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Debate Guide: If we could only save one child

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Pedophile Trolley Dilemma. For antis, the answer might be to switch the points and kill the child to save him from inevitable molestation by the men who are stalking him

Negative utilitarianism:

If this drastic action only saves one child, we will know that it has been worthwhile!

It seems right to assume minors are at greater risk of being harmed by "sexual" contact, even if it is statistically improbable. What is wrong with applying a "precautionary principle"?

This argument fails, as it dismisses out of hand the many documented adverse effects of the moral/policy scheme surrounding "sexual" offenses.

While the evidentiary basis for an assumption of harm is also lacking, we should first address the poor philosophical foundations of this argument. Ask your opponent how "harm" (however small) overrides all possible benefit? What is this "essence" of harm, wherein even the slightest risk is enough to consider the topic off-limits? Why does this principle only apply to sex your opponent disapproves of, and moreover, why (bar moralism) is it applied with such zeal to sex?

Could your opponent not construct a sophisticated argument against virtually anything, using "negative utilitarianism"? Cycling for leisure on a highway might then be deemed grossly immoral, as would traveling for holidays or even contact sports - should more sedate alternatives be considered and accepted.

Why not apply a more realistic "neutral" principle to our utilitarian/consequentialist approach. A missed benefit, we might then argue, is just as negative as a burden of harm when one assumes they are of equal and opposing magnitudes and permanence.

"Utilitarian" arguments are often short-sighted

Even before considering the merit of libertarian alternatives, one inherent flaw of many "utilitarian arguments", is their failure to see beyond a singular snapshot in time.

The benefits described above include not only missed positive sexual experiences but missed learning opportunities which may or may not have been perceived as positive at the time. With application to sex, earlier learning opportunities might help prevent more critical negative experiences in early adulthood, be they related to lack of experience, social shame or other factors. With reference to most aspects of our lives, we already accept that avoiding all possible harms at the expense of any likely rewards, is not only unrealistic, but a sign of mental ill-health.

This might be why western societies generally permit young women to partake in sexual activity from as young as 14-18, despite the fact that since long ago, women recalling their sexual debut have tended to routinely view it in a negative light, even when it took place in their 20s!

See also