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February 13, 2013 / compassioninpolitics

How to answer deontology affirmatives in policy debate

What are the ethical claims they are making? What is the moral obligation they say exists?

Spend 20 minutes reading summaries on Stanford Encyclopedia & Wikipedia:
1) Kant
2) Utilitarianism (ideally look at Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism)
3) Deontology
4) Political obligation [not sure if either has this, but its important to this question–unless they are claiming it as pre-fiaty–even then you could claim a pre-fiat counter-reason]

Six things that should potentially be in your frontline:
1. Moral conflicts = paralysis. Utilitarianism resolves competing claims.
2. Dissent magazine evidence. Responsibility to act. Plus, we can’t morally exempt outselves from the predictable results of our actions. Lots of examples here. Its also anti-rational to do something suicidal (ie to kill the US). Rationality is the basis of ethical principles.
3. Coersion is a deonteleological violation
4. We solve a moral obligation. We solve a moral obligation for Congress (or rather avoid objectionable actions based on ethics). (ie what ethical obligations do members of Congress have that you help them fulfill???)
5. Ethically justify utilitarianism/consequentialism
6. Your ethical is solvency dependent. (you have to set this one up in cross-ex)

You can obviously impact these further & provide additional reasons.

Two other options:
1. K it up with disad turns the case (you can do this with EVERY K in existence……or you can K ethics/morality/values.) I happen to think the first way is better, because ethics just makes sense
2. Counterplan (these often don’t solve the obligation completely–however). This combined with DA turns the case is pretty sweet though

Overall, read an intro to philosophy textbook. They will inevitably have a chapter on deontology & on utilitarianism. It will probably have both sides of the story.



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  1. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 1:46 am

    1. Claims without warrants of the other team
    2. Criticisms of Kantian morality (assuming thats how they ground their affirmative)

  2. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 3:15 am

    A couple things:
    1. Do spend time learning how these arguments work however (ie the readings I suggested above from Stanford as well as a the 2 chapters from a Philosophy 101: Intro to Philosophy text). It will help you in K debates. It will help you in life…..and potentially even business. Understanding this is a real toolbox of sorts in terms of understanding arguments.

    2. The core of ethics both utilitarian and deonteleological is generally dignity of the individual (although deonteleological arguably does it better). They are also grounded in the rational individual. Thats the core that the 2nd part of the #2 answer speaks to. Its pretty huge. I would actually break that out as an additional argument.

    3. If you don’t have the Dissent evidence….which you should….because its in most framework/K files…..I’m sure someone on here has it.

    4. Use cross ex in these debates. Given that ethics/philosophy is mostly grounded in logic & reason–it helps to be able to navigate these debates–by intuitive examples/scenarios and forced choices.

    5. Answer #3 about coersion…..I would assume you would use a card at some point. Or at least develop the argument better than I did.

    6. Also in terms of Ks, you could actually just read 2 card K argument pods. It shouldn’t matter than you don’t have an alternative. Just get them in cross ex to
    Your K arguments should link to their “ethics” and “using people as a means” and their “dignity/dehumanization” via otherization & domination–among other things.

    7. You have to set up #6 with a uniqueness press in cross-examination….so they say “each and every instance = bad” trumps uniqueness issues. This puts them in a double bind.

    8. In terms of political obligation, the Lockean stuff is pretty good (aka social contract). And you can explain it in 3 sentences (hopefully).

    9. I ran across this, which you might be able to use–I’m sure its pretty easy to find the original source–which probably has an explanation:

    Pluralistic Deontology is a description of the deontological ethics propounded by W.D. Ross (1877 – 1971). He argues that there are seven prima facie duties which need to be taken into consideration when deciding which duty should be acted upon:
    Duty of beneficence (to help other people to increase their pleasure, improve their character, etc).
    Duty of non-maleficence (to avoid harming other people).
    Duty of justice (to ensure people get what they deserve).
    Duty of self-improvement (to improve ourselves).
    Duty of reparation (to recompense someone if you have acted wrongly towards them).
    Duty of gratitude (to benefit people who have benefited us).
    Duty of promise-keeping (to act according to explicit and implicit promises, including the implicit promise to tell the truth).

    Mostly you want to talk about the duty to not harm.

    Note, there is tension between this and the coersion argument (libertarianism or objectivism or whatever). The beneficience part. You can probably find something by WD Ross that gives you some ground. From what I can tell he seems to meld utilitarian & deonteleological concerns.

    If you have more time:

    I would skip to the enlightenment philosophers.

    Why was I able to write this?
    1. Experience & reading in the literature of ethics/philosophy/etc….
    2. Reflection about what arguments were really saying–both in terms of assumptions & implications (you can almost always go deeper with why? and who cares? and whats the grounding or assumptions behind this?). For instance–getting back to fundamental questions–what are a Congress person’s obligations.
    3. Running debate Scenarios in my head/Common sense about what their responses would almost inevitably be

    Now the question is how can you run it and turn it into offense….where you don’t let the other team out.

  3. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 3:40 am

    1) Definition
    2) Purpose
    3) Nature
    4) Role based duties, responsibilities, & obligations
    5) Interactivity

    1) Communitarian critiques of individualistic ethics & individualistic understandings of responsibility.
    2) Systems theory-based understandings & holistic understandings of virtue & ethics (versus atomistic understanding of ethics)

    I’m curious how fairness or even evolutionary ethics or virtue might be leveraged to answer this.

    Finally the core notion of government not doing harm–on balance is a key consideration.

    And their critiques of utilitarianism & consequentialism bite them.

    Also specific critiques of Kantianism.

    I’m curious if Ks of natural law answer deontology.

  4. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 3:42 am
  5. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 3:48 am

    Three other considerations:
    1) Individual versus group
    2) Also–the idea of procedural fairness checks back their.
    3) If nature causes inequality–not our fault.

    Could make distintions about intent (versus means) or about rule utilitarianism.

    Also what does it mean to be a means to an end?

  6. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 4:25 pm

    Calculation is inevitable and vital for human survival
    Campbell, Professor of Int’l Politics @ Newcastle, 99
    (David, Moral Spaces pg. 56)
    104. Ibid., 76-79. Levinas has also argued for a politics that respects a double injunction. When asked “Is not ethical obligation to the other a purely negative ideal, impossible to realize in our everyday being-in-the-world,” which is governed by “ontological drives and practices”; and “Is ethics practicable in human society as we know it? Or is it merely an invitation to apolitical acquiescence?” Levinas’s response was that “of course we inhabit an ontological world of technological mastery and political self-preservation. Indeed, without these political and technological structures of organization we would not be able to feed mankind. This is the greatest paradox of human existence: we must use the ontological for the sake of the other, to ensure the survival of the other we must resort to the technico-political systems of means and ends.” Kearney and Levinas, “Dialogue with Emmanuel Levinas,”28.

    Calculation is a pre-requisite for all progressive politics—even if calculation is dangerous, it is the starting point for resisting all domination and oppression
    Campbell, Professor of Int’l Politics @ Newcastle, 1998
    (David, National Deconstruction: Violence, Identity, and Justice in Bosnia, 186-187)
    The finite nature of the decision may be a “madness” in the way it renders possible the impossible, the infinite character of justice, but Derrida argues for the necessity of this madness. Most importantly, although Derrida’s argument concerning the decision has, to this point, been concerned with an account of the procedure by which a decision is possible, it is with respect to the necessity of the decision that Derrida begins to formulate an account of the decision that bears upon the content of the decision. In so doing, Derrida’s argument addresses more directly—more directly, I would argue, than is acknowledged by Critchley—the concern that for politics (at least for a progressive politics) one must provide an account of the decision to combat domination.
    That undecidability resides within the decision, Derrida argues, “that justice exceeds law and calculation, that the unpresentable exceeds the determinable, cannot and should not serve as alibi for staying out of juridico-political battles, within an institution or a state, or between institutions or states and others.” Indeed, “incalculable justice requires us to calculate.” From where do these insistences come? What is behind, what is animating, these imperatives? It is both the character of infinite justice as a heteronimic relationship to the other, a relationship that because of its undecidability multiplies responsibility, and the fact that “left to itself, the incalculable and giving (donatrice) idea of justice is always very close to the bad, even to the worst, for it can always be reappropriated by the most perverse calculation.” The necessity of calculating the incalculable thus responds to a duty, a duty that inhabits the instant of madness and compels the decision to avoid “the bad,” the “perverse calculation,” even “the worst.” This is the duty that also dwells with deconstructive thought and makes it the starting point, the “at least necessary condition,” for the organization of resistance to totalitarianism in all its forms. And it is a duty that responds to practical political concerns when we recognize that Derrida names the bad, the perverse, and the worst as those violences “we recognize all too well without yet having thought them through, the crimes of xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, religious or nationalist fanaticism.”

  7. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 4:49 pm

    I hate this tag.

    Their moral tunnel vision is complicit with the evil they criticize

    Isaac 02 (Professor of Political Science at Indiana-Bloomington, Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy and Public Life, PhD from Yale, Jeffery C., Dissent Magazine, Vol. 49, Iss. 2, “Ends, Means, and Politics,” p. Proquest)

    As a result, the most important political questions are simply not asked. It is assumed that U.S. military intervention is an act of “aggression,” but no consideration is given to the aggression to which intervention is a response. The status quo ante in Afghanistan is not, as peace activists would have it, peace, but rather terrorist violence abetted by a regime–the Taliban–that rose to power through brutality and repression. This requires us to ask a question that most “peace” activists would prefer not to ask: What should be done to respond to the violence of a Saddam Hussein, or a Milosevic, or a Taliban regime? What means are likely to stop violence and bring criminals to justice? Calls for diplomacy and international law are well intended and important; they implicate a decent and civilized ethic of global order. But they are also vague and empty, because they are not accompanied by any account of how diplomacy or international law can work effectively to address the problem at hand. The campus left offers no such account. To do so would require it to contemplate tragic choices in which moral goodness is of limited utility. Here what matters is not purity of intention but the intelligent exercise of power. Power is not a dirty word or an unfortunate feature of the world. It is the core of politics. Power is the ability to effect outcomes in the world. Politics, in large part, involves contests over the distribution and use of power. To accomplish anything in the political world, one must attend to the means that are necessary to bring it about. And to develop such means is to develop, and to exercise, power. To say this is not to say that power is beyond morality. It is to say that power is not reducible to morality.

  8. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 4:51 pm

    Also, future generations.

    As well as other arguments on here about the deontology versus utility debate:

    Also, the Issac evidence could have ” Evaluate consequences first” at the beginning.

    Also, make the utility = comparison argument comparative. Deontology fails. Utility solves. Impact.

    Also impact the ineffectiveness or conflicts in ethics with the overall purpose of ethics.

  9. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 4:58 pm

    Security/Risk purity versus moral purity–and both (potentially) lead to paralysis.

  10. compassioninpolitics / Feb 13 2013 4:59 pm

    I wonder if Bennets book has anything on deontology versus utility.

    What literary references are possible?

    What historical references are possible?

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