The Instigator
alyfish126
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Samreay
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Though experiments are important.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Samreay
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/6/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,150 times Debate No: 56134
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (26)
Votes (2)

 

alyfish126

Pro

I will be arguing in support of the following three statements:

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it does not make a noise.

A train is running out of control down a track. In its path are five people who have been tied to the track. Fortunately, you could flip a switch, which will lead the train down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. It would be morally right to avoid the switch and leave the train on it's current track.

The chicken does come before the egg.


Acceptance means:
You will argue against each of the three claims made.
You are aware this is one of my very first ‘formal’ debates.

Rounds:
I. Acceptance
II. Argument
III. Rebuttals
IV. Rebuttals and conclusion

Most importantly; teach something, learn something, and enjoy it.

Samreay

Con

I accept this debate.

I will be arguing against the three proposed statements, to the effect that.

1. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it does make a noise.
2. It would be morally right to flick the train switch.
3. The egg comes before the chicken.

I wish alyfish126 the best of luck.
Debate Round No. 1
alyfish126

Pro

Sweet! Thank you, you as well Samreay.


a. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it does not make a noise.

Can trees make noise?
No, a falling tree does not make a noise itself; simply falls.
On the way down, it breaks branched and looses leaves, but never did the tree itself make a noise.
When the tree collides with its surrounding area, there is a disturbance in surrounding air pressure. More commonly known as sound waves.
These sound waves, or vibrations, don't make noise untill they are picked up by a perciever.
It's not a noise until it finds an ear or a microphone.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it does not make a noise.
The conclusion is generally rationalist.

b. It would be morally right to leave train switch.

Consequentialist or non consequentialist?
When faced with the decision, it is heroic to flick the switch to save the many.
However, when flicking the swich, the 'flicker' becomes personally responsible for the death of the one.
When deciding via consequentialism, there is no action wrong in itself, and little sense of right and wrong.
The 'flicker' would have used the one as a means to an end.
When the action of killing is understood as wrong in itself, the flicker can do nothing.
It would be morally right to leave train switch.
This conclusion is non-consequentialist .

c. The chicken does come before the egg.

What would happen if...
A researcher placed an egg alone in the wild?
Eggs need warmth and care.
When a baby chick hatches, it's every need is met by another.
An egg can't survive to be a chicken when alone in the wild.
The chicken does come before the egg.
This conclusion rides on empiricism.

Samreay

Con

I nice fast response from alyfish126, this is looking to be a good debate.

Firstly, in order to try and stop this conversation becoming a semantic wrestling match, I will try and explicitly clarify all pertinent terms from multiple sources.


A falling tree can make noise

Noise: A sound of any kind [1][4]. A sound that someone or something makes [2]. A sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance [2][3][4].

Given that I believe it would be too simple to defend the first primary definition, I will instead support the more specific definition of "A loud or unpleasant sound". Given that pro and I both agree that sound is simple the physical result of pressure waves in a liquid medium, we already agree that a falling tree produces sound. This means that on this surface level, we already have good grounds for concluding this aspect of the debate, as a sound of any kind is indeed a dictionary accepted definition of noise. However, to go further, I will argue that a tree falling is generally a loud noise, fulfilling other contextual uses of the word noise. To argue this subjective point of "loudness", I present direct evidence in the form of video presentations and allow readers to come to their own conclusion. Please see reference [5]. For a quantified relationship, I present this study done by Martin Melchior [6], which showed that a falling tree can can reach loudness of 100 dB of noise, which, according to this chart from the NIDCD (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov...) [10] is sufficient to warrant hearing protection, and analogous to a circular saw.

Thus, a falling tree can definitely make loud sound, which means a falling tree makes a noise.



It would be morally right to flick the train switch

This is a difficult question, as whether or not the action is right depends upon which moral framework you base your morality. We can begin by examining two popular frameworks: utilitarianism [7], consequentialism [8]. Assuming all people in the provided scenario are equal and have positive utility (which makes this argument also consistent with Kant's categorical imperative [9]), we can see that flicking the switch to save five people at the cost of one person provides a greater benefit to potential utility than letting five people die and one person live. Under consequentialism, the consequence of this action, over inaction, is the lives of four human beings. If we go further afield to intentionalism (where actions are judged to be right or wrong by their intent), someone flicking the switch, believing it will save the group of five, can also be viewed as morally right.

To allay the common emotive response that actively participating in the scenario (instead of actively refusing to participate, which I would argue is the same thing) is what makes the individual responsible for the outcome, we can see this is an insufficient defense simply by extending the scenario. If you had to flick a switch which would change a nuclear missile from striking New York and killing millions to striking Antarctica and wiping out the research post there, would anyone hesitate to press that switch?


The egg comes before the chicken

This argument is simple, and derives from the theory of evolution. Given the original question is about a chicken - a particular species - we know that at some point in the past there were no chickens. Given that a line of speciation has to be drawn somewhere, it must be true that officially a non-chicken lays down a chicken egg - even though there is essentially no genetic difference between parent and offspring. This official line is identical to how we might say a child becomes an adult at 18 years of age. There is no appreciable difference in maturity the hour before and after the clock strikes midnight, but the line has been passed.

From this, we can safely say that a non-chicken gave rise to the first chicken. As that chicken began in egg form, the chicken egg came before the chicken (where chicken in this context and in the context of the original question represents an adult of its species).

Conclusion

Solid arguments have been presented for all three positions. I look forward to my opponents rebuttal.

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
[3] http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...
[4] http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
[5] https://www.youtube.com...
[6] http://www.neatorama.com...
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[10] https://www.nidcd.nih.gov...

Debate Round No. 2
alyfish126

Pro

B-e-a-utiful. Logical, objective and well constructed arguement.

As they are purely thought experiment's, I was planning on a semantic discussion free of influencing souces, but this direction is a pleasant suprise.


Con: "A falling tree can make noise."

It is agreeable that "a falling tree can make noise." However, the term 'can' in the statement does not suggest the falling tree will make a noise.
For example, if a stranger asks a philosopher, 'can you give me money?' the philosopher, as an able bodied individual would reply 'I can.' And with that reply, he gives no reason to suggest he will give the stranger money.
Often times, the transition from 'can' to 'will' is based on a set of conditions. ie. i can give him money as long for as I'm able bodied. I will give him money when I have the money to give.
Now to relate this back to the tree:
The falling tree can make noise at any time as long as it is falling. The falling tree will make noise if and only if there is someone to percieve it.
Rationale: Sound is simply a disturbance in air patterns. A form of energy that sets air particles into vibration and generate pressure waves in the air [1]. These vibrations are just that. Ripples of energy. Until the sound energy finds an ear canal, and vibrates the hair cells in our ear drums, sending messages to the brain that 'hey, a tree fell.' Without the ear, the energy of sound is not a sound at all.
Conclusion: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it does not make a sound. That which exists is not the sense of sound itself, but the energy it comes from.


It would be morally right to leave train switch.


There are in fact two popular moral frameworks at work here, however, since utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, the two being observed are:
Consequentialist - building moral arguements based on objectively predicted outcomes (Bentham and the principle of Utility)
And non-consequentialist - building moral arguements based on motives (Aristotle and Virtue Ethics), actions (Divine Law, Cultural Relativism) and on a combination of motive and action (Kant and his Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Knowledge).
Consequentialism and non-consequentialism are mutually exclusive concepts and cannot both be supported without logical inconsistency.
Because Kant is an extreemist on the non-consequential side of every arguement as he claims we are not morally responsible for that which we cannot control.
in the trolley problem, Kant would not change the path of the train since it is violating a universal principle to not kill of the first categorical imperitive and violates the second categorical imperative in the sense that the lone train track inhabitant is being used as a means to an end [2]. Now, commit to utilitarian, consequentialist type thinking as ask: If you were in the train scenario, but the switch was replaced by a child that you had to physically place on the track to stop the train from killing the five, is it still morally right? Similarly with cons example. Would anyone not hesitate to personally travel to Antartica and strap bombs onto every member of the communities chest?
With consequentialism, anything at all can be justified. Imagine the very worst possible action, and consequentialism can find a way to justify it. If there is any action claimed as never okay, the claim is not consequentialist. A very fundamental right we are all very familiar with: the right to life. It is never morally permissable to be responsibe for knowingly taking a life which is why It would be morally right to leave train switch.



The chicken comes before the egg

That really is an eggcellent arguement, but Aristotle struggled with the very question of which came first in 384 BC. . And when the line of speciation was drawn, were there not full grown birds that became they fisrt chickens?


http://www.epd.gov.hk...;
http://ethics.catherinehoman.com...;
Samreay

Con


Does a falling tree make a noise?

I am having trouble follownig pro's arguments, as they appear to change and contradict from the first post to the second. First, pro seems to admit that trees make sound when they fall ("These sound waves, or vibrations, don't make noise untill they are picked up by a perciever") but disagrees that they make a noise upon having defined noise as sound that is "picked up by a perceiver". In the second argument, pro then seems to disagree that trees make sound at all, even though they do emit sound waves. This seems to be to be trying to redefine "sound". One can no more decouple sound from sound waves than saying something emits electromagnetic radiation but not light. One is simply the quantification of the other and can be used interchangably.

Continuing this, I feel like con is attempting to construct a trivial argument. For example, if we take the stated 'prerequisite of perception' to classify noise - something which I have shown is not consistent with how the term is normally defined - and take pro's second sentence of Round 2, we can expand out the word noise and replace it with its definition: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it does not make a noise" becomes "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, no one hears the sound it makes." This is a sentence without any information content and tells the reader nothing. Whilst the expanded sentence is trivially true, this does not concern me as I have shown pro's useage of the word "noise" to be incorrect.

Pro also takes issue with my use of the word "can", and says this does not imply it will [make noise]. However, having provided both video evidence and a quantatative study showing the noises produced by falling trees, I feel that I have definitely shown that falling trees do, in general, produce noise when they fall. Perhaps if we took a small tree, and covered the surrounding area with foam mattresses, it may not produce noise ("loud sound"), but this scenario is obviously not the context of discussion.

Given my arguments, I believe pro's only possible refutation would be to demonstrate that the laws of physics are contingent on our continual observation, as it follows only from the laws of physics that a large mass such as a tree toppling to the ground would produce noise.



The train switch


I would argue that Kantian ethics would lead one to flipping the switch. The categorical imperative - to value people in and of themselves rather as means to an end - is the precise reason why one would flick the switch - those people have value individually. And whilst the other person too has value in and of himself, one would have to argue his value is greater than that of the others for a Kantian ethicist to not flip the switch - in my opinion (ethics is difficult to debate, being so subjective).

Pro then makes an emotive argument against my use of utilitarian and consequentialist ethics. It is true that by changing the scenario, pro has made the scenario more traumatic and creates a far greater sense of personal responsibility. This however, does nothing to address the reasons why flicking the train switch would be morally right in those frameworks. For pro to refute that argument, she must show that the utility or consequence (respectively) of flicking the switch must negative, not simply try and make the scenario so emotionally traumatic people do not want to pick it.

Pro also asserts that "with consequentialism, anything at all can be justified. Imagine the very worst possible action, and consequentialism can find a way to justify it". This seems to me to be a completely unsupported claim, and is easily disprovable. For example, if I honestly believed that flicking the train switch would a better outcome than leaving it, it is morally right to flick it. The only way to justify not flicking it is to convince yourself that the outcome would not be better. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the argument in question. Pure and simply, if, a consequentialist believes flicking the switch produces a better outcome, they are morally obligated by their framework to flick it, and - in their mind at the very least - doing so was morally right.


The chicken before the egg

Thank you to pro, both for the argument compliment and the pun. I missed it the first time I read your response.

As to drawing the line of speciations, the chickens alive when it was drawn were not the first chickens (as species is a biological term, not a contingent legal term), they were simply the first to be labelled chickens.
Debate Round No. 3
alyfish126

Pro

i wrote my response in microsoft word and was over the character count when I copy/pasted. I will put the tree in two comments if you want to read it. It my best arguement for the tree & Kant.

It would be morally right to leave train switch.

Logically speaking, there is no difference between flipping the switch, and personally putting the person in front of the train. If it is morally right to flip the switch, then it is morally right to put someone in front of the train. If it is not morally right to put someone in front of the train, then it is not morally right to flip the switch. They are one in the same when emotions are not factored in, and it is these scenarios that illustrate immorality of consequentialist thinking.

Scenarios:
Now, imagine the train is hurdling toward one child, but you can flip the switch to direct it towards five. I can’t think of any moral theory that justifies flipping the switch unless the five children are terminally ill. Utilitarianism says to flip the switch because flipping the switch is objectively calculated to promote the greater good using the hedonistic calculus [1]. If it is morally right to flip the switch, then it is morally right to push the five terminally ill children in front of the train. If it is not morally right to push the five terminally ill children in front of the train, then it is not morally right to flip the switch. Regardless of how outlandish the scenario, they options are logically consistent.
This last scenario is a bit graphic. Imagine the train is hurdling toward one child, but you can flip the switch to direct it towards five infants. I can’t think of any moral theory that justifies flipping the switch unless the five infants have no family and nobody (including the outraged general public) that cares about them and the one child is a famous performer (such as Mary-Kate or Ashley back in the day of Full House). Utilitarianism says to flip the switch because flipping the switch is objectively calculated to promote the greater good using the hedonistic calculus [1]. If it is morally right to flip the switch, then it is morally right to put the five infants in front of the train (assuming they would stop the train). If it is not morally right to put the five infants in front of the train, then it is not morally right to flip the switch. Again, they are logically consistent. As you can see, these scenarios can continue to get more and more gruesome with imagination, and with good imagination, you can find a circumstance in which utilitarianism can justify either option (to flip or not to flip).

Problems with utilitarianism:
One problem with consequentialist thinking is that consequences are almost always out of our control, and we can’t be held responsible for what is not in our control. Another problem with Utilitarianism (or any form of consequentialism) is that it is almost always in a morally grey area, therefor contradicting to the concept of right or wrong. It is important to see morality in black and white because if right and wrong are subjective to circumstance, culture, belief, or personal opinion, then there is no right and wrong and there is no morality. Keep this concept in mind: A square has four sides. It cannot ever be logically argued that, “a square should have three sides” because it is contradictory. Either there is no square or the square should not have three sides.
It cannot ever be logically argued that “property should be stolen” because it is contradictory. Either there is no property or property should not be stolen.
It cannot ever be logically argued that “truth should be lies” because it is contradictory. Either there is no truth or truth should not be lies.
It cannot ever be logically argued that “life should be dead” because it is contradictory. Either there is no life or life should not be dead.

Conclusion:
There is no circumstance whatsoever in which it can be said that killing is morally right. Regardless of how many are being saved, killing is still morally wrong. Therefor, It would be morally right to leave train switch.



The chicken may not have come first…

I’m glad con caught the pun; I hope it cracked everyone up. Cons argument is eggceptional to the point where I cannot shell out a rebuttal because it would just be speggulation. However, it is an argument that can only be applied with evolutionist theories. When debating with presumption of creationism, evolution is irrelevant and invalidates his argument. Since it was not defined (as I don’t support creationism or evolution) it is a very valid argument that I cannot disagree with. That’s all, yolks!


[1] http://philosophy.lander.edu...


Thank you to Samreay for some great critical thought. Also for teaching me to predefine important terms in my arguments, to construct more consistent and tangible arguments, and teaching me a good argument for the chicken or the egg problem.

Thank you to the voters for reading. I hope you enjoyed our discussion!

-Aly

Samreay

Con

On the train switch

In an effort to argue not to flick the train switch, we can see that pro has had to add extra detail to the scenario - namely asking us to image the 5 children are terminally ill (reducing their utility). Of course, the initial scenario did not have the postulates in it, and I was clear in stating in my initial argument that, unstated, we would have to treat the people in the scenario is being equal for all intents and purposes.

I do agree with pro that if you modify the scenario sufficiently, it may become morally right to not flick the switch. But as the discussion should be focused around the initial scenario - where the problem was free from such changes as pro is asking us to imagine, I do not need to argue further.

Pro also then attacks the positied moral frameworks by arguing that a lack of absolute morality implies morality does not exist. This objection is both frivolous (whether or not pro believes those frameworks are valid does not effect the fact that many people utilise them to come to moral decisions), and baseless. It is baseless because the implication that absolute morality - where moral decisions are indepndent circusmtance, culture, belief and opinion - is the only valid type of the morality has not been supported at all. In fact, with this statement pro discards all secular ethical systems, all normative moral systems, all subjective moral systems and most objective moral systems, leaving her only with a subset of deontological ethical systems. This is a large claim, one that would probably need its own debate, and introducing it as an unsupported argument in the concluding statement is not proper debate format.

Finally, pro states there is "no circumstance whatsoever" in which flicking the train switch would be morally right. I have already demonstrated this to be incorrect under at least utilitarian and consequentialist frameworks. The fact that pro now rejects those frameworks does not impede other people from holding them and believing their acions are morally right.

I have provided solid grounds showing that under more than one moral framework, all people treated equally, it would be morally right to flick the train switch.



The chicken or the egg

Pro is correct that provided an argument contingent on evolution that may not apply under creationism, and this is correct. However, given that evolution is one of the most confirmed scientific theories of all time, and creationist predictions have been shown to be scientifically falsified time and time again, I feel like this is a safe assumption. If anyone has interest on this topic, I would be more than happy to accept a debate on evolution or creationism and illustrate my point further.

Even for those reading this that may accept creation accounts as true, I believe there are still grounds to accept my argument. Under a creationist viewpoint, evolution does occur, but stays within kinds. Thus, after the great flood where every "kind" was gathered on the ark, there would still need to have been a great deal of speciation and evolution within the bird kind to get the diversity we see today, providing solid grounds for accepting the speciation of chickens as having happened regardless of whether or not creation accounts are accepted.



The quantum mechanical falling tree

Whilst my opponent had to put her argument in the comments, I will address it anyway. Pro's argument that quantum mechanics requires perception is a common misunderstanding of quantum mechanics (pro may not have known, but I am a physics student having studied QM for my degree). It stems from a misunderstanding of the von-Neumann interpretation of quantum mechanics by interpreting a "measurement" to be a measurement by a conscious observer. However, in QM, a measurement is simply an interaction, and is not dependent on consciousness or perception. For external verification, simply read the introduction to the article "Does quantum mechanics require a conscious observer?", found here (http://journalofcosmology.com...). Thus, I can safely dismiss pro's latest argument, and my final statement that the laws of physics imply a falling tree makes a noise are thus uncontested.


Conclusion

Throughout this debate I have provided solid reasons to accept outright that the falling tree does make a sound, and that speciation of the chicken means that the chicken egg came before the chicken. I have also shown that under multiple moral frameworks, flicking the train switch is the right course of action.

Thank you to alyfish126 for the debate.
Debate Round No. 4
26 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by alyfish126 3 years ago
alyfish126
Ahh that makes sense. Yeah it is a pretty grim practice but its not easy to debate. I'll message you..
Posted by Samreay 3 years ago
Samreay
Also, I hope you thrash the dude in your whaling debate. I absolutely detest the practice.
Posted by Samreay 3 years ago
Samreay
No, it was a good debate. Meant it wasn't a useful subject in that the debate content didn't really reflect the debate title. After all, I wasn't actually arguing "Thought experiments are not useful" as I should have been for con, I was just arguing "These are the three correct results of three thought experiments".
Posted by alyfish126 3 years ago
alyfish126
You should start a new one! It's an interesting subject. So I gotta ask; you originally said it wasn't a useful subject to discuss.. Was it a waste of your time?
Posted by Samreay 3 years ago
Samreay
Yeah I wouldnt have spent so much time on it being woo if there was literally anything else to talk about.

Disappointing first debate for me, thought I would get to flex my cosmology muscles, but I was too hopeful.
Posted by alyfish126 3 years ago
alyfish126
but I thought it's not the debaters responsibility to claim the other side is spouting woo. Thats the job of the judges and voters. Especially with subjects that science isn't 100% sure of, which is a lot of subjects. The debater should present argue their side, and question the other side. Not argue their side and destruct the other side via misrepresentation.
Constricting debates could prove helpful but nothing could have saved that one lol. It started out with incited claims and pros personal speculations : / Speculation is great but not without rational or empirical back up.
Posted by Samreay 3 years ago
Samreay
As an example to why those sort of debates can be too structured, have a look at my first finished debate:

http://www.debate.org...

Notice that such a structure wouldnt work for that debate, as essentially my entire position is that the my opponent is spouting woo.
Posted by Samreay 3 years ago
Samreay
It seems to constrictive for normal debates in my opinion.
Posted by alyfish126 3 years ago
alyfish126
Makes sense but it doesn't seem to be productive. There should be more constructive and consistent outlines for prober debate format to keep debates from being too fluid, or debaters from making assumptions. Something like...
R1
Pro: states hypothesis, alternative hypothesis and assumptions
Con: accepts alternative hypothesis and assumptions
R2
Pro: explains argument supporting hypothesis
Con: explains argument supporting alternative hypothesis
R3
Pro: questions for clarity and points out flaws in logic of r2
Con: questions for clarity and points out flaws in logic of r2
R4
Pro: clarifies and adjusts logic; makes final point
Con: clarifies and adjusts logic; makes final point

That keeps from any confusion, no? Could this be used as an outline when constructing the rules in round 1 and maintain current proper debate format?
Posted by Samreay 3 years ago
Samreay
Debates are too fluid to give a single answer. If you put forward a strong argument, there may be little point strengthening it further and you should spend time dismantling the opponents argument. Generally, you present the strongest possible argument in the first round, second round would be rebutting your opponents argument, and then third round is continuing that rebuttal, but also showing why *their* rebuttal of your argument is incorrect (if it is actually incorrect, sometimes you have to concede the argument and construct a new one - or cede the point).
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Sagey 3 years ago
Sagey
alyfish126SamreayTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Con's arguments and rebuttals are somewhat more rational, since Pro doesn't give any more details in the switching the train scenario, if all people are of equal value, then switching the train would be option of minimal loss, thus rational, if the single person was a surgeon who will save thousands of lives and the other group are elderly citizens, possibly leaving the train on course may be the option of least damage. :-D~ Pro does not give enough details to make the statements worthy of consideration. The chicken before the egg is nonsensical as both are required for the other, so there is truly no answer. Though the dinosaur came before the Chicken as birds evolved from dinosaurs.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 3 years ago
bladerunner060
alyfish126SamreayTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: An eggstraordinarily good debate! In the end. 3 arguments were put forward. I found Pro's advocation of "sound isn't sound unless it's perceived by a person" to be weak, and the chicken argument was conceded. The Train Switch argument was basically null, as both sides made good cases. But with 2.5 on Con's side, and .5 on Pro's, I gave arguments to Con. Conduct was eggsemplary from both sides, and S&G was fine. I was tempted to award sources to Con for having so many more reliable sources, but I wound up leaving it nulled. A fun read, though! As always, happy to clarify this RFD.