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Summary: This case expounds on the distinction between a pragmatic justification and a moral one.
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About "Categorical Imperative (NEG)"
This case expounds on the distinction between a pragmatic justification and a moral one. Using Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative as its moral framework, this case posits that preemptive warfare will never be morally justified, even though it is sometimes advantageous. The thesis of this argument is not that preemptive warfare should never be utilized to save lives, but simply that it is not morally a good thing. To use an example, some claim that although atomic bombs helped to win WWII, they were still immoral because of their deadly footprint on innocent Japanese civilians. Essentially, the bombs were not morally justified but were still pragmatically justified because of the need for an Allied victory in the war.
In order to run this case well, an understanding of the Categorical Imperative is essential. This theory, founded by Immanuel Kant, states that if something is moral once, it will always be moral in the future. In other words, it posits that if lying is immoral in one circumstance, it will never be morally justified in any other circumstance. In response to the theory, many have brought up that if a lie would save someone’s life, that lie would consequently become morally justified. However, while that argument sounds reasonable, it falls victim to the dangerous idea that the end justifies the means. If the consequences of an action determine its morality, then morality becomes obsolete, because actions will often have unforeseen consequences not detectable at the time. Even though that’s an effective response, it would be very wise to do additional research on the Categorical Imperative and arguments against it before deciding to run this case. While there is certainly some controversy about the legitimacy of the Categorical Imperative, it is still a creative moral framework that, if defended masterfully, will serve you well in debate rounds.
However, in running this case, it is vital to understand that the Categorical Imperative does not alone disprove the resolution; it only provides a framework that makes disproving it easier. Once you defend Kant’s theory, you must then explain why preemptive warfare is conceptually immoral, despite its positive results. You are not claiming that preemptive warfare doesn’t achieve useful benefits; you are arguing that those benefits don’t make the action itself moral. To put it another way, you are claiming that the results of something do not necessarily justify the means used to achieve it. I could become rich by robbing a few banks, but just because I choose to give that money to the poor doesn’t make that theft moral. The consequences of an action do not determine its morality.
The main difficulty with this case will be simplifying it for the judge. It’s easy to use big terms such as “deontological ethics” or “consequentialism,” but speaking that language will only hurt the narrative you are trying to construct. Before each tournament, figure out new ways to express your ideas in simple language while still maintaining their logical legitimacy. If you do that successfully and diligently research these moral theories, this case will be hard to beat.
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Nathaniel has been competing in speech and debate for 5 years, and is thrilled to be writing for the Monument Publishing Team! He enthusiastically believes that debate prepares students to be beacons of truth in a dark and convoluted society. Nathaniel has competed in all 3 forms of debate, including parliamentary, which he placed 3rd in at NITOC 2017.