The Instigator
Fouiller
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
mattrodstrom
Pro (for)
Winning
27 Points

Empiricism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/15/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 9,149 times Debate No: 11447
Debate Rounds (1)
Comments (50)
Votes (7)

 

Fouiller

Con

This debate is for the sole purpose of seeing if anyone, preferably an empiricist (popularized by David Hume), can refute this statement. Thank you for your time and enlightenment.

Empiricism is wrong for the simple reason that it is self refuting. In the words of Norman L. Geisler:

The Principle of empirical verifiability states that there are only two kinds of meaningful presuppositions: 1) those that are true by definition and 2) those that are empirically verifiable. Since the principle of empirical variability itself is not true by definition nor empirically verifiable, it cannot be meaningful"

Why or why not is this incorrect?
mattrodstrom

Pro

Firstly, I'd like to thank Fouiller for proposing this most interesting, one round, debate. I'm sure I will very much enjoy this opportunity to lecture. :)

From what I understand I have the Burden of Proof of refuting this statement (and Fouiller's argument for it):
"Empiricism is wrong for the simple reason that it is self refuting."

I will argue both that Empiricism is not self refuting (being at most "self doubting") and that Empiricism is, evidently, the only reasonable epistemological approach; and hence is not "wrong" because it is the "right" approach.
___

In regard to the words of Norman L. Geisler:

From what I can tell the "Principle of Empirical Verifiability" as so constructed is not the work of Hume but rather one similar to the work of Kant, who divides knowable things between the "Analytic" and the "Synthetic". Hume would not care to make such an explicit division, but would rather, I would assume, present objects of analytic knowledge as themselves empirically derived. This being, from what I can tell, a stronger, and (in my opinion) truer, form of empiricism I would hope you would not object to my basing my arguments off of that rather than Geisler's idea.

Further, I don't think Empiric epistemology traditionally deals with making "meaningful" presuppositions, but rather only "reasonable" ones.

So, all said, I hold that a "true" Principal of Empirical Verifiability would be that the only kind of reasonable presuppositions are those that are empirically verifiable.
___

Now in order to show that empiricism is "the only reasonable epistemological approach" I will attempt to show that other epistemological approaches either rely upon what can be said to be "empirically derived" knowledge, or fail to be reasonable.
+++

Being that Geisler; the apparent inspiration for my opponent's stance; is a Christian Apologist, I shall first discuss how the epistemological approach of "Revelation" relies upon empiricism to be deemed "reasonable"
(religious beliefs might also make claims to "reason" through a rationalistic approach, but these should be covered when I discuss Rationalism)

I'm fairly certain that "Revelation" can refer to one of only two things;

That is either coming to know through being exposed to religious texts which are found to profoundly encapsulate "the truth" (either Empirical or Rational) in some way that convinces one of the validity of the religion at hand.

Or coming to know through direct experience of, or "connection" with, a Divine entity.
(a combination of the two manners could plausibly also be referred to if the "Divine" experience occurs through reading the scriptures)

Clearly the claims to "reason" which Revelation makes are very heavily Empirical in nature in that they rely on at least some kind of experience. The power of Revelation is in the experience, or in the apparently profound Empirical (or plausibly rational) truth related in the scriptures.
+++

Now, moving on to the real beast, I will show that a pure Rationalist is quite unreasonable.

Rationalism is the idea of coming to "truth" through reason. Ultimately Rationalism relies purely upon those "analytic" concepts which (true) Empiricists claim somehow come about through experience.

Rationalists generally do think of these analytic concepts as innate to a reasoning being, but in this one must carefully spell out how they are in contention with Empiricism. For though Empiricists suggest these analytic concepts are derived in some manner from experience, they easily admit that the Nature of the Knower would very much affect what concepts can possibly be had, and that it would seem that our nature allows us, and disposes us, to form certain concepts (especially those analytic concepts). In saying these concepts are "innate" Rationalists mean that they exist as "a whole"/complete idea as a part of a persons nature BEFORE they experience anything.

The classic case (which I've seen used in somewhat Modern literature; Chomsky's critique of Verbal Behavior) is that when Socrates questions an untutored slave boy about lines and the like, and eventually without instructing him on anything, shows that the boy already essentially knows the principles of Geometry. Socrates takes this as somehow proving that those concepts are innate in people; and in a way infinite. This is ABSURD, if you take the boy who successfully walks around in "3-D" reality one would assume that he has some kind of an understanding of the conceptual nature of 2 dimensions; the question is HOW did he GET that understanding, not IF he has it; it should have been clear he had some understanding of 2 dimensions before ANY questions were asked.

Whereas an empiricist would suggest he got that concept due to his nature being able to draw it from experience, the rationalist would say that those concepts were already there in his nature before any experience. A better test for rationalism would be to destroy the tactile sensations of a babe and raise it to the age of the slave boy in a cardboard box on an I-V. Teach the kid a language as it grows up, and THEN see if he can understand the principles of geometry (though you might also have to maim one ear because he might empirically get some concept from experiencing depth of hearing). Clearly however, we can all hope such an enlightening experiment will never be done, and that we won't get our answer that way.

That said, rationalism has no Proof that such concepts are inherent in their "whole" form, and not just dispositions which form a conceptual understanding of things given experience to interpret. The Empiricist would say that we naturally discriminate experience, and that Analytic notions come from that discrimination. We get the idea of number from discriminating amongst two experiences (which we do naturally). If a person names "this" object of experience, "that" one, and "the other" one, and consciously considers these divisions (which apparently naturally occurs) then they're already well on their way to forming the idea of number.

Rationalists claim that Analytic knowledge is native to people, and Empiricist claim it is derived from a discriminating nature considering experience. Proving the way things truly ARE would be quite a feat, and is not what I'm trying to do.

Instead I will show that Rationalistic claim to get at "Truth of reality" through Reason is unreasonable in itself; and that the only way to make the claim reasonable at all is to add a empiricist qualification. For how can one know whether those necessities of "reason" are actually necessities of the world? If those concepts are derived from YOUR nature how can you say that they're ABSOLUTELY rules of how things actually are, rather than just how you can think of them. The fact is you can't. How can you determine that YOUR nature is perfect in this regard; that the rules governing your thought are those that govern what can happen in reality too. You can't.

The only way to reasonably talk about "reality" is to qualify that this is your understanding of it. Your understanding based upon what is EVIDENTLY your conceptual abilities/limitations in this regard.

Rationalists ultimately can't make any reasonable claims about how things ARE without admitting that they are just saying how things SEEM to be. There is no basis for a Rationalist to jump from THEIR natural conceptual understanding to REALITY.

Rationalists, if they care to be reasonable, must ultimately talk in the terms of Empiricists.

If one cares to make any reasonable claims they must ultimately be empirical; Rationalistic claims to "absolute truth" are without reason. The only reasonable claims to make are limited ones based upon what is apparent; what is is empirically evident.
Debate Round No. 1
50 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by mattrodstrom 7 years ago
mattrodstrom
Belle: "scientific details such as the ones you describe can be determined through experiment- which is why they are empirical."

No that's why they're scientific.
They're Empirical because they're known through experience.

Belle: "logic cannot be proven or disprove through experiments. acceptance of logic is a precondition to successfully making any experiments."

I agree. BUT (as my argument was about) the absolute "Truth" of logical Relations, in governing REALITY, cannot be shown reasonable from a purely rationalist approach.

Here's my argument from the debate:

"How can one know whether those necessities of "reason" are actually necessities of the world? If those concepts are derived from YOUR nature how can you say that they're ABSOLUTELY rules of how things actually are, rather than just how you can think of them. The fact is you can't. How can you determine that YOUR nature is perfect in this regard; that the rules governing your thought are those that govern what can happen in reality too. You can't.

The only way to reasonably talk about "reality" is to qualify that this is your understanding of it. Your understanding based upon what is EVIDENTLY your conceptual abilities/limitations in this regard."
Posted by wjmelements 7 years ago
wjmelements
PWN'D. Notallcaps.
Posted by belle 7 years ago
belle
nope lol still missing the point. scientific details such as the ones you describe can be determined through experiment- which is why they are empirical. logic cannot be proven or disprove through experiments. acceptance of logic is a precondition to successfully making any experiments.
Posted by mattrodstrom 7 years ago
mattrodstrom
Understand such things FULLY that is...

We can always understand them More :)
Posted by mattrodstrom 7 years ago
mattrodstrom
I wouldn't try to relate any knowledge of "the Incomprehensible" but that it is there is seemingly clear.

What is the smallest thing? quarks???

Why do (+) and (-) attract? Who knows?... Gravity?

Even if we get Some Kind of answers to these questions it would appear evident that those answers will Still rely on Something which we do not understand.

It would appear that we Cannot (given our current Apparent nature) understand such things.
Posted by belle 7 years ago
belle
lol. i am sure cult members think they are "awakened" to a deeper truth as well.

theres no coherent way to formulate this "extra-logical" truth. speaking of its existence is just as bad as speaking of the noumena as if you know squat about it...
Posted by mattrodstrom 7 years ago
mattrodstrom
For one who was not so "awakened" I would agree.
Posted by belle 7 years ago
belle
and i contend that such an awakening would be completely indistinguishable from nonsense :P
Posted by mattrodstrom 7 years ago
mattrodstrom
theres nothing we could find in the world that would tell us "oh. so logic isn't absolute afterall"; for everything empirical there *is* something we could find through observation that would falsify it.

And I would hold that you could conceivably have such an "awakening".

It seems as though we're limited. But we don't really have access to immutable knowledge as to our natures, and it's conceivable that one day you might think differently EVEN about what you now see as apparent necessities.
Posted by belle 7 years ago
belle
empirical means subject to observation- in other words the truth or falsity rests on something we observe within the world. the truth or falsity of logical claims rest ultimately on the structure of logic which is a presupposition to all thought. theres nothing we could find in the world that would tell us "oh. so logic isn't absolute afterall"; for everything empirical there *is* something we could find through observation that would falsify it.
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