The Instigator
Jason_K
Pro (for)
Losing
16 Points
The Contender
Cerebral_Narcissist
Con (against)
Winning
28 Points

Can someone have absolute knowledge?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/26/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,271 times Debate No: 14530
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
Votes (10)

 

Jason_K

Pro

I challenge anyone who dares to debate on the nature of absolute knowledge. I will take the stance that we can know absolute truth.
Cerebral_Narcissist

Con

As my opponent has not posted any definitions I will do so now, taking the simplest most relevant definitions of the key words my opponent has used.

Know
1. to perceive or understand as fact or truth; to apprehend clearly and with certainty: I know the situation fully.
http://dictionary.reference.com...

absolute
7. positive; certain: absolute in opinion; absolute evidence.
http://dictionary.reference.com...

Truth
3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
http://dictionary.reference.com...

Thus my opponent is arguing that it is possible that we can know something with absolute and complete accuracy. As my opponent is the instigator the burden of proof is upon him to establish an argument for this, and for me to refute it. As he has yet to present an argument I wait for him to do so.
Debate Round No. 1
Jason_K

Pro

An absolute truth must be possible in all worlds. Therefore we must use variables. When we use variables that can replace anything in any possible world, then the mathematics becomes absolute truth. Some examples are A=A and 1+1=2.
Cerebral_Narcissist

Con

I apologise to my opponent for the delay in my reply, I underestimated his intelligence and was forced to reconsider my former presumed line of attack.

My opponent posits mathematics as being an example of absolute knowledge, this is not on the face of it an unreasonable claim. Whilst we can demonstrate the fallibility of our senses and indeed our thoughts, the simple logic of mathematics appears pure and absolute, there are however counter-arguments.

-The Evil Daemon-
Descartes challenged the assumption that mathematics represents absolute knowledge by positing the existence of a malign entity responsible for the creation of an illusionary world in which all perceptions are false, even the demonstration of mathematics". It may be that the solution to a sum or the angles of a triangle are simply fictions imposed upon us by this trickster God. If it can fabricate our perceptions it can also fabricate our thoughts. As unlikely as this theory is it is still a possibility and so denies the certainty of absolute knowledge.
http://en.wikipedia.org...

-Zeno's Paradox-
If we reject the extreme scepticism of Descartes and assume the existence of the physical world in a manner that is at least crudely analogous to how we perceive it then we are faced by the problem that Zeno shows us that mathematics does not represent absolute knowledge.

Suppose Sam wants to walk to the house of his friend Bill. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before travelling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on...mathematically he must travel through an infinite number of stages during a finite time. Which is mathematically and logically impossible, yet people still manage to travel.

-Mathematics is not real-
Mathematics represents a logical system, that self-references to itself. Similar to a circular argument. Mathematics frequently bears little relation to 'real world' experiences and perceptions. One can not see a negative number, such a thing is simply an intellectual conceit. Simple imagination, however detailed and formalised can not be assumed to be absolute knowledge.
Debate Round No. 2
Jason_K

Pro

Quote:
I apologise to my opponent for the delay in my reply, I underestimated his intelligence and was forced to reconsider my former presumed line of attack.

I expected nothing less from a cerebral narcissist. ;)

-The Evil Daemon-
The possibility for such a daemon to exist must be absolutely true.

-Zeno's Paradox-
Going half way forever is going all the way. 0.9 repeating equals 1.

-Mathematics is not real-
It is true that mathematical symbols have no inherent existence. What I call one, you may call two. What you call two, another may call three. Mathematical symbols are merely illusions that we set up so that we may manipulate the physics around us and inside us. The concept of 'one' does not exist because no one can delineate what is one and what is two. When you say that you have one liter of soda, I could say that you have carbonated water, high frutose corn syrup, etc, while another person could shrink it down even more to the molecular level. We could switch gears and go in the other direction. What you say is your arm, I could say that is your body. It is not your whole body, but of course the high fructose corn syrup is not the whole contents of the soda, nevertheless when it is mixed with the soda it can be considered as soda. Diving any deeper into this topic would simply be rambling so I will wrap it up with this.

In the end, it is impossible to say that there is no knowable absolute truth, because how would you know that this is possible if you cannot know if it is absolutely true.
Cerebral_Narcissist

Con

-The Evil Daemon-
My opponent states that,
"The possibility for such a daemon to exist must be absolutely true."

My opponents counter-argument appears vague, he has offered no logical argument as to how Descartes' Evil Daemon can not exist, indeed he has apparently conceded this point. Given the uncertainty created by the possible existence of the evil Daemon my opponent can not make a case for absolute knowledge and his resolution is therefore negated.

-Zeno's Paradox-
My opponent argues that,
"Going half way forever is going all the way. 0.9 repeating equals 1."

If 0.9 repeating is 1, then 1 may be 0.9 repeating. The identity of 1 is ambiguous. 1+1=2 is therefore denied as an absolute truth.

-Mathematics-
My opponent appears to agree with my argument, and has given me nothing additional to refute.

My opponent states
"In the end, it is impossible to say that there is no knowable absolute truth, because how would you know that this is possible if you cannot know if it is absolutely true."

My role however is not to establish with certainty that there is no such thing as absolute knowledge, merely to point out reasons how my opponents examples of absolute knowledge do not indeed constitute absolute knowledge.
Debate Round No. 3
Jason_K

Pro


-The Evil Daemon-

It is possible that the daemon exists because I can imagine a world where this is true. It is also possible that the daemon does not exist because I can imagine a world where this is true.

Quote: "Given the uncertainty created by the possible existence of the evil Daemon my opponent can not make a case for absolute knowledge and his resolution is therefore negated."

Is it absolutely true that how I argued pertaining to the daemon does not make a case for absolute truth?

-Zeno's Paradox-
Quote: "The identity of 1 is ambiguous."

Is this absolutely true, or could the identity of one not be ambiguous?

-Mathematics-
The mathematical symbols have no inherent existence, but the logical reasonings from the illusions are absolutely true.
If we both agree that 1 is indeed 1 and 2 is indeed 2 then 1+1=2. If we can accept that 'A' is indeed 'A' then A=A.

According to my opponent, everything he says is not to be taken seriously because no one can know whether he is speaking the truth. This is because according to his stance no one can know absolute truth.

Allow me to finish with this:

Is it absolutely true that aboslute truth is unknowable?

If my opponent says yes then a contradiction arises. You can absolutely know that absolute truth is unknowable.
He is also admitting that he can know absolute truth in this format of contradiction.

If my opponent says no then he is admitting that absolute truth is knowable, thus confirming my argument.

If my opponent doesn't know then I would advise him to read this quote from Socrates:
I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.

Regards,
Jason K
Cerebral_Narcissist

Con

-The Evil Daemon-

My opponent states that,
"It is possible that the daemon exists because I can imagine a world where this is true. It is also possible that the daemon does not exist because I can imagine a world where this is true."

This suggests that Descartes' evil demon may exist, thus as all perceptions, thoughts, logic and mathematics may be illusion my opponent has failed to make a case for absolute knowledge.

My opponent asks
"Is it absolutely true that how I argued pertaining to the daemon does not make a case for absolute truth?"

No, it is possible that even if it seems absolutely true the evil Daemon may simply be confusing us. In the same way that one may dream erroneous thoughts that upon waking are revealed as false.

My opponent has therefore failed to address the possibility of the Evil Daemon, and his resolution is negated.

-Zeno's Paradox-
Con: "The identity of 1 is ambiguous."
Pro: "Is this absolutely true, or could the identity of one not be ambiguous?"

No this is not absolutely true, the value of 1 may or may not be ambiguous. I am not absolutely certain but I am of the opinion that this shows that absolute certainty may not exist. Possibly.

My opponent has not addressed Zeno's paradox, and appears to have accepted that the basic tenets of Mathematics such 1=1 are subject to doubt. His resolution is negated.

-Mathematics-
My opponents failure to address regards Zeno's paradox and the manner of his response invalidates his chance of arguing that Mathematics represents absolute knowledge.

My opponent argues
"According to my opponent, everything he says is not to be taken seriously because no one can know whether he is speaking the truth. This is because according to his stance no one can know absolute truth."

The first sentence is correct, my opponent has conceded the possible existence of the evil demon, therefore everything is subject to doubt, but we can not be absolutely certain and that nothing is absolutely certain. With regards the latter sentence, it is simply sufficient to point that my opponent has not made a case for absolute truth.

My opponent asks,
"Is it absolutely true that absolute truth is unknowable?

If my opponent says yes then a contradiction arises. You can absolutely know that absolute truth is unknowable.
He is also admitting that he can know absolute truth in this format of contradiction.

If my opponent says no then he is admitting that absolute truth is knowable, thus confirming my argument."

Both answers, yes and no, create a fatal contradiction. Both responses are paradoxical as they assume and deny absolute knowledge. My answer is I do not know.

My opponent has rejected his argument that mathematics represents absolute truth and has failed to address my counter-arguments. His resolution is negated. I urge a vote for CON.

I would like to thank him for a highly enjoyable debate.
Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by phantom 4 years ago
phantom
Pro's performance was so blatantly absurd it's a wander how he got as many votes as he did.
Posted by democrat435 6 years ago
democrat435
intersesting, i go with con on this one!
Posted by Cerebral_Narcissist 6 years ago
Cerebral_Narcissist
"Isnt a debate supposed to find out what is really true?"

No, it isn't.

The point of a debate is to see who has the better argument. In hindsight I agree with your position, however you failed to argue it. Indeed you actually retracted your argument. That is why you lost.
Posted by Jason_K 6 years ago
Jason_K
@sky_ace

Isnt a debate supposed to find out what is really true? If this is the case then cerebral narcissist wasn't really debating anything at all. So why do you say he was the better debater, when he was really only using rhetoric based in nothing?
Posted by Sky_ace25 6 years ago
Sky_ace25
RFD:

I buy Con's subjectivity arguments although I will admit Pro made better arguments than I expected after the first two rounds. However, I was a little bit mad when Pro did what everybody else does on this topic, the usual, but is saying there isn't absolute knowledge mean there is an absolute fact! Really annoying...and in my opinion this is somebody trying to find an easy way out. Regardless though, the better debating was done by Con throughout the round so kudos to you.
Posted by Cerebral_Narcissist 6 years ago
Cerebral_Narcissist
"There are several criticisms of this statement. Two being, what does it mean to think, and what does it mean to be?"

Not philosophically valid ones, the statement is absolute proof of self-existence. The nature of that existence is something else entirely. This simple statement would have won you the debate, if you had simply googled my arguments you would have seen that. I gave you one half of what Descartes said, the second half would have destroyed me.

"My question had all possible answers accounted for in my favor. That is why I won."

No it did not, that is why you lost. Better luck next time.
Posted by Jason_K 6 years ago
Jason_K
"I think therefore I am.
But he never said it."

There are several criticisms of this statement. Two being, what does it mean to think, and what does it mean to be?

"That was not a great set up, that was a question. You can't win a debate by making a question, PRO has to show evidence for absolute truth. He didn't which is why he lost."

My question had all possible answers accounted for in my favor. That is why I won.
Posted by Cerebral_Narcissist 6 years ago
Cerebral_Narcissist
"I felt like the entire debate up to the third round, pro was waiting to unleash some kind of terrible, one line lol statement that couldn't be refuted."

I think therefore I am.
But he never said it.

" The whole "Is it absolutely true that aboslute truth is unknowable?" was a great setup, and I liked the whooshing sound that con's arguments made as the air blew out of them."

That was not a great set up, that was a question. You can't win a debate by making a question, PRO has to show evidence for absolute truth. He didn't which is why he lost.
Posted by Mencies 6 years ago
Mencies
condition of the universe, time is simultaneous man.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
The argument was won/lost in this exchange :

"This suggests that Descartes' evil demon may exist, thus as all perceptions, thoughts, logic and mathematics may be illusion my opponent has failed to make a case for absolute knowledge."

The point hat Pro was making was that absolute knowledge could be obtained, not that it was obtained in everything, but that you could for example make some claim, even one, and know it to be absolutely true.

Thus the statement - "The possibility for such a daemon to exist must be absolutely true." this was claimed as an example of absolute truth. Note he is not attempting to refute it, he is noting that the possibility of its existence is an absolute truth, i.e., "it is absolutely true that there is a possibility of another Star Trek movie" would be the same claim.

Argument to Jason, but it was close.
10 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by phantom 4 years ago
phantom
Jason_KCerebral_NarcissistTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Very easy con win. Pro continually dodged the point and kept asking if we have absolute knowledge that absolute knowledge does not exist which is somewhat of a strawman and therefore irrelevant.
Vote Placed by socialpinko 5 years ago
socialpinko
Jason_KCerebral_NarcissistTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro seemed to be confused regarding the actual meaning of Con's argument. The attempted proof of contradiction arising in Pro's questioning of Con's stance on the truth of his case rested on the presupposition that Con believed with certainty that his case was true. However, as was made clear, Con's case rested on doubt and nothing else. Descarte's demon was conceded and Pro insufficiently defended the absolute truth of mathematics. Win to Con on arguments.
Vote Placed by tvellalott 6 years ago
tvellalott
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Reasons for voting decision: I liked a lot of Jason_K's arguments, but he didn't keep up the quality into the third round and practically refuted his own argument. Arguments to Con.
Vote Placed by apologia101 6 years ago
apologia101
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