The Metaphysics Of Social Media: How To Avoid Pointless Debate

LILLE, FRANCE – JUNE 14: A Russian journalist (R) argues with an England fan who had pretended to … [+]

It is not always worth the effort.

Sometimes, you just cannot argue anymore. Not because you won or you’re tired. When there is an argument or debate over something absolutely foundational, there may be just nowhere left to go.

When you talk about your experiences on social media and someone attempts to disprove them, what is a counter argument for that?

It is very possible they are arguing just for the sake of arguing. This is a non-starter.

You could attempt to keep explaining that it really did happen, but this could easily be misconstrued as humoring the person with an argument.

The best option in this kind of situation—when someone is pursuing a debate over something non-debatable—is to state that fact. But if they just won’t stop the debate, walk away from the discussion.


The Scandal Of Philosophy

What falls into this category? What exactly are these ‘absolutely foundational’ facts? In today’s world of alternative facts and fake news, nothing is obvious or seems to fit this.

Bear with me for a second as we enter the philosophical world of metaphysics.

The philosophical sub-discipline of metaphysics deals with some of the “typical” philosophical questions. Many of the questions that the general public understand to be philosophical inquiries—like what does it mean to be, what is the nature of time, does god exist and is there free will—are the questions that metaphysicians explore.

Even though the term ‘metaphysics’ does seem like an appropriate label for these kinds of questions, the name is actually serendipitous. It has been widely accepted that when first coming into contact with and publishing the works of Aristotle, his investigations into these questions editorially come after his investigations into the physical world. Thus, they were labeled ‘metaphysics.’

It should be pointed out that there has been some pushback on this, as the name is almost peculiarly fortuitous. One prominent example comes from German philosopher Max Wundt.

Regardless, one of the big focuses of Aristotle’s metaphysics, and therefore of metaphysicians thereafter, is how we can prove the external world.

There are many ways of asking this question. How do we know there is existence beyond just what we perceive? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? How do we know other people exist? However you choose to ask though, the basic idea is the same: How can we prove there is an external world?

Partially frozen stream in a park as a snowstorm dropped 10-15 centimeters of snow across the city … [+]

But surely this could be an example of one of those ‘absolutely foundational’ facts, right? What is more basic than the physical world in which we live?

However, just as any debate in philosophy goes, with attempts to prove one side, there are attempts to prove the other. This debate over the existence of the external world is no different. While there are many articulations of ways to show there is a world beyond our perception, there are nearly as many skeptical answers trying to prove there are not.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant famously dubbed the counter-arguments to an external world ‘The Scandal of Philosophy.’ According to Kant, is it the scandal of philosophy that there does not exist a proof of the external world strong enough that can reject any skepticism about it.

From this point, he proceeds to object to each example of these skeptical arguments but does not himself provide a positive account of the external world that could get rid of them once and for all.

So, it appears as though Kant does not take the fact of an external world to be one of these basic, non-debatable ones. If he did, there would be no reason to go on the record and make counter arguments to the skeptics.

About 150 years later, fellow German Martin Heidegger continued this discussion about whether or not the external world needs to be proved and how that would be. According to him, we are right to think Kant could still be classified as a skeptic in that he even addresses their arguments.

For Heidegger, it is not necessary to attempt a proof of the external world. All you need to do is open your eyes. Heidegger believes the actual scandal of philosophy is that people believe that there even needs to be an articulation of some argument.

Just as your own experiences are a starting point to a discussion and not some conclusion, Heidegger believes the external world is the same.

This means that there is no point in humoring those skeptics who do not think an external world exists if they fail to provide their own explanation. They are skeptical for the sake of being skeptical.

Social Media

You see these kinds of skeptics all over social media.

They are arguing just because. And worse, because these kinds of arguments tend to be against how you feel or what you experienced, there is no way to counter them. So, it begins a vicious cycle of debate.

How do you know which facts are the ones not worth pursuing debate?

Look at how a person goes about the debate. Is he or she putting forth any kind of positive argument, or simply negating yours? When one side of the debate is only trying to disprove, there will be no conclusion. If there is only a negative argument, or just trying to go against what you are saying without presenting any argument of their own, this is a debate to stay away from.

I write and do research in philosophy. I mainly write about the benefits that would come with bringing philosophy into basic education. The humanities as a whole need a