The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/24/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,488 times Debate No: 19464
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
Votes (3)




SocialPinko's ELO Tournament, Round 1
Group A: Lickdafoot vs. Chrysippus

I affirm the resolution: "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

First round is for acceptance only. Details of the tournament can be found here:

I greet my worthy opponent, and thank her for this debate. This will be the first time I've debated Lickdafoot, so I am looking forward to matching wits with her.

Best of luck.


Challenge accepted! Good luck to my opponent.

Sit back, enjoy the debate, and have some popcorn:

Debate Round No. 1


"Plus valet in manibus avis unica fronde duabus"
Werner, Latin Sprichwörter, c. AD 1400

"The things we already have are more valuable than the things we only hope to get.":

"It's better to have a small real advantage than the possibility of a greater one.":

" is better to have something that is certain than take a risk to get more, where you might lose everything.":

In real life, these "birds" correspond to measures of real value, and the whole proverb is a measurement of opportunity cost.

For convenience, I am going to argue this in terms of x and y. X equals the bird in hand, and y equals the potential gain over the current value of bird you possess.
The proverb can now be restated as follows: It is better to retain x than to sacrifice x for the potential to gain x+y.

Obviously the validity of this proverb will vary in the real world; this is a philosophical debate, and cannot be held to quite the same level of proof that a matter of absolute fact can be. I shall argue that in on balance, it is better to retain x than to sacrifice x for the potential to gain x+y; or "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."


A little logic can help sort out the potential outcomes.

The graph involved is simple, assuming even odds of gaining x+y; these are the labels:

Keep = those cases in which x is kept
Risk = those cases in which x is risked to gain x+y
No = those cases in which x+y would not be gained by risking x
Yes = those cases in which x+y would be gained by risking x


Keep.....x .....x-y
Risk ..... 0 ....x+y

In the "No" column, we would not gain x+y by risking x. We stand to lose the value of x.
In the "Yes" column, if we sacrifice x, we will gain x+y. Keeping x carries an opportunity cost of y.

The value for x is immaterial, as long as it is greater than zero: were it a negative number, it would be in our best interest to take any choice that nullified it, whether we gained y or not.

.............No...... Yes
Risk........0....... y-x

Similarly, if it were zero, we would have no incentive to hold on to it and would always risk it on the chance of gaining y.

TL,DR TRANSLATION: The bird you hold must have a real non-zero value.

The value for y is crucial; both in absolute terms, and as a ratio to x.

If y is negative, the graph looks like this:



In this case, keeping x incurs no opportunity cost; risking x either loses it all or the remainder of x -|y|.
If y is negative, under no circumstances is in our benefit to risk x.

Similarly if y = 0, the reward for risking x is gone.

In all cases where y is 0 or has a negative value, then, the proverb is completely accurate.

TL,DR TRANSLATION: The proverb is correct in every case the birds in the bush have a value equal to or less than zero.

For the purposes of debate we will assign y a positive value in all subsequent examples.

To make the results easier to see, in every subsequent graph x will be assigned a value of 10. It can be any positive non-zero value, but 10 is convenient.

There are three main possibilities to consider:
1. when y is significantly smaller than x
2. when y is close to or equal to x
3. when y is significantly bigger than x

In cases where y is significantly smaller:



The opportunity cost for keeping x is very small, while the potential cost of risking x is large with a small potential payoff. In this case, it would not be reasonable to risk x, and the proverb is affirmed.

In cases where y is close to or equal to x:



If you keep x when you would have gained x + y, you incur an opportunity cost roughly equal to x. Risking x at worst loses x; at best gains x2. It would be in your best interest to risk x, all other things being equal.

In cases where Y is significantly greater than x:


Again, risking x would be in your best interest, all other things being equal. Keeping x runs the risk of a negative payout, while the worst that can happen by risking x is losing it, and the reward is great.

Note that, while these last two graphs seem to argue my opponent's side, these are for the cases in which the odds are 1 in 2 of gaining x + y. Life vary rarely offers odds nearly this good.

TL,DR TRANSLATION: As long as the value of the birds in the bush is small, and it's even odds getting them, it isn't worth risking the bird you hold. If their value is greater than the one you hold, and the odds are even, it's worth trying.

So, in all cases where y is smaller than x, the proverb holds. With even odds, if y is larger, you should risk it.

This seems to argue that the proverb is wrong at least as many times as it is right, but life seldom offers us even odds of success. I do not know how to go about finding the average odds for life's opportunities, but those that we might be tempted to undertake typically range from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5; I doubt anyone but the most hardened gamblers would (knowingly) try for any odds longer than that.

If y is close to or equal to x:




In neither case is the risk justified. As the odds grow longer, the fact that you already have x becomes more significant. At 1 in 3, you are two times as likely to lose x as you are to gain 2x. At best, all you can hope for is to break even. But, since you already have x, it is more reasonable to keep it.

At 1 in 5, you are four times as likely to lose x as you are to gain 2x. This is not a reasonable risk to take.

As the odds grow longer, the value of y must increase in order to tempt us to risk x. Note that we do not necessarily know the value of y when we risk x, or even the precise odds; this uncertainty adds to the risk in real life, since we might be wagering x (whose value we know) on 15 to 1 odds for a reward less than x.

Two examples: y = 20 at 1 in 3 odds and y = 20 at 1 in 5 odds.




The first example is barely better than before. Y is twice x, and x + y is three times x, but playing these odds indefinitely yields no net gain.

The second is still unjustifiable. Y must be much larger to make these odds worth the risk. Playing these odds indefinitely will result in a net loss.

To balance increasing odds, the value of y must increase proportionately to cover the increased risk. Keeping x becomes a better proposition as the odds grow longer, no matter the value of y.

TL,DR TRANSLATION: At more realistic odds than 1 in 2, the birds in the bush must be of significantly greater value than the one you hold to be worth the risk.


Only if y is significantly larger than the potential losses is risking x reasonable at odds greater than 1 in 2. If y is equal to x or smaller, the reward is greater to retain x than to risk it. As the odds increase, the necessary value of y increases proportionately.
In real life, one usually cannot be certain of the exact value of y.
In real life, the odds are usually greater than 1 in 2.

:. On balance, it is better to retain x than to risk it for x + y. A bird in the hand really is better than two in the bush.




My opponent's main case revolves around the fact that the two birds in the bush would need to be of significantly greater value than the bird in the hand in order for a risk to pay off. Because the proverb already has already established the variance between amounts, we can deffer to the birds being on average double to the amount of the bird in the hand. If we don't set some form of intrinsic worth into the proverb, we can go back and forth producing multiple examples of someone risking their pasture for one with greener grass, and it ends up being full of manuer. But this is not really what the proverb is about. The proverb is about risking one bird for two birds. We already know that two birds are double the amount of one bird.

The fact that my opponent says the value [of 2 birds] would need to be significantly greater [than 1 bird] in order for a risk to pay off, he already concedes the fact that two birds are more valuable than one bird. We would not risk something for nothing.

Let's think about this in terms that we all can understand, money:

2 dollars are significantly greater than 1 dollar. One dollar cannot even buy you a burger at Mcdonalds, due to tax. A person with two dollars gets to eat while the person with one dollar goes hungry. Would a hungry person risk their one dollar, which can't buy them much, for a chance to gain two dollars, in order to eat?

1,000 dollars are significantly greater than 500 dollars.

2,000,000 dollars are significantly greater than 1,000,000 dollars.

But life is more than money or numbers. Look a bit deeper into this passage and we understand that it is really talking about somoene enjoying what they have rather than demanding more. We could say this equates to greed, but it only equates to greed when we think about material possessions. There are other values in life aside from material possessions.

Payoff of Risks

Let's say you have a decent partner. This partner treats you with a small amount of respect and loyalty. You know they are a good person, though there is a lack in spark and desire. You think of them more as family than as a lover.

But you hope for someone who will give you all that you could ask for. Do you get rid of the current partner and risk being alone to find your soulmate; someone who you can share laughter, happiness, and passion with? I say you do. You do if you want to pursue happiness. If you revel in complacency, you might stick around with the current partner and go deeper and deeper into a funk.

We see that the real focus on this proverb is about hope. We hope for things that we think can bring more joy and fulfillment into our lives. We have no reason to be complacent. We only have one shot at fulfilling our lives.

Faith in something greater makes you happier

The promise of hope is a powerful one. Millions of people have given up their earthly bonds in order to pursue a higher level of evolution. One example of this is Christians and the pursuit of Heaven. In the religion, it is said that those who have little in earth will have much in Heaven. Those that give away their material desires and succumb to God's will shall meet God in Heaven with open arms. This is surely a case of the bush holding a more valuable worth than the hand. Whether or not Heaven exists, or the Christians have it right, is futile. The point is that people will gladly give up what they know to pursue something of greater importance; and they will feel better from it. Someone who searches for something greater is on average more happier than someone who does not. [1]

A few closing quotes on hope and complacency:

"A leader is a dealer in hope." - Napolean Bonaparte

"The ninety and nine are with dreams, content but the hope of the world made new, is the hundredth man who is grimly bent on making those dreams come true." - Edgar Allen Poe

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence" - Helen Keller [3]

"An audience shouldn't listen with complacency." - Peter Davis

"When a great team loses through complacency, it will constantly search for new and more intricate explanations to explain away defeat." - Pat Riley [3]

Final Rebuttal

"On balance, it is better to retain x than to risk it for x + y. A bird in the hand really is better than two in the bush."

This quote by my opponent admits that a bird in the hand is NOT equal to two birds in the bush. Our resolution is that A bird in the hand IS equal to two in the bush.


This proverb is more than materials. It is about risking what one knows for something greater. What is greater holds more value than what we are comfortable with. Two birds in the bush are not worth one in the hand.

Debate Round No. 2


I want to start where my opponent ended. Her last argument: "This quote by my opponent admits that a bird in the hand is NOT equal to two birds in the bush. Our resolution is that A bird in the hand IS equal to two in the bush."

No, it isn't. I never said that x is EQUAL to x+y; for most values of y, that would be a ridiculous statement. Our resolution is that the bird you hold is WORTH the two you do not have. It is a value statement, a weighing of the costs and benefits against the odds.

My opponent says: "The proverb is about risking one bird for two birds. We already know that two birds are double the amount of one bird."

This is a very simplistic and literal way of understanding the proverb. I've given sources to show that the proverb is not talking about literal birds, but about opportunities and advantages. If we are to assume it is only talking about the absolute value of birds, then a) it'd be completely wrong and counter-intuitive, and b) it would only apply to hunting.

Proverbs are meant to boil down a weighty truth about everyday life into a simple memorable aphorism. The good thing you have now is better than all the good things you merely hope to have. Better to enjoy the advantages you have now then to sacrifice them for the mere possibility of gaining more later. A certain good is better than an uncertain better.

I gave dictionary and cultural sources at the beginning to establish that this is the meaning of the proverb; my opponent may not argue a different meaning. She may only argue if it is right or wrong. I contend it is right, and I gave an entire page of logic breaking down all the possibilities, showing how it is right. She did not touch these. I showed how, in the vast majority of cases, it is better to keep what you have, as the odds are against you gaining anything by its sacrifice. She did not dispute my logic, or the conclusion. Disputing the meaning of the proverb would carry more weight if she had given sources equal and opposite to mine, showing a division amongst authorities over the meaning. She did not; there isn't any. I actually had to trim two dictionaries ad a blog post showing further agreement about the accepted meaning of this proverb. I can provide them and more if she continues to dispute the meaning.

Extend all of my R2 arguments.

To take the remainder of my opponent arguments, in order now:

1. As I just pointed out, we aren't necessarily talking about 1:2 ratios here. The "birds in the bush" may be worth anything or nothing, we can't know for sure until we have them. We also have no guarantee that we will get them. As I pointed out, belaboured, and drudged over in R2, the number of cases in which we gain by sacrificing what we have are outnumbered by the cases in we lose everything.

If the odds are 5 to 1, in four cases we lose our bird and gain nothing. Only in one case do we get the other birds.

If the odds are 65 to 1, in 64 cases we'd lose everything.

The hungry man with a dollar may not have much, but he has a dollar. For that dollar he can buy five or six packs of ramen noodles, and have three meals a day for three days. He could save it, rake someone's lawn, earn $10, add his $1 to it, and have $11 to spend at a steakhouse. Or he could buy a lottery ticket for the MEGA Millions California Lottery at the current odds of 1 in 40 of winning anything, 1 in 176 million of winning the jackpot;[1] [2] lose, and have nothing at all. Hey, he had a chance of winning $75,000,000! That's worth sacrificing your only real chance of eating that night, isn't it?

No, it's not. 1 in 176 million is not a reasonable chance to take. 1 in 40 is very long odds to risk anything valuable on. The reasonable thing to do is to keep what you have, not to gamble it on the off-chance that you might get something better.

2. For your love argument, the option always remains that you could try enjoying the companionship of the partner you have, instead of betraying them. You have no real reason to believe that you can find someone else better, and no real reason to be dissatisfied with the one you have (remember, the bird you have is a good thing, not an indifferent one. I went through that already at the beginning of R2. The value of x must be greater than 0 for the proverb to apply).

It could just be your attitude towards your partner that needs to be changed.

Either way, unless you have another prospect, and you are certain of gaining them, and you know that they are better for you than your current, and if and only if you have no sense of loyalty, it may be in your best interests to change partners. Otherwise, better not. A mildly good and pleasant partner is far better than no partner at all, and much better than a slightly better partner that you cannot enjoy because you feel so guilty about being a cad to your last one by dumping them.

Human emotions are tricky things; you can make all the cost-benefit analysis you want, but they don't behave in a strictly logical way. This argument is hardly helping your case. This is the last time I will touch , unless you can set an objective number on human happiness. Subjective feelings about your partner prove nothing about this proverb.

3. Again with the squishy emotions. Hope and happiness are not tangible goods that you can barter your possessions for. Making emotional arguments may sway the voters, but it proves nothing about the resolution, which is clearly talking about opportunities, valuables, and advantages. If giving all your earthly possessions to the poor and sealing yourself up in a hermit's cell brings you utter bliss, it probably will be worth it to you; you cannot argue that this proverb is generally wrong off your isolated case, though. The vast majority of humanity seem to think that they are happiest living a non-ascetic lifestyle; whether they are right or wrong in this is beyond the scope of this debate.

I agree, the bush may well hold something more valuable than you have. My point is, in most cases if you drop what you have to reach for the bush, you end up losing everything and gaining nothing. In those cases, it is better to keep what you have, no matter how good the birds in the bush are.

4. I am going to ignore your quotes. These men had a right to have these opinions, but that is all they are. To attempt to prove this proverb is generally wrong from these quotes is an appeal to authority, and is a fallacious argument.


Finally, let me point out that - because my opponent has chosen to argue against a meaning the proverb does not carry - my entire analysis from last round stands unchallenged. In no way does she attack my logic, she merely asserts that it is irrelevant since the proverbs means something else. I established the meaning of the proverb at the beginning of R2; I gave three different cultural dictionaries, who agreed in all essentials. I ask my opponent to address the current debate topic.


We do not usually know for certain the value of the other birds.
My opponent has given no real argument to dispute this.

We do not usually know the odds of gaining the other birds, but it is usually less than 1 in 2.
My opponent has not disputed this.

My analysis, given last round, shows in most cases it is better to keep what you have, because in most case sacrificing it will not gain anything.
My opponent has not disputed my analysis.

Therefore, in most cases, is is better to keep what you have than to give it up for the possibility of uncertain gain. A bird in the hand is worth (not equal to, but worth) two in the bush.





First, we need to establish that the proverb “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” implies that the worth of these two things match. My opponent claims that something being worth the other does not equate to something being equal to the other.

Worth : having a value of, or equal in value to, as in money. having property to the value or amount of: They are worth millions. [1]

So we see that the proverb does imply that the bird in hand and bush are equal in value. If that was not meant to be the case, the proverb would read “a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush.”

Gained Value

Let’s move on to evaluate some other things in Con’s case. He says that my case was not fitting for the proverb because it is too limiting. Yet it is fitting, because the proverb gives clear guidelines in its structure to follow. You cannot assume that what you have risked will be significantly less or equal to what you might gain. This is because the proverb already tells us that there are two birds, rather than one bird, when the birds have been assigned any other values.

My opponent says that we cannot be sure of the value of something until we have it. This is not necessarily the case. We can use our own judgment to know the value of something to come. For example, we can weigh a future job with our current job. When we go into the interview, we can get a feel for the type of boss. We can ask him how much the pay raise will be. We can ask what the job specifications and workload are. We can ask what the benefits, such as insurance coverage, will be. We can ask the longevity and security of the job. We can get a sense of the atmosphere by observing the current employees. So as you see, we get a pretty clear sense of what it is we are attempting to acquire.

Therefore, based on our own ability to judge, we know when what we see is of higher value than what we might have at the time being. Just like we know two birds are in the bush when only one bird is in the hand.

So what we see will be of greater value than what we currently have. Now the question is whether the risk of losing what we have outweighs what we could potentially gain. This is where my opponent falls short because he assumes that the odds of gaining something can be determined by a set value when this is never the case in life.

Value of Risk

In fact, when a person gives up everything they have to pursue something, the odds are highly in their favor that they will gain that thing. This is the power of going after what you want against the self-defeating compliance with sticking to what you know. When a person sets their mind on something and believes that they will gain it, it becomes their reality. [2]

We also know that life contains an infinite amount of value, and anything we loose can be gained again. So the risk of losing what you have is generally not that great. If one is determined to have something, then the loss of other things are not important. Let’s go back to the job example. One will risk their current job to find one that is more suiting to what they want in life. This has a MUCH greater set of values because it makes one happier and more confident. With happiness about one’s career, there will be an exponential amount of further opportunities to be gained. Risking one thing to gain another opens the door for more things to be gained. Say they loose the job and don’t get the one they applied for either. Well, there are infinite amount of other opportunities to gain jobs. They weren’t happy with the job anyway. They might struggle for a while, and in the worse case, go homeless. It’s not as bad as you think it is when you have a goal that you want to reach. Finding shelter is as simple as finding a friend or finding an empty building. Finding food is a simple as knowing that it will be provided to you. With determination towards a pursuit, it is highly probably to be gained.

On the other side, sticking to what one has when there is the chance for something greater does nothing but make them compliant and depressed. Compliancy decreases ones chance of success. Keep the door closed and you won’t go outside. Stay inside and you stay in darkness. Open the door though, and you walk outside. Walk outside and enjoy the light. Enjoy the light and you find yourself coming to bigger and better doors.

So the question to you readers is, do you want to step up to the plate and go after what CAN and WILL be in your life, or do you want to be stuck in a box with no change and growth?

Debate Round No. 3


In this, the final round, I'm going to briefly re-cap my arguments and show you why you should believe that a bird in the hand is indeed worth more than two in the bush.

In the first plane, I provided several sources which defined the meaning of this proverb in it's proper cultural context.

My opponent did not challenge these definitions, and they are to be taken as authoritative.

I next provided the math, showing in most cases it is actually better to keep what you have, since in most cases giving it up to try for something supposedly greater yields little or no reward. There is a definite risk, and my logic shows that in the majority of cases it does NOT pay off, especially as the odds grow larger than 1 in 2.

My opponent has not challenged the logic I provided R2, instead confining her arguments to the value of the birds in the bush and, in R3, the odds of gaining them. I addressed the value of the other birds already; for example, in R3 I showed by my lottery argument that even when the payoff is millions of times larger than what you pay, the odds can be too long to make it a worthwhile risk. Her assertions that the proverb demands a 1:2 ratio of value for the birds (in R2) or that they are necessarily at least equal (R3) do not match up with reality; I already admitted that the value of the other birds may indeed be much larger than the one you have, but that in most cases we cannot tell for certain until we have them.

At this point in the debate, the only two points that my opponent is seriously disputing are whether we can know the value of the birds in the bush beforehand, and the value of taking the risk in the first place. This last comes the closest to actually disputing the logic I provided R2, but does so by an indirect and fuzzy way, poking at my statement about the odds along the way.

Taking them in order:

Value of Birds:

My opponent states, "We can use our own judgment to know the value of something to come," and then gives the example of a job interview. I do not deny that we can do a certain amount of research before taking risks; it is common sense to find out what you can about a situation before you commit to it. Before commitment, though, our information is necessarily limited.

When you interview for a job, you have a limited amount of time to observe the work environment and the other employees. Oftentimes, the person hiring you will not be your supervisor; the hours you are quoted in the interview may not be fixed; aggressive union dues and similar fees may reduce your quoted income; and you rarely if ever get the chance to meet your co-workers and gain any sort of substantive information about the personalities you will be working with. No company will advertise the fact that their lockers are raided by kleptomaniacs, that the cafeteria food is horribly overpriced and nutritionally worthless, and that the office staff are the most malicious gossips west of the Mississippi. The fact is, you cannot know this about your prospective job until after you change jobs.

Here is a list of other things that you cannot really know the true value of before you commit:

- A spouse. Anyone who thinks they really know their spouse before the honeymoon ends is deluded. Giving up your current spouse for someone you just met is insane.
- A child. In this case, the up-front costs are fairly easy to determine (under normal circumstance, that is), but the life-time costs are impossible to know. Whether they will become a doctor who makes you proud or a sociopath who murders you in your sleep cannot be determined at birth or conception.
- Stock in a company. Even blue-chip companies have gone under without warning; you can do all the calculations you want, but no-one really knows how much a share will be worth in a week.
- Sex. Your partner's skill, the diseases you might catch, the chance of being observed, the possibility that your partner may reveal embarrassing secrets about you later on, the possibility of being raped, the potential to become pregnant; there are many imponderables about copulation, few of which can be researched at all beforehand. The first time with anyone is fraught with risks that you cannot adequately judge.
- Hiring a sitter/maid/repairman. You are bringing a stranger into your home, often without the benefit of references; and sometimes even those are fabricated. It is impossible to know that these people will not kidnap your children or rob you blind. We trust the odds that they won't, but we cannot know for sure.

Many of life's situations are unknowable before hand. In many, if not most cases, you cannot know the true value of the birds in the bush before committing.

Value of Risk (and odds of gaining):

My opponent's only response to my arguments about the odds:
"In fact, when a person gives up everything they have to pursue something, the odds are highly in their favor that they will gain that thing... When a person sets their mind on something and believes that they will gain it, it becomes their reality."

This certainly does not match my personal experiences, nor does it match the overwhelming evidence of history. History is full of people who single-mindedly pursued some goal, only to fail in the end.

- Alexander the Great (hoped to establish a lasting empire across the known world; after his untimely death, his wife and son were murdered and the empire fragmented amongst his generals).
- Hannibal (Spent his life trying to conquer Rome; got very close, but was frustrated in his hopes by a critical and divided government back home in Carthage. Was called home, and lost the crucial battle defending Carthage).
- Hitler (Attempted to establish a 1000 year German empire. Committed suicide to prevent capture by the Soviet army).
- Nicolai Tesla (His life's work and dream of wireless transmission of power died in the fight with Edison).

One could write books on the number of people who have had their dreams shattered and life work ruined; and I'm sure people have. The point is clear: You don't always get what you want, no matter how much you want it. Most of the "positive thinking" spiel is complete nonsense; in this case, promoted by a website who touts themselves as "the online source for books, articles and guidance on self improvement, positive thinking, motivation, spiritual growth and meditation." Con's source for this point,, is hardly a credible authority on this issue. There is no reason, therefore, to believe that the odds of gain are at all favorable. There is very good reason to believe, given the difficulty of succeeding in life, that the odds are usually distinctly unfavorable.

I hardly have to address this last point. My opponent would have us believe that if you lose something, you can always gain it back; that there are unlimited job opportunities available; and that homelessness isn't that bad, after all. This hardly needs to be stated to be refuted. I, and I hope everyone who reads this debate, understand that job opportunities are very limited indeed; that many things (like money, relationships, trust, valuables, time, health, etc.) may be lost permanently through bad decisions; and that even if homelessness isn't QUITE as terrible as the popular conception has it, it's still much worse than having a home.
Risking the bird in the hand can have drastic consequences sometimes.


The point of this proverb is that one must be careful which risks to take. When you already have a good situation, it is usually a bad idea to drop it in the hope of gaining a better, especially when you don't know what the new situation will be like or if you can even attain it.

Based on logic, common sense, and the witness of History, it is clear that a bird in the hand truly is worth two in the bush.

I thank my opponent for a challenging and engrossing debate, and wish her the best in her future debates.



I thank my opponent for the interesting debate!

I would like to remind everyone that the proverb "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" is implying that the value of something one owns is worth the value of something that one wishes to pursue. I have shown that that is not necessarily the case. For one thing, the fulfillment of achieving ones aspirations is invaluable. For two, playing things safe leads to complacency and depression. For three, value is infinite and we can always find something again when it becomes lost.

My opponent has said that I did not respond to his case on logic in round two. In fact, I have responded in saying that the odds and the value of something cannot be measured, and therefore we cannot assess real life risks with a game of odds . The idea is that we give our own personal value towards everything in life. If we are unhappy with the value of something in our life, it is always worth risking it to achieve something greater. What is the point of working if we are not advancing our career? What is the point of loving if we are not spreading that love? What is the point of living if we are not pursuing what brings us fulfillment?


My opponent says that it is impossible to know every pro and con of something before you take the risk. It is true that you do not truly know what you have until you have it. That means that when we have something, we know if we find value in that thing. If we still have the desire to risk something greater for that thing, it is likely worth it to risk what we have. This is because we know what brings us happiness and we know that in order to gain optimum success, risks are worth it.


Here my opponent gives a list of people who have tried things and failed. Just because one person or thing failed does not mean that their risks were in vain. I'm sure these people would all agree that they would have rather died trying than lived without pushing themselves.


We put value in what we place them in. Losing something for the greater purpose is not something that should stop a person from pursuing their dreams. I have showed that intention and determination can bring great success and that closing oneself off to their hopes will bring them staleness. It is more inherently valuable to go after something you desire than to let it float by.

Good luck to Pro!
Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Lickdafoot 4 years ago
Thank you, Chrys. To be honest, i thought you deserved to win!
Posted by Chrysippus 4 years ago
Congratulations, Lickdafoot. Good luck in the tournament!
Posted by Oryus 4 years ago
hahaha! what an awesome debate.
Posted by Chthonian 4 years ago
Roy, from what I understand of utility theory, risk assessment is relative based ones security level or life circumstance, and what one is willing to do to maximize satisfaction. This would imply that not all outcomes would have the same value to all people. So, is the argument that this particular proverb can not be universally applied, and therefore can't be used as a general guide by which to live?
Posted by Chrysippus 4 years ago
Fair enough. I apologize for misinterpreting you.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
I wasn't referencing the debate, I was chatting about the subject. Nonetheless, I think it's relevant to the debate even if it doesn't mirror the arguments. "Utility theory" is deep jargon that I wouldn't expect to see referenced directly, nor would I expect to see "expected value" which is what you argued.

I think a thoughtful debate deserves broader comment. If someone else decides to debate the topic in the future, broader comments may help shape their arguments. For example, I recently commented on a debate about polygamy where the whole aspect of the government benefits due spouses was overlooked. I think that's worth mentioning for the benefit of future debates.
Posted by Chrysippus 4 years ago
Roy, if that were what she had argued, I would have had much less of a case. Her focus was on the infinity of opportunities we have and certainty of getting what we try for, and the source she gave for this was on the power of positive thinking.

I'm not asking you to change your vote, but I would ask you not to attribute to her arguments that she didn't make when discussing this debate with the other voters. I should win or lose based on the merits of the arguments I made, and so should she. Utility theory per se never actually showed up in this debate.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
I don't think utility theory is based upon the power of positive thinking so much as it's based upon the non-monetary consequences of the outcomes. For example, insurance companies make a profit, so one expects that the straight expected value of the policy is not worth the price. However, it still may make sense to buy insurance because the non-monetary loss of being bankrupted by a lose -- the stress and the time it takes to start over -- may more than compensate. Similarly, the joy of winning a lottery may be perceived as more than compensating for the losses expected from the losing tickets.
Posted by Chthonian 4 years ago
Both debaters have slightly different interpretation of what the proverb means and establish their positions accordingly. Con suggests that the risk of losing what one has is worth it because: 1) it makes one happy knowing that that there is hope for attaining more than one has; and 2) the likelihood of attaining what you don't have is high. Pro's argument suggests that the value of the "two birds" can not be known until one has them and the risk involved in finding out the value is too great. Both sides did a terrific job at establishing their respective positions. However, Con's value of risk is based on the power of positive thinking, which was not supported by unbiased empirical evidence, whereas Pro establishes risk using game theory. Pro also does a slightly better job at rebutting Con's examples, and as such, has a more convincing argument. Great debate!
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
I'd vote this a tie, except it's a tournament so the debaters deserve a definite outcome. Both positions are correct, I think. Application of expected values affirms the resolution. Utility theory allows that a risky proposition may be preferred out of proportion, because the values go beyond the plain worth. So it all depends on the circumstances. Both sides of the debate, I think, acknowledged the "it all depends" aspect. I gave the edge to on for the exposition of the more difficult to understand position.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Greyparrot 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I'll give points to con for making the case that out of hand investments that can double your investment are worth more despite the risks involved. The worth based on faith point was interesting as well.
Vote Placed by Chthonian 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: See comments for RFD
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I think both sides are arguing, "it all depends" with respect to the resolution. In R3, Pro points out that the chance of catching a bird is less than 0.5, so expected value favors the one in hand. Con argues utility theory