Hey there! Sign in to join this conversationNew here? Join for free
x Turn on thread page Beta

TSR Big Debate: Do the ends justify the means? watch

    • Section Leader
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    20
    ReputationRep:
    Section Leader
    Welcome to TSR's Big Debate

    The motion of this debate is:

    Do the ends justify the means?

    Two teams will take turns to argue over the course of the next two days to justify their stance on this question.

    The debate will begin at today at 11am and end on Sunday at 9pm.


    Introducing the participants

    Spoiler:
    Show
    Arguing for the motion are:
    • a noble chance
    • Millie-3
    • viddy9
    • Ilovelovelegends
    • Valyrian
    • Personinsertname


    And arguing against the motion are:
    • Imperion
    • Treblebee
    • CatusStarbright
    • Hydeman


    The schedule

    Spoiler:
    Show
    The debate schedule is as follows:

    Saturday
    11am-1pm: a noble chance
    1pm-3pm: Imperion
    3pm-5pm: Millie-3
    5pm-7pm: Imperion
    7pm-9pm: viddy9

    Sunday
    9am-11am: Treblebee
    11am-1pm: Ilovelovelegends
    1pm-3pm: CatusStarbright
    3pm-5pm: Valyrian
    5pm-7pm: Hydeman ("Against" team's closing statement)
    7pm-9pm: Personinsertname ("For" team's closing statement)


    Please support the debate by discussing it in the companion thread.

    Good luck to both teams and let's have a good debate!
    Offline

    3
    ReputationRep:
    (For)

    I define 'the ends justify the means' as the idea that the means used to attain a particular outcome are justified by the overall good of that outcome.

    Its often misquoted place in Machiavelli's The Prince has lent it a deeply rooted association with villainy, but in this very short argument I will explain why in every case it is a maxim that must be followed.

    None of us can say that we would not follow this idea in certain situations. The old situation of taking a terrorist's life to save a bus full of children is cliché for good reason and we only have to look to Paris yesterday evening to see it in action. To kill is a terrible thing in every case, but when that one kill results in the saving of more than one potential victims it is clear that it was the morally correct option overall.

    But in a broader sense, too, to each and every one of us the ends necessarily always justify the means, because in every case our understanding of what 'ends' are desirable and what 'means' are appropriate to reach those ends moderates from person to person. Few people would disagree with the killing of a terrorist to save a bus fill of children, but many would take exception to the proposal that one innocent child be killed to save ten adults. This may seem like a departure from the maxim above - a principled stand against murdering a helpless child for whatever end, but it is simply the same maxim used in a different way. In this case, the person's means are a foregoing of the opportunity to save more healthy lives than would otherwise die and their ends are a clear conscience and having had no part in the death of a small child to save ten healthy adults whose lives have already been largely lived.

    This demonstrates not only that the morality of this idea is entirely neutral and that we moderate it to the satisfaction of our individual consciences but also that we are all employing it all of the time. Inevitably, there will always be disagreement over when the ends do justify the means, but it is a maxim which governs each of our lives and is necessarily always the case for us as individuals for at least one course of action in any given situation. The ends, therefore, do justify the means.
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    (Against)

    Killing a human being is deemed morally wrong, but what if it's out of self defence? On a larger scale, what if a country declares war on another? The 'end' in this case is the end of the war. Sticking to moral high grounds isn't an option; it creates multiple unnecessary dangers to many. Some will argue it is. The taint won't disappear, so is it still justified? Being wealthy is seen as a 'good' thing to many. How many get there is really up to them but would you argue, despite corrupt way, it will still be a good thing? Is the trade-off a good one? Is it truly worth the consequences to get what you want? It's a torturing thought.

    To satisfy potential greed, people will do morally unjustifiable things. Ironically, many things in their livelihood will go amiss. Likewise, if they do nothing, they will cower in regret, possibly for their eternity in examples shown in murder where reversal is inevitable. Cheating happens as a means to get more for less - practically preached to us in our day to day lives. Does the end really justify the means?

    Joseph Stalin justified the deaths of tens of millions of his own people by saying that the population was too large for Communism to support which to be fair, was barely working. The mass death left Soviet society more sustainable. Did the betterment of millions of peoples’ lives justify the murder of millions of other people? According to Consequentialist socialists; yes. Breeding hate and resent towards him, opened many options for evil, potentially greater as a matter of fact. This proves that justifying end results opens up a great deal of danger to a lot of people.

    Some may claim, from a Creationists point of view, that in the eyes of God, it is well right. Modern society does not allow for such opinions to hinder morally right and capable actions. Evil isn't justified as a means for good and so is the opposite. Likewise, when Machiavelli used that phrase in his satirical indictment of the evils and abuses of Feudal government, he succeeded in hitting the nail on the head as to what is most wrong and unjust.

    Deontology states the idea that wise principles override the short-sighted goal is why courts will overturn convictions on technicalities. When you have a principle, like “do not violate someone else’s property”, it cannot be overridden because you have some end in mind like “but the wealth I steal from his safe will benefit several other people who deserve it more”. Above shows how it potentially opens up further options. The aim was theft, but potential risks have to be accounted for. Furthermore, when a series of events is started, the outcome isn't 100% known, increasing controversial risk of various aspects of life. Doing A doesn't mean B will happen despite B, C and D being accounted for despite being of beneficial intent. The risk factor to everything lies everywhere, it's unavoidable. Moral subjectivity lets us do what we'd like within certain parameters to achieve our goals however in most cases does not count the potential harm and shortsightedness it holds.
    My counterparts would argue utilitarianism, however this goes directly into human rights and arguably creates faulty political holes where breach able creating disastrous conflict.

    In reality, the end does not always justify the means; the long term outcome isn't simply worth it. The effects, not just on the subject but the victims and the victims' associates is harming and not bettering people. From this, I would argue against, despite inevitability.
    Offline

    18
    ReputationRep:
    (For)

    Good afternoon adjudicators, ladies and gentlemen, and members of the opposition.

    Do the ends justify the means? No doubt the opposition will twist this idiom into something unrecognisable, but allow me to state the general consensus as to what it means. It means to do something wrong to achieve a positive end. It means that the wrongdoing is balanced by the positive outcome. Balance—a stable world, something we all want. Meanwhile, the opposition wants to let us experience large-scale loss, just to keep their self pride up to scratch.

    All these abstract ideas may seem removed from our reality, so allow me to set the scene. Imagine a father, having put his two little daughters- the most important people in his life- to bed. These vulnerable creatures rely completely on him for safety. Suddenly the quiet of night is disturbed by a creak downstairs. Half dozing, the father realises that someone has broken in. Crashing. Banging. Gruff voices talk about going upstairs. But upstairs is where the girls lie. And who knows what these heathens want.The father gets out of bed, gun in hand. The police have been called, but there are already thuds on the staircase. The father comes up to the criminals. Now you decide—he can shoot, or he can die. He can save his family, or he can beg for mercy from criminals. What do you do?

    Dr Mather, Yale Medical School, was asked once how he feels on saving a patient’s life. His reply was “I just thank god that the good dean never checked to see how my grandparents were. He might have found it odd that my CV stated [that] I was caring for a grandmother who was dead ten years before I was born!” A little white lie won Dr Mather an internship for internal medicine, and the ability to save hundreds of lives. Do you think his patients care if he lied in his CV decades ago?

    Imperion refers to religion in his argument, arguing that God would never allow for situational ethics in black-and-white morality. According to him “Evil isn’t justified as a means for good.” To that I say that even the Catholic Church considers any sin in three individual aspects: the morality of the outcome; morality of the action; the morality of the person(s). Referring to my previous argument, the father only wants to save his innocent children. The father has tried other courses of action, such as calling the police, but the footsteps are treading towards his children now. The father wants to protect innocent children, but also himself to feed and care for them. Is it selfish to self defend? Who deserves to die more—the family or criminals?

    Some of you may be familiar with the trolley problem, an ethical dilemma asking participants to make a choice. One can either allow a runaway trolley to hurtle on down the track on which five people work, or one can pull a trigger to divert the trolley onto a different track on which one person works. Five lives or one? This situation, much like our motion has no correct answer, or rather the correct answer lies in the individual’s beliefs. But I for one would pull the trigger every time. I may commit murder by actively pulling the trigger, but the thought of five mourning families beats that of one. To me, it is a necessary evil that promotes the good end of saving five lives.
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    (Against)

    The indication of balance weighs little in all honesty. Balance is broken if one side is potentially winning, even for good. The opposition is hinting that the means bares consequences, such should be considered. We see this everyday, even in ourselves. Retaliation should be considered and instead of obliteration of the opposition.

    I'm sorry but such isn't inevitable, there are multiple solutions to that problem. He for example, could divert possible attention away from his daughters(and himself). Taking to the gun should be the final option. This reason as well as many others is why gun crime rate and mishandling is rising globally.They aren't exclusive in this case. In the doctor's case presented above, I doubt he would be implying towards his patients that he cheated. Morally it's wrong as he could have potentially hindered someone more capable realistically. And this way further moral ado is perpetuated.

    My implication was based on the point religion shouldn't hinder anyone from clear cut judgement. No one deserves to go, no one deserves to die. Following the question, implications that there always must be a victor is largely arguable. Unless dire, win-win situations should be implored. The notion proposes a fixed situation, while in reality there's much more to it. It creates moral dilemma. According to British individualist Auberon Herbert, “It assumes that there are two opposed ‘goods,’ and that the one good is to be sacrificed to the other good — but in the first place, this is not true, for liberty is the one good, open to all, and requiring no sacrifice of others, and secondly, this false opposition (where no real opposition exists) of two different goods means perpetual war between men.” The other side should be considered as well, would you like to be in the one who's fated by death?
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    (For)

    I am arguing in favour of the motion that the ends justify the means.

    It seems patently obvious to me that the ends do justify the means, when the ends are justifiable. Whilst the movie industry has decided that this should be the phrase that evil super-villains employ just before attempting to kill millions of people, both the ends and the means are unjustifiable in these cases.

    By contrast, surely we all agree on the proposition that babies should be vaccinated. In this case, we accept that the ends justify the means – even though the baby may endure some pain and will perhaps cry, it will still be at a lower risk of contracting a seriously harmful disease.

    At the heart of this debate, though, is the question of whether we accept consequentialist ethics, which comes down in favour of the motion, or deontological ethics, which comes down against the motion. Opponents of the motion may concede that the ends justify the means when the means are relatively trivial, such as, in the example given above, a baby crying for a few minutes after having been vaccinated.

    However, when the cases are sufficiently 'non-trivial', opponents of the motion will argue that the ends cannot justify the means. Yet, this is fundamentally misguided. Opponents of the motion will argue that pushing the Fat Man off the footbridge in Philippa Foot's trolley problem, in order to save five people, would be wrong, as the ends do not justify the means. But, where do they draw the line? It is justifiable to torture somebody for one minute in order to save millions of lives? We all surely accept the need for babies to be vaccinated, but what is the difference between the baby's pain and the short period of pain experienced by, say, a terrorist?

    Opponents of the motion, in order to have a logically consistent argument, would have to even state that killing one person would not be justifiable even if it meant that all of the sentient life in the entire universe would be wiped out as a result of not doing so, aside from that one person.

    In the end, the argument put forward by those who oppose the motion appears to be entirely self-refuting, since they too have an 'end', namely that deontological rules such as 'do not kill' or, as Imperion suggested, 'do not violate property rights' are always followed. The means by which this is achieved, including potentially and callously allowing millions, if not billions, if not all sentient life in the universe, to die, is justified by this 'end'. So, even the opposing side inherently agree with the motion, meaning that there is no real debate here.

    Imperion claims that utilitarianism would hinder human rights, but following moral rules and heuristics in general often produces utilitarian outcomes, because without them, the world would be much worse. Again, the ends - a better world - justify the means by which this is achieved: following moral rules and heuristics even if the greatest good is not pursued in every single individual cases. This doesn't mean that we always have to follow them, particularly when the stakes are incredibly high, as in some of the hypothetical examples above.

    Jeremy Bentham's dictum that each counts for one, and no one for more than one, holds true and will continue to hold true. If we as individuals matter, as we all believe we do, there is no reason why everyone else should not matter equally. The term 'me' cannot justify giving our own interests more weight than the interests of any other sentient being. Each counts for one, but it also means that 1 million people are valued as 1 million, and 5 people as just 5. As a result, pursuing the greatest good for the greatest number is something that we are , objectively, obligated to do, and as long as this end is likely to result, the means are justified. There are practical issues with this, as simply pursuing the greater good won't always lead to the greater good, but that's why moral rules and heuristics are sometimes necessary, as outlined above.

    To conclude: as I have demonstrated, the end does justify the means in at least some circumstances, for instance when a baby is vaccinated. That alone demonstrates that the end can justify the means. But, I have gone further and shown that, for justifiable ends to justify the means in some circumstances but not others is an arbitrary and logically inconsistent position to take. I also argue that the opposing side have their own end, which they believe is justified by the means, meaning that we all agree on the motion in any case. Finally, I contend that we are objectively obligated to pursue justified ends no matter the means, and that it just so happens that moral rules may help us to achieve these ends overall and in the long-term.
    Offline

    17
    ReputationRep:
    (Against)

    We the negative strongly believe that the ends do not justify the means.

    This assumption – that the ends justify the means – is essentially weighing up two actions, A and B, in which A is the means, and B the end. The context of the statement is not the scenario in which both Aand B are ethically right; rather, it is used in a situation in which A is ethically wrong, while B is ethically right. Essentially, we are being asked to which side of the scales this weighing up between A and B, leans. Does the evil of A outweigh the good of B, or is it the other way around? Of course, there may be some situations in which the latter is the case, but the statement with which we are debating is most commonly used for larger scale operations, such as with the case of Hitler.

    After World War 1, Germany was in a mess; what with the hyperinflation, aswell as the great shame it held from losing the War, she desperately wanted to show the world what a mighty nation she could be. This situation ultimately led to Hitler's rising to power. He promisedGermany that the nation would be made great again, and that all evil must be removed from it. So far so good. However, when Hitler began proposing to send thousands of innocent Jews to concentration camps,we begin to have doubts as to whether the result is worth it. Then,Hitler began to send those kind souls who were trying to help the Jews, to concentration camps also. There was a mighty cry of despair throughout all Germany, as human beings, both Jew and Gentile, were separated from their families and herded to concentration camps, the horrific conditions of which are well-known today. I need not describe the terror which Hitler and the Nazis wrought throughout Germany, and beyond – it is all in the history books. Even if this had resulted in Germany becoming a more “perfect” and “great” nation, would it have been worth it? You would be hard pushed to find anyone who will venture to suggest that today.

    In other, less major scenarios, the fact remains that situations are not nearly so black-and-white as those who are “for” would be inclined to suggest. If we are presented with the situation of the terrorist on the bus, why not simply remove the terrorist and arrest him/her? This is a somewhat poor example of a case in which the ends justify the means, however, as the statement, as was mentioned above,is almost always used in a situation in which the means are dramatically worse than the end, and one would be hard-pressed to explain how arresting a terrorist is ethically wrong.

    To put it simply, while it may be true that the ends do, indeed, justify the means in a hypothetical case,this is very rarely the case for real-life situations. If we are presented with the case of one death for the whole universe, by all means, this ought to be carried out, but this is a scenario which has only happened once or, as some might believe, never. It is hardly an accurate example of the situations in which the statement that the end justify the means, is used. Thus, in 99 cases out of 100, which, fair to say, is the vast majority of the time, the ends do not justify the means.
    Offline

    5
    ReputationRep:
    (For)

    Of course, the ends certainly justify the means. I would like to take the philosophical piece of this debate away for now. It's vital to understand our nature before taking into consideration what great philosphers may have said or not. Let's begin with Darwin's theory. Survival of the fittest, the thoery stating that only the best of the best competitors survive and reproduce ( as that is the prime purpose of all creatures- to carry on their linage). Whatever their conduct if the consequence of their conduct results in an positive outcome then it's justified. They hunt, they kill and they survive. So why would this be seen as such an controversy when it concerns us?


    We claim animals have no consciences. Whereas, we have evolved and developed to think that selfishness towards others is never justified. Even so, when did this high morals start, and how does it give us the right to judge others' actions? Everyone has had the brute, pleasure of an negative intervening thought. If we were to take Deontology in the context of Darwin's theory and apply it to reality, then we are almost sacrificing ourselves. In an idealistic world then we should all be vegetarian, stop animals killing each other, do as others wish of us, and if taken to the extreme maybe we shouldn't even be alive? Maybe our society itself, is toxic to mother Earth: deforestation, animal extinctions. It's not something that used to be "bad" because in the past resources were abundant ( our way of justifying our actions- we, all, are guilty of this) ; we did what we needed to survive. That was justified. My implications is that there is no perfect world. No one shares the same experience, thoughts or judgements. One person's action shouldn't be concluding most other scenarios where any means have to be applied to commit the lesser evil. Admitting that committing an bad deed is unescapable concludes that ends do justify the means, they have to , otherwise we can't survive if we don't apply such an idea in reality; we are all living in conviction of justified but bad deeds and this raises issues of double standards.

    We are selfish creatures and we always have been. We commit harming act in a bystander's eyes- but justified in ours. Buddha, for example, left his family. If he hadn't abandoned his family then he would never achieve what he has today; a religious figure, philisophers, and a teacher. However, did most of us even think that his act of leaving his family was an minor act of wrong doing? The situation isn't "murder" or "war" or "mass killings". Despite an major act or minor act, a harmful action is an harmful action. Make-up, plastic surgery, branded clothes, luxury are all examples of minor act of wrong doing but justified in today's society. Where do we draw the line in our double-standard views and how do we pass judgement on others when we are guilty of the same doing? Nobody would give up their luxuries. So why do the opposition agree with one harmful act, but not see the larger, domino effect of what not choosing that harmful act would consequent in? Situation Ethics raises hypocrisy and double standards , which I believe the opposition have used to argue against the statement*. Once again, ending in the conclusion that a perfect world can't exist with only good.An parent's and child's relationship is another complicated concept of why the ends do justify the means. As stated before by the opposition, that the certainity of an bad action done to achieve a good result doesn't always wound up ending in Path A. However, this is the same for a "good action" because it depends on our judgement of matters.

    An parent may want their child to become a doctor but the child doesn't want to pursue that career. What then? Should we let the parent carry on (with what they percieve is the morally right choice for their child) or do we let the child decide their own future? The child could do the morally right deed, which would be to follow their parent's wishes, but then again that would mean the parent would be comitting a morally wrong action by reinforncing their ideas into their children. This follows up from what my teammates has said previously about the trolley example ; that Deontology, unknowingly, is in favour for the motion. A different example would be to not aid a country under invasion because of having to go to war. This would mean that in Deontology, the action of letting millions of innocents die under invasion is the right choice as it is done to avoid additional war ( the wrong in this case). So the WWII, the intervention to stop Hitler wouldn't be justified in such a world. Therefore, avoiding of war is justifying the action to not save the innocent's lives because war is the incorrect means.

    The law passes judgement on people who do wrong. The oppositions mentions the act of arresting the terrorist. Firstly, I would like to mention when in such a situation, we will think of ourselves first and not the terrorist. Sure, we can get the terrorist arrested but our nerves always get the best of us in such situation. Secondly, the act of arresting the terrorist is mentioned to be the right act. However, that's in eyes of law, who even believes in capital punishments. Then again, in the terrorist's eyes, the act of the arrest isn't justified ( he/she will rot away in prison). However, the opposition states that this is the correct act, and the evil of arresting in the prisoner's eyes equates to the act of shooting the terrorist to save lives. Therefore, the judgement of law is another example of why the means is justified. The fundamental idea of law, which most of us agree with is based solely on the idea that the ends justify the means; giving punishments to those wrong-doers to prevent more wrong happenings is justified (lesser of two evils).

    In conclusion, there will be never be just "good" . For that reason, every individual's action is justified in their own eye : a ying to the yang must exist. I conclude with this that the idea of Deontology only exist in an idealistic mind, and that it would be such a concept that works in theory but not in practise. A theory that if used in practise would only raise complications in most matter than fix it. *Explained on the next paragraph.
    Online

    22
    ReputationRep:
    (Against)

    I would like to counter the opposition’s arguments with a few examples of where the ends do not justify the means. I propose two scenarios.

    Scenario 1: Say I wanted to save up money for the end of buying a computer. Wanting to buy a computer would be justified. However, if I were to steal in order to get the money to buy the computer then the means would not be justified. Stealing is a crime and is not justified to buy the computer.

    Scenario 2: Human life exchange, which has been touched upon earlier in this debate. In this situation, a man is holding two children hostage and will kill them unless I kill a third child, whom I know. If I were to agree to his demands, the end would be saving the two children, however the means would be to kill one child. This may be the only course of action I could take here, but it does not make the death of the child justified. To generalise and bring my point back to fit in with other examples mentioned, I ask: Can the killing of one person to save the lives of others be truly justified? I argue that it might be necessary, but never justified.

    There are certain fundamental principles that are ‘right’and ‘good’ that you cannot justify violating because you have some ‘right’ or ‘good’ goal. For example, you cannot have justice unless the principles of justice are adhered to – it is not acceptable to do unjust things just because you have a just goal.

    If you set aside money for bills and emergencies instead of spending your pay check frivolously and thus stick to your principles of what is the correct decision, it produces the best outcome in the long term. When you abandon your principles for a short-term benefit, which in this case could mean going out and partying away the money, you end up making things worse in the end (in this situation it would mean that when an unexpected bill comes along, you may not have the money to pay it).This is why the end does not justify the means.I�.
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    (For)

    I’m arguing for whether the ends justify the means.

    As mentioned by my counterpart, Viddy9, and my opposition,Imperion, Deontology takes into account a massive factor as to whether the endsreally do justify the ends. Deontology states that an action is good or bad dependingon how morally questionable the action is. Kant is a key deontologist that believes that even lying is 100% bad and it doesn’t matter whether it’s justified or not, it just doesn’t cut it for Kant. On the other hand, there is Consequentialism, essentially the opposite of Deontology, which believes that an action is deemed as good or bad depending on the outcome. For consequentialism,in the literal term that if the consequence of the action maximises the bestpossible outcome then the ends do justifythe means.

    In society the idea of Deontology and Consequentialism is usually amalgamated into a hybrid of the two amongst people’s ethical beliefs.In terms of Deontology, many people would agree at the fact that rape and torture is morally wrong as no one should suffer any type of inflicted pain and is in no way justified however Consequentialists would believe that it’s sometimes okay to lie if it was to benefit another person. People would therefore argue that torture may actually be justified in the way that if you torture someone who is a threat to the country or the life of other people in order to achieve some sort of classified information to stop something that would put hundreds of people in danger such as bombing or planned murder.

    There are so many experiments and theories that bring into the argument and debate of moral right, such as the Milgram experiment, the Trolley Problem and many many others that would make so many people question whether the ends really do justify the means.

    I think the issue here is that nowadays there are so many things that are categorised into ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ that many people immediately jump to the conclusion of something being ethically wrong even though carrying out that action would, or could, bring benefit to many as a result. I would believe that certain actions deemed as absolutely unforgivable and damned would bring positive outcomes and therefore the ends do justify the means. Just like the example mentioned before about protecting your family by shooting another person, it would bring a benefit to the life of those who haven’t even had an experience to live yet and for those who have, to live longer.

    Therefore, I believe that the ends do justify the means.
    Offline

    18
    (Against)

    I will be arguing against the motion that the perceivably positive consequences of any action justifies the method(s) used to reach that consequence. As the statement firmly binds my opponents to an absolute statement that any action can be justified provided the net effect of that action -- that is to say, the difference between the perceived good and perceive evil of any action -- is perceived to be positive but does not explicitly bind me to the opposite extreme, I shall take the liberty to strike a balance where necessary and argue against the motion rather than necessarily argue against the opposite extreme.

    A few rather elaborate yet flawed examples have been raised in support of this motion. It has been claimed that we, as products of evolution by natural selection, should act in accordance with our natural inclinations, specifically any altruistic urges. The flaw in this argument is not difficult to see: it is a naturalistic fallacy, famously articulated by Hume in his Treatise of Human Nature as the 'is-ought problem.' In other words, the opposition, in putting forward this argument as a defence for their view that the ends justify the means, has effectively proclaimed, 'it is, and therefore it must be.' There is no logical progression that allows us to conclude that the we must not only act in accordance with our nature, but that any action that deviates from this is morally wrong -- the trolley example brought up by my opponents refutes this. What is naturally altruistic about sacrificing one man to save five? Surely it follows that, in that situation, there is no morally right action, if this absolutist nature-based argument is to stand, thereby refuting the utilitarianism argued for by the trolley dilemma. It strikes me as absurd that such an argument is even brought forward, given the obvious flaws from which it suffers.

    There is also the problem of there being no such thing as a collective human nature -- there are significant differences in the degree to which people are altruistically inclined. The argument presumes that all of us are equally altruistic, when the existence of psychopaths and other individuals who enjoy causing suffering blatantly refutes this presumption. Even if we assumed that this argument had any merit, which it doesn't, there is no consensus among humans about what is a good outcome and what is a bad outcome, which, arguably, is a more general refutation of my opponent's position, hence complicating the pursuit of consequential ethics in determining the morality of any action to an unachieveable (in practice) degree.

    Another issue with a lot of my opponents' arguments is that they presume that every individual is a perfect judge of any situation presented to them and is therefore able to calculate all the potential consequences of his or her actions before taking them. So, it is argued, the fact that Buddha left his family and eventually contributed great philosophy to the world, justified his action. The underlying assumption of this argument, and its undoing, is that the Buddha was predestined to contribute great philosophy to the sum total of human knowledge. Given the lack of evidence for such a destiny, this does not stand up to scrutiny. Moreover, given the sheer interconnectedness of natural events -- excellently described by Richard Dawkins in postulating that the human species as we know it may never have existed had it not been for a particular dinosaur sneezing and thereby allowing his prey, an early ancestor of modern day humans, to escape and later reproduce, leading to us debating this motion today -- it cannot be said with a straight face that anything is definitely predestined. The Buddha did not know that he would contribute anything useful to human knowledge ahead of time, and therefore this was not a consequentialist action on his part. Similarly, this method of establishing the morality of an action on the presumption that an actor is able to anticipate with complete accuracy the consequences of his action is flawed in the example of the father and his unconscious daughters -- what if, despite his efforts to incapacitate the invaders, he fails to do so, and in so doing provides the attackers with a weapon that they previously did not possess with which they later harm his daughters? Is the father now responsible for what happens to his daughters because the outcome of his action did not result in a favourable outcome? I doubt my opponents would agree.

    There is also the problem of individualism. Those arguing in favour believe that it is perfectly acceptable to reduce human beings to mere numbers; us, the opponents, firmly believe the opposite to be true. We find it absurd that they suggest that we have the right to violate an individual's right to life for the sake of the lives of five others, particularly because it assumes non-action to be positively immoral. So it is immoral, in their view, to fail to act in that situation, simplistic as it is. Would they say that numbers were all that mattered if the fat man was Albert Einstein or some other great intellectual contributor? I sincerely doubt it, given their position that the greater good of mankind must be prioritised above all, thereby directly contradicting their utilitarianism once the problem is made more complex than simply six people of equal calibre and potential. That, I would argue, is just one of many, many reasons (too numerous for me to be able to elaborate without the risk of boring the audience and breaking the debate's rules on time limits) why the ends do not justify the means.
    • Section Leader
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    20
    ReputationRep:
    Section Leader
    And that concludes the debate!

    Thank you to everyone who participated. The debate will be judged and the results published in the next few days.
    • Section Leader
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    20
    ReputationRep:
    Section Leader
    It's time to announce the winners!

    This was a great debate - thanks to everyone who took part. The support team and I have read through everyone's contributions and decided on the winners.

    So, without further ado, here are the awards:

    The award for best debater from the For team goes to...
    Spoiler:
    Show
    viddy9!


    And the award for best debater from the Against team goes to...
    Spoiler:
    Show
    Hydeman!


    And finally, the winning team...
    Spoiler:
    Show
    The For team!


    Congratulations to everyone who won!
 
 
 
Poll
Do you agree with the proposed ban on plastic straws and cotton buds?
Useful resources

The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

Write a reply...
Reply
Hide
Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.