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Independent Western thought is impossible

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/25/2016 Category: Society
Updated: 3 weeks ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 192 times Debate No: 95651
Debate Rounds (3)
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I will be arguing that, due to the impact of media (all forms) and consumerism, it is now impossible to have an independent thought or a unique emotion. This applies to any person raised in a society where media is often being consumed.

Somewhat rusty with debates and I forget some of the good house rules, so essentially just be fair.


I accept.

Good luck,

Debate Round No. 1


In modern society we are faced with a never ending inescapable onslaught of consumerism through images presented from the media beginning almost immediately at birth. The newly born infant is given clothes embedded with a character from a show that plays colorful flashing pictures nested neatly between chunks of advertisement. These advertisements present adult scenarios and emotions in an attempt to cast a shroud of consumer desire onto the parents of the children, so that the illusion of necessity comes to be actualized in the form of a purchase. The very young child, still deep in the grip of infantile amnesia, is experiencing the shadow of the actual feeling of desire through the television screen. Just as the shadows from Plato's Allegory of the Cave are merely representations of the reality that is the men behind the flames, so too are the emotions we experience as we consume the fictional reality, through images, corruptions of what really is. This corrupt marriage between media, consumer capitalism, and the images that are endlessly aimed at our emotional reaction is, as Guy Debord titled his famous set of theses, The Society of the Spectacle.
The spectacle is a representation of what the media, driven forward by consumer capitalism, has determined the ideal life should look. Since we are assaulted by the spectacle before we have the ability to have fluid thought (as were the generations before us albeit in a less technological fashion), we are raised believing that the spectacle represents what is right. Our behavior therefore is an attempt to succeed in the economic structure that exists only because we justify its economic path to internal peace based on the evidence of happiness presented by the advertising media. It is here that it becomes clear that the spectacle is no longer being ran by an entity other than itself as the whole of society. We desire the fictional emotions presented through the images so we emulate that behavior and, in doing so, bring the spectacle into reality. No longer can we say the spectacle is fiction; the spectacle is the only existence there is. Because of this if there was, hypothetically, an attempt made at a thought independent of the spectacle's eternal projection of images, this authentic experience would now be the fiction. The spectacle has devoured all.

"In a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood." - Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. 1967. Thesis 9.

Through this devouring of emotional experience we can no longer claim any experience to be unique, authentic, or independent of the corruption of the spectacle. We are now many generations into the spectacle's fury and any traces of what unique, authentic, independent thought has long been absorbed and processed into the spectacle. Once the spectacle has it, it is then replicated and mass published so the entirety of society can experience the concept of an experience. We know what it is to be angry because the spectacle had shown it to us. Now, though it may be based on an authentic injustice, the actual emotion and thought that occurs has been corrupted since we had already seen anger in one of the spectacles images. Even if you, personally, had somehow managed to reach an age old enough to have mental fluidity to be able to process these experiences without ever having been exposed to a sample copy that the spectacle churns out, you would be basing that emotional experience on your observations of your parents/older siblings/caretaker; if they themselves have not ever came into significant contact with the spectacle as well then there is no logical way you could say that they exist in Western Culture.
I have demonstrated, to an exact point, why Independent Western Thought is impossible.


The intriguing premise of your claim may lead some to believe it on faith, for it is a well-worded and well put together claim. However, I will not be taken in so easily by your story. And that, is in and of itself, the rebuke to your position I believe. You speak of spectacle and false emotions and how our every daily thought is influenced by and almost planted directly in our heads by the spectacle, however that would be a gross disservice to the main contender for independent thought, whether it is Western, or Eastern, Northern, or Southern; Critical Thinking.

All thoughts are biologically independent, as we are not part of a hive mind and do not thus reach the same conclusion via the same premises, or even the same conclusion at all. There are trends, patterns, and vulnerabilities that our minds are prone to, and this is in part where I think your concept of spectacle takes hold. However, the antithesis to this position is that of the analyzer, the critic, and the philosopher. Even if two people think the same thing, are they not also thinking it independently of each other? Even if they share an environment, consume the same media, and participate in the same social groups, there is evidence to show that these two people can and will have radically different worldviews and perspectives. You need look no farther than the movements of Anarchism, and Statism. Both are equally viable (at least theoretically) and commonly held beliefs by multitudes of people in the West. Anti-establishment notions are seen as preposterous by Statists, and Anarchists consistently rebel and struggle against what they view as the Capitalist, Consumerist, Media-driven ideals of the mainstream. Consider then the possibility that while one can argue endlessly about the disadvantages or merits of any given system or lack thereof, that these systems serve a purpose. That purpose can often be extrapolated into something nefarious, a vile trick used to corrupt and enslave people's minds. That being said, and I do recognize the importance of considering all the options, Occam's Razor would tend to suggest that rather than being an evil machination, contemporary society and its culture is simply a manifestation of Western Civilization's choices, and sadly, its slothful tendencies when making those choices.

The unfortunate reality of our many kinsmen and kinswomen being all too susceptible to the popular, the vogue, the utopian, is not an apocalyptic devouring of intelligentsia. Far be it from me to lecture you but, is it not the plight of the thinking man to be surrounded by those who do not see the world as he sees it? Did not Socrates inculcate in his peers the value of examining one's life? And is it not then so simple and easy to say that any who examine their life would see this self-evident dystopia as you've brought it forth? Where are the outcries by the enlightened? I don't think they appear, because the world has always been one of materials and ideals. Our ability to hold this debate right now, is a testament to our independent thought, and reflection on ideals. Ideals, true as we can know them as independent thinkers and reach a consensus upon them, are unfalsifiable. So while it's tempting to blame all of this on our fellow people casting shadows on the walls to deceive us and manipulate us, is it not equally possible that our fellows cast the shadows to entertain, to amuse, and to most practically make ends meet? As best as any man can critique the world that influences him, so too can deep introspection provide something of a damning revelation; that we know less of ourselves than we do of the world. And would not that horrify any self-respecting person? We are after all ourselves, all of our lives, seeing the world through the vessel of our mind. If even the scarcest possibility is found that we are incapable of comprehending our own psyche, it is a natural next step to say that the world is at fault, and that the truth of our minds has been obfuscated by the surroundings we live in. However, Occam's Razor cuts both ways. It is more of a leap of logic to make the excuse of spectacle covering up our true selves, than it is to say that we do not yet understand our true selves in full.

So you see, I have spoken of critical thinking in two ways. I have shown that through critical thinking, people arrive at different conclusions, and they do not correlate with your claim that ideal life as dictated by the media is the pervasive collective belief which dominates all forms of thought. Independent thought is manifested through Marxism, Fascism, Communism, Capitalism, Anarchism, Libertarianism, Totalitarianism, and a whole host of other ideological schools. Even within these schools there are numerous dissenting opinions and lifestyles. As an anecdotal proof, when was the last time you saw an anarchist commercial? And yet are there not anarchist groups and forums? Your claim that the spectacle or mass media is massively corrupting is a half-truth. The second way I spoke of critical thinking was to demonstrate the flaws inherent in any argument that supposes a universal truth about reality. If there is a truth that is so pervasive as to be manipulating reality, and yet also be overt enough to be discussed by those within that reality, it probably is not a universal truth, or something that affects those that choose not to be affected by it.

And so, the third and last way that I find critical thinking to be superior to your theory of spectacle, and demonstrative of why independent western thought is possible, is thus. Your argument relies heavily on abstract concepts.

Yes I know, I too have relied much on the abstract in the above response. However, I am in the easy position of having to prove independent thought whereas you need to broaden the boundaries of your supposed restrictions on independent thought to such a wide extent that it beggars belief. The proofs for independent thought it would seem to me are that the thought comes from a traceable source (in this case, my IP address, as well as my confirmed identity as a real human being), does not fall under plagiarism (go ahead and check if you like, this is partly why I haven't sourced anything, and obviously the Socrates quote predates your theory), and expresses an idea or concept in a meaningful way. These criteria are pretty easy to fill. Extraordinarily so in fact. The sentence, "I have never liked the taste of cranberries on toast," is an independent western thought, by those proofs.

I can be very specific with my original independent thoughts, however your criteria is a bit more difficult. By your logic, this entire response would have had to have been something I absorbed through mass media and either somehow internalized or otherwise regurgitated due to the unoriginality and lack of authenticity of thought. However the more complex a statement is, the harder your thesis is to prove, especially if it covers any of the above areas. The best example I can think of would be something that is very generic, and almost meaningless. Something like, "I have never liked the taste of cranberries on toast." How do you ratify this? Can this be falsified? Evidently not. Which means you fall into the same trap as before, the fact that purely mechanically, your idea is a faulty one. In order to prove its validity, you either put yourself in a box small enough that critical thinking can break it with ease, or expound it in such vague and general terms as to make it indistinguishable from critical thinking.

So to wrap all of my thoughts together, your theory of the spectacle is an entertaining one, but is by no means proof that independent western thought is dead because;

-Independent thought is unfalsifiable

-The mainstream serves a function that aids society, even if the willful acceptance of it pains those who think outside the box.

-To claim self-reflection is impossible while self-reflecting is circular logic.

-Occam's Razor suggests that the evidence for a spectacle theory is probably a way of rationalizing incomprehension of one's own psyche.

-One's own ideals and morals are the product of one's choice, not one's environment, and if one chooses to insist that they are the product of the environment... ...One's ideals and morals are the product of one's choice.

I thank you for engaging in this debate, and because I know that this was mostly rhetorical and pretty anecdotal, with me trying to just get out my stream of thought, I would understand if you desired for me to expand on some areas or provide sources. I look forward to your response, and thank you for the opportunity to have this debate!

Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Kalleth 3 weeks ago
A logical conclusion is by necessity a rational one reached through a structured and measured system. The distinction is that this does not mean that the construct of logic is a falsehood. Logic as best as it can be ascertained, is a construct rooted in primary sensory data. If you falsify logic, you falsify the very thing you are using to justify your own existence, in a sense. If you can find a sourced alternative to logic that allows for societal cohesion, I encourage you to show it to us.

Perhaps a better example would be to address this thesis Society of the Spectacle. How does the author justify his knowledge of the all-encompassing and controlling system, when he himself is a part of that system? Or at least, what proof does he offer that his own dissertation is or is not independent of the spectacle that he is purporting to have evidence of?

And another important question relevant to the debate; I want to know what you define as independent thought. I want your own personal definition.
Posted by Capitalist_Zombie 3 weeks ago
But yeah that's just it if they reach a logical conclusion due to being taught the conclusion, handed the logic, and educated in the laws as they exist as they are taught.

That's not independently arriving at 4 when asked 2+2
Posted by Capitalist_Zombie 3 weeks ago
The Spectacle is neither good nor evil, it simply is at this point. If you haven't you gotta check Society of the Spectacle out. Guy Debord was kind of hanging on to Marxism, but the spectacle is more of a condemnation of past behavior, explanation of current behavior, and hinderance of future existence.

A dystopian capitalism ran wild.

Im going to take my time a bit though. Not sure if I'm quite ready to box everything up
Posted by Kalleth 3 weeks ago
I would like to point out that Zaephou's point being paradoxical is predicated on the validity of your claim that the spectacle is controlling everything, which as I point out in round 2, is not a realistic conclusion. Independent thought as Zaephou says, can be "controlled" if you mean to say that the influences on those thoughts maintain a causal link, no matter how indirect. You could say that a math teacher is controlling their students' thoughts when they say "2 + 2 =?" and the students think "4", or you could say that it's just the logical conclusion of that statement. Zombie, you can deny it all you want but insofar as you place no limit on the topic being discussed, there can be no limit to the anecdotes or examples given to falsify your theory of spectacle. Conveniently enough, critical thinking on the other hand, is unfalsifiable. It also happens to be what you use to falsify things.
Posted by Capitalist_Zombie 3 weeks ago
I think you are fundamentally incorrect. By definition, something cannot be controlled and remain independent. That would be a paradox.
Posted by Zaephou 3 weeks ago
There is no such thing as independent thought or free will, if we affiliate it with other factors broadly enough. It is important to remember that if we relate our thoughts to outside things, and if we search external sources long enough, we will eventually find something that effects all of our thoughts, to the hour you get up to the second you eat or blink.

Due to this, it is important to mention at what extent, you should say when independent thought stops being independent thought. It is not much of a case of what effects our thinking, it is how far and broad we want to look to find something that influences it. We should draw a line as to where this happens, and in a debate, you should differentiate between controlled thought, and influenced thought. Just because thought is influenced, does not mean it is not independent.
Posted by Capitalist_Zombie 3 weeks ago
first debate, hope I'm doing it right
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