The Instigator
heart_of_the_matter
Pro (for)
Winning
2 Points
The Contender
poppinoffgrounds
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Agnosticism is self-contradictory in at least one way.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
heart_of_the_matter
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/19/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,948 times Debate No: 17969
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)

 

heart_of_the_matter

Pro

I believe that the doctrine of agnosticism inherently has at least one thing in it that does not make logical sense and I want to explore that idea more. I'm not super formal as a debater just so my opponent is aware. I will start with a definition and then, if my opponent agrees, we can go from there.

Definition:
Agnostic - noun
a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.
http://oxforddictionaries.com...

Self-contradictory - adjective
inconsistency between aspects or parts of a whole:
http://oxforddictionaries.com...
poppinoffgrounds

Con

I mean no hostility to my opponent in saying this: who cares about formality--let's debate.

So, what is inconsistent about agnosticism? Your first speech is terribly vague.
Debate Round No. 1
heart_of_the_matter

Pro

Welcome! thank you for accepting my debate.

OK here are some of my ideas:

A. Agnostics believe there might be a God - they claim they don't know if there is or isn't one - therefore this means that agnostics believe God might exist.

B. So if there is a God (which agnostics believe is one possibility) then this God could have power to communicate with humans and make Himself known to some people.

-It seems very logical to assume that GOD could have great power because if He is in fact the Creator of the universe and the creator of life itself, then He could also have power to also do something that required less power (ie. communicating with a person).

-Therefore if that is the case, then some people can KNOW God exists. (Which is contrary to what agnostics believe is possible)

C. OR (another option is) that agnostics could argue that if there is a God that He wouldn't have that power. But if agnostics say that, then how do they KNOW what powers God can or can't have? They can't.

D. These things I mentioned are possibilities of what might be the truth - which agnostics seem to have no way to disprove that those points may be accurate. Agnostics simply "don't know" and don't claim to know those things.

E. Therefore agnostics don't KNOW if God has revealed things to people.

F. Therefore agnosticism is self-contradictory in at least one way because if agnostics don't KNOW if anyone KNOWS God exists, then how can they make the bold claim that "they KNOW that NO ONE knows if God exists or not"? They can't logically make that statement.

SUMMARY: Agnosticism claims that no one can KNOW anything. BUT how would an agnostic person KNOW what another person knows or doesn't know?
(Agnostics can't KNOW if someone KNOWS God exists or not...therefore Agnostics don't KNOW that no one knows...they just "believe" that no one knows!) which refutes the basic claim of Agnosticism that no one can KNOW.

OK those are the basics of my argument. I look forward to my opponent's reply.
poppinoffgrounds

Con

The main problem with my opponent's argument is that they are all based upon an unspecified position called "agnosticism"—there is no one identified as holding these supposed tenets and my opponent bases his understanding of this allegedly inconsistent position upon a dictionary definition, and anyone knows that dictionary definitions do little, if anything, to help one understand a philosophical position for the purposes of its analysis (just look up "Idealism" and then go read all of the scholarship on German Idealism and notice how little that definition tells you about a whole movement from which many common understandings of "Idealism" are mistakenly derived—notice this also in the case of British Idealism, Platonic Idealism—Berkeleyan Idealism!—well, you get the point).

I'm not clear on the inconsistency, let alone the position, as I said before. From my studies in Greek, gnosis means knowing, or knowledge, and the alpha privative "a" means without. There are many philosophical positions in eastern philosophy that, through dropping one's assumption that they know, one develops a different and more refined mode of knowing (and this is even seen in Socrates' dialectical humility where he stops assuming he knows and decides to work with hypotheses to conclusions so as to sort out a good position to find knowledge)—but my opponent has not considered such a thing and has committed a fallacy, and this is seen in contention A: my opponent has claimed that agnostics think "either A exists or A doesn't exist" therefore "A might exist." One notices that the mode of existence is faultily inferred, the original premise was a strict binary existence (A or ~A) and the supposed conclusion infers a third existential value in the argument that wasn't seen in the premises (A, ~A, ?A—exists, doesn't exist, might exist). Therefore, contention A is fallaciously loaded (and also, as was said in my previous paragraph, commits the straw-man fallacy).

Again, my opponent's claims are quite specious since they stem from this vague position known as "agnosticism" so, as I've shown, the basis for all the contentions are problematic such that all the contentions fall apart stemming from their faulty basis in contention A, however, my last point will be to clarify why my opponent has mistakenly thought that revelation (as found in contention B) makes the agnostic's position inconsistent. If one reads William James' lecture on religious experience, it's clear that revelation is such that its claims to truth cannot make any claim upon another person—that is, if God reveals himself to someone, that person is not able to make that truth into something that another must subscribe to, and if one attempts to, there must be an attempt at a derivation from the revelation since when explaining what God revealed to oneself to another person requires producing the infrastructure of rational grounds for the claim in question so as to make it consistent with reality, since, in revelation, reality is not what it is for the person having the mystical experience, nor can it be for anyone else hearing the experience. Thus, contention B is quite consistent with any epistemological humility that an "agnostic" may have (whatever the tenets of their position may be), since, even if God reveals himself to someone, as James might say, one doesn't quite know what thing was revealing truth, since mystical experience is quite fleeting and often plagued by mystery.

In conclusion, I'll leave aside the bold overstatement that, as my opponent states in the summary, that the agnostic supposes no one can know anything (does anyone know of anyone who has made this claim aside from some philosophy professor trying to play out Descartes' skepticism in an intro course's lecture?—hell, even Descartes gets past his skepticism),--that is, I'll simply end by stating that my opponent's great faulting is supposing he has understood "agnosticism" as a formalized doctrine, when, in fact, he has merely created his own demon to wrestle with.
Debate Round No. 2
heart_of_the_matter

Pro

I thank my opponent for his time and analysis of my arguments and for his thoughtful reply!

In reading and considering CON's objections I will try to summarize what I believe to be CON's main problems with PRO's ideas, here goes:

1. In the first, third and last paragraph from CON it seems clear that the definition of agnosticism is a HUGE issue if not the very main issue that CON has!
2. In the second paragraph, CON has a problem with the consistency of the contentions (esp. in A.) matching with the conclusion and believes a logical fallacy is or may be present in the conclusion.
3. In the third paragraph, CON directly attacks PRO's contention B. and claims it is not an accurate claim that can be made. CON raises 2 specific points to consider.

In response to CON's ideas:
1. Definition of agnosticism:
-in Round 1 if CON hadn't agree with the definitions as presented by PRO, then that would have been the best time to introduce his own definitions. Or at least in Round 2 when CON was actually taking issue with definition PRO used (from a reliable dictionary) it would be good to see what changes in the definition CON would change! But if it is Round 3 before CON presents his own definition, then ok, that is fine. Like I said I'm pretty informal! I just would like to have enough time to rebut things that may be brought up if I don't agree! Also I DO agree and think it is a valid point of discussion. However, I do believe PRO's (and Oxford dictionary's) point of view on agnosticism to be very strong though!
-Without a fixed definition in place to argue against - what chance would the "PRO" have? I mean if the definition (of what agnosticism is) can just be shifted or changed for the purposes of the debate then it would be very difficult to argue against the position!
-CON says that PRO's "claims are quite specious since they stem from this vague position known as "agnosticism" so, as I've shown, the basis for all the contentions are problematic"
---> that is EXACTLY why a definition must be used and agreed upon! We CANNOT have a shifting definition or else how can anything be debated for either position? PRO's position however is NOT based upon a "vague position of agnosticism" but rather PRO's position is based on a VERY CLEAR and WELL DEFINED definition of agnosticism
which was stated in the opening Round. I am not stuck on that definition per se, but it is still a better definition than CON has presented and I actually do believe it truly represents "Agnosticism" very well...Therefore I believe that we must go with that definition unless another definition of "Agnosticism" is brought forth and shown to be a superior definition than the one that PRO has presented or until we can come to agreement on definitions and terms better. CON - What in particular do you not agree with definition-wise?

2. Logical fallacy in conclusion:
- First of all, I will state that the points I made to support the Resolution were not meant that they had to be taken as a "formal syllogism". PRO did however (for organizational reasons) try to place many SUPPORTING ideas into a logical framework. But the ideas are not necessarily meant to be contingent or dependent upon any of the other ideas but are all meant to be able to stand alone, yet all supporting and LEADING to the logical conclusion that is stated in the resolution that "The doctrine of agnosticism inherently has at least one thing in it that does not make logical sense." And I do believe the points in fact DO lead to that conclusion!
- Therefore there is no "strawman". The definition used in Round 1 is exactly what is being used for a basis of argument for the resolution.
- PRO will now add in another idea (to hopefully help clarify and add in another level of support) to an idea that PRO just assumed would be accepted as true. I will label it as A1 here. (PRO will also add in an additional supporting statement with the additional contention). It either may or may not make it more into a "formal syllogism" I don't know. Like I said I am an informal debater. But perhaps it may be of some value in showing that PRO is not trying to jump to any conclusions, but rather has logical supporting reason for each step of the argument which leads to the resolution.
A1. Agnostics cannot KNOW what another person knows.
-If an agnostic did KNOW that someone DID NOT KNOW that God exists, then they must have received this KNOWLEDGE from God, and if an agnostic received that knowledge from God (that the other person didn't KNOW) then the agnostic HIMSELF would KNOW God exists! thus making him (by definition) no longer an "agnostic".

3. CON's 2 specific points and arguments against B. (Revelation)
-1. CON's first argument makes a good point, or rather one that PRO commonly hears and is very happy to discuss and rebut.

CON states: "claims to truth cannot make any claim upon another person—that is, if God reveals himself to someone, that person is not able to make that truth into something that another must subscribe to,"

The main reason why that argument isn't effective is this: A person can KNOW a truth even if they don't SHARE that truth with anyone else! THEY STILL WILL KNOW the TRUTH personally! (that is ALL it means to KNOW something!)

However, EXPLAINING or COMMUNICATING a truth to another person or convincing another person about what a person knows is a SEPARATE ISSUE!

-2. CON's second point made on this same subject was this:

"one doesn't quite know what thing was revealing truth,"

-The main reason that this argument is not effecive is that in this argument his source is trying to "put limits on God" that he would have NO WAY of KNOWING!

PRO would ask: How would he (or any agnostic) KNOW what powers God has or doesn't have? It should seem to be that any mortal person will not be able to fully comprehend God's powers. (unless perhaps God revealed that to a person - which would go back to the previously expounded upon idea which PRO discussed)
If God exists and can create life, and create universes, and is usually defined as being omnipotent and omniscient etc...how would a person KNOW what God is or isn't capable of?

The answer is obvious - CON's source doesn't KNOW, and is just offering their OPINION of what they believe to be true. In essence James is saying he doesn't BELIEVE the "CREATOR" can make Himself known to the "Creation". And even if that point was true (that God couldn't do that -which seems highly improbable based on the definition of "God"), but the MAIN POINT is that how would HE even KNOW if what he is guessing was right or wrong? He personally just does not have that level of knowledge available to him to say what God can or can't do!

In summary:

Addressing CON's case:
My opponent's summary was this: "my opponent's great faulting is supposing he has understood "agnosticism""
--->this has been thoroughly discussed within PRO's rebuttal and if PRO and Oxford dictionary are in fact "faulting greatly" in understanding agnosticism, then the burden seems to be on CON to show how we are wrong.

CONS other 3 points were all addressed rebutted in this round.

The resolution still stands that Agnosticism inherently has at least one thing in it that does not make logical sense!

I am looking forward to the next round. Thank you.
poppinoffgrounds

Con

The alleged discrepancies over formality. Firstly, I had never accepted Pro's definition, as was stated in my first speech, it wasn't clear where the alleged inconsistency comes from, as it wasn't stated until the second round; secondly, having judged many policy debate rounds, it's clear, many debates revolve around meta-debates—or, debates about the nature of the debate—and very rarely does a debate end without a set of issues being singled out as voting issues, issues which are not necessarily the main problem involved in contending the resolution, so, in short, I can legitimately debate Pro's definition: (1.) because I never agreed to any definition (which, for me, isn't so important, since Pro's contending my critique of his definition is his feeble attempt to maintain the integrity of his circular arguments) and (2.) all content of the debate is up for debate—again, the only literature Pro has on "agnosticism" in his speeches is a dictionary definition, weak (hence the vagueness of his position: I know of no one that lives a dictionary definition—and that's the burden, does he know of or can he cite any avowed agnostics?); thirdly, Pro needs to get straight on his second contention in this debate round, since, Pro uses subordinating conjunctions like "therefore" and operates with premises (things that precede a conclusion) to support his conclusions—if he, as I would suggest, reads Lewis Carroll's The Game of Symbolic Logic, he will see that any set of statements, so long as they have some relation to each other (and even if they don't) can be taken into a formal organization so as to derive a conclusion (even if that conclusion be that there is no conclusion), thus, to say he didn't intend his contentions and conclusions to be formulated into a "formal syllogism" is a red herring, for what is a debate if there isn't some logic to our support of a resolution? (and, to say you didn't intend a faulty logical consequence doesn't defend you from having fallen into that faulty consequence).

Since I've shown there are issues with the conclusions Pro has drawn, I'll continue on to Pro's 3rd contention and A1; firstly, I'm not sure how to make any sense of A1 since if an agnostic, we'll dub them (A), knew someone else, we'll dub them (B), didn't know that God exists,--well, I don't see at all how the agnostic received that knowledge from God, they could have simply had a conversation: "Hey, do you know if God exists?"…and so forth, so, this is irrelevant; secondly, my arguments about revelation are not ineffective, actually, they support my claim that agnosticism is a position of epistemological humility, amongst many other positions of this variety: (1.) my opponent, Pro, faultily assumes that when someone has experienced revelation, and realizes that it's not clear what it was that revealed itself, though they intuit it to be God, and know that no others are going to be able to understand what they saw of reality at the moment of revelation—well, in short, my opponent wrongly assumes that the person having had revelation thinks that they know this truth personally, for what is a truth that no one can share with another?—what is a truth if it isn't clear where it came from, why it came, or what it pertains to?—I don't understand how my opponent can't see that a "personal truth" stemming from revelation, is a truth whose complexity cannot be understood in very simple terms much as other truths, like truth as correspondence, where one thing is true if it corresponds with another ("snow is white if and only if snow is white"); (2.) the burden of proof concerning the problems of a dictionary definition of agnosticism are not my burden, they are Pro's, he has no examples of anyone who lives agnosticism, it is a belief system, and belief systems are lived by individuals (and, in fact, they are often modified, dropped, held in abeyance, and so forth,--that is, they are subject to all sorts of changes because they are not static), so, Pro needs to show me some reference aside from a dictionary, since a dictionary also has definitions for belief systems like nihilism, which can't ever be lived, since even a nihilist must believe in physics for him to get up in the morning and walk over to his bath.
Debate Round No. 3
heart_of_the_matter

Pro

I thank my opponent for his reply!

1. Defining Agnosticism

One of the main points in our debate has become the "meta-debate" about the nature of the debate or the definition of the term "agnostic". This is fine with me and has proven to be educational as I've looked into this. There are 2 main divisions within the scope of "Agnosticism" which are known as: weak agnosticism and strong agnosticism.

Weak agnosticism = they state only that they do not know if any gods exist or not. The possibility of some theoretical god or some specific god existing is not excluded. The possibility of someone else knowing for sure if some god exists or not is also not excluded.

Strong agnosticism = goes just a bit further. If someone is a strong agnostic, they don't merely claim that they don't know if any gods exist; instead, they also claim that no one can or does know if any gods exist. Whereas weak agnosticism is a position that only describes the state of knowledge of one person, strong agnosticism makes a statement about knowledge and reality themselves.

What PRO was debating against is known as "Strong Agnosticism".

The definition used by PRO in Round 1 describes "Strong Agnosticism" as will be shown here:

(Definition from Round 1 reposted here with EMPHASIS):
Agnostic - noun
a person who believes that nothing is known OR CAN BE KNOWN of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

The capitalized (emphasized) portion of the definition makes the definition clearly fall into the category of "Strong Agnosticism" due to the claim made that "nothing CAN BE KNOWN". Whereas "Weak Agnosticism" would not make that claim, they would simply say that THEY don't know. The definition used therefore conclusively refers to "Strong Agnosticism" only. This key difference also is the basis and foundation of PRO's contention of why it is a self-contradictory position!
*KEY POINT --- A close reading of the definition should be enough to convince everyone that the definition stated in Round 1 is referring to "Strong Agnosticism".

Nothing has changed in the definition itself or in any of PRO's arguments for the contention. PROs expounding on the definition is to simply clarify the definition and position more. CON has had the luxury of reading the definition from even before accepting the debate...the wording has always been there that PRO was indeed referring to a position that claims that "nothing CAN BE KNOWN". If my opponent wants to argue that I am arguing for weak agnosticism, then I will just have to say that simply isn't the case, and I believe the facts bear that out.

http://atheism.about.com...

========
Here are some general debate rules pertaining to definitions:

Occasionally a contest hinges on the definition of a word or phrase in the topic. The rule is this:

Rule 3b. The affirmative has the right to make any reasonable definition of each of the terms of the proposition.

A "reasonable" definition generally means the definition intended when the proposition was phrased, or the technical definition of the term as used by professionals in that field. If the affirmative's definition is not reasonable, the negative should challenge it at the earliest opportunity.

Rule 3c. If the negative challenges the reasonableness of a definition by the affirmative, the judge must accept the definition of the team that shows better grounds for its interpretation of the term.

The judge is not expected to exercise his own taste in the matter, but to listen to the evidence and logic of the teams and to support the definition shown to be more reasonable.

Rule 3d. Once the negative has accepted the affirmative's definitions, it may not later object to them, even though it later develops that they are unreasonable. Failure of the negative to object to the affirmative's definitions in the first constructive speech following the definitions is equivalent to acceptance of them by the negative.

If the negative wishes to quarrel with the affirmative's interpretation of the topic, it must do so at once. Otherwise the debate might literally be half over before the teams have decided what they are arguing about. If the negative, through oversight, accepts or fails to object to an unreasonable definition by the affirmative, it should not later be heard objecting that the definition was unreasonable.

http://www.triviumpursuit.com...

======
In analysing where our debate is at with regards to these rules:

3b. PRO gave a reasonable definition - the definition intended was spelled out clearly. The definition is used by professionals in the field, although it's "more technical" terminology would have been known as "Strong Agnosticism".

CON has challenged the reasonableness of the definition. Was it challenged at the "earliest opportunity"? that is for the judges to decide.

3c. Since CON has challenged the definition, the judge must accept the definition of the side that shows better interpretation. PRO has used a reliable dictionary definition that represented exactly the position that the contention addresses. PRO further has elaborated on the usage of the term found within the 2 main divisions of Agnosticism and shown conclusively how PRO's definition should be accepted.

3d. If CON now accepts the definition listed as actually being the same as "Strong Agnosticism" (which it is) then for the remainder of the debate it cannot be challenged. So it remains to be seen if CON will further argue this particular point or accept it.
======

2. Premises

CON has not specifically pointed out anything that isn't logical in PRO's premises other than to argue against contention B. and now also argued against A1. PRO will assume the other premises are accepted since they have not been challenged. The other 2 points (B. and A1) will be addressed after this.

In this point PRO would like to go on the offensive more and try to get CON to focus on the heart of the matter, which is this:
*Agnostics can't KNOW if someone KNOWS God exists or not...therefore Agnostics don't KNOW that no one knows...they just "believe" that no one knows!

I would ask CON directly if he believes that to be a true statement? and if not, then why not?

3. Premise A1

from CON:

"I'll continue on to Pro's 3rd contention and A1; firstly, I'm not sure how to make any sense of A1 since if an agnostic, we'll dub them (A), knew someone else, we'll dub them (B), didn't know that God exists,--well, I don't see at all how the agnostic received that knowledge from God..."

OK to explain how person A found out how person B didn't know how God exists --- First of all they cannot know what B knows (with normal powers of a human)

*and that is EXACTLY the key point of the whole debate by the way! (that A CANNOT know if B knows about God or not)(this is definitely NOT an irrelevant point!)

But PRO even went to the NEXT LEVEL of argument for the premise of A1 (to remove any chance of debate) and concluded that the only possible way that A could know about what B knows is that God Himself would have to reveal that to person A...in other words a HIGHER SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE would be required than what A has normally. So if person A DID happen to receive this divine revelation/knowledge (from God) about what person B actually knows--then it would automatically turn person A into someone who knows God. And if a person knows God, then by
definition they are not an agnostic. Therefore a person who "fits the definition" of an agnostic CANNOT KNOW what person B knows.

also CON's statement "well, I don't see at all how the agnostic received that knowledge from God..."

leads to another KEY:
*EXACTLY!! the agnostic CANNOT "KNOW" how God reveals knowledge!

I have more on B. but will address later
poppinoffgrounds

Con

poppinoffgrounds forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
heart_of_the_matter

Pro

Well since CON forfeited last round I will just reassert all of those statements for this round in case he debates in the final round. I would still be interested in hearing his rebuttal.

I said I had more on "B." so I guess I'll post a small amount on that, no need to go into great detail if my opponent is finished debating though. But I'll include a bit since I did make the claim that I "had more on B.".

4. Premise B.

My opponent's statement:
"well, in short, my opponent wrongly assumes that the person having had revelation thinks that they know this truth personally, for what is a truth that no one can share with another?—"

I have some questions about this statement...it seems to be logical that the person having the revelation knows that truth personally - because it has just been revealed to them! and "what is a truth that no one can share with another?" - notice that CON does not dispute the fact that the person KNOWS...and really that is all that is needed to meet the definition of knowing something. For example I know the combination to my lock, it is a fact that I know it
even if no one else does. That combination is not MEANT to be shared!...When a person SHARES a revealed truth however, that is a SEPARATE ISSUE, it can be done, the thing the person KNOWS can be told to another person. BUT the separate issue is if the person receiving the TRUE KNOWLEDGE will accept it or not! For example: The apostle Paul received a vision about Jesus Christ, then he KNEW, and he did share that true knowledge with others, but as far as other people, some accepted it and some didn't. But if did not change the fundamental nature of Paul's knowledge.
http://lds.org...

In case my opponent posts a rebuttal in the last Round (instead of in the Round he forfeited) PRO will not have a chance to rebut CON's claims since this is PRO's last Round.

PRO has shown that Agnosticism IS indeed self-contradictory in at least one way...and that is all that was required in the Resolution...just one way.

In conclusion I would urge a VOTE for PRO!

RESOLVED: Agnosticism is self-contradictory in at least one way.

Thank you!
poppinoffgrounds

Con

poppinoffgrounds forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by randolph7 5 years ago
randolph7
Poppinoffgrounds did.
Posted by heart_of_the_matter 5 years ago
heart_of_the_matter
Hmmm...I thought someone had accepted the debate...I got an email saying someone had...
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
heart_of_the_matterpoppinoffgroundsTied
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: ff
Vote Placed by thett3 5 years ago
thett3
heart_of_the_matterpoppinoffgroundsTied
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Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: f