Brian Smith

On-Topic and Off-Topic Issues

418 posts in this topic

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Does that mean that discussing logical fallacies is always off-topic and not permitted on THE FORUM? Of course not, but it is off topic for a thread on education, politics, physics, etc. It is on-topic for a thread in the Metaphysics & Epistemology forum.

Thus, when a FORUM member finds a logical fallacy in a post and wants to make an issue of it, he should not bring it up in that thread. It is off-topic and could derail the substantive discussion. Instead, he should start a new thread in the Metaphysics & Epistemology forum, citing and linking to the original post, if necessary.

Wonderful analysis, Betsy. I completely agree.

So in the future, this is the what the format of my posts will be.

I will state my premises.

I will not state my argument. Whether or not my argument is valid or invalid it is considered off topic.

I will state my conclusion.

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Finding a fallacy in an opponent's argument is irrelevant to anything under discussion.
A statement explaining some of the basics of Logic has been posted HERE.

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Good lord....I think I'll stop posting new topics so these explosions don't occur...lol

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A good way to think about this is like comparing it to math. Math is a great TOOL to use in order to come to a conclusion in problems. The problem with math, like logic, is that without a reality basis, it become a bunch of cool tricks you can do to manipulate numbers. But, has anything really proven anything in reality? The same applies to logic; sure you can manipulate the argument to your favor, but without factual evidence, you have never really come to any real conclusion. All you have accomplished was come up with some rationalist theory that has yet to be proven.

Why not just say you are using logic to argue for your definition of a concept?

And with a basis of reality too. :D

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The problem with this post is that there is no proof of public schools immorality, all there is is LOGIC.

Logic properly used - as a non-contradictory integration of all known facts - *is* reasoning and is the basis for proof. Human beings can (and should) logically think with high level abstractions, including principles, but those need to be understood and checked against facts.

If you understand that "public schools" imply the initiation of force, and you understand that the initiation of force is the primary social evil, that certainly logically leads to the conclusion that the public schools are, to some degree, the product of evil, which further implies, because of the nature of evil, that they will be, at a minimum, incompetently run. And that is what the facts actually show. Furthermore, when one considers the actions that would be needed in order to make them competent at their supposed goal of good education, then logically enough those actions are at least hindered, and at most made impossible, by the fact that they are public schools. And again, the facts show that those trying to make such changes have generally been thwarted in such attempts.

One can note that bad ideas permeate public schools, and note that they did not necessarily originate with those who created (and coerce to pay for) those schools; but when one looks at why bad ideas become entrenched and difficult-to-impossible to change, again, it's *because* they are funded via coercion and run according to democracy (as opposed to a parents' individual choice in how they will spend their limited resources, and which school (if any) fits their individual assessment of competence.)

One can also note that the evil of such funding extends beyond that which is being funded; anybody who's ever had to deal with property taxes, especially as they rise, which are used to fund such schools, knows just how much sacrifice is being forced on them.

If one grasps *on principle* why the initiation of force is such an evil - fundamentally because it disconnects a reasoning mind from its ability to act on its own reasoning - then that can and should be used as part of one's logical thinking. To *only* focus on facts is to become concrete bound and incapable of useful thought, which is unfortunately even more common than rationalism.

I was not arguing for public schools itself, it was merely an example used in order to clarify my point.

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I am going to stop participating in this thread soon, but these are my summary thoughts on the thread subject. Unfortunately it somewhat disagrees with Betsy's position but I can't see any way around saying the following if I am going to comment at all.

First, I strongly disagree with the view that the logicality and reasoning behind an argument or discussion is irrelevant in any thinking context. Unless a post is a sheer enumeration of facts (a news article) then it involves abstract thinking on the part of the poster in some fashion. Thinking is fallible; facts can be wrong; either way, errors should be noted and if possible corrected - whether the error is factual, in the logic of the argument given, in using wrong definitions, etc. That doesn't mean that one should go around looking just for errors and negatives, either.

There are at least two potential problems that arise in that context. First, if a poster is constantly wrong, then replies could consist largely of corrections. Second, if a *responder* is constantly wrong - making "corrections" that are no corrections at all - that is also a problem.

I do not think that there is anything wrong with having a real error pointed out, whether in reasoning or in identifications of facts - if in fact the correction is itself correct, and if it's done in an impersonal manner. It is not in my (or anyone's) self-interest to hold to a wrong fact, a wrong assumption, to incorrect reasoning. Of course, on a difficult subject, there's a real benefit in back-and-forth chewing of a subject, which is a prime characteristic of an internet board - but only in the context of individuals honestly wanting to understand and willing to check their own premises and reasoning.

But when somebody's primary goal appears to be to magnify both real and imaginary problems completely out of proportion, and manufacturing them if there aren't enough of them, that is entirely different.

I see the situation as this: trying to regulate and formalize where identifications of reasoning errors can be posted is not only probably impractical, but it cannot be a substitute for one real issue: that some individuals are simply so self-righteously far off the mark, so far away from actually thinking clearly, that they often neither make correct identifications of errors nor acknowledge their own clear errors (either accidental or willful ones.) It is not worth sacrificing the valid (more strongly, the necessary) scope of discussion as an attempt to handle that situation. I see this as more of an issue of moderator prerogative: at some point a call should be made to remove a disruptive individual (or put another way: an obnoxious jerk) either from a specific thread, or from posting entirely, though the former is probably preferable. No doubt such individuals would shriek that that would be "evasion", but it is no more evasion than ejecting a loud know-it-all boor from a personal house party.

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So in the future, this is the what the format of my posts will be.

I will state my premises.

I will not state my argument. Whether or not my argument is valid or invalid it is considered off topic.

I will state my conclusion.

That's not what I was suggesting at all, so let me clarify.

If you can demonstrate the truth of your conclusion by pointing to reality, that's what you should do. Making an argument for the directly perceivable or self-evident is unnecessary.

If you can't prove something with observation -- like the existence of atoms, for instance -- you must make a valid argument to prove your conclusion is true.

The above are proper and on-topic when dealing with any subject.

Disputing an intellectual opponent's premises or conclusions by pointing to observable facts that contradict them is proper and on-topic for any subject.

Making a valid argument for an alternative conclusion is proper and on-topic when dealing with any subject.

Making an issue of an opponent's logical errors is off-topic because an invalid argument proves nothing whatsoever about the conclusions being discussed. If the logical fallacy is the issue, it should be raised in the Metaphysics and Epistemolgy forum.

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Making an issue of an opponent's logical errors is off-topic because an invalid argument proves nothing whatsoever about the conclusions being discussed. If the logical fallacy is the issue, it should be raised in the Metaphysics and Epistemolgy forum.
Is there an issue of context here? If someone identifies a logical error in another poster's argument, is that sufficiently on-topic? I can see how an extended debate about the logic of the presented argument could be off-topic.

And a pattern of repeated nitpicking on details not essential to the topic is, if not necessarily off-topic, at least rude. If someone uses poor grammar, or makes repeated typos, for instance, I'd consider it rude to publicly rebuke someone. (A private PM is a more polite approach, but even then I wouldn't go overboard.) Such behavior can be off-topic if it derails the essence of the thread into a detailed discussion of grammar.

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Doesn't stating one's premises and a conclusion necessarily entail stating an argument? As far as I know, the very definition of an argument is a set of premises and a conclusion that, if valid, logically follows from the premises.

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Making an issue of an opponent's logical errors is off-topic because an invalid argument proves nothing whatsoever about the conclusions being discussed. If the logical fallacy is the issue, it should be raised in the Metaphysics and Epistemolgy forum.
Is there an issue of context here? If someone identifies a logical error in another poster's argument, is that sufficiently on-topic? I can see how an extended debate about the logic of the presented argument could be off-topic.

A problem arises when a poster claims to have found a logical error in another's post and that's all he does. If he doesn't show that there is anything factually wrong with the premises or the conclusion, and doesn't propose or defend a different conclusion, then just noting a logical error proves nothing, one way or another, about the substantive issue under dispute. It becomes an irrelevant side issue.

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Doesn't stating one's premises and a conclusion necessarily entail stating an argument? As far as I know, the very definition of an argument is a set of premises and a conclusion that, if valid, logically follows from the premises.

Making an argument for one's position is fine and often necessary. What I object to is arguing against someone else's conclusions by finding fault with only the form of his argument instead of dealing with the factual issues involved in the discussion.

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Doesn't stating one's premises and a conclusion necessarily entail stating an argument? As far as I know, the very definition of an argument is a set of premises and a conclusion that, if valid, logically follows from the premises.

Making an argument for one's position is fine and often necessary. What I object to is arguing against someone else's conclusions by finding fault with only the form of his argument instead of dealing with the factual issues involved in the discussion.

Sorry, I think I posted that slightly out of context. A previous post said something about "I'll state my premises and my conclusion, but won't state my argument." I found that statement self-contradictory, hence my own post quoted above.

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The following questions were asked HERE. After pointing out (HERE) some fundamentals of logic which underlie the forthcoming response, those questions may now properly be answered. [Note: I have ignored the first of the three questions because it is not under debate.]

If the premises of an argument are not true, then the conclusion is ______.

If the argument is not logically valid, then the conclusion is______.

It is claimed the answer for both these questions is: could be either true or false

It is claimed the reason for this answer is "False premises or fallacious arguments do not necessarily invalidate a conclusion."

While it is true that false premises or fallacious arguments do not necessarily invalidate a conclusion, the answer that was provided for both questions is false. The proper answer is:

If the premises of an argument are not true, then the conclusion is UNSUPPORTED

If the argument is not logically valid, then the conclusion is UNSUPPORTED

The reason for this is simple: if an argument's premises are not true or its logic is not valid, then that argument no longer supports the conclusion. And if the argument is no longer supported by the conclusion, one is left with only the conclusion. That is the case with the examples.

Now, when one has only a conclusion, one cannot claim the conclusion is true, because such a claim requires evidence and there currently is none. There is just the conclusion. Nor can one claim the argument is false, because such a claim also requires evidence and one still only has just the conclusion at this point. What's more, one cannot claim the conclusion is 'possibly true' or 'possibly false' either, because even these claims require some evidence. And, again, at this point we now have only the conclusion. We know nothing else.

In other words, to claim that the conclusion 'could be true or false' here would require a crystal ball. It would require one to claim that one not only knows evidence (either for or against the conclusion) actually exists - but that it will also in fact be presented. Given the questions, such claims of knowledge simply cannot be made.

As such, the claim that the conclusion "could be either true or false" is actually an arbitrary assertion. It lacks any evidence to support that claim.

(I will also point out that, technically, the only thing one can say about the conclusion at this point is that it is arbitrary - because it lacks any supporting evidence. However, for the time being, I will simply stick to the term 'unsupported', so as to hopefully prevent a debate which is irrelevant to the point here. I only mention it to indicate the problem of False Alternatives to which I previously alluded - ie precluding the category 'arbitrary' from questions pertaining to an idea's relationship to evidence).

Moving on.

As previously indicated, it is true that false premises or fallacious arguments do not necessarily invalidate a conclusion. However, based on this premise, the following claims were made:

Thus, an invalid argument for a given conclusion does not prove that the conclusion is true and it does not prove that it is not true (because that would be Denying the Antecedent). Regardless of the subject, an invalid argument for a conclusion proves nothing about the truth of the conclusion.
It is important to note that this claim would apply equally to false premises. A false premise for a given conclusion does not prove that the conclusion is true and it does not prove that it is not true (because that would be Denying the Antecedent). Regardless of the subject, a false premise for a conclusion proves nothing about the truth of the conclusion

It is then further claimed:

Thus, in the course of debating any subject, finding a fallacy in an opponent's argument proves nothing about the subject.
Again, this claim would also apply equally to false premises. In the course of debating any subject, finding a false premise in an opponent's argument proves nothing about the subject.

Based on these claims, it was asserted:

Finding a fallacy in an opponent's argument is irrelevant to anything under discussion.
If this were true [which it is not], then it would be equally true that finding a false premise in an opponent's argument is irrelevant to anything under discussion as well.

As such, the conclusion based on all the above claims:

Therefore, it is off-topic for that discussion
would be true not only of invalid logic but of false premises too.

So much for rational debate.

Put simply, in all the claimed respects, assertions made against invalid arguments apply equally to false premises - since neither false premises nor invalid arguments "necessarily invalidate a conclusion" (which is why even the original answer to the two different questions is the same).

Moving on again.

It is claimed that what is "off-topic" - ie finding a fallacy (or now conversely, finding a false premise in an opponent's argument) - "could derail the substantive discussion" in a thread. The problem with this assertion is that it presumes a "substantive discussion" somehow excludes the fact of illogical arguments (or false premises)

I must reject such a claim.

Take a previously provided example:

There was a comet last night

The volcano erupted this morning

Therefore the comet caused the eruption

Now there is a very simple logical fallacy here. The fact that one event follows another does not mean it caused the other. Pointing out this fact would mean one of two things:

either - the speaker (or you for him, if you can) would have to change the premises - ie there would have to be a change in the facts in question. In other words, because the fallacy had been identified, the speaker would logically be forced to point to different facts which he believes might have caused the eruption

or - the speaker would have to dismiss his conclusion that the comet caused the eruption - ie he would logically be forced to end the discussion because he no longer has any facts he believes support his conclusion

Either way, that is not a 'derailment' of the "substantive discussion." That is dealing head on with the "factual issues" being discussed.

Claims to the contrary are patently false.

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Correction. This statement:

quote]As such, the claim that the conclusion "could be either true or false" is actually an arbitrary assertion. It lacks any evidence to support that claim.

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The following questions were asked HERE. After pointing out (HERE) some fundamentals of logic which underlie the forthcoming response, those questions may now properly be answered. [Note: I have ignored the first of the three questions because it is not under debate.]
If the premises of an argument are not true, then the conclusion is ______.

If the argument is not logically valid, then the conclusion is______.

It is claimed the answer for both these questions is: could be either true or false

It is claimed the reason for this answer is "False premises or fallacious arguments do not necessarily invalidate a conclusion."

While it is true that false premises or fallacious arguments do not necessarily invalidate a conclusion, the answer that was provided for both questions is false. The proper answer is:

If the premises of an argument are not true, then the conclusion is UNSUPPORTED

If the argument is not logically valid, then the conclusion is UNSUPPORTED

The reason for this is simple: if an argument's premises are not true or its logic is not valid, then that argument no longer supports the conclusion. And if the argument is no longer supported by the conclusion, one is left with only the conclusion. That is the case with the examples.

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Your arguments are false and, in fact, meaningless. Unsupported is not an issue of corespondence to reality. Truth and falsity are. Your statement simply switches from reality to consciousness. You switch from fact to method. You have violated the Law of Excluded Middle. You have committed the fallacy of Denying the Antecedent in the above two statements. "The conclusion is unsupported" is just another way of saying "The conclusion is not supported." If the premises are not true, then no conclusion can be drawn about the conclusion. There is no escape from logical fallacy.

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If the premises are not true, then no conclusion can be drawn about the conclusion.
Thank you for unintentionally proving my point exactly. :D

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The following questions were asked HERE. After pointing out (HERE) some fundamentals of logic which underlie the forthcoming response, those questions may now properly be answered. [Note: I have ignored the first of the three questions because it is not under debate.]
If the premises of an argument are not true, then the conclusion is ______.

If the argument is not logically valid, then the conclusion is______.

It is claimed the answer for both these questions is: could be either true or false

It is claimed the reason for this answer is "False premises or fallacious arguments do not necessarily invalidate a conclusion."

While it is true that false premises or fallacious arguments do not necessarily invalidate a conclusion, the answer that was provided for both questions is false. The proper answer is:

If the premises of an argument are not true, then the conclusion is UNSUPPORTED

If the argument is not logically valid, then the conclusion is UNSUPPORTED

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Imagine using this kind of reasoning in the example Betsy gave:

"If Queen Elizabeth is an American citizen, then she is a human being.

Queen Elizabeth is not an American citizen.

Therefore, Queen Elizabeth is not a human being."

Premise 1 is true, Premise 2 is true. According to the argument above, if Premise 2 were not true (the queen is an American citizen), then the conclusion that "the queen is not a human being" is "unsupported" and she might really not be a human being.

Also, since the QE example is an example of an invalid argument, then the conclusion that QE is not a human being is unsupported and we can't even formulate invalid arguments such as Denying the Antecedent.

Such argumentation as given by Brian above is fallacious, meaningless, and unsupported. Such argumentation invalidates the Law of Non-Contradiction. How do we know that any particular form of reasoning is invalid? A form of reasoning is invalid because the conclusion is false given the premises: it violates the Law of Non-Contradiction.

Why even bother with concepts of truth and falsity. If an argument is valid, the conclusion is supported. If an argument is invalid, the conclusion is unsupported. Let's just leave out the Law of Non-Contradiction.

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If the premises are not true, then no conclusion can be drawn about the conclusion.
Thank you for unintentionally proving my point exactly. :D

No proof: arbitrary.

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If the premises are not true, then no conclusion can be drawn about the conclusion.
Thank you for unintentionally proving my point exactly. :D

I should also add equivocation to the list.

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If the premises of an argument are not true, then the conclusion is UNSUPPORTED

If the argument is not logically valid, then the conclusion is UNSUPPORTED

This does not follow.

False premises prove nothing about the conclusion: true, false, arbitrary, non-arbitrary. The conclusion can still be supported by a single true premise offered in the argument or be self-supported by direct perception without the need of any argument at all.

An invalid argument proves nothing about the conclusion: true, false, arbitrary, non-arbitrary. The conclusion can still be supported by the premises offered in the argument or be self-supported by direct perception without the need of any argument at all.

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In other words, to claim that the conclusion 'could be true or false' here would require a crystal ball.

All it takes is the Law of Excluded Middle.

Either the conclusion corresponds with reality (is true) or it does not correspond with reality (is false). There is no other possibility.

It would require one to claim that one not only knows evidence (either for or against the conclusion) actually exists - but that it will also in fact be presented.

No it doesn't. The only claim being made it that the conclusion corresponds to reality or it doesn't and not which of the two alternatives applies.

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Thus, an invalid argument for a given conclusion does not prove that the conclusion is true and it does not prove that it is not true (because that would be Denying the Antecedent). Regardless of the subject, an invalid argument for a conclusion proves nothing about the truth of the conclusion.
It is important to note that this claim would apply equally to false premises. A false premise for a given conclusion does not prove that the conclusion is true and it does not prove that it is not true (because that would be Denying the Antecedent). Regardless of the subject, a false premise for a conclusion proves nothing about the truth of the conclusion

Exactly correct.

It is then further claimed:
Thus, in the course of debating any subject, finding a fallacy in an opponent's argument proves nothing about the subject.
Again, this claim would also apply equally to false premises. In the course of debating any subject, finding a false premise in an opponent's argument proves nothing about the subject.

Not quite. False premises prove nothing about the truth or falsity of the conclusion but may be relevant to the subject.

Based on these claims, it was asserted:
Finding a fallacy in an opponent's argument is irrelevant to anything under discussion.
If this were true [which it is not], then it would be equally true that finding a false premise in an opponent's argument is irrelevant to anything under discussion as well.

As such, the conclusion based on all the above claims:

Therefore, it is off-topic for that discussion
would be true not only of invalid logic but of false premises too.

That doesn't follow because the premises, unlike the argument, are factual issues that very well may be relevant to the subject under discussion.

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False premises prove nothing about the truth or falsity of the conclusion but may be relevant to the subject.
How exactly would false premises be 'relevant' to the 'subject' but invalid logic not be 'relevant' to the 'subject'? And since you are distinguishing subject from conclusion, how are you identifying 'subject' in this context? "Science', 'Ethics' , etc?
That doesn't follow because the premises, unlike the argument, are factual issues that very well may be relevant to the subject under discussion.
A logical fallacy identifies that some indicated relationship between the facts is invalid. Is the relationship between facts not a factual issue? Is the fact that different facts may need to be introduced - or all the facts discarded (because the conclusion was arbitrary) - etc not a 'factual' issue? If so, must reject such a view of what qualifies as 'factual'.

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False premises prove nothing about the truth or falsity of the conclusion but may be relevant to the subject.
How exactly would false premises be 'relevant' to the 'subject' but invalid logic not be 'relevant' to the 'subject'? And since you are distinguishing subject from conclusion, how are you identifying 'subject' in this context? "Science', 'Ethics' , etc?

By "subject" I mean the facts of reality being discussed in a given thread. In some threads it is an aspect of education, politics, art, etc. In this thread the subject is when logical fallacies are on-topic or off-topic. In the recent thread you started in the Metaphysics and Epistemology forum, the subject is logical arguments.

My point in this thread is that making an issue of invalid logic in a thread whose subject is not epistemology is irrelevant to conclusions about the subject, off-topic, and tends to derail discussion of the actual subject. Discussing invalid logic in an epistemology thread may be very relevant and on-topic if the actual subject is fallacious reasoning.

That doesn't follow because the premises, unlike the argument, are factual issues that very well may be relevant to the subject under discussion.
A logical fallacy identifies that some indicated relationship between the facts is invalid. Is the relationship between facts not a factual issue?

The relationship certainly is a fact. The question is, is it always relevant or on-topic to discuss a particular fact. I don't think it is relevant to discuss the life cycle of earthworms on a thread about Einstein and I don't think it is relevant to discuss logical fallacies on a thread about politics.

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In other words, to claim that the conclusion 'could be true or false' here would require a crystal ball.
All it takes is the Law of Excluded Middle.
No it doesn't.

The Law of Excluded Middle states everything is either A or not-A at a given time and in a given respect. To use the example provided by Dr. Peikoff, a man is either a genius or he is not - at a given time (now he might not be one, later he might become one) - and in a given respect (he might be a genius in rocket science and a dolt in relationships). And Dr. P notes, this law does not state everything is either A or B. Using the example again, the Law isn't saying "A man is either a genius or a dolt" That would be a false alternative. The Law is saying a man either has the level of intelligence identified as genius or he has some other level of intelligence - which includes the entire remaining alternatives, from idiot to below average intelligence, to average intelligence to above average intelligence, to whatever other levels there might be. These are the non-As. So a man is either A (genius) or he is non-A (one of those other things, though which in particular is not identified)

Now, when speaking of the relationship between a claim and reality, in accord with the Law of Excluded Middle either a claim is connected to reality or it is not connected to reality. In other words, a claim is either "non-arbitrary" or "arbitrary" (non-A or A).

Unlike the example of "non-genius" where the number of other things a man could be are too numerous to easily list, when it comes to "non-arbitrary" there are only two fundamental ways a claim can be connected to reality: positively or negatively. A positive connection to reality is a connection where the claim corresponds to reality (also known as true). A negative connection to reality is a connection where the claim contradicts reality (also known as false). As such, when one says something is "non-arbitrary" one is saying something is either true or false (note: degrees of certainty are just that - degrees within a category. They are not a separate category from these two. The type of connection is still the same).

Put simply, in this context the "non-arbitrary" is 'true' or 'false'. And that means when one says a claim is either 'non-arbitrary' or 'arbitrary' (non-A or A), one is saying a claim is either true or false (non-A), or it is arbitrary (A).

As such, when trying to identify a claim's connection to reality, to suggest it can only be 'true' or 'false' is to suggest it can only be "non-arbitrary". It is to suggest the alternative - "arbitrary" - does not exist. It is to suggest there is no A but only the non-As. That is a false alternative.

The only claim being made it that the conclusion corresponds to reality or it doesn't and not which of the two alternatives applies.
Exactly. The arbitrary has been dropped as the alternative to the non-arbitrary.

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