The Instigator
Con (against)
6 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Epistemic Justification is possible

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/28/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,677 times Debate No: 75844
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (25)
Votes (2)




So I've finally decided to have my third debate so I may start voting on others. My goal is to show, as an indirect skeptic, that all dogmatists lack justifications for their beliefs and are inconsistent in their pursuit for objective truths.

(1) Pyrrhonism - a school of scepticism based on the suspension of belief
(2) Gettier Problem - a philosophical question on whether justified true belief is sufficient for knowledge
(3) Knowledge - Certain Justified True Belief

The topic is "Justification is possible". My opponent must either show that the conclusion of Munchhausen's Trilemma is false, that justification can be based on Coherentism, Foundationalism, Infinitism or show that it is a false trilemma.

1. Con's opening, Pro's arguments
2. Con's arguments, Pro's rebuttal
3. Con's rebuttal, Pro's defense
4. Con's defence, Pro's concedes

(1) Do NOT accept if you are unable to commit to this debate
(2) A single forfeiture counts as a loss
(3) All contested or added definitions should be included in the comments section to utilize all characters in their round and avoid disagreements
(4) Please do not accept if you are unfamiliar with the terminology
(5) Burden of Proof is on Pro.

Looking forward to an intellectually stimulating debate!


I’d like to begin by thanking CoriMike for initiating this debate. I look forward to the stimulating debate that will proceed.

Now, we’ll go through a brief overview of the primary thrust of my argument. In general, I will demonstrate that Munchhausen’s Trilemma (which will be abbreviated MT) fails to adequately demonstrate the resolution, viz., “justification is impossible”. We will show in two cases that either MT is self-refuting or that it fails to provide sufficient reason for our resolution (which is often taken as a corollary of MT).

Munchhausen’s Trilemma

Munchhausen’s Trilemma purports to show, by way of contraposition, that it is impossible to provide justification for a proposition. It proceeds as follows:

Let p be some proposition. If p is justifiable then the justification of p is based on either
(i) Infinite Regress
(ii) Circular Reasoning
(iii) Axiomatic Reasoning

That is to say, any argument which we will say justifies our proposition, must do so by dint of either an infinite regress, circular reasoning, or axiomatic reasoning. The Trilemma comes when the skeptic will assert that all three of these methods are problematic and therefore rejected. It follows by contraposition that p cannot be justified. We can say this with greater economy by giving a more formal rendering:

p implies (R or C or A)

where p is some justifiable proposition and R,C,A state that p is justifiable by infinite regress, circular reasoning, or axiomatic reasoning respectively. MT asserts ~R and ~ C and ~A since they are all problematic. By Demorgan’s Laws we get then that MT asserts ~(R or C or A). By contraposition, we get ~p. Thus, as a corollary, justification is impossible as there are no justifiable propositions.


We begin our analysis by considering the reasoning extended by MT. So we agree with the implication proposed by MT. That is we agree that justification implies that either R or C or A. We will proceed in agreement with MT and reject R and C since MT claims they are problematic. More specifically, MT rejects that we can justify a proposition by means of an infinite regress or by circular reasoning. So we assert ~R and ~C. Now when we get to A if we proceed in agreement with MT we must assert ~A. That is we must assert that justification cannot proceed by axiomatic reasoning.

Notice though that ~A is itself a proposition and its assertion requires justification. That is, ‘how do we know ~A’? Notice it’s impossible to know ~A by R or C, as we have already asserted ~R and ~C. So we cannot use circular reasoning or an infinite regress to justify our proposition ~A. So if we can justify our assertion ~A it would have to be by A. That is, if we wish to show that we know ~A, then the only way we can show this would by A as this is the only remaining method for justification. But then ~A implies A which is contradictory. That is, we are justifying our assertion ~A while assuming A is true. We hold then that, clearly, we do not know ~A. That is we can claim ~A is possible, but we cannot justify that claim. Notice if ~A is merely possible then it is not necessary. So A is also possible.


We recall that MT shows that justification is impossible on the basis of an argument by contraposition. That is, when p implies q we get that ~q implies ~p where q is our statement (R or C or A). Since we have rejected R and C, MT reduces thusly

p implies A

But A is possible since ~A is not necessary. So we cannot assert ~A. So we cannot assert ~p. Thus p is possible. So it is not the case that p is impossible. And we refute the resolution thusly.


I’d like to point out that this argument does not rely on justifications of the positions R or C or A. We could have just as easily chosen to reject any other combination of two. We are showing that MT fails to demonstrate that justification is impossible by shortcomings of the argument itself.

Ultimately I think most arguments that extend from reasoning which rejects all modes of justification are self-refuting for reasons similar to what we witnessed here.
Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, I would like to thank Tarkovsky for what appears to be a great start to this debate!

Now just to clear up a few misconceptions. As per debate rules, I need not justify the conclusion or ~A. Pro only needs to indirectly show that A relies on a random arbitrary suspension of the principle of sufficient reason which evidently leads to a lack of justification for any justification for A. I can also show that the conclusion follows logically which leads to a paradox the dogmatist must grapple with, assuming the laws of logic are objectively true. While an academic skeptic may make the negatively dogmatic assertion that justification is impossible, the pyrrhonian skeptic such as myself, withholds assent to truth claims of this sort. This is my position in this debate. Therefore if Pro attempts shifting the goalposts, he will be committing a red herring. That being said, we can move on to the arguments.

Pro states “…we cannot use circular reasoning or an infinite regress to justify our proposition ~A. “

Pro lacks justification for this assertion, and if he tries to justify it via Foundationalism (A) then he would be begging the question. Coherentism(C) and Infinitism (I) has also been conceded as impossible by Pro, therefore I see no other way for him to justify it without alluding to one of the horns within the dilemma, which he must first prove to be possible. Are we supposed to just take Pro’s assertion as truth without justification? I see no reason to do so.

It should be noted that when Pro concedes ~I and ~C (which also required justification), therefore A, he is being inconsistent in his argument as he assumes only A is not problematic. However, he has yet to fulfill this burden regardless of his apparent contentions.

Pro’s two main arguments are:

(1) ~A lacks justification
(2) The MT’s conclusive corollary is self-refuting

Response to 1

Pro asserts that ~A would itself entail Foundationalism. This is a red herring, as it is Pro’s burden to prove that A is not problematic. Assuming the laws of logic are true, basing knowledge on arbitrary assumptions cannot work, because someone else can infer the exact opposite knowledge claim from other arbitrary assumptions. Then it would possible to infer both a proposition P and its falsehood ~P from a set of arbitrary axioms. This would mean all statements are both true and false simultaneously. This follows from an argument known as the principle of explosion. If we allow contradictions then ~A can be accepted, as it is internally contradictory. Therefore, a break in searching at a certain point, which indeed appears principally feasible, would mean a random suspension of the principle of sufficient reason, and thus certain justification which is needed to uphold the resolution. Pro would thereby need to make an argument for Foundationalism.

Argument against Foundationlism

P1. If Foundationalism is true, beliefs can justify themselves (Assumed Indirect Proof)
P2. Grounds for that belief are due to autonomous warrant (anything else would appeal to Coherentism)
P3. Propositions with autonomous warrant are not more likely true than false
C1. Ergo, Beliefs cannot justify themselves and are thus, arbitrary

Defense of P3

If Pro argues that they are more likely to be true, then this would implicitly lead to coherentism (as it would imply that he is justified by the claim that propositions with autonomous warrant are more likely to be true). Another possible objection to P3 may be that while it is true that propositions with autonomous warrant aren't more likely to be true, it may still be the case that a set of propositions with autonomous warrant are true." However, that would be a red herring as the problem is not about truth, but justification. It does not matter if such claims are true or not, only if they are justified. If Pro wishes to defend the arbitrariness of foundationalism, I will extend my arguments in the next round.

Defense of C1

If the foundationalist agrees with P3, then that belief would be arbitrary by definition, since they don’t claim that their belief is connected to truth. If Pro argues for intuition (which is subjective at best) and its reliability (which suffers from coherentism, and the problem of induction), then he is defending Foundationalism based on an appeal to consequences.

Problems in Logic

For debate purposes, I will show contradictions inherent in the very laws of logic Foundationalists use regarding propositions since he is implicitly alluding that a proposition must either be true or false.

P1. The laws of logic are true (AIP: Assumed Indirect Proof)
P2. All propositions are either true or false (LEM)
P3. The proposition "this proposition is false" is neither true or false (Liar's paradox)
P3a. If the statement is true, then it is false
P3b. If the statement is false, then it is true
P4. There exists some proposition that is neither true or false (p3 existential generalization)
P5. It is not the case that all propositions are either true or false (p4 change in quantifier)
p6. It both is and is not the case that all propositions are either true or false (p2, p5 conjunction) Contradiction in the very laws of logic
C1. Therefore the laws of logic are not true (1-6 Indirect Proof)

Defense of Pyrrhonism

P7. The laws of logic are either not true or x (where x is an infinite long proposition) (1-6 Indirect Proof)
P8. Infinitism is impossible
C2. One cannot assent to an infinite long proposition

Defense of P7

It may be the case that the laws of logic are not true or x. Where “x” may be replaced with “I made a mistake in the proof or I was tricked by an evil deceiver or I am brain in a vat or I am in the matrix, or an infinite list of possibilities…..”. Ergo, one cannot assent to the conclusion of an infinitely long proposition but merely only suspend judgment on its truth value, thus entailing pyrrhonism. Therefore, not all propositions are either true or false.

If Pro wishes to argue against P3, then I will further defend this premise in my next round.

Response to 2

Pro implies that Munchhausen’s Trilemma (MT) is self-defeating, however, Munchhausen’s trilemma is not a proposition, theory or statement. It is a conjunction of several inconsistent but intuitive propositions that does exactly what it sets out to do. That is, it shows the impossibility to prove any truth including the truth of the conclusion (as it also lacks justification). So the trilemma cannot be true or false since it is a set of propositions. Even if the conclusion cannot itself be justified, Pro has neglected to give justification for its possibility since the conclusion logically follows and I have shown that not all propositions are either true or false (LEM: Law of Excluded Middle). Since I have already argued against foundationalism as shown above, the conclusion must either be accepted or Pro must abandon logic all together. MT does not set out to prove that objective justification is impossible, only that we cannot know if justification is possible or not, by the contradictions it entails and problems inherent in all three horns of the dilemma, thus the resolution has not been upheld.

Objective Truth

We have reasonable belief that we only have access to our own mental states. Everything we postulate fundamentally comes back to our experiences. Thus, the notion of “objective truth” is problematic for the following reasons since:

1. The subject is inherently divorced from the objective
2. Even if the subject is not inherently divorced from the objective, it is impossible to obtain justification (shown from arguments above)
3. A subject's beliefs are grounded in his experiences

If beliefs are grounded in our incorrigible experiences, it follows logically that the contents of these is inherently subjective. We operate on the following assumptions:

1. Other subjects are functioning within a similar framework
2. Our experiences are tied to the objective

Ofcourse, these axiomatic assumptions lack justification. However, a subject can merely state a subjective truth, which is insufficient for knowledge, as knowledge is purported as "Certain" justified true belief. Certain meaning indubitable.

Pro states that "if ~A is merely possible, then it is not necessary. So A is also possible." For Pro to assert this, he would have to know A or ~A can be the case. Since he cannot know which hypothesis is objectively true and if there is an objective reality, we cannot purport anything as a fact, therefore, we cannot say we know if anything is epistemologically possible or not, in any objective sense.

It is also logically possible that the Brain In A Vat (BIV) / the Matrix/ Evil Deceiver hypothesis is equally plausible if we assert foundationalism as sufficient grounds for justification. However, even justified true belief would be insufficient to say that we know what is a basic belief or an objective justification. This faces what is known as the Gettier Problem and furthers supports ideals such as epistemological nihilism.

Back over to Pro and good luck!


I'll have to pass this round to Con. Unexpected errands and the like.
Debate Round No. 2


Extend arguments


Sincerest apologies for missing the last round. Life does happen (in fact I really don’t have time to be doing this even now but what the hell).

Let’s begin by addressing some of Con’s ancillary arguments:

Liar’s Paradox

Con’s argument and, really, all forms of the liar’s paradox fail once we recognize the monumental presumption P3 makes when it asserts that “this proposition is false” is a proposition. We simply reject the claim that “this proposition is false” is a proposition and, thus, disarm the argument. Note, the onus is on Con to show that the liar’s statement is a proposition (as he is the one who is asserting it is). Also, note that the property ‘is a proposition’ need not be the same in all Languages (we more accurately mean Model). For this reason we can deny each attempt Con makes at supplying another liar’s statement in a case by case fashion, whilst keeping intact the other features of our Language (Model). Therefore, any attempt Con makes can be refuted by simply denying the instantiated liar’s statement the property of being a proposition.

Con will predictably rebut with some “different” and “better” formulation (Liar’s Revenge for example) of the liar’s statement. One formulation “This statement is either false or not a proposition” fails since if we hold that it isn’t a proposition, then it really is not a proposition. In other words, it fails to assert that it is not a proposition since, not being a proposition, it proposes as much as the string of characters “abc7789” - nothing. In fact, so long as the liar’s statements are not propositions (which we can assert quite arbitrarily) we avert the purported paradox. If Con presses this, we can get on this merry-go-round but, unless we are presented with an especially taxing formulation by Con, I entrust any prospective reader to apply our stated approach to show that Con’s argument fails.

P3 also suffers from ambiguity. Con fails to indicate what “This statement” refers to in “This statement is false”. Should he try to elucidate this point in a predicable way, we continue iterating our question and find that Con will be unable to remove this ambiguity. Observe that different interpretations of “This statement” yield different meanings. By reasoning we shall reveal should a need arise, it follows that changing the name of a statement can change its meaning.

Munchhuassen’s Trilemma (MT)

I’ll preface my arguments by summarizing our original position. I’ll then move on to novel and, as of yet, undiscussed arguments.

Our original position was to show that so long as MT maintains a defensible interpretation (more on this later), it fails to present a problem with upholding the resolution “Justification is possible”. It should be obvious that MT fails to present a problem for our resolution if we can assert C or I. That is, if one of these is true, then we are done as justification is possible by C or I. Clearly, for MT to “do what it sets out to do” (Con’s specious terminology here) we must have ~C and ~I (and ~A: see link below). We then showed that, even granting this major concession (~C and ~I), the strengthened form of MT (p implies A), whilst assuming a meaningful interpretation, cannot prevent us from upholding the resolution. MT has that justification is not impossible so long as C is possible, or I is possible, or A is possible. However by MT (p implies A), the conclusion ~A (which MT depends on: see link below) could only be justified by A. But this is contradictory, so ~A cannot be justified. So ~A can be true of false, we don’t know. Thus A can be true. Since justification is possible so long as A is possible, and A must be possible (true or false), Justification is possible.

Given Con’s professed skepticism, we anticipate his disapproval. He may beat his dead horse and continue that ~C and ~I are not justified. We ask that he demonstrate how MT “does what it sets out to do” should we be unable to have ~C and ~I. (Hans Albert, the progenitor of MT was not even so silly as to demand something like this: [First sentence in the section “Albert’s Formulation”]. He may repeat that it’s my job to show that A is not problematic. We point out that we are showing that ~A is problematic. But MT must have ~A (see link above). Since we can justify neither ~A nor A we can only conclude that ~A or ~(~A) (tautologous and non-contradictory by above arguments) which is equivalent to saying ~A is possible (either true or false) which is equivalent to saying A is possible (either true or false) which is enough, by MT, to uphold the resolution. If Con (or our readers) are bothered by our arbitrary choice of considering ~C and ~I instead of, say, ~C and ~A we ask that the obvious substitution be made: p implies X where X is some means of justifying p. We are saying MT is equivalent to the argument stating that, if p is justifiable, then p is justifiable by some means X (Albert’s formulation just makes the means, X, explicit).

By defensible interpretation we simply mean one that allows MT to be meaningful and non-contradictory. For example, we understand that if MT is to make any sense at all it must already make assumptions of its own, for example, the meaning of logical inferences, the notion of certainty, etc. Again, it’s a shame we should even have to discuss this as Hans Albert himself conceded these obvious points ( [ Last paragraph in section “Albert’s Formulation”]. Keep these points in mind now as we move on to some new considerations.

Truth, Doubt, and Certainty

We find Con’s defense of Pyrrhonism bizarre and misconceived. It’s best to ignore it altogether and propose a different means of attack on his skepticism and skepticism in general. We’d like to clarify that, at this point, we have demonstrated that the resolution is upheld and that our further comments are only for clarifications, and elucidation. Let us begin with the (translated) original statement of MT given by Hans Albert

“ Here, one has a mere choice between:

  1. An infinite regression, which appears because of the necessity to go ever further back, but is not practically feasible and does not, therefore, provide certain foundation.

  2. A logical circle in the deduction, which is caused by the fact that one, in the need to found, falls back on statements which have already appeared before as requiring a foundation, and which circle does not lead to any certain foundation either.

  3. A break of searching at a certain point, which indeed appears principally feasible, but would mean a random suspension of the principle of sufficient reason. ” (Italics added)

These, Albert argues, are the only means of justification; to sufficiently answer “how do I know?”. So, MT itself has already adopted at least two assumptions. Firstly, there is the mention of the principle of sufficient reason [;]. 3) argues that the random suspension of inquiry fails to satisfy the principle of sufficient reason and, thus, leaves us without certain foundation. Assuming the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) is, at once, unwarranted and contradictory to the aims of MT. Not only does it invalidate it’s result, but, in fact, I find reason to outright reject PSR. There is great ambiguity with what PSR purports is constitutive of “a reason”. Should something be a reason if it has explanatory power over something else? This seems to be faulty in that the Theory of Gravity might provide an explanation as to why my pencil falls when I let go of it, however, the Theory of Gravity is hardly the reason why the pencil falls when I let go of it. This example motivates the thought that something is a reason so long as it is the cause. But it would seem strange to ask myself then what causes 1 to be equal to 1. What would I would be thinking if I doubted this? This leads us to point out the arguably more sinister and unstated assumption made by MT: that we can doubt everything at once. To doubt at all, one must already presuppose certainty. That is, in order to doubt, I must already understand and accept the logical understructure of doubt itself: that doubt is something that challenges certainty, that where there is doubt there is no certainty, etc. To doubt that a person understands doubt is either contradictory or no doubt at all: you must be able to doubt. Thus whenever you are doubting, there is also something else that you are not doubting. The sort of complete skepticism Con purports to practice is completely impracticable. There can be no meaningful skeptic.

Returning to our point on the PSR, given it’s arbitrary acceptance by Albert, we declare our rejection of this principle. It could very well be the case that there exist things which are simply true; brute facts which have no “reason”. That is, there can be no meaningful way of understanding how or why these facts are true but this does not entail that we do not know them nor do they have to be arbitrary.

Defense of Foundationalism

Let U be a model with respect to some set A wherein the axioms (formulas) A_(1),…,A_(n) are interpreted (and true). U is either objectively real or not objectively real. (Notice U is just an agreed upon notation. Our concern is whether what U is referring to has either an objective reality or not). If U is not objectively real then every formula, phi, in U which is true by U must be true since there is no objective reality which could contradict with phi being the case. If U is objectively real then every formula, phi, in U which is true by U must be true since whatever U refers to was determined by A_(1),…,A_(n) and U already. We conclude that, what is true in U must be true in U either objectively or non-objectively. So whatever is true in U must be true. A_(1),…,A_(n) are true axiomatically. Therefore there are axiomatic truths.

Debate Round No. 3


I must say I have a new found appreciation for this topic, thanks to Pro! It has been a very daunting task. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to fully commit to a proper refutation of Pro’s arguments and have entered youtube videos to further defend my position. I ask that Voters take this into consideration before voting. That being said, here goes!

Pro claims that it ~A or ~(~A) (tautologous and non-contradictory by above arguments) which is equivalent to saying ~A is possible (either true or false) which is equivalent to saying A is possible (either true or false) and this is enough to uphold the resolution. However, if we cannot know if something is impossible, it does not follow that, therefore, it is possible and vice versa. This requires an assumption that has no justification. For Pro to do this he would be asserting the truth of A before it has been proven possible. The apropriate position would be to withhold assent to either proposition.

Pro states “It could very well be the case that there exist things which are simply true; brute facts which have no “reason”. That is,there can be no meaningful way of understanding how or why these facts are truebut this does not entail that we do not know them nor do they have to be arbitrary”. Pro seems to be assuming truth before justification. Without justification one cannot know if something is actually true and therefore, if one cannot understand how and if something is true, then there is no way to know what is a fact to begin with.

The Liar & The Liar’s Revenge Paradox

Pro argues that “statements can be meaningless because we can arbitrarily dismiss those who assert it. Therefore any assertion made need not be a proposition but may also be a statement which is meaningless.” However, any arbitrary justification to dismiss P3 premise will be assuming Foundationalism before proven to be possible. Pro asserts that I haven’t shown that it is a proposition since the onus is on the one asserting it. However, I have done this from P3a and P3b in my previous round. For clarification, a statement is the words that are used to express a proposition, whereas, a proposition is the meaning of a statement. Pro suggests it is a meaningless statement but clearly we can find meaning in it. Declaring the liar’s revenge sentence as semantically defective cannot be expressed in the very language itself, but only in a comprehensive meta-language. If these statements were expressable in the object language we would land up in another revenge paradox.Now the statement “this statement is false or meaningless” is still asserting that the statement is meaningless and hence truth bearing, and therefore, not void of meaning since we can accurately understand what is being stated.

Strictly speaking, this is not a valid objection to the revenge argument. It is instructive to see why this sort of approach fails. The most obvious problem with this objection is that there is no independent reason to think that paradoxical sentences are meaningless or ungrammatical. In fact, if one were to adopt such an account, one would have to reject our most popular theories of meaningfulness and theories of grammar.

Another reason to reject this objection is that paradoxicality is not determined by meaning and grammar. That is, one can specify two sentence tokens of the same type that have the same sentential meanings, the same subsentential meanings for their subsentential parts, and the same referents for their singular terms, but one is paradoxical and the other is not. Paradoxicality can depend on virtually any fact one can imagine, while meaningfulness and grammaticality do not. Thus, if one accepts that paradoxical sentences are meaningless or ungrammatical, then one has to accept that whether a sentence is meaningful or grammatical can depend on virtually any fact that one can imagine, which is radically implausible. There are many other defences for possible refutations of it. [1] Thus, I have defended my premise.

Pro also objects saying that “this statement” is ambiguous. Just because half of a disjunction may be meaningless, does not imply that the other half of it is not truth bearing [2] This objection incorporates the Use/Mention Distinction, Rule of Replacement and Rule of Truth (which are all assumptions without justification).

Use – When a term (article of language) is being used, then it refers to its reference. Eg. Earth is a planet. In this statement Venus is used since it is referring to the reference of the term (the planet), not the sense (the word Earth).

Mention – When a term (article of language) is mentioned then it refers to its sense. Earth has five letters. In this statement Earth is mentioned since it is referring to the sense of the term not the reference.

Pure Term - a term that does not refer to anything

If pure terms are lumped together neither will bear truth. However, Pro may claim that it is not the terms themselves that bear truth such as “statement” but rather THE statement. This can easily be rectified by changing the definitions to “statements that refer to pure terms fail to bear truth”. Therefore, statements with pure terms fail to bear truth. In other words, it cannot be known to be true or false or rather, possible or impossible. Another problem that arises from this is, if statements that do not bear truth are neither true or false, then what are they? [3]

Also, avoidance of revenge paradoxes leads to a problem called the “unable to say” problem. [4]

Munchhuassen’s Trilemma (MT)

Pro seems to be regurgitating what was previously asserted. He alludes that if justification can be true, it can be possible. However, Pro is equivocating between truth and justification, yet again. It may be the case that justification is possible or not, but we are unable to know that, hence, the resolution “Epistemic” justification is possible. Now since Pro has already conceded ~C or ~I, these can simply be ignored.

Also, Pro claims that we can say that justification is both impossible and possible, but this is evidently contradictory and since, the law of contradiction is assumed for the resolution to be upheld, Con cannot argue that is both possible and impossible.

Now Pro challenges these the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Reason is defined as “a consideration which justifies or explains Therefore Pro will be indirectly conceding foundationalism which assumes this very principle. Pro implicitly implores this principle for all his arguments, as even logic imports it and poses a problem against his case.

NB. This is all that is needed to show that Pro has not upheld the resolution.

Truth, Doubt, and Certainty

Pro seems to be making an appeal to incredulity and ignore my argument. It does not follow that n order to doubt one presupposes certainty. Pro seems to being an ad hominem against scepticism. The pyrrhonian skeptic lacks beliefs. Therefore, they do not believe that in order to doubt one must understand doubt, that doubt challenges certainty, that where there is doubt there is no certainty. Belief is a propositional attitude. However, belief is not the only propositional attitude that is available. One can desire, hope, wonder and even suspect that a proposition is true or doubt that it is. A skeptic can have a proclivity [5] For example, if a car is approaching a skeptic they may lack the belief that they or the car exists, but have a proclivity to act as if they do. [6] All furthers arguments against skepticism can be combated here. [7]

Further argument against Foundationalism

1. For all axioms either there is a reason (PSR) for choosing those axioms over others or there is not. (LEM)
2. If there is no reason to choose one set of axioms over another, then the system is irrational (there is no reason to prefer one conclusion over another). (Definition of irrationality).
3. If there is a reason for choosing the axioms over others, then those reasons are the support for those axioms, and all beliefs are simply justified by other beliefs and therefore we have accepted coherentism. (Definition of coherentism)
4. Therefore foundationalism is either irrational or simply coherentism in disguise.

Closing Remarks

I thank Tarkovsky for a great debate! Please remember to waive Round 4 in which you must ONLY enter Concede as per debate rules or likewise. The resolution has not been upheld.

Vote Con!:)

[1] pg 14-16
[3] @6:53.
[4] PG 12-13.
[6] @ 6:22.



In the interest of fairness (2 arguments each) we withhold all further comments.
Debate Round No. 4
25 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by CorieMike 2 years ago
@Envisage I can always depend on you to give a great RFD. I admit to the following shortcomings:

1 - A distinction should have been drawn between epistemic and logical possibility to avoid conflation
2 - Dropping Pro's argument
3 - Tbh, I havent seen many good refutations to the revenge paradox. So I wasn't fully prepared to defend it lol
4 - I wasn't too concise in my final round
Posted by tarkovsky 2 years ago
Hey all, I just wanted to thank everyone for actually reading this debate and voting on it. It was fun to participate in and I learned something! Again, thanks to everyone who read and voted you're time and attention is appreciated. Hope to see everyone around the site!
Posted by CorieMike 2 years ago
@Raisor Thanks for the RFD! Very constructive criticism.

I agree it needed one more round, but that was due to understandable unforseen circumstances by Pro. I have been told before my arguments don't always flow very well. I definitely need to work on that lol

The issue with the Liar's paradox was to show that statements need not be true or false. Basically doubting the assumed truth of the Law of Excluded Middle. Also, it was not my burden to show justification is impossible, I only needed to cast sufficient doubt on whether we can know if it is possible. Logic is ofcourse assumed for the debate but without it, one can withhold assent to propositions (basically the unability to prove either way).
Posted by Envisage 2 years ago
This was a short, albeit interesting debate. Just as a disclaimer - I regard myself as an academic skeptic/pyhhonium skeptic, so I guess I bring biased baggage " especially since one of Con"s arguments is derived from one I gave a while ago. Even still, I would more than happy be refuted on my stance, since I think it plain sucks. Oh well.

Pro has the BoP in this debate, so I will assess his positive arguments first before considering the impacts of Con"s. If Pro has no positive arguments standing, then the impacts of Con"s is rather irrelevant, since Pro has already lost the debate.

Possibility of Axiomatic Justification
Pro demonstrates sufficiently that it is impossible to know that Axiomatic justification is impossible " assuming that coherentism and infinitism is also impossible. However this runs into the issue of logical possibility/epistemic possibility. Pro uses this to implicitly assert epistemic possibility.

The rules demand of Pro"s BoP:
"Munchhausen's Trilemma is false, that justification can be based on Coherentism, Foundationalism, Infinitism or show that it is a false trilemma."
Posted by Envisage 2 years ago
This debate largely hinges on what is meant by "can be" here, and I am of the opinion that it refers to logical possibility, i.e. possibility in principle that justification is possible via one of the three horns.

I think Con misses the point of Pro"s argument here in any case to begin with, since Pro stated himself at the end of R2 that it doesn"t matter which horn is taken, the arguments apply equally (e.g. assuming that infinitism and foundationalism is false, then knowing coherentism is also false is impossible). Pro is essentially performing a reductio on MT itself. Con presents an argument against foundationalism " which while interesting does not actually refute Pro"s argument here, since it applies equally when assuming any of the other horns is "to be proven false". Con would need to hit all three horns here, but that is a separate issue regarding this RFD.

Thus, I think Con"s arguments against point #1 miss the mark.

Con"s arguments against point #2 were much more successful however. Since he dispels the issue of "not knowing whether the conclusion is true" by accepting that the argument cannot in practice prove its conclusion. It is Pro"s job to prove it cannot in principle " i.e. to show that one of the horns is false, or that the trilemma is false (as required in the rules). My position is as Con states:

"MT does not set out to prove that objective justification is impossible, only that we cannot know if justification is possible or not"


"However, if we cannot know if something is impossible, it does not follow that, therefore, it is possible and vice versa. This requires an assumption that has no justification. For Pro to do this he would be asserting the truth of A before it has been proven possible. "

Ergo, Pro"s only chance of upholding this resolution is his final round argument in favour of foundationalism.
Posted by Envisage 2 years ago
Defence of Foundationalism
Because Pro defends foundationalism, then I must also take into account Con"s counter argument against foundationalism in round 2. In all honestly Pro should have started with this argument and not wasted 1 and 2/3 round on attacking the MT " as this would have been infinitely more substantive. Pro"s arguments for Foundationalism were not presented in a reader-friendly format, however, and it was hard to follow his logical progression " however this debate was about justification " not truth, and the conclusion isn"t for justification. Con drops this argument, but I don"t know how heavily I can weigh it given that:
1.It lacks any rhetoric
2.It was presented as a positive argument in the last round (which was meant for defence)

Thus, while it already doesn"t prove the resolution, it does so in a manner which I cannot weigh.

Pro drops Con"s argument against foundationalism, which was made in time (it was presented in the first round), thus can be weighed much more highly, and I am forced to accept Pro"s assumptions in P2 and P3. As a result, I buy that foundationalism is impossible, and hence Pro cannot possibly have fulfilled his BoP within this debate.

Other Arguments
It is unnecessary, but Con pretty cleanly refuted the "problems in logic" argument by calling into question whether or not P3 is a proposition, thus this argument of Con"s doesn"t work. Pro largely drops Con"s arguments for an objective/subjective divide " which provides a mitigating argument against justification. I am unclear on what was being claimed with appeals to PSR by both sides, this point wasn"t developed well for people unfamiliar with the terminology either way. In any case it matters not to my decision for this debate.
Posted by Raisor 2 years ago
Again, this is a ballot I really don't feel confident in. But even an informed ballot like mine is some measure of who won the debate, so I hope you both won't be too upset...
Posted by Raisor 2 years ago

First, I want to say I am not at all familiar with the topic covered in this debate. I have read only very basic material on theories of truth, liar's paradox, language etc. I felt out of my depth judging this debate and probably woudn't have cast a ballot if the debate wasn't unvoted.

Some comments:

First, it needed one more round. Pro needed another chance to rebut Con.

Second, Pro was much better at clearly communicating his arguments than Con. Con's style was much more abrupt and condensed, which for someone like me not very familiar with the arguments is very hard to follow. If this were a debate with speaker points it would be a low point win.

Third, Con should relate some of his offense to the Resolution better. The back and forth on the liar's paradox obscures what the implication for the paradox is with respect to the Resolution. If the paradox succeeds, what does this mean? That logic fails? Why does this make epistemic justification impossible? On this point I think Pro's general point about being able to doubt is somewhat convincing- if we throw logic out, how can we make any conclusion about the possibility of epistemic justification?

My decision really centered on the original argument made by Pro and whether or not it succeeds. Here I think Con is making a convincing and unaddressed point that the fact that we are unable to justify ~A does not mean A is possible; it only shows we don't know whether A is true or not. I have to spin this around in my head a little, and I'm not sure I always agree- i feel like there is some conflation of terms going on here but can't put my finger quite on what. But I find Con's argument more convincing.

As a sidebar, the length of this debate means that the usual norms about new arguments in the final round of a debate are simply not applicable; this gives Con a huge structural advantage that I think is unavoidable in a two round debate.
Posted by tarkovsky 2 years ago
Glad you enjoyed the debate Envisage. Just to be sure, I did offer a defense of Foundationalism in my second round which was meant to demonstrate axiomatic truths. Whether or not you found the argument compelling should be accounted for in the vote. Admittedly, it was a bit elliptical and short, I had run out of characters so I left that particular argument underdeveloped. In any case it should be judged as it reads in the round. My purpose here was just to point out that it was addressed, even if it was brief.
Posted by CorieMike 2 years ago
Overall I believe Tarkovsky and I needed one more round each lol
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Envisage 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Comments
Vote Placed by Raisor 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments