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The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Circumstances make the man

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/8/2013 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,734 times Debate No: 35382
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)




= Disambiguation =
The resolution will refer to the value placed on a person. It is not a discussion of gender.

= First round =
This round is acceptance and clarity only. If you the as the contender decide to accept this debate, you may only post the phrase 'I Accept.' in the your first round. Anything else will constitute a full forfeiture of all 7 points of the debate.

If there is a need for clarity, is should be inquired about in the comments prior to accepting the debate.

= Rules =
1. This will be a public debate. The emphasis will be one clear communication and effective on-case arguments. There should be no discussion of framework, or use of debate jargon in the round.

2. The BOP will be balanced between the Pro and the Con. Neither side will maintain presumption so if at the end you believe the debate to be a tie no vote should be cast.

3. No semantics!

= Definitions =
[1]Circumstance: a condition that accompanies or influences some event or activity


I Accept.
Debate Round No. 1


"[2]No man is an island, / Entire of itself, / Every man is a piece of the continent, / a part of the main..." - John Donne

Donne originally wrote this poem referring to mankind's intrinsically connected nature. Despite his original intention, this poem also serves as an excellent illustration of man's dependency upon his culture to define him. No man is an island unto himself, and no man can be evaluated independent of the things which define his culture. A Samurai raised in feudal japan would not have the same prestige in a Victorian society, and in the same way, a Victorian gentleman would not hold the same value in feudal japan. The circumstances surrounding a man's existence and placement in society are instrumental in defining him. Effectively, circumstances make the man.

A person's value is ultimately dictated by his respective culture. And that culture is ultimately a conglomeration of circumstances which have been grouped into the things that signify it. If Bill Gates had been born two-hundred years earlier on a ranch in south Texas, we wouldn't remember him as such a great innovator because the skills he possessed wouldn't have made him out to be a great man in a ranching society. Said society would instead place great value on men with stronger frames who could do a better job taking care of animals and raising cattle; the technological ingenuity of Bill Gates wouldn't have done him much good in this kind of society. However this is assuming that we took Gates as he existed in our modern world and placed him in 1813; had he been rightfully born in this time period, he would have probably still been a successful business man because business is one of his strengths. He would have done business in things relevant to his culture, but he would probably be a successful businessman all the same. The circumstances of his life in 1813 would have made him a different man.

I was born and raised in the dirty south. My father is about as much of a redneck as you can get without owning a tractor. Up until a few years ago I would spew out canned, culturally appropriate responses to hot button issues because those responses where what had been conveyed to me as good and acceptable. I didn't have a framework for libertarian free choice to argue that same-sex marriage is acceptable on the grounds of personal autonomy. I just knew 'gay was bad', and repeated the sentiment devoid of a context I could understand. Even now I personally hold moral resignation against homosexual acts because of my upbringing. I understand that such things really aren't any of my business. Whatever happens behind closed doors between two consenting adults is their business and theirs alone. Nonetheless the circumstances of my upbringing still guide my moral compass to think such things are immoral. Is such a moral stance justified? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact remains that my moral compass says as much because of the circumstances by which I grew up. Had I been raised in a different part of the world, or even by different parents, I would probably think differently, even if only slightly. I would be a different man because my circumstances would be different

But I wasn't. And I don't.

In closing the argument here is very simple, no man is an island to his cultural influences. By necessity or whatever else, the circumstances which surround a person define him and make him who he is. Circumstances make the man.

Please vote Pro, and good luck to Con!


"Circumstances do not make a man, but reveals him." - As a Man Thinketh, James Allan.

A person is defined by her/himself, and nothing more. Not to say that the environment has absolutely no influence on the character of the individual, but rather that its degree of control on the person can be actively chosen by the individual him/herself. Based on the assumption that free will exists, the inherent universality of logic would allow the person to access a certain amount of detachment from the societal conventions that are placed upon him/her, even from a young age. We are who we choose to be. Should the said individual be born with certain characteristics or choose to defy conventions of the society in which he/she was raised in, the individual would deviate towards the character that the person was to be, despite the upbringing. Though it can be argued that most people conform to the implantations of various memetics from a young age, it should be taken into account that not many people "choose" or have the desire to deviate from the said conventions.

The idea that the culture defines the value of a person based on the use of his/her skills to further the societal ambitions of the community is, to a certain degree, deluded. "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - Einstein, who isn"t noted for his philosophical views on anthropology, but is right nonetheless. Nikola Tesla, for example, spent his early childhood, to his late teens in a society, where even his parents were highly religious, both his father and maternal grandfather being Serbian Orthodox priests. However, he, once reaching the age of maturity, had the belief of scientific determinism embedded into his character, a belief that most theological communities at that time were strongly opposed to. "What we call "soul" or "spirit," is nothing more than the sum of the functionings of the body," - N. Tesla. On another note, Tesla is widely considered today to be a Man misplaced in Time. He lived in an era where the hypocrisy of society placed importance on social connections, political influence, and ones ability to do "business", despite how much they would claim otherwise. Tesla was a great inventor of many futuristic devises, using a primitive understanding of electrical mechanics. Many of his inventions, for example the radio and alternating current amongst many others, were stolen and given credit of innovation to other engineers, patentors and businessmen who took advantage of Tesla"s lack of interest and expertise in office and social politics and general business. Though he is remembered today for many of his incredible innovations, a significant amount of his work will always be remembered as the work of others. He died alone, without any noteworthy tangible assets in his possession, despite being a large and significant contributor to the electrical revolution. Had he been any less of a great inventor and genius, despite what his zeitgeist and history remembered him to be?

There are those who choose, whether consciously or subconsciously, to be so integrated into their society and surroundings that they often may not realize how objectivity skewed their actions are. There are many who do not find a problem with their conventions, and choose to uphold them, and there is nothing wrong with that choice. Yet, there are those, like Tesla who defined his own existence. His circumstances did not make who he was. He choose, and he himself made Nikola Tesla.

Vote for whom you think will make the best argument. All the best to Pro in the next round.
Debate Round No. 2


I'll start out by playing a very relevant song. It's my personal favorite.

Con's stance of being able to define one's self does not conflict with my original argument of one's culture defining them as a person. While there will always be amazing people who change the world like Nikola Tesla did, they are not the norm and are still defined by their culture. I don't mean to assume that Con is or isn't a fan of Tesla, but I most certainly am. I first heard of Tesla while Listening to this song on Joy Electric's album 'Hello Mannequin'. It quickly became my favorite for it's message of the futility of building a legacy. In the coming weeks I did a lot of research on who exactly this man was, and I was blown away.

Tesla made some amazing discoveries, and it is an utter tragedy that he isn't remembered for them as much as he should have been. That said, Tesla's advances where naturally limited by the time-period he lived in. Remote control, alternating current and basic radar are but a few of Tesla's inventions, and to be honest these things aren't all that impressive anymore. They were amazing discoveries back in Tesla's day, but they're all very commonplace now. You can see a child utilizing all of these things just to play angry birds or call his parents to pick him up from soccer practice. As science has grown and literacy has expanded, these discoveries aren't as amazing as they were back in Tesla's day.

Don't get me wrong though, I in no way intend to undermine what Tesla did for our world. But if Tesla where alive today, I have no doubt that he would create even more amazing things to revolutionize our world compared to what he made in his lifetime. He would have more advanced technology at his disposal, a plethora of different literature to study and he would even have different prevailing ideologies to work with. He would be a different man, because he would have different circumstances he lived under.

On a similar note, had Tesla gotten brain damage before creating the Tesla Coil, those circumstances would have made him different man. He wouldn't have been remembered as the bad@ss who knew how to create a tower of lighting that could kill a man from a mile away[3]. In fact he probably wouldn't have been remembered at all.

There is a huge impact here; Circumstances can make or break a man. Free will has it's place to a degree, but no amount of free will could make a person have been born in a different time period. My birth date wills still be in 1993 no matter how hard I will it otherwise. However when we understand that even the most seemingly insignificant detail about a person's life could fundamentally change who they are, we realize that the circumstances surrounding our lives mean a lot more than our will live a certain way does.

I have loved argumentation and clash since I was very young. I adored it when my step-mom, would engage me by arguing with me over anything and everything. However I probably wouldn't want to be a debate teacher had I never taken debate 1 my freshman year of high school. I would probably still enjoy argumentation because that's something intrinsic to my nature. and I may have even pursued a different career where I could still use those skills like being a lawyer or a politician -- but because of my circumstances in high school, I chose to go to school to study education so I could teach debate. Because of Tesla's circumstances in being born in the time he was, we studied electricity instead of computers.

In conclusion, free will doesn't mean much in the way of changing a person's circumstances. Especially if those circumstances are not negative or if the person is not particularly aware of them. Circumstances regarding one's culture still define them and make them who they are, even if only to a small degree.

Back to you Con!


The intention of raising the topic of Tesla"s actions and works, was to illustrate the fact that it is possible to live within a society and yet be detached to it. The culture of the community that Tesla lived in, was to innovate technology, and create patents out of the innovation and following the chain of causality, to profit out of the patents, usually in the form of material benefits, for example status and money. Most innovators during that time period had fallen within this stereotype which isn"t far from the truth, like Marconi and more prominently Edison, who incidentally both heavily profited from Tesla"s work. But despite this intrinsic convention of innovation and discovery for profit, Tesla was solely interested in the actual progression of his work, instead of the profit he may later gain from it. The culture and circumstance of the situation did not influence his interests and beliefs.

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" - Isaac Newton.
This could be especially applied to the case of Tesla, who had the misfortune of living in a world with a relatively weak foundation of the understanding of electrical mechanics. Although, it should be pointed out that it is these circumstances of the lack of understanding that provided the circumstances which allowed Tesla to reveal himself. Perhaps if he stood on the shoulders on taller giants, (e.i. lived in an era with a more significantly progressed theoretical framework of electrical mechanics) he would still have made large contributions towards mankind"s technological competency. This should not be mistaken as him being a different man, as to what he was, but merely understood as the fact that he is able to reveal the man he is, under different, more advanced circumstances.

Should Tesla have gotten brain damage from the external environment, it would be reasonable to speculate that his character would, in fact change, though this would be similar to stating that had Tesla been shot and killed, that would have also changed the man he was. It is difficult to avoid the argument of semantics, though it would be unsound to assume that the principles of scientific determinism on one"s consciousness would be considered a "circumstance". If it were, the following would also have to be taken into account:
-The arrangement of molecules in your brain
-The following chemical reactions within your brain that affect behavior
-Constants which are embedded into reality that express the physical and quantum world in this exact form, which allow the molecules and chemical elements to exist the way they do

Agreed, that free will cannot change the circumstances of our lives, but it has a large and significant amount of impact on how we react to the circumstances brought upon us. Circumstances do not define the individual, but allows us to shape who we are, based on how we choose to act upon the given circumstances. An American who had his/her loved one killed in 9/11 could either choose to despise the entire Islam demographic for the rest of his/her life, or acknowledge that it is merely the actions of an extreme few and does not define the entire population. Even though about half the American population share the latter sentiment, it is more noteworthy that the other half does not. No matter what the circumstance, the universality of logic is able to overcome the circumstance of the indoctrination via the external environment.

A man is measured by his actions, and his actions alone. Circumstance can change lives, but the other, more important and significant part are the actions which respond to those circumstances. Circumstances can only make the man if the man allows it to.

Pro is pro. The floor is yours, Pro.
Debate Round No. 3


Before you go any further, I ask the voters to re-read the disambiguation clause at the top of the first round. It was never my intention to argue that one is unable to deviate from the societal norms of their culture. Instead my argument is that the circumstances of their existence within a particular culture make them who they are and define the value placed on them. Con's quote from Newton only strengthens my stance here as it shows that our progress is limited to those who came before us.

Individuals within a society will still have inherent qualities which are strengthened or suppressed by that society. We praise Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for their contributions to technology, but compared to what we will have in 200 years the iPhone is piece of junk. Had Jobs been born 200 years later his technological achievements would have been much more impressive than they are to us today. Or maybe they would have seemed boring and uninspired. The point is that the circumstances of Job's life molded him into the man he was, and caused him to leave a legacy of excellence. The same is true of Tesla, but we'll get to that in a minute.

In the first round of clash I talked about how if you were to place a Victorian gentleman in feudal Japan, he wouldn't have the same value as he would in Victorian England. In the same way a samurai from Feudal Japan wouldn't have been revered the same way in Victorian England. Con hasn't touched these arguments. He has also failed to address the morality arguments I make in both the first round of clash as well as the prior round when I speak of Tesla's influences. This is my last round, so don't let him start arguing against these in his next turn. I won't have the opportunity to defend anything he would say. Con has only focused on his own argument concerning Tesla which has continued to change since the first round.

Individuals can deviate from their culture, but who they are and how they deviate is still a product of the culture that they live in. To extend the arguments contrasting England and Japan, Lolita fashion[4] is a perfect example of how rebellion in one culture is conformity in another. Lolita is a fashion trend which originated in Japan based on the clothing of Victorian England. Japanese girls will dress in what many westerners would consider highly conservative clothing, yet in Japan this style of dress is seen as rebellious. Lolita is a statement against Japan's traditionalist culture and the pressure to conform. However in a Victorian society no one would bat an eye at the Lolita style of dress. The circumstances of the culture make certain traits taboo and others common, effectively showing that circumstances do indeed make the man.

In the same way, Tesla was seen as an innovator because of the things he did at the time he did them. He was a product of his time because of his interests and influences. Electricity was already being researched at the time, so Tesla's advances where seen as impressive. However had Tesla done the same things in the time of Christ, he would have been made out to be a wizard or even a God. The circumstances are not only important in determining how one will react, but how their society places value on them. Con never contests this and even makes arguments about how our circumstances allow us to shape who we are.

An electrical engineer born in 1980 might be a craftsman had be born in 1880. A comic-book artist born in 1990 might be a painter or a sculptor had he been born in 1320. These circumstances define us and make us who we are.

To conclude I would like to thank Con for the debate, and I now hand it over to him.
I can't wait for your final round!


HappySandwich forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by MisterDeku 3 years ago
Posted by sweetbreeze 3 years ago
I have a feeling that you're DoctorDeku...
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Jegory 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct: FF.
Vote Placed by johnlubba 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: ff