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Thread: On Argument

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    Senior Member reason's Avatar
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    Default On Argument

    There is an assumption which is held in regard to argument which I want to discuss, one which is held by almost everyone who argues about anything, from the street to courtroom, classroom to lecturehall, playground to workplace, and everywhere else inbetween. The assumption is held by people of almost every philosophical stripe, from empiricists to intellectualists, objectivists to subjectivists, dogmatists to relativists. This assumption even helps to form the context in which arguments take place, setting expectations of what an argument should achieve and providing standards by which we recognise failure. However, the assumption is also mistaken.

    The assumption which I am talking about can be described as follows:

    The premises of a good argument provide some reason, support or justification to believe that the argument's conclusion is true.

    It is my intent to explain here that according to this definition of a what contitutes a good argument, there are no good arguments. This result is a simple consequence of three commonly understood facts. 1) Invalid arguments provide no justification for their conclusion, 2) Question begging argument provide no justification for their conclusion, and 3) Every valid argument is a question begging argument. In other words, there are no good arguments: the premises of an argument can never provide any reason, support, or justification for the argument's conclusion.

    It is commonly noted that a circular argument, though formally valid, does not provide any justification for its conclusion. Instead of 'circular arguments', I think that they are better described as 'equative arguments', because in such an argument the premises and conclusion say the same thing in different ways i.e. the premises and conclusion are equal, and so make an equative argument. In this way we can make a distinction between an equative argument and a deductive argument, where the premises and conclusion are not equal (conventionally, equative arguments form a subset of deductive arguments, but here I am treating them seperately). That said, a deductive argument is not defined solely by the inequality of its premises and conclusion, since the conclusion is also expected to follow validly from the premises i.e. if the premises are true then so must be the conclusion.

    There seems to be a general recognition that equative arguments provide no justification for thier conclusion, but there is also a common assumption that deductive arguments can achieve where equative arguments fail. This is mistaken; what makes an argument equative is that both the premises and conclusion share the same logical content i.e. they both have exactly the same logical consequences, and a deductive argument can be distinguished by the fact that the logical content of the conclusion is a proper subset of the logical content of the premises i.e. everything implied by the conclusion is also implied by the premises, but not vice versa. In other words, if you were to lop off the extra logical content of the premises (which is unecessary for the inference) then you would end up with a plain old equative argument.

    Think about it like this. If you put some apples into an empty basket then do not expect to pull anything out of that basket except some or all of the apples which you put in. That is how valid arguments work, you put the premises in the basket and then pull nothing out except some or all of the premises which you put in--nothing new is introduced. The trickery to logic is that what we pull out of the basket often looks superficially different to what we put in, but that is just a result of the transformational rules of language, and if we have reasoned correctly then what we put into the basket will provide no justification for what we pull out. In fact, we will just discover new ways to repeat, either wholly or partially, the premises which we started with.

    I'm done now, carry on.
    Last edited by reason; 08-15-2008 at 07:55 AM.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

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    Boring old fossil Night's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    The trickery to logic is that what we pull out of the basket often looks superficially different to what we put in, but that is just a result of the transformational rules of language, and if we have reasoned correctly then what we put into the basket will provide no justification for what we pull out. In fact, we will just discover new ways to repeat, either wholly or partially, the premises which we started with.
    This is a great point in an excellent thread.

    When I'm more favorably disposed later, I'll offer insight.

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    Interesting, seems like an addition to the Argument from Fallacy, or atleast very similar to it. Our subjective nature prevents us from arguing in a pure objective state.

    Awesome thread, +1 cool points.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Didums View Post
    Interesting, seems like an addition to the Argument from Fallacy, or atleast very similar to it. Our subjective nature prevents us from arguing in a pure objective state.
    The word 'objective' is ambiguous, and frankly I do not know what it would even mean to argue in a 'pure objective state', nor why that would be important. The only important thing is that you argue correctly, not whether you are in a subjective or objective state (whatever that means).

    Something which you might find especially interesting. In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins devotes a chapter to dealing with arguments for the existence of God. Dawkins carefully addresses each argument and exposes its error, but if I am correct then he needn't have bothered. If I am correct then it is impossible to form a logical argument for anything, and the only way which one of these arguments for the existence of God could be valid is if it already assumed, explicitly or implicitly, that God exists. Therefore, if such an argument is valid then it begs the question, and so it is impossible to actually argue for the existence of God, or for that matter, the nonexistence of God.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

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    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Everything you're talking about rests on a reasonably well-known binary... analytic versus synthetic. In analytic knowledge, one is merely unpacking the content of a proposition and laying bare the results... so there's no new knowledge, simply the making explicit of propositions that are part and parcel of the original proposition being analyzed. So what you're saying is that there's no [Edit:] good argument that is analytic, since it ends up being circular... but perhaps it is useful nonetheless to have analytic arguments, since one does need to justify the steps which take us from condensed packet of information to an exposed but neatly exposited subset of information derived therefrom.

    However, there are [Edit:] good arguments which can arise from a synthetic approach... i.e. putting two (or more) separate propositions together, as it were, and coming up with a new proposition whose truth-value can only be justified by appeal to the relationship of the original two (or more) propositions. Science generally proceeds along synthetic lines.

    __________________________________

    The problem is, however, that the further back (towards the beginning) you go, the more one realizes that there are foundational propositions which one just cannot prove... they are (here we go again, "reason") primitive values. And as such, our hope is that our most foundational propositions are largely self-evident. For instance, in Euclid's geometry, it was postulated and felt to be perfectly obvious that two parallel lines never meet. However, later on, in geometries like that of Riemann, it was shown that two parallel lines can and often do meet when space is curved... such as with all longitudinal lines on the surface of the earth... at the equator, they are perfectly parallel, and they maintain straight lines all the way to the north pole, where they meet. So, actually, most, if not all, of our postulates are subject to revision. It's interesting to note, yet again, however, that Euclid's geometry is still extremely useful for engineers and people in various other sciences, particularly when working on certain scales... non-Euclidean geometry is better at dealing with more complex systems and weight distributions (or so I've been told). So the fact that Euclid's claim about parallel lines isn't universally true doesn't take away from its usefulness. The same goes for Newtonian physics (or classical mechanics).

    __________________________________

    So we must rely on provisional propositions, or as Euclid puts it, postulates, in order to found new synthetic knowledge. Even if some may question the [Edit:]self-evidence of our founding propositions, a pragmatist appraisal of the value of the resulting statements will determine whether the new 'knowledge' is useful or not. For instance, are pandas rodents or bears? Recently, scientists have decided they're bears. We can't prove this without a doubt, because of the tentative nature of definitions of animal species... but practically defining pandas as bears proves more useful to use, so we consider it true that pandas are bears without going into metaphysical proofs about universals and how they are predicated in the physical world.

    __________________


    Nice thread topic. I'm sure Orangey and Night will have something good to say about all this. <nudge nudge wink wink>.
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

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    Senior Member reason's Avatar
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    Thanks for the response Samuel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuel De Mazarin View Post
    Everything you're talking about rests on a reasonably well-known binary... analytic versus synthetic. In analytic knowledge, one is merely unpacking the content of a proposition and laying bare the results... so there's no new knowledge, simply the making explicit of propositions that are part and parcel of the original proposition being analyzed. So what you're saying is that there's no valid argument that is analytic.
    First, nothing I have said rests upon the analytic-synthetic distinction. The property of being 'analytic' or 'synthetic' is one which is correctly applied to statements or propositions, not inferences from statements and propositions, the latter of which is my chief concern here. Second, it is not my intent to suggest that there are no valid arguments, instead my intent is to suggest that there are no "good" arguments, where the premises of a good argument are expected to provide a reason to believe the conclusion. The analytic or synthetic character of the premises or conclusion is irrelevent.

    However, there are valid arguments which can arise from a synthetic approach... i.e. putting two (or more) separate propositions together, as it were, and coming up with a new proposition whose truth-value can only be justified by appeal to the relationship of the original two (or more) propositions. Science generally proceeds along synthetic lines.
    Here is the thing. If the conclusion follows validly from the premises then the conclusion was aready assumed by the premises, otherwise the inference would not have been valid. The transformational rules of language sometimes make it seem as though this is not the case, but in every case this can be shown. If an argument does not have this character then it must be invalid, and in either case no reason to think that the conclusion is true has been provided. In other words, the conclusion simply repeats, either wholly or partially, what the premises say. The analytic or synthetic character of the premises or conclusion are not relevent.

    Our hope is that our most foundational propositions are largely self-evident.
    That may be your hope, but it is not mine. I place no greater authority on self-evidence than I do upon evidence, which is precisely nil. It is an all too common occurrence, that different people come to varied and often contradictory conclusions regarding what is self-evident, in much the same way as they do regarding ordinary evidence, and I am not aware of by what means self-evidence is elevated to that infallible plane which seems to make it such a desirable goal, or is that just supposed to be self-evident? No, I am not concerned with self-evidence, my concern is only that my "foundational propositions", for want of a better term, are consistent and true.

    For instance, in Euclid's geometry, it was axiomatic and felt to be perfectly obvious that two parallel lines never meet. However, later on, in geometries like that of Riemann, it was shown that two parallel lines can and often do meet when space is curved... such as with all longitudinal lines on the surface of the earth... at the equator, they are perfectly parallel, and they maintain straight lines all the way to the north pole, where they meet.
    I think that you are confusing synthetic statements with apriori statements. In regard to Euclid's geometry it is still obvious that two parallel lines never meet, for Euclid's axioms. What is not obvious is that Euclid's axioms correctly describe the real world, but then any claim that they do would be a synthetic statement, not analytic. It was thought, however, for some time that such a synthetic statement could not be wrong, thus achieving knowledge of the world apriori i.e. without observation. That is the dream which nonEuclidean geometry shattered, but those claims were apriori and synthetic, not analytic.

    So we must rely on provisional propositions to found new synthetic knowledge.
    Perhaps you want to rely upon provisional propositions, but I am not interested in relying upon anything, since an error will be no less erroneous because I relied upon it.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

  7. #7
    Boring old fossil Night's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    Something which you might find especially interesting. In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins devotes a chapter to dealing with arguments for the existence of God. Dawkins carefully addresses each argument and exposes its error, but if I am correct then he needn't have bothered. If I am correct then it is impossible to form a logical argument for anything, and the only way which one of these arguments for the existence of God could be valid is if it already assumed, explicitly or implicitly, that God exists. Therefore, if such an argument is valid then it begs the question, and so it is impossible to actually argue for the existence of God, or for that matter, the nonexistence of God.
    Most of your propositions seem reasonably similar to my own.

    To point, the misconception inherent within an argument based on describing characteristics of an intangible entity - such that a god/s is - are inherently ascribing to a fallacy of origin, wherein the centerpiece of an argument is bedrocked on perceptual intimacy, rather than objective empiricism.

    A predication that relies on tainted soil from which to create an ecosystem of positive thought is able to evidence seemingly-legitimate fruit for intellectual consumption. And yet, regardless of the apparent sweetness of the argument - or the material exposition available as a consequence (the truly frightening component) - the fruit itself is without value.

    And yet - the concept of objectivity, such that an individual bereft of conscious bias is best suited to offer judgment - suffers from the same philosophical imbalance as the ecosystem described above.

    Alien to the human condition is the ability to reason without bias. Perception is a deterministic network - there's no two ways about it. From light, information. From information, thought. Accuracy is incidental to movement. Without movement, survival is unachievable. We sacrifice accuracy to progress.

    All human thought - science, philosophy, mathematics - is a trivialization of accuracy, as it is nurtured from partiality.


    Survival at the expense of credibility. We are sophisticated as a result of our conscious delirium.

    Let's not forget who we really are.

    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    By the way, there will always be true statement which are unjustifiable. For example:

    A: A is unjustifiable

    If A is justifiable then A is false and A is a justifiable false belief, and if A is unjustifiable then A is true and A is an unjustifiable true belief.
    Justification and truth are minimally related.

    The orator is responsible for legislating this transaction.

  8. #8
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    Thanks for the response Samuel.

    First, nothing I have said rests upon the analytic-synthetic distinction. The property of being 'analytic' or 'synthetic' is one which is correctly applied to statements or propositions, not inferences from statements and propositions, the latter of which is my chief concern here. Second, it is not my intent to suggest that there are no valid arguments, instead my intent is to suggest that there are no "good" arguments, where the premises of a good argument are expected to provide a reason to believe the conclusion. The analytic or synthetic character of the premises or conclusion is irrelevent.
    I made a big mistake by mixing conventional and technical terms... of course there can be valid arguments... that's silly of me to say... in the answering, i should have said 'good'. However, there are such things as analytic and synthetic arguments, which is what I am pointing to... and my whole point is that there are such things as good arguments... both analytic and synthetic... Euclid's arguments are generally analytic, in that they unpack the information contained in a proposition, but they're useful to use, and in their usefulness, they are good.

    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    Here is the thing. If the conclusion follows validly from the premises then the conclusion was aready assumed by the premises, otherwise the inference would not have been valid. The transformational rules of language sometimes make it seem as though this is not the case, but in every case this can be shown. If an argument does not have this character then it must be invalid, and in either case no reason to think that the conclusion is true has been provided. In other words, the conclusion simply repeats, either wholly or partially, what the premises say. The analytic or synthetic character of the premises or conclusion are not relevent.
    Actually, the analytic or synthetic nature of the argument is important based on one's acknowledgment of provisional foundational propositions, since there's very little we know which is self-evident.

    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    That may be your hope, but it is not mine. I place no greater authority on self-evidence than I do upon evidence, which is precisely nil. It is an all too common occurrence, that different people come to varied and often contradictory conclusions regarding what is self-evident, in much the same way as they do regarding ordinary evidence, and I am not aware of by what means self-evidence is elevated to that infallible plane which seems to make it such a desirable goal, or is that just supposed to be self-evident? No, I am not concerned with self-evidence, my concern is only that my "foundational propositions", for want of a better term, are consistent and true.
    You're questioning propositions while I'm taking them for granted, since there's no way what you're asking for can be delivered!

    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    I think that you are confusing synthetic statements with apriori statements. In regard to Euclid's geometry it is still obvious that two parallel lines never meet, for Euclid's axioms. What is not obvious is that Euclid's axioms correctly describe the real world, but then any claim that they do would be a synthetic statement, not analytic. It was thought, however, for some time that such a synthetic statement could not be wrong, thus achieving knowledge of the world apriori i.e. without observation. That is the dream which nonEuclidean geometry shattered, but those claims were apriori and synthetic, not analytic.
    I'm not confusing synthetic statements with a priori statements. I'm talking about the difference between a synthetic and analytic argument... meaning the use of analytic statements in argument... unfortunately, my use of the word argument is being misinterpreted here... essentially, what I mean is that one utilizes analytic propositions in presenting in language a particular 'proof' or 'attempt at proof' of something as opposed to relying on synthetic propositions (which are inherently arguments in common parlance). Synthetic and a priori are entirely different from each other, and their difference is emphasized by the fact that Kant was presenting a counter-intuitive claim when he said that synthetic a priori knowledge was possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    Perhaps you want to rely upon provisional propositions, but I am not interested in relying upon anything, since an error will be no less erroneous because I relied upon it.
    You're seeking a chimera, something that is practically impossible to get. Our knowledge is by the nature of our limited perspective eternally incomplete. Pretty much everything we know is based on provisionally accepted propositions.
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

  9. #9
    Wonderer Samuel De Mazarin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    By the way, there will always be true statements which are unjustifiable. For example:

    A: A is unjustifiable

    If A is justifiable then A is false and A is a justifiable false belief, and if A is unjustifiable then A is true and A is an unjustifiable true belief.

    This is solved by using Convention T and metalanguages. So:

    B: A is unjustifiable. where B is framed in a metalanguage. The protocol is that self-referential statements are banned, just as in mathematics one isn't allowed to divide by 0.
    Madman's azure lie: a zen miasma ruled.

    Realize us, Madman!

    I razed a slum, Amen.

    ...............................................

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    Quote Originally Posted by Samuel De Mazarin View Post
    I made a big mistake by mixing conventional and technical terms... of course there can be valid arguments... that's silly of me to say... in the answering, i should have said 'good'. However, there are such things as analytic and synthetic arguments, which is what I am pointing to... and my whole point is that there are such things as good arguments... both analytic and synthetic... Euclid's arguments are generally analytic, in that they unpack the information contained in a proposition, but they're useful to use, and in their usefulness, they are good.
    There are good arguments, but there are no "good" arguments. In other words, there are arguments which are good according to some critria or other, such as validity and truth. However, there are no "good" arguments in the sense which I previously defined i.e. arguments where the premises provide some reason, support or justification to believe the conclusion. In any case, it doesn't matter whether the premises are analytic or synthetic, the conclusion of a valid argument is always unpacked from the premises. That is why we use sentential-variables (or propositional-variables) to construct logical sequents, because the variables can be replaced with any sentence, whether analytic or synthetic, and the formal structure is preserved, whether valid or invalid.

    Actually, the analytic or synthetic nature of the argument is important based on one's acknowledgment of provisional foundational propositions, since there's very little we know which is self-evident.
    I do not have any "foundational propositions". The metaphor of a foundation which is commonly used to describe knowledge (accompanied by a host of other construction metaphors) is something with a propensity to mislead rather than inform. The suggestion is that our knowledge is "built" upon these foundations. There is a logical relation between our "foundations" and the remainder of our knowledge, but it is not comparable to that relation between a building and its foundations. Importantly, the truth of the remainder of our knowledge is not dependent upon the truth of our "foundational propositions", and so neither are they inferred from those propositions (edit: note that if the remainder of our knowledge was implied by our "foundational propositions" then they would in turn be implied by the total of whatever is inferred from them, and so each could make equal claim to be the foundation of knowledge). Therefore, I am not particularly concerned with foundationist philosophy.

    You're questioning propositions while I'm taking them for granted, since there's no way what you're asking for can be delivered!
    What am I asking?

    You're seeking a chimera, something that is practically impossible to get. Our knowledge is by the nature of our limited perspective eternally incomplete. Pretty much everything we know is based on provisionally accepted propositions.
    What am I seeking?
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

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