The Instigator
hauki20
Pro (for)
Losing
18 Points
The Contender
TheSkeptic
Con (against)
Winning
28 Points

The principle of empirical verifiability by David Hume is seriously flawed

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/26/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 7,264 times Debate No: 7566
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (13)
Votes (9)

 

hauki20

Pro

The first round is the greeting round. You may greet your opponent or the audience.

Rules: 1) No off-topic 2) No spamming, flaming nor trolling 3) No evidence nor arguments shall be presented in the first round.

The priciple of empirical verifiability by David Hume is a principle that states that: Propositions can be meaningful only if they meet one or more of the two conditions,
A) The truth clam is abstract reasoning such as a mathematical equation or a definition (e.g., "2+2=4" or "all triangles have three sides"); or
B) The truth claim can be verified empirically through one or more of the five senses.

This principle may look reasonable and logical, however it is flawed (and false). Why? We'll get to that in the next round.

Good luck to anyone who accepts my debate and hello to the spectators ;)
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank my opponent for creating this interesting debate. And by the way, shouldn't you have made it a 4-Round debate so we can have a normal 3 Round debate? If that wasn't your intention, then oh well. Let's debate!
Debate Round No. 1
hauki20

Pro

Thank you for accepting my debate and good luck to the both of us ;)

Here is my case in a nutshell.

The principle of empirical verifiability does not pass its own test.

The principle of empirical verifiability states that there are only two kinds of meaningful prepositions: 1) those that are true by definition and 2) Those that are empirically verifiable (can be verified using the five senses). Since the principle of empirical verifiability itself is neither true by definition nor empirically verifiable, it cannot be meaningful.

The claim that "something can only be meaningful if it's empirically verifiable or true by definition" excludes itself because the statement is neither empirically verifiable nor true by definition.

This is all I need to say.
TheSkeptic

Con

Wow, a very fast response. Let's get going then. My opponent's argument is probably the most common criticism of the verification principle, formulated by the likes of Hume and Popper. He basically argues that since the verification principle is self-refuting (is the verification principle verifiable?), then it must be in error. That being said, my response follows:

==========
Difference between a meta-theory and a theory
==========

In simplest terms, a theory is an explanation of natural phenomena. Einstein's Relativity is a theory. Evolution is a theory. All theories can be empirically verified, for that is part of the essential meaning of a theory. A meta-theory, on the other hand, is a "theory of a theory". It attempts to explain, or perhaps limit/guide the scope of theories. Such examples are the verification principle (the topic at hand), and the famous Occam's Razor. The crucial difference is that meta-theories do NOT need to be empirically verified, but rather heuristically.

For example, most people would agree with Occam's Razor (OR), and I'm sure my opponent does. But what empirical verification do we have for OR? Heck, what verification do we have for the scientific method? There is none, but we have heuristic reasons to agree with it. Same thing with the verification principle.

==========
Conclusion
==========

My main argument against my opponent is that he applies the wrong standard of "verification" for a meta-theory. He should turn his attention to heuristics, not empirical knowledge.
Debate Round No. 2
hauki20

Pro

I would like the voters to take note that even my opponent agrees that the principle of empirical verification is self-defeating. Therefore it is seriously flawed. I have proved my case and my opponent agrees with the flaw I have discovered.

1. I claimed that the principle of empirical verification is seriously flawed.
2. The fact that the principle is self-defeating is a serious flaw. (Kind of saying there is no truth.)
3. Therefore, I have proved my case.

The principle of empirical verification can't even support its own weight! It's the exact same as saying, "There is no truth." (Is that a truth?)

[quote]A meta-theory, on the other hand, is a "theory of a theory". It attempts to explain, or perhaps limit/guide the scope of theories. Such examples are the verification principle (the topic at hand), and the famous Occam's Razor. The crucial difference is that meta-theories do NOT need to be empirically verified, but rather heuristically.[/quote]

The scientific method is NOT *self-defeating*. It can support its own weight.

According to the standards of the empirical verificaion, it is "a meaningless propositions".

[quote]He basically argues that since the verification principle is self-refuting (is the verification principle verifiable?), then it must be in error.[/quote]

No. It is seriously flawed, not totally false.

I believe this is all I need to win my debate.
TheSkeptic

Con

...What? Voters, my opponent has done what they call a "cop-out". I have NOT conceded the flaw nor have I said it is self-refuting. Obviously in logic, something can't be circular and valid at the same time (unless you're one of those wacky Dialetheists, but that's besides the point).

He has specifically ignored or failed to read (he had 3 days to reply and he did so in half a day, he had plenty of time) my point about HEURISTICS. I argued that the verification principle, being a meta-theory, is exempt from the "verifying process". INSTEAD, we rely on heuristics, as we do for other meta-theories. Look at Occam's Razor and the scientific method. Is there any empirical support for these methods? Obviously not. But we have good heuristic reasons to support these maxims.

Ladies and gentleman, I was hoping to have a good debate, but my opponent has failed to read my main argument. Heck, if he was to just read my conclusion then he could have gotten a summary of my entire argument: "My main argument against my opponent is that he applies the wrong standard of "verification" for a meta-theory. He should turn his attention to heuristics, not empirical knowledge."

There is no excuse - vote for CON.
Debate Round No. 3
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
Pro did not respond to Con's argument that meta-theories are proved differently from theories. Both cases would have been much improved by adding references to standard philosophical arguments -- in other words, call upon expert opinion for support.
Posted by rougeagent21 8 years ago
rougeagent21
Points here to skeptic.
Posted by dtclark2188 8 years ago
dtclark2188
Side note: I do not dislike or discredit Occam's Razor as a practical tool. I only get upset when it is the only method used when looking at two competing ideas, or when it is religiously applied where its application is not likely to bring about greater truth.
Posted by dtclark2188 8 years ago
dtclark2188
Brewmaster: Whenever you feel like you are ready, just send me the challenge. I love meta-theory debates, so be on your toes.
Posted by dtclark2188 8 years ago
dtclark2188
I don't think you ought to keep using Occam's Razor as a solid example ;). Stick with the scientific method or something that no one will argue is a barrier to truth. Occam's Razor was originally intended to show that, where one God is sufficient, a person does not need to invoke more than one. From it's dubious roots, Occam's Razor has been used by the logicists religiously (trying to show that all mathematics boiled down to just one solid foundation, i.e. logic), and has been used fanatically by theorists and meta-theorists alike to "disprove" or show the inherent errors in a contrasting, more complicated theory. However, Occam's Razor is nothing more than an aesthetic tool to simplify our understanding, and try to contain the universe within a small box. Sorry, I know this is not completely related to the debate (perhaps a bit trollish ;) but I can't stand Occam's Razor any more than I can stand intuitionism, logical positivism, logicism (aside from arithmetic), and post-modernism (in its extreme form). Whew, I'll shut-up now.
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
And the same for other methods, such as Occam's Razor and the scientific method. If Occam's Razor says the simplest theory is best, then is it itself not subject to this criteria? To what, then, is it compared to? How will it even be compared?
Posted by trendem 8 years ago
trendem
I'm voting Con, because Pro did not clearly refute Con's argument.

However, I don't understand Con's argument properly. Con argues that the verifiability principle is a meta-theory, and requires a different standard of verification. But META-THEORIES ARE PROPOSITIONS TOO! The empirical verifiability principle claims to apply to all propositions, and since it is itself a proposition, should apply to itself. The verification principle doesn't distinguish between theories and meta-theories; the verification principle doesn't acknowledge a special category reserved for heuristics; the verification principle claims to be the test for meaningfulness for all propositions, and by its own standards, judges itself meaningless.
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
"Actually, I proved that the scientific method is not self-defeating. I also proved that the principle of empirical verification is."

Oh really? Then you seemed to have deliberately turned your attention away from a critical word: heuristics.

And el-oh-el at Norman Geisler.
Posted by hauki20 8 years ago
hauki20
Actually, I proved that the scientific method is not self-defeating. I also proved that the principle of empirical verification is.

"Well I did read in Dinesh D'Souza's book where he talked about how the verification principle was supposedly self-refuting..."

Actually, I read it from a book by Norman Geisler.
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
Well I did read in Dinesh D'Souza's book where he talked about how the verification principle was supposedly self-refuting, so maybe that's where he got his wacky ideas (from a wacky author).
9 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Vote Placed by socialpinko 4 years ago
socialpinko
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Reasons for voting decision: Figured I'd post a vote with an actual RFD. Pro could have had a chance to win the debate if he had actually dealt with Con's point. Con didn't admit that the verification principle is self-refuting, he sidestepped it by arguing that Pro was applying the wrong standard (see the theory-meta theory distinction). Pro never even touches upon Con's point of heuristics, thus even if he's ultimately right on the issue the concession gives the debate to Con.
Vote Placed by studentathletechristian8 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by RoyLatham 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
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