The Instigator
SargonOfAkkad
Pro (for)
Losing
5 Points
The Contender
1Credo
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Physicalism is true.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
1Credo
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/19/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,114 times Debate No: 67340
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (38)
Votes (3)

 

SargonOfAkkad

Pro

Ave

The resolution of this debate states that "Physicalism is true". Physicalism amounts to the ontological thesis that there is nothing "beyond or above" the physical, and that all actually existing entities are supervenient on the physical. For the purposes of this debate, I will defend the truth of physicalism as defined, and I will not focus on sub-types of physicalism such as theory-based physicalism and object-based physicalism. Similarly, I will not bother myself with explicating a reductionist or non-reductionist defense of physicalism.

The first round of this debate is for acceptance. The second round will begin with my opening argument, followed by back and forth rebuttals throughout the remainder of the debate. Voters should vote for the debater who has a preponderance of the evidence (i.e. when weighted on balance, the arguments favor their side over the opposing side).

Vale
1Credo

Con

I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
SargonOfAkkad

Pro

Ave


The Existence of Physical Entities


Imagine that you are taking a walk around an urban city. As you walk, you will hear the loudness of the cars speeding past you. Being a large city, you may also hear the wailing, high-pitched frequency of an emergency vehicle. It is undeniable that your conscious experience includes the experience of hearing these sounds. What causes us to hear loudness and pitch the way that we do? What factors mold the structures of our conscious experience? According to physics, our subjective experience of loudness relates to a physical quantity called the intensity level, which depends on the intensity of the sound and the intensity of some reference level. Furthermore, our experience of pitch depends on the frequency (cycles per second) of the sound wave. A higher frequency will lead us to hear a higher pitch, and a lower frequency will lead us to hear a lower pitch. According to this picture, our conscious experience of the world around us depends on physical quantities, entities, and relationships, Therefore, the mere existence of conscious experience implies the existence of physical entities as well.


The picture that I just described relates aspects of our conscious experience to physical quantities. Now we can mention a different picture, one in which all of reality is mentally constructed and the physical does not actually exist. Unfortunately for the idealist, this picture must be incorrect. To produce a sound that is experienced as being twice as loud requires a sound wave with ten times the intensity. If idealism is true, one would expect a direct relationship between these two quantities. Namely, there is a mental concept “sounding loud” that remains constant until ten times the intensity has been reached. Everything that is true of one’s conscious experience remains the same, yet something else, the intensity of the sound wave, is changing. The mental aspect of our experience has not changed, as nobody ever walks down a street and notices that the sound they are hearing has increased in intensity by 2.5 (for example). Since there is a change, and this change has been ruled out as being a change in the mental aspect of the scenario, there must be a change to something non-mental. Therefore, the non-mental must exist.


Physical facts fix all of the facts (supervenience)


Facts are, in essence, true propositions. Analytic philosophers concern themselves with what propositions are meaningful and what propositions are not. In order for a proposition to be meaningful, and therefore capable of being true or false, a proposition must be free of lexical, structural, and other forms of ambiguity. One of the crowning achievements of the hard sciences is its analytical and quantitative precision that is free from such ambiguity. The set of concepts invoked by fields such as chemistry and physics in order to explain observed phenomena use mathematics to obtain this analytical and quantitative precision. For this reason, if one is to have access to the facts about reality, one must do it through a conceptual schema that is analytical and quantitative. The hard sciences, considering their analytical and quantitative nature, as well as their stunning predictive power, are therefore the conceptual schema from which we should investigate the nature of reality. Although other subjects may be interesting from an intellectual standpoint, we must accept the primacy of the hard sciences in investigating reality. Anything which is inconsistent with the hard sciences is by implication inconsistent with the basic conceptual schema for investigating reality, and is therefore unacceptable.


Having established the primacy of the hard sciences in investigating reality, it is now necessary to explicate the ontology offered by these hard sciences. Practically speaking, chemistry and physics investigate the same topics, so by convention, I will simply describe the ontology given to us by modern physics. The standard model of particle physics, which has been found to be supported by empirical evidence (the discover of the Higgs boson was such an experiment), tells us that the fundamental constituents of reality are fermions and bosons. For this reason, the standard model of particle physics is inconsistent with any notion of non-physical entities. Earlier, I established that if there is a contradiction between the hard sciences and any other subject, notion, or proposition, we must choose the hard sciences. Now, given that the standard model of particle physics is inconsistent with the notion of non-physical entities, we must rule out the existence of non-physical entities from our view of reality. Therefore, all actually existing entities are physical.


It has been established that all actually existing entities are physical. Considering that physicalism amounts to the assertion that all actually existing entities are supervenient on the physical, I only have to prove that physical entities are supervenient on the physical in order to prove that physicalism is true. Remember that supervenience is a relationship where the lower-level properties of a system determine the higher-level properties of a system. This means that I must prove that given a physical entity, E, a change in the lower-level properties (B) entails a change in the higher-level properties (A). The hard sciences make this trivially easy to demonstrate. As an easily understood example, chemistry explains how lighting a match involves changes in lower-level properties (i.e. a chemical reaction) that determine the higher-level properties of the match (it is now on fire). Physical entities are supervenient on the physical. Therefore, all actually existing entities are supervenient on the physical. This means that physicalism is true.

As I have more room to type, I will spend characters addressing some possible misconceptions that may arise. I am not affirming the position that science is the only source of truth and knowledge. There are other subjects, such as mathematics, logic, and philosophy that can reach similar levels of precision and clarity. Rather, for my argument to work, I only need to defend the assertion that if a notion is inconsistent with the hard sciences, then we should choose the hard sciences as being the correct option. Usually, there is a significant degree of interplay between science and mathematics, with vector addition from physics demonstrating the mathematical law of the commutative property, and physics utilizing math as its "language". For this reason, I view them both as analytical and quantitative fields that reinforce each other rather than two fields fighting for supremacy over our investigations into reality.

Furthermore, it is worth clarifying that my denial of the existence of non-physical entities does not in any way entail the denial of the existence of mind. Physicalists can speak of concepts like "mind" as coherent as a dualist will. As Shelly Kagan states in his book Death, physicalists simply contend that the mind is something that the body does. The commonly held belief that physicalists cannot coherently speak about a mind is a misunderstanding of physicalism.

Facts, expressed as propositions, must be analytical and precise, and therefore, only analytical and precise fields have any true knowledge about the nature of reality. The hard sciences, although they are not the only fields consistent with this description, take primacy due to their stunning predictive power. However, the hard sciences describe a physical universe of purely physical interactions, leaving out any mention of non-physical entities. Therefore, non-physical entities do not exist due to their inconsistency with the hard sciences, which take primacy over all other sources of knowledge. Since only physical entities exist, all that remains is to use basic science to demonstrate that these physical entities are supervenient on the physical. Once this is done, the truth of physicalism has been established. Although physicalists still have to decide between rivaling interpretations, it remains the only plausible ontology.

Thanks for reading.

Vale




References


Physics: Principles with Applications


http://online.sfsu.edu...


The Atheist's Guide to Reality

1Credo

Con

Thanks, Pro.

Burden of Proof

As my opponent stated in the opening round, the winner of this debate shall be decided based on the side with the preponderance of evidence. As such, the burden of proof is shared. My opponent, in order to carry his share of the burden of proof, must (1) knock down the arguments I present in favor of my own position and (2) present good arguments to think that physicalism is true. On the other hand, it will be my own responsibility to (1) knock down the arguments presented in favor of physicalism and (2) present good arguments to think that physicalism is not true.

Rebuttal

My opponent has dedicated his first argument to providing evidence against idealism. Unfortunately, this is a straw-man argument, as I myself do not affirm idealism. I'll have to ask my opponent to focus his arguments on dualism if he is to succeed in showing that it is physicalism, rather than dualism, that is true.

In my opponent's second argument, he asserts that there is a contradiction between the hard sciences and the existence of non-physical entities, and that as a result non-physical entities do not exist. This is a trivial argument. I see absolutely no reason to think that there is a contradiction between the hard sciences and the existence of non-physical entities. Science is by definition the study of the material world, so thinking that science should have something to say about the immaterial is palpably false. As such, my opponent's conclusion that "all actually existing entities are physical" is unwarranted. If he wants this conclusion to be accepted, my opponent needs to provide justification for his assertion that there is a logical contradiction between hard sciences and non-physical entities.

Arguments Against Physicalism

I will present four arguments in attempt to show that physicalism is more likely false than true. The first of these arguments will be a modal argument against physicalism, the second an argument from truth, and the latter two will be evolutionary arguments against physicalism.

1) Modal Argument

If we take physicalism to be true, it follows that each of us, as human beings, are nothing more than our material bodies. This can be summed through the proposition:

A=B, where a is "me" and b is "my body"

In order for physicalism to be true, "me" and "my body" (or "A" and "B") must be identical. However, it seems to me that there are good reasons to think that this is not the case. In his book The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka provides an illustration that may provide insight to what will follow:

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes."

I can perfectly conceive of something like this happening to myself; waking up one morning to find that my human body was gone and instead occupying the body of an insect. So, we can call this "Possible World P". In Possible World P, I occupy the body of an insect while my human body is destroyed. But if there is even one possible world where "me" (A) and "my body" (B) are not identical, then it seems to me that "a" and "b" are not truly identical. For in order for the proposition A=B to hold true, it must be the case that every property of A is a property of B (and vice versa). If there were even one property that differed between A and B, then it follows that A and B are not truly identical. Among these properties are modal properties, or properties in possible worlds. If A=B is to be true, then A=B must be true in every possible world. If there is a possible property of A that is not a possible property of B, then we can reasonably conclude that the proposition A=B is false.

It's fairly easy to recognize that there are properties that are true of A (me) that are not true for B (my body). To give an example we have already seen, A has the property of existing in a world where B doesn't (as in the insect example). So, it seems to me that A and B are not identical, and as such the proposition A=B is false.

Premise 1: If physicalism is true, then the proposition A=B must be true.
Premise 2: The proposition A=B is not true.
Conclusion: Physicalism is not true.

2) Argument from Truth

Physicalism can be seen as self-defeating when considering truth:

Premise 1: If physicalism is true, there are no true sentences.
Premise 2: Premise 1 is true.
Conclusion: Therefore, physicalism is not true.

3) Evolutionary Argument A

This argument goes to show that the conjunction of the beliefs in evolution on one hand and physicalism on the other can not rationally be held. If evolution and physicalism are both true, then both our behavior and our beliefs are determined by our neurology. On evolution, behavior that maintains or increases fitness is selected for. If this is true, then the neurology that causes this behavior is also selected for. Notice that our beliefs are not selected for. It may be the case that the same neurology produces both our behavior and our beliefs, but the truth value of these beliefs is irrelevant in terms of fitness. So long as our neurology produces behavior that goes to increase fitness, it really doesn't matter whether our beliefs are true or false. If a false belief is produced with a beneficial behavior, then the neurology that produced the false belief will evolve in just the same way it would have had it produced a true belief. So, given evolution and physicalism, we can say that there is a 50% probability of any given belief being true; it is just as likely true as false. But if that's the case, then the reliability of our cognitive faculties is very low. We each have thousands of beliefs. If it's the case that our cognitive faculties produce true beliefs only 50% of the time, then I'd say those cognitive faculties are unreliable. In other words, it's not sensible to think that any given belief produced by these cognitive faculties is true. But notice that the physicalist has shot himself in the foot here; for physicalism itself is a belief that on this view cannot be rationally held.

Premise 1: If the conjunction of evolution and physicalism is true, then the reliability of our cognitive faculties is low.
Premise 2: If the reliability of our cognitive faculties is low, then we cannot sensibly hold any beliefs produced by these cognitive faculties, including the belief that physicalism is true.
Conclusion: If the conjunction of evolution and physicalism is true, then we cannot sensibly believe that physicalism is true.

4) Evolutionary Argument B

Here again, I will attempt to show that the conjunction of the beliefs in evolution on one hand and physicalism on the other can not rationally be held. If evolution and physicalism are both true, then altruism among organisms is not possible (I take altruism to be any act where the total costs outweigh the total benefits). Darwin himself recognized this. In his book On the Origin of Species, Darwin acknowledges that the existence of altruism would "annihilate" his theory. Altruism might appear to be very common among animals. For example, many birds will provide resources (such as food) to each other. However, there are explanations for this type of behavior commonly displayed by various animals. One such explanation involves kin selection; an organism will perform a seemingly altruistic act if the beneficiary of the act is a close relative. Another explanation involves reciprocation; an organism will perform a seemingly altruistic act if the probability that this act will be reciprocated at some point in the future is high enough.

But what about humans? I can think of several examples of altruistic behavior among human beings. I can think of stories of soldiers, for example, who have jumped on roadside bombs in order to save a stranger whom they had never met. Is this an example of altruism? Kin selection cannot explain this act away, as the two individuals involved are unrelated. Nor can reciprocation, as the probability of reciprocation goes to 0 at death. In order for altruism to not occur on the physicalist view, it would be impossible that an individual would perform an act of self-sacrifice (i.e. death) for a stranger. But surely this is not impossible.

However, if there exists some sort of immaterial soul or spirit, then altruistic behavior among human beings is no issue for evolution. It could be the case that while our human bodies are unable to perform altruistic behavior, our immaterial souls are entirely capable of these sorts of acts. The physicalist, however, asserts that the soul does not exist. The existence of altruistic behavior among human beings then presents an issue to the physicalist; for he must abandon either belief in evolution or belief in physicalism.

Premise 1: If the conjunction of evolution and physicalism is true, then altruism cannot exist.
Premise 2: Altruism exists.
Conclusion: The conjunction of evolution and physicalism is not true.

Summary

I have provided four sound arguments in favor of the position that physicalism is more likely false than true. In order to win this debate, my opponent must (1) knock down each of these arguments and (2) present sound arguments of his own in favor of the position that physicalism is more likely true than false.

Thank you.

Sources

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
http://www.calvin.edu...
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Debate Round No. 2
SargonOfAkkad

Pro

Ave

Rebuttals


The rest of this debate will consist of back and forth rebuttals between Con and I. In my rebuttals, I will not attempt to extensively explain all of the ideas that I mention, instead opting to summarize them in a way that is applicable to this debate.


A good argument addresses and justifies its assumptions so that a rational person does not find themselves unsatisfied with the argument’s dependence on unproven assumptions. If I omitted any proof that physical entities exist, then my argument would assume that idealism is false. Since a good argument avoids unjustified assumptions, I devoted the section “The existence of physical entities” to justifying this assumption. I was not, as Con states, attempting to make a straw man argument of his position. Rather, I was only making a proper defense of my thesis.


I can understand why somebody would limit science to the physical world, as this is repeated through basic science education for quite some time. However, it is a simplification, as you obviously can’t teach theoretical physics to grade schoolers. If one looks at contemporary ideas in physics, many of them include non-physical entities. Max Tegmarks’s mathematical universe hypothesis, for example, makes explicit use of the existence of mathematical, non-physical entities. Alexander Vilenkin’s quantum tunneling model also makes use of non-physical entities. As he writes in his book Many Worlds In One, “The laws of physics must have existed, even though there was no universe”. Contemporary physical theories show that Con’s only refutation against my argument is palpably false, as one might say.


Con presents us with a modal argument against physicalism that depends on the use of the modal operator “possibility” from the S5 modal logic system. This is one system of modal logic out of many others, and even the book in which S5 modal logic was first published in (Symbolic Logic) mentions four other systems of modal logic. Con’s argument therefore rests on the unproven and debated assumption that S5 modal logic is true. Con’s argument fails for this reason alone. However, I will go one step further and argue in favor of a modal logic system called TRIV modal logic, in which the modal operator “possibility” disappears entirely (this is referred to as modal collapse). The philosopher Quentin Smith states that “The basic cosmological law is the distance/velocity law and this law requires precise initial conditions at the origin t=0 of the distance scale. We can say that at the big bang, or infinitesimally close to the big bang, the initial conditions had to be exactly as they are to produce a material universe that satisfied the velocity-distance law…..It seems to me that this suggests that the only modal logic system that is valid simpliciter, i.e. that describes the modal logical form of reality, is Triv.” To put it in Con’s terms, we have no good reasons to believe that S5 modal logic is true, and good reasons to believe that it is not true.


In regards to Con’s second argument, I can do nothing more than dismiss it, seeing as he makes no effort at justifying its premises.


Con’s third argument is Alvin Plantinga’s classic “evolutionary argument against naturalism”. The persuasiveness of this argument only comes from an implicit confirmation bias, as it is only considers examples where evolution is detrimental to truth acquisition (for example, hyperactive agent detection) and never considers examples where evolution benefits truth acquisition. My position is that on balance, the need to survive actually selects for true beliefs more than it does for false beliefs. It is true that evolution has hard-wired erroneous thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions into human cognition, but let us remember that it is the very same cognition that allows to discover and correct these errors. Survival correlates with the ability to solve problems that one encounters in their environment. One’s ability to solve these problems will depend on their ability to avoid such cognitive pitfalls as the mental set, functional fixedness, and confirmation bias. These cognitive pitfalls, which are false beliefs (i.e. “Object X only does Y and nothing more), are detrimental to survival. Therefore, survival depends on the selection of true beliefs over false beliefs. If we categorize beliefs into categories like “Beliefs about one’s environment”, “Beliefs about physics”, and “Beliefs about food”, we would find that the ratio of true to false beliefs is not even, but differs widely depending on the category. For example, in the category “Beliefs about one’s environment”, there will be more true beliefs than false beliefs, otherwise our existence would be implausible. However, as we get to more profound topics like “Beliefs about physics”, the number of false beliefs increases, as beliefs about physics are not as essential to survival.


Con’s fourth argument only works if you ignore other possible evolutionary explanations of such behaviors. While he rules out kin selection and reciprocation, this obviously doesn’t entail that there is no evolutionary explanation, but only that two specific evolutionary explanations are false. Con states that he’s heard stories of soldiers “jumping on roadside bombs to save the life of a total stranger”, but this is a rather silly story considering that roadside bombs are clearly not something one can “jump on”. Besides this, “jumping” on a roadside bomb would do absolutely nothing in terms of protecting other people considering the size of the explosion. I included a video of a roadside bomb exploding in Iraq so that the readers of the debate could get some perspective on this. (https://www.youtube.com...)


In any case, Con’s argument really doesn’t amount to anything more than confusing a lack of explanation in practice with a lack of explanation in principle. It effectively ham-fists the notion of a “soul” into gaps of scientific knowledge. Con still needs to provide an example (his only example doesn’t make any sense) where there is altruistic behavior that cannot be explained by such notions as kin selection, vested interest, and reciprocity. And even if he accomplished this, it would be nothing more than a conceptual error.


Vale


References


Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality

Many Worlds In One

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

http://www.cc.utah.edu...

Einstein, Relativity, and Absolute Simultaneity
1Credo

Con

Thanks, Pro.

Rebuttal

My opponent's first argument resulted in the conclusion that the non-mental must exist. I requested that my opponent focus his arguments on showing that dualism is false (as my opponent and I agree that showing idealism to be false does not show physicalism to be true). I don't think this argument requires any more discussion, as my opponent and I agree that the non-mental exists. Let's move on to the second argument then.

In his second argument, my opponent concludes that "all actually existing entities are physical." He attempts to justify this claim by stating that because the hard sciences tell us nothing about immaterial entities, those immaterial entities must therefore not exist. So, if we take science to be the study of the material world, my opponent's argument can be summed as follows: Immaterial entities do not exist because the study of the material world (science) tells us nothing about such entities. I think it can be plainly seen that this argument is unsound. If immaterial entities existed, why should we expect the study of the material world to tell us so?

My opponent responded by arguing that science is not limited to the study of the material world, saying that this thinking was a result of "only basic science education". I'll first note that science is by definition the study of the material world:

Science: systematicknowledgeofthephysical or material worldgainedthroughobservationandexperimentation
http://dictionary.reference.com...
Science: knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation
http://www.merriam-webster.com...
Science: Suchactivitiesrestricted to a class of natural phenomena
http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
Science: The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...
Science: the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the natural and physical world, or knowledge obtained about the world by watching it carefully and experimenting
http://dictionary.cambridge.org...

Moreover, if my opponent wishes to argue that science is not restricted to the physical world, he must concede that non-physical entities exist, thus defeating his own argument. It follows that if science involves the study of non-physical entities, then non-physical entities must exist. My opponent has put forward a self-defeating argument.

Arguments Against Physicalism

1) Modal Argument

Recall that I presented a modal argument against physicalism, where A is "me" and B is "my body":

Premise 1: If physicalism is true, then the proposition A=B must be true.
Premise 2: The proposition A=B is not true.
Conclusion: Physicalism is not true.

Justification for the premises of this argument can be found in round 2 (I don't think it's necessary to regurgitate them).

My opponent argues that perhaps S5 modal logic is false and it is TRIV modal logic that ought to be considered. I'll have to ask that my opponent take issue with a specific premise of the argument rather than simply stating that S5 modal logic is false. It seems to me that in order to reject this argument's conclusion, one would need to argue that it is not possible that I (A) should exist independently of my body (B). But surely this is possible, as it can be easily conceived (see round 2).

2) Argument from Truth

Premise 1: If physicalism is true, there are no true sentences.
Premise 2: Premise 1 is true.
Conclusion: Therefore, physicalism is not true.

I'd assumed that the premises of this argument were self-explanatory to the point where my opponent would be capable of identifying any issue he might have with the argument without further explanation being necessary. At his request, however, I'm happy to provide justification for the premises.

P1: A true sentence is itself an non-physical entity. As physicalism affirms that non-physical entities cannot exist, it follows that if physicalism is true then true sentences (non-physical entities) do not exist.
P2: If we assume premise 1 to be true, we assume "if physicalism is true, there are no true sentences" to be a true sentence. This, of course, is self-contradictory.
Conclusion: As a result of this self-contradiction, we can conclude that physicalism is not true.

3) Evolutionary Argument A

Premise 1: If the conjunction of evolution and physicalism is true, then the reliability of our cognitive faculties is low.
Premise 2: If the reliability of our cognitive faculties is low, then we cannot sensibly hold any beliefs produced by these cognitive faculties, including the belief that physicalism is true.
Conclusion: If the conjunction of evolution and physicalism is true, then we cannot sensibly believe that physicalism is true.

Please see round 2 for justification of premises.

My opponent argues that this argument "only considers examples where evolution is detrimental to truth acquisition and never considers examples where evolution benefits truth acquisition." This is false. As I stated in round 2, we can say that there is a 50% probability of any given belief being true. This means that for any belief, the chances of that belief being true are just as likely as the chances of that belief being false. I have used examples where evolution is detrimental to truth acquisition. Rather, I have argued that evolution is indifferent to truth acquisition. This is a crucial distinction that must be understood in order to comprehend the argument. My opponent goes on to argue that he thinks evolution "selects for true beliefs more than it does for false beliefs". Does he have any sort of justification for this? As I stated in round 2, evolution is concerned only with advantageous behavior. As such, the truth content of beliefs is completely irrelevant so long as these beliefs (true or false) produce behavior that maintains or increases an organisms fitness. The claim that evolution "selects for true beliefs more than it does for false beliefs" remains an unwarranted assertion, perhaps resulting from the desire to trust one's own cognitive faculties.

4) Evolutionary Argument B

Premise 1: If the conjunction of evolution and physicalism is true, then altruism cannot exist.
Premise 2: Altruism exists.
Conclusion: The conjunction of evolution and physicalism is not true.

Please see round 2 for justification of premises.

My opponent argues that this argument holds sound "only if you ignore other possible evolutionary explanations of such behaviors". Oddly enough, my opponent fails to propose such an alternative explanation. All evolutionary explanations can be divided into subsets of either kin selection or reciprocation. For example, group selection can be considered a subset of kin selection (or vice versa) and direct, indirect, and network reciprocation can each be considered subsets of reciprocation.

http://www.plosone.org...
http://isites.harvard.edu...

If my opponent wishes to propose an alternate explanation of altruistic behavior among human beings, then I'll gladly consider it. I think this is highly unlikely as there are no prominent explanations for altruism with the exceptions of kin selection, reciprocation, and the subsets of these explanations (none of which provide an explanation for certain types of altruism displayed by humans). Until an alternate explanation is discovered, we can reasonably conclude that there is no physical explanation for altruism among human beings.

Summary

Recall that my opponent is responsible for shouldering the burden of proof in this debate. As much, he must provide justification to think that physicalism is true. Thus far, my opponent has provided two arguments, each of which have been addressed. The first of these arguments only showed that non-mental entities existed. My opponent conceded that this argument was not intended to justify the assertion that "physicalism is true". What about my opponent's second argument? Here, he argued that the study of the physical world (science) tells us nothing about non-physical entities, and that therefore non-physical entities must not exist. I showed that there is no reason to think that if non-physical entities existed, the study of the physical world (science) should tell us something about them. My opponent then put forward a self-defeating argument which attempted to show that science is not limited to the study of the physical world (if this were true, it would entail the existence of non-physical entities, thus defeating the debate resolution).

In contrast, I have provided four sound arguments to think that physicalism is not true. Remember that even if each of these arguments were to be defeated (which I think is unlikely) my opponent would still have all of his work in front of him in attempting to justify the assertion that physicalism is true.

For now, then, we can reasonably conclude that there are no good reasons to think that physicalism is true, while there are four good reasons to think that physicalism is not true.

Thank you.

Sources
http://dictionary.reference.com...
http://www.merriam-webster.com...
http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...
http://dictionary.cambridge.org...
http://www.plosone.org...
http://isites.harvard.edu...
Debate Round No. 3
SargonOfAkkad

Pro

Ave


Con is misconceived about my argument for physicalism. His description of what my argument is turns out to be wholly inaccurate. Instead, my argument states that when we are investigating the true nature of reality, we are pursuing facts. By pursuing facts, we are actually pursuing true propositions, and are therefore pursuing propositions free from lexical, structural, and other forms of ambiguity. For this reason, fields of studies and methods which are analytical and quantitative are closer to discovering the facts of reality because they inherently avoid lexical and structural ambiguity. The hard sciences, being as analytical and quantitative as they are, inherently avoid lexical and structural ambiguity. Thus, the hard sciences represent a set of propositions about reality which are free from such ambiguity. Since facts about reality are true propositions free from lexical and structural ambiguity, and the hard sciences represent a set of true propositions free from lexical and structural ambiguity, then any other proposition which contradicts the hard sciences also contradicts reality itself. As should have been obvious from my opening round, I am in no way committing myself to the notion that an entity does not exist if it is not studied by the hard sciences. Rather, I am committing myself to the notion that an entity can only exist if it’s consistent with the hard sciences. For example, I accept the existence of microeconomic interactions, which are not studied by the hard sciences. However, microeconomic interactions are not inconsistent with the hard sciences, so there is no problem with stating that they exist nonetheless. However, if I held the position that an entity doesn’t exist if the hard sciences do not study it, then I would conclude that microeconomic interactions must not exist. I hope that this example serves to clarify to Con what exactly the argument is.


Scientists want to investigate the world as it really is, based on the evidence right in front of us. Scientists don't investigate the world based on a set of preconceived definitions. As such, my examples of contemporary scientific theories that speak of non-physical entities trumps Con quoting from dictionaries. I am providing actual examples from contemporary science to make my case, whereas Con is merely attempting to define his interpretation of science as true. In any case, I’d wager that English PhD’s who write dictionaries have probably never heard of Vilenkin or Tegmark’s theories. I’d also wager that none of them are philosophers of science.


Con attempts to prove that I’m contradicting myself, but his “proof” amounts to a non-sequitur. I mentioned Vilenkin and Tegmark’s theories in order to demonstrate that a scientist may invoke non-physical entities into their ontology if they find it to be conceptually necessary. The mere mention of such ideas does not mean that I believe they are correct. These examples serve to show that Con’s interpretation of science ignores what theoretical physics is capable of. Con seems to believe that asserting “Science is not restricted to the physical world” must also entail that “Non-physical entities exist”. However, asserting “Science is not restricted to the physical world” only entails that “In principle, science can study physical and non-physical entities”. I then make the further assertion that Vilenkin and Tegmark are incorrect, and therefore, the practice of science lends itself only to physical entities in practice. It is important to make a distinction between what entities science is capable of studying, and what entities have their existence by backed by science. Science can study a luminiferous aether, for example, but this doesn't mean that science supports the existence of a luminiferous aether. Similarly, my assertion that science can study the non-physical in principle does not entail that I believe science supports the existence of non-physical entities. There is no contradiction.


Con fails to understand how important S5 modal logic is to his argument. He asks me to attack a specific premise of his argument rather than attack S5 modal logic, but fails to realize that by attacking S5 modal logic, I am attacking his only defense for P2. His defense for P2 relies on the notion that there is some possible world where "I" am not identical to "my body". Notice the use of the term "possible world". By attacking S5 modal logic, I am attacking the modal operator "possible world", and therefore attacking Cons defense of P2. Con, at this point in the debate, hasn't provided any reasons to think that S5 modal logic is true. Therefore, we can dismiss his argument on the grounds that it makes assumptions about modal logic which are unjustified. However, I also provided an argument in favor of TRIV modal logic, where the modal operator "possible world" does not exist, over S5 modal logic. Con completely ignores this argument. Therefore, we have good arguments against S5 modal logic and none for it. Since S5 modal logic has been demolished, Con can not use the modal operator "possible world", and therefore, he has no sound defense for P2 of his argument.


Con then makes the bizarre assertion that sentences are not physical. While some people usually don’t think of sentences as physical, this is irrelevant to what sentences actually are. A sentence is a set of words, and words are utterances with semantic or pragmatic meaning. An utterance is clearly a physical process involving the parts of a biological organism. From this, there is decidedly nothing non-physical about sentences. Perhaps Con thinks that semantic and pragmatic meanings are non-physical, but he would also be incorrect in asserting this, as these are social constructs made by human beings which have no reality outside of neuropsychological processes.


Con asks if I have any justification for the assertion that evolution tends to select for truth acquisition more. My answer to this is “yes”, considering that I explicitly justified this view in the previous round by linking the need to survive with the acquisition of true propositions. To reiterate, the need to survive entails overcoming such cognitive fallacies as functional fixedness and the mental set. By surviving, we overcome these cognitive fallacies, and thus survival lends itself to acquiring the truth.

Con also fails to respond to most of my arguments against his own. For example, I argued that even if evolution has hard-wired certain erroneous thoughts into our cognition, it is nonetheless the very same cognition that allows us to discover these mistakes. Any argument depending on the inaccuracy of cognition is also an argument depending on the accuracy of meta-cognition (thinking about thinking). Furthermore, he completely glosses over my refutation of the notion that any given belief has a fifty percent probability of being true. I refuted this notion by arguing that if our beliefs about the environment around us were not mostly accurate and mostly true, then we would not even exist as a species.


The evolutionary explanations for altruism are concepts like kin-selection, vested interest, and reciprocation. I’m not sure why Con insists that there is no evolutionary explanation for altruism when he mentions all of these things in the very same paragraph. In order to show that evolution cannot explain altruism, Con has to provide us with an example of altruism that cannot be explained by such concepts. So far, Con’s only example clearly never happened in the real world. I don’t know much about the military, so I consulted my friends who have military experience, and even they told me that the notion that somebody would “jump on a roadside bomb” is totally ridiculous. Not to mention that Con’s only support for such an event is that he’s “heard stories”. I can’t imagine how an audience of biologists and philosophers would respond to a speaker trying to tear down the evolutionary paradigm based on vague recollections of stories that he’s heard. Simply put, if Con can not provide a single coherent example of altruistic behavior that cannot be explained by evolution, his argument has nothing to stand on. It’s one thing to assert that there are altruistic behaviors that evolution cannot explain, and it’s another thing to provide actual examples.

Our investigations into reality are often difficult. Indeed, at many points, we find ourselves incapable of explaining observed phenomena. However, the history of science shows us that phenomena which were once thought to be unexplainable end up being explained. The fact that projecticles follow the shape of a parabola was cutting-edge physics when Gallileo was around. Now, it's covered in the early chapters of introductory physics textbooks. At no point, however, should we allow a temporary dilemma to lead us to the easy answers. As Christopher Hitchens remarked, we tend to prefer a conspiracy theory over no theory at all. We must overcome the bias that the late Hitchens spoke about. If we ever find ourselves in a situation where we cannot explain a phenomenon, it is not a reason for us to start looking towards souls, ghosts, and other phantasms. Suppose that we couldn't explain an altruistic behavior using previous evolutionary concepts. Does this lend any support to the existence of souls? Clearly not. It only lends support to the idea that our previous concepts were not sufficient to explain everything, so we need to investigate more to devise a coherent, rational, evidence-based explanation of the behavior. Con's method is one which injects spectors and phantoms into gaps of our understanding. It is a method that we must reject, as the history of science shows, if we are to make any progress in obtaining the real answers.

Thank you all for reading.

Vale



1Credo

Con

Thanks, Pro.

Argument for Physicalism


My opponent has attempted to provide only one argument in attempt to shoulder the burden of proof for showing that physicalism is true. It seems to me that this argument has not only failed, but is self-defeating.

My opponent originally argued something like this:
Because the study of physical entities (science) does not tell us anything about non-physical entities, we can conclude that therefore non-physical entities do not exist.

I showed this argument to be unsound, as the its conclusion clearly does not follow. Again, why should we think that if non-physical entities exist, the study of physical entities (science) should tell us something about them? The existence of non-physical entities is clearly not within the scope of science.

In attempt to rescue this argument, my opponent backtracks and argues that science can, in fact, study non-physical entities. Aside from the fact that this statement blatantly contradicts the definition of science, even if it were true it would be self-defeating. My opponent proposes to use the existence of non-physical entities (with regard to their relationship to the hard sciences) to demonstrate that non-physical entities do not exist! But surely my opponent's own view (that hard science makes use of non-physical entities) entails that non-physical entities must exist, thus defeating physicalism.

So, it seems to me that my opponent has not come anywhere close to fulfilling the burden of proof that was required of him in this debate. He has succeeded only in providing one self-defeating argument in attempt to demonstrate that physicalism is true.

Arguments Against Physicalism

1) Modal Argument

In response to this argument, my opponent has argued that S5 modal logic is false. Unfortunately, he failed to provide any justification for thinking that S5 modal logic is false, so I don't have much to work with by means of a response. In any case, he seems to be arguing that possible worlds aren't really "possible" at all. If this were true, then it seems to me that a possible world would need to be an incoherence, such as a square circle or a married bachelor. But I just don't see any reason to think that possible worlds are incoherent. I can conceive of possible worlds, which leads me to believe that these worlds are, in fact, "possible" (as opposed to a square circle, of which the incoherence is obvious as the entity in question is inconceivable). So, I don't see any reason to reject the modal argument on the grounds that S5 modal logic is false, as it seems to me that possible worlds really are "possible". In order to reject this argument, one would have to genuinely be unable to conceive of a possible world. As I myself can perfectly conceive of a possible world, I don't see any reason to think it isn't really "possible". Thus, the modal argument remains sound.

2) Argument from Truth

In my second argument, I argued that if physicalism is true, then there are no true sentences. But, of course, this would be self-contradictory, which gives us reason to think that physicalism is not true. My opponent responds by arguing that sentences are physical, stating that "an utterance (of words) is a clearly physical process". I agree with this statement, but my opponent fails to understand that sentences do not necessarily need to be "an utterance". There is a clear distinction between a sentence and an utterance. A sentences is merely a complete set of words, whereas an utterance (which is physical) involves the expression of those words. So, my opponent's objection is mistaken. Thus, the argument from truth remains sound.

3) Evolutionary Argument A

My opponent's objection to this argument consisted of the unwarranted assertion that evolution selects for beliefs with truth content in the majority of instances. But why think that's the case? As I previously stated, evolution is concerned only with advantageous behavior that works to maintain or increase fitness. Whether the beliefs associated with this behavior are true is utterly irrelevant. A false belief that is associated with a beneficial behavior will increase fitness just the same as a true belief that is associated with a beneficial behavior.

In attempt to provide justification for his claim, my opponent states that "the need to survive" is linked to "the acquisition of truth propositions". But again, this is just another unwarranted claim in itself. What reason is there to think that the need to survive is linked to the acquisition of truth propositions? Consider "cognitive faculties A" (CFA) and "cognitive faculties B" (CFB). CFA produces evolutionary advantageous behavior along with false beliefs. CFB produces evolutionary disadvantageous behavior along with true beliefs. What reason is there to think that evolution is concerned in the slightest with the truth content of our beliefs? Clearly, CFA will be selected for, even though CFA entails false beliefs. My opponent has failed to show that evolution will select for cognitive faculties which are associated with true beliefs in the majority of instances. Thus, the first evolutionary argument remains sound.

4) Evolutionary Argument B

Here, I argued that concepts like kin selection and reciprocation can be used to explain seemingly altruistic behavior among animals. However, these concepts cannot (always) be used to explain this sort of behavior in human beings. My opponent states that I must provide a "coherent example of altruistic behavior that cannot be explained by evolution". I think this is fairly straight-forward. To give just one coherent example, self sacrifice (where the individual sacrificing himself is not related to the individual who is the beneficiary of the act) is an instance of altruistic behavior that cannot be explained by evolution. If this is even possible, it follows that (on physicalism) evolution must be false. But I think the argument is even stronger than that; surely there are several instances of self-sacrifice (which cannot be explained via kin selection or reciprocation) among human beings. Thus, the second evolutionary argument remains sound.

Conclusions

Recall that my opponent was responsible for shouldering the burden of proof in this debate. In order to do so, he must have showed that "physicalism is true". I think it is clear that the debate resolution has not been shown to be true.

My opponent provided a single argument in attempt to justify his assertion that "physicalism is true" over the course of this debate. After my refutation of this argument, my opponent attempted to reconstruct it by arguing that hard sciences make use of non-physical entities, an argument which itself requires the existence of non-physical entities. So, it seems to me that my opponent has not only failed to provide justification for claiming that "physicalism is true", but has put forward a self-defeating argument.

In contrast, I have provided four sound arguments against physicalism. Remember that even if each of these four arguments were knocked down, my opponent would still have all of his work ahead of him in fulfilling the burden of proof by providing justification for the assertion that "physicalism is true". However, at this point of the debate it seems that each of my four arguments remain standing.

As the only argument provided in favor of physicalism has been refuted, and the four arguments against physicalism remain standing, it seems to me that we can reasonably conclude that my opponent has failed to justify his assertion and the debate resolution that "physicalism is true".

I'd like to thank my opponent for creating and participating in this debate. I'd also like to thank everyone who took the time to read it through.

Sources
http://isites.harvard.edu...
http://www.plosone.org...
http://dictionary.reference.com...
http://www.merriam-webster.com...
http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...
http://dictionary.cambridge.org...
Debate Round No. 4
38 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by bluesteel 1 year ago
bluesteel
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>Reported vote: Bible2000 // Moderator action: Removed<

3 points to Con (arguments). [RFD = Reasons for voting decision: Pro's argument is that because science does not tell us anything about the non-physical,we can conclude that non-physical entities do not exist. But that argument is unsound. Con made more convincing arguments.}

[*Reason for removal*] This RFD basically says, "Pro made argument X. It's wrong. Con wins." The problem is that the RFD gives no reason to explain why Pro's argument is wrong. The RFD in fact implies that it rejected Pro's argument for its own reasons, rather than reasons made in the debate. Furthermore, the RFD just doesn't give any meaningful feedback. It lists a single argument made in the debate, rejects it without explanation, then says *that* Con made more convincing arguments, without explaining *why.* Pro is left with no way to know from this RFD what he did wrong or how he can improve. Since the point of an RFD system is to provide useful feedback to the debaters, this RFD is deficient because it fails to provide any useful feedback.
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Posted by SargonOfAkkad 1 year ago
SargonOfAkkad
"Overall, Con fulfilled his burden of proof and Pro did not. Pro's only argument was that, since hard science is inconsistent with the non-physical, the non-physical cannot exist."

This is proof that you didn't understand the debate.

"yet none of the premises are dependent on the veracity of S5 "

This is proof that you don't understand what S5 modal logic is.
Posted by bluesteel 1 year ago
bluesteel
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>Gainwisdom // Moderator action: removed<

7 points to Con. {RFD = Reasons for voting decision: It was a good debate to read. Really enjoyed it. Con made some really good points.}

[*Reason for removal*] Failure to explain every single point awarded (arguments, S&G, conduct, sources).
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Posted by bluesteel 1 year ago
bluesteel
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>Gainwisdom // Moderator action: removed<

7 points to Con. {RFD = Reasons for voting decision: It was a good debate to read. Really enjoyed it. Con made some really good points.}

[*Reason for removal*] Failure to explain every single point awarded (arguments, S&G, conduct, sources).
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Posted by Philocat 1 year ago
Philocat
Overall, Con fulfilled his burden of proof and Pro did not. Pro's only argument was that, since hard science is inconsistent with the non-physical, the non-physical cannot exist. Con refutes this argument by highlighting that science is only applicable to the material world (by definition) so it does not concern itself with the non-physical, and hence cannot disprove that it exists.

Con, on the other hand, presented 4 arguments against physicalism. The first was about modal logic. Pro does not refute this well because all he does is dispute S5 modal logic; yet none of the premises are dependent on the veracity of S5 so Pro does not actually attack the argument itself.

The second was about truth. Pro did not sufficiently refute this one either, as Con pointed out that, whilst an utterance is physical, a sentence is not necessarily an utterance.

The third argument was about evolution. I did not find this argument convincing as Pro was right to point out that evolution has also given us the cognitive faculty to recognise which of our beliefs are true or false. Yet this does not matter, as Con has already fulfilled his BoP with his first two arguments.

Lastly, Con highlights that evolution is incompatible with some cases of altruism. Whilst this is a solid basis for an argument, Con failed to capitalise by failing to give a sourced example of this type of altruism.

Ultimately, Pro only gave one argument and that was refuted adequately, yet Con presented four arguments and two of them were sound enough to warrant a debate win.
Posted by bluesteel 1 year ago
bluesteel
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>Reported vote: ColeTrain // Moderator action: Removed<

5 points to Con (sources, arguments). {RFD = Reasons for voting decision: Good arguments by both opponents all around. It came down to a) the quantity of resources from Con and b) the quality of those extra sources. Con thus gained both credibility and ability to prove his side with multiple pieces of evidence. Further, a few of Pro's arguments failed to convince me of his position, particularly in rebuttals against Con's primary points (i.e. 1Credo's primary model Argument) Criticisms aside, great job to both debaters.}

[*Reason for removal*] While this attempt is better than ColeTrain's previous vote on this debate, it is not specific enough on why it awarded sources. What it said about sources could be copy-pasted to any debate, i.e. that Con had better quantity and quality. This provides no real feedback to the debaters and is therefore insufficient. What was the reliability problem with Pro's sources? Why were Con's better quality? etc...
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Posted by bluesteel 1 year ago
bluesteel
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>Reported vote: Gainwisdom // Moderator action: Removed<

7 points to Con. {RFD = Reasons for voting decision: Better arguments by con. Enjoyed reading the debate}

[*Reason for removal*] This is a vote bomb. It doesn't explain any of the points it awards (arguments, S&G, conduct, sources).
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Posted by bluesteel 1 year ago
bluesteel
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>Reported vote: Gainwisdom // Moderator action: Removed<

7 points to Con. {RFD = Reasons for voting decision: Better arguments by con. Enjoyed reading the debate}

[*Reason for removal*] This is a vote bomb. It doesn't explain any of the points it awards (arguments, S&G, conduct, sources).
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Posted by bluesteel 1 year ago
bluesteel
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>Reported vote: Coletrain // Moderator action: REMOVED<

5 points to Con (arguments, source). {RFD = Reasons for voting decision: Con gets both arguments and sources. As dsjpk5 explained, many of Pro's arguments were unwarranted.}

[*Reason for removal*] (1) RFD's need to explain *why* they award points, not merely repeat the point categories ("arguments and sources." (2) Piggybacking off another users RFD (i.e. dsjpk5) is not permissible.
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Posted by bluesteel 1 year ago
bluesteel
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>Reported: MettaWorldPeace // REMOVED<

4 points to Con (conduct, arguments). {RFD = Reasons for voting decision: Conduct goes to co because I do not think Pro accurately represented Con's argument--on occasions calling it about Ghosts and gaps in science when it wasn't and also for attempting to discredit a form of logic that might have been called into question, but it's validity really suitable for another debate Arguments go to Con as Pro never really justified the idea science can study all there is to know and then makes the bizarre statement that science can study no physical entities while trying to prove such entities don't exist Con's first argument never satisfactorily addressed, the second argument Pro doesn't recognize the no physicality of value and so fails to realize the weight of this claim, the third argument of Con's fails to show why true beliefs should not be selected for and the fourth argument fails to address the problem as evolution is not in question--in regards to altruism thete is no reason to believe such a trait cannot evolve. For the fact (RFD cont in cmoments)}

[*Reason for removal*] Voting padding is not permissible. The reasons that MettaWorldPeace gave for awarding conduct should already be reflected in his argument point vote. Apparently MettaWorld was not persuaded by the argument that altruistic behavior does not disprove evolution merely because evolution cannot currently explain it. However, disliking an argument is not a sufficient reason to award conduct.
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3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Philocat 1 year ago
Philocat
SargonOfAkkad1CredoTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by n7 2 years ago
n7
SargonOfAkkad1CredoTied
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments
Vote Placed by dsjpk5 2 years ago
dsjpk5
SargonOfAkkad1CredoTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I found many of Pros arguments to be unwarranted. For example, just because hard sciences are easier to measure, it doesn't follow that hard sciences are more reliable than others. Pro also made inaccurate claims about Cons "Argument from truth" (sentences are not necessarily utterances). With this in mind, arguments go to Con as I found his "argument from truth" to be compelling and in the end, unrefuted.