An exercise in respect


January 26th


This time, the Philodemic Society turned their attention to the subject of economics for the second Merrick debate of the semester to discuss Resolved: The United States should adopt a Universal Basic Income. Although coined “the dismal science”, this debate was anything but. On the Affirmation was Chancellor Asha Thanki (SFS ‘17) of Missouri and opposite her was our Librarian Mr. Philip Ma (SFS ‘17) of New York.


Taking the floor first, Chancellor Thanki began by stating that most of the low-level, minimum wage jobs in America are rapidly being replaced by work that needs increasingly higher levels of skill and education. Moving to dispel any fears of this being an economics debate, she briefly outlined the framing. UBI was defined as cash-income given out to people on an individual, but limited basis. Aditionally, the discussion of implementation would have to focus on the present as there is little knowledge of what it looks like in the long term. Continuing on full force, Chancellor Thanki described the current detrimental nature of the US’ current network of patchwork welfare programs that leave people vulnerable to income and poverty gaps, and are so complex that affected groups are not even aware of which programs they qualify for. The question she posed to the floor was this: What is a more moral welfare system? For her, it is clear that UBI was the answer. Putting it in place, would not only give poor people more capital ownership in an often ruthlessly capitalist society that leaves the poor behind, but would also remove the stigma that surrounds welfare and its recipients. “We are all receiving something from our government,” she asserted and therefore there is no reason to not give people the chance to do more than just focus on basic survival. The Affirmation focuses on the fact that poor people should not be barred from the opportunity to do more with their skills and talents because of their circumstances if something can be done about it. As for cost, Chancellor Thanki made it clear that any implementation of UBI could not be based off the current system, and costs would have to account of for a system overhaul. Closing her keynote, our Chancellor concluded by warning the floor not to make “laziness” apart of their negation speeches; UBI, she asserted, wouldn’t make people lazy because those that make minimum wage still make every effort to look for work.


For Mr. Ma the “big issue” of the Negation was that UBI fails to account for regional differences in the United States, and would therefore result in unequal subsidization. It also leaves out the disabled or the elderly who are not able to work, and would not be able to sufficiently live off UBI’s cash-income system. He forcefully contended that women would suffer the most from the resulting unequal labor division in households, and that the current welfare system-although imperfect-has done much to reduce poverty amongst Americans. Mr. Ma cited the large transactions costs of UBI, and that at its most feasible UBI would require that key government programs-like PBS and the Army Corp of Engineers-to be taken away. Furthermore, citing the work of housewives as an example, he argued that “UBI does not tie social goods with proper levels of compensation”. Finally, in a counter to Chancellor Thanki’s point about the stigma around welfare, Mr. Ma claimed that done right the means test required by American welfare programs is not inherently demeaning-the people administering the test, and not the system, make it condescending implying that issue is a fixable problem.


Ms. Weissman kicked off the floor speeches on the Affirmation, and argued that the moral component of UBI was the most important because it lifted poorer people up so that they could work and would dispel the notion that they have to scrape by to provide for their families. Additionally, it would reduce government bureaucracy and allow people to “go out and choose jobs that they want”. Ms. Griffin pushed back against the idea that the paternalism inherent to the welfare system will be eliminated. She felt that UBI wouldn’t address the demonization of the poor, and was troubled by all the key government that would be eliminated. In true Philodemic style, Ms. Greene did not disappoint by mentioning a relevant episode of the West Wing and argued that UBI is the best form of welfare because “I think Americans know how to spend their money”. Mr. Marrow however took umbrage at this and stated that “I don’t trust people to spend their own money”. He compared UBI to cash, and the current welfare system to a gift card. In his view, the latter is better than the former because it is a targeted program that lives little room for personal abuses. Ms. Cooke reinforced Ms. Green’s earlier notion about trusting other Americans spending habits, and called Mr. Marrow’s gift card example “patronizing”.


Ms. Hu provided some credence to the ever-maligned Mr. Marrow’s argument by pointing out that studies have shown that when given a windfall of cash, people naturally want to engage in more leisure time. And although the seeming simplicity of UBI is a seductively powerful solution, it would be a mistake to try and solve a complicated problem like welfare with a simple solution. Ms. Fisher pushed back and argued that UBI is a regular income, not a windfall, and therefore people would treat it as they would a regular budget. She also noted that there is “nothing wrong with women wanting to spend less time in the work-force”, and UBI is much better than the current welfare system. Mr. Pullin picked up on Ms. Hu’s previous speech and stated that people can’t be given a lump sum of cash and expected to spend responsibly because they work because they have to, and not because they want to. Taking the floor, Vice President Reilly sought to move the floor away from arguments over whether to trust people or not, and pushed the debate toward the ethical reasons of “why” we should support UBI.


Using a personal anecdote, Ms. Finkenthal argued that UBI doesn’t provide equal opportunity, and cited the presence of food deserts in many impoverished areas. Incensed, she continued on by noting that UBI would give still give money to billionaires and “I don’t want billionaires to get this money”. Mr. Grocki claimed in his speech that the greatest benefit of UBI would that it would depoliticize welfare, allow for a better allocation of human capital, and give poor people the opportunity to achieve their dreams which would thereby enrich American society as a whole. Ms. Logan first dispelled the idea on the floor that billionaires receiving UBI benefits would not be taxed at their current level, and then expressed her concern for how children-a group highly by poverty in American-would fit into UBI’s system. Mr. Zeugel focused his speech on the middle class and argued that since they could best make use of the money, much of the stigma around welfare could be removed.


Mr. Austin Parentau (COL ‘19) began the non-member portion on the negation, and pushed back against Chancellor Thanki earlier claim in her keynote that people are presently being forced out their job because of technical advances the workforce. Mr. Sam Appel (COL ‘20) contended that some jobs are becoming obsolete, and we can see the proof in the everyday life of an average American. Addressing the earlier argument about gift cards, he argued that “people don’t get gift cards, but they need them”. After inadvertently calling out Mr. Marrow for his cell-phone use Mr. Matt Maury (COL ‘19) asked the floor how to best help the people who have the most need, like drug addicts. On the Affirmation, Ms. Grace Wu (COL ’20) restated Vice President Reilly’s earlier point that the debate shouldn’t be about trusting people, because we should trust people on principle. Mr. Andrew Schneider (COL ‘19) noted that the United States has the patchwork system for a reason. Closing out non-member speeches strong, Mr. Jack Morten (COL ‘20) energetically argued that people’s worth should not be tied to their occupation and that UBI also mean “universal basic respect”.


Re-starting non-member speaking time, Mr. Soltis expressed questionable admiration for Paul Ryan, and expressed his problem with the regional differences that UBI would not account for. On the Aff, Mr. Mullaney argued that UBI would not be incompatible with giving power back to localities, and that UBI could act as the bootstraps that people need to pull themselves up. Mr. Hinck voiced his doubt about the power of UBI to dispel stigmas around poverty because “government programs don’t change how we view poor people”. Injecting compassion into the debate, Ms. Freidmann articulated a need for a more accessible system, while President Ernst remained unconvinced that UBI was any better than the welfare system in place now.  Mr. McCarthy asked “why does the system have to be conditional”, and Mr. Perez-Reyes didn’t see the point in a system that gave money to wealthier people while taxing them like they never had it. He argued that the end result of UBI would ultimately be harmful class differentiation.


Sounding vaguely like someone’s father, Mr. Fletcher addressed Mr. Perez-Reyes argued that welfare and education were completely separate systems, and a universal system allows everyone to participate. Mr. Harden pointed out that the poverty problem is cultural, and that cannot be fixed by the simple implementation of another government program. Mr. Rinaudo argued that most people in the room had a for-sure safety net in their lives that poor people do not have. For him the question was “when we have an inequality, is it something that is wrong with the government or inherent within human nature”, and the answer was that the United States should “stand for something better”.


Reclaiming the floor for his closing keynote, Mr. Ma by arguing that people should be able to be integrated into a future that they can contribute to and reap benefits from. Only 1.5 % of welfare costs are administrative, and that the negation still believes in giving cash to the poor. He further contended that negation believes in cash to the poor, but also recognized the importance of work and the need for a more flexible need-based program. Finally, Mr. Ma charged the affirmation with treating the poor as a unit, while the negation sees that the state should treat people as just that-people.


Chancellor Thanki began by contending that UBI is all the more advantageous because it gives people more leisure time which would include more schooling and skills training. In her view, UBI was more than just welfare; it is a way of respecting the basic humanity of every American citizen. Addressing the floor’s struggle with trusting people with their money, Chancellor Thanki asked the floor “how do I know better than you that you don’t need more income”, suggesting that it would be condescending to assume that people not only don’t know how to manage their money, but that we also must inherently know what they do and do not need. Pushing back against Mr. Ma’s characterization of the Affirmation, she argued that poverty gap is what treats people as units, and that as far as taxation goes billionaires would be the ones funding the scheme. Concluding her speech, the Chancellor dismissed the juxtaposition of equality and fairness, and insisted that “equality is fairness”!


With 25 negating, 4 abstaining, and 17 affirming, this resolution was negated! The Merrick point distribution was as follows:


Mr. Ma-5 points

Mr. Mullaney-4 points

Chancellor Thanki-3 points

Mr. Rinaudo-2 points

Ms. Finkenthal and Mr. Perez-Reyes-1 point


Thanks to both Chancellor Thanki and Mr. Ma for a decidedly engaging, non-dreary debate!




Symone Wilson

Who can you trust?

Uncategorized, Weekly Debates

January 19th



The Society kicked off the start of Merrick Season with the timely topic of Resolved: The press cannot be trusted with self-regulation. It was a battle that pitted Philadelphian against Philadelphian with Mr. Jawad Pullin (COL ’18 Pennsylvania) on the Affirmation and Ms. Molly Cooke (COL ’19 Pennsylvania) on the Negation. Making their inductions were Mr. Zach Thompson (SFS ’20 of California) on the Affirmation and on the Negation was Ms. Sara Castiglia (COL ’18 Massachusetts).


Mr. Thompson began by describing the press as one of the fundamental tenants of democracy. He followed up by making the claim that “we are in a post-fact, post truth era” in part because of the rapid rate through which information is now transmitted through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. With a note of cynicism, Mr. Thompson described the press as a business and that their primary concern is how much money they can make. For him, the fault seemed to lie with the consumer and their inherent desire for news that is quick and easy regardless to accuracy. The thread that seemed constant through his keynote was Mr. Thompson’s concern that in an age of easy consumption, the press is more focused on sensationalism for shock-value instead of the responsible reporting news to the public. He concluded with the sentiment that “without any external regulation the press won’t survive”.


Opening the negation’s argument, Ms. Castiglia started her keynote by arguing that people trust her based upon who she is, and that the press is the same way in that we inherently have trust in the press because our country’s history is largely filled with independent, and accurate reporting. For her, the issue lay with both the consumer and the producer, in that the consumer’s demand for quick news required a learning curve from the producer. To back up her argument, she used the example of the Rolling Stone incident at UVA in which the magazine falsely reported an incident of sexual assault at the university. The editor later apologized, and for Ms. Castiglia this is a good instance in which the press was able to regulate themselves. Continuing on, Ms. Castiglia proceed to explain the alternative to the press regulating themselves was a scary situation in which what they reported was restricted by other agencies who might have insidious motivations to control the flow of information. She concluded on a high-note with the statement “the press always has and they always will self-regulate”.


Mr. Pullin countered Ms. Castiglia with the statement that “with liberty comes duty”. Using the recent election cycle as an example, he made the point that excepting one notable time, the media made no significant attempt to point out President Trump’s lies during the campaign season. He continued that the desserts of entertainment have been confused with the truth, which let important issues such as the African-American experience with police brutality left by the wayside. Finally, Mr. Pullin noted that polarizing perspectives have replaced facts, and that the press could not regulate itself because the situation is past the point of simple regulation.


Closing out the opening keynotes, Ms. Cooke began by stating that as both a future journalist and anarchist it is in fact possible for the press to regulate themselves. Using the Scandinavian press as a global example, Ms. Cooke argued that they were the ideal of a well-functioning system of self-regulation. Refuting the Affirmation’s claims of irresponsibility by the press, she claimed that the nature of the American press is politically charged and that they are always in constant dialogue with the public that it serves. Charging forward, Ms. Cooke asserted that as consumers we have the right to demand true news. The current state of the press is one that guarantees an evolving process that makes active attempts to respond to the needs of its readers. She concluded that “there is no institution more self-reflective than the American press”.


Kicking off the Affirmation’s floor speeches with a casual tone, Ms. Provost responded that in order for that press to be able to self-regulate “education is the answer, man”! Incredulous, Ms. Weissman argued that the onus is on the consumer to demand the truth, because the contrary to Mr. Pullin’s keynote the press did fact check Donald Trump. In her view, both the consumer and the mainstream media have the responsibility to regulate each other. Ms. Hu countered that it would be a mistake to limit the “press” to just the mainstream media when there are other sources of news such as blogs, or online newspapers like Breitbart news. Facing only the oversight of internal auditors, the press have incentives to only present viewers what they want to hear, and for that reason an external regulator is necessary.


Speaking on the Negation, Ms. Ludtke raised the question of who exactly would make up an external regulatory body, excepting the media themselves, and the effectiveness of calling on an outside force to help regulate the press. Answering Ms. Ludtke’s question, Mr. Marrow maintained that, following a capitalist model, the federal government could serve as an outside regulator if there was enough consumer demand for it, Vice-President Reilly pushed back against Mr. Marrow by arguing that “capitalism does not like regulation”, and it is our job as consumers to critique the media when necessary. Ms. Little pointed out the importance of the wording of the resolution, and concluded that who made up the external body did not matter as long as there was one available.


Mr. Jack Bronfield (COL ’20) opened the brief non-member speaking time on the Negation, and argued that allowing the press to be regulated by a government run by Donald Trump was a worse alternative, and that government intervention would only engender more distrust of the media. On the Affirmation, Ms. Elizabeth Gleyzer (COL ’20) asserted that most people believe what is told to them unquestioningly, and therefore the majority of Americans cannot take on the burden required of a responsible consumer anyway.


Mr. Rinaudo recommenced member speeches by announcing that the press as the institution we know it today has only existed for the past 100 years or so, and that while the first wave of newspapers may be biased, government intrusion would not help anything. With a tone of self-deprecation, Ms. Bujwid admitted that she still gets lured in by fake news, and asked “why haven’t they [the press] self-regulated already”? This debate happened to feature the glorious (or perhaps inglorious) return of Mr. Harden just in the nick of time for Merrick Season. He argued that while journalists might have standards, the nature of the media market has changed and that regulation of the industry would only cause the layers to catalyze and create fake news. Pressing back on the Affirmation, Chancellor Thanki responded that even the epitome of media ideals cannot be trusted, and distrust of the press only makes sense when so many people rely on news to make their decisions. Mr. Garrett Hinck pushed back that both sides of the spectrum are at fault, and that change will only occur if we as the public change ourselves and our values.


Mr. Perez-Reyes going back to the roots of his Russian studies, he used the example of the Bolsheviks in Soviet Russia to explain that if it’s not possible to be successful producing accurate news, it only makes sense to start creating fake news. Mr. Reinking asserted that even though it is state run the BBC, the state can only use the press and not the media as a propaganda tool. Mr. Fletcher argued that there are good and bad regulators, and the press needs and deserves an outside watchdog. Ms. Li pointed out that the press often acts as an amplifier to bring society’s problems to attention, and that it can be fixed by attacking the root causes. Ms. Oster took on a skeptical view, and repeated Mr. Fletcher’s assertion that the press deserves an outside regulator.


Mr. McCarthy used his experience as a news editor to dispel the notion on the floor that journalists do not inherently seek the truth. In his view, the serious competition of investigative journalism is enough of a regulation device. Mr. Ma argued that nobody can regulate the press because it reflects the people that it itself cannot control. Mr. Bies reminded the floor that we have to trust the press, and finishing out the night’s floor speeches Ms. Spira asserted that the press has the choice of what they do and do not report, and that choice is based upon their morals not society’s.


Ms. Cooke began closing keynotes by dispelling the floor’s assertions that Donald Trump was somehow equitable to the press. Evoking American values, she argued that the Negation stands for the maintaining of those values, and idealistically maintained that the vast majority of the press is still made up of small news outlets that are still committed to the truth. She concluded with the statement that “in any locked room there are always the truths and a fact. News is the fact”.


Mr. Pullin claimed that past government regulations have chipped away any illusion of media diversity, and that inflammatory “yellow journalism” led to wars such as the Iraq and US-Spanish wars. He also pushed back against the idea of the ideal “Scandinavian fallacy”, because in the United States the primary market is for racist news. Finally, Mr. Pullin finished by stating that Trump won’t be president forever, and the outsider regulator doesn’t have to be political.


Closing out the Negation speeches, Ms. Castiglia expressed her concern about the ultimate freedom of the press and the consequences of government intrusion upon the day-to-day media reporting. For her, the different press outlets checking each other is enough to provide an effective check against any current and future excesses.


Mr. Thompson ended the night by asserting that outside regulators are necessary because “we need to be told when we are wrong”. Continuing on he argued that journalists can in fact regulate the press, and an outside watchdog doesn’t mean returning to a subscription-based model. He concluded that the American values of free speech are in danger when there is a press that no-one trusts.


The Merrick points awarded are as follows:


5 points: Mr. Ma

4 points: Chancellor Thanki

3 points: Mr. Rinaudo

2 points: Mr. Harden

1 point: Mr. Fletcher


With a vote of 23 affirming, 3 abstaining, and 22 negating, this resolution is affirmed!


A hearty congratulation to Ms. Castiglia and Mr. Thompson for a wonderful induction debate.




Symone Wilson

Progress? Never heard of it.

Weekly Debates


January 12th


Coming back from an all too short winter break, the Society kicked off the new semester to debate Resolved: Historical figures should be judged by the moral standards of their times. The affirmation and the negation pitted two of our newly-returned members from abroad Mr. Andrew Boling (SFS’ 18 California) against Ms. Sarah Griffin (SFS’18 New York).


After a few good natured jokes at Mr. Marrow’s expense, Mr. Boling opened the night with a general framing. For purposes of the debate, the “moral standards” part of the resolution would refer to the general moral beliefs that were related to the context of the time. The floor could also safely assume that it was not morally impermissible to judge the morality of different individuals. Pushing forward, Mr. Boling made the case that the decisions that historical figures make can never be completely divorced from the times in which they lived. Central to the affirmation’s argument was the claim that just as people are shaped by their environments, the moral standards by which they live are also shaped by the culture and context of time. Mr. Boling rounded out his opening keynote by reminding the floor that applying our present moral standards to would unfairly rob historical figures, both good and bad, over their nuances.


Responding on the negation, Ms. Griffin conceded that she realized that it is almost impossible to look at the actions from people in the past without the context of the times in which they lived. However, she refuted the notion that the negation cheats historical figures of the chance to seen in their fullest light. The affirmation, she firmly argued, supported the complicit acceptance that some of history’s most horrible events-like slavery-could simply be explained away by blaming historical context. The negation repudiated the idea of moral relativism in favor of moral progression, and Ms. Griffin contended that while specific norms may change, what ultimately decides what is right and what is wrong do not. She concluded that “moral relativism is inherently insufficient”, and that while it may not be easy to not apply our own moral to the past, we must in order to prevent the justification of historical atrocities.


Opening the floor with his usual bombast Mr. Marrow used the example of William Lloyd Garrison to argue that what constitutes morality is neither omniscient or universal and that we must “judge people with, not by, the standards of their time”. Ms. Landau and later Mr. Easterling both mentioned that surrounding morality is power, and it is the people in power that decide what is and what is not moral. Ms. Landau asserted that “ignoring suffering is wrong, regardless of the times”. However, Ms. Hu agreed with Mr. Marrow’s earlier sentiments that external environment matters in how we form our opinions.


Ms. Little turned the debate toward progress by arguing that the common thread of of history is progress and that the negation celebrates that progress. Taking the opposite view, Mr. Estes replied that the idea that history advances toward progress is a myth and that what “progress” is largely subjective. Ms. Ludtke evoked film star Gene Kelly’s treatment of his co-star Debbie Reynolds to argue that “a judgment is not a blanket statement” and that using modern moral standards allows us to understand the good and bad of historical individuals and their actions. In a short speech on the affirmation Mr. Bies got up to remind the floor to “think about Jesuit values”. Chancellor Thanki got up to assert that people today can understand historical figures while still seeing their immoralities, to which Mr. Lark (SFS ’20) immediately countered that you have to separate the evaluation of the person versus the evaluation of their legacy and do otherwise would ignore that we have the benefit of hindsight that people in the past did not have.


Following age-old society tradition, Vice-President Reilly brought up the principles of Kant to argue that moral beliefs transcend time and that there is no point of looking at historical figures if we cannot derive certain values to apply to our own lives. Mr. Hinck brought up the idea of a “moral heritage” to point out that our judgments of the past contribute to who we are in the present. With her usual flair Ms. Spira reminded everyone that the resolution refers to the popular moral standards of the time, and that affirmation ignores historical figures that defied popular morality and moral relativism to do things that are judged historically just today. Using the historical climate of Soviet Russia, Mr. Perez-Reyes brought the discussion back to power, and argued that morality of people’s choices is affected by who has the power to determine what morality is. Meanwhile, Ms. Weissman derided the idea that modernity was one set of values and that the morals of people in the present were any better than people in the past.


Starting off non-member speaking time Mr. Leonardo Mendez (SFS ’19) and Ms. Julia Pinney (COL ’20) made the argument that the values of the past and the present intersect, and that judging historical figures with anything but the standards of their times makes a caricature of the values that we can derive from history. Mr. Jack Morten (COL ’20) repeated the sentiment that “we can understand why people did certain things while still judging them” and Mr. Jack Brownfield (COL ’20) responded that because morality is in a constant flux historic characters will never satisfy our modern moral standards. Finishing non-member speeches Mr. Sam Appel (COL ’20) argued that the standing on the negation would reduce complacency and create a better world.


Mr. Ma re-opened member speaking by stating that previous speeches had mistaken tendencies versus certainties, and explored the idea that luck has a place in deciding morality. Ms. Young prompted the floor to think about “how it was judging people”, while Mr. Fletcher asserted that we can judge is people are moral or not, and questioned the existence of a popular moral standard in the first place. Using a three-pronged approach, Ms. Li pointed out that the affirmation can acknowledge the existence of a historical moral standard without saying that it’s right. She also noted that when our values and the values of the past come into conflict we should use the past to guide our judgments.


Taking his first prerogative as president, President Ernst argued that absolute knowledge without practical application is useless, and that “understand is not an action, and it by itself does nothing”. Responding to President Ernst, Ms. Fischer disagreed by maintaining the practice understanding allows us to “see and appreciate the whole person”. Injecting some humor, Mr. Rinaudo asked “why do we judge people at all”, to which he responded with the assertion that “we judge because we think we are better than we are”. However, keeping that in mind, he reminded the floor that just because people are complicated and flawed does not mean we can condemn them by using our standards today. With a hint of exasperation, Ms. Oster responded that “history is not a series of constant changes”, and does not therefore arc towards progress. Our esteemed alumni Mr. David Edgar made a brief return to the Philodemic floor to argue that if it is possible for judgment to take place in the Judeo-Christian religion, then there is no reason to not judge historical figures by the standards of our time. Taking to the floor to correct Mr. Edgar and make the last floor speech of the night, Ms. Bjwd used her religious identity as a Catholic to dispute the notion that you cannot be religious and sit on the affirmation.


In her ending keynote, Ms. Griffin adopted a tone of learning and self-reflection. Despite the floor’s ideological wrestling with the existence of historical progress, Ms. Griffin stated that she hoped that “we in the present are judged to be immoral in the future, because that might indicate progress”. She concluded by arguing that we “cannot view history as something that we have already learned from”, because we in the present have the privilege to learn from the mistakes of the past in order to make a better world.


Mr. Boling ended his speech by imploring the floor to remember that past figures did not have the moral hindsight of our own times. Taking some points from previous affirmation floor speeches, Mr. Boling made the distinction between the evaluation of historical individuals and the legacies that they leave. He asserted that “we evaluate individuals and not legacies because legacies presume hindsight”, and that we need to view history as a spiral of events rather than a linear moral progression to allow for a reconciliation with the past.


With a vote of 19 affirming, 7 abstaining, and 23 negating, this resolution was negated!


Congratulations to President Ernst for a wonderful first time in the chair, and a hearty welcome back to all members of the society that were abroad.




Symone Wilson

Naughty No More: On the Ethics of a Supernatural Surveillance State

Weekly Debates

December 1

Riggs Library

On the first of December, the Philodemic gathered one final time for our annual Christmas debate in order to discuss an issue of the utmost importance: “Resolved: The naughty list should be declassified.” On the affirmation was Mr. Alejandro Perez-Reyes (COL ’17) of Virginia, and, making his induction, Mr. Ali Shahbaz (SFS ’20) of Pakistan. On the negation was Mr. Matthew Harden (COL ’20) of North Carolina, and, making his induction, Mr. Peter Hamilton (COL ’20) of Washington.

Mr. Shahbaz began the evening with an extended attack on the character of Saint Nick: from his “creepy” watch over children, to his obesity-encouraging cookie obsession, to his refusal to permit Mrs. Claus to have a first name, why does Santa get the right to determine who is naughty? Either the list is untrustworthy, in which case declassifying it could destroy the cult of personality surrounding Mr. Claus, or it is perfectly trustworthy, in which case it could replace the entire court system with perfect fidelity.

Undaunted, Mr. Hamilton arose to deliver a defense of secrecy. In the first place, if the list is accurate, declassification would overlook concerns about privacy and due process. And in the second place, if the list is wrong, then, in addition to serving no purpose, declassification would drive neighbors into suspicion of one another. Either way, declassification should not be a goal. Also worth noting—for some reason, Santa apparently fights the patriarchy.

Back on the affirmation, Mr. Perez-Reyes exhorted the Philodemic to avoid serious arguments. He posited that declassification of the naughty list could make dating much easier by becoming, in effect, the “ultimate Tinder profile.” He continued by pointing out that the naughty list is a great tool for helicopter parents, and argued that declassification would fight the inherent corruption of the Santo-judiciary system. Ending his speech, Mr. Perez-Reyes stated that “if you found anything logically consistent in this speech, thank you for trying so hard.”

“My goal tonight is to expose the sheer awkwardness that would result from declassifying the naughty list,” began Mr. Harden. By permitting everyone to know the naughty actions of their friends and family, declassification would plunge society into awkward chaos. Moreover, classification allows Santa to engage in gift-giving without undermining the world order. Besides, Christmas is about friends and family, not the pursuit of questions which should not be answered.

Mr. Easterling began floor “speeches” with what was more condom distribution than speech, asking Philodemicians not to spread anything around during their post-debate revelry. Ms. Reilly questioned whether or not Santa kink-shames. Ms. Li declared that declassifying the naughty list would eliminate philosophy majors by answering all ethical questions (although Ms. Provo wasn’t convinced that ethics could be done away with quite so easily). Ms. Bujwid cast further aspersions on Santa’s character by profiling him as a bully thanks to his treatment of Rudolph. Ms. Haag pointed out that declassification would make lie-detecting rather easy. Mr. Marrow accused Santa of communism and stated that “Trump proves anyone can be president, and Mr. Hamilton proves anyone can be a member of the Philodemic!” Mr. Spagnuolo returned to our Society to briefly wax poetic before stepping outside for a smoke. President Thanki, after welcoming Mr. Shahbaz and Mr. Hamilton to the Society, stated of her mentee: “Mr. Hamilton, you are the only Trump supporter I know, and I am proud to know only one.” Mr. Hinck congratulated Ms. Cuppari for her impending graduation, stating: “Rosa, forever to be known for tiramisu—we will miss your wit, your charm, and your worldview.” (Huzzah!) Mr. Bies accused Santa of literally being Satan—unlike the Catholic Church, which only identifies saints, Santa opts to determine who is a sinner. Sergeant Ludtke rose, having already defended the President’s chair from Ms. Li and Ms. Provo, to thank the Society for her tenure as Sergeant.

Opening the non-member speeches, Mr. Jack Townsend (COL ’20) accused Santa of being a capitalist, the epitome of Big Toy. Ms. Rebecca Marrow (SFS ’17) asked the floor to consider the tweet-pocalypse that would spout forth from an enraged Donald Trump if the naughty list were declassified. Mr. Aidan Poling (COL ’20) argued that Santa may be a divine being, but that still does not make him trustworthy. Ms. Diana Chiang (COL ’19) claimed that even though she would be on the naughty list, she is actually a nice person. Mr. Gabirel Hammoud (SFS ’20) stated that he would like the list to be declassified to satisfy his curiosity—being Jewish, he has no other way of knowing which list he is on. Finally, Ms. Grace Wu (COL ’20) posited that “naughtiness” or “niceness” is determined only by one’s own perception of the morality of one’s actions.

Returning to member speeches, Mr. Ernst argued that declassifying the list would permit a set of regulations to help protect “nice guys,” but Ms. Burke retorted that nice guys are sexist and need no protection. Ms. Friedmann maintained that the naughty list is nothing more than a tool to emotionally abuse children, while Ms. Landau stated that her experience hosting Philodemic parties last year gave her an intimate awareness with the naughty list which she wishes she had never had. Vice President Fletcher announced that this debate in fact had a framing, but, as with all good framings, it had been kept classified. Mr. Shuman simply stated that “Santa be damned—you’re all on my nice list.” Mr. Gonzalez arose simply to dispel some wrongful Christmas notions, kindly informing the Philodemic, among other things, that Mrs. Claus does in fact have a first name—it’s Jessica! Ms. Weissman asked the floor if anyone would like their friends to know all of their naughty actions. Mr. Pullin asked why Santa gets the right to decide who is naughty—such a decision ought to be made democratically—yet Ms. Oster questioned what the significance of classification was if the list itself is deemed irrelevant. Ms. Ferris argued that declassification would no longer allow parents to swap out their naughty children’s coal for presents, thus creating an illusion that their children had, in fact, been nice. To end the evening, Ms. Cuppari arose to deliver a beautiful rendition of “You Better Watch Out” with Ms. Reilly and Ms. Cooke.

In his closing keynote, Mr. Harden stated that people, and not eloquence, are what make the Society great, after which he ceded the remainder of his speech to a mysterious character known only as “The Reverend Reverend Doctor Poutine BoJangles,” Mr. Perez-Reyes, after thanking a multitude of people from President Thanki down to the lay Philodemicians, thanked the Society for its traditions. Mr. Hamilton argued that the Philodemic allows us to set aside the stresses of Georgetown, and that all of us ought to be proud to be Philodemicians. Mr. Shahbaz, after asking the Society to vote with their heart, reminded everyone of one important fact: Santa is always watching.

With a vote of 32 affirming, 5 abstaining, and 18 negating, our final resolution of the semester was affirmed! I cannot know for sure, but I somewhat suspect that 32 of our Philodemicians may wake up on Christmas morning to lumps of coal.

Philodemic, it has been an honor to serve as your amanuensis. May you all have a wonderful holiday break, and may we all have a wonderful next semester together, drawing ever-nearer as a family.

Huzzah! and, for one last time, eloquentiam libertati devinctam.

Your outgoing amanuensis,

Micah Musser

Barry Goldwater Redux

Weekly Debates

November 17

Philodemic Room

Gathering one last time before Thanksgiving, the Philodemic congregated for the purpose of discussing an old, well-worn quote of Barry Goldwater’s: “Resolved: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” On the affirmation was Ms. Katherine Landau (SFS ’17) of New York, and, making her induction, Ms. Rachel Greene (SFS ’17) of New Jersey. On the negation was Mr. Jonathan Marrow (COL ’18) of New Jersey, and, making her induction, Ms. Sarah Baron (SFS ’20) of Nevada.

Ms. Greene began the night by defining extremism as the subversion of societal norms, a refusal to compromise, and the taking of a maximal stance based upon an underlying ideology; liberty for its part is defined as the extension of rights both positive and negative to all groups. From this definition, it becomes clear that non-violent extremism is a legitimate means to advocate for the extension of liberty: civil rights was entirely advanced through civil disobedience. In essence, the goal of extremism is to ensure that extreme views are not marginalized. From this perspective, extremism is not only tolerable but in fact essential in a well-functioning democracy.

Ms. Baron responded from negation by arguing first that extending freedom to one group inherently removes freedom from another and that extremism makes a societal defense into chaos possible. Ms. Baron held that “liberty is a balancing act, and the tipping of the scales by extremism is a vice.” Uncompromising stances lead to the erosion of the social contract and exacerbate the possibility of social implosion. Finally, quoting her opponent Ms. Landau, Ms. Baron argued that “if you just take a few steps back and listen to people, you will realize we all want the same thing: liberty.”

Rising to respond to herself, Ms. Landau argued that the “point” of extremism is to present a statement, not necessarily to create a dialogue. Yet presented a statement keeps an issue alive: the extremists in Greenpeace, for instance, are necessary for keeping environmentalism a central issue. Finally, Ms. Landau pointed out that violent extremism is precluded from the definition of extremism in defense of liberty because killing another person generally removes them of some basic liberties.

Mr. Marrow first pointed out that extremism is not equivalent to radicalism: one can hold radical beliefs and still be willing to compromise, while extremism rules out any potential for negotiating. Extremism is always a vice because extremism hoists one ideal above all others and obliterates all else to preserve this ideal. Rather than being extremists, we should “seek compromise zealously,” holding radical beliefs if necessary but always being willing to negotiate. Finally, Mr. Marrow argued that understanding the rise of Trump requires seeing the dangers of extremist ideology, which only seeks to tear down institutions.

As floor speeches began, Mr. Eisen stated that “if you’re not an extremist, you’re probably a hedonist.” Ms. Hu criticized extremism for removing the possibility of finding common ground. Ms. Wilson retorted that racial equality was gained through extremism and that extremism will be necessary in Trump’s America. Mr. Musser responded to Ms. Landau’s Greenpeace example by arguing that environmental extremism has done far more to anger rural communities than it has to galvanize environmental consciousness among already-liberal circles. Ms. Fisher argued that some issues simply cannot be compromised on—“you can’t compromise on abortion because you can’t half-have an abortion.” Ms. Cooke made the comment that “liberty is my vice.” Ms. Haag, citing the influence of Malcolm X, argued that if any case of extremism in defense of liberty can be tolerated, then we must stand on the affirmation. Yet Mr. Ma retorted that Malcolm X was a radical—not an extremist—because he did not ignore other perspectives and was not absolutist.

As floor speeches began, Mr. Marshall Webb (SFS ’20) attacked compromise as a virtue because compromise excludes liberty from some people, therefore undermining the whole principle of compromise. Mr. Austin Parenteau (SFS ’19) argued that extremism fails morally—because fighting injustice with injustice perpetuates injustice—as well as tactically—because using violence turns the public against your position. Mr. Andrew Schneider (COL ’19) responded that using moderation accepts the inherent legitimacy of a system. On the negation, Ms. Tehya Corona (COL ’20) argued that some things which are viewed as immoral may in fact be right—but extremism does not fall into that category.

Returning to member speaking time, Mr. Kim stated that “as a radical, I am terrified by extremism.” Mr. Kleinman discussed his time working on a campaign and argued that his candidates lost due to an over-zealous extremist messaging. Mr. Shuman referenced the Attica prison riot as a clash of two extremist groups in which only one group—the prisoners—were extremists in the defense of liberty. Mr. Perez-Reyes lamented the sorry state of a Philodemic which upholds the extremism. Our Society has had many radicals but few extremists—when did we stop listening to one another? Ms. Aleman, speaking in a typical Aleman condition, made a few comments about how Trump represents extremism before sitting down. Vice President Fletcher stated that extremism need not be violent, but that extremism legitimates violence and is therefore a vice. Responding to Mr. Perez-Reyes, Chancellor Whelan argued that eloquence and extremism are not mutually exclusive, and that extremist actions done with charity and understanding of the other are not vices. Ms. Oster retorted that history remembers methods, not ideals. To close the floor speeches, Sergeant Ludtke posited that the time to refuse compromise is precisely when one’s liberty is at stake because compromise gives another the authority to demean you.

As closing keynotes began, Mr. Marrow criticized those liberals who would condemn Republicans for refusing to compromise with President Obama yet now insist that extremism can be a virtue. He once again articulated a difference between radicals and extremists, arguing that even the Founding Fathers—radical as they may have been—acknowledged that altering the status quo requires a high burden of proof. Ending his speech, Mr. Marrow exhorted us all to be “passionate centrists.” Also on the negation, Ms. Baron argued that, for the purposes of this debate, extremism must succeed in promoting liberty to be considered legitimate. Extremism seeks to separate off dissenters; therefore, discussion, and not extremism, brings awareness to situations of injustice.

On the affirmation, Ms. Landau argued that extremism becomes legitimate when one’s voice has been denied. Citing the Civil Rights Movement, Ms. Landau argued that extremism is not delegitimized by unpleasant backlash—in fact, extremism is most necessary in these situations, as it can create a “new normal.” In short, the preservation of liberties demands extremism. Ms. Greene continued the argument by stating that extremism need not involve violence. Responding to Mr. Ma, Ms. Greene pointing out that Malcolm X did in fact consider himself and extremist. Finally, when people refuse to see the humanity in others, extremism becomes a legitimate response to injustice. 

With a vote of 16 affirming and 12 negating, this resolution was affirmed! I, for one, am quite sure that Barry Goldwater would have been proud to know that the Philodemic Society stands in agreement with him.


Micah Musser

A Debate of Smoke and Mirrors, Light on the Mirrors

Weekly Debates

Philodemic Room

November 10, 2016

Turning its eye towards campus issues, the Philodemic Society convened on November 10 to debate “Resolved: Georgetown should be a smoke-free campus,” a debate inspired by the student referendum on the issue scheduled in early December. On the affirmation was Vice President Alden Fletcher (SFS ’17) of New York, and, making her induction, Ms. Madison Pravecek (SFS ’19) of Uruguay. On the negation was Mr. Hunter Estes (SFS ’19) of Maryland, and, making his induction, Mr. Bret Reinking (SFS ’19) of New York.

Ms. Pravecek opened the debate by stating that, as with the framing of the upcoming referendum, a smoke-free campus would prohibit all forms of tobacco, including chewing tobacco. She provided three reasons why this would be desirable: first, banning smoking improves public health for the Georgetown community; second, smoking decreases cognitive performance and harms the ability of smokers to be academically motivated students; and finally, permitting smoking conflicts with the Jesuit value of cura personalis. Vice President Fletcher continued the affirmation’s argument by arguing that this debate pits the liberty of smokers to smoke against the liberty of the broader Georgetown community to have free air; in such a situation, the liberties of the majority must be privileged. In fact, smoking infringes upon bodily autonomy by forcing nearby students to inhale unclean air and can therefore be rightfully banned.

On the negation, Mr. Reinking pointed out that, by banning chewing tobacco as well as cigarettes, the affirmation overreached issues of public health and bodily autonomy of non-smokers. Furthermore, a ban on smoking would negatively harm students with tobacco addictions, forcing such students out into the neighborhood to smoke, which would both put students at greater risk and further strain university-neighborhood relations. As an alternative, Mr. Reinking proposed the creation of special zones for smoking instead of a full ban. Mr. Estes began by stating that this debate threw his libertarian tendencies into conflict with his conservative desire for moral imposition. However, he pointed out that smoking can serve an important role for academics as a stress release. On the issue of public health, Mr. Estes questioned whether unhealthy foods should also be banned. And, as a final point, Mr. Estes reminded the society that a ban on smoking would disproportionately harm the marginalized communities of international students and University employees.

Opening floor speeches by referencing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Ms. Provo stated that the most basic need of all is for physical health, which therefore legitimates the smoking ban as a means of foisting healthiness upon others.

As the next speaker emerged from the shadows of our grand doorway, the entire Society was surprised—some with delight, others with terror—to see an old face emerge: that of the illustrious alum Mr. William Muran. As he began his speech, Mr. Muran pulled a pipe from deep within his jacket pocket and flourished it for all to see, declaring for all to hear: “Nobody can tell me what to do with my body!” Mr. Muran reveled for a moment in his role as an advocate for choice, then moved on to discuss the ways in which a smoking ban would harm international students. When smoking is an integral part of the culture of many international students, is it not culturally discriminatory to ban smoking? In fact—in the words of Mr. Muran himself, leveled directly against the affirmation and all of its forces—“what’s happening here is a nativist impulse against international students.” Oh, how terrifying a thought to be accused of nativism! Having delivered his speech to raucous knocks, Mr. Muran disappeared once more into the night.

Mr. Marrow nonetheless responded that sometimes a bit of nativism is a good thing when other cultures are simply in the wrong; furthermore, banning smoking might create headaches for a few addicts, but at least they won’t have lung cancer. Ms. Weissman responded that enforcement of current rules would essentially solve the problem, further stating that we should not impose our morals on others. Mr. Musgrave rose to declare that “as a conservative white male, I do occasionally smoke a cigar in celebration.” Mr. Mullaney, responding to Ms. Pravecek’s invocation of cura personalis, declared that this Jesuit value requires caring for addicts as much as the average Georgetown student—we must consider the smoker’s perspective in this debate. However, as Mr. Ernst replied, we should create institutions to help those with smoking addictions, not to tolerate their addictions. Ms. Reilly, speaking as an asthmatic, argued that a smoking ban would forcing smokers inside dorms, making life even more difficult for asthmatics. Finally, as the hour drew to a close, Sergeant Ludtke stated that third-hand smoke is as much a problem to be avoided as second-hand smoke.

As nonmember speeches began, Mr. Richard Howell (SFS ’19) argued that people have not been discussing the broadness and unenforceable nature of the proposed smoking ban. Ms. Sydney Sanders (SFS ’20) argued that the smoking ban, extended over time, would prompt students with tobacco addictions to not even apply to Georgetown in the first place. Mr. Julian Lark (SFS ’20) questioned why e-cigarettes and nicotine patches—the best alternatives for tobacco addicts—were also included in the smoking ban. And yet Mr. Ryan James (SFS ’20) retorted that smoking is a health hazard both to the student body and to smokers themselves and therefore ought not to be condoned. Ms. Rebecca Morrow (SFS ’17) argued that college is predicated on the freedom to expand one’s experiences; therefore, smoking must be permitted. Mr. Haik Voskerchian (COL ’19) stated that addictions need not be tolerated if they harm others. Mr. Jack Morton (COL ’20) agreed that smoking can help people cope and should not be banned absent a substantially compelling reason.

Returning to member speaking time, Mr. Soltis urged caution on the issue of smoking’s health effects, pointing out that a mere 97% of scientists regard smoking as harmful for one’s health. Mr. Perez-Reyes asked the floor to remove tobacco from Georgetown’s campus so as to “love the sinner but hate the sin,” but President Thanki retorted that banning nicotine patches would make it impossible to effectively love the sinner. Ms. Spira responded that loving a person can mean preventing them from harming themselves, and that the smoking ban should therefore be enacted. Yet Mr. Harden replied that we do not truly grow and learn the errors of our behaviors if we are simply prohibited from engaging in negative actions. Mr. Gonzalez argued that a smoking ban would make a positive statement about the values of the University, yet Mr. Ma replied that cigars are a catalyst for conversation and education and therefore have a necessary place on a college campus. Ms. Friedmann pointed out that allowing smokers on campus raises the health insurance premiums for all students. Finally, to close the floor speeches, Mr. Bies clarified a major point by pointing out that nicotine patches are not, in fact, included in the smoking ban.

Beginning the closing keynotes, Mr. Estes stated that the negation does not support zero regulations, but that it rather is opposed to a full ban. Considering that smoking is technically already banned on most of campus, our enforcement, and not our policies, create the problems related to campus smoking. Mr. Estes finished by saying that governments need not ban everything that carry a risk of harm. Also on the negation, Mr. Reinking argued that a smoking ban would shame and ostracize tobacco addicts, and that even with a ban, addicts will either smoke off campus or in dorms. The smoking ban does not prioritize public health; rather, it deprives addicts of needed resources.

Vice President Fletcher responded to a few points. First, Georgetown still has reasonably clean air because only 1/5 of students smoke—yet without policy action, this could increase in the future. Second, a ban sends a message to potential applicants that Georgetown prioritizes the health of its students. Finally, not all those with smoking addictions necessarily view this ban as a problem if they are looking to break their addictions. Ms. Pravecek pointed out both that smoking bans exist around the world (so the burden it would impose on international students is overblown) and that the referendum will not exist in a vacuum—Georgetown will provide resources to addicts who need them. To conclude the night, Ms. Pravecek argued that college is a place of experimentation, but not all experimentation is good, and we should not accept experimentation in self-harming activities.

With a vote of 19 affirming, 1 abstaining, and 22 negating, this resolution was negated. Following the debate, a great number of Philodemicians retired outside to enjoy celebratory cigars (or at least one assumes).


Micah Musser

Democracy: A Memoir

Weekly Debates

November 3, 2016

Philodemic Room

As the leaves fell and Election Day neared, the Philodemic gathered once more to debate again. This week’s topic: “Resolved: Voter abstention is morally permissible.” On the affirmation, and making his induction, Mr. Itua Uduebo (SFS ’17) of Lagos, Nigeria. On the negation, President Asha Thanki (SFS ’17) of Missouri.

Opening the evening, Mr. Uduebo defined “voter abstention” as “an active decision to not vote without coercion” and “morally permissible” as “socially acceptable.” Mr. Uduebo argued that voting is the practice of expressing one’s views and that voter abstention is a legitimate means of expressing one’s own views. Mr. Uduebo identified two scenarios in which voter abstention is permissible: either as a refusal to participate in a democratic systems as a protest against corruption, poor institutions, or so on; or, alternatively, as a refusal to vote for the lesser of two evils—because the lesser of two evils is still evil. Mr. Uduebo closed by arguing that if the essence of democracy is the power of the individual, then using power through abstention is a legitimate means of exercising democratic power.

President Thanki rose to respond, beginning by stating that using write-ins count as a legitimate form of voting for the purposes of this debate. President Thanki then defined an alternative moral framework for this debate: morally, we are obligated to minimize injustice, or at least our role in it. To that end, we must always vote for the lesser of two evils and cannot choose to abstain simply on principle. She further responded to Mr. Uduebo that we can use a system with which we disagree in order to express our discontent with that system. Furthermore, two things occur when we opt out of voting: first, wrongdoings are made psychologically distant, thus negating our sense of responsibility in the outcome; and second, we forget that all of our actions, including abstention, work to impose values on others—our principles cannot exist in vacuum.

Opening the night of floor speeches, Mr. Musser referenced the principle of conscientious objection developed by his Mennonite ancestors and argued that it is wrong to require somebody to vote if they consider all options to be fundamentally morally wrong. Mr. Zuegel retorted that voters participate in far more than just a presidential election. Mr. Marrow arose to clarify that morality does not mean social acceptance, that being stupid and naive is not the same as being immoral, and that absolute morality is not the same as doing the most good. In response, Ms. Cuppari stated that some Philodemicians are in fact utilitarian. Mr. Ernst expanded the purview of the affirmation by arguing that abstention is justified not only when the candidates are lacking, but also when the structure itself is lacking. Ms. Haag responded that inaction legitimates systems of oppression.

Mr. Mullaney highlighted how informed Georgetown students are relative to the average voter and suggested that our moral obligation is not to vote, but rather to not vote poorly—therefore, an uninformed voter can morally choose to not vote. Ms. Weissman retorted that this is a problem with our education system, not a statement about the morality of not voting. Ms. Li replied that we should not take away the right of low-information voters to not vote by demanding that they make a decision in the absence of knowledge.

Mr. Hinck cited the fact that many have died for our right to vote, and that we ought not flee from that duty, instead taking it upon ourselves to become educated. Mr. Gonzalez argued that, although a moral law should not be based on the 2016 election, nonetheless it must still apply in 2016—and in the context of 2016, not voting seems like a very attractive option. However, Mr. Pullin argued that we cannot divorce our responsibility to society from our decision to not vote—to seek justice for all, we must all vote. Nonetheless, Mr. Easterling replied that if society does not care about an individual’s needs, we cannot expect the individual to care altruistically about society. Mr. McCarthy retorted that throwing one’s hands up is not a valid response to unjust systems.

As she began our nonmember speaking portion, Ms. Elizabeth Gleyzer (COL ’20) argued that citizens must have the choice to opt out of the social contract by not voting. Ms. Diana Chiang (COL ’19) reminded the Society of Desmond Tutu’s statement that to remain neutral in times of crisis is to choose the side of the oppressor. Mr. Jack Brownfield (COL ’20) held the position that “voting for the lesser of two evils” holds candidates only to the standard of being marginally less evil than their opponent. Mr. Yashovardhan Diwan (COL ’17) argued that the incentive to rebel against an unjust system is selfish, even if the complaints are legitimate.

As the Society resumed member speeches, Mr. Ma pointed out that in some non-presidential elections, there is simply not enough information available on candidates to make informed decisions. Mr. Perez-Reyes responded that upholding the subjective freedom of all to determine the essence of their existence requires voting so as to promote the liberties of others. Mr. Tu defended abstention as a means of avoiding the obsession with politics that plagues our society. Ms. Friedmann dismissed arguments about uninformed voting, claiming that such arguments upheld literacy tests as a means of discrimination. Mr. Harden pointed out that in most elections, neither candidate will have perfect stances on social issues, and the affirmation requires everyone to vote for someone, even if both candidates seek disenfranchisement of different groups of voters. But Mr. Rinaudo pointed out that the affirmation is not asking everyone to vote for one of the two major party candidates, but rather simply to vote.

Vice President Fletcher reminded the floor that the negation is not restricting the right of low-information voters to vote, but rather saying that low-information voters who opt not to vote are not morally vicious. Ms. Fisher, citing her identity as a single-issue voter regarding abortion, stated that there is always one candidate who is better than the other. Ms. Cooke discussed the privilege of living in Pennsylvania (huzzah!) from a political perspective. Mr. Aidan Poling (COL ’20) stated that the majority of people who do not vote abstain for practical, and not deeply felt moral, reasons. Finally, Mr. Shuman argued that in some elections, there simply is no good option.

 Returning to the dais, President Thanki made a number of points. First, to change a system, we must advocate through the system. Second, advocating for our beliefs and voting do not present an either/or scenario: we ought to do both. Next, we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves in order to vote, and there is no cutoff for voting based on education level. Finally, not voting means being complicit in injustices which the system seeks to perpetuate. Mr. Uduebo retorted that voting in a morally bankrupt system tacitly accepts the evil of the system. Consequentialism and practicality are not appropriate moral frameworks for assessing voting decisions. The negation holds that someone who does not vote is morally bankruptanything short of this declaration puts someone on the affirmation. Finally, by upholding the power of the people to exercise their freedom to vote however they want to, the affirmation upholds the authentic nature of democracy.

With a vote of 20 affirming, 3 abstaining, and 23 negating, this resolution was negated. Evidently, the Society holds the 45% of all eligible voters who did not vote in the 2016 election in the utmost level of moral condemnation.


Micah Musser