Brian Smith

On-Topic and Off-Topic Issues

418 posts in this topic

Brian shouldn't focus as much on reasoning processes as on conclusions, emphasize facts instead of syllogistic rules.
FC may choose to grant an argument or a conclusion an unearned cognitive status, but that doesn't mean others 'should' do that as well.

I agree. To emphasize focusing on the facts and ignoring the method that is required to integrate those facts into concepts is a mistake.

You have no evidence (in any of the posts provided so far) that the statements in the syllogism were used to acquire knowledge of the conclusion. That issue has not been discussed, at least not by me. And it is fairly clearly implied by me that such knowledge was acquired by other means.

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Her invalid reasoning does not make her knowledge of the conclusion false. It simply means she made a mistake in her reasoning, which she is certainly free to correct.

I think that's the key. I don't think true, false, and arbitrary are the only options. If a line of reasoning is mistaken, is the conclusion true, false, or arbitrary? On the basis of an argument, which is now known to be mistaken, the truth of the conclusion is unknown. An arbitrary claim is one asserted without evidence, which is different from a claim asserted with what one thinks is initially a valid argument. If that argument is later shown to be incorrect, the conclusion may still be true. All one can say at that point is the conclusion is unproved. "Arbitrary" is not the same as "unknown" or "unproved."

One thing that's bothered me for some time (and has come to the fore with this thread) is the frequency with which some people jump to moral condemnation when an honest mistake is at least as likely as a cause. To call some claim arbitrary means that the advocate is not just mistaken in his reasoning, but has rejected the process of reason. Someone at least attempting to argue rationally for his position deserves greater moral credit than someone who takes some position and holds fast to it without regard to facts or logic. What matters morally is whether a rational process is involved or not.

The other option is to hold someone who makes an error in their thinking morally equivalent to someone who denies the responsibility of thought altogether. But this implies omniscience as the standard of moral value, as only someone incapable of error would have moral worth. There would be no such thing as an innocent error.

But getting back to the topic of this thread, I see this post is now, appropriately, off topic. :D

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Her invalid reasoning does not make her knowledge of the conclusion false. It simply means she made a mistake in her reasoning, which she is certainly free to correct.

I think that's the key. I don't think true, false, and arbitrary are the only options. If a line of reasoning is mistaken, is the conclusion true, false, or arbitrary? On the basis of an argument, which is now known to be mistaken, the truth of the conclusion is unknown. An arbitrary claim is one asserted without evidence, which is different from a claim asserted with what one thinks is initially a valid argument. If that argument is later shown to be incorrect, the conclusion may still be true. All one can say at that point is the conclusion is unproved. "Arbitrary" is not the same as "unknown" or "unproved."

One thing that's bothered me for some time (and has come to the fore with this thread) is the frequency with which some people jump to moral condemnation when an honest mistake is at least as likely as a cause. To call some claim arbitrary means that the advocate is not just mistaken in his reasoning, but has rejected the process of reason. Someone at least attempting to argue rationally for his position deserves greater moral credit than someone who takes some position and holds fast to it without regard to facts or logic. What matters morally is whether a rational process is involved or not.

The other option is to hold someone who makes an error in their thinking morally equivalent to someone who denies the responsibility of thought altogether. But this implies omniscience as the standard of moral value, as only someone incapable of error would have moral worth. There would be no such thing as an innocent error.

But getting back to the topic of this thread, I see this post is now, appropriately, off topic. :D

Since this response was to something I stated, I just want to state that I disagree that the subject of moral judgment has come up when claims of the nature of the reasoning process are involved. I have not seen anyone making moral statements against those who hold a certain position.

And, yes, that subject is off-topic.

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...the example I gave you in invalid and the conclusion is therefore arbitrary.
I am glad you finally agree. :D

Oh - and since it is arbitrary, I won't wonder for a second about who or what you were talking about, nor whether it is a man or not. One dismisses arbitrary assertions.

All men are mortal.

President Bush is mortal.

Therefore, President Bush is a man.

Invalid reasoning! Poof. I've made Bush's sex a figment of our imagination. No one is henceforth to refer to President Bush as a man. I won't wonder for a second about who or what you were talking about if you do talk about Bush being a man.

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...the example I gave you in invalid and the conclusion is therefore arbitrary.
I am glad you finally agree. :D

Oh - and since it is arbitrary, I won't wonder for a second about who or what you were talking about, nor whether it is a man or not. One dismisses arbitrary assertions.

All men are mortal.

President Bush is mortal.

Therefore, President Bush is a man.

Invalid reasoning! Poof. I've made Bush's sex a figment of our imagination. No one is henceforth to refer to President Bush as a man. I won't wonder for a second about who or what you were talking about if you do talk about Bush being a man.

This is off topic but I agree. President Bush is not a man but a wavering coward.

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Yet, strangely enough, you believe that Socrates was a man.
Now there is an example of 'mind-reading'.

You don't believe Socrates was a man? This is a real question.

:D

The Socrates used in Paul's example is not necessarily the philosopher. It is just a name which, as Brian pointed out, might be the name of a pet cat (just as my neighbor's dog is called Johnboy).

To add something further about statements (not here specifically addressing you, FC): No statement is made in a vacuum. It is made by a person. It is John's statement, or Jane's statement. If Jane states that:

"1 plus 1 equals 2;

2 plus 1 equals 4;

Therefore 4 plus 2 equals 6",

she is saying, in longhand:

I know, and it is my statement, that 1 plus 1 equals 2;

I know, and it is my statement, that 2 plus 1 equals 4;

And therefore I know, and it is MY statement, that 4 plus 2 equals 6."

As Her statement, based upon Her premises, Her knowledge, her conclusion is false. It does not matter if someone else fully and independently can state the words of her conclusion as his knowledge (his statement Would be a true statement), just as it does not matter if someone (or most people) know that there was a man called Socrates. Based upon Jane's premises one would really have to doubt her knowledge of basic math in general, and it would be pointless to continue a further discussion with her about the subject of her conclusion until and unless she rectifies her error and can really own, as Her knowledge, that 4 plus 2 equals 6.

Yes, but that was not was not the point under discussion. She can know that 4 plus 2 equals 6 by independent observation. She doesn't need the syllogism to tell her what her eyes can see. Her invalid reasoning does not make her knowledge of the conclusion false. It simply means she made a mistake in her reasoning, which she is certainly free to correct.

True, she can know it by independent observation, but her argument doesn't tell us that; it doesn't tell us anything about her other sources of knowledge. She did not preface her argument by saying that she had no need to make it. And if someone points out her invalid reasoning, hopefully she will be thankful, correct it and move forward.

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If a line of reasoning is mistaken, is the conclusion true, false, or arbitrary? On the basis of an argument, which is now known to be mistaken, the truth of the conclusion is unknown.
"Unknown" is a concept pertaining to probability. It indicates there is some evidence for a conclusion, though not enough so far to establish the conclusion as 'true'. As such, the concept "unknown" falls within the category of 'truth' (ie - within the category of 'positive' relation to evidence).

Now, as has already been stated, if an argument is demonstrated to be invalid, then it is severed from its connection to that evidence. Thus, to repeat, until and unless some other evidence is provided, there is now no evidence for that conclusion. At that point, it is an arbitrary conclusion.

Put simply, because there is now no evidence for the conclusion, it cannot validly be identified as "unknown".

If that argument is later shown to be incorrect, the conclusion may still be true. All one can say at this point is the conclusion is unproved.
This conclusion is false. You need evidence to make a claim that something is "maybe" true. Because the conclusion has been severed from its evidence, it therefore lacks evidence at that point. As such, at that point, you cannot make a claim of probability. You cannot claim the conclusion "maybe" true without evidence to support that conclusion.

That would be an arbitrary assertion.

To call some claim arbitrary means that the advocate is not just mistaken in his reasoning, but has rejected the process of reason.
No. As you yourself indicated out, one is speaking of the cognitive status of the conclusion "at this point" - ie at a particular point in time (specifically after it has been severed from the evidence which was provided). And at that point, one has no knowledge of whether the speaker still asserts the conclusion is true (which means claiming he does would itself be an arbitrary assertion). Put simply, at this point, nothing is being stated about the speaker at all. At this point, one is simply identifying the current cognitive status of that idea.

Of course, if the speaker subsequently continues to assert the conclusion once it has been identified to him as lacking evidence (and does so without trying to provide new evidence), then one might be able to make the case that he is rejecting reason. But until then, that is not what one is doing.

--

Oh - and I am still interested in learning the answer to the question I asked you, since the meaning of your prior assertion remains unclear:

So, for the reasons you gave previously, Betsy is correct that my statement "is a classic example of an ad hominem fallacy"?

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One thing that's bothered me for some time (and has come to the fore with this thread) is the frequency with which some people jump to moral condemnation when an honest mistake is at least as likely as a cause.
Since oldsalt made what I would identify as a similar complaint, I want to address this accusation more specifically.

Just as the claim that an argument is irrational is not a "moral condemnation" of the speaker (ie not a claim that he has "rejected the process of reason"), so too the claim that a conclusion is arbitrary is not a "moral condemnation" of the speaker. In both cases, it is simply the identification of the fact that a principle of logic or reason or the like has been violated. That identification does not specify the person's motivation or other cause for the violation. It simply states the violation has indeed occurred.

The fact that an "honest mistake" may have been the cause of the violation does not change the fact that the violation actually occured. As such, it is an error to claim the identification of a violation of a principle of reason is a "moral" claim against the person.

Put simply, identifying the fact of a violation is not a personal attack.

(And since one of the main questions of the thread is what qualifies a statement as being a personal attack and thus 'off topic', I would say Ed's statement is not only 'on topic' but serves to identify a reason why I say invalid premises are being applied here to determine what is properly 'on' and 'off' topic.)

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I just noticed that the above attribution is incorrect. I must have somehow switched the post codes. The quote at the top of my post is not of Paul but of Ed.

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As I understand it, some are saying that the form of a person's argument is irrelevant to whether the conclusions are valid (or right, or true, or correct--any form you use as a standard), and that one need only check the facts of reality in judging a particular statement. By this standard of argument, it is said that who is making an argument (or statement) isn't important, and that it is off topic to discuss anything but the ideas expressed. At least, this is the gist of what I've gotten from the many different posts.

Is it true that the form of an argument (or statement), and what the form tells you about how that person came to the conclusions in his argument, is irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of the conclusion? I comment on certain blogs that I enjoy for varying reasons. Most of the time it amounts to nothing more than chit-chat. There are times, e.g., about the war and the way it is being conducted, when I am very serious and point out something crucial. Other commenters will genuinely agree with what I've said, and in the next breath express their admiration and appreciation for the self-sacrifice of our troops--sometimes stating explicitly that it is the self-sacrifice that makes heroes. This is because they understand that the facts they observe prove my point--and they agree for the wrong reasons. Wrong metaphysical premises, valid conclusion in reality. This is a logical fallacy, the consequences of which are evident all around us. It is at the base of what is wrong with conservatives of all stripes. Even those who understand logic, and use it explicitly, end up getting it wrong because their premises are false, and even when they manage to come to a valid conclusion, they are helpless to apply the principle involved across their thinking.

Do the consequences in reality say anything important about the nature and value of logic? The depth of the fallacies committed by an individual who agrees that we ought to allow our forces to protect themselves first, and also thinks that the principle of self-sacrifice is moral, is great and requires a careful explication to bring the principle involved to bear in a serious discussion. The same may be said about someone who asserts that, while they agree in principle, but think that the principle is impractical in practice. Since we deal with individual minds in any discussion, it means that we are discussing that individual's way of thinking.

I can only speak to what I personally get out of this site. Above the fact that I don't have to "begin at the beginning," I value the conversation because I value the quality of the individual minds I engage here. This engagement is of a special category. All I have are your words and how your mind uses those words to form ideas. This is true no matter the subject being discussed, or the level of gravity given to the subject. Because I am talking to an individual mind, I cannot separate what is said from the mind that conceived it. I think of it as a part of the way I show my respect for the individual mind. Another part of showing my respect is to assume that the individual I'm talking to is honest and rational, and therefore, capable of being persuaded. If I judge that this is not the case, I don't waste my time or mental effort in the attempt. For example, I said earlier that there is a good discussion on this thread about the nature and value of logic. If it were not for that, we'd be left with nothing but contentious quarreling and I, for one, would not still be here.

As for the quarreling, I find no real difference between Brian's insistence that others conform to his standards for discussion, and those who demand that Brian conform to theirs. Yes, I know that it involves more (in particular, objective rules for discussion on the FORUM), but because of the personalities involved, people have become frustrated, angry, and sarcastic in presenting their arguments. I commend Betsy and Brian, as well as the rest who have contributed to the substantives in the argument while "in the heat of battle." It is what makes this thread valuable to me.

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Is it true that the form of an argument (or statement), and what the form tells you about how that person came to the conclusions in his argument, is irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of the conclusion?

That's not what I at least have been saying. See below:

I can only speak to what I personally get out of this site. Above the fact that I don't have to "begin at the beginning," I value the conversation because I value the quality of the individual minds I engage here. This engagement is of a special category. All I have are your words and how your mind uses those words to form ideas. This is true no matter the subject being discussed, or the level of gravity given to the subject. Because I am talking to an individual mind, I cannot separate what is said from the mind that conceived it. I think of it as a part of the way I show my respect for the individual mind. Another part of showing my respect is to assume that the individual I'm talking to is honest and rational, and therefore, capable of being persuaded. If I judge that this is not the case, I don't waste my time or mental effort in the attempt. For example, I said earlier that there is a good discussion on this thread about the nature and value of logic. If it were not for that, we'd be left with nothing but contentious quarreling and I, for one, would not still be here.

Janet, it hasn't been my contention, for instance, that logic is irrelevant. Obviously the process of reaching a conclusion necessarily involves going through some processes, and it's very important that those processes are correct. However there are often a number of ways towards the same conclusion; the logical argument especially in inductive cases, can often take drastically different forms among different people. One person may live in a troubled urban neighborhood and concretize violation of rights with what they see around them. Another person may live in a well-off safe neighborhood, but had come from an oppressive country (or heard about those oppressions from others), and concretize violation of rights that way. In induction especially, but sometimes even in deductive syllogisms, there are multiple avenues towards the same goal. So it's not improper to point out problems in reasoning processes, but they are mostly useful in helping a person learn to think in a healthy way. It cannot be automatically assumed that pointing out some fallacy instantly discredits the conclusion. That expectation is indeed an ad hominem. It's not always clear how a person reached a certain conclusion as well; so assuming certain premises and certain deductive chains in a person that lead to a conclusion you as a debater disagree with, is likewise mind-reading.

The basic point is, it's fine to understand and notice fallacies. But more so, let's talk about the facts of the matter; and let's not emphasize the person's faulty processes, because oftentimes you actually have no idea what they are, and instead emphasize the conclusions they reached.

Compare "you are not thinking this properly" to "the facts are different here".

Overly emphasizing the (perceived) process, and the person saying it, can indeed be very offensive. NOTE, not that it's improper to be offensive either; but on a Forum like this where benevolence is the law of the land, it's certainly improper, even if the offense was only in the eye of the beholder and not intended by the speaker.

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For instance, see this post:

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s...ost&p=64632

Betsy wasn't even talking about what Brian responded to; if anything she used the word 'prove' in an every day way. But instead Brian latched on to that word, and thereby avoided answering her entire point! Now there's no personal attack in this particular case, but I would personally be very upset when my argument was avoided like that. Let's focus on the issue, and not try to dismiss arguments based on incidental aspects. (by the way none of this was aimed at you yourself).

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Is it true that the form of an argument (or statement), and what the form tells you about how that person came to the conclusions in his argument, is irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of the conclusion?

Yes, it is true. The conclusion in reality (existence) differs from the conclusion as held by the argument-presenter in his own mind (consciousness). That an idea is improperly integrated or presented has no bearing on the truth of the idea. As you very well know, existence exists independent of consciousness.

As for the quarreling, I find no real difference between Brian's insistence that others conform to his standards for discussion, and those who demand that Brian conform to theirs. Yes, I know that it involves more (in particular, objective rules for discussion on the FORUM), but because of the personalities involved, people have become frustrated, angry, and sarcastic in presenting their arguments.

I don't mean to be rude or unkind - I generally think highly of you - but your first sentence here is unfortunate, and your second veers dangerously close to ad hominem (if isn't in fact ad hominem).

The essential point of this thread is that going far off-topic on a thread commits the fallacy of context-dropping.

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...instead Brian latched on to that word, and thereby avoided answering her entire point!
FC continues to have odd interpretations of the posts here and thus continues to make false allegations. The simple fact he does not grasp how my post answers whatever it is he perceives to have been Ms. Speicher's "point" is not evidence that her "point" was "avoided".

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That an idea is improperly integrated or presented has no bearing on the truth of the idea.
Actually it has a "bearing" on whether the idea even falls into the category of truth or not. So it is quite an error to say it has "no bearing" on the identification of an idea's truth.
As you very well know, existence exists independent of consciousness.
However, truth is a consciousness' recognition of reality. So while existence certainly exists independent of consciousness, truth does not.

In other words, truth is not intrinsic.

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That an idea is improperly integrated or presented has no bearing on the truth of the idea.
Actually it has a "bearing" on whether the idea even falls into the category of truth or not. So it is quite an error to say it has "no bearing" on the identification of an idea's truth.

Whose identification?

As you very well know, existence exists independent of consciousness.
However, truth is a consciousness' recognition of reality. So while existence certainly exists independent of consciousness, truth does not.

In other words, truth is not intrinsic.

Neither is it collectively-subjective, which is what you imply by making truth dependent on the content of the argument-presenter's mind.

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Whose identification?
Exactly! Thank you for demonstrating my point so perfectly. :D

Or did you inadvertently make a "collectively-subjective" appeal with your question?

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Whose identification?
Exactly! Thank you for demonstrating my point so perfectly. :D

What point did you make?
That, unlike existence, truth is dependent upon consciousness (upon that which you were asking about in the context of identifying truth). In other words, truth is neither intrinsic (apart from consciousness) nor subjective (apart from existence). Truth is objective. It is a relationship between consciousness and existence. It is "dependent" upon both.

As such, as has been pointed out countless times now, a speaker cannot claim to know a thing is true if his consciousness lacks either the particular facts OR the requisite logic to validly link those facts. Put simply, a speaker cannot claim a conclusion is true if his logic is flawed.

One must have all the required facts of reality in order to make a claim of truth - and that includes the facts of logic. :D

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Lets see if the point can't be made very clear for you here. Consider again the conclusion "Napoleon liked to eat cheesecake in bed." For the sake of this discussion, let us assume you have no evidence for that conclusion. As such, for you the conclusion would be arbitrary. On the other hand, say I have evidence which proves Napoleon did indeed like to eat cheesecake in bed. For me, the conclusion would therefore be true.

.

Do you dispute this because it makes "truth dependent on the content of the argument-presenter's mind"? Do you consider this to be an example of the "collectively-subjective"? If not, there should be no disagreement between us.

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FC continues to have odd interpretations of the posts here and thus continues to make false allegations. The simple fact he does not grasp how my post answers whatever it is he perceives to have been Ms. Speicher's "point" is not evidence that her "point" was "avoided".

In essence she asked:

If the premises are not true and / or the argument is invalid, it proves nothing about the conclusion.

It doesn't prove the conclusion is true.

It doesn't prove the conclusion is false.

It doesn't [demonstrate] the conclusion is arbitrary.

Do you agree or disagree?

You response was, that Betsy wrote "prove" instead of "demonstrate", so therefore you were not going to avoid her question.

Anyway, too many semantic games as it is. All I'm saying is, give people the benefit of the doubt, focus on the essence of what they're saying rather than on the incidental, don't be more considerate of the argument than the person involved in it. It's not too much to ask.

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Anyway, too many semantic games as it is.
Of course the failure to grasp the import of an argument is not support for the accusation of "semantic games".

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Whose identification?
Exactly! Thank you for demonstrating my point so perfectly. :D

What point did you make?
That, unlike existence, truth is dependent upon consciousness (upon that which you were asking about in the context of identifying truth).

[...]

Again, I ask: Truth is dependent on whose consciousness? Answer this question directly.

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Again, I ask: Truth is dependent on whose consciousness? Answer this question directly.
Since the answer I already provided in the context of my "Napoleon" example doesn't seem to have been grasped, I am happy to try to clarify that answer.

Because truth is a consciousness' recognition of reality, then "truth is dependent on" that consciousness which is attempting to recognize reality.

Now that I have provided that clarification, perhaps you will be kind enough to return the courtesy and answer the question I asked you in my "Napoleon" response to your question.

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