The Instigator
000ike
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Polaris
Con (against)
Winning
14 Points

The infinite regress problem exists in objective morality only

Do you like this debate?NoYes+9
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
Polaris
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/22/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,484 times Debate No: 25758
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (17)
Votes (4)

 

000ike

Pro

Resolution clarification: When attempting to justify objective moral statements one provides reasons in order to satisfy the necessity for warrant. However, those reasons themselves require reasons, and as do those reasons, continuing ad infinitum. This isn't just an infinite regress, but it becomes a vicious infinite regress. Con will argue that this problem is not unique to objective morality, it exists for subjective moral statements as well. I will argue that this problem does not exist under subjective morality.

The following will be the canonical definitions which are not subject to dispute or alteration in the course of our argumentation, and my oppnent consents to these terms through accepting this debate.

Subjective statement:
A statement that only applies or purports to apply to a given being(s) in and of itself

Objective statement: A statement that applies to every being and is not bound by any restriction on whom it applies to.

Due to the topical insularity of the resolution I've limited each round to 3,000 characters. Round 1 is for acceptance ONLY.
Polaris

Con

INTRODUCTION:

First and foremost, I accept this challenge and I thank my competitor and wish him good luck. I thank all who take to time to read this debate.

OPENING REMARKS:

For the duration of this debate The Philosophical Burden of Proof rests upon the affirmative argument, in this case on my Opponent; the Pro position. He must present a compelling case using logical or empirical evidence as to why moral relativism should be excluded from the epistemological problem of infinite regress. Conventions of Logic do not oblige me to prove that Moral Relativism isn't exempt from Infinite Regress, but rather for my opponent to show compellingly that it is.

Plato in the Theatetus defined knowledge as justified true belief. Justification was providing some reasons (λόγος or συλλογισμῶ), a rational explanation for the belief. True opinion accompanied by reason is knowledge. (δόξαν ἀληθῆ μετὰ λόγου ἐπιστήμην εἶναι). The infinite regress arises when we ask what are the justifications for the reasons themselves. If the reasons count as knowledge, they must be justified with reasons for the reasons. [1]

ACCEPTABLE OBLIGATION OF PROOF:

The problem of Infinite regress is that it prevents absolute certainty in anything, in asserting Moral Relativism as exempt, we are asserting Moral Relativism or any belief for that matter can be absolutely certain. This would be quite extraordinarily remarkable and astonishing if true. In order to prove that Moral relativism is exempt from the problem of Infinite Regress, my opponent must show that:

-There rationally exists knowledge or a justification of such knowledge, that does not itself require justification.
-That the before mentioned knowledge is unique to Moral Relativism and not moral objectivity.

I contend this cannot be done as knowledge without justification cannot be considered as such (by definition), but we shall see if PRO can solve this infamous 1,000+ year old dilemma, that the greatest minds in history struggled with.

IN CLOSING:

While Infinite Regress does prevent absolute certainty, and all knowledge is capable of err, I don't think it's a particularly good argument against any particular belief, as it would equally undermine all, including preferred beliefs. Using Infinite Regress in this way is like using a nuclear warhead for killing termites in your house. It destroys that which you wanted destroyed as well as everything else. However Infinite regress isn't good reason to dismiss any belief, so long as the belief in question can be supported and argued through mutually observed reality, we accept the possibility that the mutually observed reality could be wrong.

CITATIONS:

[1] http://www.informationphilosopher.com...
Debate Round No. 1
000ike

Pro


I thank my opponent for his response, though wish he would have adhered with the terms of acceptance, and began argumentation in Round 2.


In order to demonstrate the truth of the affirmative case, I will present 2 moral hypotheticals:


1. Lying is wrong.


2. According to Obama, Lying is wrong.


1) Our duty as skeptics is to investigate the truth of both propositions. Is it true that lying is wrong? Is it true that Obama says that lying is wrong? The subject to whom the statement applies must be established in the statement itself, for we are judging the truth of that ethical statement in and of itself. A statement like “lying is wrong” neglects to mention to whom lying may be wrong, so is therefore an unrestricted objective claim….which, as previously mentioned, would continue ad infinitum in a search for reasons and warrant (why is lying wrong? Because it’s unfair to others. Why is it wrong to be unfair? Because you would not will that others be unfair to you. Why does it matter that I would not will that? Because it means you’re being inconsistent. Why is it wrong to be inconsistent? ……..et cetera, continuing indefinitely). This much, my opponent and I agree on. Objective ethical statements lead to infinity when attempting to justify them. Where we depart, as is the subject of this exchange, is whether or not the same problem will occur under a subjective ethical claim that is subjective in and of itself.


2) The statement “according to Obama, Lying is wrong” is subjective in and of itself. It has a restriction on to whom the claim applies, where the lack thereof would purport unbounded applicability, or objectivity. So, we must ask ourselves is it possible to prove it true that Obama says that lying is wrong? Of course it is. The way to concretely prove that Obama says that lying is wrong is for him to literally admit that he believes that lying is wrong. The fundamental difference between the objective and subjective statement is that in order to prove the truth of the objective statement, you must find why an action OUGHT or OUGHT NOT to occur….whereas all the subjective statement demands is that you demonstrate that the statement is factually correct. For this reason, the objective statement will NEVER be warranted, because the reasons will lead you to infinity, a meaningless continuum. The truth of the subjective statement on the other hand is not concerned with whether lying ought to be wrong,…but that the individual in question does believe that lying is wrong.


For this reason, there is no infinite regress in subjective morality.


Polaris

Con


UNSTATED PREMISE

PROs argument is composed of two hypotheticals, one of which he attempts to prove what someone (Obama in this case) believes. Why go through the effort of trying to prove a statement of genuine belief? Assuming belief is genuine how does this establish a basis for morality? In examining my opponent's argument you will find there is an unspoken premise upon which his arguments necessarily rests, this unspoken premise will become clear shortly, if it isn't already. My opponent states that only objective morality is concerned with right and wrong, or ought and ought not - that subjective morality is not. It's odd that this wasn't defined in the beginning of the debate, however let me point to the current dictionary definition of Morality:

1. The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.
2. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct [1] [8]

Both Subjective and Objective morality are concerned with such moral judgements [2] they differ in the way they approach the question. Objective Morality holds that right and wrong can be objectively known and that right and wrong apply universally to all people under similar circumstances [3], and subjective morality holds that the difference between right and wrong rests upon personal conviction and/or the cultural mores of the time [2]. So this explains why my opponent is trying to prove genuine belief. In PRO's view the basis of morality can be established as true by showing mere belief.

UNSTATED PREMISE SUBJECT TO INFINITE REGRESS

What is the reason for believing that we may prove the veracity of moral relativism by showing genuine belief? What reason do you have to believe one supports the other? What reason do you have to support the answer to my last question? And what reason do you have to support the answer to that question? [Repeat Last question Indefinitely...]

The argument for moral relativity is thus reduced to an Infinite Regression of reasons. As for the final nail in the coffin: Not only would proving "Obama said that lying is wrong" not establish a basis for morality, but your proof itself is subject to infinite regress. How do you know Obama said this? How do you know that you heard it correctly? And how do you know that? etc...

UNIVERSALITY OF INFINITE REGRESS

There is a wealth of philosophical literature on infinite regress, and you will find no sources anywhere that exempt exclusively subjective morality from this epistemological problem. Rather what you will find is that it is a problem with all knowledge [4][5][7], as all knowledge requires justification. Knowledge without justification is falsely called so. Arguments for dismissing infinite regress as a useful argument, likewise would apply equally across the board [6].


~~Due to character limit, my sources will be cited in the comments~~


Debate Round No. 2
000ike

Pro

I appreciate my opponent’s responses, but must point out where he is mistaken in his reasoning.

I must fulfill 2 burdens in order to win this argument:

1. All I need to prove is that obama thinks that lying is wrong….I do not have to prove that his belief is actually a reasonable one.

2. It is possible to definitively prove that Obama thinks that lying is wrong.



Burden 1

Moral relativism, in the form it has been presented by the affirmative case, and is to be addressed by the negative, is descriptive (Descriptive moral relativism is merely the positive or descriptive position that there exist, in fact, fundamental disagreements about the right course of action even when the same facts obtain and the same consequences seem likely to arise(1)). If we are to make a claim about what IS about the Universe, we may appeal to this universal mind-independent medium we call the physical world. If we are to make a claim about what OUGHT about the Universe, what may we appeal to that stands outside the subjectivity of the mind? Logic of course, because all states on what ought are dependent on reasons, not proof….a crucial distinction. If Obama says that he believes that lying is wrong, and we ask him his reasons for believing that lying is wrong, all we are extracting from him is whether or not his belief is reasonable….and not whether or not he does in fact believe it. Descriptive moral relativism is not concerned with the reasons behind a subjective belief, but that the belief exists and only applies to a certain subject. Hence, I am to prove the truth of “Obama believes that lying is wrong”… and there is no reason for me to ask why he does.



Burden 2

When dealing with the nature of how the world IS there are certain necessary presumptions, the same presumptions that are necessary for argumentation, questioning of which would not only lead to solipsism, but incapacitate all canons of logic. My opponent’s decision to question such perceptions is ultimately argumentatively self-defeating, for he has cast doubt on the very faculties he used to form his doubt in the first place. This precludes such questions as, “How are you sure that your hearing of Obama saying he believes lying is wrong is real?”… or “How do you know Obama exists?”

Therefore it is within reason to take as fact that which has been physically verified…and if Obama says that he believes that lying is wrong that suffices to prove that he believes that lying is wrong.

Conclusion

Since all I must prove is that Obama believes that lying is wrong,…and physical proof of this MUST be sufficient by virtue of the assumptions of logic and argumentation,….all that is necessary for me to prove the truth of the aforementioned statement would be for Obama to physically state that he believes that lying is wrong. Hence, the descriptive subjective statement is physically verified, and the regression ends.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org...

Polaris

Con

SELF-REFUTING ARGUMENT

In my opening post I briefly explained that my intent here is to show that PRO's argument (Infinite Regress) against Objective Morality would also apply equally against his own preferred belief of Subjective Morality. In essence I am using his own argument against his own stated belief. So I remind my opposition that Infinite regress is not my argument, but his, and any criticism of Infinite Regress must be specific to Subjective Morality only. This has not been the case so far.

UNFULFILLED BURDEN OF PROOF

In my first argument I outlined two things intrinsic to demonstrating exclusion from infinite regress that PRO must demonstrate to validate his argument that subjective morality is exempt from Infinite Regress[1], I will state them again here:

-There rationally exists knowledge or a justification of such knowledge, that does not itself require justification.
-That the before mentioned knowledge is unique to Moral Relativism and not moral objectivity.

I contend that not only has my opposition not satisfied these burdens of proof, but his own argument states precisely why this is impossible. PRO states that "When dealing with the nature of how the world IS there are certain necessary presumptions" these presumptions constitute knowledge without justification, thus reaffirming the universality of Infinite regress[2]. If this is true and I contend that it is, then it cannot be true that Subjective Morality is exempt from Infinite Regress. In acknowledging this, PRO has sabotaged his case.

DISMISSALS NOT SPECIFIC TO SUBJECTIVE MORALITY

In all fairness PRO does give reasons, good ones even, why we should disregard Infinite Regression in this instance. However the problem for his position is that these reasons are not specific to subjective Morality and would also apply to Objective Morality, and indeed all knowledge. That Infinite regress will inevitably result in the questioning of perception[3] is inconsequential to the debate because again, it is not unique to Subjective Morality. So if we dismiss Infinite Regress in one instance because it questions perception, then we must dismiss it in all instances. Hence my opponent must either admit Infinite Regress is a problem that exists for no belief or that exists for all beliefs. Both of which would contradict his stated position. My opponent has painted himself into a corner.

PUTTING THE ARGUMENT TO REST

Moreover demonstrating mere belief does not exclude Moral Relativism from Infinite Regression, nor is there any tenable argument that it should, and if that weren't enough any such demonstrations themselves fall into infinite regress. The wealth of philosophical literature out there is quite clear, Infinite Regression is an overarching epistemological problem and not one peculiar only to Objective Morality[4],[5].

~~Due to character limit my sources will be cited in the comments~~



Debate Round No. 3
000ike

Pro


I thank my opponent for his response. Allow me to address the crux of my opponents case, as he outlined it in this quote:


I contend that not only has my opposition not satisfied these burdens of proof, but his own argument states precisely why this is impossible. PRO states that "When dealing with the nature of how the world IS there are certain necessary presumptions" these presumptions constitute knowledge without justification, thus reaffirming the universality of Infinite regress[2]. If this is true and I contend that it is, then it cannot be true that Subjective Morality is exempt from Infinite Regress. In acknowledging this, PRO has sabotaged his case.


There is a difference between a necessary and unnecessary presumption. Where our object is to find and acknowledge the most epistemically accurate position, we can only tolerate those presumptions that are necessary. I contend that the accuracy of human perception qualifies as a necessary presumption in both discourse and everyday life….and so therefore it is reasonable and logically necessary that we take that which has been “physically verified as true” as in fact, being true.


Conversely, it is not necessary to take that which has been given one reason, as being sufficiently warranted. The reason requires a reason, and so does that reason continuing ad infinitum. Denying each reason an objective self-sufficiency impedes neither discourse nor human operation….for we can live and argue with pure coherency under subjective sufficiency. However, like I mentioned, this is not the case for human perception and logic, which requires a definitive basis that must be assumed correct.


In summation, having Obama literally admit that he believes that lying is wrong by necessity satisfies the requisite proof, if it didn’t, and you questioned that Obama existed or that your hearing is real, you deny the predicates of discourse and reasoning itself. There is no such consequence when you deny the objective sufficiency of any one reason.


Thank you for reading, vote Pro.


Polaris

Con

I thank PRO for initiating this debate, and for all his responses.

My opponent's argument should be rejected for the following reasons:
1. PRO has not fulfilled burden of proof, necessary for showing exemption
2. PRO's own argument states why he cannot perform #1
3. PRO reasons for exclusion, do not actually support exclusion
4. Even if 1-3 were false, still no reason has been given which is unique to Moral Relativity.
5. The plethora of available academic literature contradicts his claim

Keep in mind that to refute PRO's argument only #1 has to be true. The rest of my arguments go above and beyond in demonstrating the untenability of my opponents argument, but are otherwise unnecessary to that point. All of these points are elucidated fully in previous arguments, but I will summarize here.

1-2
In order to show that some belief is exempt from Infinite Regress we must show that 'said belief is not dependent upon justification of knowledge which is not itself unjustified. My opponents arguments have instead focused on trying to show that we can be confident that some person has belief in some moral statement, however this sidesteps the burden of proof entirely. In round 3 PRO concedes that all statements about reality are dependent upon presumption, which would affirm my argument for the universality of Infinite Regress. He later tries to downplay this concession by arguing that some presumptions are necessary, however true it is nevertheless still a presumption and thus still subject to Infinite Regress. This alone would undermine PRO's entire case.

3-5
However prudent it would be to limit reasons to that which are mutually observable and necessary for debate, Infinite regress is not limited to such. Also why I would not recommend using Infinite Regress arguments to begin with, but so long as we are using infinite regress to dismiss Objective Morality we can use the same argument to dismiss Moral Relativism. Philosophers such as Emanuel Kant [1], And John Stuart Mills have argued for various objective moralities within reason[2]. None of the reasons offered for excluding Subjective Morality from Infinite Regress would not also apply to Objective Morality. Arguments for excluding just one beg of the special pleading fallacy[3].

Finally the plethora of academic philosophical literature speaks of Infinite Regress as an overarching epistemological problem not simply one peculiar to Objective Morality, but to most all knowledge [4]. Nowhere in academia do we see only subjective morality excluded from this problem. Opposition left this point unaddressed.

IN CLOSING

To refute my opponents argument I have only needed to show point #1, which I believe I have done, however the other 4 points should address any lingering doubt as to the untenability of his case. If this does not definitively refute my opponents argument I'm not sure what would. Vote for the better argument, thank you all.

~~Due to character limit sources will be cited in comments~~
Debate Round No. 4
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by dylancatlow 2 years ago
dylancatlow
Would you be interested in debating this with me?
Posted by Polaris 4 years ago
Polaris
Are we still arguing this? The debate is over.
Posted by 000ike 4 years ago
000ike
So, it doesn't make sense to say that the resolution demanded objective truth, whether or not subjective morality leads to infinite regression, without any prior assumptions. We couldn't have our debate without making those assumptions,...and it just happens that those are the same assumptions that ground subjective morality down. As in, if you hear and see Obama say that he believes lying is wrong, then the regression must end.

Objective morality cannot be perceived. It can't be given proof really, what it needs are "reasons"...however, since we can question those reasons FOREVER without ever having questioned human perception or logic, it can't take refuge in either assumption, and is subject to the infinite regress.

MY ULTIMATE POINT

Polaris is correct, that all knowledge is subject to infinite regress. However, that is only within the view of objective truth...where logic and human perception CAN'T just be assumed. However, such a view makes arguing and thinking for that matter, impossible...and our debate, or any debate, does not operate under such a view because such a view precludes argumentation. That's why I think I'm ultimately right here.
Posted by 000ike 4 years ago
000ike
We don't assume logic and human perception to be correct for the sake of subjective morality. We already assumed them correct for the sake of debate and coherent thought. By making those 2 assumptions, we free the requisite inductive and deductive abilities of our reasoning. All debates and all human thought and operation occur under these 2 assumptions...and subjective morality also gains validity under these 2 assumptions. Because those assumptions are ubiquitously necessary, you can't ever deny them.

You can't say that our debate did not make these assumption, or that it operated under objective truth, because that would lead to a massive logical road block. Before we could even talk about infinite regress, we'd be quibbling about the validity of logic and whether or not each opponent existed, or whether what we are reading is real. This debate, like all debates, made those assumptions from which subjective morality has grounding. It isn't circular....because those assumptions don't exist FOR subjective morality, they existed anyway, and subjective morality can take justification under them.

In short, the only way for subjective morality to suffer from infinite regression is if we question human perception or logic....but by the time you make such questioning, the questioning itself becomes absurd.
Posted by InquireTruth 4 years ago
InquireTruth
000ike, I think your distinction is a helpful one but not one that supports the resolution as stated in the title and further clarified by you in your first round. What I perceive you as saying ultimately breaks down to an admission that your argument fails to address and refute the most salient point, namely that subjective morality is subject to infinite regression. Of course the assumptions foundational to subjective morality are different than the foundational assumptions behind objective morality, but the point is that all of these assumptions, irrespective of the morality they intend to undergird, are subject to the universality of infinite regression. Thus, all you are really saying, in my assessment, is that if we exclude the assumptions inherent in subjective morality from the criticism of infinite regression, then subjective morality does suffer from the problem of infinite regression. Written in this way we can easily see that your argument is guilty of begging the question, inasmuch as the truth of your argument relies upon the truth of the matter in question.
Posted by Polaris 4 years ago
Polaris
RoyLatham, Yes, it would be nice to not have citations counted against argument character limits. The character limit was already pretty tight in this debate compared to some of the others that I've seen. It would be unfortunate to have the debater with more sources be at a disadvantage by having less room for his argument or vice versa. Perhaps sources would be posted sort of like a "signature" so to speak. This is the only solution that comes to mind, although I'm sure there are other solutions out there. I appreciate the responses and constructive criticism.
Posted by 000ike 4 years ago
000ike
Con may be correct with regard to objective truth, but he is incorrect in the medium of discourse. The infinite regress exists in subjective morality ONLY because we may question human perception, question logic, and other necessary assumptions. However, because we must assume these perceptions to debate in the first place, and to think coherently for that matter, they are already assumed at the outset of any debate and in any discussion that involves those perceptions. Therefore any subjective ethical claim can take refuge and justification on the assumption of the correctness of these perceptions.....and because we already assumed these perceptions correct by thinking and debating, the logic stands and the regress ends. The basis of objective morality from which it may derive justification is not a "forced" presumption, so therefore is not in the same boat, so to speak, as subjective morality. The objective claim has no "necessity" to appeal to, so stands perpetually unwarranted.

I accept the loss, but this is the point I was making...since it seems like people thought I was making a different one.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
Interesting debate. It's not allowed to put references in the comments because that violates the character limits. Many of us would like to see the site software modified so that the characters in links are not counted.

I think there was a point to be made about the distinction between "belief in a morality" and "morality." The dictionary definition of "morality" implies universal applicability so it seems to me that the problem of infinite regress bears with full force on subjective morality. Why is it reasonable to apply a personal morality universally? ... etc.
Posted by MouthWash 4 years ago
MouthWash
Tired as hell right now. I'll vote tomorrow.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Ren 4 years ago
Ren
000ikePolarisTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Con essentially dominated the debate, approaching every argument while rendering valid conclusions. Ultimately, Pro even so much as rejected his burden of proof, culminating as a loss whether or not Con's arguments were strong.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
000ikePolarisTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Interesting debate. Con prevailed based upon the universality of infinite regress argument. Sources in comments do not count in the debate because they are an evasion of the character limits. No matter, sources were not central to the arguments.
Vote Placed by Sojourner 4 years ago
Sojourner
000ikePolarisTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's case was reduced to the statement, "Where our object is to find and acknowledge the most epistemically accurate position, we can only tolerate those presumptions that are necessary." Con successfully countered with, "In order to show that some belief is exempt from Infinite Regress we must show that 'said belief is not dependent upon justification of knowledge which is not itself unjustified."
Vote Placed by InquireTruth 4 years ago
InquireTruth
000ikePolarisTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: A very fun debate wherein both parties demonstrated a high caliber of reasoning. In my assessment, however, Polaris won this debate without hesitation--despite 000ike's great ability as a debater. After reading the debate I went back and read 000ike's clarification of the resolution to ensure I was being judicious. Polaris demonstrated that, as Descartes stumbled upon many years ago, the problem of infinite regress is a tax that every argument must ultimately pay.