The Instigator
J.Kenyon
Pro (for)
Winning
54 Points
The Contender
badger
Con (against)
Losing
23 Points

It is reasonable to believe that Santa Claus exists.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 14 votes the winner is...
J.Kenyon
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/22/2010 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,144 times Debate No: 14113
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (25)
Votes (14)

 

J.Kenyon

Pro

Merry Christmas, everyone, and thank you to whomever accepts this!

This is not a semantics debate; in the spirit of Christmas, I will be defending the proposition that Santa Claus, "a benevolent figure of legend, associated with Saint Nicholas, supposed to bring gifts to children on Christmas Eve"[1] actually exists. The first round will be used for setting out and agreeing to the terms of the debate. Arguments will begin in round 2.

References:
1. http://dictionary.reference.com...
badger

Con

And here comes the Grinch!

I trust you, J.Kenyon. Let's dance!
Debate Round No. 1
J.Kenyon

Pro

== The Argument ==

(1) Possibly, Santa Claus exists. (premise)
(2) If modal realism is true, necessarily, all possible truths obtain in one or more possible worlds. (definition)
(3) Modal realism is true. (premise)
(4) Possibly, necessarily Santa Claus exists in one or more possible worlds. (from 1,2,3)
(5) Necessarily, Santa Claus exists in one or more possible worlds. (from 4, S5 axiom)

== Brief Defense of the Premises ==

P1: Possibly, Santa Claus Exists.

The proposition that "X is not logically possible" is an alethic modal claim, ie., that there is no possible world wherein X obtains.[1] Square circles or married bachelors are examples of things that logically cannot exist in any possible world. Stated simply:

(1) Any proposition 'p' is possibly true just in case 'p' can be asserted without implying a logical contradiction.
(2) Santa Claus's existence can be asserted without implying a logical contradiction.
(3) Therefore, it is possibly true that Santa Claus exists

P2: If modal realism is true, necessarily, all possible truths obtain in one or more possible worlds.

This follows from the definition of modal realism, which is the thesis that our world is just one among many like it. All possible worlds are as real as the actual world. The term "actual" world is indexical, that is, it merely designates that a particular world is *our* world. A proposition, 'p' is possibly true just in case 'p' is true in one or more of these worlds.[2]

P3: Modal realism is true.

This is admittedly the most controversial of my starting premises. I'll support it using three separate lines of reasoning. First, it is a well known fact that the parameters of the physical constants of the universe must fall within extremely precise ranges in order to permit life. According to Stephen Hawking, if the relationship between the competing effects of explosive expansion and gravitational contraction during Plank time deviated in their ratio from unity by just one part in 10e60, the universe would have either re-collapsed in on itself or expanded too rapidly for stars to form.[3] One potential explanation for how the conditions of this incredibly slim possibility were met is the existence of other possible worlds. Although there is no reason to prefer this theory over others, it is at least plausible and can't be readily disproved.

Second, modal realism is parsimonious. An extremely large, but finite set of alternate worlds could explain the existence of sentient life, however, as per the Principle of Sufficient Reason, the fact that some worlds exist but others don't would require an explanation. The hypothesis that all possible worlds are actual worlds is simpler.

Finally, it is reasonable to believe that modal realism is true irrespective of all other evidence. It is common in mathematics to postulate that abstract entities, such as sets, exist as real objects simply because they are useful constructs. Since there is no reason to doubt the existence of mathematical sets, they can be accepted uncritically for pragmatic reasons.[4] The same is true of modal realism, which is useful for understanding possibility, probability, contingency, necessity, counterfactuals and other important concepts in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind.

Remember, don't major in philosophy, kids, or you'll wind up like this! David Lewis is either laughing his arse off right now or turning in his grave. Hell, maybe he's laughing in one possible world and turning in his grave in another!

Merry Christmas, folks.
The resolution is affirmed.

References:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
2. http://plato.stanford.edu...
3. Neil A. Manson, God and design: the teleological argument and modern science (Psychology Press, 2003) p. 6.
4. http://plato.stanford.edu...
badger

Con

It's more just completely ridiculous than funny, to be honest, but I suppose I'm not majoring in philosophy. The last bit was fairly funny :P

But seriously, what sort of a course is philosophy at all? Like, will you actually be learning anything useful? Do you at anytime discuss what you would do if you walked into a room and there was fifty naked sexy women inside there? You might as well.

But maybe I'm jumping the gun. That can't have been one of that fella's best ones, can it? Like, you can't really be expecting to prove that "Modal realism is true".

"This is admittedly the most controversial of my starting premises."

Maybe not...

"I'll support it using three separate lines of reasoning."

That part was kinda funny :)

"First, it is a well known fact that the parameters of the physical constants of the universe must fall within extremely precise ranges in order to permit life. According to Stephen Hawking, if the relationship between the competing effects of explosive expansion and gravitational contraction during Plank time deviated in their ratio from unity by just one part in 10e60, the universe would have either re-collapsed in on itself or expanded too rapidly for stars to form.[3]"

Beautiful.

"One potential explanation for how the conditions of this incredibly slim possibility were met is the existence of other possible worlds. Although there is no reason to prefer this theory over others, it is at least plausible and can't be readily disproved."

Yup...

*cricket noises*

How'd you support it there?

"Second, modal realism is parsimonious. An extremely large, but finite set of alternate worlds could explain the existence of sentient life, however, as per the Principle of Sufficient Reason, the fact that some worlds exist but others don't would require an explanation. The hypothesis that all possible worlds are actual worlds is simpler."

My goodness. Is this an example of what you're taking from your studies? I'm not even really sure what to say to that. Wouldn't it be even simpler to just say God did it?

"Finally, it is reasonable to believe that modal realism is true irrespective of all other evidence."

Why?

"It is common in mathematics to postulate that abstract entities, such as sets, exist as real objects simply because they are useful constructs. Since there is no reason to doubt the existence of mathematical sets, they can be accepted uncritically for pragmatic reasons."

Beautiful. But. They can be accepted as what? What's this got to do with anything?

"The same is true of modal realism, which is useful for understanding possibility, probability, contingency, necessity, counterfactuals and other important concepts in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind."

First of all, is it necessary for understanding any of these concepts? Because if not, you've just gone and refuted yourself on your own nutty little point: "Second, modal realism is parsimonious."

I just really don't know what to say to you :)

Secondly, go get yourself into a proper course. You've plenty time to be dreaming when you're asleep. I just don't really understand why anyone would choose to study it, at least from what you've wrote, and of course if you were actually intending to make the most of your time in college. Is it to look smart in front of the ladies? Becuase if it's ladies you're looking for then I'd suggest persuing something a bit more lucrative. Maybe there's a lot of jobs to be got from a degree in philosophy though... I dunno?

My argument:

It's not reasonable to believe in something you don't have reason to believe in :P

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2
J.Kenyon

Pro

I thank the Grinch for taking the sucker punch I threw at him like a champ :P

=== Intro ===

Con has not challenged the first two premises of my argument, so it appears he agrees that it's logically possible that Santa could exist and that *if* modal realism is true, then Santa really does exist. Note that I don't have to prove that modal realism is true, I merely have to demonstrate that it is a reasonable belief to hold. I gave three arguments in support of modal realism: (1) the fine tuning the of the universe; (2) the law of parsimony; and (3) assuming all other evidence is equal, it is a pragmatic belief to hold. Let's see how they have have held up thus far.

=== Pro Case ===

1. Fine Tuning

Con seems to agree that the universe *does* need to be finely tuned to permit life and that modal realism is at least a plausible explanation for how these conditions were met. I'm not sure what his objection is; he claims I haven't supported my contention, but doesn't mention how so. I'll leave this to my opponent to clarify in the latter rounds.

2. Modal realism is parsimonious

Con expresses doubts regarding my sanity. This is nothing but an argument from incredulity.[1] Note that he hasn't actually argued against the law of parsimony; his sole objection has been that God would be an even simpler hypothesis. Con has not explained how this is so. Additionally, the existence of God does not conflict with modal realism. Indeed, the "many worlds" theodicy attempts to explain the existence of evil and suffering in the actual world by arguing that God created every possible world where the good outweighs the bad.

3. Pragmatism

Con asks of mathematical sets "they can be accepted as what?" As real objects, like I explained. The same is true of possible worlds.

Con claims that I have contradicted my point about the law of parsimony. I don't see how this is the case. If anything, modal realism offers us the simplest way of understanding the ideas outlined.

=== Con Case ===

"Go get yourself into a proper course. You've plenty time to be dreaming when you're asleep."

I appreciate the Grinch's concern, but I'm actually only minoring in philosophy; I'm a neuroscience major with an emphasis in pre-med.

"It's not reasonable to believe in something you don't have reason to believe in."

This is merely restating the obvious; the whole point of the debate is to show that there are good reasons to believe that Santa Claus exists. This is a question begging tautology.[2]

--- Conclusion ---

In order to fulfill my BoP, I only have to prove that it is *reasonable* to believe that Santa Claus exists; not that Santa Claus actually exists. Toward that end, I have attempted to demonstrate that modal realism is at the very least plausible. I've completely refuted Con's objections to it. Con's only positive argument against the existence of Santa was clearly circular.

The resolution is affirmed.

References:

1. http://skepticwiki.org...
2. http://www.nizkor.org...
badger

Con

"I gave three arguments in support of modal realism: (1) the fine tuning the of the universe; (2) the law of parsimony; and (3) assuming all other evidence is equal, it is a pragmatic belief to hold. Let's see how they have have held up thus far."

Let's.

"1. Fine Tuning

Con seems to agree that the universe *does* need to be finely tuned to permit life and that modal realism is at least a plausible explanation for how these conditions were met. I'm not sure what his objection is; he claims I haven't supported my contention, but doesn't mention how so. I'll leave this to my opponent to clarify in the latter rounds."

No, I agree that if things had happened differently at the universe's beginning that things prbably would be different, but not that because of this it is reasonable to believe modal realism is true; that's just nonsense, which is my objection.

"2. Modal realism is parsimonious

Con expresses doubts regarding my sanity. This is nothing but an argument from incredulity.[1] Note that he hasn't actually argued against the law of parsimony; his sole objection has been that God would be an even simpler hypothesis. Con has not explained how this is so. Additionally, the existence of God does not conflict with modal realism. Indeed, the "many worlds" theodicy attempts to explain the existence of evil and suffering in the actual world by arguing that God created every possible world where the good outweighs the bad."

Well, what you're actually suggesting is that we should just believe in whatever it is that can be explained the quickest. So, it's "God did it" Versus "Well, see the chances of the universe unfolding like it did were actually 1 seeing as it had infinite attempts, so you see it actually all makes perfect sense afterall... lol". The first one's shorter. And why are you positing other universes anyway to explain how ours turned out? If you drop a coin and it lands on heads do you assume that because it coud have happened other ways that it must have and not just the way you saw it occur. That's a bit silly isn't it?

"3. Pragmatism

Con asks of mathematical sets "they can be accepted as what?" As real objects, like I explained. The same is true of possible worlds."

First of all, mathematical sets are just things we make up, not real objects, and we know this because we make them up and they're just not even things... they're like names. But you think we should accept that they are real things because they're useful. That's like saying the boogie man's real because I can use the idea of him to scare my kids into doing what I want. And that's reasonable? I'm not even getting how you think it's useful lol.

"Con claims that I have contradicted my point about the law of parsimony. I don't see how this is the case. If anything, modal realism offers us the simplest way of understanding the ideas outlined."

Well, by your logic, it ties into other things, so there's more explaining to be done, so it's likely not the case... a joke :) What ideas outlined?

=== My case ===

"I appreciate the Grinch's concern, but I'm actually only minoring in philosophy; I'm a neuroscience major with an emphasis in pre-med."

Not as much as a waste of time I suppose.

"This is merely restating the obvious;"

Yeah...

"the whole point of the debate is to show that there are good reasons to believe that Santa Claus exists."

And where're the good reasons?

"This is a question begging tautology.[2]"

Are you trying to tell me that my argument is so good and obviously true that it doesn't even need to be stated?

--- My Conclusion ---

Santa's not real.
Debate Round No. 3
J.Kenyon

Pro

=== Intro ===

Because Con agrees with my other points, the only contention I have to defend is that modal realism is a reasonable belief to hold. Con has brought up arguments that (if they work) may run counter to mine, but none of them actually refute modal realism itself or show in any way that it is implausible. Additionally, I think Con's counterpoints fall short and I'll attempt to show why.

=== Pro Case ===

1. Fine Tuning

Con's objection appears muddled, however, I'll take a guess at what he was aiming for and do my best to respond to it. It's true that when you roll a die 30 times, every possible outcome is equally probable. However, should you roll 30 straight sixes, it's reasonable to conclude that you're playing with a loaded die. The same is true of the universe: every possible way the universe could be organized is equally likely, however, the specific arrangement we observe (an arrangement where sentient life is possible) is extremely unlikely. There are for more ways to design a universe that is not life-permitting than there are to design life permitting universes. To blithely assert "well, the arrangement we observe is unlikely, but every other possible arrangement is equally unlikely" sidesteps the problem rather than actually addressing it.

On modal realism, the probability that there is at least one life permitting universe is 1 (since all possible worlds are real worlds). By inputting the likelihood of given universe being life permitting (assuming that there is only one real universe), we can create a Bayesian inference showing the final probability of modal realism. Assuming that modal realism has a fairly high initial probability (which I established in C2), the final probability would be quite high.

2. Modal realism is parsimonious

Con misunderstands the law of parsimony. He writes "what you're actually suggesting is that we should just believe in whatever it is that can be explained the quickest." This is incorrect. What the law of parsimony actually states is that *all other factors being equal,* simpler hypotheses are more likely to be true.[1] This can be verified both empirically by inductive inference and a priori by appealing to epistemic pragmatism. Modal realism *qualitatively* reduces the kinds of possibilia while only *quantitatively* increasing the number of real entities that actually exist.

Because Con has not provided an alternative hypothesis to modal realism (besides briefly mentioning God, though he hasn't followed up on it), I've compared it to the view that our universe arose by naturalistic causes and is the only such universe that really exists. Of the two hypotheses, I think I've clearly demonstrated that modal realism is more parsimonious. At this point, it is too late for Con to introduce a different theory. Since he also hasn't raised any salient objections to the law of parsimony, this contention, and thus the entire debate, should go to Pro by default.

3. Pragmatism

Con claims "mathematical sets are just things we make up, not real objects, and we know this because we make them up and they're just not even things." This is false. The things that mathematical sets represent (numbers, functions, lines, planes, etc.) don't exist in the sense that they take up space in the physical world, however, "impure" sets can be actualized whenever its constituent parts are represented -- for example, 4 apples, econometric modeling, and a chess board, respectively.[2]

Con claims that by appealing to epistemic pragmatism, we open the door to believing in things like the boogie man, which is false. There are good reasons to doubt the existence of the boogieman; there is no good reason to doubt the existence of other worlds. If the boogie man existed, we would expect to see some evidence of this, yet no evidence is forthcoming. Where did the boogie man come from? What is his evolutionary history? What taxonomical group does he belong to? Note that unless positing the existence of he boogieman is somehow *logically* incoherent, this only rules out the existence of the boogie man in *our* world, not in some other possible world.

Con's last objection is that believing in modal realism necessitates the explanation of certain concepts, thus violating the law of parsimony. This is a misconception; such concepts as those outlined in R2 require an explanation anyway, modal realism just makes it easier for us. This works in the same way that set theory allows us to understand mathematical abstracta.

=== Con Case ===

"Where're (sic) are the good reasons [for the existence of Santa Claus]?"

See above

"Are you trying to tell me that my argument is so good and obviously true that it doesn't even need to be stated?"

No, I'm telling you that your argument is fallacious.

--- Conclusion ---

Con agrees that if modal realism is true, then my argument is sound. He has not given any reason to think that modal realism is false, let alone show that it is an unreasonable view. His attempts to refute my arguments ultimately fall short.

The resolution is affirmed. Thanks, badger for being a good sport. Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

References:

1. http://plato.stanford.edu...

2.http://plato.stanford.edu...
badger

Con

"Because Con agrees with my other points, the only contention I have to defend is that modal realism is a reasonable belief to hold."

I do agree that if modal realism is true that it would be reasonable to believe Santa Claus exists, provided "Santa Claus's existence can be asserted without implying a logical contradiction"... and I was just too lazy to argue that it couldn't be. I also agree that this left you with only one conetention to defend, that modal realism is a reasonable belief to hold.

"Con has brought up arguments that (if they work) may run counter to mine, but none of them actually refute modal realism itself or show in any way that it is implausible."

We all have our opinions...

"Additionally, I think Con's counterpoints fall short and I'll attempt to show why."

Beautiful..

1. Fine Tuning

"It's true that when you roll a die 30 times, every possible outcome is equally probable. However, should you roll 30 straight sixes, it's reasonable to conclude that you're playing with a loaded die."

I agree.

"The same is true of the universe: every possible way the universe could be organized is equally likely, however, the specific arrangement we observe (an arrangement where sentient life is possible) is extremely unlikely."

Ok, allow me to explain why the same is NOT necessarily true of the universe: For starters, the reason for which it's reasonable to conclude that the die MAY (not must) be loaded, is that 30 straight sixes occuring is incredibly unlikely and probably less so than the die being loaded (i don't know how you'd quantify the probability of the die being loaded short of finding the percentage of us who would do so... but i'm fairly confident that there're enough sneaks in the world to make it more likely than 30 straight sixes occuring). So we're actually still left with a probability that we're wrong.. but less of a one, and since gambling's a dangerous game at the best of times, it'd be reasonable to move on past, and believe that the die were loaded, or at least that there was a high chance that they were... depending on how much of a gambler you are :)

Now, you say the same is true of the universe because of the existence of sentient life, because sentient life existing is the same as rolling 30 straight sixes.. Just lol..

First of all, rolling 30 straight sixes has a probability of occuring, and would eventually occur given infinite time to, given that that probability is given over 30 turns and not infinity. So...? So much for being parsimonious, right? I mean positing unnecessary, unseen and unsupported entities to explain how something with a low probability could occur, when given infinite time it would've occured anyway; That's not parsimonious, right?

Second, your analogy sucks; allow me to provide a better one: It's true that when you roll a million sided die, every possible outcome is equally improbable (1 in a million), but one must occur, even though it was highly unlikely that it would. Like it?

And what's so special about life anyway?

"There are for more ways to design a universe that is not life-permitting than there are to design life permitting universes."

Designed many universes?

"To blithely assert "well, the arrangement we observe is unlikely, but every other possible arrangement is equally unlikely" sidesteps the problem rather than actually addressing it."

It doesn't though. It makes sense. Take my die analogy again; would you posit that because I rolled a one on my million sided die, that I actually also must've rolled every other possibility in alternate worlds for it to make sense? Because something happened one way in no way means that it must also have happened in every other possible way. That just doesn't follow, and seems ridiculous :)

2. Modal realism is parsimonious

"Con misunderstands the law of parsimony. He writes "what you're actually suggesting is that we should just believe in whatever it is that can be explained the quickest." This is incorrect. What the law of parsimony actually states is that *all other factors being equal,* simpler hypotheses are more likely to be true."

Allow me to introduce simpler, as defined by wikipedia[1]: Simplicity is a more qualitative word connected to simple. It is a property, condition, or quality which things can be judged to have. It usually relates to the burden which a thing puts on someone trying to explain or understand it. ...

I'd have thought that explaining something with more to explain would've been more burdensome than explaining something with less to explain? I think it's you who misunderstands the law of parsimony. I'm sure you'd agree for your own sake that the part of the definition that talks about how simple something is to understand would be best ignored here, given what we're talking about ;P

"Because Con has not provided an alternative hypothesis to modal realism (besides briefly mentioning God, though he hasn't followed up on it),"

Again, my argument for god, in terms of parsimony (which I understand :P): Well, what you're actually suggesting is that we should just believe in whatever it is that can be explained the quickest. So, it's "God did it" Versus "Well, see the chances of the universe unfolding like it did were actually 1 seeing as it had infinite attempts, so you see it actually all makes perfect sense afterall... lol". The first one's shorter :P

Well, I've hit the character limit, and to be honest, I'm way to lazy to go about shortening this, so it continues here:http://www.debate.org...

Thank Mirza!

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 4
25 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Glax 3 years ago
Glax
Yes it's reasonable to believe that Santa Claus exists. From a young age you were taught to believe and trust everything your parents say, they told you that he was real, so of course you're going to believe it. It's reasonable to believe in Santa until your parents tell you that he's not real.
Posted by TimmyFitz 3 years ago
TimmyFitz
This is completely unreasonable
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
I just happened to see this interesting debate. It's a textbook case.

Without further context, the only reasonable interpretation of "Santa Claus exists" is "Santa Claus exists in our world." Hence the Pro position is based entirely upon misinterpreting the resolution.

The premise that "Santa Claus could possibly exist" is false. Anything that violates the laws of nature in our world could not exist in alternate version of our world. If the Santa is not in a world with our physical laws it wouldn't be a Santa. Santa is magic, but in a world where magic is allowed A Santa would not have the defining interest.
Posted by i8JoMomma 5 years ago
i8JoMomma
charles manson exist
Posted by badger 5 years ago
badger
what's presentation? it's sickening that he won this.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Nice presentation Kenyon.
Posted by ASB 6 years ago
ASB
J. Kenyon says "modal realism is true"
modal realism looks like a theory, not fact...

it is not statistically possible for Santa Claus to exist.
even if only 10 kids were naughty instead of nice Santa would not exist.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Santa Claus, or "Santa", is a figure in North American culture with legendary, mythological and folkloric aspects who developed from an amalgamation of Dutch Sinterklaas, English Father Christmas and other traditions of Christmas gift-bringers. Santa Claus is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24

wikipedia
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
i know not everything from wikipedia is true, but come on... really Santa Claus is made up.
Posted by ganibanfernebert 6 years ago
ganibanfernebert
i believe santa claus is true ! infact we have 2 in our family , the father and mother . LOL :)
Posted by forever2b 6 years ago
forever2b
Dude, when I was babysitting and I told this kid Santa does not exist, he started to cry. But I guess I could have told him Santa does exist because Modal realism is true. That would have gotten him to shut up for a while ;)
Posted by SaintNick 6 years ago
SaintNick
I have got to read this lol.......
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