The Instigator
Geekis_Khan
Pro (for)
Winning
33 Points
The Contender
draxxt
Con (against)
Losing
9 Points

"I think therefore I am," is fundamentally flawed.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/15/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 20,338 times Debate No: 3652
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (48)
Votes (14)

 

Geekis_Khan

Pro

I hope my opponent accepts, since I know that he is a big fan of Descartes' works, he seems to want people he knows to debate him on here, and I figured I'd give him a topic he should know about.

If he accepts, I'll put forth my opening argument after he makes any statements he wishes to make.

(I put this under the religion category because there is no category for philosophy.)
draxxt

Con

Hello. Thank you for proposing this debate for my sake. As you might have guessed, I am a fan of Descartes work not only because he was a revolutionary in his own rights, but also for his Christian appeal that he would back up with reason.

As always, some terms need to be defined.
Merriam-Webster defines:

flaw as: "an imperfection or weakness and especially one that detracts from the whole or hinders effectiveness "

fundamental as: "serving as an original or generating source : primary"

is as: "Third person singular present indicative of be."

(And, no, I wasn't being facetious in defining is, it will be important later)

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's debate, shall we?

I will prove through decisive knowledge and reason alone that this resolution is wrong.

"The phrase "I think, therefore I am (Cogito ergo sum)" (Or I doubt, therefore I am, {dubito ergo sum} which was changed in order to please the Roman Catholic church) is not used in Descartes's most important work, the Meditations on First Philosophy, but the term "the cogito" is (often confusingly) used to refer to an argument from it.

At the beginning of the second meditation, having reached what he considers to be the ultimate level of doubt — his argument from the existence of a deceiving god — Descartes examines his beliefs to see if any has survived the doubt. In his belief in his own existence he finds it is impossible to doubt that he exists. Even if there were a deceiving god (or an evil demon, the tool he uses to stop himself sliding back into ungrounded beliefs), his belief in his own existence would be secure, for how could he be deceived unless he existed in order to be deceived?

"But I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Does it now follow that I {,} too do not exist? No. If I convinced myself of something [or thought anything at all] then I certainly existed. But there is a deceiver of supreme power and cunning who is deliberately and constantly deceiving me. In that case I {,} too undoubtedly exist, if he is deceiving me; and let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing so long as I think that I am something. So, after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that the proposition, {I think, therefore} I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind." (AT VII 25; CSM II 16–17)

Obviously, Descartes had his intention of relaying to the masses why he BELIEVES he exists, not why one must exist. You may argue that he uses himself as a reference but it is safe to assume that he literally meant himself.

Once again, thank you for this debate and good luck,
-EG
Debate Round No. 1
Geekis_Khan

Pro

Don't run a semantics argument. That's lame, and it's avoiding arguing the topic. And it is facetious to define "is".

However, for my framework, the being that this line of think is actually supposed to prove the existence of can't be an illusion. It must be the actual being.

The entire idea of "I think therefore I am" summed up is basically: the fact that my thoughts exist prove that I exist. I could not have thoughts if I don't exist.

This is wrong for two main reasons.

1.) Why can't an illusion have thoughts? Descartes doesn't actually prove the existence of any being. You could still be an illusion, even if you are perceiving thoughts. For example: "I" might "be" someone else when I am dreaming, and "I" might have thoughts in this dream. However, this does not mean that this "being" that I "am" in the dream is real. It is still an illusion. There is no reason why we can't be illusions in "real" life, and still have thoughts. There's your first fundamental flaw.

2.) This does not prove that the thoughts are not an illusion. In order for Descartes' arguments to hold any weight, he must be able to prove that the thoughts that one perceives are not illusory. If the thoughts of a "being" are illusory, then it follows that the "being" itself is illusory.

Since "I think therefore I am" is an absolute statement, yet these two reasons keep it from being absolutely true, the statement is fundamentally flawed.
draxxt

Con

Thank you for your rebuttal.
First off, I must examine a few points. Then, I shall provide a reason as to why it is important to define "is" Or rather, I will in my last round.

1)
"Don't run a semantics argument. That's lame, and it's avoiding arguing the topic."
The semantics of this debate are no less valid than an abrupt one as it is purely a philosophical one. I am permitted to view all spectrums of debate unless given an ultimatum or having a fact-based debate.

2)
"Why can't an illusion have thoughts? Descartes doesn't actually prove the existence of any being. You could still be an illusion, even if you are perceiving thoughts."

My opponent attempts to say that you CANNOT prove existance, producing a rather Nihilistic point of view. Debating that Descartes believe he, himself existed as a whole was only one part to his philosophy.

Rene Descartes once said from his famous book "Meditations, Objections, and Replies" that if one were to be a creation of something without actual existance, That which the creator made the subject "illusion" if you will, with would exist.
For example: A painter paints a portrait. The portrait is made of paint. The paint is real but the man the portrait portrays is not.
Descartes related this to one considered mad. If a man believes he is a king, but is a pauper, or believes he is dressed in "purple", as stated in M.O.R., then one would call him mad. But the message he attempted to relay was that they believed they existed as something seperate, so why can't they have been?

3)"2.) This does not prove that the thoughts are not an illusion. In order for Descartes' arguments to hold any weight, he must be able to prove that the thoughts that one perceives are not illusory. If the thoughts of a "being" are illusory, then it follows that the "being" itself is illusory."
I have already provided evidence to support that a semantics-based case should be sufficient but I shall attempt to squeeze on refutation out for this point.

Thoughts are never specified as illusory. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines
thought as: "to form or have in the mind"
To have something in mind would obviously give evidence to the argument that thoughts are not illusory, rather, manifested as real.

And for this debate to even be valid, we must assume that humans are real. What we are debating is that through thinking/doubting existance, we must exist. Please, stick to the initial resolution.
If your argument were to work, you must say in the resolution:
""I think therefore I am" and existance itself is questionable/fundamentally flawed."
That would be the most logical resolution to fit your case.

4)
Descartes, allowing the semantics of his belief in his own existance, could not have been false. Having an opinion with no definitive truth behind it is part of human nature. Therefore, to say "Cogito ergo sum" is flawed, you are saying basic human natures, opinions, and lives are flawed. That being said, you believe one man's opinion on something indefinitive is flawed, but prove to me how the flaw is evident.

For the reasons presented to you, I urge you, by logic, to vote in Negation of this resolution.

Thank you,
-EG
Debate Round No. 2
Geekis_Khan

Pro

Do you even know what we're debating?

First of all: don't run semantics. Disprove me using logic, not biased definitions. Futhermore, this is an "ultimatum". "I think therefore I am" is an ultiamte and absolute statement. saying that it is flawed is an ultimate and absolute statement.

Second, defining "is" is totally facetious. And you can't say that it will be important in your last round. Why? Because I won't be able to respond to it. That's bringing up new arguemtns when your opponent can't respond. That's an illegal move in debate.

And quit trying to strawman my argument.

And as for your argument that thoughts can't be illusory by definition, first, your definition doesn't make it so thoughts can't be illusory. An illusion can form in the mind.

And now, from dictionary.com, here's 11 different definitions of thought:

1. the product of mental activity; that which one thinks: a body of thought.
2. a single act or product of thinking; idea or notion: to collect one's thoughts.
3. the act or process of thinking; mental activity: Thought as well as action wearies us.
4. the capacity or faculty of thinking, reasoning, imagining, etc.: All her thought went into her work.
5. a consideration or reflection: Thought of death terrified her.
6. meditation, contemplation, or recollection: deep in thought.
7. intention, design, or purpose, esp. a half-formed or imperfect intention: We had some thought of going.
8. anticipation or expectation: I had no thought of seeing you here.
9. consideration, attention, care, or regard: She took no thought of her appearance.
10. a judgment, opinion, or belief: According to his thought, all violence is evil.
11. the intellectual activity or the ideas, opinions, etc., characteristic of a particular place, class, or time: Greek thought.

None of them make it so thoughts can't be illusory.

Now, my opponent's arguemnt didn't make sense. I don't think he even knows what he's talking about. But here's the basic idea:

Descartes tries to prove his own existence because he wouldn't be able to have thoughts if he wasn't real. This is all that "I think therefore I am" implies. I'm not trying to disprove existence, in fact, there obviously is existence, even if everything is an illusion, because the illusion still exists. But everything that the illusion represented doesn't. It's like the painting exmple my opponent gave you: the paint aexists, but not what the paint represents.

So, I can still be an illusion, even with thoughts. All "I think therefore I am" proves is that there are thoughts. I can still completely be an illusion.

Furthermore, since the thoughts can still be an illusion, Descartes is wrong on two levels.

Finally, my opponent is trying to say that Descartes can't be wrong because it was his opinion that he existed. Well, i have no doubt that he believed that he existed. But Descartes didn't say, "I think that I think therefore I am". That's not what we're debating. He made an absolute claim that existence can be proven on an individual level. The point is that his reasoning for this proof is fundamentally flawed, as it does not take into account the idea of a few things be illusory. "I think therefore I am" proves nothig, not even on an individual level.
draxxt

Con

Well, Let's cross examine these definitions, I'll start with number 1:

Merriam Webster defines:
body as: "a mass of matter distinct from other masses b: something that embodies or gives concrete reality to a thing; also : a sensible object in physical space"

reality as: "the quality or state of being real" {not illusory}/ "something that actually exists "

Antonyms for reality: "belief, fantasy, hypothesis, imagination, theory"
as given by:

Defining using M-W again:

fantasy as: "obsolete : hallucination"

Hallucination as: "an unfounded or mistaken impression or notion : delusion"

delusion is, as stated in M-W, synonymous to: "illusion"

We see now that the process of thinking leads to existance. Also, through extensive processes, we may prove my opponent's belief of thought being illusory is false as well due to the examples he so aptly provided for me. I have refuted this point and insist that you concede to the logic.

As per my second contention, I must drop it. I realised very quickly how illogical it sounded. The purpose of defining "is" would have gone with my second contention and thereby, I see only one contention left which I have proven and refuted to conclude:

"I think therefore I am" is not fundamentally flawed and, through definition (as that was my opponent's refutation) leads to existance.

Thank you to my opponent and the judges. I urge you to vote Con.

Thanks,
-EG
Debate Round No. 3
Geekis_Khan

Pro

Um... Your definitions didn't prove anything. Throwing out definitions doesn't do anything. Provide a logical link. Seriously, I missed the entire point of how those definitions proved your case. You really need to work on clarification.

Actually, I'm now worried that some voters will actually understand your useless definitions and vote CON because I was too confused to actually refute them.

Anyway, you still haven't refuted this idea: I can still be an illusion, even if I have thoughts. Think about thinking as just another sense. Just because I can smell doesn't mean I'm real. It doesn't even mean that the smell is real. Same idea with thoughts. Just because I have a thought doesn't mean I'm real, and it doesn't mean the thought is real. This idea has NEVER BEEN REFUTED by my opponent.

"I think therefore I am" fails to prove existence on an individual level, even when you consider my opponent's useless definitions.

Please vote PRO.
draxxt

Con

Thank you, again for this debate and good luck. I want the judges to vote for the best debator, as always.

The fact of the matter is, you gave me definitions to choose from and, taking those definitions, I proved that existence is proven through "I think therefore I am." My opponent has refused to refute my points and does not appear to even understand my defense, therefore, you vote CON.

Thanks,
-EG
Debate Round No. 4
48 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Anarchon 2 years ago
Anarchon
I had this thought experiment: I can think of a person A, this person A can think, A is a thinking entity but only exists in my mind. One could argue that to exist in a mind is still existence...

The reason why descartes said this is this: even if your thoughts are delusional you still must exist otherwise you cant be deluded. but this is of course due to language and not logic... it comes from that acting verbs need an object to act upon.

one could argue either way but I'm inclined to believe that though does not proof existence of yourself. it is like saying "I walk therefor I am".
Posted by dj21 3 years ago
dj21
Sounds good. I'm sorry for the loss in your family. I look forward to discussing this further after that debate finishes, either as a formal debate or as a PM discussion or something.
Posted by leonardlewis4 3 years ago
leonardlewis4
I can see (after reading your reply) how defensive my previous post must have sounded. I didn't mean to imply that you were assuming that I was not intelligent... I should have qualified "level of education" with "theological"; and "open-mindedness" as "regarding the issue at hand". I just wanted you to know that we could bypass all of that legwork with a mutual understanding of our positions and a bit of charity with respect to our backgrounds.

I can also acknowledge that your last post is more than charitable in that regard...more so than mine.

I saw your current debate... On one hand, I wish I'd seen it earlier and accepted it. On the other, my ability to fully participate would have been limited for the next few days because of a death in the family.

I'd like to discuss those debate points with you after the debate is complete. Perhaps we can hold another under the same terms in the near future. If not, we can still discuss outside of a debate.

Thanks for the response.
Posted by dj21 3 years ago
dj21
leonardlewis,
Thanks for your response. I apologize if I seemed condescending in any way. It certainly was not my intent, and do you respect your views. Your answers have been lucid and articulate throughout our little discussion here, and I have no reason to think you are anything less than those things. As I said previously, I was raised in a deeply religious family. All of my family believes the Bible to be inerrant, and I have a slew of brothers who are accomplished engineers, etc. I have more respect for my father than any man I've ever met; he was a highly accomplished businessman and engineer, as well as a pastor (for a period), and he believed the Bible to be inerrant. So I do not doubt that extremely intelligent people can believe the Bible to be inerrant. I would be interested in continuing this discussion, whether in a forum, as a PM, or as a formal debate. I would probably prefer one of the former options because my goal is not prove anything, but rather to understand your perspective. I have been familiar with the Bible my whole life, but have been studying very intently for the last 3 or so year. Cognative dissonance on a variety of issues started pushing me away from the notion of inerracy. It wasn't until after I was already skeptical of the Bible's inerrancy that I came across some of more difficult internally irreconcilable conflicts (Jesus' baptism account... and what happened thereafter, the crucifixion details, resurrection accounts...), so I never had to address those issues while still convinced of the Bible's inerrancy. I don't know how I would have addressed those conflicts with a presumption of the Bible's inerrancy. For that reason, and because I do respect your intelligence and expect you will have a thoughtful answer, I am interested in hearing your response to those questions.
Posted by leonardlewis4 3 years ago
leonardlewis4
Believe me, I've heard all the arguments... I can see that you are making huge assumptions as to my level of education and open-mindedness. I'm not trying to be combative here, but there is a tone of condescension in your "suggestions". I appreciate your willingness to discuss, but those kind of assumptions always set the wrong footing out of the gate... For instance, now I have to now demonstrate in some way that I have done the research and exposed myself to the arguments, etc...and to your satisfaction. I'd much rather go to the true source of our disagreements--that is, our fundamental presuppositions and the rationality of our respective worldviews.

If you want to address all of these things item by item, I'd love to do that. Of course, if we do, I'd appreciate it if we could do so in a dedicated forum, hopefully without much (or any) "noise" from others that wish to inject their opinions. But remember, the problem with this is "proof" for "proof" or "evidence" for "evidence"--to which the only possible outcome is to weigh those articles and come to a "preponderance-based" conclusion. When two sides with wildly differing worldviews analyse the articles, they will almost always come up with two wildly differing conclusions.

Therefore, the only productive discussion will address the rationality of the opposing worldviews and account for the respective presuppositions.
Posted by dj21 3 years ago
dj21
leonardlewis,
As a follow-on note to what I wrote below, I want you to know that I don't mean to denigrate Christianity or your faith. I do think the subject of Biblical inerrancy is useful to our discussion for two reasons:
1) I had a presumption of Objective Truth built into my perspective, not just because it seemed true, but because my religious view essentially demanded it (God = Absolute Truth). I suspect you may be in a similar situation, where theology dictates to philosophy.
2) An enormous amount of scholarship has gone into the subject of Biblical inerrancy, and there isn't much question (as to inerrancy) left on the table among mainstream scholars.

When asking if one believes whether the Bible is inerrant the old joke is "which one"? For good reason. I don't touch on it much here, but reading the early church fathers and looking into how the Bible came into its current form might well be worth your time, and prove quite surprising.

Most importantly, I don't believe that Christianity is suddenly null just because the Bible is flawed. Certainly it takes on a different meaning, but that meaning is not null. Far from it.

I can't imagine you will concur that the things I'll mention are irreconcilable conflicts. You may not even recognize them as conflicts. I expect you have a very deep-seated presumption of truth ascribed to the Bible, and that can't change overnight. Your mind won't let it. But hopefully this discussion helps you view the material more critically in the future. Be open to investigating cognitive dissonance. Why is the God of Love that Jesus teaches commanding the Israelites to slaughter women and children in Exodus? Is this a God who created and loves all humanity? Or a provincial tribal god? Study on your own and come to your own decisions. I have offered up just one example below, but there are dozens I can suggest if you are interested in the challenge of trying to settle them.
Posted by dj21 3 years ago
dj21
Okay. I think I can safely say I was pretty close where you are philosophically (and probably theologically too). The change in my own thinking occurred over many years on a wide variety of fronts, but none was more important than my understanding of the Bible.

I was raised to believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. That is, give or take, it is basically the exact word of God, written down by men, but without fault or flaw. This belief allows believers to process material using strictly devotional thinking. I never analysed the Bible for accuracy because accuracy was assumed.

Obviously, there are many well-known external conflicts. Six day creation. Jacob wrestles with God... to a draw. God stops the sun for part of a day. Noah gathers all animals from the entire globe onto a hand-built ark and sustains them for months. Humanity spreads over the earth, developing thousands of languages and splitting into a variety of races in a few thousand years. So forth.
But scenarios can be imagined to explain external conflicts, especially when the presumption is that the Bible is inerrant and human rationale is flawed.

For me, the insurmountable problem came from internal Biblical conflicts. Stories that conflicted within the Bible. If God was the author, and God is perfectly knowledgeable (not just how to write, but how His writing would be interpreted over the ages), how could there be differences, much less irreconcilable ones? But are many. Some big, some small.

I only have room for one here: the resurrection is a simple one. Who went to the tomb? How many men were there, and were they soldiers or angels? Where did the disciples see Jesus after he was raised?

After reading the four accounts, what do you propose happened?
Posted by leonardlewis4 3 years ago
leonardlewis4
Yes, the Bible is inerrant.
Posted by dj21 3 years ago
dj21
I am very familiar with the arguments you have laid out. I spent my share of youth studying apologetics. The conversation seems to be moving from philosophy into theology, though that might make for fertile discussion. It seems we had reached something of an impasse re: [p] [q] [r].

As for the first question, I believe that I can know nothing with certainty. And, as the premise would suggest, I am not certain of that either. I work entirely within a world of probability, with a great many things seeming so probable that they are virtually certain (gravity will continue to keep me on this chair until I act against it and stand up...). But I don't consider any of the apparent certainties to be absolute certainties.
Not surprisingly, re: music/9, I have to respectfully disagree. If someone claims "the color 9 smells like music", I can't refute that the claim is true for the.. I can assert that it's nonsense, that neither 9 or music has any smell, and that 9 doesn't smell like music to me. But none of us is that person, or experiences what that person experiences. So it is possible, in my mind, that their mind generates the impression of a smell when they hear music, and their mind generates the same impression of a smell when they see (hear, whatever) the number 9. Unlikely? Extremely. Possible for me to disprove? No. My mind generates the impression of a smell when i am extremely tired. It is, in essence, a smell hallucination. But, in my experience, it is real. If you were in the room (along with 99 others), I assume everyone would agree there is no smell. And yet my mind believes I smell it.

We have moved from philosophy into theology (largely my own doing, I suppose). In my youth, I was an ardent defender of "Objective reality." God was absolute Truth. He defined the Black and White that served as reference points for our "shades of grey." Those thoughts were based on the premise of Biblical Truth. Do you consider the Bible to be inerrant?
Posted by leonardlewis4 3 years ago
leonardlewis4
BTW: I agree that Con didn't do well, and I would have voted against no matter which one I thought was on the right side of the argument... However, Pro's contention that Con should have refuted his "I can still be an illusion, even if I have thoughts" claim is rather absurd. If someone claims that "the color 9 smells like music", I can't refute that either...except to say that the claim is nonsense.
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