The Instigator
feverish
Pro (for)
Losing
29 Points
The Contender
Cody_Franklin
Con (against)
Winning
30 Points

"Wealthy" is a relative term, rather than an absolute one.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/24/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 12,211 times Debate No: 12616
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (39)
Votes (14)

 

feverish

Pro

Thanks in advance to Cody for accepting this challenge.

It was on a forum thread that this issue first came up as a possible debate topic for Cody and myself.

Ragnar_Rahl first made the claim that "wealth is absolute", but when I challenged this contention it was Cody who jumped in to defend the objectivist perspective.

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

This is basically a semantics debate, being as it is concerned with what words mean. However I don't anticipate too much awkward wordplay or trickery, as I think my opponent and I both have a basic understanding of each others point of view.

_________

Definitions:

Relative: (obviously this refers to the adjective, rather than the noun)
1. comparative, estimated by comparison; not absolute or complete
2. proportional, relative, properly related in size or degree or other measurable characteristics; usually followed by `to'
http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...

Absolute:
Viewed apart from modifying influences or without comparison with other objects; actual; real; opposed to relative and comparative; as, absolute motion; absolute time or space. http://en.wiktionary.org...

[S]omething that is conceived or that exists independently and not in relation to other things; something that does not depend on anything else and is beyond human control; something that is not relative http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...

Wealthy:
affluent, flush, loaded, moneyed, wealthy (having an abundant supply of money or possessions of value) "an affluent banker"; "a speculator flush with cash"; "not merely rich but loaded"; "moneyed aristocrats"; "wealthy corporations" http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...

An individual who is considered wealthy, affluent, or rich is someone who has accumulated substantial wealth relative to others in their society or reference group. http://en.wikipedia.org...

Wealth:
the state of being rich and affluent; having a plentiful supply of material goods and money
the quality of profuse abundance
riches, an abundance of material possessions and resources
property that has economic utility: a monetary value or an exchange value http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...

_____________

Wealth is a relative term with many differing degrees and someone can only be described as wealthy if they have an abundance of wealth based on the comparative wealth of others and the external variables (market forces) that assign value to their wealth.

One can be more or less wealthy than someone else and what may constitute wealth in one situation may not constitute it in another.

A good example of an absolute term would be death. You are either dead or not, no-one is more dead or less dead, "deader" or "deathy" than anyone else and no external factors can affect death.

_________

Some examples of how "wealthy" is a relative term:

1. My opponent and myself could both perhaps be described as wealthy, but only within certain contexts. We could both be said to be wealthy in comparison to a group of starving orphans for example, but in no way could we be called wealthy compared to people like Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch, or even compared to most upper-middle class Americans or Brits.

2. Financial wealth is not determined by the quantity of money you have as much as it is by the cost of living where you are. The equivalent of $100 a week would be adequate to maintain an affluent lifestyle in some poorer parts of the world, but on the streets of inner city London, New York or Tokyo, such an income would represent abject poverty.

3. The value of the money you own is determined by external influences, like interest and exchange rates. If a currency is de-valued, a person's status as wealthy could be set to change.

4. Similarly to point number three, an individual might have attained relative wealth on the stock market in the form of shares in a profitable company. However if that is the individuals only significant property and source of income, then should that company go bankrupt, that person will no longer be wealthy.

5. Wealth refers to economic utility, rather than practical utility. A person who's total possessions have more practical utility to them than they have economic utility, can not be said to have an abundance of wealth.

_______

Now it would seem to me that a logical inference from the definitions and common-sense examples like the ones above, should be enough to establish the truth of the resolution. My opponent however, has his own viewpoint, as he explained in the forum thread.

According to Cody, and contrary to any definition: "Being wealthy has nothing to do with quantity".

Apparently, Cody believes it is possible to be wealthy even if: "You don't possess a great deal of wealth"

Cody says that a destitute street tramp living in abject poverty is "Very minimally wealthy. He has the clothes on his back, probably a few bare possessions, maybe some cigarettes. Not lavishly, luxuriously, filthily wealthy in the trashy colloquial sense in which most think of it, but wealthy all the same."

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

It is clear that Cody's assertion that having any amount of wealth (no matter how small or insignificant) = being wealthy is not supported by dictionary definitions.

Cody is making up his own definition that fits in with his recently acquired objectivist philosophy.

_____

If we look at other similarly formed English words, it is clear that they are all attributes dependant on abundance.

We do not describe someone with a terminal disease who can still breathe and talk normally as healthy.

We do not describe a freshly scrubbed body that still harbours a few microscopic fibres of dirt as filthy.

Similarly we don't describe people who are poor but have some meagre funds as wealthy.

_______

The problem with the whole objectivist mantra of A=A is that it is a dead end approach that yields no useful information in most cases.

Within this philosophy:
1+1 =/= 2.
1+1 only = 1+1.

In the real world:
1+1=2 as well as 1+1 and A=a, whilst also being distinct from a.

I look forward to an engaging and contentious debate.

Pro.
Cody_Franklin

Con

I will begin with clarifications on Pro's definitional framework.

The only coherent definition is one that is consistent with logic. Despite my opponent's appeal to dictionaries, I'm intent on exposing the incoherency of some of the definitions he has provided.

Concerning the definition of absolute, recall the law of the excluded middle. A or ~A. Pro either is or is not my opponent, and the property of being "wealthy" either is or is not absolute. An absolute property is one that either is, or is not. The truth or existence of it is not contingent on other entities or contexts. An absolute, in other words, is an objective fact, rather than a comparative estimation (the latter being Pro's definition of relative).

Further note that Pro has defined "wealthy" in such a way so as to make a Con victory impossible if I blindly accept it without clarifying what is meant by "abundant".

"abundant"

1. present in great quantity; more than adequate; oversufficient

Only with this definition of "abundant" does Pro's definition of "wealthy" become coherent.

For my own part, I define wealthy strictly, as "possessing wealth"; I believe Pro and I agree on a definition of wealth centered on economic utility.

Also, though I've presented an alternative definition for "wealthy", I'll make my case for both definitions, proving that being wealthy is an absolute attribute either way.

On to arguments.

1. "Wealth is a relative term with differing degrees."

a. Pro is confusing descriptor and degree. Look back at the law of the excluded middle (or LEM, as I'll call it from here). An object or person must either possess an attribute, or not possess it. Whether he possesses a particular property doesn't change based on those with whom you compare him. If you compare a (tan) Caucasian man to a Black man, he does not become any whiter in the presence of dark skin. If you compare this same man to a (pale) Caucasian man, he does not become any less white in the presence of far lighter skin. The descriptor – white, does not change. The degree – "whiter than", "less white than" does change. In the same way, one must either be wealthy or not wealthy. The descriptor is a constant; the degree is not. I, for example, am "wealthier than" an African orphan, but "less wealthy than" Bill Gates. The fact that I currently possess wealth (or a quantity of wealth which is "more than adequate" for my needs, by Pro's definition) does not change when I am compared to others. I am no poorer when I stand next to Bill Gates, just as I am no whiter when I stand next to Denzel Washington.

b. The example of death has no relation to the topic. Pro fails to realize that not all descriptors have degrees attached to them. Death is one which does not; solidity, however, is, and is a better fit, example-wise. Oak is solid. Titanium is solid. Oak is less solid than Titanium; however, Oak does not become less solid as a result of being compared to Titanium. Pro is clearly making a hasty generalization in assuming that, to be an absolute property, there cannot be degrees. Possessing an attribute to a particular degree, however, does not affect whether you actually possess it.
c. In terms of "external factors", he brings up market forces. He says that the value of what you possess can change based on how other people value it. First of all, note that an increase or decrease in how much someone values what you have does not change whether you possess wealth at all. Second of all, look to the definition of abundant, which is in no way tied to comparative evaluations of value. An oversufficient, "more than adequate" supply is the criterion we're examining. Third and finally, Pro may argue that market forces may devalue your assets to the point that your wealth is no longer "more than adequate" for your needs. This is true; however, wealth still would not be relative, since whether you possess wealth (or an oversufficient quantity thereof) is still the consideration. Either you do or do not possess wealth; either you or do not possess a quantity of wealth more than adequate for your needs. Regardless of the definition, being wealthy is still an absolute property.

2. "Some examples…"

I'll letter the examples in accordance with Pro's numbering.

a. Pro is definitely misusing "wealthy", here. The way this example presents it, the term is very "colloquialized", and omits a lot of implied information, much in the same way that a child dancing around and chanting "I gotta go" clearly implies what wasn't verbalized. In saying that Rupert Murdoch is wealthy compared to me, what's logically implied is that Rupert Murdoch is /wealthier/ than I. Additionally, it seems Pro is arguing that whether one has the attribute of being wealthy is up to the subjective interpretation of some third party, as opposed to being an objective fact. Rather than "is he wealthy or not", Pro posits the question "does person X consider him wealthy in comparison to her?" In doing so, he completely destroys the logical coherency of the term "wealthy".

b. In terms of possessing wealth, one would still possess wealth regardless of location; the degree of purchasing power accorded to that wealth is all that would change. I would be /less wealthy/ in Los Angeles than in Bartlesville. In terms of possessing a "more than adequate" amount of wealth, it's still absolute. Looking back to the LEM, one either does or does not possess a degree of wealth oversufficient for his needs. In some contexts, you do. In some contexts, you do not. However, a property being dependent on context does not make it relative. Pick any context, and wealth will still be absolute within it.

c. Your status could easily change, yes. Regardless of that change, you still either are or aren't wealthy. The fact that someone with more money than you suddenly walks into the room doesn't devalue what you own.

d. The fact that your wealth is being gambled in the stock market doesn't change that, at any given moment, you either are or aren't wealthy. Dependence on market forces =/= relative.

e. By my definition, they're still wealthy, inasmuch as they possess wealth. By your definition, the fact that they do not possess a quantity of goods more than adequate for their needs means that they aren't wealthy, even if that person stands side-by-side with an African orphan who possesses nothing with any exchange value whatsoever; ergo, it's still absolute.

3. "According to Cody…"

a. By my strict definition of wealth, the descriptor "wealthy" applies inasmuch as they possess any wealth at all. The degree may well be "not very", but changing the degree doesn't change the descriptor.
The fact that I have proposed such a definition for "wealthy" is a result of the fact that my opponent's definition, taken without my own clarifications, is meaningless.

4. "The Objectivist Mantra…"

a. The statement "A is A" isn't specific to Objectivism. It's the Law of Identity. This law tells you not just that a thing is itself, but that it is of a specific nature, and possesses specific properties. If you look also to another axiom, the LEM, you'll see that a thing must either possess a certain property, or doesn't. These axioms imply absolutes. Whether someone or something possesses a particular property in a particular context in no way changes that, logically, such properties are absolute.

While Pro's position seems to be "some properties depend on whether people choose to describe things that way as compared to other things", Con offers you a logical axiom. A man is either wealthy, or he is not - in Tokyo, in 1893, or even next to Bill Gates. Even with both definitions, this is true. One either possesses wealth, or he does not. Alternatively, one either possesses a quantity of wealth more than adequate for his needs, or he does not. The LEM continues to apply, regardless of the definition.

I look forward to Round 2.

Con out.
Debate Round No. 1
feverish

Pro

Thanks to Cody for his astute response.

Con: "The only coherent definition is one that is consistent with logic."

Hmm, I'm not so sure that definitions need to arise from a totally logical foundation in order to be coherent. Words are defined by how they are used and what they signify to people. If language arose within a strictly logical framework, we'd all be speaking some kind of robot Esperanto.

Cody wants us to disregard any accepted definitions that he decides are illogical. It seems to me that his own definition strips the word "wealthy" of meaning and that there is no logical benefit to accepting it.

I have no problems with Cody's clarification of the word "absolute". In fact I'd like to draw attention to the observation he made that "The truth or existence of [an absolute property] is not contingent on other entities or contexts".

I think it's overwhelmingly obvious from the examples I gave in the previous round (not to mention straight up common sense) that wealth is entirely contingent on external factors, therefore not absolute according to Cody's clarification.

Con: "Pro has defined "wealthy" in such a way so as to make a Con victory impossible"

Any reputable dictionary will support the resolution, for the simple fact that it is a clear and correct statement about a linguistic term.

Con: "For my own part, I define wealthy strictly, as "possessing wealth""

And it is a completely illogical interpretation because the term means more than this. Possessing health doesn't necessarily make you healthy, possessing filth doesn't necessarily make you filthy. If you decide that "cow" means pig, it won't stop other people thinking of cows when you say it.

Under this definition, even those with absolutely zero possessions, as long as they were still able to work, would be considered wealthy. One's labour is an economic utility, but if that is all one has, one is surely not wealthy.

I'm going to try not to spend too long on Cody's bizarre definition. It seems that he already acknowledges that there is no reason for anyone else to accept it, as he is now attempting to make his case for a definition of "wealthy" that does encompass quantity.

_______

1.
a. Cody's points here are fundamentally flawed and worthy of a debate in their own right. Sidestepping the questionable validity of race labels in general, the assignation of the terms white and black is often entirely subjective and the descriptor can indeed change relative to other factors.

A good example is my daughter. If you met her without knowing anything about her, you would probably assume she was white. She has a light olive skinned, kind of Mediterranean complexion and straight dark brown hair. However if you met her after meeting her mum, who has brown skin and afro hair, you almost certainly wouldn't describe her as white.

Another would be a debate on this site: http://www.debate.org... Koopin describes himself as bi-racial and considers himself neither black nor white, his opponent here, who like Koopin has one black and one white parent, describes himself as black.

It is often pointed out that Obama would be regarded as white (or certainly not black) in Brazil, Africa or other societies http://www.sciencedaily.com... http://www.reference.com... and a "black" man like Colin Powell http://media3.washingtonpost.com... clearly has darker skin than a "white" man like David Dickinson http://www.bbc.co.uk...

Let's consider the abstracts of black and white for a moment, separate from any concept of race. They don't qualify as absolute because the point at which either becomes grey on an image like this is entirely arbitrary, http://www.dawnandevan.com... neither A or not A.

Colours (or in this case representations of darkness and light) are entirely relative to perception. In this image http://en.wikipedia.org... the strip is one constant shade of grey and only appears to change relative to the background.

Qualities who's existence depends upon perception can not be said to be absolute, per Cody's definition that the "truth or existence of it is not contingent on other entities or contexts".

I would like Cody to explain how, when there is a smooth gradation of degree between total opposites (as with wealth and poverty, or with black and white) the quality can possibly be an absolute "it is or it isn't" quality.

b. Cody dismisses the example of a true absolute (death) without explanation and offers another term that is entirely relative (solidity). The solidity of oak and steel is clearly relative to external factors. With fists, both are solid; with a box of matches or an axe, steel is still solid, oak not so much.

c. Cody seems to concede that external factors such as markets can influence wealth, even to the extent where they could determine whether someone qualified as wealthy or not. I'd like him to explain how such an attribute can be described as absolute in the sense of "not contingent on other entities".

2.
a. The logical coherency of a term depends on it's definition. That's how words work and the definitions clearly support my interpretation: "An individual who is considered wealthy, affluent, or rich is someone who has accumulated substantial wealth relative to others in their society or reference group".

b. If your currency becomes so worthless that nobody will accept it, then the very possession of wealth would indeed cease to be an attribute and it's clearly more likely than this for a currency to merely become devalued enough for one's "adequate" status to be affected.

Con: "a property being dependent on context does not make it relative."

A property being dependent on context does indeed make it relative as per Con: "The truth or existence of it is not contingent on other entities or contexts". Absolutes (again, death) either exist or don't, independent of context.

c. Absolutes aren't supposed to be affected by external factors in this way. If things can change so easily then surely there must be cases of people with exactly the amount of wealth they "need" who are neither wealthy or not wealthy, so how can it be absolute?

d. see c.

e. Under the definition of "more than adequate to one's needs", wealth is most certainly relative, as someone's "needs" are implicitly relative themselves. The middle class American will consider his needs in terms of his mortgage payments, his health premiums and his children's college education, the African orphan will consider his needs in terms of day to day survival.

3.
a. Con: "The fact that I have proposed such a definition for "wealthy" is a result of the fact that my opponent's definition, taken without my own clarifications, is meaningless."

The established definitions are not meaningless. On the contrary, they represent the meaning of the term. It s Cody's "logically" contrived definition that equates poverty with wealth that is meaningless. On the original thread, Cody claimed that short people were still tall, just "not very tall". If short can equal tall and poor can equal wealthy, how can the axioms of A=A and a or ~a hold up here?

4.
I've spent way too long on the race example and used up all my characters. I'll address this other side issue in my final round.

______

With all due respect, I find Cody's pseudo-logical position to be profoundly unconvincing, such a binary way of looking at the world in strictly black and white terms ignores a lot of important detail. There is no grey area with absolutes and I maintain that the only absolute concept referred to so far to in this debate is death.

Wealthy is a relative term.

Thanks.
Pro.
Cody_Franklin

Con

1. Definitions: how illogical is too illogical?

Firstly, definitions need to be logical in order to be coherent. Given that logical "laws" are the rules by which we understand, identify, and conceptualize reality, definitions can only be legitimate if they're consistent with logical rules. If one has a definition which is intrinsically self-contradicting, then one has no business speaking as if that term implies anything, absolute or relative.

Secondly, it's not that I've "decided" that some accepted definitions are illogical. It isn't up to me. To say that a definition ought to be accepted because a lexicographer included it in the dictionary is an intellectual copout. The validity of a definition needs to be evaluated by its correspondence to logical facts; this is precisely what I'm doing.

2. "Any reputable dictionary…"

I don't doubt that many dictionaries probably support Pro. In any debate, both sides are likely to have sources to support their position; however, this is a debate about the /validity/ of the definition – not whether the definition, as stated by pro, currently exists as it does.

3. The meaning of "wealthy"

My definition is only incoherent if you don't distinguish between descriptor and degree, which is an argument that went completely unaddressed. To say that a person who is wealthy possesses wealth is metaphysically consistent; however, the degree of wealth has been left out. A person could be very wealthy, not so wealthy, lavishly wealthy, and so forth.

Additionally, I never acknowledged that no one would accept my definition. The proposition I made was that, even if you /don't/ accept my definition, I would still win the argument. I considered it fair play to make a case for both definitions.

On to arguments.

1. Shades of grey

a. Frankly, I think that feverish is blowing the "color" example far out of proportion. This isn't a debate about the validity of "race labels", nor is it a debate on how easy it is to tell what shade a person with a diverse heritage is. He's actually pulling a lot of equivocation in terms of "white" and "black". I'm not using the terms in the sense of racial heritage (like someone who is "part white" and "part black"). I'm talking strictly in terms of skin color. I'll use "brown" and "pasty beige" if Pro prefers.

Here's the thing, though. Black and white are opposites, and are absolutes. Scientifically, the color black is the color you get when no light is reflected whatsoever [http://en.wikipedia.org...]. If even one ray of light escapes, you'll see a different color. With white, the opposite is true [http://en.wikipedia.org...]. Those two colors are mutually exclusive. They're pure absolutes. If you mix the two colors together, you'll get grey, which is neither color [http://en.wikipedia.org...].

Simply put, the wealth/poverty dichotomy isn't analogous to the black/white dichotomy.

b. I gave a clear explanation for dismissing the death example. I quote, "Pro fails to realize that not all descriptors have degrees attached to them. Death is one which does not; solidity, however, is, and is a better fit, example-wise." It goes back to the unaddressed descriptor/degree argument.

He goes on to argue that solidity is relative to fists and axes. However, we look (yet again) to descriptor and degree. The descriptor, solid, stays the same. The degree, however, is what changes. Oak is solid enough to withstand the hit from a fist; not so much so with an axe. Steel is solid enough to withstand hits from both fists and axes. Something Pro needs to understand: descriptor tells you "is it, or isn't it" – degree tells you "how much".

c. When I say that absolutes aren't contingent on other entities, I mean that in a comparative sense – that one is wealthy in his own right. By your definition, for example, a man who possesses more than enough wealth to fulfill his needs is wealthy. Even if you compare him to Bill Gates or Microsoft (other entities), his status as wealthy does not change.

2. Back to definitions

a. You're omitting something in that first statement. The logical coherency of a term depends on the /logical coherency/ of its definition. The point of the debate is to argue the term, and thus, the validity of certain definition. That a term is defined a certain way by default is part of the issue we're discussing.

b. By my definition, one would still possess wealth. It certainly isn't enough to grant him potent purchasing power, but it's wealth all the same. The degree must simply be noted to be "infinitesimally little". By your definition, the term would still be absolute. At any given moment in time, a person either is or isn't wealthy. One moment, he may be wealthy. The next minute, the entire financial structure may crumble, and he may not be wealthy any longer. That a person's /status/ can change in no way alters the fact that the descriptor itself is of an absolute, either/or nature.

Also, I think that Pro misunderstands by use of the phrase "dependent on context". Allow me to clarify.

When I say that absolutes aren't dependent on /other/ contexts, I mean just that. Let's say that I live in my hometown, and I have $1 million. That's enough to live like a king for a long while. By Pro's definition, I'm wealthy. I have wealth exceeding the cost of my needs. In that context, I'm absolutely wealthy. In another context, say, an America marked by hyperinflation, where $1 billion won't buy a can of beans, I wouldn't be wealthy (according to Pro's definition, mind you); however, the absolute fact that I am wealthy in the former context isn't at all affected by the fact that I'm miserably poor in the latter context.

Simply put, the truth of an absolute in a given context isn't affected by how things might be in another context. That I'm wealthy at home isn't altered because I'm poor during hyperinflation. Different contexts have no metaphysical impact upon one another.

c/d. To say that there are people who are neither wealthy nor not wealthy makes absolutely no sense. A person has to be one or the other. Law of the excluded middle, Pro [http://en.wikipedia.org...]

e. Sure. Different individuals might have different "needs" (beyond basics like food, water, etc.) for different purposes: the middle class American "needs" to pay down his mortgage so that he won't get into massive financial trouble. He "needs" to pay his premiums so he doesn't lose insurance. He "needs" to pay for his child's education because he cares for his child. Saying that one "needs" anything implies a purpose. The point is, however, that the lives of individuals are in themselves a context. Look back to the definition of an absolute. It either is or isn't, regardless of outside contexts. The middle class American either is or isn't wealthy. That absolute isn't affected by whether the African child is wealthy. It isn't affected by whether he'll be wealthy in a different context – say, in London, 20 years from now. I said that the truth of absolutes don't depend on /other/ entities and contexts – not that you can drop context and discuss circumstances of a void.

3. Meaninglessness

a. If, however, the established definitions aren't logically sound, then we have a bit of a problem. Part of the debate is definitional validity. With either definition, it's clear that wealthy is an absolute descriptor, regardless of degree, and regardless of Pro's attempts to amalgamate contexts and claim relativity based on the observation that things might be different in different circumstances.

And according to me, short = a more convenient term for "not very tall", and poor = a more convenient term for "not very wealthy". "Short" and "poor" are negative terms, and you can't measure in terms of negatives. If anything, they're linguistic reifications of low degrees of positive descriptors.
Debate Round No. 2
feverish

Pro

Thanks Cody, it's been a thought provoking debate.

Con: "definitions need to be logical in order to be coherent."

At the risk of repeating myself, there is no need for a definition to be grounded in rules of logic in order for it to be coherent or understandable.

There is no logic that dictates that the word "cup" should refer to a drinking vessel. Meanings are established by social, rather than logical means. The meaning of some phrases and terms flies in the face of logic; a sheepdog is not some freakish hybrid of canine and ovine; the game of leapfrog does not involve actual amphibians; a foot pump doesn't inflate your foot and a ball pump doesn't inflate your testicles, so one must defy logic. Still these terms are coherent enough that there is no real question of what they mean.

Cody's appeal to logic is entirely inappropriate to the task of defining words, language evolves in a social and often non logical context.

Con: "My definition is only incoherent if you don't distinguish between descriptor and degree"

No it's incoherent precisely because it doesn't distinguish between a metaphysical presence of wealth and the quantity implied by the actual definition of wealthy.

1.
a) Con: "I think that feverish is blowing the "color" example far out of proportion"

Cody was the one who brought up the issue of race and colour as supposed absolutes, which he perhaps should have anticipated might provoke a lengthy response from me.

"He's actually pulling a lot of equivocation in terms of "white" and "black"... I'm talking strictly in terms of skin color."

I'm surprised that someone who places so much value in the logical "coherency" of definitions, is comfortable using the race labels of black and white to discuss skin colour, as he notes himself, they bare little relation to the complexions he was describing.

"Simply put, the wealth/poverty dichotomy isn't analogous to the black/white dichotomy."

This is exactly the point I was making last round, it was Cody who made the comparison between the two.

b. Con: ""Pro fails to realize that not all descriptors have degrees ...It goes back to the unaddressed descriptor/degree argument."

It's not an unaddressed argument, I have asked Cody to explain how absolute descriptors can possibly have a gradual scaling of degree. There is no graduation between absolutes like life and death or true black (absolute darkness) and true white (absolute light), but between the extremes of being wealthy and living in poverty there is the kind of gradual shading effect we get between grey shades in images such as this: http://home.online.no... There is no grey area with absolute terms.

Con: "The descriptor, solid, stays the same."

No, in this case, it is clear that neither steel or oak are solid in any absolute sense; any solidity ascribed to them is entirely relative to the degree of force and the particular tools that are used to test it. Oak is solid compared to sponge, but compared to steel it is soft.

c. Cody is back-tracking here and misrepresenting his own definition of absolute as "The truth or existence of it is not contingent on other entities or contexts", having already admitted that the degree of wealth can be affected and influenced by other factors to the extent that the term wealthy ceases to apply.

For further clarification on the term absolute let's look at the additional definitions I posted in the original forum thread.

# perfect or complete or pure
# complete and without restriction or qualification
# not limited by law
# expressing finality with no implication of possible change;
# something that is conceived or that exists independently and not in relation to other things; something that does not depend on anything else and is beyond human control; something that is not relative; "no mortal being can influence the absolute"
# not capable of being violated or infringed
http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...

So once again Cody, how can absolute terms possibly be affected by external influences and have differing degrees on a grey scale?

He also claims that my definition of wealthy is "a man who possesses more than enough wealth to fulfill his needs", whereas as this is also in fact his own interpretation. I sourced in round 1: "An individual who is considered wealthy, affluent, or rich is someone who has accumulated substantial wealth relative to others in their society or reference group."

2.
a. This is the issue of Cody's assertion that definitions need to be grounded in logic that I have already addressed at the top of this post. There is no logical reason why definitions should arise from logic, logic defines maths, but not vocabulary. Words are poetic.

b. Con: "The next minute, the entire financial structure may crumble, and he may not be wealthy any longer."

This clearly conflicts with the definitions of an absolute term.

"the absolute fact that I am wealthy in the former context isn't at all affected by the fact that I'm miserably poor in the latter context."

A transition from one context to the other is entirely feasible, so the level of wealth is not absolute.

c/d. The main issue for both of these points was that absolutes aren't supposed to be affected by external factors in these ways. See "expressing finality with no implication of possible change" and "beyond human control, as well as Cody's own "not contingent on other entities".

Con: "To say that there are people who are neither wealthy nor not wealthy makes absolutely no sense. A person has to be one or the other."

Well the negative of wealthy is poor, and if we were to use a definition of wealthy as "more than you need" then obviously someone with exactly as much as they "need" would be neither wealthy or poor.

The point though, is that being wealthy has different degrees, between absolute wealth (all the wealth in the world, technically impossible as wealth is defined by it's value) and absolute poverty, there are varying shades of grey. The specific point in this grey blur that you decide to define as the turning point is entirely arbitrary. As Cody pointed out, anything other than total darkness is not really black, but grey. That's absolute, being wealthy is not.

e. Cody seems to acknowledge that "needs" are relative to an individual and even to a society. What he actually discusses are of course wants and desires rather than the basic needs for survival. Presumably a starving African would like health cover and a good education for their kids, just as much as a middle class American, they just wouldn't rationalise it as a "need".

Therefore, with exactly the same amount of wealth an African could be wealthy, and an American not wealthy. The accuracy of the wealthy descriptor depends entirely on the external context of the society that the individual is in, both separate contexts that co-exist within the wider context of the modern world. Therefore it is relative to external factors, rather than absolute.

3.
Cody continues to seek logical foundations for language, perhaps he should consider communicating solely in binary code.

My "attempts to amalgamate contexts" have consisted of nothing more than demonstrating the relativity of the term wealthy, in regard to outside entities and external contexts such as different societies.

Con: "you can't measure in terms of negatives."

Palpably false, most positive descriptors have an opposite implying an absence, whether absolutes (total blackness is the absence of light, death is the absence of life) or relatives with differing degrees (short is the negative of tall, soft is the negative of solid, poor is the negative of wealthy). Cody believes A is A, but he also believes tall is short and rich is poor. Pretty meaningless if you ask me.

Thanks to Cody and anyone reading, please vote for the stronger arguments.

Pro.
Cody_Franklin

Con

Whether definitions are often "socially" determined is irrelevant to whether a process of logic has to be employed in creating those definitions. The use of logic is the means by which we identify and form concepts from what we perceive in reality. Definitions give you essential characteristics of a concept, and thus follow the process of concept-formation. Example: the definition of a cup tells you precisely what it is. A receptacle for drinking fluid. The definition doesn't include the non-essential characteristics of the cup, such as color, or the material from which it's made. Two corollaries here:

A) The process of defining a term consists of identifying the essential characteristics of an existent. As it follows from concept-formation, and requires one to correctly identify something in reality, correct definition requires logic.

B) Definitions contain only essential characteristics - general concepts contain the nonessential characteristics. This is where the descriptor/degree difference comes into play.

"Con doesn't distinguish between metaphysical presence and quantity implied by the definition..."

This is because the strict definition of wealthy deals solely with whether one possesses wealth. Such a definition is proper inasmuch as it only identifies the essential characteristic of a wealthy person - possession of wealth. Even with Pro's definition, the specific degree of wealth isn't an essential characteristic when determining whether a person has a quantity of wealth oversufficient for his needs. He could be over by ten dollars, or ten million. The degree has nothing to do with the descriptor.

---

1.

a. I brought up the "white/black" paradigm only to show that the qualities a person possesses don't change when you stand them next to other people.

Also: the point of a definition is to list the essential characteristics of the referent. In this case, the characteristic is dark pigmentation. The varying degrees of darkness are nonessential, and are contained within the concept of "black", rather than the definition. This is why definitions must be strict, whereas general concepts can be broad.

Finally, I was making the comparison that one isn't "whiter" next to Samuel L. Jackson, nor "blacker" next to Betty White. I wasn't dealing with whether wealth/poverty was like black/white.

b. Two shirts are dirty. One has a small splotch of mud, and the other was completely submerged in a puddle of mud. The latter shirt is dirtier than the former, thus possessing a greater degree of dirtiness than the former. This is illustrated by the fact that, in addition to positive forms, we have comparative and superlative forms (dirty, dirtier, dirtiest). Not all absolutes have degrees attached, but it's simply an unrepresentative sample if you cherry-pick a couple of absolutes like death and true black/white, point out that they lack degrees, and use that to characterize all absolute terms.

Additionally, there's no vague graduation between "wealthy" and "impoverished" if you actually accept Pro's argument. Per individual, there's a definite level where one's wealth outweighs one's needs, and there's a definite level where one's wealth is unable to cope with even the most basic needs - wealth and poverty, respectively. Between those, there's no graduation, unless you count "breaking even" as a gray area. Beyond breaking even, you're either wealthy because your means exceed your needs, or impoverished because your needs exceed your means.

Let me explain something very important - when I refer to absolutes, I'm not exclusively referring to two opposites, like black/white, wealthy/impoverished, and so forth. The only time that absolutes are exclusively opposites is when there is no degree attached to the descriptor (like alive/dead - no degrees there). I'm looking at the LEM, and deciding "wealthy, or not wealthy"? A or ~A.

**I'm looking at absolutes not as a "scale" between two extremes, but as the dichotomy of "does X possess this quality, or does X not possess this quality?". No matter what, the question will always be "Is this man wealthy, or is he not wealthy?". There are no third options - this is because the attribute of "wealthy" is an absolute - it is either present, or it isn't.**

Finally, steel and oak certainly are solid in an absolute sense. Pro is confusing the definition of solidity (which lists only the essential characteristics, such as being firm, hard, and full) with the nonessential characteristic of degree (how firm, how hard, how full, /how solid/).

c. Not once have I back-tracked on my definition. I urge you to look back to the response I posted on this argument in Round 2:

"When I say that absolutes aren't contingent on other entities, I mean that in a comparative sense – that one is wealthy in his own right. By your definition, for example, a man who possesses more than enough wealth to fulfill his needs is wealthy. Even if you compare him to Bill Gates or Microsoft (other entities), his status as wealthy does not change."

My argument is that something absolute isn't dependent on /comparison/ to other entities or contexts. I am wealthy right now - that doesn't change based on comparison with other entities (Bill Gates) or other contexts (me in hyperinflationary Zimbabwe). Wealth is an objective quality - metaphysical presence of that quantity doesn't require verification from comparative analysis or from irrelevant sets of circumstances.

Concerning his sourced definition: I was using what seemed to be the more reliable of the two sources (The Princeton dictionary). His other definition intrinsically defined wealth as a relative quantity; however, that's the subject of the resolution. His appeal to a dictionary in such a case is fallacious, since we're arguing over whether the definition is /legitimate/, not the debater with whom the dictionary agrees.

2.

a. Refer to the prior argument on this.

b.

i) No conflict. In one minute, he may be wealthy. In the next, he may not be. This doesn't violate the LEM, nor is the truth of the former context affected by the fact that, in the latter context, he is no longer wealthy. Other potential circumstances don't affect present circumstances.

ii) Whether something is constant is irrelevant to whether it's absolute. I may be alive in one context, and then dead after "transitioning" to another context where I'm murdered; death is no less absolute, however.

c/d. Again, absolutes aren't affected by comparison to other entities or to other context. A man is what he is, regardless of what another person is, or what this man might be tomorrow morning.

Look next to his presumption that absolutes are exclusively the two extremes (poor/wealthy); however, being not-wealthy doesn't mean you're "poor", by Pro's definition. You could be breaking even. Both poor and breaking even are ~A, so both still fit within the absolute realm of the LEM, inasmuch as the dichotomy remains "wealthy or not wealthy".

e. Whether needs are relative (as in, "needing" money for college) or absolute (food, water) is irrelevant to whether a person objectively has a quantity of wealth greater than that which his needs require.

3. He's basing his assertion that wealth is relative on the fact that you can be wealthy in one context, and not in another; however, that only means your status as wealthy can change - not that the attribute itself is relative. In both contexts, you're either wealthy or not wealthy - in either context, it's an absolute quality.

Finally, you measure in terms of the positive descriptors. You don't measure height in terms of "shortness", or length in terms of how close to zero something is. This wasn't disputed.

As far as A is A: I believe that short is /not very/ tall, and that poor is /not very/ rich. Meaningful if you know what your referents are.

Most competitive debate I've had on here. Thank you, feverish.
Debate Round No. 3
39 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TUF 6 years ago
TUF
I think this debate came down to the definitions. Both debater were phenomenal, IMO.

Cody, this debate would have been yours in my opinion, if you offered definitions that could combat hi definitions better.

http://dictionary.reference.com...

All the definitions from this site, for example could have been used to support your philosophical definition, which would then make the evidence debate mute, and support your arguments better. I understand your argument against the validity of the usage of definitions, however, the definitions were almost mandated given the topicality of this debate is in semantics. Given this, unfortunately, I had to given the arguments point to Feverish.

Also the vast amount of sources, were helpful in analyzing the legitimacy of his arguments.

This debate was amazing, and a great pleasure to read. Both of you are extremely intelligent, and I congratulate you both on spectacular arguments.
Posted by Atheism 7 years ago
Atheism
Absolutely phenomenal debate. I applaud the both of you.
Posted by TheAtheistAllegiance 7 years ago
TheAtheistAllegiance
I do know that the British spell a little bit differently, such as defence and colour. There were no spelling mistakes that I found, and it was really hard to break the tie in that particular instance. You both magnificently compiled your wording in an organized way and communicated your points very fluently. Even so, Cody's grammatical style was especially astute, and he had a very unique form of writing that effectively intensified clarity. Plus, I had to go to Dictionary.com about 5 times while reading his posts because of the extraordinary intricacy expressed in his explanations, which was impressive. I had to go about 3 times while reading your posts. In all honesty though, I would typically have voted a tie in a similar scenario, but under these circumstances, I felt compelled to break the tie in any way I could. Grammar happened to be one of the easier avenues to find.

Again, thanks for such an entertaining and enlightening debate!
Posted by Cody_Franklin 7 years ago
Cody_Franklin
This was a pretty intense debate, I agree.
Posted by feverish 7 years ago
feverish
Thanks for the thorough review TTA and taking the time to vote.

You know I'm English and use British spellings though right? Did I make many mistakes?
Posted by TheAtheistAllegiance 7 years ago
TheAtheistAllegiance
I was very much torn before this debate, and I'm still a little torn afterwards. Even so, I mostly agree with Cody afterwards, mainly due to the fact that a person can be demonstrably wealthy or not. Much of how this debate can be deciphered relies in determining the definition of wealthy. Under the strict interpretation that Cody used - means exceeding needs - wealth can be considered an absolute under any circumstance, depending on the various purposes provided. For example, if my purpose is to keep my home, then my means MUST exceed my needs; and if they don't, I am not considered wealthy in an absolute sense. The same can be applied within the context of a starving African who's purpose is merely to survive. If his/her need for food exceeds the means to obtain food, that African can be considered "not wealthy" in an absolute sense.

Dependent upon perhaps another definition, someone's wealth can change when compared to another's wealth; however, this changes only in perception. If the given definition of wealth is tied to perception and comparativeness, then it is relative. If it is not, then it is absolute. Overall, I do feel wealth can be considered absolute under a strict interpretation that is tied to physical possessions and needs, so I mostly side with Cody.

This was probably the most in depth and intellectual debate I have ever read. Nice F-ing job guys; both of you!
Posted by PARADIGM_L0ST 7 years ago
PARADIGM_L0ST
I thought Cody did an admirable job defending an almost impossible proposition. Ultimately, though, he could not create enough reasonable doubt that would refute Feverish.
Posted by TombLikeBomb 7 years ago
TombLikeBomb
Part of context is standards, whether overt, as in "wealthier than Cody", or covert, as in simply "wealthy". Cody, of course, is neither more nor less wealthy than Cody; similarly, a covert standard is neither wealthy nor its polar opposite, poor. "Poor" being the polar opposite, not the negation, "very poor" and "poorer than Cody" are perfectly sensible. "Very wealthy" of course means "wealthier than the standard of wealthiness". Its negation is thus not "poor", but "poor or moderately wealthy", inclusive of both standards.
Posted by Cody_Franklin 7 years ago
Cody_Franklin
"Your argument that the definition is illogical was unconvincing, as the word is not "wealthy in all contexts", but simply "wealthy", only necessarily in the context in which its used."

Yeah. That's what I said. It's not relative because it's always an "either wealthy or not wealthy" in any given context.

"Any relative term, by your overinterpretation of the LEM, would be illegitimate."

Certainly. Any that argue otherwise are disregarding the LEM entirely.
Posted by TombLikeBomb 7 years ago
TombLikeBomb
Your feelings on the definitions of other words are irrelevant. The resolution was that "wealthy" is a relative term, not that it should be. What a word means is determined by how people use it, which is precisely what dictionaries base their definitions on. The only way to counter the dictionary definition would have been to offer empirical evidence that people use the term otherwise, which you failed to do. Your argument that the definition is illogical was unconvincing, as the word is not "wealthy in all contexts", but simply "wealthy", only necessarily in the context in which its used. Any relative term, by your overinterpretation of the LEM, would be illegitimate.
14 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by fire_wings 1 year ago
fire_wings
feverishCody_FranklinTied
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Vote Placed by famousdebater 1 year ago
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feverishCody_FranklinTied
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Vote Placed by Dmetal 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I have to go with pro here because con's definition has no meaning, and his understanding of socially constructed meaning is limited; he focuses too much on logic.
Vote Placed by TUF 6 years ago
TUF
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 6 years ago
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feverishCody_FranklinTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Consider "tall." Either you are tall or not tall, right? It relative to some norm of height, with an implicit or explicit reference to some norm. "Compared to a hundred years ago, today's people are tall." The same is true of "wealth." It's always relative to an implied norm. The meaning of words is defined by their use, and that's what dictionaries attempt to capture. Pro had the dictionary on his side.
Vote Placed by Volkov 6 years ago
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feverishCody_FranklinTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Interesting debate. I found myself at the end of it stuck inbetween both sides, as I do favour bits of feverish's arguments and bits of Cody's. It is kind of a relative term, but with grounding in objective reality of what it means to have "wealth." In the end, Cody's argument was slightly more convincing though, so there you have it.
Vote Placed by OrionsGambit 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by shadow835 6 years ago
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