The Instigator
LiamKNOW
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
MrDelaney
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points

Common Consent Provides a Reasonable Foundation for a Belief

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
MrDelaney
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/5/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 661 times Debate No: 48470
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (3)

 

LiamKNOW

Pro

I will be arguing that if a majority of people believe something -- barring any other arguments for or against their position -- it is reasonable to adhere to the preponderant viewpoint (and the more pronounced the majority, the more confident one should be in agreeing with it).
MrDelaney

Con

First off, thank you Liam for setting up this debate, I'm looking forward to it.

I will refrain from making too detailed an argument before Liam has an opportunity to lay out his case, but I do feel the need to point out one thing from the start. The idea of common consent as a foundation for belief is such an old and recognized logical fallacy that it has a name, commonly referred to as the 'appeal to majority.'

I would also like to clarify terms a bit. The use of the word 'belief' in Liam's claim points to the idea that we can know real truths about the world that we inhabit. Simply put, I understand the claim to say that common consent provides a reasonable foundation for a belief in a given fact about the world. This would not encompass things such as societal norms, conventions or customs, as those are things that by their nature are defined only through the majority opinion. But those are merely preferences of a culture, not 'beliefs' in the classic sense.

I'll end it there for now and give Liam an opportunity to make his case.

I look forward to hearing how exactly an appeal to majority is not a logical fallacy and actually a 'reasonable foundation for belief.'
Debate Round No. 1
LiamKNOW

Pro

Thank you for accepting to participate in this debate.

I would like to thank my opponent for drawing the distinction between objective facts about reality and socio-cultural norms -- it is the former, not the latter, that concern us in this debate. As he rightly indicates, socio-cultural norms -- matters of taste or custom like culinary traditions -- are inherently determined by the majority; to attempt to deploy the Argument from Common Consent in their defense would be a futile tautology.

I would also like to point out the Appeal to Majority fallacy refers to efforts to establish the veridicality of a position with certainty through an appeal to majority opinion. Clearly, it is possible for the majority to be incorrect -- as it was in the 14th century when most believed in a flat Earth. Hence, the Appeal to Majority to establish certainty is logically flawed. This does nothing, however, to the Argument from Common Consent, which seeks merely to establish probability -- not certainty -- about a proposition.

Take, for instance, a mathematical problem. You and ninety-nine other people puzzle over this problem, trying to find the solution. Suppose you and eight other people come to one conclusion, one person comes to another conclusion, and the ninety other people come to yet another conclusion. Would it not be reasonable to conclude that you -- despite support from eight other people -- are mistaken and that the over-whelming majority is correct? And would it not be even more reasonable for the one person with a unique solution to the problem doubt his/her conclusion and side with the majority? Remember, other factors -- such as individual mathematical expertise, propensity for pranks, etc. -- are not to be taken into account. We are concerned only with the fact that a majority or human beings -- regardless of other characteristics -- agree or disagree with you, and how that should influence your confidence in your beliefs.

I await your erudite thoughts.
MrDelaney

Con

I can't help but feel you've shifted the goal posts a bit. Originally you said you'd argue "if a majority of people believe something - barring any other arguments for or against their position - it is reasonable to adhere to the preponderant viewpoint." However, you've now shifted to claim that common consent "seeks merely to establish probability, not certainty, about a proposition." Adhering to the preponderant viewpoint means accepting the preponderant viewpoint as true, not that it might be true. That may be a subtle distinction, but its a significant one.

You are now arguing for a weaker position, essentially conceding your original proposition that common consent is reasonable to adhere to the preponderant viewpoint.

Having said that, I will go on to your 'math problem' example. Given that we should "bar any other arguments," I don't feel your example fits. In your example we have our own math skills and the problem itself to compare against the answers of the other people.

You said you wanted to argue that common consent alone was a reasonable foundation for belief, so I would put forth the following: 100 people are given a math problem that you do not see. The majority tell you the answer is 42. The minority tells you the answer is 51. You have no way of judging who may be right and only have common consent to go off of. This more accurately displays whether or not common consent is enough to adhere to the preponderant viewpoint.

In this situation the "preponderant viewpoint" is that the answer is 42. However, I can only reasonably believe that the answer might be 42. But that is not what the 'preponderant viewpoint' is, and so I would not be adhering to it. Those in the majority hold the belief that the answer is 42. The most I can do is believe that it might be 42.

Via common consent you can only admit the possibility of the preponderant viewpoint, but you are not reasonably justified in adhering to it. To do so is making a logical leap.
Debate Round No. 2
LiamKNOW

Pro

I disagree that I have shifted my contention in this debate, but I think I understand what gave rise to that impression. My opponent seems to believe that believing something is "probable" or "likely" is not sufficient to "adhere" to it. I disagree. If my friend tells me that he can play at 5 o'clock tomorrow, I "adhere" to the view that he is correct -- despite the possibility that he is lying or mistaken -- in that I operate as if it was true (perhaps I shift my schedule to be free at 5 o'clock tomorrow). Likewise, if my biology teacher tells me that the tissue I observe through the microscope is necrotic, I "adhere" to that view, despite the fact that my teacher may be lying, ignorant, or insane. Certainty is not necessary to adhere to a belief.

As for my example concerning the math problem, I concede that the simplified version you present is a better illustration of the concept I am attempting to convey. In your illustration, you claim that one can only reasonably conclude that 42 MIGHT be the correct answer. I believe that one can reasonably go further and -- based on the preponderance of the view -- conclude that 42 is PROBABLY the right answer, thus adhering to the majority opinion (since the majority believe that 42 is PROBABLY the right answer; no intelligent person would ever claim certainty about one's solution to a math problem).

Your final paragraph states that common consent can only establish the "possibility" of a proposition, but you are not justified in "adhering to it." That is misguided; common consent establishes that a proposition is probably true, and it is reasonable to adhere to opinions that are probably true.

I can present my view in a very simple syllogism:

1) Common consent establishes that a proposition is probably true
2) It is reasonable to adhere to a proposition that is probably true
3) Therefore, it is reasonable to adhere to a proposition that is established through common consent.
MrDelaney

Con

“My opponent seems to believe that believing something is "probable" or "likely" is not sufficient to "adhere" to it.”

That is not what I was arguing. I will do my best to clarify.

The belief you hold is not the same belief that the majority holds. You believe that the majority opinion MAY be correct, while the majority holds the belief that they ARE correct. These are not the same beliefs, and therefore you are not strictly “adhering to the preponderant viewpoint,” which is what your entire argument rests on.

In regards to the math problem, you said we may be able to:
… conclude that 42 is PROBABLY the right answer…

Using only common consent and no other information, evidence or argument, I do not see how you can get there. In our example you know nothing of the difficulty of the problem or the abilities of the persons involved.

“..no intelligent person would ever claim certainty about one's solution to a math problem).”

Are you claiming that if I asked you to solve the problem “50 minus 8” you would not claim certainty that the answer is 42? There are many situations in which intelligent persons can claim certainty. Of course in our example we don't know how difficult the problem is, and can only gauge our belief off the certainty exhibited by the respondents.

Your belief is contingent on their belief, the two beliefs will never be equal nor identical. Therefore you will not be ‘adhering to the preponderant viewpoint.’ If you are relying solely on common consent, your belief will always be a belief ABOUT the 'preponderant viewpoint.' The only way to get past that is via a logical fallacy.

In regards to your syllogism, you haven’t offered any proof for Premise 1: “Common Consent establishes that a proposition is probably true.” So, even if the syllogism is valid, which I haven't granted, we cannot assume it is sound.

I hold that you have not yet supported the argument that if a majority of people believe something it is reasonable to adhere to the preponderant viewpoint.

Debate Round No. 3
LiamKNOW

Pro

LiamKNOW forfeited this round.
MrDelaney

Con

Unfortunately it seems Liam has had to forfeit this round. I will gladly give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume that life got in the way and time simply got away from him.

In the interest of fairness I will not offer any new arguments until he has the opportunity to attempt to rebut my comments in Round 3.

To recap:

Liam has yet to support his premise that "common consent establishes that a proposition is probably true."
And, if he is able to demonstrate the truth of that premise, he still needs to address the concerns I raised with my argument in Round 3.

I hope he will come back for Round 5.
I look forward to reading his arguments and continuing this interesting discussion.
Debate Round No. 4
LiamKNOW

Pro

LiamKNOW forfeited this round.
MrDelaney

Con

Well, unfortunately it seems that Liam has given up on this debate.

He has failed to establish that "common consent establishes that a proposition is probably true."

Without that, he is unable to go any further in order to support his idea that if a majority of people believe in something it is reasonable to adhere to the preponderant viewpoint.

I feel I have upheld my burden in this debate, as Liam has been unable to support in any way that common consent provides a reasonable foundation for belief.

I would like to close by thanking Liam for the earlier rounds of this debate. I found it quite enjoyable and engaging for the few rounds we had. Should he ever choose to pick this topic back up a second a time I would be happy to see it through again.

And thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read along.

Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by MrDelaney 2 years ago
MrDelaney
Nevermind... I went ahead and took up the baton regardless.
Posted by MrDelaney 2 years ago
MrDelaney
Could you please clarify what exactly you mean by, "barring any other arguments for or against their position" ?
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by judeifeanyi 2 years ago
judeifeanyi
LiamKNOWMrDelaneyTied
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: Con ate the pro's meal
Vote Placed by Actionsspeak 2 years ago
Actionsspeak
LiamKNOWMrDelaneyTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by Krazzy_Player 2 years ago
Krazzy_Player
LiamKNOWMrDelaneyTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF