The Instigator
Octavian
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Con (against)
Winning
26 Points

Existentialism is the Most Satisfying Philosophy

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Vote Here
Pro Tied Con
Who did you agree with before the debate?
Who did you agree with after the debate?
Who had better conduct?
Who had better spelling and grammar?
Who made more convincing arguments?
Who used the most reliable sources?
Reasons for your voting decision
1,000 Characters Remaining
The voting period for this debate does not end.
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/2/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 10,127 times Debate No: 8854
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (8)
Votes (6)

 

Octavian

Pro

Existentialism is the most satisfying philosophy.

First, to define terms:

Satisfying: a. To free from doubt or question; assure.
b. To get rid of (a doubt or question); dispel.
Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

Existentialism: Existentialism is the philosophical belief that for humanity existence comes before essence, i.e. humanity does not have a purpose except to make its own purpose or essence (essence meaning what it means to be human).
Source: Existentialism by Jean-Paul Sartre (A slightly different translation than what I read can be found here: http://www.marxists.org...)

Philosophy: Investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods.
Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

Existentialism is the most satisfying philosophy for humanity because it shows that life is an end in itself, i.e. the only real purpose is to shape what you want to be and what you think humanity should be. ("In choosing myself, I choose man." [1]) It allows humans to understand that they have unlimited potential and it allows them to become free from the constrains of worrying about a greater purpose to everything. It lets humans see that they are what they make themselves, and they can make themselves whatever they see is right or better. This is all satisfying because it frees worry and enlightens us on our true potential.

[1] Existentialism by Jean-Paul Sartre
RoyLatham

Con

Pro has asserted the wrong definition of "philosophy." He asserted the definition of "philosophy" as the general field of inquiry. As a field of inquiry, philosophy may be satisfying in the same sense that flower arranging or plumbing is satisfying -- as an activity that accomplishes something that seems worthwhile to the practitioner. However, "a philosophy" is either "A system of thought based on or involving such inquiry: the philosophy of Hume." or "A system of values by which one lives: has an unusual philosophy of life." http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

Existentialism is not a "system of thought," because it is a single philosophical belief and hence not a system. Pro asserts it is "the philosophical belief that for humanity existence comes before essence." There are many philosophical beliefs that are not systems of thought. For example, there is the Kantian philosophical belief that "the human mind organizes existence" or the religious philosophical belief that "the divine is evident in the harmony of nature." We can tell that these beliefs are not systems of thought because they conflict with few broad systems of thought. A characteristic of systems of thought is that they enable resolving a large variety of life situations.

Existentialism is not a "a system of values" because it asserts few values. One existentialist value is "authenticity," but that asserts very little. It equates to being honest and truthful, but it says nothing about what is bad or good, so long as one is truthful about it. The famous story is of a young man who sought out Sartre for advice on whether to take care of his aged mother or go to fight a war of liberation he believed in. This is asking which activity to value more highly. Sartre's reply: "You are free, therefore choose." Clearly there is no system of values in that reply that helps determine which duty is greater.

Since existentialism is neither a system of thought or a system of values, it is compatible with religious values:

"Existentialists are not generally atheists, though Jean-Paul Sartre proclaimed he was. In fact, most writers and philosophers embracing existentialism hold to at least some form of faith. Holding to a faith dictates following, if one is to be authentic, the ethical system of the religion accepted. Likewise, accepting a political theory demands accepting that theory's ethical constructs. Existentialists did not develop ethical systems or constructs in a vacuum — philosophy is an evolution of theories.

"Different writers who united in stressing the importance of these themes nevertheless developed very different ethical and metaphysical systems as a consequence.
- Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy; Blackburn (ed), p. 130" http://www.tameri.com...

The resolution fails because it fails to meet the definition of "a philosophy." However, for the purposes of debate, let us assume that it meets some definition of "a philosophy." Under that assumption, the question remains as to whether it is the "most satisfying." In answering that question we must first decide how satisfaction is measured. One possibility is that "most satisfying" means that it provides answers that satisfy the most people. That is the sort of question that could be potentially answered by a poll. As we have seen, even existentialists do not find it thus satisfying, because they seek religion and other philosophical supplements. If it answered all the questions that people wanted answered, they would not want to seek additional satisfaction from other philosophies.

Another possible interpretation is that it is "most satisfying" in the sense that it provides the most satisfying answer to the question of the meaning of existence. Adopting that meaning negates the resolution, because posing the question so narrowly is consistent only with existentialism not being "a system" of anything. an answer to a question is not a system.

The question of what philosophy is most satisfying also plays with definition the of "satisfying." Pro offered the definition "free from doubt," but Pro asserted, "it shows that life is an end in itself, i.e. the only real purpose is to shape what you want to be and what you think humanity should be." Pro's assertion better matches the second definition from his source, not the third definition that he selected. It means "To fulfill (a need or desire)." Any answer to the question of "What is the meaning of life?" satisfies the person's need to know the answer. In that sense existentialism is no better than any other philosophy that answers the question. They all give answers, and the satisfaction derives from having the answer defined. the philosophical belief that the question is meaningless is also satisfying in that sense; it resolves the question as being meaningless.

Ultimately, people are not broadly satisfied with a philosophy unless it provides many answers. Recent there has been a rise in what has been called "secular spirituality." Pollster George Gallup has written a book, "The next American spirituality" http://books.google.com... citing "From two polls we find that eight out of ten Americans, not just "religious" Americans, find a need for spiritual growth." That means that relatively few people find existentialism satisfying in the sense of being fulfilling.

In this debate, I have not questioned the belief that the question of the meaning of life is meaningless question. I think that assertion is true. My argument is that the assertion is merely a fact, devoid of satisfaction in any philosophical sense. It is like 2 + 2 = 4, a fact that is useful, but not a "most satisfying philosophy."

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 1
Octavian

Pro

In response to my opponent's argument that Existentialim is not satisfying, many of the claims he made were completely false. Firstly, it does free from doubt and meet need and want through ending worry about the purpose of everything and the origins of the universe. This leaves people to enjoy life more with less time spent worrying about such trivial issues that cannot be answered by humans. Based off the average lifespan, if a person went to church every Sunday for example, they would waste 4072 hours of their life. Instead of doing such things, people could be traveling, spending time with their families, and whatever makes them happy.
RoyLatham

Con

In the first round I argued that Pro had offered definitions of "philosophy" and "satisfying" that did not match what he actually argued. With the proper definitions, Pros arguments fail because existentialism is too narrow a philosophical belief to comprise a system of thought, and it offers a single value that leaves many important questions unanswered. Pro made no rebuttal to these arguments, so they stand.

With regard to existentialism being "satisfying" I argued that that because existentialism left so much unanswered, that most people, including dedicated existentialists, sought additional philosophical beliefs to achieve a satisfying resolution of life's questions. Those alternatives include religion, communist ideology, and modern secular spirituality. Pro rebutted, "In response to my opponent's argument that Existentialism is not satisfying, many of the claims he made were completely false." It would then seem important to know which of my claims he thought "were completely false" and why they he thought they were false, but Pro gives only a single example.

Pro asserts, "it does free from doubt and meet need and want through ending worry about the purpose of everything and the origins of the universe." I did not disagree with the assertion about "the purpose of everything." That is true and satisfying in the same sense that 2 + 2 = 4 is true and satisfying. If you want to know what 2 + 2 is equal to, the answer satisfies. The problem, as with existentialism, is that a single answer, even if true, is not enough to constitute a philosophy.

As to the origins of the universe, that may remain an important question for some, independent of existentialist beliefs. Existentialism denies evolutionary programming of social instincts and a moral framework. It asserts that the individual necessarily lives in isolation. Consequently, the origin of the universe and the origin and evolution of life bears heavily upon existentialist beliefs. One might argue that an existentialist believer has resolved such questions, but a believer still has to make choices for which existentialism offers no guidance. Therefore inborn traits may be important.

Pro continues, "Based off the average lifespan, if a person went to church every Sunday for example, they would waste 4072 hours of their life. Instead of doing such things, people could be traveling, spending time with their families, and whatever makes them happy." In that assertion, Pro assumes that existentialists do not go to church, and (b) the people who do go to church do not enjoy it. I previously refuted (a), "Existentialists are not generally atheists . . . most writers and philosophers embracing existentialism hold to at least some form of faith." op cit. Pro offered no evidence that churchgoers do not enjoy their experience or that existentialists are in general a more joyous lot.

I think churchgoers enjoy their experience. As an atheist, I don't think they are talking to God. Nonetheless, the church provides a time of contemplation that probably has positive effects for those who enjoy community experience.

Quite contrary to being a joyous lot, it strikes me that those who believe in existentialism disclaim it being "the most satisfying philosophy":

"An existentialist could either be a religious moralist, agnostic relativist, or an amoral atheist. Kierkegaard, a religious philosopher, Nietzsche, an anti-Christian, Sartre, an atheist, and Camus an atheist, are credited for their works and writings about existentialism. . . . Each basically agrees that human life is in no way complete and fully satisfying because of suffering and losses that occur when considering the lack of perfection, power, and control one has over their life. " http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org...

To arrive at a satisfying philosophy, existentialism must be supplemented with something much broader. Therefore existentialism is not the most satisfying philosophy. The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 2
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by infam0us 7 years ago
infam0us
you're not the only one who think con pulled a dirty trick.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
Funny how CON pulled the rug under PRO by using metaphilosophy. Nonetheless, votes goes to CON even if the resolution may be true (disregarding whether or not existentialism can be considered a philosophy as defined).
Posted by Octavian 7 years ago
Octavian
Yes, sorry about this, I know my argument was underwhelming... Roy deserved to win.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
Both sides really could have done better. Pro's case was greatly unsupported, though, and Con adequately backed up his side. Arguments goes to CON. Everything else is tied.
Posted by wjmelements 7 years ago
wjmelements
Q: What is existentialism?
A: Existentialism is the most satisfying philosophy.

Uh huh. Hmm...
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
Octavian vs. Roy? This will be good. Favorited.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
Darn. I agree with Pro.
Posted by Rezzealaux 7 years ago
Rezzealaux
I'm sure I can find a philosophy based on existentialism that is more satisfying.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by Artifice 7 years ago
Artifice
OctavianRoyLathamTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07 
Vote Placed by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
OctavianRoyLathamTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
OctavianRoyLathamTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:05 
Vote Placed by patsox834 7 years ago
patsox834
OctavianRoyLathamTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Vote Placed by LB628 7 years ago
LB628
OctavianRoyLathamTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
OctavianRoyLathamTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03