The Instigator
Rusho
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
drafterman
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Empodicles' Elemental Theory.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
drafterman
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/17/2011 Category: Science
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,389 times Debate No: 18843
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)

 

Rusho

Pro

I will prove that Empodicles' theory of the four elements of fire, earth, air, and water as true, or; at least, not disprovable. I will allow my opponent to start with the argument, you may use anything you see as relevent to disprove Empodicles' theory of elements, and I will do all in my power to disprove them. Accepting anyone willing to take the challenge.
drafterman

Con

Introduction:

First, let us identify some crucial components of Empedocles' theory:

"[Empedocles theory] is based on the claim that everything is composed of four material elements (“roots”); these elements are moved by two opposing forces. The elements are fire, air, earth, and water; the forces are Love and Strife" (1).

"Empedocles seems to have Parmenides' arguments in mind when he denies that these elements or forces come to be or pass away. Everything else comes to be and passes away because each is composed of elements that successively combine to form them and separate at their destruction (B 17.26-35)" (1).

Thus:

1. We establish the four elements/roots: fire, air, earth, water, which are material.
2. We establish that everything is composed of them.
3. We establish that these elements cannot be decomposed into simpler parts.

Disproof:

Water

Water is composed of Hydrogen and Oxygen and can easily be separated into these components through the process of electrolysis (2). Thus, water is not an element and violates #3.

Air

Air is a mixture of gases which, themselves, are compounds being able to be decomposed into smaller components. The two most prominent examples are: Nitrogen (in the form of N2, which can be broken into individual nitrogen atoms) and Oxygen (in the form of O2, which can also be broken down). The only components of air that are truly elemental are trace amounts of noble gasses (3). Thus, air is not an element and violates #3.

Fire

Fire is not a substance, it is a process. Furthermore it is a process with multiple necessary components: fuel, oxygen, and heat (4). Thus, fire violates both #1 and #3.

Earth

Earth is difficult to define, so I saved it last and simply designate it as everything in nature that is not water, air, or fire. In this sense it is easy to see that earth is also a composite object, being composed of a great deal of simpler elements. Soil contains inorganic (rocks) and organic (remains of living organisms) material. Thus earth violates #3.

Synthetic elements

Not addressed thus far is #2, that all things are composed of the above elements. In designating Earth as everything that not water, air, or fire would seem to prove this. However, our ability to create synthetic elements is an exception. Our ability to create synthetic elements demonstrates that, even in terms of modern Chemistry, elements and atoms are not indivisible. Atoms are composed of electrons, protons, and neutrons (the latter two being composed of up and down quarks). Thus we can create new elements which are not composites of existing elements. Thus #2 is disproved.
Debate Round No. 1
Rusho

Pro

First, I will disregard the fact that no evidence is posted in my opponent's argument.

Let's set the date, it is somewhere between 492 B.C. and 432 B.C. Now, as we all are surely aware of, definitions change throughout time. Who is to say that the definition of an element and matter some 2500 years ago is the exact same as it is today, as my opponent would suggest. Now, for all that we do know, Empedocles' theory had nothing to do with what all matter was composed of. Now, unless my opponent has a time machine, I believe we can look at Empedocles theory in another way, that will essentially help to keep his theory disprovable.
(http://www.visionlearning.com...)

Let's define a theory: a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact. (http://dictionary.reference.com...)

Now it is clear that a theory has neither been completely proven or disproven. Therefore, to win this debate, I must prove that my opponents argument does not disprove Empedocles' theory, and I do not have to prove his theory.

Now let's define an element: a component or constituent of a whole or one of the parts into which a whole may be resolved by analysis: Bricks and mortar are elements of every masonry wall. (http://dictionary.reference.com...)

Now it's clear to me, if we keep a relatively similar definition of an element as it is now, that an element does not restrict us to what is on the periodic table. Empedocles could have simply been using the word element as I have defined.

My opponent seems to try to get inside Empedocles head with his third posted paragraph, so I will take the same liberty.

Let's suppose Empedocles' theory had nothing to do with all matter. Instead let's connect it to what almost all science was connected to in those times; natural phenomena. In simpler terms, natural disasters. Thinks like earth quakes, typhoons, tidal waves, wild fires, and erupting volcanoes. My definition of an element with the given example of a brick and mortar just goes to support Empedocles. Mortar and a brick can both be broken down into simpler elements. Now; fire, earth, air, and water can too. So maybe his elemental view, was the ingredients of a disaster. Not the ingredients of all matter.

Here are some examples:

Volcanic eruption: has lava, which is molten earth, so let's combine earth and fire and we have lava.
Typhoon: simply a vortex of water, so air and water make this one.
Earthquake: plates of earth are moving and bumping into each other.
Wild fire: simply a fire.
Tidal waves: a wave of water.
Mud slide: mixed water and earth sliding down a mountain.
Avalanche: frozen water sliding down a mountain.

As we can see, his theory can be taken into different contexts, and my opponent has no way of knowing what context his theory was in without some kind of first person account.
drafterman

Con

I apologize for not providing the sources for my statements and thank my opponent for granting me the benefit of the doubt. For reference, the sources are:

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://www.straightdope.com...

----

Essentially, my opponent's argument is to call Empedocles’ elemental theory "Empedocles Elemental Theory" and, since we can't know what Empedocles’ was actually talking about, we can choose specific meanings for the words that makes it unprovable.

If I were to concede the validity of this tactic, then that would essentially concede the debate. This tactic is invalid and, frankly, a bit silly.

What are we talking about then?

Words are referents. They allow us to refer to material things and communicate information to other people without requiring access to said material thing. I can talk to you about cars and you can know what I mean without us needing to find a car. More importantly, words allow for abstraction and the discussion of things for which there are no corresponding material objects.

Words are also creative. They allow us to build and create novel concepts. We can use existing words and their meanings to create new concepts. Take, for example, discovering new things. We use existing words together to describe that new thing and to convey information about it.

In this second sense we could create a conception of "Empedocles Elemental Theory" in which we use existing definitions of the words to 'build' this new concept. But this causes problems. In context, you appear to be referring to something that already exists, not something that you are constructing anew. Empedocles existed; he was Greek philosopher. He wrote about his ideas on the composition of matter. Thus, the natural assumption, when creating this debate, is that you are referring to these things which already exist.

To then state that you are not referring to something which already exists (since you claim we cannot know what Empedocles was talking about) and then build a new concept using meanings of words of your own choosing is a bit misleading. If this was your intention, then it was upon you to define these concepts prior to the debate, especially considering your request to have Con (me) start with an argument. In short, this is a bait and switch. I took the bait, I admit, but I am not permitting the switch.

What We Know

You state, "Now, for all that we do know, Empedocles' theory had nothing to do with what all matter was composed of." This statement can only refer to yourself, and as such your choice of pronoun "we" is assumptive. You may not know what Empedocles was talking about, but others do. We know this because he wrote his thoughts down. I made reference to statements about his work and now you have the source (1, above).

Regardless of what words we use to describe Empedocles' theory and concepts, and regardless of what the many meanings of those words are today, we do know what Empedocles’ was talking about through translation and context. He was talking, in line with a number of other Greek philosophers, about the composition of the material world around them. To explain this he relied on the "Classical" elements and how they interacted with each other under the conditions I previously outlined (material, combine to form everything, cannot be decomposed).

Summary

In failing to explicitly define the concepts my opponent wished to discuss, my opponent made an implicit concession in favor of the status quo (which is typical for the "Pro" side of a debate anyway). The status quo regarding Empedocles’ theory is as I previously stated.

Furthermore, in placing it upon me to initiate the argument, my opponent also implicitly conceded the opportunity to subsequently redefine those terms in later rounds. To allow otherwise would be to make debates impossible, as one side could simply choose different definitions for the words being discussed each round of debate to avoid having to actually do anything.

Given this, the theory being discussed is Empedocles’ theory of the Classical elements as currently understood, which is subject to the refutations that I have provided, refutations have not been countered by my opponent.
Debate Round No. 2
Rusho

Pro

Rusho forfeited this round.
drafterman

Con

I noticed, in comments on other debates, that my opponent had other obligations that may account for this forfeiture. Given his magnanimousness regarding my failure to produce my sources during the first argument, I recommend that we simply consider the debate ended after the previous round.

I offer no new information and let my rebuttals stand as they are.

Thank you for this debate.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Rusho 5 years ago
Rusho
Yeah, I am sorry i was not able to respond, i was busy with work at this moment, and my only reply I agree we should just call this done. There was no way I could have known in your first argument that it was a primary source, and I believe that has something to do with adding in new information, which I sort of did as well. Again I apologize for not responding.
Posted by TheRomanticist 5 years ago
TheRomanticist
The definition I read for Empedocle's theory could be easily dis-proven, that's why I wanted to know his definition.
Posted by drafterman 5 years ago
drafterman
Crap I forgot my sources. I'll put them in my next round. So I don't forget:

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://www.straightdope.com...
Posted by Puck 5 years ago
Puck
@ TheRomanticist

Essentially the 4 basic 'elements' of water/earth/fire/water alone or by combination are the root of all matter and material.
Posted by Puck 5 years ago
Puck
It's Empedocles.
Posted by TheRomanticist 5 years ago
TheRomanticist
Could you define the theory more clearly please?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Lordknukle 5 years ago
Lordknukle
RushodraftermanTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by Raisor 5 years ago
Raisor
RushodraftermanTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro offers no supporting argument for his clearly eccentric reading. Sure we can ascribe whatever definitions we like to a text but Pro is right to point out that we are restricted by context etc. Pretty clear cut debate.