Instigator / Pro
4
1619
rating
42
debates
67.86%
won
Topic

The negating philosophy of "IF"

Status
Finished

All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

Arguments points
0
6
Sources points
0
4
Spelling and grammar points
2
2
Conduct points
2
2

With 2 votes and 10 points ahead, the winner is ...

oromagi
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Category
Philosophy
Time for argument
Two days
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
Two weeks
Point system
Four points
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Rated
Characters per argument
5,000
Required rating
1
Contender / Con
14
1924
rating
97
debates
98.97%
won
Description
~ 724 / 5,000

“IF’ ‘is the most useless word in any language because it acknowledges only that which is currently not true. The argument of “if” almost always begins by stating “if,” and it is virtually always directly followed by a wish as if it were true only for the wishing, which implies, of course, that the thing wished for is not a current truth.

Is this really supposed to be a positive way to being an argument? Well, I just did, didn’t I? But my premise did not follow with any matter that is currently not true. Remember, my premise stated that In fact, the premise is true and I challenge anyone to demonstrate otherwise. ”If” is “almost always” followed by something not true; I did not say it was always followed by truth.

Round 1
Pro
“IF’ ‘is the most useless word in any language because it acknowledges only that which is currently not true. The argument of “if” almost always begins by stating “if,” and it is virtually always directly followed by a wish as if it were true only for the wishing, which implies, of course, that the thing wished for is not a current truth.
 
Is this really supposed to be a positive way to being an argument? Well, I just did, didn’t I? But my premise did not follow with any matter that is currently not true. Remember, my premise stated that In fact, the premise is true and I challenge anyone to demonstrate otherwise. ”If” is “almost always” followed by something not true; I did not say it was always true.
 
Beginning an argument with “if” is not the same as proposing a theory to explain natural phenomena not yet proven by the empiric method, such as either proposing or negating the existence of anything yet unseen, but may, in fact, be true. I don’t want this debate to enter the arena of religious entities. That just results, at best, in agreeing to disagree. There is no point in using those examples. I suggest using a completely different construct, such as the current accuracy of DNA profiling by regional origin of ancestors, or any subject of your choosing. This is not a debate regarding the particular facts or theories of any construct, but rather the relative stability of any “if” argument.
 
I contend that use of the word, other than as used to propose a scientific theorem, which is difficult to discuss by any other construct than if/then, is generally fruitless because of the resulting condition I applied in the first paragraph.

Con
thx, fauxlaw for the original topic.

THBT: “IF’ ‘is the most useless word in any language because it acknowledges only that which is currently not true.

DEFs:

IF [conjunction] is:

  1. "Supposing that, assuming that, in the circumstances that; used to introduce a condition or choice.
  2. (computing) In the event that a statement is true (a programming statement that acts in a similar manner).
  3. Supposing that; used with past or past perfect subjunctive indicating that the condition is closed.
  4. Supposing that; given that; supposing it is the case that.
  5. Although; used to introduce a concession.
  6. (sometimes proscribed) Whether; used to introduce a noun clause, an indirect question, that functions as the direct object of certain verbs.
  7. (usually hyperbolic) Even if; even in the circumstances that.                                                                                                                                                         
  8. Introducing a relevance conditional."
MOST USELESS [superlative adjective] is "without use or possibility to be used to the ultimate extent."

BURDEN of PROOF:

"When two parties are in a discussion and one makes a claim that the other disputes, the one who makes the claim typically has a burden of proof to justify or substantiate that claim especially when it challenges a perceived status quo."

CON interprets the resolution to mean that PRO must prove that the English conjunction "IF" has less value than any other word in any other language.

PRO's ARG:

P1: [Truth is the only measure of a word's usefulness] and
P2: The world IF only indicates that which is not yet true, therefore
C1: IF is the most useless word in any language

P1:
Readers will note that CON has inserted the major premise as an implied, necessary syllogistic bridge between PRO's single premise and conclusion. If truth is not the only measure of a word's usefulness, then PRO's argument must fail. Since there are other measures by which a word's use may be tested and PRO has not addressed those measures, PRO has failed to falsify alternatives

P2:
PRO's minor premise is made false by the word "only."  IF has many meanings only some of which are suppositional or conditional as PRO suggests 

  • Sometimes, IF is used to concede a minor point
    • ex. He was an unskilled, if enthusiastic lover.
      • Both conditions are true- unskilled, enthusiastic. IF does not only indicate that which is not yet true
  • Sometimes IF is strictly contemplative and uninterested in any eventual  or particular truth
    • ex. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
      • IF here indicates a philosophic conditional.  The statement only suggests one remedy when relevant but does not indicate any condition that is not yet true.
C1: PRO omits a necessary major premise and offers a minor premise that is only sometimes true.  PRO has failed to support this conclusion.

CON's ARG:

ARG#1:

P1:  Any word with multiple meanings is more useful than a word with only one meaning
P2:  IF has at least 8 meanings (see DEFs) while many words have only one meaning
ex. ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIAN only means "One who believes that the Church of England should retain its formal constitutional relationship with the state."
C1:  Therefore, the word IF is more useful than many other words

ARG #2:

P1:  If Con can offer one word in any language that is manifestly less useful than the word IF,  than IF must not be most useless.
P2:  FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION is one word in English that is manifestly less useful than IF
C1:  Therefore, IF must not be the most useless word

P2:  Floccinaucinihilipilification is the act of describing something as useless.  The word could not be more relevant to this debate but even here the word is profoundly useless:  too long, too obscure, too impossible to spell or pronounce.

ARG #3:

P1: The most useless word should be the least used word in the English language (or at least close to least used).
P2: One word frequency analysis performed across 450 million words of contemporary US English found IF to be the 40th most frequently used word.
P3: Therefore, IF is far too popular and dependable a word to be acurately characterized as "most useless"


Links to sources in comments
Round 2
Pro

I argue that your definitions of “if” are duplicated and effectively agree with my proposal. #1, #3 merely change tense from present to past, but otherwise are descriptive. #2 through #8 all assume a condition that does not negate the potential of “not true” and not different from my initial proposal.
 
Moreover, you ignore the use of “most” in the clause “most useless” by introducing “Floccinaucinihilipilification”as a word still more useless than “if.” However, “most” is not an ultimate descriptive. One might use “most” as “Dogs are the most useful domesticated animals, because they offer unconditional love.” That is an acceptable statement, both by cultural heritage, and by practical experience. It does not negate the possibility that someone has a “most useful domesticated animal” for an entirely different purpose. Change the condition; change the assertion.
 
Your Pro’s Arg: “P1: “Truth is the only measure of a word’s usefulness.”
 
My opposing proof: That is not my argument; it is yours.  I offer as proof that your statement is false the René Magritte painting, “The Treachery of Images,”[1929] featuring a painting of a smoking pipe on a plain background, with the following phrase beneath [in French] “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”[This is not a pipe.]  The painting is an example of the wide gap between language [the image, and the phrase beneath] and meaning. “Pipe,” in this instance, is a clearly useful word, but has more than one meaning, clarified by the illustration. Or is it clear? A plumbing pipe, also a very familiar object, can also curve; it is not necessarily straight. Therefore, is the phrase below the image more helpful to understand the truth of the image, particularly if you have no facility with the French language? No. Not to mention that the phrase offered is absolutely confusing; the painting of the pipe cannot be stuffed with tobacco and smoked any more than it can be filled with water [or any other medium] to convey it to another location. Therefore, is it a pipe, however you construe the word? No, it is an image, and the image does not associate itself with the phrase beneath. Both objects in the painting are the definition of the artistic movement within which it was created: Surrealism. Can anything be more descriptive of the conundrum of language, let alone truth, and thereby measure a word’s usefulness?
 
Your Arg #1: “Any word with multiple meanings…” [a polyseme] “…is more useful than a word with only one meaning.”  
 
My opposing proof: Polysemes, particularly when they are also homonyms [polysemes with the same spelling, and usually the same sound] have the disadvantage of being ambiguous. When meaning is ambiguous [as your eight definitions show proof] usefulness declines. How useful is that? It goes for virtually “any” polysemic homonym.
 
Your Arg #2: The Flocci… argument.  
 
My opposing proof: “Most” is not an ultimate condition, because one might substitute “absolute” as an opposing argument. 51 is “most” of 100, but the consideration of 30 plus 40, both less than 51, yet are the combined plurality of 100. “That your “Floccinaucinihilipilification” may be less useful than “if” is accepted out of hand, but the claim has naught to do with the relative uselessness of “if,” only because, as you admit by definition, “if” has so many conditions to fulfill, by meaning, relative to “flocci... having but one. “Most” is merely generically descriptive.  One might consult Umberto Eco’s novel, Foucault’s Pendulum, wherein character Belbo is fond of arguing pretentiousness with “Ma gavte la nata,” a Turin [Italy] dialect effectively translated as “Please be so kind as to remove the cork.” I think Flocci… qualifies.
You claim Flocci... is “too long, too obscure, to impossible to pronounce.” One might wonder, then, if a better example might be offered?
 
Your Arg #3: “The most useless word should be the least used word…”
 
My opposing proof: See my argument immediately above; you argue that “most useless” is necessarily an ultimate condition. As my mathematic exercise demonstrates, that is not necessarily true. We cannot confuse a majority with a plurality. The fact is, given the wide spectrum of word use in any or all languages, particularly given the existence of polysemes, we cannot assume to know which of many candidate words is the absolute least useful word with any statistical accuracy. There are too many variables. Rather than quibble the point, I will offer a meme: A word qualifies its existence first and foremost by its use; any use at all.

Con
thx, fauxlaw.

MOST USELESS:

"However, “most” is not an ultimate descriptive. One might use “most” as “Dogs are the most useful domesticated animals, because they offer unconditional love.” That is an acceptable statement, both by cultural heritage, and by practical experience. It does not negate the possibility that someone has a “most useful domesticated animal” for an entirely different purpose."
But PRO did not write the resolution as "IF is a most useless word,"  PRO wrote the resolution as "IF is the most useless word.  Readers should note carefully that PRO used the definite article "the" in his resolution NOT the the indefinite "a." Which means that PRO was refering to one particular member of the group "words," that one particular member being  defined as the most useless.


"The definite article, the, is used to refer to a particular member of a group or class. It may be something that the speaker has already mentioned or it may be something uniquely specified. The is the only definite article in English, for both singular and plural nouns."

"An indefinite article indicates that its noun is not a particular one identifiable to the listener. It may be something that the speaker is mentioning for the first time, or the speaker may be making a general statement about any such thing. a/an are the indefinite articles used in English"

  • Superlative adjectives always use "the"
My house is the largest one our neighborhood.

Superlative form:
Noun (subject) + verb + the + superlative adjective + noun (object).

Therefore, we can tell by PRO's use of the definite article that PRO's resolution is superlative in original intent.  

Furthermore, If we substitute the indefinite article, the sentence does not scan:

“IF’ is a most useless word in any language because it acknowledges only that which is currently not true,"

make no sense.  IF is an English word, not a word in every language. If IF is in another language the word most likely means something other than "suppose that".

Intentionally or not, PRO has clearly written the resolution using the superlative form of useless. R2 of a three round debate is too late to rewrite the resolution.  Of all words in any language, PRO must show that IF is the single least useful word of all and PRO can't help but fail because IF is most useful as a word.

PRO's ARG:

  • PRO and CON agree that Truth is NOT the only measure of a word's usefulness  PRO here concedes my R1 argument, "there are other measures by which a word's use may be tested and PRO has not addressed those measures.   PRO has failed to falsify alternatives."  That is, PRO concedes that the 'not yet true' aspect of ifness is not the sole criteria by which to judge a word's use.  In fact, there are many criteria for use: brevity is a quality to be admired in word usage (particularly in 5000 char/round debates) and IF is a most brief word.  Poetic potential is an excellent criteria by which to judge a word's use.  IF rhymes with cliff and shares with cliff a narrative horizon of poetic potential.
    • If by Rudyard Kipling
    • If by Bread
  • For PRO to justify MOST USELESS, PRO must survey alternative criteria and show a convincing case for uselessness across criteria.
  • CON hopes readers will recall CON's R1 note:
    • "Readers will note that CON has inserted the major premise as an implied, necessary syllogistic bridge between PRO's single premise and conclusion. If truth is not the only measure of a word's usefulness, then PRO's argument must fail."
      • PRO has invalidly argued against the suggested addition to PRO's argument. 
        • METAPHOR: Imagine CON saw PRO with a two legged stool and offered PRO a stick to balance the stool but PRO magically polymorphed the stick into a rabbit.  The question of where PRO shall sit is left outstanding.
  • What's so useless about being not true?  Fiction is not true but useful.  Religion is not true but useful.
  • PRO dropped my main counterargument: "PRO omits a necessary major premise and offers a minor premise that is only sometimes true.  PRO has failed to support this conclusion.
CON's ARG:

ARG#1:

"When meaning is ambiguous usefulness declines."
False.  Polysemy is the poet's bread & butter.

"In literature and rhetoric, ambiguity can be a useful tool. Groucho Marx's classic joke depends on a grammatical ambiguity for its humor, for example: "Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know". Songs and poetry often rely on ambiguous words for artistic effect, as in the song title "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue."

ARG #2:

"That your “Floccinaucinihilipilification” may be less useful than “if” is accepted out of hand, but...."
PRO concedes that at least one word is less useful that the word IF.

ARG #3:

"we cannot assume to know which of many candidate words is the absolute least useful word with any statistical accuracy."
PRO admits even PRO does NOT know which word is least useful.

Round 3
Pro
“IF” is the most useless word in any language because it acknowledges only that which is currently not true.
 
Is there really any word in that string that begs to be defined in order to understand the entire phrase in its simplicity? Then why has my opponent spent at least half of two rounds of debate embroiled in a definition mode? 
 
“If” is given all of eight definitions by my opponent. Who asked?
 
“Useless” is interpreted by my opponent as a function of mere frequency of use, and not recognized by my opponent as a function of unaccomplished purpose, arguing merely that “floccinaucinihilipilification” is a word used less often than “if.” No kidding. 
 
“If” is maligned because that is not the word the French, the Italians, the Russians, or any other foreign national to the native English-speaking nationals of the world. No kidding. “If” has its adequate, and equivalent words in each of those languages, and others, and in other languages, “if” has the same consequence as I propose in English, which is why I included their mention in the premise. I’m using English as my debate language because that is my native language even though I am fluent in three others. “If” is the word under discussion; it is an English word in an English sentence. We need not waggle tongues in any other lexicon to prove the point in English.
 
And, finally, the “then” clause of this if/then statement of logic is said by my opponent to be false because I do not acknowledge all possible “then” statements that may follow “if,” based on it’s eight definitions. 
 
However, this debate is not about definitions. It is about the functional uselessness of “if,” considering that, among other conditions that are not under discussion in this premise, it acknowledges only that which is currently not true. “Currently” is a qualifier of use in a specific, present tense. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but now. Immediate present tense. My opponent defines “if” in terms of various tenses. “Currently” defines a proper tense for the premise, and only that tense is useful in the premise.
 
“If” establishes the condition of the word’s uselessness, and nothing else. Then it acknowledges that which is “not true,” only in the premise as given, and nothing else.
 
It is possible that “if” can assume it will rain tomorrow, when there are heavy clouds tonight. But it is not raining now, and that is the point, in spite of there being heavy clouds now. Therefore, “if,” in that statement, without consideration of all possible conditions and timing of rain other than with heavy clouds, acknowledges only the fact of “not true” relative to rain, even though it is true there are heavy clouds. That’s it. My original argument is no more complicated than that.
 
Shakespeare’s Richard III has Richard spilling his guts in a short if/then statement: “Slave! I have set my life upon a cast, / And I will stand the hazard of the die. / I think there be six Richmonds in the field; / Five have I slain today instead of him. / A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” [Richard III, V, iv]
 
"If" is only implied, but it’s there, and all of its consequences are currently not true. Richard’s “if” is couched in the two lines of a clever “die is cast” statement, and then begins his “not true” string: there are not six Richmonds, he has not slain even one of them, and the “slave” has no horse to give, though Richard offers his kingdom for it.
 
I rest my case for my premise, under my conditions, and by my choice of language.

Con
THBT: “IF’ ‘is the most useless word in any language because it acknowledges only that which is currently not true.

Is there really any word in that string that begs to be defined in order to understand the entire phrase in its simplicity?
  • Yes.  In fact, after 3 rounds of clarifications we are still trying to discover PRO's formal intent.
  • In R1, PRO argued that:
    • IF only acknowledges that which is not true
    • (but also)  ”If” is “almost always” followed by something not true
      • (PRO's thesis being one example)
    • (excepting scientific theorems)
  • In R2, PRO argued that:
    • MOST USELESS might have meant "very" as in "a most useless word"  [P1]
      • (and/or) that MOST might have meant a majority as in "51 is “most” of 100  [C2]
    • Magritte's "The Treachery of Images" is "an example of the wide gap between language and meaning," which PRO calls the "conundrum of language." [P1]
  • In R3, PRO argued that:
    • IF is NOT the most useless word in any language, rather he meant that the idea of conditional conjunctions generally is useless regardless of language.
  • Now, PRO wants to claim his resolution is unambiguous after relying so heavily on thematic ambiguity in prior arguments.
“Useless” is interpreted by my opponent as a function of mere frequency of use, and not recognized by my opponent as a function of unaccomplished purpose, arguing merely that “floccinaucinihilipilification” is a word used less often than “if.”
  • Quite false.
    • CON argued that Floccinaucinihilipilification [SEE => R1, C2, P2] is useless because
      • too long
      • too obscure (frequency of use)
      • too difficult to
        • spell
        • pronounce
      • In R2,P1, poetic potential was identified as a criteria for useful words and CON advised that there were many other criteria which PRO had failed to falsify.
    • That's 5 criteria by which FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION  fails to be as useful a word as IF.  PRO's claim is falsified.
“If” has its adequate, and equivalent words in each of those languages, and others, and in other languages, “if” has the same consequence as I propose in English, which is why I included their mention in the premise.
  • PRO's statement is entirely unproven and false by varying degrees depending on the language.  As CON showed in R1, IF has multiple meanings that translate into many different words. 
    • For example, Greek has multiple words that roughly translate as IF in the "supposing that" sense: αν, εάν, άμα , ει  but no word that translates well for the "although" concession sense of IF.
      • Further,  if IF translates to many words in some languages, (and not at all in a few other languages) not all of those translations can simultaneously qualify as PRO's superlative: "THE most useless word." 
    • Worse for PRO's case, the conveyance of the conditional and subjunctive moods in most languages relies more on modifying the verb than on any conditional conjunction.
      • That is, with most languages you change or add to the verb to make it "not yet true" rather than necessarily connecting a consequence to a condition via conjunction.
"[this debate] is about the functional uselessness of “if,” considering that, among other conditions that are not under discussion in this premise, it acknowledges only that which is currently not true"
  • So, IF only means "not yet true" but also means other things PRO doesn't want to discuss.  PRO and CON seem to agree that IF has multiple meanings, even if PRO only wishes to discuss one of those meanings.  If we do agree that IF has multiple meanings, we have refuted that IF only means "that which is currently not true" and PRO's case must fail.
  • Ultimately, PRO is blaming the wrong part of speech.  What PRO is talking about is the subjunctive mood.
The SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD is "a grammatical mood found in many languages. Subjunctive forms of verbs are typically used to express various states of unreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgement, opinion, obligation, or action that has not yet occurred; the precise situations in which they are used vary from language to language. The subjunctive is an irrealis mood (one that does not refer directly to what is necessarily real) – it is often contrasted with the indicative, which is a realis mood (used principally to indicate that something is a statement of fact)."

  • IF is a commonly associated conjunction but IF is not the part of speech that makes the sentence indicate "not yet true." 
    • ex. "If I were a butterfly", I would have wings.  The indicative, the statement of fact would use "I was a butterfly, I am a butterfly"
  • We can indicate the subjunctive mood without using IF.
    • ex. "I wish I were a butterfly; I would have wings."
  • In English, we modify the verb to indicate the unreality of the grammatical mood.  PRO is finding fault with IF for changing the mood to "not real" when PRO ought to blaming the verb.

  • Since PRO can't argue that all verbs in the subjunctive mood are alike in uselessness, PRO's argument must fail.
Thx, fauxlaw and
thx to VOTERS for their kind consideration.