The Instigator
drafterman
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
maurelio1234
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Atheism is the only reasonable, default position to take.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
maurelio1234
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/6/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,837 times Debate No: 18645
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (3)

 

drafterman

Pro

Resolved: Atheism is the only reasonable default position.

Preliminary Definitions:
Atheism - lacking a positive belief in a god or gods (irrespective as to whether or not there is a positive belief in a no god or gods).

Default position - the position to take, with regards to belief, prior to the inclusion of evidence or argument, either empirical or logical.

Positive belief - a positive belief is a logical proposition which is held to be true. This distinction is important because refusing to hold a logical proposition to be true does not require one to hold its negation to be true. While we must acknowledge that, given two logically contradictory statements, one must be true and the other false; we can nevertheless refrain from staking a claim as to which, specifically, is true and which is false.

Argument:
1. There are an infinite number of logical propositions which could be believed.
2. For any proposition which can be held as a positive belief, its negation can also be held as a positive belief (though not both at the same time).
3. For a given proposition, we can either hold it to be true, or refrain from holding it to be true.
4. A default position should be consistent, treating all propositions as being on equal footing (reminder: a default position is prior to the evaluation of evidence or argument in favor or against any proposition)
5. Given that we are initially treating all propositions equally, we must either initially accept all propositions as true, or refrain from accepting any proposition as true.
6. Given that the set of all propositions include contradictions, and given that contradictions cannot be believed, we cannot accept all propositions as true.
7. Therefore, as a matter of establishing a default position, we must refrain from accepting any proposition as true.
8. This includes the proposition: "a god or god exists."
9. Therefore atheism is the only reasonable default position.

The axiomatic premises of the argument above include #1, #2, and #4. Con's refutation, then, should (but not necessarily) be either:

A) A demonstration of why we should not accept #1, #2, or #4.
B) A demonstration of why the remaining steps of the argument do not follow from #1, #2, #4 or other accepted logical principles (such as the Law of Non-contradiction).
C) A demonstration of how this argument could lead to a contradiction (reductio ad absurdum).

The above list is by way of example, and not limitation.

maurelio1234

Con








My position: the proposed argument cannot be used to support the position of atheism as the only reasonable default position.

Outline: My argument is divided into two parts. In the first one, I describe some technical aspects of the original argument, that make it difficult to handle. In the second one, I present the core of my argument, which consists of showing that the original argument, as outlined by steps #6-#9, does not follow from the steps #1-#4.

Technical Aspects: The first technical problem of this argument is the lack of a clear definition of what constitutes a "default position", is it a "proposition" (as in #8) ? Or is it a "set of propositions" (as in #4 and #5)?

The impact of that to the whole argument is that it is not clear to me what does it means for a "default position" to be "consistent".

Does it mean that default positions need to be consistent by themselves, i.e. one cannot believe that '2=3'; or does it mean that one can not hold a set of inconsistent default positions, i.e. one cannot believe that 'god exists' and that 'god does not exist' at the same time?

Anyway, why does #5 follow from #4?

In the first case, any position that is not inconsistent by itself would be acceptable as a default position, two inconsistent positions would still be acceptable separately by #4. In the second case, any set of non inconsistent default positions at the same time and #1-#4 would still hold, but #5 would not.

In the end of the day, #5 seems to assume that one should accept any possible proposition to be true, but that is inconsistent with the preliminary definitions, since as the last sentence says:

"While we must acknowledge that, given two logically contradictory statements, one must be true and the other false; we can nevertheless refrain from staking a claim as to which, specifically, is true and which is false".

The way I read this couple of sentences, together with #4, is that when one cannot choose to accept default positions that yield an inconsistent set of beliefs, but one should not be forced to accept every non inconsistent set of beliefs.

A second minor technical problem lies in the fact that #8 does not follow from #1-#7. This happens because no technical definition of what constitutes a valid proposition is given. One can not, therefore, check if "a god or god exists" is a valid proposition.

Finally, no proof of uniqueness is given for #9.

Core Argument: In this second Section, I show that this argument leads to inconsistent conclusions.

Even if one ignores the lack of definition of what is a "reasonable default proposition", from #7, (and in treating every proposition equally, as #5 states) we could deduce that "atheism is the only reasonable default position" is a proposition that we must refrain from accepting as true, which leads to a contradiction to #9.

Debate Round No. 1
drafterman

Pro

Thank you to my opponent for taking up this debate.

Clarification of "consistent" & premises #4 & #5.

To clarify, a "default position" can apply to one or more propositions. It is, itself, not a proposition or a set of propositions, but a stance on can take with regards to them. To clear this up, I will present a rewording of #4:

#4 The default positions for a set of propositions should be consistent, treating all propositions as being on equal footing.

#5 could be considered a more explicit clarification of #4. For any set of propositions, you have the following options with regards to the default positions of those propositions: 1) accept them all as true by default, 2) refrain from accepting any as true by default, 3) accept some as true and refrain from accepting the rest as true. The collective effect of #4 and #5 is to rule out #3 as a viable option (for default positions).

In this sense I am not talking about the consistency with regards to the semantic values of those propositions, but rather that we are consistent in what default position we choose with regards to those propositions; we choose the same default position for all the propositions in that set.

Your refutation seem to depend on a use of the word "consistent" that I am not using; that is: "consistent" with regards to the semantic value of the propositions in question. Since this is not the case, the refutations do not apply. Again, by "consistent" I simply meant that, for any set of propositions, our default position (be it either accept, or refrain) should be the same for each of those propositions.

Refutation of #8

I'm unclear what you mean by a "valid proposition." I understand validity with regards to arguments, but not with individual proposition. A proposition is any statement which could be true or false, which applies to "a god or god exists."

Refutation of #9

It is not necessary to demonstrate uniqueness. The proof, by its nature, applies to all propositions. That's the point. And since it applies to all propositions, then it applies to any specific proposition, including "a god or god exists."

Perhaps you mean to imply that it also applies to "a god or god does not exist," in which case I agree. But note the definition of atheism provided. It only requires that we refrain from accepting, as true "a god or god exists" irrespective of our acceptance of the proposition "a god or god does not exist."

The "contradiction"

The alleged contradiction does not stem from the argument. Rather you are attempting to show that the argument contradicts my position in this debate. It does not. I am not arguing that "atheism is the only reasonable default position" be accepted as true as a default position. Indeed, a default position is a stance prior to argument, where as I am attempting to show that "atheist is the only reasonable default position" is true as a result of argument.

It be clear, and consistent with my belief, I agree that you should refrain from accepting "atheism is the only reasonable default position" prior to evidence or argument. I am attempting to demonstrate that it should be accepted after evidence or argument. Specifically, this argument.
maurelio1234

Con

Introduction: 

First of all, thanks for your clarification. Now I understand the way you use the
word "consistency", which is clearly different from the way I use it.

I start my second round by responding to what I see as minor questions on my first round and
then I go back to the main argument

Minor Points:

Valid Proposition

A proposition is valid if it does not entail false. For example, '2=3' is an 'invalid' proposition, because
it is unsatisfiable* by itself (i.e. any set containing it is unsatisfiable). A proposition 'God exists' is
a 'valid' proposition because it is satisfiable by it self, its satisfiability depends on the set of
axioms one accepts.

* Notice that from now on I am going to use the word "satisfiability" to mean "logical consistency" to avoid
misunderstandings.

Uniqueness

#9 was not clear because of your unclear definition of "consistency", now it is clear, while technically
speaking it is still a statement that does not follow logically from the other ones since it uses language
that has not be defined before, e.g. "reasonable default position". To be technically correct your argument
should include your account for what is a "reasonable default position" and #9 should show that atheism is the
only one because there is only one: the empty set.


Major Points:

Consistency

Just to clarify, in my argument I took your argument as a logical one, since you phrased your argument
in logic-related terms ('logical propositions', 'consistent', 'demonstration', 'axiomatic premises', 'refutation'...).

Taking your definition of "consistent", I fail to realize why should #4 be accepted as an axiom, i.e.
why should one treat all propositions as equal, when the preliminary definitions clearly state that
one is not obliged to?

The Con could argue that it has been defined as an axiomatic premise and that I should accept it as so, but
that leads as to the next point.


The contradiction


Even if you are trying to show that atheism should be accepted as a logical conclusion from your argument
you do not show why should one accept your argument to begin with. The points #1-#3 do not create any
problem since they seem to follow from the preliminary definitions, but #4 is stated as being an axiom, even
if it is not an "accepted logical principle", and it does not follow from the preliminary definitions.

It should therefore be accepted as a 'positive belief' without evidence, but from #7 we should refrain
from accepting any proposition as true without evidence, and therefore from accepting #4 as true,
which is a contradiction.

In order to avoid this problem, the Con should present at least some evidence for supporting the
acceptance of #4, which he did not do.


* Notice that this response only tries to clarify the response I gave in the first round, by treating
"atheism is the only reasonable default position" (#9) as a shorthand for "#1-#4 imply #6-#8", so, if we accept
#1-#3 as being entailed by the definitions and your argument as being logically correct, the only remaining axiom
to be proved to establish the correctness of the proof is #4. **

** By #4, I mean your clarified reading for it and the intending meaning that one should treat propositions
"consistently", either accepting all of them as positive beliefs or accepting any of them.

Conclusion:

So, in conclusion, you present an argument, without further evidence, that proves that one should refrain from accepting any proposition as true without further evidence. This therefore includes the proposition "a god or god exists" (and hence supports atheism) but also the proposition "this argument is true" (which contradicts atheism).

Debate Round No. 2
drafterman

Pro

Acceptance of #4.

Con raises a good question. Indeed, it would seem that my argument would have us reject all axioms (since, by their nature, they do not stem from prior arguments). If we reject all axioms, however, logic fails. The debate may turn on this point.

My reasoning is this: That axioms do not stem from prior argument is not to say that axioms are accepted without reason, without argument, or without evidence. Consider the Law of Non-contradiction. This is an axiom most people accept. If I were asked why should one accept it, I might cite the principle of explosion and the ill-side effects of not accepting it. This is an argument in a more informal sense and doesn't entail the truth of the Law of Non-contradiction (otherwise it wouldn't be an axiom) but it nevertheless provides a reason to accept it. The default position, however, is the position taken prior to such reasoning.

So, how does this apply to #4? Well, we have a choice between taking a stance that is the same among all propositions, or a stance that differs from proposition to proposition. If we perform the latter, by what means do we decide what propositions we accept as true and which we refrain from accepting as true? Since this is a discussion of default positions, we cannot rely on evidence or argument, so what does that leave? Randomness.

I submit that randomness is not suitable to establish a baseline of acceptable propositions. The odds of settling upon a set of default positions that are cohesive and usable are negligible.

Since it seems that this premise is the only primary point in contention, there seems little else I can add. Either the reasons above are sufficient, or they are not. Providing support for axioms is difficult, often relying upon mutually agreed self-evidence. I do not submit that #4 is self-evident, but I do argue that it should be accepted for the reasons above.

Again, I thank Con for accepting this argument and thank the readers for their consideration of it.
maurelio1234

Con


I will focus my last round on this phrase, that seems to me to be the main point of the

argument provided by Pro, since it is the only argument he provides for the acceptance
of #4 as an axiom:

"I submit that randomness is not suitable to establish a baseline of acceptable propositions.
The odds of settling upon a set of default positions that are cohesive and usable are negligible."

I just would like to remember that the alternative proposed by Pro to solve this problem
consists in accepting either all propositions or none of them. I just would like to remember
that both solutions are as random and as unlikely to provide cohesive and usable results
as any other possible random default positions.

My argument for rejecting #4 is therefore the same as the one Pro uses to accept it: as
sticking to a random solution is not suitable for establishing a baseline of acceptable
propositions, the idea of choosing a default position by a method that does not take into
account or analyzes the chosen propositions is doomed to produce random, unusable and

uncohesive results.

By the way, what is more random, unusable and less cohesive than a position that accepts ANYTHING
by default? That is what #4 proposes.

As a final remark, maybe the core weakness of the proposed argument is not in the argument
itself
but on the idea of selecting a "default position" without consulting any kind of evidence
or argument before deciding what position to take, which we both agree that seems to produce
random, unusable and uncohesive results. In fact, the very fact that one seems to be looking for
cohesive and usable results indicates that the idea of "default position" as it has been defined in
the preliminary definitions is not reasonable.

Let me explain. By the answer provided by Pro in round 3, I suppose that a "reasonable default position"
would be a position that is at least "cohesive and usable", but, in order to know if any given default
position is "reasonable" one would need to analyze it to make sure that it is "cohesive" and "usable".
However, the fact that it is cohesive and usable would constitute an argument for accepting this particular
proposition instead of other ones; which leads us to conclude that this proposition is not a default
proposition because it has not been accepted without argument! That is the case of the present argument,
that is used to propose atheism as a default position, the very fact that an argument justifies the acceptance
of atheism makes it not eligible as a "default position".

Finally, this whole idea of "default position" seems to me to be very contrary to
what atheism itself defends:
consulting the evidences of the inexistence of god to conclude
that it doesn't exist.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by drafterman 5 years ago
drafterman
Thanks maurelio, you've given me a run. It'll be interesting to see how the voting turns out.
Posted by maurelio1234 5 years ago
maurelio1234
Just a comment, in my second round, when I say "the Con" I mean the other side, the "Pro".
I'm sorry for this confusion ;).
Posted by drafterman 5 years ago
drafterman
I'm not. Agnosticism and atheism aren't mutually exclusive positions. Agnosticism is a statement about knowledge, whereas this argument only addresses belief. I know that most people consider agnosticism to be some sort of philosophical no-man's land between theism and atheism, but it isn't. Theism and atheism are about what you believe, agnosticism is about what you know (or believe you know). You can be an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist.

In short, agnosticism plays no part here. Doing so would require addressing additional epistemological baggage associated with knowledge.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com...
Posted by socialpinko 5 years ago
socialpinko
All you're doing is equivocating atheism and agnosticism so the word 'atheism' in the title is a little misleading.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by kkjnay 5 years ago
kkjnay
draftermanmaurelio1234Tied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I did not think that Pro adequately refuted the argument's presented by Con.
Vote Placed by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
draftermanmaurelio1234Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: A good debate on both sides
Vote Placed by Crede 5 years ago
Crede
draftermanmaurelio1234Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: I think the "contradiction" did it for me. Atheism is a proposition that is contradicted by Theism. It seems then that the default position would simply just be "all of the above....maybe." Con didn't touch on it but why I agreed with him before the debate was because of premise 6. If we take premise 1 as an axiomatic truth than there would be propositions that allow for all propositions being true negating proposition 6. Go to a Unitarian church if you want to sample everything being true.