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Have 10,000 debates yielded any knowledge?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/16/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 923 times Debate No: 100000
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (13)
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This is the 10,000th debate. In the previous 9,999, do you think that any knowledge has been accumulated? I will argue that no, we are still uncertain of any facticity and have only assumed truths by arguing.
You are free to respond against my propositions in any way you so conceive.


I will be using this as my acceptance round but I would also like to make two request and a point.

Firstly, the requests.

Debate differs from discussion because of its formality which promotes equal opportunity and respect for each side to express their angle on the subject. Therefore, I would ask that my opponent only place their argument in the accepted rounds of the debate and not in the comment section which could result in behaviour that is harmful to the quality of the debate. For this reason, I will not be responding to the comments made by my opponent since I would prefer a clean start to the debate, if my opponent would like to share the points they made in the comments in their argument that would be excellent.

My second request would be for my opponent to clarify whether they wish to debate the value of debate in finding knowledge, fact, truth, other or the value of debate overall? Since currently it is unclear to me of which my opponent takes question with.

A small point.

Would my opponent join me in appreciating the irony in a debate that debates the value of debate. This suggest either that my opponent intends to gain something through debating be it truth or knowledge and therefore that gives debate immediate value. Or that they intend for one of us to remain unconvinced by the other therefore using this debate as an example to how no certain answer is achieved through debate. Or quite possibly both of these.

Let us begin, your move.
Debate Round No. 1


Between total scepticism and certainty, I agree with my opponent that everything in between is ironic (with the potential for the uncertain to always occur). But, siding with the former scepticism, there is no irony if we expect that everything may be false. In every piece of knowledge we possess we assume something from an virulent and unreliable source which thereby corrupts our conclusions entire.

But before exploring this, I would like to draw attention to the ancient Platonic problem of Meno's Paradox:

Premise 1: If you know what you"re looking for, inquiry is unnecessary.
Premise 2: If you don"t know what you"re looking for, inquiry is impossible. (our focus)
Conclusion: Therefore, inquiry is either unnecessary or impossible.
(Extracted from

Without an object of truth, we cannot have a right opinion about it. Yet, to know which of our opinions are right and which are wrong we first need to know the object of truth-- which we can never know if all our attempts to get to it are by our opinions and potentially fallacious methodologies. Our entire method for ascertaining knowledge is circular.

No matter how much data is accreted, there is no certainty on which to ground it upon. We only interpret and assume that from it, our end results are justified in being called 'true'. Internally, our faculties may be wrong. We might misjudge something. We might only have limited data. Or, psychologically, we might be forced to believe in errs. For example, we might believe that all objects are colourful and attribute colours to them. Yet, their colour is only derived from normative light waves reacting with them. Take away these light waves and you take away the object's colour. The external world may mislead our collective human minds. Optical illusions, or mirages show how they are naturally fallible. We assume truth from nothingness. For instance, the Muller-Lyer's optical illusion (both lines are the same length).

Or take the phenomenon of pareidolia, where we project regularity into the world imposing faces onto random patterns as a function of our social psychology. All this goes to show is that we can be uncertain about our beliefs and every source of our beliefs. We could be being mislead by our anthropocentric lens. And, therefore, we cannot derive any truth from our condition. Indeed, for all we know, we are in a dream or in the Matrix. Everything around us could be false. Our knowledge of the external world could be false. Indeed, modern science is currently debating simulation theory arguing it more probable that our reality is a simulacrum over a real and undeniable fact.

But, what about our internal reason? What about maths? Well Kant suggests that all things like maths, like 7+5=12, are in fact synthetic propositions by which he means that they are of experience needing verification by our unifying powers of reason. We couldn't know that '12' results from the antecedent parts of the equation from reason alone because we would have to be informed of how the system works first. We assume the '=' using experience to justify it and reason to confirm it. Both could be false. Here is the problem: we assume a conclusion from an assumed system. Reason may only give us truths as humans see them and not actual truths. And maths and science and so forth, we take as inherently true because their methodologies reach tangible conclusions when they too could be false. Not knowing any actual truth, we only assume that the truths of these methods are true. They might be fallacious. They might mislead us in some way by reducing our world into simple and neat equations, or might only be true only in virtue of the human-devised methods themselves and not of reality. Are we confirming knowledge or are we confirming our psychological tendencies to reason about the world in a certain way? If the latter, we cannot gain knowledge of the former.

To sum up, if either our internal reasoning, methodologies, or the external world are in any way wrong, then we cannot reach truth by debate. This is because we assume knowledge that holds no veracity in the real world, we defer to things we have no reliable experience of. We use our inquiries to justify answers when we don't know what the answers are. In other words, opinions are fruitless if they grow from poisonous soil... By citing sources and giving opinions, all we do is exchange errors.

The move may have been mine, but now the game is afoot.


In terms of objective truth, I share the opinion of my opponent, but of course I cannot say if it is objectively true following my opponent"s argument that we cannot know objective truth. However, while this may be the case, I believe this debate is not limited to whether debate yields objective truth and that therefore knowledge that can be categorised as subjective is still arguably valid. I would like to commend my opponent on the interesting points they have raised and that in their own argument they communicate the impossibility of discovering objective truth while using subjective evidence, reasoning and opinion, giving further evidence to their claim that objective truth is beyond our reach. Interestingly I would like to note that the inability to find objective truth is not limited to debate and encompasses all our existence, therefore that concept of truth as a basis for valid debate becomes irrelevant since it is unachievable.

My argument is twofold. Firstly, that the purpose of debate is not always limited to the discovery of answers, truth or the achievement of victory over your opponent. The first national conferences on forensics (Another term for debate, it is not used in the contemporary sense) noted that debate is first and foremost an educational endeavour. Secondly, this suggests that on a subjective level debate does indeed yield knowledge in the forms of skill, experience, understanding and information. The debate may not yield objective answers or truths but it is quite capable of giving individual and ultimately subjective knowledge.

IDEA claims that "Debate is not a forum for asserting absolute truths, but rather a means of making and evaluating arguments that allows debaters to better understand their own and others" positions." This sentiment is advocated by many other individuals, institutes and organisations. For example, Colbert and Biggers state "training in debate has long been considered a vital part of the educational process" later saying "the educational benefits of debate seem to be well documented...". Understanding that debate has much more to offer than absolute answers is something that many large debate bodies heavily communicate. Debate offers skills that can be used throughout life, opening you to new ways of thinking, feeling and seeing. It allows you to explore the understanding of those you debate with, to inform your own views with evidence and reason and challenges your opinions against the most robust arguments. "I may be wrong and you may be right and, by an effort, we may get nearer the truth." " Karl Popper.

Much of our perceptions have evolved and changed through debate. While we may not have achieved an objective, absolute truth, we begin to understand that our only way forward is to question and debate otherwise ideas become stale and our journey towards greater knowledge is left to rust while we only accept what we already believe we know. Mahatma Ghandi said "Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress." Certainty will stop us in our tracks. Debate is a conduit between all concepts and all beliefs that will give us something much more valuable than objective truth. It tears down barriers and show us how much we can offer each. Through it we realise that perhaps we don"t have the answers, and that is something we can grow with and move forward with together. Just for a bit of fun, I"m going to throw in one of my favourite quotes "May all her desires be fulfilled except for one, so she'll always have something to strive for" -Seven of Nine, Star Trek: Next Generation. Our strive for answers and understanding is how knowledge can be achieved and debate is a magnificently successful way of achieving that, individually and as a whole.

Further benefits to debate exist in terms of cognitive advancements. In the paper "The Value of Debate" By Jeffrey Parcher. The improvements to critical thinking, research, organisational and communication skills is heavily evidenced. "Debate is today, as it has been since classical times, one of the best methods of learning and applying the principles of critical thinking" (Freely, 1990). Each of these areas I would are argue are form of knowledge beyond objective truth and is subjective to each individuals experience. Debate is a tool that is used throughout much of higher education purely for the benefits I have stated, not in the pursuit of absolute answers but in the pursuit of expanding individual capabilities. Parcher concludes reaches the same as Colberts and Biggers in that "competitive debate is an extremely valuable educational activity, unmatched not only by any other student activity, but unmatched by any other academic activity that a student might engage in".

In general, the benefits of debate include:

"Gaining broad, multi-faceted knowledge cutting across several disciplines outside the learner's normal academic subjects.
"Increasing learners" confidence, poise, and self-esteem.
"Providing an engaging, active, learner-centered activity.
"Improving rigorous higher order and critical thinking skills.
"Enhancing the ability to structure and organize thoughts.
"Enhancing learners" analytical, research and note-taking kills
"Improving learners" ability to form balanced, informed arguments and to use reasoning and evidence.
"Developing effective speech composition and delivery.
"Encouraging teamwork.

The most secure form of knowledge is the first bullet point, in that on an academic level the debater becomes more informed on the perspectives and information available of the subject being debated. Their knowledge improves, much like mine or my opponents may during this debate.

My conclusion then is that debate does indeed hold value in terms of providing subjective academic and cognitive knowledge that can be implemented to advance the knowledge further and move our understand of our own existence forward further. Perhaps objective truth may never be achieved but if that is what we measure success by then we have always failed. Instead I believe it is important to value and progress where it is possible and that will require a great deal of communication to form a greater understanding of the whole picture. Uncertainty is what will move us forward, perhaps to many things we are not yet capable of understanding, but activities like debate move us closer each day.
Debate Round No. 2


As Nietzsche said in We Philologists: 'A belief, however necessary it may be for the preservation of a species has nothing to do with truth'.
And in agreeing that objective truth is unattainable, my opponent agrees debate becomes nothing more than an exchange of partial lies... But, wait, what if these lies are useful? Do we get a form of functional truth in these debates?

Nisbett and Ross raised the question in 1980, that 'If we are so dumb, how come we made it to the moon?'

And my opposition, or should I really say my collaborator-on-finding-the-most-functional-solutions-given-the-data-available (though slightly more verbose), basically asks me the same question. We mightn't derive objective truth from debate, but we do get practical solutions and skills (phronesis) from discussion and pointing out each other's errs and so forth. We do learn practical things (functional beliefs) everyday and this is how we progress as a race. Yet, what are progressing towards? Absolute Knowledge? This would suggest that our debates have some connection to an objective truth. How else do they function so well? If the warp engines don't make the starship travel faster than light, what does? We cannot give up on objectivity yet.

At this point, I would like to draw attention to the fact that my (coftmfsgtda)'s position relies entirely on their being practical benefits from debate. Communication. Skill. How things function. We can no longer ask 'why things function'. All debates not founded in practicality, only give knowledge of how to communicate. Knowledge which could be derived elsewhere, from non-phatic language (as all such debates with no truth must be). Metaphysics goes out the window: we can have no objective consensus or progress in it. The meaning of our existence to which Star Trek captain is the best (it's Picard by the way) to any conceivable preference becomes impossible to determine because there is no common measure by which we can ascertain a conclusion. In short, debate of this kind yields nonsense and not knowledge. Because, unless there is truth in something that we have access to, then all discursion around it becomes meaningless (or at least only meaningful insofar as it caters to our relative skills of communication). And, you agreed that we can never obtain 'objective truth' (aside a connection to it in our practicalities).

For, the common measure in science is probable function, is repeatable data which when enacted upon does something. How could I possibly argue against this? Of course, with scientific conclusions, there is always the possibility of falsification. Something Popper devised himself (since you cited him). And as Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle highlights, scientific method is far from perfect. I use the obvious example of Copernicus' heliocentric model which proved the world going around the Sun and not the other way round-- as the Ptolemaic model suggested. Scientific belief, and it is belief, is predicated on the current data we have and perceive as well as the language we all need in order to functionally communicate. What we believe now, may by no means be the truth of the world..... in answering our connection to truth in functionality, you've forced me to adopt an impossible position: solipsism.

Only my mind and no others exist in universe. I'll give you Putnam's Brain in the Vat argument...
P1 If I know anything about the external world, then I am not a brain in a vat (BIV)
P2 I don't know that I'm not a BIV
C I do not know anything about the external world

I am potentially a BIV and therefore all knowledge of 'function' becomes superfluous; it becomes the function of nothingness. All ideas are in my head only. I never experience the world directly; only stimulations from a machine. And, as we've agreed, if there is no reference to an external truth in ideas (an objective truth) then no knowledge can be ascertained. Even (Lt. Commander) Data becomes a product of my thought processes...

Or as Ivich in Sartre's The Age of Reason says, 'When I don't see people, they no longer exist'.

Providing that I could be a BIV, everything around me is assumed true. I don't know it is true at all. So then, how can debate yield knowledge? If all sense datum we receive is purely illusory, then surely all knowledge is illusory too. For we cannot know something false to be true; we can only assume what is false to be true.
And, there is a potential that I am a BIV. I'm not sure that I'm not; how could I tell of whether my brain was being stimulated to believe it was in reality or if this was actually the real world itself? With this uncertainty, we cannot gain knowledge. We can only assume that the world around us, that science and communication are true. We cannot know it or gain knowledge from 'in simulation' debate.

I strange position, I know, but then you put me in a hard position. I know there are some evident flaws to this argument... but I look forward to seeing what you do with it. To boldly go where only one million scholars have gone before... Destination: Round Three. Engage!


Before I begin what I believe is the final turn? (I've seen some debates with more rounds but not sure how that works so this where I intend to end hopefully). I would like to thank my collaborator on a most intriguing, and somewhat meta debate. Suffice to say it has been a challenge trying to keep up with your technical ability and philosophical understanding. I would also correct a reference mistake since the Seven of Nines quote is from Star Trek: Voyager, not Next Generation. Late night mistakes happen aha.

To begin then, I must concede to my opponents (I too feel a preference towards collaborator) truly undebatable point, Captain Picard is the best.

Referring to my opponent's argument of solipsism there are, as they point out, flaws and inconsistencies, the most prominent being language. "A non-linguistic solipsism is unthinkable and a thinkable solipsism is necessarily linguistic. Solipsism therefore presupposes the very thing that it seeks to deny." Since language is built entirely in and only hold meaning in a social context, to affirm your belief in solipsism is to make it foundationless. Since language would have no
need to existence without the need to communicate.

Another inconstancy that is unanswered by solipsism is that if reality is defined purely within our own minds, what force allows our minds to exists and be sustained or, if you prefer, what has created the vat to put our brain in. Another reality? And objective realm where the answers lie? Vulcans?

My opponent reiterates my point that debate can yield functional beliefs and then suggest that if we are indeed progressing, it may well be towards objective truth. If we are indeed able to progress towards this point, then what we believe and understand at this point must then be able to evolve and change if we are indeed reaching for an absolute. A cause of change is that something new occurs, a new thought, a new event and ultimately, new information (knowledge).

Change requires something new, we cannot know if the new input is real or fake, but either way it does cause change. I must refer to the well-used example of Rene Descartes, to express that perhaps a certainty in reality is not required for knowledge "I think, therefore I am" Our experience whether we are a BIV or not, is evolved by this new input. This new knowledge has had an effect, if it has an effect, it exists and if it exists, whether real, false, objective or subjective, it has a value.

Furthermore, if you would argue that knowledge is dependent on it being real then, while this may be valid I would argue that, the knowledge of the inputs existence, conscious or subconscious also exists and is therefore a form of knowledge. Knowledge can be open to fallibility since of course, we are not capable (yet) of be objectively truthful. This is my argument that the knowledge while perhaps pointless or superfluous, still exists, whether it has a practical effect such as skill, such as my position in my first response, or whether it is knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

My conclusion then is that whether debate yield any valuable knowledge is relative and of course subjective, but either way knowledge is still achieved through debate. My opponent points out that knowledge such as communication, may be achievable through other means and debate is not necessary for this skill to be developed. This does not contradict that debate yields knowledge, just suggest there may be other ways.

Live Long and Prosper my friend.
Debate Round No. 3
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 2 years ago
Like most modern idiots, I made a mistake late at night whilst creating the argument. And, again like most modern idiots, I then claimed that it was all intentional (in my first comments)... That, by accepting, you were accepting an argument on the basis of a false premise.

So, it was an accident which I used to my own advantage.
Posted by BeBraveandDreambig 2 years ago
Aha I noticed it as soon as I got here my friend, didn't feel it was worth mentioning in the debate though apart from perhaps to make a silly little point about the value of debate to help inform others of their errors or something like that, was it a deliberate point you were making with the incorrect number or just an accident may i ask?
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 2 years ago
Yeah I know, I can't believe no one else noticed XD
Posted by Mharman 2 years ago
100,000, not 10,000.
Posted by canis 2 years ago
Knowlegde means everything..And often nothing.. look at debates about religion..
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 2 years ago
But, would your perspectivism extend into science and mathematics as well? I don't see how deductive claims like 2+2=4 evolve over time; are you denying that this equation is absolutely true? Is there potential here for an alternative answer?

The conceptual analysis you propose, finding the essence of collective semantics, too raises the question of conflicting localised truths. Can't the essential truth of something differ from time, place and context? Without an object of truth, there can be no right opinions. Copernicus' argument that the world is round becomes just as true as the the world is flat. Surely, there is also absolute truth in the matters-of-fact of the world? I agree with you insofar as abstract ideas evolve but in terms of likely knowledge, there must be the truth in order for you to probably be correct.
Posted by mschechtel17 2 years ago

It is my philosophy that "knowledge" is fluid and ever changing without a natural end. Dominant ideology would suggest knowledge leads to truth, and absolute truth suggests the completion of the idea. I believe an idea is an interpretation of emotion and knowledge is a willingness to accept this idea and build upon it. Furthermore that an individual's unique perspective is what forms an idea and expresses it in the physical world. Discussing an idea, in debate form for instance, offers others to project their perspective on the idea. This projection of a unique perspective on some else's idea forces it to evolve regardless of the direction the perspective shifts the idea. This evolution of a single idea results in knowledge. Although the credibility of an individual's response to an idea helps to better communicate what the added perspective is doing to the idea, it is not essential to gain knowledge for that specific idea. In short, as long as an idea is being discussed, knowledge can be gained if interpreted the correctly.

We cannot be absolutely certain that any idea is true and so certainty is not necessary for knowledge to be gained. Knowledge helps to narrow the most accurate path of an idea. The goal of knowledge is not to reach an absolute truth of an idea, but to better understand the essence of an idea. In this sense one can gain knowledge from any discussion, and either erode, reinforce, or transform the idea in question.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 2 years ago
Before proceeding, I would like to clarify that by 'accumulating knowledge', I was really asking whether debate produced any sort of credible knowledge (whether absolutely certain or only probable) leaving the definition quite open for maximum uncertainty ;) Is this acceptable?

I would also like to note that debate is not an egalitarian process; it is the modern battle of intellectual wills. Our society's acceptable equivalent to primordial belligerence relying on the strength of the brain and sources found. Respect is only one of its conventions.
Posted by Grandzam 2 years ago
This is a really good idea for a debate
Posted by Grandzam 2 years ago
Don't argue in the comments dood
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