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RSS WinstonC

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2 points

A democratic republic is still a democracy. The fact that a majority (sort of because it's a representative democracy) decide the laws doesn't mean that we should stop treating people as individuals rather than exemplars of an identity group.

WinstonC(1117) Clarified
1 point

I'll use your format as I appreciate that it must be hard to read mine when the messages get so long. Apologies for the week delay, I have no free time presently (and it might get worse...).

I think the primary issue is that I draw a distinction between subjective and relative.

While subjective would fit too (relative to a subject), I appreciate that it does make sense to distinguish between relative to a subject and "made up" by a subject.

I recognize that things can be objectively important/significant to someone else, but not to me.

I do too. Does the fact that something objectively matters relative to someone matter? How would you describe something which has consequences that are significant? You seem to lack a word to describe this.

I do not recognize any situation wherein a thing can be important or significant to no one at all. You haven’t articulated a circumstance wherein it is possible.

I appreciate that an interaction with consciousness is necessary for things to have significant consequences, as I've said before. You would appear to be saying that "it doesn't matter that it matters to someone else". I believe this is is because you don't have a way of describing the fact that things can have significant consequences.

What makes any effect significant is perspective. A molecular bond is significant from an atomic perspective, but insignificant from an astronomical perspective, and perhaps vice verse. All effects are significant from some perspective, though not all

You began explaining "A star implosion can be a significant event in the lifeless cosmos around it." To which I asked "what's the difference between a significant effect and a regular effect?" I don't understand your explanation here. How is a molecular bond significant from an atomic perspective? What is the definition of significance that you're using here?

Killing and stealing reduces your chances of long term survival because people go to great lengths to insure you cannot get away with it.

I disagree, if you are in the ruling class (particularly historically), you can get away with a good amount of evil before the backlash you receive threatens you. I'm not denying that there are two sides to such behavior, however the reward can certainly outweigh the risk. For example, if you had a relatively small (compared to citizens) number of slaves in a country the risk of repercussions would be minuscule and would be outweighed by the reward. Ancient China, Rome, Egypt etc. are good examples of this. We could also say the same for invading small states as a larger state.

Do you think life is better in the presence of organized crime? Of course not.

Agreed for the non-criminals.

Do you think life is better in the presence of organized crime? Of course not. Life isn’t better for any involved, including the criminals.

How so? Often criminals are poor and unskilled and only able to thrive through their activities, in many cases they rely on crime for survival too.

Your hand (like your consciousness) is factually, objectively important to you.

Only because of it's impact on your consciousness, if you weren't conscious, or if it didn't impact your consciousness at all, it would hold no importance. If the person was not conscious but still had a brain, they would think "this hand is important to me" but it wouldn't actually be important because it would not impact a consciousness.

It is not factually objectively important to unknown-person in unknown-place whose death you still have not grieved, illustrating my point. Though everything draws importance from an impact on consciousness, not all things that impact a particular consciousness are important to all consciousness... Neither is your consciousness significant to unknown-person. Your consciousness is removed from the equation of their consciousness...Not significant to the nobody of consciousness itself...When I say you cannot value the conscious experience of a being completely unknown to and unaffecting you, I mean it is unimportant to you....

You keep making this point, but I never disputed it. I 100% agree. Once again I would say that you don't seem to have a way to describe the fact that things can have significant consequences. This would imply that ultimately nothing matters.

Do you believe that sunlight is insignificant to a tree? Is it unimportant?

Important for the tree's survival, sure. How would it be significant to the tree though? If the tree isn't conscious why would it matter that the tree survives?

Things are significant to life. Things are important to life.

How so? I believe that it is consciousness, not life, that makes things significant. I can appreciate that things can be important to life's survival, but life's survival doesn't matter unless it's conscious, or ultimately has some impact on consciousness.

Nothing is important to a rock.

Things can be important to the existence of a rock as a rock though, for instance it's important, for the rock to continue to be a rock, that you do not grind it into sand.

Yes the ruling classes. Everyone lives better today, including the ruling classes. Middle class people of today live better than the ruling classes of the middle ages.

Because of technological advancement. While I believe that technological advancement has been in part because of liberalism, it's also been due to the removal of religious barriers to scientific progress, the scientific method etc. Moreover, accretion of money, knowledge, power etc. accelerates as one gains more of it. This is because the existing money/knowledge/power etc. can be used to accumulate even more money/knowledge/power etc. I can explain this in more detail but I believe you are already aware of this fact.

It is not in your best interest to get away with being a tyrant.

Since granting greater freedoms to citizens appears to drive progress, I can actually agree with this. The reason I bring up tyranny is because it's something I would consider immoral, but you're right, when looking at things in the very long term it's better to be libertarian. I don't see why you couldn't make a segment of the population slaves and retain the benefits of liberal democracy while gaining the benefits of slavery, though (like the early USA). Alternatively, you could kill all the mentally ill people that can't contribute to society.

I either die by not breathing anymore, or I die by not being who I thought I was in a world that the new me made torturous to live in... Dying well is sometimes the epitome of thriving

Evolutionarily speaking, this isn't the case, isn't your morality evolutionarily based? Naturally you are driven to preserve yourself and family at all costs, which is why it's so difficult to commit suicide.

particularly when the alternative is dying torturously with the same outcome slightly delayed.

If that's actually the case then sure, but how do you know if it's the case? I'm not so sure that people are that likely to commit suicide as a result of committing evil acts. For one thing it's incredibly evolutionarily maladaptive.

given we are social animals, your genetic line is best served when protected by the social circle whose good will you have engendered with your courageous act.

If you're certain that this is the case then sure, however many good deeds and noble sacrifices see no reward. Sometimes, in fact, they garner punishment. Malevolent societies may view your sacrifice for your friend as negative, for instance if the friend was a Kulak in communist Russia. In this case, sacrificing yourself for your friend would negatively effect your family.

It is not in your long term interests to live in misery and ultimately commit suicide because you have done something awful that appeared to be in your short term interests.

Generally speaking, it is in your long term evolutionary interests not to die, at almost any cost. There needs to be substantial benefit to your family for it to make evolutionary sense (in no small part because you can provide them benefits yourself when alive). As for in your interests relative to your conscious experience I'd certainly agree.

It is rather more in your interests to live happy right up to the end where you die well.

Not evolutionarily speaking.

You cannot know the quality of any consciousness but your own.

Not with 100�curacy, however we could with complete information. To be clear, I'm defining what the most moral result (preferable state) is here, rather than the ethic (how to act to achieve the result).

You cannot know the nature of another’s experience.

You can to a good degree of accuracy with empathy. The same as our other senses, we never get a 100�curate representation of what we are sensing but it is good enough. Further, we can simply ask them, as they know it.

If you were asked to kill your child to save the lives of 2 wealthy, kind hearted philanthropists who are unknown to you, would you do it?

No, because I don't know how things play out in the case that I kill my child or let the two philanthropists live. Since I have no clue what effect my actions would have and have no way to compare the potential results, I do not commit a proximate evil in service of an ultimate good, because I don't even know that there will be an ultimate good. As I said before, committing proximately evil acts in service of an ultimate good is something that must be done with great care (if at all!), because for all you know you may not even achieve the ultimate good you were striving for, making things worse in the process. If I knew for certain (impossible) that killing my child would make the universe a vastly better place for the rest of time then yes, I'd do it. Of course, I'd never be able to attain anything close to such certainty, however. For the most part, people who commit proximately evil acts in service of an ultimate good are narcissistically vastly overestimating their ability to model the infinitely complex reality that we live in.

some virtues call for one’s death in certain circumstances. In such circumstances it is one’s interests to die.

I'm not sure that this entirely explains courage, in part because courage is more often used to risk death for reward, rather than to outright sacrifice oneself. I appreciate that it makes evolutionary sense to sacrifice oneself in some situations though.

It is important to the given consciousness in existence.

Yet without consciousness nothing has significant consequences; if consciousness ceased to exist everything else may as well cease to exist too.

There is no such thing as a consciousness that does not belong to an entity. This is another of our disagreements. When you say “consciousness itself” and you do not mean any individuals consciousness, I read “nobody’s consciousness”...There is no consciousness as such that belongs to no one in particular.

If I speak of gravity as a phenomenon, I do not need to be speaking of a particular gravitational field. If I speak of consciousness as a phenomenon, I also do not need to be speaking of a particular consciousness.

This choice is being made by a conscious entity.

When I ask "If we were to choose between allowing consciousness to continue to exist and removing consciousness entirely from reality, does the correct judgement rely on context?". I'm not trying to bring your consciousness into the equation, I'm simply trying to show you that a reality where consciousness exists is categorically better than a reality where consciousness doesn't exist. A universe without consciousness (or potential for future consciousness) may as well not exist.

The point I am making is that things only have significant consequence if they effect th consciousness of someone, and they are objectively important because of the significance to that someone.

So does it not matter that your suffering matters to you? Also, when you say "objectively important" you are speaking relative to the individual (or so I believe), whereas I am not. I believe that my previous paragraph shows why it is important that consciousness exists, without being relative to any individual.

Most of the ends of taxation cannot justify taxation itself.

If we didn't have taxation, we wouldn't have a professional police force or army. Are you arguing that having a police force and army is not a moral good?

Furthermore, if taxation is wrong, then we are doing it wrong (I expect we are).

Surely taking something by force from somebody else (that wasn't originally stolen) is a proximate evil?

If everyone assumed that means justify ends, then the only evils we would encounter would be those of honest error.

Well, there are the evils in-built into reality (e.g. natural disasters, predators, disease), and human selfishness and malevolence, which should not be underestimated. I do appreciate that people holding such beliefs often add to the suffering in the world though, as discussed before.

In order for it to work, everyone would have to have significantly reduced empathetic tendencies, which would result in a very non-humanistic outcome.

It would work regardless, people would simply object because they are empathetic, it wouldn't be less effective in removing sadists from society at large.

It’s not that animal suffering shouldn’t be a factor, it’s that it is a factor only because we evolved to feel this way, which is beneficial to us. Feeling this way is beneficial to humanity.

What evolutionary benefit is there to regarding animal suffering as significant?

I feel bad solely because of the fact that I am vicariously experiencing the mouse’s suffering.

Interesting, so the consequences for the mouse don't hold significance to you?

To demonstrate the truth of this, consider that the suffering of creatures that you are less able to empathize with elicits less of an emotional response, even though their suffering is still of significant consequence to them.

I'm aware of this but this is why I distinguish between how I feel and what I can rationally understand. I may have less of an emotional response, however I still anticipate that their suffering has similar consequences to mine.

Morality being a code of conduct, implicit or explicit

I'd say ethics are the codes of conduct for attaining moral result. What I've spoken of here I'd define as moral result (what ethics should strive to attain), not an ethic itself. Of course, we can use this information to inform our ethic, though.

Neither empathy, nor how we feel about information collected through empathy, is a sufficient foundation for morality.

It's not about how we feel about the data, it's the data itself. If humanity wasn't conscious and incapable of attaining consciousness, what purpose would there be to our survival? What would be the point?

The reason traits persist in an evolutionary process is because of the advantage they provide, whatever those advantages may be.

Not "the" advantage, but rather "an" advantage. Just like how adaptive traits, like depression, have disadvantages that are not the reason for their evolution, traits can also have advantages that are not the reason that they evolved.

Not the only reason, but the fundamental reason.

Other than in the interests if the self, what's the other reason to be good to others?

...It is not simply that self-interest, properly understood, is good, it is that self-interest is a fact.

I agree with this, however I am an altruist rather than an egoist for reasons I am sure you are by now all too familiar with.

But those others exist relative to my consciousness, which is my entire universe. I cannot regard the universe of your experience with the same value as the universe I inhabit, which is my ultimate value.

I don't disagree with what you're saying at all. However, one can detach themselves to an extent from their subjective (relative to the self) view of the world and see that, objectively speaking, your conscious experience is equally important to mine.

When people successfully deny the human self-interested nature, they can neither act to properly benefit their own experience nor that of others.

I agree if you mean in terms of acknowledging it and acting accordingly. I disagree if you mean by solely acting in one's self-interest. In ancient China, for example, often those who did the right thing (e.g. opposing a tyrant) had their entire family slaughtered. There is no way that such actions served their self-interest, understood from an evolutionary perspective.

1 point

"Right, but individuals aren't the cause of laws. It's the majority."

Actually, what makes western liberal democracies great is the fact that they deal with people as individuals, rather than as exemplars of an identity group.

"the majority of women are better at caring for children then men."

Sure, yet some men are better at caring for children than some women.

3 points

Equality under the law makes sense, but to expect equality of outcome is to lack an understanding of the biological differences between men and women. While many differences exist, one that is particularly important is the fact that, in general, males are more thing-oriented and women are more person-oriented (Source 1). Further, this difference is biological, not social, in nature (Source 2). This difference alone is sufficiently explanatory of why females are underrepresented in STEM fields and overrepresented in professions such as nursing and social care (Source 3).

Sources:

(1) http://bit.ly/2wyfW23

(2) http://bit.ly/2hPXC1c

(3) http://bit.ly/2vTdgPp

1 point

"I think they need to fire her"

A professor shared a political opinion online, albeit at a poor time. Aside from the fact that public political figures are fair game for criticism, why is there a "need" for action?

"hiding behind her employer and using them as "validation by inaction""

This would entail that employers are responsible for every opinion their employees publicly share. Why would this be the case? Just because they won't fire her for her opinion doesn't mean that they hold that opinion.

I appreciate that the left is being hypocritical here and it makes sense to draw attention to this. However, if we hold that it is wrong when the right are fired for sharing their political opinions, we cannot persecute our political opponents in the same way.

2 points

No, the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals are perhaps the primary reason that we aren't at war right now.

1 point

Some long-dead white people did bad things to some long-dead black people, so of course we should take money from uninvolved white people and give it to uninvolved black people.

WinstonC(1117) Clarified
1 point

The vast majority of weapons are semi-automatic, including handguns. Semi-automatic means a gun that fires once when the trigger is pulled and that doesn't have to be reloaded after each shot. It does not mean a fully automatic machine gun.

WinstonC(1117) Clarified
1 point

While this is true as a general trend, trends don't apply to individual cases; there is more variance between individuals than between groups.

WinstonC(1117) Clarified
1 point

To be clear, I'm going to first explain how I conceptualize significance, as it seems to be at the root of our disagreement regarding my moral philosophy. I acknowledge that this is my failure as I find this difficult to articulate. Things can be subjectively deemed significant, for example, you may regard the fact that a particular tarot card was revealed during a fortune reading as significant. The fact that a tarot card was revealed during the reading is not factually significant, however. The fact that the tarot card had such an effect on your consciousness is what holds significance.

"Once observed, we can discuss the significant effect the star had on the surrounding bodies without any knowledge of consciousness within those bodies."

In this context what's the difference between a significant effect and a regular effect? Why is the effect that the star had significant?

"You strike me as the kind of person who would see no moral impropriety with killing a person posing a threat to your survival."

Of course, in limited, direct cases (I wouldn't kill someone for polluting the air, for example). There is a major difference between someone posing a threat to my survival and killing someone to increase my chances of survival. For example, I could kill people in order to take their resources and hence give myself a better chance of survival (assuming I can get away with it).

"Murder, on the other hand, cannot increase one’s chances of survival due to the social nature of human beings and the response the murder elicits from other humans."

Only if you get caught. Organized criminals have procedures to dispose of bodies and so on.

"Using my distinction of terms, suffering not only has significant consequence, but it is important as well."

I'm glad we appear to agree here.

"My point is that your conscious experience, like your hand, holds importance to you, but not to everyone else."

I agree when speaking of subjective importance. When we speak of factual significance, however, everything draws it's significance from an impact on consciousness.

"To restate your sentence using “hands”, it says “Hands themselves are significant, as we are aware because of our own hands. As such, any effect on hands would also be significant.” This is incorrect."

I agree, hands are not significant when consciousness is removed from the equation.

"There is something more fundamental than your conscious experience, your metabolism."

I'm not arguing that conscious experience is fundamental, I'm stating that if we remove consciousness from the equation nothing has significance; if nothing interacts with consciousness then nothing has significance.

"All living things must have a metabolism. There would be no consciousness without it. Does this mean your conscious experience holds second-order significance?"

Life doesn't take any part in the equation of creating significance. Assuming that life is necessary for consciousness, it merely provides the conditions necessary for consciousness to emerge. Life's significance is also second-order significance because it's significance derives entirely from it's relationship with consciousness. The source of the significance isn't life, because life without consciousness has no significance.

"People actually thought this for most of human history, and humanity did not survive and thrive the way we do today."

This is true for humanity as a whole (not the ruling classes), yet our evolved morality puts oneself first, then family, then tribe, etc. I can appreciate that one is at least somewhat programmed to balance how much they benefit themselves with how much they benefit others, though.

"You can objectively know the value of a moral code by how well it allows people to survive and to thrive."

Do you mean objectively valuable to humans?

"If I have to kill my friend in order to live, then I will no longer be the person I was before I killed my friend. That person died with the killing. Nor would my existence be valuable to me knowing that my friend is not here because I am. Thus, it would be more reasonable to end my existence thriving in the knowledge that my friend can go on, rather than continuing my existence in misery as a person I no longer recognize."

I completely agree, however you're still transgressing your moral code as death is the opposite of surviving and thriving. The only way it makes evolutionary sense is if your friend was your child or the mother of your child (some other complex exceptions exist).

"Moral dilemmas are simply situations where individual moral considerations are pitted against social moral considerations, and the answers are often not clear cut."

I think I understand better what you're saying; that one must weigh up individual's interests against those of the group. Does the group's interests matter only insomuch as they affect the individual's interests? In other words, is the consideration of group interests entirely selfishly motivated?

"Does your moral code consider all individual human consciousness’s to be equally valuable as any other individual moral consciousness’s?"

The consciousness itself? Yes, however when we take into account the quality of life that the consciousness will experience and the effect it will have on other consciousnesses, we could differentiate between them.

"If so, then your moral code would demand you kill your kid to save two homeless strangers. An act my code would object to."

I wouldn't say that my moral code demands anything, though what it would prescribe as the best course of action would depend on situational factors such as those given in my previous paragraph. Generally I would expect that a child raised in a good home would have a more positive life than a homeless person (in addition to a longer life expectancy). I also would expect that they would have a more positive impact on other consciousnesses than a homeless person (who presumably is a burden on others). As such, I would say that killing my child to save two homeless people would be the wrong course of action. Note also that while I hold that "the ends justify the means" my moral code makes it incredibly clear that it is incredibly difficult to make such calculations correctly. For one thing, people making these moral calculations never factor in the chances that their scheme may fail and make things worse.

"Because of the many numerous people who got through without actively hunting innocent people."

Everybody had their own unique situations in Nazi Germany. However, I do think that you covered this point with the fact that balancing the needs of the group and individual is part of our evolved morality.

"there is a moral virtue known as courage... he is the kind of person who seems unfazed by continuing his existence as this kind of person."

How do these concepts of courage and actions which sully your existence fit into your moral code?

"No. I am not willing to speculate about what is important to reality itself."

Important to the structure of reality itself was what I meant, if that doesn't make sense under your definition then "it's of significant consequence" that consciousness exists.

"The universe brought about consciousness. But the universe also seemingly takes away each consciousness as well. Thus, I could just as easily argue that it is important to the reality itself that your experience be snuffed out."

Funnily enough, I think this may be true. Life's temporary nature makes it better.

"Yes. Am I allowing the consciousness of a murderer to continue as he kicks down my door? Or am I allowing random guy’s consciousness on the street to continue by not drinking and driving?"

I'm talking about consciousness itself here, not an individual consciousness when I ask "If we were to choose between allowing consciousness to continue to exist and removing consciousness entirely from reality, does the correct judgement rely on context?" Note also that I mean this particular reality.

"I would agree that human consciousness disappearing would be objectively significant to a number of living and non-living things that humans have an impact on."

How can it be significant to a non-living thing?

"The reason for this importance varies with the consciousness in question."

I don't think you understand the point I'm making here; that the effect on consciousness the chemo has is the reason for it's importance. Things only have significant consequence if they effect consciousness, and they are objectively important because they have significant consequence.

"Conscious experience has consequences that are significant to the conscious being having the experience."

Why are the consequences not merely significant? Is the fact that something is consciously experiencing not a significant event? You've said before that things can have a significant effect without the involvement of consciousness.

"We know from our own experience that our own conscious experience is important to ourselves."

I thought we were differentiating between importance and significance? I didn't mention importance in this paragraph.

"You must value your own conscious experience. You cannot possibly value the conscious experience of a being completely unknown and unaffecting you."

We're talking past each other here still. Things can be significant regardless of whether we acknowledge their significance, which you yourself seem to acknowledge as true.

"“The ends justify the means” is most often completely false and is often used by the more powerful of humanities villains to carry out the kinds of programs you suggest."

I mostly agree, as I was saying earlier. It is true, however, that the ends can justify the means, for example, in the case of taxation.

"But if our leaders are of the sort to carry out massive sadistic programs, and we allow it, what else might they attempt?"

I don't see the programs (sadists locked up torturing animals) as sadistic, the goal of sadism is willfully causing suffering for pleasure. The goal of such a program is a reduction in human suffering, albeit at a massive cost in animal suffering, as such it would be more apt to describe as "humanistic". Interestingly, it would probably actually work, too. I'd never condone it, though, because I believe that animal suffering is of significance.

"If it’s going to cure cancer, then that is the kind of aid to humans I am willing to accept."

As someone who has seen some of the horrors of animal experimentation, I'm completely unwilling to submit them to a living hell simply because I can imagine how terrible such an existence would be. This isn't to say that we shouldn't do experiments on animals, it's just that it must be done as humanely as possible while still producing useful data.

"If animal cruelty is indicative of a type of person that is detrimental for humanity, then human benefit stemming from cruelty must be sufficiently beneficial to outweigh the detriment posed by a cruel type of person."

Sure, I just think that the suffering of the animal should be a factor in the decision. Why wouldn't it be?

"Why is suffering bad?"

I acknowledge that suffering is at times necessary and/or beneficial. However, suffering is not always necessary and/or beneficial, and it is in these cases that suffering is bad. The experience of suffering is negative (as you are aware) and, when not providing any benefits, this is a bad thing. Why, in your view, is anything good or bad?

"Of course it does. I’m empathetic. I understand that the mouse is suffering and I feel bad."

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another's position; it allows you to feel, through mirror neurons, what the mouse is feeling. Why does this make you feel bad? Is it solely because of the fact you are vicariously experiencing the mouse's suffering or because it allows you to understand that what is happening is having significant consequences?

"But emotions are not sufficient for morality. Empathizing with the suffering of others is not a sufficient foundation for morality because empathy itself is only one aspect of morality and is derived from the same evolutionary process that created other aspects of morality."

I don't believe that my moral philosophy is emotionally based, and I don't see how the use of empathy to collect data (a sense that, using mirror neurons, allows us to vicariously experience things) makes it so. Vicariously feeling what others are experiencing, as you earlier noted, can be used to harm others; it's simply a sense and not something that compels moral action (though the knowledge it provides may encourage it).

"Traits develop for the advantage they provide, whether the advantage is pleasant or otherwise."

Sure, all I'm saying is that some of the advantages provided may not be the reason the trait evolved. For example, empathy may have developed to help us to hurt others more effectively and helping us to cooperate may have been a coincidental secondary benefit (I'm not saying this is the case).

"This is a perfectly reasonable guiding principle when we live in a social world where others will respond to how we act toward them. Acting in a manner that others approve of is of paramount importance to your long term survival and well-being. Just because it doesn’t feel self serving doesn’t mean it isn’t."

Sure, treating others well does serve the self, and I'd even agree that most people are only good because they fear the consequences of being evil. However you seem to be putting forth the idea that the only reason to be good to others is in the interests of the self. I don't see how one can appreciate the significance of their own conscious experience while not appreciating the significance of the experience of others.

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About Me


"I'm not here to be belligerent. I prefer the dialectic style to classical debate."

Biographical Information
Name: Winston 
Gender: Male
Marital Status: Single
Political Party: Other
Country: United Kingdom

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