gluttonously, live luxuriously, and spend mindlessly when our human brothers and sisters in impoverished nations struggle to simply exist on a daily basis.
I also disagree with your claim that there are absolute wrongs, such as murder and rape. Murder for the sake of pleasure is wrong. Murder for the sake of some higher quality of life is wrong. However, if one had to choose between the murder of 1 or the death of 100, murder becomes the moral conclusion. This is why ethics are situational, and not absolute. This situation may be unusual and a bit outlandish, but it is a valid situation and one in which one could not argue that it would be better to let the whole group die. We must consider every choice situationally, respect each individual"s rights equally, and when all else fails, make the ultimate decision to favor the majority.

It has been a pleasure debating with you. Best of luck in the votes, con.


Jumping right in.

"My theory does not treat survival as a purpose but as the first and most important of our guaranteed rights."

Guaranteed rights can only be the result of a social contract. Nobody is obligated or under any ultimate governing authority to adhere to or recognize these rights. Therefore the person rejecting that assertion that people have "certain unalienable rights" would be correct because "unalienable rights" automatically determines these rights exist objectively as part of being human.

Again, if humans are the result of spontaneous, random processes without purpose, then it follows that no objective purpose or moral ethic in the form of "unalienable rights" can objectively exist. Humans are just as capable for claiming that they are justified in causing harm to other humans because they aren't bound by any ethical absolutes and don't derive purpose from purposeless natural proceses that naturally result in the propagation of our species.

By stating that there is an "inescapable moral truth" requiring equality and justice that we must treat each life with equal respect, you are basically arguing that ethical absolutes exist in this form. If it is "inescapable" then no other possible moral route is plausible - thus defeating your argument that no ethical absolutes exist.

"I also disagree with your claim that there are absolute wrongs, such as murder and rape. Murder for the sake of pleasure is wrong"

Notice that in my first post I specifically stated that "murder without cause" and "rape against someone's will" is always objectively wrong. All I need to prove is that murder and rape are always unjustified in at least one specific case to show that ethical absolutes exist. In this case, murder without cause and rape against someone's will is always wrong - it automatically follows that this is an ethical absolute. I agree with you that murder can be situationally ethical. We could argue that our military "murders" foreign enemies but this is not "murder" without cause.

It has also been a pleasure debating with you too. Best of luck to you and your future endeavors.

Debate Round No. 2
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by mmadderom 7 years ago
If one accepts that we have universal unalienable 'rights' as pro seems to concede, then by extension there are automatic absolute ethics. There MUST be. I'll leave it to con to argue, but pro defeated himself with his opening argument in my view.
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