The Instigator
Paradigm_Lost
Pro (for)
Losing
12 Points
The Contender
brittwaller
Con (against)
Winning
42 Points

Absolutism vs relativism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/29/2008 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,401 times Debate No: 3436
Debate Rounds (3)
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Votes (14)

 

Paradigm_Lost

Pro

Unfortunately, "philosophy" is not one of the choices given in the debate categories. This debate is almost purely philosophical.

My question is whether or not absolutes exist, or if everything is relative. What do I mean? Absolutes deal with subjective facts that do not pander to opinions, whereas relativism states that everything that appears absolute is contingent upon something else to necessitate it, and therefore, nothing is actually concrete. In that sense, reality deals with objective facts.

I submit that life is determined by BOTH absolutes and relativity. I believe both can exist, albeit, not simultaneously.

So with that, are there any absolutes in the known universe, or is everything relative?
brittwaller

Con

Thank you to Paradigm Lost for posting this debate. I look forward to a good one.

For our purposes here, I will be advocating relativism.

I base my advocacy primarily on the fact that all experience - anything and everything that comes to us through our sensory manifold (as experience must come to us this way), however it may add to or otherwise affect our "I's" - is ultimately subjective, and it is experience that leads us to our opinions and judgements of thoughts and actions. Some things that influence a given person's experience(s)before that experience reaches the tint of that particular person's mind: time and place of existence, culture, language, social and/or economic position, etc. Each of the former are examples of external influences on experience; some examples of internal influences would be raw intelligence and sex (although sex could really be an example of both), as well as pure sensory capability. Now, each of these affects every individual differently and to a different degree, in turn making each person's views on various topics unique.

If one attempts to judge an individual's thought and action outside of the context of their time, place, and other influences, then whatever event is being considered automatically loses its meaning, as these influences are ever-changing, and in any case the judgment will always be affected by our own selves, each of us with our own internal and external influences, and so on. In this way, certain judgments can never be "accurate." Relativism allows us to still judge actions, thoughts, or events, but within context, or having the fact of these influences constantly looming behind us, thus leading to a more sound judgment of a given event. We cannot be objective, but it is something that we can and do to strive for. Relativism is at its most effective use in this manner: helping us to see events in as much light as we can, helping us to understand them as well as possible, by allowing us to examine the complex web of relationships that give rise to the event in the first place and giving those relationships a prime place in our mind's eye.(minds' eyes?)

Much more later, hopefully
Britt
Debate Round No. 1
Paradigm_Lost

Pro

I thank Brittwaller for accepting the debate. In defense of his position, he posits:

"Relativism allows us to still judge actions, thoughts, or events, but within context, or having the fact of these influences constantly looming behind us, thus leading to a more sound judgment of a given event. We cannot be objective, but it is something that we can and do to strive for. Relativism is at its most effective use in this manner: helping us to see events in as much light as we can, helping us to understand them as well as possible, by allowing us to examine the complex web of relationships that give rise to the event in the first place and giving those relationships a prime place in our mind's eye."

I agree that relativism, while never staunchly subjective, is open to objectivity and lends itself to extenuating or unforeseen circumstances. As well, relativism often serves utilitarian, pragmatic, or practical purposes. There certainly is nothing wrong with them on a fundamental level.

However, the question I posed was if absolutes exist anywhere in the known universe. I believe they do, and I will illustrate why I maintain this belief. The simplest way to prove that absolutes exist is to have someone answering a question about it. For instance, I asked my detractor if absolutes exist in the known universe, or if everything is relative.

Supposing his answer would have been, something to the affect of, "No, there are no absolutes because everything is relative," then not only would they undermine their own mines once, but twice! Lets examine it closely:

If there are "no" absolutes in the universe, then how is it you can use an absolute in order to negate an absolute? That's obviously logically inconsistent. Likewise, if you were to maintain that "everything" is relative, this also would be an example of someone positing an absolute in order to negate an absolute. This too is clearly a contradiction, as it violates the law of non-contradiction.

But perhaps you may be saying to yourself, words are exempt from such things since they are concepts. Though I strongly disagree, I will momentarily allow it to show that tangible objects also follow such rules and limitations. Indeed, it is through absolutes that physical laws exist and operate.

Answer the following questions:

1. Can you be completely wet and completely dry simultaneously?

2. Can you be on Mars and on Earth simultaneously?

3. Can you be Spain and Sri Lanka simultaneously?

4. Is anyone getting younger with the passing of time, as opposed to aging?

The answer to all these questions is no. People will sometimes attempt to get around these questions by introducing silly contingents and conditions, none of which have any demonstrable value to them. If you believe you can usurp them, I would be very interested in hearing how.

Therefore, it seems evident that absolutes do in fact exist in the known universe, and, in fact, attempting to prove their non-existence invariably will lead to a contradiction that in fact proves that which they attempt to disprove. Furthermore, absolutes and relativism can exist together in the universe.

For instance, if you were to ask a 6'0 foot tall person if they were tall, their answer in an absolute sense would not make sense since it is an objective question. To a pygmy, 6 feet might be considered quite tall, but to an Scandinavian, 6 feet of height might be quite average.

It stands to reason that both exist. I therefore challenge my detractor to prove otherwise.

Thank you...
brittwaller

Con

"I agree that relativism..."

-Excellent.

"However, the question I posed was if absolutes exist anywhere in the known universe. I believe they do, and I will illustrate why I maintain this belief. The simplest way to prove that absolutes exist is to have someone answering a question about it. For instance, I asked my detractor if absolutes exist in the known universe, or if everything is relative."

-I am not your "detractor," only your opponent. My tone can come across as smug and sardonic, cruelly pessimistic, or even outlandishly emotional if trapped, I know, but I don't think I am anyone's "detractor," even at my worst. Please refrain from this usage. Thank you.

"Supposing his answer *would* have been, something to the affect of, "No, there are no absolutes because everything is relative," then not only would they undermine their own mines once, but twice!"

-Fortunately for me I did not argue this point. We seem to be in agreement that some absolutes do exist. I freely admit the existence of absolutes that are abstract and a priori: number, time, space, essence if you are old-school, and possibly others.

"Answer the following questions:

1. Can you be completely wet and completely dry simultaneously?

2. Can you be on Mars and on Earth simultaneously?

3. Can you be Spain and Sri Lanka simultaneously?

4. Is anyone getting younger with the passing of time, as opposed to aging?"

-I will humour you.

1.As I am roughly 75% water, it would be impossible to be completely dry at all.

2.With a time machine, I could go back in time a few minutes, grab myself, have a neat chat and then send myself to Mars. So, theoretically, yes.

3.Ignoring your (possible?) grammatical error, this is the same question as above. If it was not an error, the answer is no, as I am a person and cannot "be" a country anymore than I can "be" a car.

4.The Christian God would qualify, I think. He is "timeless," or outside of time completely, according to orthodoxy.

"The answer to all these questions is no. People will sometimes attempt to get around these questions by introducing silly contingents and conditions, none of which have any demonstrable value to them."

-"Value" in itself is a subjective judgement or projection. Also, I need not introduce any "silly contingents or conditions" as all of the questions you asked were already contingent on the existence of the subject, myself, as well as preconceived concepts and definitions, which are all understood relative to the reader's comprehension of our conversation. Nevertheless, tear apart my indulgent answers to your questions.

"For instance, if you were to ask a 6'0 foot tall person if they were tall, their answer in an absolute sense would not make sense since it is an objective question. To a pygmy, 6 feet might be considered quite tall, but to an Scandinavian, 6 feet of height might be quite average."

-A fine example of relativism at work.

"It stands to reason that both exist."

-Agreed.

"I therefore challenge my detractor to prove otherwise."

I do not accept your challenge as it is not my position to try and disprove absolutes, but rather to prove the supremacy of a relativistic weltunschaung over that of an absolutist one. With that in mind, my arguments from Round 1 still stand: you agreed with and added to my claims while refuting nothing but the straw man you created.

Britt
Debate Round No. 2
Paradigm_Lost

Pro

"I am not your "detractor... Please refrain from this usage. Thank you."

My apologies, I did not intend for its usage to be an invective. I will respect your request.

"We seem to be in agreement that some absolutes do exist."

Then what more are we discussing? I asked if absolutes exist anywhere in the known universe. Conceding to it, since you took the negative position, would render everything else moot at this point.

"I will humour you."

Those are the kind of "silly answers" I was speaking about earlier. I don't feel that dignifying them with an answer is even necessary. I will allow the voters to decide for themselves.

"Value" in itself is a subjective judgement or projection. Also, I need not introduce any "silly contingents or conditions" as all of the questions you asked were already contingent on the existence of the subject, myself, as well as preconceived concepts and definitions, which are all understood relative to the reader's comprehension of our conversation."

When asked if words have any meaning or if we assign meaning to them, the one's who claim the latter unwittingly commit to a fatal flaw. If you ask the very phrase, "do words have any meaning or do we assign meaning to them as we go along," the very comprehension of the words is damning evidence that they do have meaning prior to the assignment. After all, that's how we all understand one another.

"I do not accept your challenge as it is not my position to try and disprove absolutes, but rather to prove the supremacy of a relativistic weltunschaung over that of an absolutist one. With that in mind, my arguments from Round 1 still stand: you agreed with and added to my claims while refuting nothing but the straw man you created."

Are they supreme, though? Without an absolute foundation you can't even precipice ALL relative answers -- indeed it is what supplies them any meaning in the first place. That isn't a straw man, that's inductive and deductive reasoning.

In any case, you conceding to absolutes is all that needs to be said since that is all that I asked of you.

Thank you for the debate, and I look forward to future debates. I see that you are one of the more cerebral people on the board -- something I appreciate very much.
brittwaller

Con

"My apologies, I did not intend for its usage to be an invective. I will respect your request."

-Thank you.

"Then what more are we discussing? I asked if absolutes exist anywhere in the known universe. Conceding to it, since you took the negative position, would render everything else moot at this point."

-As I said, it is not my purpose or intent to try and "disprove absolutes." I have stated my position. I would not say everything else is moot, however, as you did ask a question in place of providing a clear thesis. I simply answered your question and argued from that point.

"Those are the kind of "silly answers" I was speaking about earlier. I don't feel that dignifying them with an answer is even necessary. I will allow the voters to decide for themselves."

-So be it. That is perhaps how you feel, but once again I only provided answers to questions that you asked, and though the answers may be "silly," you have not really shown why. Indeed, let the voters decide - but they cannot be expected to simply take your word that my answers are not satisfactory to whatever criterion you have not provided. Without refutation, I feel that they stand, however silly they are.

"When asked if words have any meaning..."

-It is not my contention that words have no meaning or that we necessarily assign them meaning as we go along. I am simply saying that every individual processes meaning, as well as intent and context, differently. Even the most masterful writer cannot absolutely convey what he means to the reader. It is always left, in some part, up to the subject to inject their own meaning to any given passage. You and I may both have read and loved say, "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller, but our interpretations of what was written and their various connotations and connections with our psyches will always differ.

"Are they supreme, though? Without an absolute foundation you can't even precipice ALL relative answers -- indeed it is what supplies them any meaning in the first place."

-I believe the relativistic view to be superior. Also, I do have an "absolute foundation" as I posited the existence of specific absolutes previously. It seems to me that the relativistic view has a foundation, conclusions drawn from that foundation have meaning, and that their meaning is the one of highest priority in the vast majority of judgements and comparisons that we all make (consider your example of the pygmy and the Scandinavian.)

"In any case, you conceding to absolutes is all that needs to be said since that is all that I asked of you."

-I must disagree. If that is the case, would not your concession to all of my Round 1 arguments even us out again? The title of the debate is "Absolutism vs. Relativism," not "Absolutism and Relativism vs. Relativism." We both understand and agree that both exist; what is left is the determination of primacy, in which case I think relativism takes the cake.

"Thank you for the debate, and I look forward to future debates. I see that you are one of the more cerebral people on the board -- something I appreciate very much."

-Likewise on all accounts. The best to you; see you around the site.

Britt
Debate Round No. 3
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Vote Placed by JBlake 8 years ago
JBlake
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Vote Placed by bfitz1307 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by brittwaller 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by Battlecry 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by Jamcke 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by Logical-Master 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by revleader5 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by jiffy 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by b3rk 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by Bitz 8 years ago
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