Motion balance at the Wageningen Open

doorMascha Bloemer

Motion balance at the Wageningen Open

By Srdjan Miletic

As usual, I won’t write about the social side of the tournament because, frankly, that’s not my area of expertise. What I will write about is the motion, which were as follows:


Motions (as posted by Micheal Dunn):

  • R1: Given the scarcity of donor organs, THW deprioritise substance abusers on organ recipient lists
  • R2: THBT the punishments for murder and manslaughter should be equal
  • R3: This House regrets The Euro
  • R4: TH regrets monogamy
  • Final: THBT the acquisition of wealth, above that needed to meet one’s basic needs, is immoral


I believe that the motions for round 1 and 2, while interesting, were probably unbalanced, favouring Prop and Opp respectively. Here’s why:

Round 1:

This motion requires current substance abusers (A.K.A: addicts from any decent Gov) be given lower priority than non abusers. The basic, obvious arguments I would expect to see from gov are:


  1. (Very Weak) Drug users are less deserving  of organs
    1. Drug users chose to use drugs
    2. Drug users harmed society
  2. Drug users are helped less by organs
    1. Organs should be distributed in such a way as to maximise either [(tenuous claim) life years/(acceptable claim) lives saved]
      1. Justification
        1. We have to adopt some position, neutrality is impossible
        2. We already do this in all other resource allocation problems, i.e:
          1. police
          2. economic subsidies
          3. etc…
        3. Intuitively appealing
          1. Intuition is the only source of morality, no independent grounding is possible
          2. Case: two people. One has a 99% chance of rejecting an organ, the other a 2% chance. All else is equal, I intuitively would give the organ to the person it is more likely to save.
    2. More likely to die earlier, and hence gain less years of life from the organ
      1. More likely to become addicted again
      2. More likely to have serious health problems resulting from addiction.
    3. More likely to reject organ than non-users
      1. Less likely to stick to diet and drug regime required to avoid rejection
      2. Less healthy


The problem with the motion, and the reason I suspect it is unbalanced, is that these arguments are easy to make, intuitively appealing and hard to rebut. Moving to Opp, there are far fewer obvious arguments and even rebuttal of the Gov case, while by no means impossible, is far from simple.

First, rebuttal. Obviously, it is easy to rebut argument 1, drug users being less deserving of life, by pointing out that drug addiction is not a choice or through other means. The real difficulty comes with argument 2, that drug users are less likely to benefit from the organs and that we should allocate organs so as to maximise the amount of lives saved/extended. There are two options here, opp can argue that:

  1. We should not allocate organs so as to save the most lives
  2. Drug users do not benefit less from organs than non-users

The issue with the first line of argument is that I struggle to see an alternate system of allocation that is anywhere near as appealing as allocating to maximise lives saved. The problem with the second argument is that it does not seem possible to entirely rebut the fact that drug abuse leads to a higher risk of organ rejection. While it is possible to frame out certain health risks, for example, by pointing out that STD’s or immune problems acquired due to drug use are already accounted for by the health check’s done to determine rejection risk, it is not possible to frame out the risk of re-addiction and consequent rejection as that is a risk a doctor cannot know of without taking into account past history of substance abuse. Also, framing out the health risks of drug addiction by shoving them into the “general health” requirements can be a bit iffy if Gov are smart enough to argue that certain health risks associated with addiction are not possible to independently verify/discover. Hence, my belief that the motions is likely unbalanced
Round 2:

While this is a round I personally find much more interesting, it is one which seems to be even more unbalanced. This time, I’ll start with the possible opp lines (many of which are lifted from other people in the tournament)

  1. The purpose of the justice system is to provide restitution and closure to victims
    1. victims of intentional crime are, all things equal, more offended than victims of accidents. The same applies to victims families.
  2. The purpose of the justice system is to  punish people who do evil
    1. Intentional harm to another is more evil than unintentional harm
      1. i.e: What’s more evil? 1: carelessly leaving medicine where a child could find it, drink it and die. 2: forcing the same medicine down the child’s throat because you want to kill it.
  3. The purpose of the justice system is to protect society from dangerous people
    1. Man-Slaughterers are less likely to reoffend than those who made a decision to take a life


I find these arguments to be, generally speaking, quite obvious, easy to argue and persuasive. On the other hand, I struggle to see what Gov can argue and most of the obvious lines are comparatively weaker. i.e:

  • (depending on mech) [Longer/Shorter] sentences are better because deterrence/prisons are bad]
    • Rebuttal: Just make sentences generally longer/shorter but not the same
  • Victims are equally offended in both cases
    • Rebuttal: False, intentional crime is more offensive
  • Both crimes are equally evil as both show a disregard for human life
    • Rebuttal: Murder = intentional = far greater disregard
      • i.e: What’s more evil? 1: carelessly leaving medicine where a child could find it, drink it and die. 2: forcing the same medicine down the child’s throat because you want to kill it.
  • There is no free will and morality does not exist?????
    • Rebuttal:
      • Crazy
      • no moral culpability
      • not intuitively plausible
      • (advanced but devastating): no free will = no personhood


Note that this is not to say that it is impossible to argue for Opp. I would be glad to do so and I think many philosophy students or high-level debaters would be capable of doing so. My point is that it seems to be far easier to argue for prop, especially for the average debater in the average room, which leads me to believe that the motion could be unbalanced.

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Mascha Bloemer subscriber