Princeton IV 2021 Final
- Motion: THP a world where individuals treated everybody as though they carry equal moral weight, rather than a world where they treated their surrounding community as though they carry more moral weight
- OG: NUS LN
- OO: Cambridge ST
- Result: OG wins
Nar Sher May, Deputy Prime Minister
Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/kZw07BD5Z-0?t=1011
This debate is transcripted by Debating 404, Jen Taruno.
it is ludicrous to suggest that the colonialism of the entirety of Asia, the creation of race, the destruction of our governance and the the theft of our resources were a result of seeing us as being on the same moral weight as people from the British Empire.
I will posit a few things in this particular debate:
Issue 1: Do people care about others?
Is the moral weight that you ascribe to others going to be a high level or a low level of a moral weight if everyone is seen to be of equal moral weight?
Firstly, we think it’s likely to be high. And the reason for that is because it’s necessary for this debate to function. OO in themselves admit that people have a feeling of reciprocity, fondness and a desire to help others. I Shaun gave you a bunch of reasons why human beings in general are suffering a lot. We don’t like seeing other people who look like us suffering and having to go through pain because we can extrapolate that to ourselves and feel as if that might be problematic for us.
The second thing is just that humans are social creatures. At a point in which we interact with others, we’re also likely to believe that other human beings deserve to be saved. Even if we are to extrapolate the moral way to everyone, presumably that is going to be a high level of valuation that we have for each specific individual and not a low one because that is the immediate intuition that most people would have, and the alternative is no moral weight ascribed to them. This also means that we’re likely to see others as having an equal moral weight to ourselves, which therefore suggests that we externalise our version of suffering to others as well.
So why then do we say this beats the OO’s argument? OO’s first argument rests on the fatal assumption that the world that they are talking about is the same world that we are in right now, which is to say that the reason why we would not be able to weigh everyone similarly is because we’ll be overwhelmed with the fatigue of having to save and solve the world’s problem.
But presumably, in a world in which we have started off seeing everyone as being of equal moral weight, then that is not the same world that we’re in right now. The accumulation and capitalisation of resources within a few concentrated groups is what is denying the rest of the world the capacity to be able to share those resources and making the suffering of the world so overwhelming. The walls, the slavery, the starvation — everything that we have right now is the result of the fact that we don’t see people as being of equal moral weight, and we have allowed for the accumulation and concentration of resources in a few small pockets or groups. That is the reason why it seems like the suffering is overwhelming.
In a world in which everyone was treated the same from the start, this is a world in which we have probably created things like centralised system of aid for other individuals or systems in which we are able to ensure that the transfer of resources happen so that we can prevent suffering from people from other places. This is a place in which things like racism, for example, would not have existed because these kinds of arbitrary markers when it comes to identity, and the ascription or responsibilities and obligations to each individual does not exist.
So therefore, I don’t think it’s going to be overwhelming and incredibly difficult for people to want to help. Not only is this a world in which those kinds of sufferings are not overwhelming, also, this is a world in which we recognise that the billions of people that exist out there are there behind you in order to help you. So therefore, you recognise this to be a collective effort as opposed to the kind of fatigue that we feel now because you feel like you’re an individual and the only one that see others as being equal to you, whereas the rest of the world is chosen to ignore it.
POI CO: Your arguments are being a social creature and aversion to harm show that you’ll feel an obligation to people, but not that obligation will be high. Given the constraints individuals operate on, you have to show that they’ll actually make good decisions so that they will believe there is a decision to be made.
That’s literally the response that I gave you just now. You are saying that the obligation won’t be high because there’ll be a lot for them to do and they’re not going to make great decisions. I’m giving you reasons to suggest that it is a collective effort, that everyone knew that each other is willing to do the same thing.
It doesn’t actually take a lot from each person in order to solve that problem. The world and the earth can well provide for all the people that are living right now to its comfortable degree, but we are not doing it because people like Jeff Bezos, for example, has accumulated sufficient capital that necessarily deprived others.
Right now, if we care only about select pockets of people that are around us, suffering and equality necessarily come at a cost of one another. So if you care most about the people who are around you, groups with more power are likely going to be able to and disproportionately capture resources in a way that creates a deprivation of others. At a point in which everyone seems to be morally equal, then that redistribution can occur. Therefore, it doesn’t become a problem on their side.
Issue 2: How do people make decisions, and why are these things likely to be good?
Presumably, the first thing to note is that people just make decisions that are of a significantly greater amount of compassion. If I see everyone as being of equivalent moral weight to myself, then I’m taking each person’s problems equally seriously as the kind of problems that I would want to make and the kind of suffering that I am likely to go through. This, therefore, suggests that we will have considered opinions from people around the globe to try as best as to maximise the utility of each individual person.
But secondly, I think they ignore the framing and setup that came from Shaun in the first place. A lot of the things that currently prevent our capacity to be able to create these systems of redistribution, such as global networks of help, no longer exists because we don’t have things like strongly defined states or identity groups that disrupt our capacity to be able to share and create negotiation and discussions about how we can help other people that exist in the world around us as well.
The third thing that I want to note, then, is just that if you look at the way that the world has developed so far — things like war, colonialism, xenophobia and racism do not just cut from fear of the of the unknown. But they come from the fear of the unknown backed up by the fact that there is no moral weight ascribed to those individuals because it always comes at the expense of yourself and your family members. Once you take away that specific barrier, the fear of the unknown requires you to also conceptualise of these other people as having a similar capacity to suffer and, therefore, reduces your willingness to act on the fear of the unknown, even to the extent to which those things might be true.
Issue 3: Is it true that we can no longer have fondness and special relationships with other people?
The first thing is that reciprocity no longer really matters because other people are out there to help you as well. Presumably, avoiding suffering is the most important because you can’t feel the loss of benefit, but you can’t feel suffering as well.
But I think what’s important here is that the OO’s case rests on these false equivalents between fondness and moral worth. I can have increased fondness for you in my interaction with you as a human being, and I can like you a lot as a friend and hang out with you. That does not equate to me ascribing or having to ascribe greater moral worth to you.
It’s an intuition pump. Just because I like Shaun a little bit more doesn’t mean I’m going to go out there and kill someone that I like a little bit less than Shaun because the moral weight of this two people are equivalent. So I can still have relationships with others without necessarily having to see them as having different moral weights. So on that count, we think that that particular argument on the OO does not stand either.
At the core of it, we need to realise that the world that we are in, one in which we’re able to make the excuse to ourselves that people have differing moral values and therefore act on it in order to prioritise ourselves and make ourselves relatively better than others, is precisely what’s causing suffering. We’re very happy to propose.