An Open Challenge

NickOtani's picture
Submitted by NickOtani on Fri, 2008-02-01 15:19

If Valliant or anybody else is peeking in, I’d like to challenge him or any of you to a formal debate. With the informal debate, we go on and on until it degenerates into a childish and boring flame war, but the formal debate does not easily lend itself to that. There are guidelines and set procedures.

There is an affirmative constructive which introduces the proposition, a simple, positively stated declarative sentence, like Resolved: Objectivism substitutes reason and logic for God, or Resolved: Existentialism is a philosophy for barefoot savages. Then, after defining certain terms and putting the issue into a context, the affirmative supports it with two or three contentions each supported with evidence and reasoning. After a closing summary, the affirmative opens himself or herself to questions from the negative. Then, the negative makes a constructive speech, in response to the affirmative speech and answers, and opens himself or herself to questions from the affirmative. After this, the negative makes a rebuttal speech. The affirmative makes a rebuttal speech. There is another round of rebuttal speeches. Then, the debate is over. We leave it there to be judged by the audience.

I have written a more complete guide to formal Lincoln and Douglas Debate in the writer’s forum of this board, and I have written a few affirmative cases. My post on the issue of Women in Combat is an example of such a case.

This kind of debate does get quickly into the issue. There is a focus on the proposition being debated such that it is not easy for the debate to drift off into non-topical areas. There is little room for personal attack because the emphasis is on the reasoning and evidence. And, the debate is over after the last rebuttal. It doesn’t go on and on and turn into a personality contest.

If Valiant doesn’t accept this challenge, it will say something about him, that perhaps he is more comfortable with insult contests and doesn’t want to explore the issues in the interest of knowledge and learning.

Bis bald,


( categories: )

Mind y

gregster's picture

Have some further reads of Otani's threads first and you'll see that his debates were circular sophisms.

Why not go on with a formal debate?

Ptgymatic's picture

Formalizing a debate is good if it addresses the ways in which discussions so often  get de-railed.

The chief problem is that the subject roams. A referee can help with that.


@ Glenn

HWH's picture

Fucking funny mate...LOL

I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the starless night, -- blown and flared by passion's storm, -- and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish that, and nought remains.- - Robert Green Ingersoll

Yes, given up the ghost...

Jameson's picture

But such was the indefatigable persistence of the man that when I saw his name pop up again in the margins of the Recent Posts I wasn't entirely sure. Smiling


Ptgymatic's picture

Thanks for the heads-up.


gregster's picture

I'm sure Nick is very interested in any discourse with you but he has long given up the ghost.

Logical howler

Ptgymatic's picture

You argue that since "consciousness" is one of Rand's three axioms, and since she declares everyone to be "objectively" conscious, everyone possesses that axiom...

There's a howler here. Possessing the attribute, consciousness, is not the same thing as possessing the idea, "consciousness." As an absurdum: Animals are conscious. I think we can agree, here, that they don't possess or debate philosophical axioms!

Another quick point: the fact that axioms are independent of any particular context means they are manifest in every context. It doesn't mean there is no way to experience the facts that they express, it means there is no way NOT to experience it--no experience that doesn't make it clear.

I could go on, but I imagine, as this was a mere example of a debate, you aren't much interested...

What are the rules for 3rd party comments?

NickOtani's picture

It's okay with me if you comment now, before we get started, as we are trying to decide what the proposition will be and who will be affirmative and who negative. You can add to the suggestions. During the debate, you can confer with either of us in our blogs or in another thread. I'd like to keep this thread between the two participants until the end of the debate. At the end of the debate, you can, of course weigh-in on who you think won and why.

bis bald,


Here's an affirmative case already presented on this forum

NickOtani's picture

Resolved: The Objectivist Epistemology is ultimately incoherent.

Let's look at a brief description of knowledge, truth, and axioms as presented in the Objectivist Epistemology:

Rand said man is not omniscent nor infallible, and he posses no innate knowledge. All knowledge is derived contextually, from natural involvement in specific situations.

It is a posteriori, discovered through personal experience, and man cannot know more than he has discovered.

Knowledge (or truth) is, then, always basically indirect and sensory. It is integrated, however, by our consciousness, which is not relative, as is human experience. So, while knowledge is relative to experience, it is indirectly dictated by a pattern of objective relationships which provide the basis for consciousness itself. The requirements of cognition control the formation of new concepts.

Concepts are tools of cognition, and cognition preceeds communication. These concepts grow out of our direct experiences within specific situations, and our definitions are symbolic self-representations of concepts.

Axiomatic knowledge is categorically true beyond contextual demonstration.

Axiomatic truths are primary facts of reality which are implicit within all of the other facts. They provide the basis for objectivity. They are simply given--"they are what they are" -and are therefore beyond proof. They are in no sense contingent upon arbitrary choice. They are always recognized to be true, and they cannot be denied without self-contradiction (i.e., without invoking "the fallacy of the stolen concept")

There are three basic axiomatic concepts; existence, identity, and consciousness. None of them have specifiable content. Identity is merely an aspect of existence, and existence merely the objective content or dimension of consciousness. They are tautological hyperabstractions which describe the basic boundaries of experience itself. They explicate the passive knowledge implied in every conceivable situation.

Stated as formal axioms, axiomatic concepts take the form of tautologies, statements in the form A is A.

All humans are, by definition, objectively conscious. Therefore, they know axiomatic truth.

From axiomatic truth, all other truth is derivable, including moral truth, by logical demonstration.

Therefore, to deny an objective truth, something Ayn Rand or any strict follower of Objectivism holds as true, is to be willfully ignorant and evil.

All this is vulnerable on at least three counts:

1. It's inconsistent to say all knowledge is derived from experience but that all men already have knowledge of axiomatic truth, which is not experienced but experienced directly.

2. Tautologies have nothing to do with experience. They tell us nothing of the outside world.

3. One cannot logically derive as much as Rand derives from one, two, or three metaphysical assumptions. There are hidden axioms in Objectivism. They are, basically, wild cards used to explain things more rigorous and authentic philosophers actually try to explain or admit can't be explained.

Let's look at support for each of these contentions:

1. It is inconsistent to say all knowledge is derived but that all men have knowledge of axioms.

If all knowledge is derived and axiomatic knowledge is knowledge, then axiomatic knowledge must be derived.

If axiomatic knowledge is possesed by everyone, then it is not derived.

Rand states that all men are objectively conscious by definition and that consciousness is axiomatic, therefore all men know axiomatic truth

Therefore, Rand contradicts herself. She maintains that knowledge is both derived and not derived.

Second, if all men are limited by knowledge they experience, then those with limited experience will have limited knowledge.

It is possible under such a scenerio for one person to believe X is true, based on objective reasoning from limited experience, and another person to believe X is false based on further experience and the same objective reasoning.

Logically, X cannot be both true and false, according to the law of non-contradiction. One of the two Objectivists must be wrong. correct perception and objective reasoning does not seem to insure truth.

2. Tautologies have nothing to do with experience.

Statements which meaningfully inform us of the outside world can be verified by sense. They can be either true or false. If they are not true, then they are false. If they are not false, then they are true. With the statement, "It is raining outside." is not true, then it is false. However, if it is a statement which must always be true or always false, regardless of the truth value of the variables, then it is true or false only by form, not by substance.

Contradictions are always false, and tautologies are always true. They say nothing about the outside world because they are always false or always true for any state of affairs in the outside world. A tautology like "It is either raining outside or not." is true, but it does not tell us if it is raining outside. It is without sense.

As Wittgenstein said, "Contradiction is the external limit of the propositions, tautologies their substantless center."

3. There are hidden axioms in Rand's Objectivism.

Implicit in Rand's concept of objective reality is a world where men obtain value only from the acquisition of, or control over, material objects; where all men are free and morally responsible regardless of circumstantial considerations, even though freedom is in conflict with determinism, and causality is a corollary of identity. Basically, all the laws of logic can also be declared axiomatic. Tautologies like" it is raining outside or not" can be axioms since they cannot be denied without self-contradiction. Even statements in the form of "It seems this is true." may be considered axioms since they cannot be denied without saying something which cannot be proven to be true.

By claiming "existence" as an axiom, she can basically claim everything and nothing. It's meaningless. It can't be defined. She states that all definitions are contextual. Axioms like existence can't be defined, but then she goes on to define axiomatic concepts as true independent of any particular context. She defines the axiomatic concept of consciousness as having content and action. BTW, if something escapes definition, it also tends to escape conceptualization. Therefore, an undefinable concept is a contradiction in terms, and such is an axiomatic concept if the axiom can't be defined.

bis bald,


I Vill Nuke You All!!

James S. Valliant's picture

Obviously, so "highly strung" its clear that I could... NUKE YOU ALL!!!

(Sinister laugh)

Drat! Unmasked at last!

Passing readers should know that it is a simple matter of long-standing policy for me: Otani's brand of incivility is something to which I do not respond.

Sounds like fun.

personallydisinterested's picture

What are the rules for 3rd party comments?

"If" being the operative word.

NickOtani's picture

Nick, you are slime of the highest order. That's a vile insult to those on this board, & you know it. It's clear that you're trying to provoke us to anger. Why?

You help me prove my case. I never said all Objectivists here are so tightly wound and highly strung as Valliant. I said that “if they were…”. A conditional doesn’t really insult anyone unless they choose to wear the shoe. If you want to be insulted, you will be, but don’t blame it on me. You make yourself the victim. It’s like saying, “If everybody here is as stupid as Leonid,…”. It doesn’t say everybody is as stupid as Leonid. However, calling me slime is a specific insult directed at me. It shows me that you get provoked easily, like Valliant. It’s people like you who should not be entrusted with weapons of mass destruction, and this would be the conclusion not of a paranoid person but any rational person.

Anyway, please feel free to float some propositions you would like to debate. Pick some that you want to support as the affirmative and/or some you would want me to support. If you’ve read some of my material, you should know what some of my positions are. If you think Existentialism is a philosophy for barefoot savages, build a case. I will take the negative. If you would rather I start, I think I can build a case for the proposition that Objectivists place too much emphasis on logic and reasoning, making it, in effect, a substitute god. Or, if there is any other position which catches your interest, please suggest it. Go ahead and confer with your buddies if you want.

Bis bald,


If all Objectivists are so

Duncan Bayne's picture

If all Objectivists are so tightly wound, highly strung, I'd better watch my back if I show up at the Summer Seminar in Portland. Any little thing I say could get blown-up out of proportion, interpreted as hostile to Objectivism, and earn me a bashing.

Nick, you are slime of the highest order. That's a vile insult to those on this board, & you know it. It's clear that you're trying to provoke us to anger. Why?

... blaming the one who stands alone among those hostile to him.

Ah, the penny drops. I think I can hear the theme to '300' playing in your mind as if from a stuck record. If this is your Thermopylae, what exactly are you protecting from us SOLOists?

I guess my challenge will go unanswered.

You never wanted it to be answered. You proclaimed your challenge, and then proceeded to insult all on this board to the extent that they wouldn't want to have anything to do with you, let alone participate in a formal debate.

So, just to spite you, I will answer you - because I'll be damned if I'll let you have the pleasure of once again playing the victim. What had you in mind for the proposition of the debate?


Buy and wear InfidelGear - 100% of all InfidelGear profit goes to SOLO!

Yes, look who is really paranoid

NickOtani's picture

The one who is willing to come here on a board where he is constantly abused and challenge people to debate, or those who find excuses to evade, blaming the one who stands alone among those hostile to him.

I guess my challenge will go unanswered.

bis bald,



James S. Valliant's picture

I suppose that one must accept Otani's self-reported fear of violence from Objectivists as a real one -- and even, I suppose, his incapacity to see how expressing this bizarre paranoia could ever be regarded as insulting in a serious discussion with Objectivists.

Perhaps he is being sincere.

But the cause is not so important as result: engagement with him is senseless, and undertaking the corrections of all the premises implied in his paranoid assertion would be a thankless act of self-sacrifice.

Of course, it is in the presence of the paranoid where you must always "watch your back." Smiling

Such a terrible statement by that terrible Otani

NickOtani's picture

What unfortunately derailed my last conversation with Mr. Otani was this comment of his: "If the ARI, TAS, SOLOP, and OL were all countries, I’d be concerned if one of them had the ability to nuke the others. They all might be able to rationalize that the others are illegal regimes, undeserving of rights."

Again, I don't see what is so inflamatory about this comment. It is pretty mild compared to being called anti-American or morally blind and a liar. I was trying to make the discussion relevant to Objectivists. Valliant's contention was that countries which share the same or similar principles do not see each other as a threat. I said that I don't think it is that simple. Even among groups which supposedly share the same principles, there is division. If a simple comment is going to impact someone to such a degree that he turns abusive, calling me a creep and so farth, then that makes my point. All these different groups in a small room with a little alcohol in them could produce some violence among them. This is not unreasonable. And, if they were individual nations with nukes, a rational person ought to be concerned.

If all Objectivists are so tightly wound, highly strung, I'd better watch my back if I show up at the Summer Seminar in Portland. Any little thing I say could get blown-up out of proportion, interpreted as hostile to Objectivism, and earn me a bashing. This kind of thing happens even among religious people who have peace and love as part of their creed. Why is it so unreasonable and offensive to suggest that it might happen among Objectivists?

bis bald,



James S. Valliant's picture

Thanks, again, Chris.

My desire and capacity for civil engagement can be seen in many discussions here at SOLO, as well. One of my favorites is on Chistianity. We were even eventually able to coax author George Smith into civility for a discussion of self-defense (which spread out over more than one thread.) As a trial attorney, of course, the civility of my arguments is enforced judicially, although this has never been, for me, an issue.

What unfortunately derailed my last conversation with Mr. Otani was this comment of his: "If the ARI, TAS, SOLOP, and OL were all countries, I’d be concerned if one of them had the ability to nuke the others. They all might be able to rationalize that the others are illegal regimes, undeserving of rights."

Nick, if you’re referring

Chris Cathcart's picture

Nick, if you’re referring to a PARC formal debate (since you’re addressing JV, that’s what I figured) you might check out the Sciabarra-Valliant exchange, which I found a useful guide and context-setter for how different focuses and perspectives come to this debate. I thought their exchange was respectful and managed to focus on things intelligently. Sciabarra’s review, sans Valliant’s response, seems to raise issues pretty well, but Valliant holds his own just fine and adequately rebuts pretty much every point. And you’ll notice, contra the straw-men of JV’s debating style, he did not descend into name-calling or issue-changing. There’s a currency involved: respect. You give it to JV, he’ll be more than happy to give it in return. Many of JV’s critics, however, impugn his motives from the outset, and focusing a lot on inessentials to do so. But JV’s motives are quite clear and simple: to present a defense and a case for Rand, against the Brandens, putting in full context the reasons underlying their break. The motives are admirable, and he pulls the job off admirably. I may differ with JV on how much or the kind of slack to extend to one or both of the Brandens -- for instance, I see the case of Barbara as largely one flaky emotionalism, and not (or at least more complex a story than) dishonesty -- but the point is that Rand had reasons for breaking with them that didn’t stem from the “woman scorned” thesis.

If there’s a more general point that you were making about formal debates that you didn’t mean to PARC necessarily, and if it’s whether JV can conduct a respectful debate that sticks to the issues, well, you have your example in the link above.

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