The Instigator
Con (against)
14 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
28 Points

This House Believes That Sense Experience Is The Ultimate Source of Knowledge!

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 6/15/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,982 times Debate No: 56597
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (155)
Votes (6)




This is a debate regarding Epistemology, it seeks to address the age old question which has seperated scientists and philsophers: wether empiricism is significantly the fundamental source of knowledge or whether innate knowledge or rationalistic knowledge forms a significant enough part of human knowledge. The resolution states "rational knowledge" as we do not wish to consider the knowledge that is brought by the exercising of the faculty of imagination.

1.There will be a shared Burden of Proof however whiteflame has a slightly higher Burden of Proof.

2. My opponent will give his argument immediately and will not engage in the last round. The first posts will be a positive case only, while the remaning rounds will have no new arguments and will consist of rebuttals and re-affirming the before case.

3. No semantics will be allowed.

4. Each round has a 10,000 character limit, 24 hour posting period, and the debate has a select winner point system with Elo Restrictions so that only those whose Elo is above 3000 may vote.

5. I request that youtube not be used as it is banned in my country and it will cause me great difficulty in trying to watch a certain video.

6. It is advisable that an easy-to-read font be used and that links are provided to sources cited, it is however not compulsory.

7. The definitions will be taken from the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy, when a definition cannot be found there then Oxford Dictionaries will suffice. Other scholarly articles, journals, and wiki's may be used however none are as binding. I have defined some concepts: (In any case the definitions need not be strictly defined as this will not be a semantic debate)
a. Epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. Epistemology is concerned with questions such as: What are the sources of knowledge?.
b. Rational Knowledge is that knowledge which has a logical foundation and this also includes any objective knowledge, universal knowledge and/or knowledge which has meaning.
c. Empiricism is the theory which asserts that all rational knowledge has its basis in experience insofar as experience is that information gained from the senses.
d. Rationalism is the claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience.

8. To clarify my opponent has to argue that all knowledge has its roots in the senses while I have to show that there is knowledge which exists absolutely independent of any sense experience.

Please do not equate rational knowledge with rationalism.

I will define and explain a priori, a posteriori, innate ideas, innate dreams, ontology, and other such terms in my own arguments.

I wish my opponent whiteflame the best of luck and hope for this to be an interesting debate. If my opponent wishes anything changed please inform me before accepting. The first round's first line should be acceptance of the preceeding rules by whiteflame.




Thank you to Ajab for challenging me to this debate, and as requested, I will begin here.

I'd actually spent quite a bit of time looking into the philosophy behind this before coming up with this post. But as you'll notice, I'm not going to be spending much time addressing the philosophical, at least not here. I decided to defend empiricism as a scientist rather than a philosopher.

Remember how Pro defined empiricism and rationalism:

Empiricism, at its core, emphasizes experience and evidence in the creation of knowledge. In other words, I'm arguing for the theory that states that knowledge is acquired a posteriori, as opposed to rationalism's a priori stance, which views knowledge as coming from the use of logic. Note that these aren't mutually exclusive views, yet, within the context of this debate, they have been apportioned to each side. While it is not Con's burden that he argue solely for rationalism, he still must argue for rationalism playing a substantive role in the generation of knowledge.

And speaking of rationalism, I'm going to provide another definition (note that neither of these definitions clash with Con's, they're simply meant to clarify). Rationalism is defined as a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive."[1] So it will be a part of his burden to show how knowledge is acquired by those means, just as it is a part of mine to show how knowledge is acquired using the senses.

Con says I have the larger burden of proof, and he is right, since I am affirming a resolution that asserts that sense experience is the ultimate source of knowledge. I'd like to clarify his burden. Con's burden is to support the claim that rationalism is a significant part of how we as human beings acquire knowledge. It is not sufficient for Pro to poke holes in my arguments. It is also insufficient for Con to win a single example and win the debate, as he must also show that anything he's winning is significant. A single example may be sufficient if and only if Con provides analysis showing that it plays an integral role in our general thinking.

So this is the basis for our debate. I must show that empiricism is the basis for the vast majority of our knowledge gains, and Con must prove that rationalism represents a substantive source of knowledge through other means.

Now, let's think about this logically. How does someone acquire new knowledge? At our core, we are all scientists, experiencing the world through our senses. We can afford something the color "green" because our eyes see that color. We might be told a fascinating tale, and we would now know that tale because we had heard it with our ears. We might be presented with a piece of sandpaper, and we would know it to be rough and coarse because we run our fingers over it and test it, or seen its effects on a surface. We could taste seawater and know it to be extremely bitter and salty only because we had tastebuds to relay that information. We might even smell the air near that body of water and detect a strong hint of salt, our noses becoming the source of knowledge.

These are all sense experiences, and the basic ways we obtain knowledge. We may process that knowledge differently, but the knowledge is still obtained by means of the senses. I may see a large letter "C" written on a page and interpret it as a letter in the English alphabet, whereas another person may simply see a thin crescent. In either case, the input is still the symbol on a page, and therefore the knowledge is the same.

Every bit of knowledge we gain is knowledge gained from input, and the route that input takes is always sensory. If it is argued, as it will be by Con, that certain pieces of knowledge may not result from experience, then I would argue that these aren't really knowledge. They're fabrications, attempts to make knowledge where the necessary experience cannot be garnered.

As such, while I take the largest burden in this debate due to the structure, Con is the one with the highest mountain to climb in order to substantiate his point. Not only does he need to show how knowledge can be acquired without sensory input and show that those pieces are in no way rooted in empirical analysis, but he also needs to show how that knowledge can be construed as true without said inputs. It is simple for me to substantiate any given sensory input as truth, since it easily becomes a shared experience and therefore shared knowledge. There is truth when an experiment can be performed by multiple people and the same result obtained every time " that is the basis of the scientific method.

However, this same process is not possible for anything that is not sensory, since two people effectively cannot experience it in the same fashion, and therefore there is no verifiability. All that is possible is to make assumptions as to what exists beyond our sensory knowledge, and assumptions are not in and of themselves knowledge of any truth. The knowledge gained is not substantial because it doesn't exist as a piece of information that expands beyond the person who conceives of it, as that knowledge is only passed on through sensory information.

I'm not a big fan of preempting arguments in the opening round, so I will instead choose to leave this round a little short, and await Con's opening arguments.

1. Bourke, Vernon J., "Rationalism," p. 263 in Runes (1962).
Debate Round No. 1


I apologize for the late reply, you see I wanted to be sure of my seat in the whiteflame loss rehab clinic before engaging you. I shall give some of my arguments now, others in the next rounds, though I will not give any new argument in the last round. As per the rules this will be a positive case only round.

1. Of Mathematics:
(1.1) I shall attempt to show that all mathematics is synthetic a priori, which means that mathematics is purely theoretical and is not self-contradictory to deny. By showing that it is theoretical I will have shown that a fundamental source of knowledge, and one of the most important is purely theoretical. I ask that the voters read up on synthetic and analytic statements before they read this part.
(1.2) Mathematical judgements then are necessarily synthetic, for while the principles that they follow may follow the law of contradiction, such is the case of all apodeictic systems, the judgements themselves are synthetic. While 7+5=12 is contradictory to deny the concept of twelve is not individually present in the concept of seven. Unlike the statement: "all bodies are extended" where by body we understand that space is covered, in no way does the concept of 7 lead us to the concept of 12. Only when we attack 7 to 5 do we recieve 12. It is then shown that Mathematics is synthetic. This is important because my opponent may argue that there are many analytic truths, and such they do not fill the criterion of significant knowledge. By showing that Mathematics is synthetic a priori I will have shown a major part of human knowledge to be: a. theoretical, b. not guarenteed by analysis.
(1.3) Let us now move forward to show that Mathematics is indeed a priori. We shall do this by first of all stating that Mathematics has a necessity to it which is not to be found in empirical knowledge. By this conceptualization of necessity I mean that Mathematics, like all formal systems, lead to the exact same conclusions. While to say that: "this room is large" bases itself on empirical knowledge, largeness here is subjective. The absoluteness of 7+5=12 is unanimous for all, therefore it directly follows that Mathematics has an absoluteness of the concept of necessity which is lacking in empirical knowledge. By necessity, I should clarify, I mean that it could not exist otherwise. In all forms of cognition 7+5=12. Thus we have demonstrated that Mathematics is a priori.
(1.4) The second proof that we shall come across is that by example. While this does not stand in itself as a proof it helps elucidate the point we have made earlier: that of the absolutenes of the conceptualization of necessity. Let us take a purely algebric equation: x^2+3x-4=0. We should, fundamentally reach the conclusion of x=1, or x=-4. We have reached these answers purely by theory, for in such an algebric case there is no empirical date we could rest this on. While this Mathematical Equation's result may be tested empirically the equation itself, the process of reaching these judgements was purely a priori.
(1.5) It is then clear that Mathematical decisions are firstly a priori, which means they are not empirical and align themselves with the rationalistic approach I am to take, secondly that these decisions are substantive as they are not analytic so that the mind could simply deduce them easily from empirical knowledge, but are synthetic and require the building of synthetic axioms. Unlike the knowledge of a body occupying space which can be deduced analytically through the knowledge of there being a body, Mathematical judgements are much harder. It is intriguing that we have mentioned Space, for our next object is to show that, not the deduction of space, but the very Idea of Space is a priori. In essence we are to show that all our knowledge bases itself on a priori, rationalistic knowledge.

2. Of Space:
(2.1) Human cognition represents to itself objects, to which it attributes certain dimensions, and relations. This quality of possessing such dimensions has hitherto been known as Space. It is our wish then to show that these objects which are given this quality, are done so because of an external sense. It is then out duty to postualte that Space could not have been gauged by the senses and if we can show this, seeing how essential Space is to the understanding and collection of empirical knowledge we will have shown that at the base of the pillars of empiricism, lie purely theoretical postulates, one such being Space.
(2.2) Space then must exist as a foundation a priori for in order for me to recieve certain sensations from external objects, or them from me Space must exist as a foundation. For I could not be represented to them, nor them to I had the idea of Space not been inherent. Consequently then the knowledge of space could not be gained from the experience of external phenomenon, rather on the contrary this external experience is only made possible, the cognition can only address it if the said foundation of Space is antecedent to experience. I believe the point is made rather clearly, in simpler words I mean to state that the knowledge of Space could not be borrowed from experience for experience has the condition of having the knowledge of Space as a foundation a priori. This is made quite clear by the fact that while we can imagine Space devout of an object, our cognition falls into dogma when it practices to imagine a phenomenon where an object does not possess Space.
(2.3) Space must also then be a priori for we cannot imagine the concept of pure Space, rather we can only take it as a quality certain objects possess. A coin may possess Space, as may a chair or a lamp however the idea of Space as a seperate entity alludes us, and it would not be so had space been a concept a posteriori. For the general concept of Space, had it been taken from experience would be subject to the scrutiny of human cognition, but this is not so, for we cannot imagine Space lest we imagine an object which possess Space. It is also then that we have possess only one Idea of Space, which would not be so if we have gauged it from experience. While to different objects we give the different variations of Space it is clear that these are only the make ups from the original conception of Space. Whether we view a tiny object, or a large one, even though both objects possess different Space and therefore should be a posteriori we know that they are only parts of the all encompassing original Idea of Space for we can apply this Idea of Space to concepts purely unknown. It then follows that Space must be purely a priori. For from our above premise it directly follows that our Idea of Space may be taken to infinity, where an infinity amount of objects may be studied, each varying, through the same conception of Space, something impossible if Space were a posteriori. For if such a case would have occured then it is simple enough to assume that a different view of Space would be taken for different quantities, and in no way could one Idea of Space be applied so apportionately to all other phenomenon, and an infinite number of representations would be impossible. Therefore it is quite clear that Space is an intuition a priori.

3. Of Time:
(3.1) At the heart of cognition lies the Idea of Time, its importance cannot be underestimated. I should make it clear that we are not trying to assert on the actual nature of Time anything, but rather how it appears in our cognition. It is clear that causality is linked to Time and without the knowledge of Time all other knowledge becomes impossible. Time then is the second pillar which, in its own nature is purely a priori, but without which all a posteriori knowledge becomes meaningless. It is then our desire to demonstrate that Time is a concept a priori.
(3.2) We may, as it were, use the logic we did for understanding Space in understand Time as a knowledge a priori. Following that we then may say that Time must exist a priori for neither pre-existence, nor co-existence, nor succession would be percieved by us, had Time not existed as a foundation a priori. We understand that from the very phenomenon of causality that we would have percieved Time, those phenomenon's entrance into cognition rests solely on Time. Therefore the experience of causality does not lend us the Idea of Time but rather only possessing the Idea of Time allows us to understand causality. We then again understand which we can imagine a lack of Time where we imagine a lack of causal phenomenon, we cannot demonstrate to ourselves our knowledge of Time. Our knowledge of Time is only then demonstrated when we demonstrate a causal phenomenon. It therefore follows that Time exists purely a priori. It is noteworthy to add here that the original phenomenon may not be causal, however we percieve it to be causal. It is clear that our minds cannot picture that with defies causality, another proof that Time exists a priori. It is because of its existence a priori that Quantum Physics is difficult to comprehend.
(3.3) To end we then reiterate that our one Idea of Time encompasses all and we can apply this general Idea to an infinite amount of phenomenon as well as to different representations, while these different representations are only small parts of the aggragate Idea of Time, therefore once more affirming that Time exists a priori.

I should have liked to talk about Logic, the falsifiability of a priori knowledge, and the inherent weakness of Logical Positivism but as it is clear that I have run out of room I shall do so in the following rounds following my rebuttals. The above themselves however win me the debate for I have shown that a. a major part of knowledge is a priori, and b. that at the heart of all a posteriori knowledge lies purely theoretical a priori knowledge. By doing that I have even exceeded my burden by showing that all a posteriori knowledge is dependent and therefore a slave to a priori knowledge. My opponent must tackle this.



Thank you to Ajab for presenting his arguments – I don't think he should be so quick to check into that clinic, though. We'll see if I can send him there.

I'm going to start with some general rebuttals that cover the rationalist perspective in its totality, which applies to all of the points he's provided, and then I'll get into some specific refutation.

1. Truth

The biggest requirement Con has yet to meet, is the establishment of what a truth is and how rationalism can lead to that truth. To quote Hume:

“All the objects of human reason or inquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, 'Relations of Ideas,' and 'Matters of Fact.' Of the first are the sciences of Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic, and, in short, every affirmation which is either intuitively or demonstratively certain. That the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the square of the two sides is a proposition which expresses a relation between these figures. That three times five is equal to half of thirty expresses a relation between these numbers. Propositions of this kind are discoverable by the mere operation of thought, without dependence on what is anywhere existent in the universe. Though there never were a circle or triangle in nature, the truths demonstrated by Euclid would forever retain their certainty and evidence. Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human reason, are not ascertained in the same manner, nor is our evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing. The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible, because it can never imply a contradiction and is conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinctness as if ever so conformable to reality.”[1]

In other words, the rationalist acquisition of knowledge can never result in acquisition of truth. It may provide us with a concept for further research, but the sole way to establish these as truths is to establish their veracity with sense experience. Sense experience is the sole manner by which hypotheses can be confirmed or denied, and while rationalism may establish those hypotheses, they are not knowledge themselves. Without proving that rationalism leads to the acquisition of truth, Con cannot meet his BoP in establishing that the knowledge gained is substantial. What's more, Con must prove that it's knowledge of the external world that is being established, and need not be verified to establish its truth.

2. Intuition

Con only mentioned intuition once, but this is a very large part of his case, since it's the only mechanism he provides for obtaining knowledge without empirical means. So I'll define intuition to start:

“an immediate cognition of an object not inferred or determined by a previous cognition of the same object.”

Essentially, it's assumed knowledge. However, that knowledge is not inherently truth, as Con assumes. The reality is that intuition only manages to acquire relations among concepts rather than facts about the external world. Con has to show specifically how intuition provides the necessary warrants to support a concept's being true. In order to do this, I would say one needs to engage in sense perception, which provides a sense of reliability that is absent from intuition. Only with sense perception can we create a causal link between how external objects are and how we perceive them. Con will need to explain how, since each of his examples goes beyond what external objects are available for our experience, intuition specifically manages to warrant these explanations rather than just providing a claim. A warranted claim is necessary to access the truth, and therefore a link between intuition and warrants must be established.

Alright, onto his contentions.

1. Mathematics

1.1 – Just sets up his burden on this position. I will state that it's insufficient for him to assert that theoretical portions of mathematics are substantial truths, as they don't apply to the external world.

1.2 – Con makes two faulty assumptions here.

Let's look more deeply at the equation he provided. If he's right, then his statements should equally apply to equations with larger numbers, but if anything, it becomes more concerning as we move up in number. Con doesn't give us a mechanism for assessing the truth value of these statements, so I don't know how he'd do so synthetically.

However, I would argue differently. Let's take a random equation: 535,716+294,015=829,731. Without ever having intuition towards any of those number, we can still assert its truth, and even empirically prove it. Hence, the proposition must, by necessity, be analytical, bringing it in line with empiricism. Therefore, we can reject the notion that mathematics is inherently synthetic.

The second assumption is that what makes a statement analytic is solely whether the predicate concept is contained within the subject concept. I would argue Gottlob Frege's notion that analyticity includes a number of logical properties and relations beyond containment, including symmetry, transitivity, antonymy, and negation. All of these are aspects of analytic statements.[2] He's oversimplifying a complex issue, and must show how mathematic statements can't fulfill any of these properties.

1.3/1.4 – In both cases, I would say that evidenced support is required before it becomes a truth. The empirical testing of the equations he provides in 1.4 is required in order to achieve that truth, otherwise this stands as just an assumption.

Overview of 2 and 3:

While spatial/time intuition may indeed set a basis for understanding something, that basis may be in conflict with that garnered through scientific inquiry. It's an iterative system – empirical observations that are framed by a set of intuitions can subsequently demand modification of those intuitions. Neither of these positions leave open the possibility of a conflict between scientific experience and intuition, thereby limiting the applicability of those intuitions as truths.

I would also argue that a sense of time and space are simple sensations in and of themselves. Our capacity to sense it with an individual sensory organ is unnecessary, since a sensation could be defined in terms of what could merely be reliably measured, since that makes them an a posteriori truth. Regardless of how we might experience them, time and space are measurable quantities, and therefore are a part of our sensory experience.

2. Space

The definition of “space” is vague. Con essentially says that it is the quality of possessing certain dimensions and relations, however he switches back and forth between space as being an occupied entity with some invisible physical aspect to be filled and this basic quality that lacks physical presence. Rather than argue both views, I will simply state that the former is entirely measurable (as we can always measure and determine what is within empty space, so long as we bound it by some real or imaginary lines), and the latter is entirely based on the relation of ideas rather than fundamental truths.

Con assumes that sensory analysis is predicated on the existence of space. This is necessary to prove that space is an a priori concept. But the explanation for why it must be a foundation doesn't make sense. Without actual objects placed in a given space, there's no actual difference between one point of space and another. The sole way in which space becomes a factor is if we're relating two unlike points, and therefore space is actually predicated on things existing in order to show that relation.

This isn't just supported logically, but also geometrically. We have two ways of evaluating it – either through pure geometry and applied geometry. In the former case, there is no appeal to spatial intuition or other experience. In the latter, there is a direct dependence upon interpretation in the physical world, requiring empirical investigation. This directly contradicts the fundamental claim that lies behind all of Con's argumentation here – that we can know the proposition of this mathematical analysis a priori. We can only understand it a posteriori.

If Con is correct that we only possess the idea of space, then the lack of verification through evidence would make me question whether the concept space is a truth or not. I would opt for skepticism over rationalism in this regard. The idea of infinite changes in a given volume of space once again simply calls into question what space actually is, leading me to uncertainty rather than truth. In neither case does rationalism reveal a link between the concept and truth, simply an assumption that could be true and is, perhaps, unprovable.

3. Time

Essentially, this point is based on making a separation between physical time, which can be measured, and psychological time, which Con asserts cannot be measured.

Two responses. First, even our psychological conception of time is based on the events that occupy it. Without those events, we cannot determine whether time as passed at all. This, again, tacks back Con's assumption that time is required for causality, since causality itself is what allows us to perceive time.

Second, as physicist Michael Dummett's constructive model of time implies, time is a composition of intervals rather than durationless instants.[3] In other words, even if we're talking about moments, perceived segments of time that aren't apparently measurable, we can still detect them via physical processes. If we can measure a moment, we can measure any time, regardless of whether it's physical or psychological. Con will have to state specifically what kind of time cannot be measured in this manner.


1. Hume 1748, Section IV, Part 1, p. 40

2. Jerrold J. Katz (2000). "The epistemic challenge to antirealism". Realistic Rationalism. p. 69.


Debate Round No. 2


I thank Marc for both his argument and his graciousness. I should clarify that I do not know which source of David Hume he is referring to as he has not named the book. I thought it would be the Treatise but it was published in 1740, and its Section IV of Book 1 talks about Causality, not Truth. This baffles me so. I should also mention a priori and intuition are the same. I should also note that some of my counter-rebuttals will only in Round 4 as while Marc only gave the rebuttals to my case; I had to rebut his case, abswer his general issues, and counter-refute.

Of Marc's Case:
4. Of Definitions:
(4.1) I am happy with accepting the definitions insofar as you define my position as: "he still must argue for rationalism playing a substantive role in the generation of knowledge.

(4.2) I am however strongly opposed to the statement: "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive." I believe this misunderstands my position because this debate is less about criterion that it is about how knowledge is formed. If Marc wishes to use this definition he must prove why it is absolutely necessary.

5. Of the Acquirement of Knowledge:
(5.1) This argument shall require the support of the clarification of: What is Truth? I have argued this in my counter-rebuttals and if one wishes to connect this argument I suggest a quick read of it.

(5.2) I should like to make clear the fact that my opponent has not fulfilled his yardstick. After all we must ask ourselves, after reading his argument are we convinced that there is no other way that one may gain knowledge? My opponent made it very clear that I should do more than simply poke holes in his logic, why is he then simply arguing to try and poke holes in mine? His positive argument does not satisfy his onus.
(5.3) Marc argues for sense experience accounts for knowledge, and it does but fails to provide an argument as to why no other knowledge can be entertained. Now let us examine the weakness of knowledge of sense experience. Marc is correct that we see the color green, or touch something hot and therefore get the knowledge of an object being hot. He does not, though, take into consideration the fact that this knowledge is purely subjective. While hot is determined by sense experience, how hot is not. I may find boiling water hot, another might find luke warm water hot. One might find Sherbet color more green than blue, another may find it more blue than green. Sense experience then lacks the conceptualization of necessity: by knowing hot I cannot apply it to an infinite possibilities as I can with a priori knowledge.
(5.4) Marc actually concedes to this subjectivism when he states that one may perceive this as a C, and another as a crescent symbol. He then actually admits that all that knowledge which has necessity is a priori, as we know 2+2 will equal 4, no matter whose cognition. Ergo we conclude that Mathematics is a priori.
(5.5) He argues that theoretical knowledge does not have any verifiability. I will tackle this point later on but the crux of the rebuttal is that reasoning is correct because: a. it follows the concept of necessity, and b. follows the laws of logic.
(5.6) It is then here that I raise this contention: if I were to touch a hot pan I would feel heat and receive the knowledge that touching a hot pan gives heat, can I then assume that if I were to touch the pan again, in mostly the same conditions I shall once more feel heat? Until my opponent can show why this example fails the second time his argument is moot.

Of the Original Case:
6. On Truth:
(6.1) It is noteworthy that Marc is the one to first bring such a drama to this debate that Truth is naught but the empirical, that is of course what he is arguing for, it is hurtful that he would try to make this the very definition of truth. Simply quoting Hume does not establish this, and while he tries to shift the onus so that I may have to fulfil the meaning we know it is his assertion and he must demonstrate this meaning. He must show why geometry is not part of the Truth and is pure speculation. As he does not do this we must not consider this point of his however I will still establish the meaning of Truth, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (as per the rules).

(6.2) Truth then, as Pierce put it, is the end of an inquiry. From a pragmatic point of view we may take truth that which may be demonstrated to show its validity, however is true nonetheless because it possess the essence of being true. Here we shall use Tarski's theorem as modal proof of the validity of this definition: an adequate theory of truth for L must imply, for each sentence φ of L, this then means that ⌈ φ ∨ ψ ⌉ is true if and only if ⌈ φ ⌉ is true or ⌈ ψ ⌉ is true. We then reach the conclusion that something is true, if its convention is of truth.
(6.3) We should know that Marc is trying to insinuate Logical Positivism here: he is trying to state that only if something is empirically demonstrable is it true. This theory is self-refuting for the statement that everything is only true when it can be empirically tested can itself not be empirically tests. The theory fails here and so does Marc's counter-argument. For us to believe that only that is true which can be empirically tested we must see this theory empirically tested. As this is impossible we should disregard it immediately. Is it then clear? Since there exists to empirical test to prove that all proof need be empirical this theory destroys itself.

7. Of Intuition:
(7.1) I believe the first thing to explain is that intuition is synonymous with a priori. All a priori knowledge is knowledge either garnished by intuition (such as the pan example above) or from reason (such as if I know that if I throw my glass onto the floor with enough speed and energy it will break).
(7.2) I need not mention the word intuition or a priori at all so long as I am arguing for it. Marc states that I have "to show specifically how intuition provides the necessary warrants to support a concept's being true." I am doing so with Mathematics. I am also showing that at the belly of all empirical knowledge is a criterion of purely a priori knowledge which basically means that I will show that empirical knowledge is impossible without a priori knowledge.
(7.3) Your definition is flawed, primarily because it is more lexical than philosophical. I believe we had agreed to look towards the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for such matters. If you believe this definition is absolutely necessary you must provide an argument as to why it is so.

8. Of Mathematica:
(8.1) I find, with all due respect Marc, the first part of your contention rather funny. You have just spent the above portion of you argument citing Hume and arguing for Logical Positivism where Hume specifically mentions Pure Mathematics such as Algebra, Geometry and Arithmetic, only for you to argue here that Mathematics is empirical. This goes against the quote and your own argument above. Now that we have that problem cleared I should mention that Marc takes analytical to mean a posteriori, when analytical is by definition a priori. This is also slightly comical because while no one denies that synthetic a posteriori exists, I am to defend synthetic a priori. For Marc to have brought in analytic a posteriori he has given himself a burden nor Kant nor Hume dared to take. For anything that is empirical is not self-refuting, for if it were it would possess the concept of necessity which goes against the argument given by Marc where he says one may take C as a C and another as a crescent.
(8.2) The above points aside Mathematics is analytic for as I said 10+4=14 but nor in 10, and nor in 4 does one find 14. Only by using your intuition so that you connect the concept of 4 to the concept of 10 (perhaps count theoretically on your fingers) do you reach 14. Secondly this is not possible as Godel's Theorem shows that a set of axioms cannot be both complete and provable. This means that Mathematics at its highest point is purely theoretical where no proof exists. There is no proof of 1+1=2, yes you may take an object and another to show that they equal 2, but they only do so because you have already in your mind pictured the number 1, and the number 2. For you would count the objects to prove this, but to count you would need numbers, which then must exist as a foundation impure a priori. As for Frege's system, it is debunked by Russell's Paradox, where:
\text{Let } R = \{ x \mid x \not \in x \} \text{, then } R \in R \iff R \not \in R
It is then clear that Frege's system does not work properly. Lets not forget that Marc has given no proof as to why Frege's system should be considered in the first place! He has also given no evidence of Mathematics being analytic. For the formal disproof see:
\exists y \forall x (x \in y \iff P(x))
(8.3) None of the contentions of Marc actually debunk my arguments, he only gives counter-arguments no refutations. Here he says that they need to empirically tested: this goes against his above statement that Mathematics is analytic a posteriori. Also I have already shown that Marc has not justified Logical Positivism but I have already shown that it is self-refuting. Particularly since a statement like x^2+3x-4 cannot be tested, does Marc mean to argue that all Mathematics is flawed. In any case he makes many principle contradictions.

As I had more to do than Marc did, my counter-arguments about Time, and Space will be entertained in the fourth rounds. This in no way breaks the rules of the debate and I am allowed to do this. I ask Marc to use his space to justify the above contentions and of course enunciate his own case more clearly. As I have shown the contentions I have, how Marc has not justified his arguments; how his case works of Logical Positivism which is inherently floawed; and how he refutes himself multiple times, the resolution collapses. Of course if it doesn't I have the booking to the rehab.



4. Definitions

4.2 – I think Con misunderstands what I'm saying with regards to a criterion here. Unless he means to present evidence that the truth can be acquired by other means than the intellectual and deductive (which includes intuition), then it does no harm to his case. He has to establish that these can lead a person to knowledge of substantial truth(s). It fits his case entirely, so I don't know where the concern is.

5. Acquiring Knowledge

5.1 – Voters shouldn't be required to read anything outside of this debate beyond what's directly cited – he should provide any necessary background knowledge. If Con feels that there is some very important point from “What is Truth?” then he needs to state it and cite it. The most that should be required of voters is substantiation of points made in this debate.

5.2 – Con's burdens analysis is confusing. He's essentially stating that my case has to show that there is no other way one could gain knowledge, though by doing so he's requiring that I establish a negative case. That's inherently unreasonable. I can't prove a negative. I can prove that sensory experience contributes to knowledge, as I have, and then proceed to establish why my opponent's case doesn't link to the acquisition of substantial knowledge. We're comparing empiricism and rationalism, so all I have to do is show that rationalism doesn't lead to substantial knowledge and empricism does.

5.3 – Con is right that certain sense experiences are subjective. This doesn't encompass all sense experiences. There is no subjectivity to the phrase “the desk is solid.” If a flask of water is heated ot boiling, I don't think anyone's going to contest that it's not hot. Those pieces of knowledge can only be acquired by sense experience.

5.4 – Con misunderstands the point with regards to C. How people perceive the letter doesn't change what is written. It will still have the same dimensions, no matter how it's regarded. The subjectivity of the interpretation doesn't change the fact that there is objective knowledge acquired.

5.6 – Con is correct with this example. This is the crux of experimentation – we assess, using sensory experience, all of the conditions in which the pan currently exists, repeat those conditions, and expect the same result. I'm interested to see why Pro thinks this works for him.

6. Truth

6.1 – I did assess geometry at one point in my rebuttal. I'll get to that there. This point addresses something more fundamental than geometry, and that is what our basis for true knowledge should be. Even if Con establishes the truth of a given geometric equation, he must then show that it establishes knowledge of the external world. Con cannot simply wave away Hume's logic by saying it doesn't mention geometry (it does).

6.2 – This is a strange point. Con says that truth may be demonstrated to show validity, but possesses the essence of truth. So, if they were to be tested, truths must hold up to those tests and remain true. I agree, this is entirely the basis for establishing truth. The issue is that while something might actually be true, there is no reason to believe it is truth without that demonstrated validity. No matter what theory Con provides, it is solely unproven theory, and therefore lacks the basic standard of proof required to call it truth.

6.3 - ...This is theory. It's disprovable, I recognize that. Con has to go about disproving it. He can't do that solely by showing that this theory is not proven truth. There's no reason why the theory can't exist and not be empirically derived itself. I've provided warrants to support such a theory, and Con needs to attack those warrants rather than asserting that there's some inherent contradiction. The theory does not need to be considered empirically demonstrable in order for it to be rationally valid.

7. Intuition

7.1 – Not really. A priori simply means “from the earlier.” I made it quite clear that Con had to support a mechanism of acquiring this knowledge. One such mechanism is intuition, and one is reasoning. I think Con understand this.

7.2 – I know you don't, but you have to support it. I would say mathematics is insufficient, and I've shown why.

7.3 – Note that Con has not furnished a separate definition. He says we should use the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to define intuition, but apparently never looks at the page. It's a monster, with a lot of varying and slanted definitions.[1] If Con feels that there is a better definition, he must furnish it. It is not my burden to support a definition given without a competing definition.

8. Mathematics

8.1 – You're misunderstanding my point, and I made it quite clear further down in the debate. There's a difference between pure mathematics and applied mathematics. I've established that, if Con is to argue that pure mathematics is sufficient to meet his burden, then he must provide a solid link between that type of math and the external world. He has not met that burden. Perhaps he means to do so in the next round, but he has not done so here.

The analytic a posteriori does exist.

Many examples are stated in Saul Kripkey's book, Naming and Necessity. He talks about the proposition Hesperus is Phosphorus, because there was once a time in which people thought they were two different stars, but later found out that they were actually the same planet. They point to the same object but the truth was only found out as a result of empirical evidence.

He's not the only one to disagree with Kant. Stephen Palmquist, in his book “A Priori Knowledge in Perspective: (II) Naming, Necessity and the Analytic A Posteriori” also disagrees, saying that “we should expect such knowledge, if it is possible, to have its validity grounded in some way in experience (a posteriori), and yet also to proceed by making inferences solely on the (analytic) basis of an application of the laws of logic to the concepts or propositions involved.” There's no inherent contradiction there, no reason why the two cannot coincide. In fact, Palmquist argues that philosophy actually requires these claims to function in its characteristic 'hypothetical' mode.

Similarly, Thomas Case disagrees in his book “Physical Realm”:

"Such is the outline of a realistic theory of self evident analytical judgments a posteriori, of which the points are, first, that such judgements are not always about names and conceptions, but also about objects of sense and reason; secondly, that we discover the objects by general reasoning from sense, by perfect abstraction apprehend a simple kind of object, and analyze it into subject and predicate by, not from, the principles of identity and difference, or contradiction, a posteriori; thirdly, that analytical judgements are self-evident to one who has abstracted the objects, universal without exception, and convertible; and, fourthly, that analytical judgements about objects of reason in the abstract are sometimes principles of science." (353-354)

But beyond that, if Con is, at the most basic level, wrong in his assumptions of what mathematics is, then he cannot win this point. He's made absolutely no effort to support its syntheticity here, and thus has dropped his 1.2, a necessary link to his 1.5. If he cannot show that mathematics is “necessarily synthetic,” then he fails to garner anything from this contention.

8.2 – This is really irrelevant. If Con is right and mathematics is inherently unprovable, then it reveals absolutely no truths about the external world, which means he has failed in his burden to show that it is substantial knowledge of truth. Beyond that, this disagrees with his basic source, which is Kant, who argued that it was necessary to count points in order to assert their truth value. This is a necessary portion of Kant's argument, since it is necessary to establish a truth of the external world. So he's contradicting his source on the only mechanism for establishing substance.

And this is the basis for considering Frege's point. Con's only rebuttal to Frege is Russell's paradox, something Frege responded to directly. The solution was endorsed by Russel directly in his “Principles of Mathematics.” As for the specific solution, Frege suggested that we can deny “that two propositional functions that determine equal classes must be equivalent.” He showed a distinction between sense and reference, specifically by saying that the sense is a “mode of presentation,” or simply a way of picking out its reference. We could take, for example, the equations 4+4 and 1*8, each of which have the same reference, but different senses. However, the logical system Russell uses conflates the two, which paves the way for the paradox. Con will have to show that the two should be conflated.

But all of this is unimportant, as Con has not defended his conception against my attacks, and has instead just chosen to assault my source. So long as Con gives us no mechanism by which we can intuit the answer to that large equation I provided (and he, in fact, provides no analysis therein), he is inherently conceding that the sole mechanisms are to assert its truth and then prove it true. So long as mine is the only reasonable explanation of how to determine the truth value of any given mathematical statement, it is the one that should be preferred.

8.3 - ...If something is a posteriori, by its very nature, it is dependent on empirical evidence. That's not contradictory. Nor did I say that all mathematics is flawed, just that it is purely theoretical so long as it is not empirically proven.

Con is correct that he may rebut arguments in the next round, and so for the time being I will merely extend all points on space and time and leave them for him to respond to. I will, however, point out that both are dependent on mathematics being a priori, since both are dependent on geometry. If mathematics is only proved a posteriori, then by necessity these two must also be a posteriori.

Back to Con.


Debate Round No. 3


I wrote my argument, and the second before I would press 'Review' my laptop crashed. In any case as is the spirit of a debate I will not talk in depth about the issues I have already dealt with, rather I shall only mention them here. The first and foremost is the onus: Marc accepts that the onus rested more greatly on him yet instead of providing positive arguments he has just provided counters. I should remind him that he must give arguments why sense experience is necessary, and why he believes logical positivism is the correct philosophy. It is not right for him to simply provide examples, as he has been doing. Secondly I should like to re-highlight the contradictions of Marc's case where his quotation goes against his analysis, where he did not prove analytic a posteriori, and did not show why Mathematics falls in this category. I should also remind everyone that he did not attack the major arguments of mine of Mathematica, of Space, and of Time. lastly I have problems with his definition because it makes y position seem like one where I deny sense knowledge, when I simply believe that empirical knowledge exists, alongside a significant amount of rationalistic knowledge. Also as a side note let us not fall into semantics as to a priori meaning 'before' we use its philosophical meaning which refers to knowledge which is independent of empirical knowledge. Oh, and one more thing, throughout his argument Marc makes the mistake of thinking we are debating the nature of reality, when we are simply debating the nature of the Ideas of reality which exist in cognition. With that, let us begin.

9. Of Space:
(9.1) The definition of Space is the Idea of Space which allows us to perceive objects by endowing them with the quantificational effects such as dimensions. Space then is the knowledge that our mind uses to be able to perceive different objects. I never used any other meaning. One thing that should be clarified is that, unlike Marc insinuates, Space does not exist as a physical quantity. I believe this is shown by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity; in any case since Marc was the one who first asserted Space and Time are physical quantities let him be the one to prove it.
(9.2) This actually helps me build another argument. Since my original arguments were not touched upon (Marc only gave contentions to the topic not to the reasoning) then here it is. If, as Marc believes, Space was empirical then we would not be able to constantly comprehend Space. As Space is constantly changing, our empirical understanding of Space would only apply to that certain area. If let us say we go to a place with a different mass (since mass effects Space-Time) then we should not be able to understand objects. No Space must exist a priori for only then would we be able to connect it so to an infinite amount of possibilities. Only then would we have such a smooth understanding of Space. Also as I already pointed out we cannot show Space without applying it to an object. Had we garnished the idea of Space a posteriori then we would have been able to conceptualize Space without applying it to an object: we would have done so by connecting it to the original sense we gained it from. We can imagine a spicy flavor without having to think of a chilly, we cannot think of Space that way.
(9.3) If Marc claims Space does not exist in the mind then let him give us an example we can think of without using Space. There is a reason God is so difficult to comprehend, so esoteric a concept. It is because we have given God a nature which transcends Space and Time and therefore we cannot comprehend him. The same is with Quantum Theory, if Space and Time were empirical then why is it so hard to understand Quantum Theory? Surely we would have learnt the new logic it follows, instead it continues to baffle us because we need Space and Time to understand, and we cannot garnish them through experience. Space is then a priori.

10. Of Time:
(10.1) Once more I find it very necessary to point out that Time does not exist as a physical entity, as shown by Einstein. If my opponent believes it does then he must provide evidence for me to accept this claim of his. Physical Time then cannot be measured, as it would take an impossibly fast amount of mathematics to do such a thing. As Time continues to change, we only believe it is measurable. This helps me, because if we believe it to be measured, so we attack causality to all phenomenon this shows that the Idea of Time is antecedent to causality. We understand that even though Time changes our brains adapt which they can only do if they have a general idea of Time, this general Idea of Time must be present a priori.
(10.2) Marc commits many appeals to authority, until he informs me what this new system is, establishes this system beyond doubt and connects it to the motion his argument is quite useless. He has done this multiple times now.

11. Of Logical Positivism:
(11.1) I do not understand it how Marc has propagated this theory, presented absolutely no evidence for it, and expects the onus to rest on me to disprove it. In any case I will disprove it: and by doing so I will break his entire case as his entire case (a quick read of his arguments will tell you) rests solely on this theory. That is: something can only be true once it is empirically tested.
(11.2) I will use the theory to debunk the theory. In essence the theory states that if something is to be true then it must be empirically tested. This theory itself cannot be tested empirically. There is no empirical test to show that something is only true when it is empirically tested. The theory then collapses. Also there is no way to semantically separate sentences about sense experience from other sentences, a distinction upon which LP rested in its attempt to show that all sentences could be reduced to a formal language about sense experience.

12. Of Mathematica:
(12.1) I now come once more to my strongest point. All Mathematics is synthetic a priori. In this I really do not have to refute that Mathematics is a posteriori for that was never really argued, instead the only thing Marc did argue was Mathematics being analytic. He shows no argument for this, also he does not show why if Mathematics is analytic it must be a posteriori.
(12.2) I could spend a lot of space arguing that analytic a posteriori does not exist, but I have absolutely no need to. Firstly Marc does not lay out an argument, he cites sources. Secondly Marc still does not show why Mathematics is analytic a posteriori, he never tackled my original arguments. My points however remain, firstly Frege's system was dismissed and I ask Marc to quote where Frege's system was defended in the Principia. Since in any mathematical equation we know that the predicate does not contain the derivative we know Mathematics is a priori, even Hume agrees so. The source Marc mentions proves my point. For in the equation 7+5=12 no amount of analysis of 7 and 5 separately will result in 12, only when they are intuitively combined is there any judgement.
(12.3) My point about it being a priori was, however, never answered. Instead Marc said there is a difference in Pure and Applied Mathematics, his own source (Hume) names Algebra which is pure, and Geometry which is applied. The reason for this is that there is no procedural difference in Pure and Applied Mathematics. If I simply solve the equation 3x=12 to x being 4 it is Pure, if am however given a situation where I have 3 candies, I need 12 and someone asks me to tell him how many more candies I would need, if I use the same theorem it is then Applied.[1]
Here is an example of a pure equation:

Here is one of Applied:

Even the applied one uses the term 'cos', now cos stands for cosant and is a purely theoretical ratio. Does that mean that it will lead to an incorrect conclusion if used to derive another hypothetical value, instead of finding the measurement of Global Warming? If Marc believes so he must provide evidence to support this belief, otherwise it is mist.
(12.4) It is then clear that all Mathematics is synthetic a priori, and therefore independent of sense experience. Marc must show why when the same equation is used to find out the number of candies I need it is valid, but as soon as it is used purely Mathematically it is not. This is funny because in both cases, even the first the equation was not garnered from experience. As I said Gödel's Theorem shows this quite beautifully. For me to prove 1+1=2 I could easily take two candies, but to count the candies I would need number present. I may give this number a unique name and shape but the idea of number must exist a priori.

13. Of the Subjectivity of Empirical Knowledge:
(13.1) We must realize that all empirical knowledge is subjective. While the statement the desk is solid may not be under debate, what one perceives as solid would be. For a very thin man a table may be very stable, ask Bigshow to move it around and he will most likely not find it as stable. Similarly those with a high resistance to heat (or SEP patients who can't feel anything) will not feel even boiling water very hot because senses are subjective.
(13.2) Senses then lack any form of the concept of necessity, which means that all those constructs which have a conceptualization of necessity are necessarily a priori. This then includes all Mathematics and the formal sciences, such as logic.

14. Of Reasoning:
(14.1) I will discuss this later but my basic points will be on the lines of impure a priori existing. If I have seen a tree falling, I shall have an Idea a posteriori, however using logic, and reasoning I can come to the valid conclusion that should another tree experience similar conditions it will also fall. This I will know impure a priori.

The resolution then collapses miserable. I thank Hashirama/Shikamaru for this debate.



Thank you to Con for a very intriguing debate. Stretched some muscles I never knew I had.

I'll start with an overview.

Con accuses me of quite a bit in this last round, but the strangest of his accusations comes in yet another modification to the burdens he's setting on me. My burdens in this debate are very simple:

  1. Show that empiricism is a way to garner substantial knowledge, and

  2. Show that rationalism is not

It was never my burden to argue against any possible method of acquisition, as we established from the start that this was a debate between empiricism and rationalism as sources of knowledge. As I stated in the previous round, it would be absurd to force me to make a negative argument against all possible ways knowledge could theoretically be garnered. It's also unreasonable considering that my opponent's sole burden is to prove that rationalism can create substantive knowledge.

Con goes further, stating that my perspective is logical positivism (note that those two words never appear in my arguments) and that it is my burden to defend it directly. However, I'm arguing for empiricism. I may have taken certain arguments from logical positivists, but that doesn't make it the philosophy I need to defend. Stranger still, he says that I cannot defend that view with just examples, and yet constantly demands examples throughout the debate to disprove his ideas. It seems that Con has a bad habit of shifting the goalposts when it's convenient for him. But the burdens were clearly laid out in R1. He never provides any direct rebuttal of that, just claims.

1. Empirical evidence leading to knowledge.

This is basically conceded. Con, in fact, states in this final round that that he believes “that empirical knowledge exists,” which means he's granting me #1 of my burdens. This is huge, because it means that the sole burden left for me is to show that rationalism doesn't produce substantial knowledge, as I will show I have done.

The sole way in which he contends this is not substantial is that it is subjective. But this is fundamentally absurd, and his responses to my examples just prove my point. The fact that a table may be stable for some and not for others doesn't make it any less solid – no one can pass their hand through a block of wood. The fact that some people can't feel heat doesn't mean they won't get burned by boiling water, proving that it is, in fact, hot. These are empirically true. Empirical knowledge is the truth of the world around us, and even if that truth is subjective in some instances, it establishes a substantial portion of that knowledge base. So long as that is true, I've fulfilled burden #1. The rest of the debate is just about burden #2.

He contends that my theory is incorrect as well, restating an inconsistency that I've already responded to. Con never actually touches that rebuttal – he can't in the final round. Even if he's winning this response, I don't have to win the theory to win the debate. As I made clear in the burdens analysis, it is not my burden to prove the theory of logical positivism true.

2. Truth and Intuition

Con continues to drop the majority of my analysis on these two points, which means that, by themselves, without ever looking down at the three issues Con has made so integral to his case, voters can be pulling the trigger here. Twice now, he's argued that my definitions aren't good because they don't fit with his case, but never once has he offered a competing definition. That means that these are the sole definitions in the debate. Even if they're flawed, they must by necessity outweigh the nonexistent definitions of Con.

So voters should be buying my argument that, while rationalism may provide us with a concept for further research, it is insufficient to establish any real truth. Moreover, voters should buy my arguments that knowledge of the external world is necessary in order to establish truth. Most importantly, voters should buy my argument that knowledge of the truth is the sole substantial knowledge available – Con has presented absolutely no reason why other forms of knowledge can be considered substantial. We are debating whether empiricism and/or rationalism can establish the truth, not just generate ideas. Lastly, voters should buy my points on intuition, which is the sole mechanism that Con articulates for receiving knowledge a priori. If intuition itself is flawed – and I've shown that it is inherently assumptive by my definition – then a priori knowledge can never be truth, and therefore Con will have lost this debate.

Buy any of these three points, and the debate is over.

3. Mathematics

I argued that there is a distinction between applied and pure mathematics. I stated that the former is the sole way by which the truth is found about the external world. Even if Con is right that there are some portions of mathematics that are a priori, they don't hold any certain truths of the world around us until they are empirically proven. There is a difference – one is proven, the other not. The sole way in which he decides to prove there is no difference is to present two different equations with two very different purposes. The first equation is not applied, and produces two different results, only one of which can be true. It actually proves the lack of applicability. The latter is an equation using 'cos' (which stands for cosine) and produces a single, real number. If that number is generated using real data, then it is true. If it uses hypothetical values without evidence, then its results are similarly lacking that evidence. And no, the ratio is not theoretical. That's why this is applied.

Con states that Frege's system was dismissed without ever tackling the point being made. If it can be so easily dismissed, then Con needs to show why. The lack of that information is glaring. His only proof that it is wrong was Russell's paradox, which I already showed Frege responded to convincingly. I've shown that Kant's argument that analytic statements are defined by the predicate containing the derivative is overly simplistic – Con dropped that as well. So long as he has not defended the syntheticity of any given mathematical statement, this entire contention falls away.

Con makes no effort to counter any of the examples I presented of a posteriori. Without mathematics being synthetic, he has no solid link to its being a priori. At best for him, this leaves us uncertain, and there needs to be certainty that mathematics is a priori in order for Con to win on this point or any of the others. He also drops my point that both his space and time arguments depend on this being a priori. If it's not, they're not either.

But generally, Con has put himself in a bad place. He's stated that mathematics is inherently unprovable, which, by my definitions, means it doesn't provide any substantial knowledge, since it doesn't prove truths of the external world. He drops my analysis about how we don't have to intuit the truth of an equation, and he provides no mechanism by which intuition can be used to determine whether equations with larger numbers are true. Hence his main example here falls away.

4. Space

Con drops my overview, where I state that the use of intuition only sets a basis for understanding things, and does not produce actual truths, since scientific inquiry is necessary to test them. Since both of Con's space and time analyses don't allow for the possibility that they may conflict with our scientific findings, they are inapplicable as truths. Without the ability to verify these supposed truths, I've shown that we should opt for skepticism. Con never responded.

Con similarly drops that sensations go beyond sensory organs, and therefore that we can sense both time and space as physical entities. In this, Con had to state where the line is drawn between the physical and psychological aspects of both space and time. He has made no effort to do so, instead just asserting that there is a line and it's been drawn by other people, though he doesn't state how or why.

Most importantly, Con drops my analysis that the sole way in which space – the psychological relation between two objects – exists is if actual objects exist to provide that relation. Without those objects, space, even as a psychological concept doesn't exist. The a posteriori world, therefore, is required for space to exist, making space a posteriori as well.

5. Time

Con drops my response that events are required for the psychological passage of time, and since those events are a posteriori, time similarly must be.

Lastly, he drops my analysis from Dummett, who says that time is, in fact, entirely measurable, and provides a basis for understanding that. For the second time, his sole response is the very same appeal to authority he accuses me of, claiming that Einstein disagrees with me. If that's the case, Con should be able to show where that disagreement exists and why Einstein's views should be preferred. As he has not, and as I have both cited and explained Dummett's views and how they factor into this debate, my argument outweighs his.


There was a lot of complexity to this debate, but it all boils down to the basic burdens I outlined above. Voters should be asking themselves by the end of this debate if rationalism can become a way to determine the truth of things in the external world, not just if it's a source of ideas that may or may not be verifiable. Did Con uphold his basic burden? I would say not. He dropped too much to do so – and note that Con cannot use new arguments or rebuttals in the final round. The mere generation of knowledge is not enough – it has to be knowledge of the truth, and Con has in no way proven that. The only certainty we have in this debate is that empiricism does generate truthful knowledge, even if not every empirically derived truth is objective. With no certainty on rationalism, empiricism is the only reasonable vote. Vote Pro.

Debate Round No. 4


I have had immense pleasure debating this, and I am extremely grateful to Marc for both the opportunity and the competition. With that, let me begin by addressing the general issues. It was agreed to by Marc that he had the greater part of the onus. Yet he did not present much argumentation of his own, while he shows that knowledge may be through sense experience, he makes no argument in trying to show how that makes sense experience the ultimate source, nor does he contend his many assertions. These assertions which include (but are not limited to) Logical Positivism, Mathematics being analytic a posteriori, the only knowledge that is knowledge must be applied to this world to prove. These assertions loose him the debate, for on these assertions is based his entire case (even the rebuttals). He also provides no original argument attacking rationalism, as I have done by arguing that all sense knowledge is subjective. While Logical Positivism may not have been used, it was an underlying theme nearly everywhere. My arguments against Logical Positivism stand unrefuted.

14. Of Mathematica:
(14.1) As the paper by a senior mathematician at a prestigious university shows, Applied and Pure Mathematics are one and the same in process. If I were to say 2+2=4 for only theoretical purposes then this would be Pure Mathematics, if I were to say that if I have 2 candies, and another 2 candies then I will have 4 candies this is applied mathematics. Marc has to show why one holds and the other does not, something he never speaks about in detail. Considering how every single proof is a part of Pure Mathematics it seems rather foolish for Marc to insinuate that Pure Mathematics is not valid. As Mathematics has the conceptualization of necessity, and the conclusion logically follows, all Mathematics is a priori. My opponent actually admits that Pure Mathematics is a priori, since fundamentally both Mathematics are the same, he concedes that Mathematics is a priori.
(14.2) Actually Russell's Paradox shows that Frege's system of taking analytical numbers leads to self-refutation. I asked Marc to give me the link, or the page number, theorem number from the Principia Mathematica (by Bertrand Russell) something which he has not done. He has not given me Frege's arguments as to why he believes that this is analytic, he simply makes an appeal to authority to Frege. Also even if Mathematics is analytic, it would still be a priori, albeit it would be more intuitive now. The reason I was arguing for synthetic a priori was that it would show that Mathematics is a non-innate a priori. In any case as Frege's arguments were never mentioned, and it was never shown through Logic why Kant is wrong, Marc's point does not stand.
(14.3) Firstly there was no logic behind those examples, his argument was an appeal to an example. Marc needed to provide logic which he did not. Secondly even if Marc showed that there is an analytic a posteriori, he never showed why Mathematics is analytic a posteriori. Marc made absolutely no link.
(14.4) I do not understand how my arguments on Space, and Time are based on Mathematics being a priori, to be honest I think Marc is talking about how Geometry is used to evaluate Space-Time disturbances but I am guessing as Marc never showed how my arguments about Space, and Time were dependent on Mathematics. This was another point which was not evaluated properly.
(14.5) I said inherently Mathematics can only be proved by intuition, there are certain theorems which are only correct intuitively, if all Mathematics is flawed then so should the Mathematics which applies to this world, as Mathematics yields correct results we can conclude that Mathematics is not flawed. Mathematics is, however, at its most fundamental level, empirically unprovable, that is only because it is a priori. Gödel's Theorem may have shown this, but had the conclusion been all Mathematics is flawed then we would not have Mathematicians today. As I gave the example of 1+1=2, to make this happen empirically we need a mental understanding of the essence of 1, and the essence of +, and only then we can conclude 2. It matters not whether we do it in English, German, or Chinese, the Idea of Essence must be a priori. I thank Marc for conceding my Mathematics argument.

15. Of Space:
(15.1) Once more Marc starts by stating that the idea of Space is not true until they are empirically tested (Logical Positivism anyone?). Marc does not contest my arguments yet simply state that they go against Science, I should like very much to know how.
(15.2) Once more Marc has contested (much like Pakistanii extremists) that Einstein was wrong and that Space exists as a 'physical entity'. I remind the voters we are talking about the knowledge of Space only, and the knowledge I have shown sufficiently is a priori. The truth is I do not understand Marc's contentions, they seem extremely confused to me.
(15.3) Marc never mentioned this before, and brought out a new argument just now. While we need objects to apply Space to, we do not get the knowledge of Space from them. Marc concedes to my Space argument because when he states that Space is necessary (and granted only possible) when applied to a posteriori phenomenon he admits that Space exists as a foundation antecedent to experience, which was my original argument. If he states that something must be a posteriori if it can only be recognized by a posteriori means then he needs to argue this, something impossible as the two parts of the sentence are in contradiction. I thank Marc for conceding my Space argument.

16. Of Time:
(16.1) While experience (a posteriori) is necessary for the activation of a priori knowledge, by saying this we basically concede that Time is a priori. For only if Time was a priori could we use Time and understand causality (change) of events. Once more there is no connexion (this is a word, albeit archaic spelling) provided and therefore we know not how Marc seems to justify this, as he does not properly justify this, this point falls in my favor.
(16.2) Firstly as Marc made the proposition that Time is: a. existing as a physical entity, b. Dummet's system works; he substantiated on none of them and gave me no arguments. He tells me not what Dummet's system is, how it works but simply gives me a conclusion, I cannot believe him without proof. Einstein stated that there is no physical entity of Time (this was believed since Galileo) and he proved this later on through his Matrices. In any case the ds/dt^2 derivation teaches us, Time travles in a cyclic way according to the decisions of people. This is also shown by naive Set Theory.

17. Of Empirical Knowledge:
(17.1) While I agree that empirical knowledge does exist, I do contest that it is all subjective. I never said empirical knowledge does not exist, but I do contest (something made easy by the fact that Marc gave no arguments) that Sense Experience (Empirical Knowledge) is the fundamental source of all knowledge. This was what I contest, this is what Marc failed to show.
(17.2) Once more, if something is X in reality, we are not concerned with it. We are concerned with Y, the knowledge of X. While X may be hot, a SEP patient will not know that (seeing how Marc bases all knowledge (and therefore reality) on sense experience this means that that water will both be hot, and not hot). The knowledge of a table being sturdy will be subjective, because sturdy itself is a subjective concept.

18. Of Truth:
(18.1) I should remind the voters that Marc's claims are unsubstantiated and he never provided arguments. My analysis of Tarski's theorem, and of the content allowes me to make the Truth that which has the convention of being True. If Marc wishes to make the definition that all Truth is that which empirically shown to be true then he had to prove Logical Positivism, something he never did.

This was an excellent debate, and I have a lot of fun, but remember Marc did not give positive arguments, he gave unsubstantiated claims, and made principle contradictions. I remind Marc that he can only pass or concede the debate in the next round.

The resolution then collapses miserably, please vote Con.



As agreed, I will pass this round. Thanks Ajab, and onto the voters!
Debate Round No. 5
155 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Ajabi 2 years ago
While I do disagree on some parts, it does clarify things up and I am, as always grateful for your response. :)
I believe I made a mistake in this debate, it seemed that my wording made me seem against empirical knowledge, this just means my rhetoric should be better. There is no point in arguing the points I disagree with, and it might cause distaste so I hold my peace. I still value you as a voter, and always will Eddie. :) In my debate with Danielle you are one of the Judges that I recommended.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago

Inductive reasoning is, I think I can confidently say, a posteriori reasoning. You MUST have the experimental data in order to make any kind of inductive claim--and that experimental data is definitionally a posteriori, rending the whole thing necessarily a posteriori.

Kant advocated for a necessary combination of the rationalist and empiricist views--something you were trying to largely avoid doing. He said "although all our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it arises from experience".

What he argued for (to oversimplify) was that the rationalist view was the way we figured things out, while the empiricist view gave us the data to figure things out--like I said in my RFD, I think you should have spent more time not on the applications of logic (math, physics) and more on logic itself, as you might have been able to justify THAT as a priori and divorced from necessary sense experience.

The problem that you ran into was the one that Kant did try to address, and that was the core of Pro's argument on this subject: That sense experience is necessary for knowledge to be known true. Pro was saying that without that "known true" part, it doesn't matter what you've figured out in your head, since if it's not true, it's not knowledge.

Does that address your questions? If not, can you restate what you aren't clear on?
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
Heh, I'll be happy to. After my qualifying exam (especially if I pass) I'll be in a much better state of mind as well. It was a hell of a debate, and I think the split opinions of our varied by competent judges showcase that quite well.
Posted by Ajabi 2 years ago
May I be the first to congratulate whiteflame on a job well done, and an honest victory. I hope that after your exams we can debate some more topics Marc. <3 :)
Posted by Ajabi 2 years ago
Mikal I know you placed a lot of work into your judgement, however the debate was ultimately whether a priori knowledge constitutes a certain part, vs. a priori knowledge is at best a very minor part. If you feel I could justify any one: Mathematics or Space, and Time then I deserved to win. If you feel that Marc successfully rebutted each of these then by all means he deserves to win.

Interestingly I found blade's rfd very strange. My arguments of Space and Time were taken directly from Kant, I mean I was literally changing the words into my own so as not to plagerize, but they were directly from Kant. It seems that blade would not have liked analytic philosophy. Also I do not see how my rebuttal of Logical Positivism is not enough? Could you clarify that? I mean this is the very rebuttal because of which A. J. Ayer himself stated about his theory: the problem is, its all wrong. I mean if the rebuttal was enough to convince the chief proponent that he was wrong...?

I do have some questions for blade, as in do you feel LP played an important role in Marc's arguments? Also even if inductive logic works on some empirical logic, inductive by the word itself is through the intuition. Also you say I had a misconception about a priori, a posteriori mind explaining?

Please these questions are just me being curious, you have no need to answer them. If they bother you, please dont, and I will stop. :P This is just me being curious.
Posted by Ajabi 2 years ago
Thank you blade, while I do disagree with many of your points I do thank you for the time you put in this judgement.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
As always, thanks for the lengthy RFD, blade! I think there was indeed some confusion of burdens based on the disconnect between the first two rounds, though Ajab and I had discussed it beforehand and concluded something along the lines of what I posted. I found the burdens he'd initially wanted to be too onerous, it just seemed impossible to meet. Still, it seems we had a disagreement to the end on that front.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
RFD 1/7:

An interesting debate, well argued by both sides. I forgot to append this to the end of my RFD, so I'll place it here: As always, happy to clarify this RFD.

Con starts by claiming that the BoP is shared, but that his opponent has "a slightly higher Burden of Proof". I'm not sure what exactly that means, but Con clarifies that his real resolution is "there is knowledge which exists absolutely independent of any sense experience".

Pro starts his round by noting that his opponent "must argue for rationalism playing a substantive role in the generation of knowledge".
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
RFD 2/7:

This seems to contradict what Con outlined in R1. Con indicated that Pro had to argue for an absolute position, that is that no knowledge exists independent of any sense experience--thus, Con was indicating that his position was that there is at least SOME knowledge which is "absolutely independent of any sense experience". Pro expands on this, claiming "Con's burden is to support the claim that rationalism is a significant part of how we as human beings acquire knowledge. It is not sufficient for Pro to poke holes in my arguments. It is also insufficient for Con to win a single example and win the debate, as he must also show that anything he's winning is significant. A single example may be sufficient if and only if Con provides analysis showing that it plays an integral role in our general thinking." He reiterates that he "must show that empiricism is the basis for the vast majority of our knowledge gains, and Con must prove that rationalism represents a substantive source of knowledge through other means."

Pro moves on to call us to "think about this logically" and gives several examples of sense experience providing knowledge.

Pro argues that "Every bit of knowledge we gain is knowledge gained from input, and the route that input takes is always sensory". He claims that if one argues that certain knowledge doesn't result from experience, then he would argue that "these aren't really knowledge. They're fabrications..."

He reiterates this again, saying of Con that "Not only does he need to show how knowledge can be acquired without sensory input and show that those pieces are in no way rooted in empirical analysis, but he also needs to show how that knowledge can be construed as true without said inputs."
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
RFD 3/7:

This round seemed very much a sort of framework round for Pro--he was outlining what he felt was Con's burden. It's clear that Pro feels that prima facie, sensory experience leads to truth, and that he is challenging Con to give some kind of non-sensory truth that isn't trivial.

Con opens the next round with some plesantries, and gets down to his examples of things that, he argues, add to knowledge without being sense experience.

He doesn't address Pro's framing of the BoP, which seems to make it stand.

He first argues for mathematics to be a priori, that "The absoluteness [of mathematical equations] is unanimous for all, therefore it directly follows that Mathematics has an absoluteness of the concept of necessity which is lacking in empirical knowledge". He says "In all forms of cognition, 7+5=12", and gives an alegbaic example of something figured out without sense input.

This mathematics case seemed rather compelling.

Con then moves on to Space as his next point. He tries to argue that the base of "the pillars of empiricism, lie purely theoretical postulates, one such being Space". He claims that in order to receive certain sensations from external objects, "space then must exist as a foundation a priori". I found this uncompelling. That argument, itself, notes the need for the sense input--without the sense input, there'd be no reason to take spase "as a foundation".

Con moves on to "time", making a similar argument for Time that he made for space.

I didn't find either of these compelling. He was basically arguing that there must be an "a priori" acceptance of space and time to interpret the sense data--but such an acceptance doesn't have to occur without the sense data, which seems to make the sense data the root, which goes against his case. I just don't find these arguments compelling on their face, though of course his opponent must rebut.
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Vote Placed by bladerunner060 2 years ago
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