The Instigator
TheSkeptic
Pro (for)
Winning
18 Points
The Contender
Mirza
Con (against)
Losing
9 Points

Three Philosophical Topics - 1B

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/23/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,277 times Debate No: 9800
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (22)
Votes (6)

 

TheSkeptic

Pro

I will present three philosophical debate topics and allow my opponent to have the opportunity to choose one of them to debate. The procedure is simple: in this round I list the 3 topics and my position on them, then in my opponent's first round he chooses the topic he wants to debate. From rounds 2-4 we have ourselves a classic three round debate!

So here are the topics:

=====================================================
PRO - Qualia is not an irreducible, non-physical entity.
PRO - Free will does not exist.
PRO - Physicalism is true.
=====================================================

A little clarification on each topic:

*Qualia is the phenomenal character of conscious experience that you as a first person observer is able to access introspectively. There are several different definitions of qualia, some being more restrictive than others, so if there are any suggestions for change then leave it in the comments section.

*Free will is the ability that rational agents have when they exercise control over their actions. The definition and interpretation of free will obviously needs to be expanded upon, but that's part of the debate.

*Physicalism is the that everything supervenes on, or is necessitated by, the physical.

I'm PRO on all topics to coincide with the position I actually am for this debate - this is to make everything as clear and free of misunderstandings as possible.

I hope we have a great debate.
Mirza

Con

I thank The Skeptic for bringing up this debate. I have chosen to debate the topic "Physicalism is true." I do not believe that physicalism is true, because there are things that do exist without being in the form of matter. I am therefore CON.

I hope that both my opponent and I will enjoy debating.
Debate Round No. 1
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate, and I hope this turns into quite the entertainment, since I find this philosophical topic quite intriguing. Since my opponent hasn't given a specific attack on physicalism, I will start this debate by providing a general case for physicalism. From there on my opponent can attack however he wishes.

Before I begin my defense of physicalism, I want to delve into what physicalism entails, so we can get a clearer picture (it also serves as a precursor to my defense).

====================
Elaboration of physicalism
====================

A very important aspect of physicalism is the notion of supervenience , a concept that is found in ethics but has branched into areas such as metaphysics and logic. Strictly defined, to supervene something is "to be dependent on a set of facts or properties in such a way that change can occur only after change has occurred in those facts or properties.[1]" So in other words, according to physicalism everything supervenes on the physical.

Davidson, who really started this custom, utilizes an example to demonstrate supervenience: "A dot-matrix picture has global properties — it is symmetrical, it is cluttered, and whatnot — and yet all there is to the picture is dots and non-dots at each point of the matrix. The global properties are nothing but patterns in the dots. They supervene: no two pictures could differ in their global properties without differing, somewhere, in whether there is or there isn't a dot (1986, p. 14).[2]"

Before I give an argument for physicalism, I want to point out that we are dealing with a metaphysical issue and not one about consciousness - though one can bring consciousness into discussion (as it often is).

====================
Argument for Physicalism - Argument from methodological naturalism
====================

A quite simple argument at first blush, the argument from methodological naturalism can be outlined with the following syllogism:

1. It is rational to form one's metaphysical beliefs based on the methods of science.
2. The methods of science right now point to physicalism (namely, physics).
.: Physicalism is most likely true.

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

Physicalism is the heavily supported from both science and philosophy, and there has yet to be any dis-confirming instances of it. I implore my opponent to present me with one.

---References---
1. http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
2. http://plato.stanford.edu...
Mirza

Con

Mirza forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
TheSkeptic

Pro

My opponent has forfeited his rounds for whatever reasons; extend my arguments to this round.
Mirza

Con

To begin with, I apologize for forfeiting the previous round - I was busy with some other things. I hope that we will continue debating in a good way.

My opponent concludes that physicalism is heavily supported from both science and philosophy, and that there has yet to be any dis-confirming instances of it. While I do agree that it is heavily supported by science and philosophy, I disagree that it is confirmed by any of them. The reason for why I think that physicalism is not true, is that not all things that do exist are in the form of physical matter. I do have to point out though, that things that are not in the form of physical matter are dependent on physical matter. In this case, I will use consciousness as an example, even though we should rather be dealing with a metaphysical issue.

1) Consciousness cannot exists without a physical body, however, it does exist. Consciousness is not in any form of matter, and it cannot be seen. How can physicalism then be true, when we have consciousness that is a part of the universe [i.e. something existent]? A physical living body is a heart, and consciousness is what makes it knock, therefore some things being in the form of matter can exist, but not function, which makes physicalism less true. If matter only produced consciousness, without being dependent on it in any way, then physicalism would be more valid, but that is not the case.

2) Feelings are part of consciousness, but they are different. Feelings are also not in the form of matter, but they exist. They are, just like consciousness itself, dependent on matter, namely a living body.

3) Physicalism cannot explain the existence of consciousness, and why it emerges. This example is taken out of an article: "A major objection to physicalism is that it cannot explain the existence of consciousness. Since consciousness indisputably exists (as shown by the fact that you are now conscious of reading this) physicalists can only assert that somehow consciousness "emerges" in "sufficiently complex" physical systems from the atoms, subatomic particles and electromagnetic radiation which is all that a physicalist allows to be real.[1]

The bottom line is that physicalism cannot be true when something that is not in the form of matter exists, namely consciousness. While consciousness depends on matter, living things depend on consciousness, which is a cycle of core->power->core. I will also point out that you don't necessarily have to be a religious person to deny physicalism.

References:
[1]http://www.serendipity.li...
Debate Round No. 3
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for his response. I'd also like to remind him to not worry too much about the forfeit - I'm not insulted or anything, though this may have negative effects for his arguments. Whatever it may be, it ultimately is in the hands of the voter. But since this is the last round, and my opponent has presented a common but interesting argument, I will do my best to attack it in my last argument.

====================
A precursor
====================

My opponent hasn't responded to my arguments about physicalism, so I will assume that he has accepted them while pressing this phenomena as evidence otherwise - I'm fine with that. Furthermore, I think a general definition of consciousness should be reached, so I propose that we loosely define it as "the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself[1]."

Before I begin, one major problem with my opponent's three points (which really, can be boiled down to the same claim) is that he provides NO REASONING FOR IT. He merely expatiates the issue behind consciousness, and what would possibly motivate one to consider dualism (not idealism, since my opponent implicitly admits that physical bodies exist). However, he gives no philosophic or scientific reasoning to motivate us to accept dualism - as such, I can't even begin to refute his arguments since he has yet to present them.

His basic counterexample to physicalism is the phenomena commonly known as consciousness. I'm not surprised, because this is a common avenue used in philosophy. That said, I will show that there is no reason to believe consciousness is physically irreducible - instead, it can shown to be a product of our mechanical brains.

====================
My opponent's three points arguing for the non-physical nature of consciousness
====================

1. Besides the fact you give no account about consciousness that would vindicate dualism (and invalidate physicalism), I will give the physicalist explanation of consciousness. I will be arguing in favor for functionalism, the "doctrine that what makes something a mental state of a particular type does not depend on its internal constitution, but rather on the way it functions, or the role it plays, in the system of which it is a part[2]." Thus, the explanation of what consciousness is refers simply to causal relations to mental states, sensory stimulations, etc.

2. My opponent brings up the important point about qualia, which are subjective qualities of consciousness (feelings of what something is like). This is a cardinal issue in philosophy of mind, and I will answer his inquiries in the following section.

3. This point has nothing substantially different in it. You cite an excerpt from the article, but if you read it all it states is that physicalism is false...again, no reason why. If you had taken the REASONS WHY THIS IS SO from the article then this would be relevant, but you haven't. Simply put, you've given me a rehashed version of what you already stated, so there's no point for me to respond to this.

====================
Defense of functionalism from some common objections
====================

There are several very common objections that are raised against functionalism, of one which my opponent has mentioned. Here I will be addressing two popular ones - the thought experiment Mary's room by Frank Jackson and David Chalmer's Zombie argument.

Mary's room[3] proposes that qualia is distinct from physical knowledge. If we are to agree that in the situation Mary learns something new about colors once experiencing them, then it would seem physicalism and definitely functionalism fails (refer to the link for what Mary's room if needed). Intuitively, this would seem to be the case but in the face of it all there really is no problem. Simply put, if Mary knew EVERYTHING there is to know about color, then she would know why and how human neurology is affected by rays of light. It's just the fact that such an incredible knowledge database is unheard of, which would seemingly lend credence for Mary's room.

Chalmer's zombie argument[4] proposes that if philosophical zombies are conceivable (again, refer to the link for explanation if needed), then physicalism and definitely functionalism is false. Again, this is intuitively appealing but as Dennett would say - these are merely intuition pumps. I would argue a p-zombie is INCONCEIVABLE because it over complicates the issue. You can't have an entity perform everything identical to a conscious being and yet have no consciousness, because they go hand in hand. It would be absurd to say you can somehow remove consciousness but keep everything intact. It's akin to saying I could remove your health but keep your bodily conditions the same - this is absurd, and thus the example fails via simple analogies.

====================
Problems with dualism
====================

In at least one occasion my opponent has stated that there is a relationship between the mind and matter, but it somehow works only one way. He states that "if matter only produced consciousness, without being dependent on it in any way, then physicalism would be more valid, but that is not the case." Even if he didn't explicitly or implicitly state this, nevertheless it is a consequence of dualism. This brings up the age old problem of philosophy of mind: the mind-body problem. Here is an excerpt explaning it:

"If the mind is nonphysical, it has no position in physical space. How, then, can a mental cause give rise to a behavioral
effect that has a position in space? To put it another way, how can the nonphysical give rise to the physical
without violating the laws of the conservation of mass, of energy and of momentum[5]?"

My opponent needs to demonstrate this bizarre relationship. How can the mind influence the body but have no influence upon itself? How can there be such a disconnect? There has never been a case of a nonphysical causation demonstrated in science, nor shown to be plausible in philosophy.

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

My opponent's only argument physicalism is to give a dualistic account of consciousness. However, as he can see not only is it prima facie absurd, but upon further inspection there are several hurdles it has never defeated. Since my opponent's only purported instance of dis-confirmation has been defeated, physicalism stands due to the heavy scientific and philosophic support.

---References---
1. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
2. http://plato.stanford.edu...
3. http://plato.stanford.edu...
4. http://plato.stanford.edu...
5. http://philosophy.ucsd.edu...
Mirza

Con

To begin with, my opponent claimed that I did not respond to his arguments about physicalism. I did respond to them indirectly by asking some questions that he has not answered. My main question is: If everything that exists is in the form of matter, even if invisible, then why does something exist that is both invisible and without consisting of matter, although matter is what makes it be? I am talking about conciousness, which is a very important subject in this debate. Dualism itself cannot be disproved before disproving the fact that conciousness consists of nothing.

1. I do give account about conciousness that would invalidate physicalism. I've given the example of consciousness, which my opponent did not explain properly. I expected a response on why something exists without being in the form of matter.

2. I've given my opponent the reasons why physicalism is false. Science and philosophy lie on what makes more sense logically, but before they can disprove an entire subject like dualism, they have to disprove what supports dualism. For instance, science has not proven that conciousness is in the form of matter, so it has yet to disprove the fact that something actually exists without being physical.

3. "If dualism is not true, the mind is limited to the physical brain. Assuming this scenario, what kind of a mind would we expect? We certainly would not expect to have consciousness strictly from materials. Perhaps we could expect to see a mechanical mind similar to a computer that is run by a program. We would not expect things like consciousness, sensations, thoughts, emotions, desires, beliefs, and free choice. Such a mind would behave in a deterministic way based upon the laws of matter. Many scientists and philosophers are now concluding that the laws of chemistry and physics cannot explain the experience of consciousness in human beings."[1] Several things in this part of an article I pointed out mention subjects that are part of conciousness, which also have yet to be explained. If the mind was like the software of a computer, then why would we have consciousness, sensations, thoughts, emotions, and so forth? None of those things are in the form of matter. We cannot touch them, nor see them. However, software of a computer is based on material things, merely because a computer does not have conciousness, feelings, beliefs, and so forth. This is what places a clear destinction between the physical and non-physical, namely physicalism and dualism.

4. If any argument against dualism is to be valid, it must defeat not only dualism itself, but also whatever supports it. As long as we don't have an answer on why we have consciousness, emotions etcetera, we cannot disprove dualism. If the mind was purely material, then it would contradict science, because science finds material as something that cannot think. This belief of mine is supported by various philosophers, including the French philosopher Ren´┐Ż Descartes, who claimed that the mind is not material, because the materialcannot think. "According to his philosophy, which is specifically called Cartesian dualism, the mental does not have extension in space, and the material cannot think."[2]

Conclusion:
As long as science does not prove that conciousness is physical, it cannot disprove dualism, because the biggest supporter of dualism is conciousness. Here is another example of why physicalism cannot be true: Let us assume that a person developed something that could suck out whatever was within a specific amount of space, in a balloon for instance. If he were to suck out everything, except any part of the balloon itself, then what would remain there? I'm not referring to the air only, but every atom of anything besides the balloon itself. What would be remaining in the space where the balloon had air, steam, or anything else? If everything is based on matter, and a special machine could suck out any matter/atom within a specific amount of space, then what would remain there? These kind of questions have yet to be answered, therefore dualism has yet to be disproved. In short, physicalism can currently be denied by the fact that dualism is not yet denied, so it is up to the individual to believe in what makes more sense. Belief in God is what usually makes a person believe in dualism, while not believing in God makes a person in most cases believe in physicalism.

References:
[1]http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org...
[2]http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 4
22 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by popculturepooka 7 years ago
popculturepooka
I'm not a physicalist by any stretch of the imagination but I think Skeptic won this one.
Posted by J.Kenyon 7 years ago
J.Kenyon
Yes, I saw your comparison, and it was completely ridiculous.

"If the mind was like the software of a computer, then why would we have consciousness, sensations, thoughts, emotions, and so forth?"

Skeptic answered by pointing out that functionalism holds that *mental states are defined solely by their functional roles.* Most of those things *CAN* be explained in humans. Emotions and sensations are produced by various neurochemicals and electrical impulses. Thoughts and consciousness might be explainable in terms of the patterns of neuronal activity. Even if none of the above were currently understood, there is no reason to think that they aren't understandable.

"None of those things are in the form of matter. We cannot touch them, nor see them."

Which again shows that you really don't understand the concept of functionalism at all. I think there ARE good arguments against functionalism, you just didn't present any of them.
Posted by Mirza 7 years ago
Mirza
You ask why not, and that has been answered with comparison of software and the mind.
Posted by m93samman 7 years ago
m93samman
consistent with logic?
Posted by J.Kenyon 7 years ago
J.Kenyon
"Because material cannot think."

Why not?

@m93samman: Define rational.
Posted by m93samman 7 years ago
m93samman
If it is "rational" to do something it doesn't mean it's true. I was unconvinced by the entirety of the argument; if someone said it is "rational" to accept that affirmative action leads to nuclear warfare, I wouldn't buy it even if he gave me a link. I can give you the link for that to; it seems like a very sturdy link. But you won't buy it, no matter how rational the link is.
Posted by Mirza 7 years ago
Mirza
Because material cannot think. I quoted René Descartes. However, I have to sleep and this debate happened almost a year ago (although it feels like yesterday), which does not make it important to win.
Posted by J.Kenyon 7 years ago
J.Kenyon
Plus, he never responded to the problem of supervenience.
Posted by J.Kenyon 7 years ago
J.Kenyon
Skeptic gave a clear argument: it's rational to base one's metaphysical beliefs on the methodology of science. It's not the best argument for physicalism, but Mirza didn't directly attack it. He went the roundabout route claiming that it can't account for certain phenomena without explaining why.
Posted by J.Kenyon 7 years ago
J.Kenyon
...because they were never responded to in any substantive way?
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Vote Placed by popculturepooka 7 years ago
popculturepooka
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