The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

know=physical experience

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/21/2016 Category: Science
Updated: 3 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 143 times Debate No: 93969
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




a blind person cant know what is on a picture i am showing him


Given that no format has been given by the initial post, I will assume we may provide arguments and rebuttals in all rounds, spare the last (because the opponent would have no room to reply).

I would like to address and expand on the core argument "Know=physical experience", before addressing my opponent's round one commentary. I will assume, "a blind person cant know what is on a picture i am showing him" Is either supporting evidence or a secondary argument. I feel this expansion necessary to provide a full discourse since my opponent commentary was so short.

I would first like to translate the argument though. It appears to mean "Knowledge is equivalent to physical experience". If this is an incorrect interpretation, then my opponent should clarify this next round.

This argument is actually an old philosophical discussion within epistemology, the study of knowledge. Specifically, the argument that all knowledge stems from physical experience is called experientalism, a branch of positivism, which is a branch of empiricism, that is itself a branch of epistemology. This delineation is important because, while the concepts of positivism and empiricism in general will be relevant to the argument, I need only show that the specific branch of positivism known as experientalism, which holds that physical experience is the basis or primary source of knowledge, is incorrect.

Knowledge is not equivalent to physical experience, any more than a rhombus is square. While squares are rhombuses, and physical experience can be seen as a form of knowledge, the reverse is not inherently true. Knowledge exists in many forms. I know, for instance, how to multiply. This is an entirely abstract concept outside of physical experience. I will preempt the argument that I had to learn multiplication through physical experience. I can put a baby in water and it will begin swimming. Did the baby know how to swim prior to putting it in the water? No, it didn't, it didn't need to because it is reflexive. That ability was innate. Similarly, our conscious innately provides us the ability to perform abstract thought, which can lead to knowledge. Even if I existed in some Descartian fantasy as a senseless yet conscious mote, if my mind were the same as mine, I would be able to perform such abstractions as math independently of ever having counted blocks or toys or colors when I was very young. If knowledge can be obtained independently of physical experience, this should be considered a hard case against experientalism.

As for my opponents commentary, let us return to the blind man. If I present a blind man with a painting, no, he cannot see the painting as someone with eyes can, but that doesn't mean that he can't know what is on the painting.

Consider if the blind man only recently lost use of his eyes. While he hasn't seen this painting before, you could describe what is on it, and he would have visual knowledge of it. I can easily similarly describe a painting to you over this medium of text. Imagine an impressionist-era painting of rolling fields of sunflowers back-lit by a cloudy sunset with pink hues. You have not physically seen this painting, but, given that you have seen all its components before (You know what an impressionist painting looks like, you know what clouds and sunflowers and fields look like), you can infer what the painting looks like. This is but a primer though, since it still relies on prior physical experience. This is only to demonstrate how such knowledge could be inferred.

Again let us go back to the blind man, except now we will give him no previous physical experience of vision. He can still have a computer analyze almost anything he would want to know about it, and tell it to him. He could analyze what materials it was made from, its texture, weight, size, shape, the color values of any area of the painting, even the directions of brush strokes.

An experientialist would argue that it doesn't matter because without the initial physical experience to know what red is visually, for instance, he cannot infer similar knowledge! He would be wrong though, and here is why. No two people on this planet have identical eyes. They don't have identical optic nerves and they don't have identical cerebrums. When you look at a painting, your visual knowledge of it is going to be dissimilar, even if only slightly, to everyone else that views that painting. How different can input and interpretation be before the knowledge is considered different from the source? What if they have partial color blindness? What if they have 20/80 vision and it is blurry to them? What if they have cataracts? What if they only saw the painting while taking hallucinogens?

If the match must be perfect, then we have fallen into solipsism. There is no way to obtain perfect visual knowledge of an object, so consequentially no one can 'know' what something looks like under such an interpretation, even if they have 20/20 vision. If the match must be some degree of closeness, but not perfect, then what is the cut off point? There is none that would not be arbitrary or fallaciously determined. What if any perception of the painting counts as knowledge of what it looks like? Well, then the blind man knows what it looks like, though he may possess knowledge of it different than yours. But again, anyone's knowledge of the painting would be different from yours. Just because that knowledge was given to the blind man by auditory description instead of visual examination is not sufficient justification to disqualify it as knowledge of what the painting looks like. I will quickly preempt the rebuttal of, "But he can't know if the description he is told is true". You can not know what you see is true, either. Here again we risk falling into solipsism, where the only irrefutable knowledge is that you experience consciousness.

In summary, knowledge can be abstract, such as how to do a non-physical process (math, logic, inference); abstract knowledge does not necessarily come from physical experience, nor is it necessarily subordinate to it; and attempts at forcing such an interpretation are lead to other uncashable philosophical checks, such as unfalsifiability, fallaciusness, or solipsism.

As my arguments thus far are almost entirely logical in nature, I have no sources to cite. A good source for more information on experientalism could be found here though:
Debate Round No. 1


can a blind person know what is on a picture i am showing him?

knowledge is truth, truth can only be in the past.. know is true

i obtain knowledge from logical constructs.. but i have no knowledge without my senses to begin with. i dont know the looks of 1 unseen, like a man born blind dont know rainbows
it isnt a case against "experientialism" because math dosnt make matter... just because you solved an equation dosnt mean it pops into reality, 1 dragon on your head+a dragon with a dragon hat=dragon on your head with a dragon hat

a blind man cant see... a blind mans sense is not of colors and light

machines cant tell me what is real, only what to believe


First I will address the rebuttal line by line, then I will submit a body of argument.

"knowledge is truth, truth can only be in the past.."
This seems to imply that truth can only be in the past. Can I not know that if I jump up in the air I will fall back down? Or if I don't like mayonnaise I still won't like it tomorrow? Inference is a legitimate form of knowledge that exists outside the past, as an abstraction about the future or present.

"i obtain knowledge from logical constructs..."
You obtain knowledge from logical constructs. This in of itself should be evidence enough that knowledge is far more than physical experience. Logical constructs are completely separate from physical experiences. This is more or less a confession!

"...but i have no knowledge without my senses to begin with."
I will seek to show evidence against this in the main body of my rebuttal. Without this qualifier standing, the previous claim is particularly damning to my opponents position.

"i dont know the looks of 1 unseen, like a man born blind dont know rainbows"
While I do not understand what you mean by the first half of this statement, I already addressed how a man born blind could come to have have knowledge of what something 'looks' like. You have provided no new arguments or supporting evidence as to why I am mistaken on this point other than merely contradicting me. This is insufficient and I hold my point as is.

"it isnt a case against "experientialism" because math dosnt make matter..."
If you don't identify your argument as experiential that is fine, but it has all the same components, so denying this is mostly semantic. Regardless, I will honor your request. Math is relevant to the discussion, however. Your initial conception of the argument proposes knowledge is equal to physical experience. As a form of non-physical knowledge, math is entirely relevant, as are any abstract concepts that we can obtain knowledge from.
"just because you solved an equation dosnt mean it pops into reality, 1 dragon on your head+a dragon with a dragon hat=dragon on your head with a dragon hat"
I never made such a claim. Just because when I multiply 5 times 3 in my head, 15 doesn't burst into physical form in front of me, does not mean that math isn't a form of abstraction, or that its performance isn't a demonstration of a non-physical knowledge.
a blind man cant see... a blind mans sense is not of colors and light

"machines cant tell me what is real, only what to believe"
This is not coherent to me, nor do I see how machines are relevant to the discussion.

The main rebuttal you have provided my is that, without senses, you do not have knowledge. While it may seem odd or hard to falsify at first this is actually easily shown. As Descarte said, "Cogito ergo sum" or, "I think, therefore I am." If I were to be born without senses, but still with a conscious, this proposition could still be made by me. My knowledge that I exist is the most reliable knowledge I have, because if it were not true, I could not think it.

To show it more formally
P1. Existence is required to be able to think.
P2. I consciously think.
C1. I must exist.


P3. I know C1 is true
P4. Knowing the truth value of a conclusion is a form of knowledge
C2. I possess a form of knowledge

C2 could be reached by someone without any physical senses. They would only need a conscious. I hold these propositions to show that you in fact, could obtain knowledge "without senses to begin with".
Debate Round No. 2


know=am not can

yes then truth is in the past, you dont like mayonaise

knowledge is not physical experience

a blind man cant see..

math is equal to physical experience on the level awarness, but matter is the opposite of information..

cant do math without your senses, answers are not imaginar

knowledge is non physical or mental

without sense to begin with you would never exist at all

therfore cogito ergo sum is non sense.. there is no life in my imagination

no you could have no knowledge of what you do not sense


Given that new arguments were made by my opponent on this last round I will provide rebuttals, but no new arguments. I will use the same formatting as last round.

"know=am not can"
I do not follow what you're saying, but it disagrees with the initial claim know=physical experience.

"yes then truth is in the past, you dont like mayonaise"
But I presently do not like mayonnaise either. And I consider it knowledge that I won't like it in the future.

"knowledge is not physical experience"
Roll credits, guys. Pro just blatantly claimed the opposite of his position.

"a blind man cant see.."
I never claimed he could.

"math is equal to physical experience on the level awarness, but matter is the opposite of information.."
I'm not entirely sure what you are trying to say here, but it seems contradictory. If information is the opposite of matter, and math is a form of information, would that not make it non-physical?

"cant do math without your senses, answers are not imaginar"
Sure you can. I could go take a trip to a sensory deprivation chamber right now and I could still do math. This is easily refuted.

"knowledge is non physical or mental"
Warrantless claim as far as I can tell.

"without sense to begin with you would never exist at all"
A block of plastic exists. It has no senses. Easily refuted.

therfore cogito ergo sum is non sense.. there is no life in my imagination
You've seemingly worded this as a conclusion. I will let my rebuttals to your above propositions show that this conclusion can't stand.

"no you could have no knowledge of what you do not sense"
Merely restating contradiction.

Thank you for the debate, and thank you readers. Vote Con!
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by vi_spex 3 months ago
these short rounds kill my interest sry
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by JayConar 3 months ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's arguments were almost entirely incoherent which means that both spelling and grammar and convincing arguments go to con. Con was also the person to use the most sources.