The existence or non-existence of Absolute Certainty cannot be proven.
I will be arguing that my opponent cannot prove that Absolute Certainty exists and he cannot prove that Absolute Certainty does not exist. My opponent may argue for one or both of these resolutions. Ideally I would want my opponent to accept my definitions before accepting this debate. I do not wish to argue over semantics or win/lose by way of cheap semantic usage.
Certain - known or proved to be true. (indisputable)
Certainty - something that is certain.
Absolute Certainty - Something that is certain to happen.
True - 2a (1) : being in accordance with the actual state of affairs
7 : logically necessary
-Opponent can make opening arguments in round 1.
-Questions like: Are you absolutely certain of the existence of Absolute Certainty? Are allowed in this debate (I hope I don't get screwed over by this but I believe it is beneficial to discuss these types of questions).
-"Cogito ergo sum" — "I think, therefore I am" is also perfectly valid to discuss.
I want this debate to be a learning experience for both the readers and those who participate. This is my first debate, I hope to push logic to its limits and make it a good one.
"to have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions" 
I will argue that absolute certainty can be proven to exist, and to do this I shall refer to the law of identity, i.e. A=A. I believe it is absolutely certain that a raven is a raven, ipso facto, absolute certainty exists.
I am intrigued to hear that you challenge this idea.
I thank Con for accepting this debate.
My opponents points to the law of identity as proof that absolute certainty exists. All of our experiences lead us to the conclusion that one thing is equivalent to itself. But our experiences can indeed be false. Everything you and I experience may be the result of a false reality. It is most often referred to as the brain in a vat or the matrix. Therefore if we are in a false reality where the law of identity does seem to be true it may still not be true in the actual reality. We may never be able to find out if our reality is false or have the cognitive capacity to imagine that something is not itself in an alternate reality but it is still a possibility until proven otherwise.
Even in logical systems such as mathematics there is no absolute certainty as these systems rely on conditional statements which rely on unproven axioms or postulates. Only when uncertain assumptions are made, can progress occur through these systems. In regards to actuality your perception of things is not how they really are. Therefore if you see a raven you may think it is a raven but it might not be, it may be just some kind of fake model of a raven. All scientific experiments on this raven may confirm that it is indeed a Raven but all scientific experiments cannot be known absolutely. Scientific evidence is not known absolutely because an infinite amount of tests is required for absolute certainty. Although something may behave the same way 100 times, the 101st time it may act differently. Since experiments cannot be carried out an infinite amout of times you must leave the possibility of it being wrong. I believe it is acceptable to believe things based off of degrees of certainty to progress but absolute certainty is impossible for us right now. The worst possibility is that the Raven you see is just an electrical signal interpreted by your brain, meaning the raven does not really exist.
The Dream Argument also perpetuates my case. Suppose you had a vivid dream that you are someone else but then wake up to your supposed "normal" reality. How could you know that perhaps the person you were dreaming of is not actuality while the person you wake up to is just a dream. Just the action of dreaming alone shows we cannot trust our senses fully and we cannot distinguish between illusions and reality.
The following argument I have deducted on my own, but it was probably formally created by someone else already. We cannot claim to know if absolute certainty exists or not because we do not know everything. Suppose there is an entity, it does not matter if it human, natural, or supernatural all that matters is that it does know everything. If at least one of these entities exist, then absolute certainty exists because this entity would be certain that something happens (past, present, and future) in a deterministic universe. It would know exactly everything that happened and will happen in actuality, dreams, and other simulations of false realities. However if this entity does not exist, then absolute certainty does not exist because no entities know everything. Therefore to prove that absolute certainty exists you must prove the existence of an all knowing entity (Please don't say God).
You put forward a strong criticism of the 'typical' certainties humans possess, that is, the belief that we can trust our perceptions of reality; however, I shall respond in turn with a more developed exposition of the truth of the law of identity, which is absolute in truth.
I claim with absolute certainty that something is something, and by that I point to the truth that something exists. Were nothing to exist, I would not be, and there is no alternative to this truth; therefore, something is. If something is, then that something must be something - it cannot be nothing, for as I have proven, if it were nothing then I would not be. The existence of an omniscient being is unnecessary to establish absolute certainty as here an absolute certainty has been established by a person unaided by theurgy.
I am not sure I can respond to your dream argument and your criticism of the acceptance of the idea of an objective reality with absolute certainty, though I strongly believe it is the case there is an objective reality. In writing a response I find myself reiterating that dreams are ephemeral and inconsequential. I have died in a dream. In reality I find that my experiences are coherent and represent the source of material for my dreams. These are the thoughts I have in opposition to the idea that I am currently dreaming. As you can see, this is a 'scientific theory' rather than an absolute truth, as I am considering predictions and evidence. Similarly, the 'brain in a vat' hypothesis is without merit, as it appears to be unfalsifiable on principle. For the moment I bow to your assertion that I cannot prove this absolutely, for this is inductive reasoning.
I realise now that my argument against you does bear similiarity to the Cartesian assertion of 'I think, therefore, I am', but I have deployed it specially to support the law of identity. Again, I am intrigued to hear your criticism.
I thank Con for his well-constructed arguments but I must point out that the resolution not only stands but became unfalsifiable once my opponent admitted that the “brain in the vat” hypothesis is unfalsifiable. If our reality is false then we cannot determine whether the law of identity is true in all cases as actual reality may not have the same consistency of our perceived reality. Since my opponent cannot prove that our reality is absolutely certain he cannot accept that the law of identity is absolutely certain. This is why I argued that an all knowing entity is required to prove or disprove all absolute certainty.
Con: “I claim with absolute certainty that something is something, and by that I point to the truth that something exists. Were nothing to exist, I would not be, and there is no alternative to this truth; therefore, something is. If something is, then that something must be something - it cannot be nothing, for as I have proven, if it were nothing then I would not be.”
Response: It is impossible to have any type of empirical knowledge about nothing because nothing has never been observed in our reality. Even an empty vacuum in space is not considered true nothingness because it is bubbling with virtual particles popping in and out of existence all the time (http://en.wikipedia.org..., First Youtube Link: ). The evidence indicates that true nothingness does not exist in reality but is only a concept. In my following arguments I will demonstrate how our universe defies the law of identity and will demonstrate why the statement of something = something may be false or paradoxical.
The Law of Identity fails in certain cases:
Regardless of the case that the law of identity may be false due to alternate realities, there is reason to believe the law of identity is false even in our perceived reality. If I can show evidence of at least one thing which contradicts the law of identity then I will not have proven the law of identity as false rather I will have shown that there remains a possibility of it being false. This conclusion supports my resolution that we cannot prove the existence of absolute certainty. So far I have two examples where the law of identity apparently fails.
The law of identity falls apart in the realm of the quantum. A photon is a particle, and a photon is also a wave (http://en.wikipedia.org...). This is a paradox established by quantum theory through empirical evidence and indeed does break the law of identity as the photon is both a particle and not a particle at the same time. It is a wave and not a wave at the same time. Different interpretations of particle-wave duality seek to explain this paradox nonetheless it is an essential property of our universe. You may state that a photon is a photon but must also realize that this statement means nothing if you cannot define what a photon is without redundancy. This paradox means that a photon is not itself because a particle is not a wave yet a photon is both a particle and a wave. In mathematical terms:
1. Photon = Photon
2. Photon = Particle
3. Photon = Wave
4. Particle ≠ Wave
5. Photon ≠ Photon
Premise 1 contradicts the logical conclusion shown in 5. Therefore, A ≠ A in this case supporting the possibility that the law of identity is false.
The law of identity does not hold in regards to virtual particles (https://en.wikipedia.org...) as well. These virtual particles are actually pairs of particles and antiparticles which pop in and out of existence due to quantum fluctuations (http://en.wikipedia.org...). Apparently these particles violate the law of conservation of energy for small amounts of time and indeed create something from nothing. The law of identity does not hold in this case as nothing = something meaning something ≠ something and nothing ≠ nothing when virtual particles come in and out of existence. Sorry for this long video (Second Youtube Link: ) but it helps to explain this phenomenon and shows that prominent scientists such as Lawrence Krauss have a real scientific basis to support the claim of “something from nothing.”
The law of identity exists only as a concept:
It is important to note to the readers that the Law of Identity is just a concept. It does not have any sort of physical presence in the universe. Therefore the universe doesn’t behave in accordance to our concept of the law of identity rather we created this law as a concept to explain the consistency of the universe. To repeat, nowhere in the universe would you find the physical manifestation of the law of identity rather the law of identity exists only in our brains as concepts. This point does not seek to perpetuate my case or my opponents, as the definition provided by my opponent of the word “exist” allows the law of identity to exist as a concept by definition.
The principles of Logic are not proven:
Logic is a system and a tool constructed by us humans to describe our known universe. Because this system is man-made, the principles are assumed, and our knowledge is limited, the system may be faulty. I bring the discussion of logic into this debate as the law of identity is one if its basic assumed principles. Because logic is based on empirical evidence and empirical evidence can be false (explained in detail in round 2) logical principles may also be false. Replace “empirical evidence” in my last sentence with “experience” and it will still hold. This means that logic itself can be doubted because both evidence and experience can be inconsistent with reality.
My opponent has only pointed to one thing to assert absolute certainty (the law of identity) I believe that I have shown many reasons to doubt its absoluteness as well as its physical existence and now challenge my opponent to find another specimen. If Con cannot find one thing that is unquestionably true then he must concede that absolute certainty cannot be proven to exist. Con did not respond to my claim that empirical evidence may be false, therefore I assume he concedes this point and therefore must concede absolute certainties based on empirical evidence cannot be proven true or false. The existence of an all knowing entity must be proven to prove the existence of absolute certainty. The resolution now stands unfalsifiable as my opponent cannot prove or disprove an omniscient entity or a simulated reality. I thank Con for a stimulating debate and await his response.
To my knowledge, true nothingness does not exist in this world because we must consider energy (and so matter), space and time. Clearly a vacuum still has space and time.
Regarding your first example,
A single photon can not be observed to be both a wave and a particle simultaenously. [Pro's source]. Therefore, your argument should follow:
Photon A is acting as a particle
Photon B is acting as a wave
What is acting as a wave may not be acting as a particle simultaenously.
Therefore Photon A is not, at this moment, the same as Photon B.
I do not see that the law of identity has been breached. You may as well have argued that 'Man = Man', yet Man A is a murderer and Man B is not, and concluded from this that the law of identity has been breached.
Regarding your second example,
Virtual particles do not occur from nothing; the term 'nothing' is being used to indicate (I believe) no mass and no energy. This is not nothing, as there is still time, space and quantum fluctuation. If there was nothing, what would be fluctuating? True nothingness cannot fluctuate otherwise it would not be true nothingness, it would merely be something that appeared to closely resemble nothing.
Regarding 'man-made logic',
Sometimes, we do not need experience to know what is true. It is true, for example, that all bachelors are unmarried. We only need to know the definition of 'a bachelor' to know that this is the case. This is not an assumption, but rather it is a truth derived from pure reason. You mistakenly assume that experience has anything to do with it. Wittgenstein would say to you that in doubting logic, you have attempted to utilise logic: when you declare that logic 'may be doubted', you have used a corrupted idea of logic to establish that logic may be false. Logic is nothing more than a system of determining what is true, what is false, and what may be. If you declare that the law of identity is false, then you declare that it is not logical. If you declare that logic is false, then you have declared that it is not logical. There we find that your position is untenable, for to use an argument to prove that logic is false is to attempt to use an experiment to prove that scientific method is flawed. If you wish to prove that the law of identity is false, you must use something other than human uncertainty to acccomplish that, for your refutation of 'a raven is a raven' hinged upon the idea that humans may be unable to determine that what is a raven is a raven, and you were not able to show that what is defined as a raven is not what is defined as a raven, which is necessary to your case.
I conclude this round by again challenging my opponent to show that my argument describing how 'something must be something' is false, without reference to invalid arguments or incorrect definitions of 'nothing'. Whether this reality is not 'true reality' is irrelevant, as it is clear from my very ability to think that there is something, and this truth will not change.
I thank Con for his well-written arguments and refutations as he had made this quite the learning experience for me. However, Con claims that I use semantic trickery to try to break the law of identity. I take this as a misunderstanding by my opponent. Semantics are not used to establish my point. I do not use biased definitions to propagate my case only fair definitions as well as inductive and deductive reasoning. I leave this to the fair-minded audience to decide. I know I have written quite a lot about this subject but if the reader had only one argument to read I must say it is the Münchhausen trilemma outlined below.
The Münchhausen trilemma shows the impossibility of attaining absolute certainty:
In my final arguments I will demonstrate how the Münchhausen trilemma makes it impossible to know with absolute certainty, any type of knowledge even in the arena of mathematics and logic. The trilemma is a set of three possible responses to the question asking “How do I know that it’s true.” This question can be asked in any field of knowledge and can be answered with proof, however the same question can be asked of the proof and any succeeding proofs. The only three possible responses to this dilemma are as follows:
1. The circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other.
2. The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum.
3. The axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts.
All three of these possible attempts to attain absolute certainty must fail. The failure of all three is addressed most effectively by Hans Albert:
1. One can justify with a circular argument, but this sacrifices its validity
2. All justifications in pursuit of certain knowledge have also to justify the means of their justification and doing so they have to justify anew the means of their justification. Therefore there can be no end. We are faced with the hopeless situation of 'infinite regression'.
3. One can stop at self-evidence, common sense, axioms, fundamental principles, speaking 'ex cathedra,’ or at any other evidence, but in doing so the intention to install absolutely certain justification is abandoned.
I think this is the most powerful argument as it exposes each and every possible type of proof as well as their succeeding proofs as susceptibly to fallibility. Therefore, it is impossible to prove that logical axioms are true you can only explain that they are self-evident by declaring them so. If a proposition (or axiom) is claimed to be self-evident it is an argumentative fallacy to assert that disagreement with the proposition indicates a misunderstanding of it. It is impossible to prove that ‘something exists’ as the proof for this proof and all succeeding proofs must be proven 100% certain, in either a circular, infinitely regressive, or axiomatic way. All three possibilities to prove proof and any succeeding proofs necessarily fail in doing so therefore absolute certainty is impossible to prove. Furthermore, since logic itself cannot be justified to be absolutely certain, and both Con and I use logical systems to assess our points, both of our points may be fallible. Absolute certainty only comes to an all-knowing entity whose existence cannot be proven.
Simultaneous Wave-Particle Duality
The first sentence in my source (http://en.wikipedia.org...) states that all particles exhibit both wave and particle properties. Therefore I must expand my conclusions for all particles (localized objects) [https://en.wikipedia.org...] not just photons. My opponent states, “A single photon can not be observed to be both a wave and a particle simultaenously.” Although the spelling is incorrect, the principle is correct if following the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics; but not all interpretations follow this view as the Cophenhagen interpretation may be incorrect. My opponent knows this but failed to mention it to the fair-minded audience. Hidden variable theory proposes that the system exhibits both particle properties and wave properties simultaneously. The article also states that electromagnetic radiation (EMR) acts as a wave and as a particle simultaneously. Everything I said here is from the original source I proposed. Therefore mathematically and logically:
1. Object = Object
2. Object = Wave
3. Object = Particle
4. Wave ≠ Particle
5. Object ≠ Object
This argument shows how the law of identity does not follow in accordance to reality as 1 contradicts with 5 showing that A ≠ A, or A does not act as A in all cases. It is important to notice that since all localized objects exhibit wave-particle duality, anything that is a localized object or has many localized object may not follow the law of identity.
Our perceptions are susceptible to fallibility:
Our perceptions do not always act in accordance to reality - this is quite obvious for anyone that has been tricked by an optical illusion. Here is a list of the most prominent unfalsifiable skeptical theories, which undermine the justification of all knowledge: Brain in the vat, Dream argument, Descartes' Evil demon, five-minute hypothesis, simulated reality.
Even if one believes these theories to be improbable, one must accept the unfalsifiability of these theories and support the resolution that absolute certainty is impossible to prove. Emperical evidence is not known absolutely either because an infinite amount of tests are required for absolute certainty.
Cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am:
This phrase uttered first by Descartes commits the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. The premise ‘I think’ already presupposes the conclusion that ‘I’ exists. It is possible that ‘I’ does not really exist and thoughts come to us from some other thing, in any case this phrase only validates the conclusion that something exists to think. I have shown in my first response that perhaps the existence of nothing is possible, but Con can never disprove it as it is unfalsifiable by principle. I have also shown how every proof requires proof but can only be done in three ways which all fail (Münchhausen trilemma). Therefore the proof that ‘something exists’ cannot be proven with absolute certainty because the proof would either be circular, infinitely regressive, or axiomatically declared ‘ex cathedra’ (with authority). Regardless of these restrictions on Con, suppose Con did somehow prove that ‘something exists’ and disprove all other possible theories of nothingness existing as well; he will only have proven it to himself. He cannot prove it to anyone else. When I created this debate I did not write explicitly who absolute certainty must be proven to rather it was assumed. What would be the point of this debate if we only proved things to ourselves? Con cannot prove to me to that ‘something exists’ because he doesn’t know that I exist even if I say I do. Accordingly, he cannot prove this to any readers either; Con can be nothing more than a solipsist.
It is of utmost importance to agree that the impossibility to prove anything absolutely certain, is not an absolutely certain truth in itself. Although it is impossible to attain absolute certainty, one must get as close as possible to the truth while remembering our uncertainty. Believing things based on degrees of certainty and reasonably doubting absolute claims is the best way to progress in our world and the most honest way to live. I thank Con for the admirable debate but alas the resolution stands firm. The existence of absolute certainty was not proven in this debate and probably never will be.
Note: Had to delete 7000 characters worth of responses and arguments to post this :(.
Logic, how I interpret it, is, at its foundation, simply the idea that any proposition can be categorised as true, false, or what may be true or false. To develop this further, propositions are attempts (which may be dishonest) to describe what is and what is not the case, as otherwise they are meaningless and therefore not propositions. Therefore, a true proposition describes what is the case, or what is fact. Propositions such as ‘X is beautiful’ can be seen as statements regarding the subject’s personal opinion of whether or not X is beautiful. I shall now show why attempting to criticise this idea of logic is fruitless.
Logic cannot be considered false
Logic’s proposition is that truth can be distinguished from falsehood. You cannot claim that this is a false proposition without accepting its truth.
Logic is not meaningless
An alternative to claiming logic is false may be to say that the idea of logic is meaningless, that is to say, it is not a proposition. Seeing as logic attempts to describe what is the case, it is clearly a proposition and may not be declared meaningless. Accepting that logic is not meaningless, we can return to other criticisms.
What is true is incompatible with what is false
You may ask: what if everything is true? (This also applies even more obviously to ‘everything is false’.) Then ‘there are no truths’ is also true, and there we find a contradiction. You respond: ‘but how do you know that what is true cannot also be what is false? How do you arrive at this principle of non-contradiction?’. Very well; if we accept that that what is true is what is the case, and that what is false is not the case, then it follows that truth is that which is not false and vice versa, and we arrive at this conclusion by investigating descriptions and meaning.
The Meaningfulness of Descriptions
Descriptions are given meaning because of their compatibilities and incompatibilities, for if something that is described as having a property which is in direct opposition to another property can also be truthfully described as possessing that very same conflicting property, these descriptions must be meaningless, or they cannot both be true. I arrive at this conclusion because it is not possible to grant that a combination of propositions such as ‘This elephant has four legs, and that very same elephant has three legs’ is wholly true, because while each separate proposition does describe ‘what may be the case’, together they cannot. It cannot be the case that the elephant has exactly four legs and exactly three legs – in combination, the propositions become meaningless, as they do not provide any statement of what the case actually is. I propose that the ‘elephant’s legs’ statement cannot be true, because if it were true, then it would become a meaningless statement, and meaningless statements cannot be considered true. Likewise, the idea that what is true may also be false is similarly meaningless, and so cannot be true.
So far, I have reached several conclusions. These are:
1. Logic cannot be criticised as false, as to do so is to accept it
2. Logic cannot be described as meaningless, as it clearly expresses meaning
3. The meaning of the descriptions of true and false make them incompatible
The direct implications of that reasoning being:
1. Logic is true
2. Logic is meaningful
3. That which is true cannot also be false
In conclusion, I believe I have proven, with ‘absolute certainty’, that these statements are true. Where do I fall foul of the Münchhausen trilemma? I believe my argument is primarily one of semantics, and here we find that my axiom is circular. The only way to interrogate my argument, at its very foundation, is to ask ‘Is meaning meaningful?’. Of course, it is. This assumption is not a careless, or uncertain, for it is an assumption forced upon me by the very fact that I can think. Absolute certainty can therefore only exist if there is something to comprehend that certainty (this is fully compatible with the definition of existence given earlier), and I myself constitute proof that there is something capable of comprehension. Now, to discuss ‘I’…
On the Cartesian ‘Cogito’
Your refutation of this is that it is circular; however, circular reasoning is only false if the premises are not true, and therefore your refutation is an example of ignoratio elenchi. Nellie is an elephant, therefore Nellie is an elephant - this is perfectly valid reasoning, and if it is true that Nellie is an elephant, then the conclusion is sound. You demonstrate the self-evident nature of the Cogito perfectly, actually, because the assertion ‘I’ is in fact evidence of my own existence. You say that these thoughts of ‘I’ may come from ‘something else’, and I am not sure what you mean by this, but regardless, I am, regardless of what constitutes the sense of ego I have, my sense of ego exists. A man who is deluded into thinking that he is Napoleon does not have any less of a sense of ego than a man who believes he is ‘himself’, and in this same way any explanation of how my ego exists does not detract from the fact that my ego exists. If I am a strange fluctuation of energy inside a vial of equally mysterious chemicals, that does not detract from the fact that I am. If I am a constituent part of a larger programme, that still does not detract from the fact that I am.
The implications of Solipsism to this debate
My argument is perfectly compatible with any reader, solipsist or not. I have proved the existence of absolute certainty to myself, certainly, but anyone who reads this may also have it proved to them. If there are other minds, then this argument should convince them, as they have a sense of ego, if not, then I have proved it to the only mind there is - my own. I do not see any significance at all of solipsism to this debate.
Over the course of my argument, I have proven many absolute certainties. I feel that my opponent failed to contemplate that circular arguments are not always false, and that initially much time was wasted concerning the existence of a world outside of the mind, but that was partly my fault too. The law of identity was indeed defended, particularly in the paragraph on meaning and also in the discussion of truth. I am conscious both of the time and the character constraints, and so I will not discuss my opponent’s arguments concerning ‘nothingness’ and quantum physics, because I believe that I have already proven my case, and that my position on those things is defended by this argument. I respectfully ask that voters focus on my argument this round, as it is comprehensive. I credit Wittgenstein and his writings On Certainty with inspiring my approach to logic, and of course, I thank Descartes for his Cogito. I apologise to my opponent for not being able to respond to everything he has written, but I had to meditate deeply to come up with the argument I have, and this has left me with little time to respond every detail of your impressive and lengthy thesis.
With less than five minutes and fewer than a thousand characters remaining, I submit my argument to the consideration of other minds, should they exist.
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