Brian Smith

On-Topic and Off-Topic Issues

418 posts in this topic

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It might be a waste of time for your if your discussing this with someone off the street or someone in the company lounge/lunch room. But, when I am teaching my clients of a proper dieting program I must show their illogcal thinking. If I do not point out their illogical thinking they will bring up the next illogical diet the next week and then the next and so on. But, If I can demonstrate their illogical thinking to it's root contradiction, then they no longer need me nor will they be bamboozled into the next illogical, panacea diet. This requires that we discuss their methodology, or as some might call it, "going off topic."

So then your real subject matter is "what is the proper methodology when selecting and evaluating a diet" not "did the Atkins diet cause you to lose weight."

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At this point I must ask Ms. Speicher if her objection in the above posts hinges on the identification of a person's argument or conclusion as 'false' instead of something like 'invalid'. If that is indeed the objection here, I will happily switch to terms such as 'invalid' and 'not true' etc., since - for my argument - the result is the same. In other words, instead of "Mary's conclusion is false" etc, the statement would read "Mary's conclusion is invalid" or "Mary's argument is not true" etc. Whatever the term, though, the assertions they identify would still properly be dismissed.

I'm glad to see you've change your terminology. But I still wouldn't hold that "not true" is the correct usage. That is just another way of saying "false".

Suppose I banged on your front door and stated, "Your house is on fire. A comet just passed over your house. The last time I saw a comet pass over someone's house, the house caught on fire, too." Would you dismiss my claim or would you go outside and look to see if your house was on fire?

With no further evidence on your part, I would slam the door. But, I think your example takes this whole discussion out of context. I think that most of this discussion stems from certain peoples misunderstanding of rights and government (which has been going on for the last three months). So, without "going off topic" and showing their illogical thinking, how is one supposed to convince them that thier thoughts are illogical? Obviously just pointing out that freedom cannot exist with the initiation of force was not enough as those statments were continually discarded as not being practical. So, if you could please demonstrate to me how one is supposed to do what I just said without "going off topic", it would be appreciated. Although, from my own objective perspective I do not think it can be done.

I'm not quite sure how many times I've stated this, but you do that by creating a new thread with that as the topic, such as this: "What kind of evidence and logical argument are required to convince people of one's argument?"

You'd slam the door? What kind of evidence would you like? The fire spreading into your living quarters? Suppose I just came up to your house and stated, "your house is on fire". You would regard this as an unsupported assertion? Would you really ask for evidence before going outside to look?

I hope this is not "off topic" but we are really getting too far into rationalism if that is how you'd really behave.

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----------------------

It might be a waste of time for your if your discussing this with someone off the street or someone in the company lounge/lunch room. But, when I am teaching my clients of a proper dieting program I must show their illogcal thinking. If I do not point out their illogical thinking they will bring up the next illogical diet the next week and then the next and so on. But, If I can demonstrate their illogical thinking to it's root contradiction, then they no longer need me nor will they be bamboozled into the next illogical, panacea diet. This requires that we discuss their methodology, or as some might call it, "going off topic."

So then your real subject matter is "what is the proper methodology when selecting and evaluating a diet" not "did the Atkins diet cause you to lose weight."

It could be, but I do not think that the person on the other side of my desk see's it the same way. Usually the person on the other side of my desk constantly states "how is this discussion going to get me to lose weight."

I am not stating that we should not remain focused to the subject. What I am saying is that nothing revolves in a vacuum, so to demonstrae one's point sometimes requires that we discuss other points which might be seen as "off topic." And, if that is what is required to demonstrate one's point how can this be considered a vice?

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At this point I must ask Ms. Speicher if her objection in the above posts hinges on the identification of a person's argument or conclusion as 'false' instead of something like 'invalid'. If that is indeed the objection here, I will happily switch to terms such as 'invalid' and 'not true' etc., since - for my argument - the result is the same. In other words, instead of "Mary's conclusion is false" etc, the statement would read "Mary's conclusion is invalid" or "Mary's argument is not true" etc. Whatever the term, though, the assertions they identify would still properly be dismissed.

I'm glad to see you've change your terminology. But I still wouldn't hold that "not true" is the correct usage. That is just another way of saying "false".

Suppose I banged on your front door and stated, "Your house is on fire. A comet just passed over your house. The last time I saw a comet pass over someone's house, the house caught on fire, too." Would you dismiss my claim or would you go outside and look to see if your house was on fire?

With no further evidence on your part, I would slam the door. But, I think your example takes this whole discussion out of context. I think that most of this discussion stems from certain peoples misunderstanding of rights and government (which has been going on for the last three months). So, without "going off topic" and showing their illogical thinking, how is one supposed to convince them that thier thoughts are illogical? Obviously just pointing out that freedom cannot exist with the initiation of force was not enough as those statments were continually discarded as not being practical. So, if you could please demonstrate to me how one is supposed to do what I just said without "going off topic", it would be appreciated. Although, from my own objective perspective I do not think it can be done.

I'm not quite sure how many times I've stated this, but you do that by creating a new thread with that as the topic, such as this: "What kind of evidence and logical argument are required to convince people of one's argument?"

You'd slam the door? What kind of evidence would you like? The fire spreading into your living quarters? Suppose I just came up to your house and stated, "your house is on fire". You would regard this as an unsupported assertion? Would you really ask for evidence before going outside to look?

I hope this is not "off topic" but we are really getting too far into rationalism if that is how you'd really behave.

I misunderstood your post. I thought your original statements were trying to state that everytime a comet flies over someone's house it causes a house fire. So, just because you saw a comet fly over my house does not mean that my house is on fire nor that I agree with you, especially since I have eight sensors to alert me of a fire throuhout my home. But, after rereading your post, I would walk out with you so that you could show me where the fire is, so that I could think of what my next action should be.

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So, are saying that it is incorrect to state "how did you come to that conclusion?" Whether one agrees or disagrees with the conclusion, I still think it perfectly proper to ask how someone came to their conclusion.
No, it is incorrect, accordig Brian's statement, to hold a statement as a conclusion until "the premises which lead to this conclusion and the methodology used to reach the conclusion from those premises must be identified and their correctness confirmed." Else, the statement is "arbitrary." (According to Brian.)
As Dr. Peikoff states in his course on Logic, the only time one can know a conclusion is if one can answer "Yes" to both these questions separately:

Yes, my premises are true.

Yes, my inference is valid.

Only in that case can you say "I know my conclusion is true."

--

Your argument is not accurate. The conclusion may be identified as invalid, not false.
Even Miss Rand has used the terms truth and falsehood in relation to logical inferences. However, two hours before this post, I already stated I was happy to use the term 'invalid' etc. instead, since the result is the same.

Technically, however, I will point out that the argument you identify as "invalid" is actually considered "valid" according to the standards of formal logic. Here is another, simpler example:

All men are blue

Socrates is a man

Therefore Socrates is blue

The form of this argument is "valid". In other words, the conclusion is accurately derived from the provided evidence - ie the provided premises.

I still wouldn't hold that "not true" is the correct usage. That is just another way of saying "false".
That is not true. :D

Your premise is based on the "false alternative" fallacy. Identifying what something 'is not' isn't the same thing as identifying what something 'is'. Saying something is 'not x' means it is something other than x. Now one could only claim "not true" is "just another way of saying "false"" if false was the only alternative to true. However, false is not the only alternative to true. Arbitrary is also an alternative to true. In other words, when identifying a statement, your alternatives are not just 'true' or 'false'. Therefore your premise is false.

As the above indicates, there are more than just 'formal' fallacies - ie fallacies which relate to the structure of the argument. There are also 'informal' fallacies. In these, the argument can be said to be 'valid' and yet still properly identified as wrong.

For instance:

Premise: Geological events produce rock

Premise: Rock is a type of music

Conclusion: Geological events produce music.

Now, the form of this argument is quite valid. Both the premises are valid. However, the logical fallacy of "equivocation" is still being committed. Two different meanings are being used for the same term: "rock". As such, the conclusion is not supported by the premises. Unless some other argument is presented, the conclusion must be dismissed.

Do you agree with Ms. Speicher that it is "improper and presumptuous" to identify the fact that the argument involves an equivocation? Do you agree with Ms. Speicher that one must first investigate the science of geology and the art of music and try to discover if geological events do or do not produce music? In other words, do you agree with Ms. Speicher that the onus of proof is upon you to investigate a conclusion for which no evidence has been provided?

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Do you agree with Ms. Speicher that it is "improper and presumptuous" to identify the fact that the argument involves an equivocation? Do you agree with Ms. Speicher that one must first investigate the science of geology and the art of music and try to discover if geological events do or do not produce music? In other words, do you agree with Ms. Speicher that the onus of proof is upon you to investigate a conclusion for which no evidence has been provided?

Would you please show me where Ms. Speicher said any of these things?

And please skip the "I logically inferred this from the inherent contradiction in her statements."

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But would the studying of logic really add anything significant in this case that couldn't be done better by studying some Epistemology, Psychology, and doing honest introspection?

I don't know how to answer that question. "Significant" to whom and for what purpose? What constitutes studying logic: what passes for "symbolic logic" in college classes, or learning the principles and concepts behind logical fallacies and deductive reasoning?

Are there aspects of logic that are covered by psychology and epistemology? If so, then I'd say you'd already be studying logic as a part of those fields. If not, then there would be some aspects of logic you'd not be getting. (Introspection is good and important, but you miss the advantages of learning knowledge from others.)

There are many things people learn to do informally that can also be learned on a theoretical level. For instance, we all learn a language by observation and immersion. Later we can learn spelling, grammar, and rhetoric. I think your question is analogous. Can one reason and use logic without formally studying the subject? Sure. But we can improve our skills by studying the theory.

Let me reiterate that there is a difference between an implicit, rudimentary, working knowledge and an explicit conceptual framework. In ItOE, what point does Ayn Rand make about the value of naming a concept, and of conceptualizing knowledge? That, I think, is the crux of the answer to your question.

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Pointing out someone's fallacious reasoning has absolutely no bearing on whether his statements are true or false. The truth of his statements has to be validated by reference to observable facts, not by reference to his methodology.
This is false.

Mary: I hate altruists. And I hate Bob. Therefore Bob must be an altruist.

The premises may be factually true. The conclusion is not supported by them. Therefore, based on the premises Mary has provided, her conclusion is properly identified as false. Put simply, Mary cannot claim her conclusion as knowledge. She cannot - as she has tried to do - claim it as a fact of reality.

You analysis and conclusion are incorrect because it is based on the idea that an invalid argument falsifies its conclusion. As I wrote, someone's fallacious reasoning has absolutely no bearing on whether his statements are true or false. An invalid argument proves nothing about its conclusion. It doesn't prove it is true and it doesn't prove it is false.

To demonstrate my point, let's rewrite your Mary / Bob example just a little bit.

Mary: I hate altruists. And I hate Bob. Therefore Ayn Rand knew why altruism is evil.

The premises may be factually true. The conclusion is not supported by them. (Right.) Therefore, based on the premises Mary has provided, her conclusion is properly identified as false. (Wrong!) Put simply, Mary cannot claim her conclusion as knowledge. She cannot - as she has tried to do - claim it as a fact of reality. (But it is a fact of reality -- just not on the basis of her invalid argument.)

A fallacious methodology always invalidates an argument but it doesn't always falsify its conclusion. The only way to falsify a conclusion is to present observable facts that contradict it.

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In other words, both the facts and the process of linking them must be validated. If either is not valid, then the conclusion is no longer supported.
Would it be right to dismiss Ayn Rand's conclusions because some newbie student of Objectivism makes invalid arguments for them?
If I have no other evidence to support those conclusions, of course. On what basis do you claim I entertain her conclusion absent a valid argument? Faith?

On the basis of other knowledge you may have. You shouldn't dismiss a conclusion that you have reason to believe is true because someone makes an invalid argument for it.

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It might be a waste of time for your if your discussing this with someone off the street or someone in the company lounge/lunch room. But, when I am teaching my clients of a proper dieting program I must show their illogcal thinking. If I do not point out their illogical thinking they will bring up the next illogical diet the next week and then the next and so on. But, If I can demonstrate their illogical thinking to it's root contradiction, then they no longer need me nor will they be bamboozled into the next illogical, panacea diet. This requires that we discuss their methodology, or as some might call it, "going off topic."

I don't think it is off-topic. As you just presented it, your topic isn't how to diet or what's wrong with the Adkins Diet. Your topic is really the proper method for selecting a diet.

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Here is the beginning of the Wikipedia article on the Ad Hominem fallacy:
An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the man", "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim.
Observe that Brian's "If I claim Ms. Speicher's argument is an ad hom (or whatever logical fallacy), I am claiming her conclusion is false," is a classic example of an ad hominem fallacy itself.
This claim is false. The fact that Ms. Speicher identifies 'attribution' as a "classic example" of an ad hom is proof she does not grasp this fallacy correctly.

As Dr. Peikoff identifies in his course on Logic, the logical fallacy "argumentum ad hominem" is a very well known and widespread fallacy which literally means "appeal to the man." In this fallacy, an individual attempts to disprove an idea, not by attacking the argument someone has put forth, but by attacking the advocate of the idea instead. The individual tries to blacken the advocate of the idea, rather than impune his viewpoint. Doing this is a fallacy because the truth or falsehood of the advocate's argument depends on facts of logic, not on the characteristics of the person who puts it forth.

One can think of ad hom as the reverse of Verecundium. In verecundium, you say he or they say it, therefore it is true. In ad hominem, you say he or they say it, therefore it is false. In either case, you are not looking at the facts, but at the speaker. If you like or feel awe for a speaker, you let that take over in verecundium. If you feel dislike or repugnance, you let that take over in ad hom.

Dr. P points out that the point of attack can be anything. You can attack a person's sex: "You are a man, you can't understand." You can attack age: "You are young, you'll learn." You can attack financial status: "You're rich". Or their occupational status "You are management". Or you can just attack their character: "You are wicked, lazy, corrupt, etc." Whatever the point of attack, if the attack is not against the individual's argument (with all that entails) then it is an ad hom. And, conversely, if the attack is against the individual's argument, then it is not an ad hom.

Now, Ms. Speicher's claim contradicts the above. She claims the statement: "Ms. Speicher's argument is an ad hom" is a "classic example of an ad hom". In other words, she is claiming that the statement is somehow not impuning her viewpoint but is impuning her instead. She is claiming the argument is being identified as wrong because she is the one who has presented that argument.

Ms. Speicher's error here is the belief that identifying her viewpoint as hers somehow shifts the subject off the "argument" and onto "Ms. Speicher". This is false. The subject of the statement is "argument" not "Ms. Speicher." Identifying Ms. Speicher (rather than Bob or anyone else) as the author of the argument being challenged does not magically change this fact. "Ms. Speicher" is the modifier for the subject "argument" - not the other way around.

As I have indicated on multiple occasions now, this is basic grammar (not to mention basic logic).

Put simply, as I have tried to explain to Ms. Speicher for many years now, attribution is not a logical fallacy. It is not an "argument against the man". It is not a personal attack.

Attribution is not an ad hom.

In other words, as Dr. Peikoff put it, the statement "Ms. Speicher's argument is an ad hom" is validly 'attacking the argument she has put forth. It is 'impuning her viewpoint'. As such, contrary to Ms. Speicher's accusation, these acts are not logical fallacies. They are textbook acts of logic.

Ms. Speicher's continuing failure to correctly grasp the nature of this logical fallacy goes to the heart of my complaint here, for it means The Forum is being moderated on the basis of a fundamental violation of logic. In other words, The Forum is being moderated in opposition to valid principles of logic. And that is NOT good.

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As Dr. Peikoff states in his course on Logic, the only time one can know a conclusion is if one can answer "Yes" to both these questions separately:

Yes, my premises are true.

Yes, my inference is valid.

Only in that case can you say "I know my conclusion is true."

If by the above you mean that having these two "Yeses" is necessary for knowing a conclusion is true, that is certainly the case, but it is not sufficient.

In addition, you also have to verify your conclusion against observable facts of reality and integrate it, without contradiction, with your prior knowledge. If you can't do that, it isn't knowledge even if you have the two "Yeses."

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If I have no other evidence to support those conclusions, of course. On what basis do you claim I entertain her conclusion absent a valid argument? Faith?
On the basis of other knowledge you may have. You shouldn't dismiss a conclusion that you have reason to believe is true because someone makes an invalid argument for it.
Well that doesn't answer the question I actually asked, does it? You say that IF I have reason to believe a conclusion is true (ie IF I have some evidence for the conclusion) I should not dismiss a conclusion. I can only point out that this switches the context of my question entirely and as such, fails to answer that question.

Please answer the question I actually asked.

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As Dr. Peikoff states in his course on Logic, the only time one can know a conclusion is if one can answer "Yes" to both these questions separately:

Yes, my premises are true.

Yes, my inference is valid.

Only in that case can you say "I know my conclusion is true."

If by the above you mean that having these two "Yeses" is necessary for knowing a conclusion is true, that is certainly the case, but it is not sufficient.

In addition, you also have to verify your conclusion against observable facts of reality and integrate it, without contradiction, with your prior knowledge. If you can't do that, it isn't knowledge even if you have the two "Yeses."

Actually, in the context of Dr. P's statements, "premises" includes the conclusion as well. As such, the two "yes" answers encompass all of the above.

I suggest listening to the course. It is very informative.

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Do you agree with Ms. Speicher that it is "improper and presumptuous" to identify the fact that the argument involves an equivocation?

Whoa! Check the post where I originally used the words "improper and presumptuous".

You'll see that I was referring to dismissing someone's true argument by arbitrarily claiming they had committed a fallacy that they denied ever making.

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Do you agree with Ms. Speicher that it is "improper and presumptuous" to identify the fact that the argument involves an equivocation? Do you agree with Ms. Speicher that one must first investigate the science of geology and the art of music and try to discover if geological events do or do not produce music? In other words, do you agree with Ms. Speicher that the onus of proof is upon you to investigate a conclusion for which no evidence has been provided?

Would you please show me where Ms. Speicher said any of these things?

And please skip the "I logically inferred this from the inherent contradiction in her statements."

Thanks for coming to my defense, but please call me Betsy. That's what my friends call me.

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I suggest listening to the course. It is very informative.

I don't think that anyone, anywhere, needs to recommend that Betsy should spend additional time studying Objectivism!

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Pointing out someone's fallacious reasoning has absolutely no bearing on whether his statements are true or false. The truth of his statements has to be validated by reference to observable facts, not by reference to his methodology.
This is false.

Mary: I hate altruists. And I hate Bob. Therefore Bob must be an altruist.

The premises may be factually true. The conclusion is not supported by them. Therefore, based on the premises Mary has provided, her conclusion is properly identified as false. Put simply, Mary cannot claim her conclusion as knowledge. She cannot - as she has tried to do - claim it as a fact of reality.

You analysis and conclusion are incorrect because it is based on the idea that an invalid argument falsifies its conclusion.
Since my conclusion is that, based on the argument Mary has provided, she cannot claim her conclusion as knowledge - she cannot claim she knows it is a fact of reality - and since you claim my analysis and conclusion are incorrect - is it therefore your claim that, based on the argument Mary has provided she CAN claim her conclusion as knowledge?

If not, exactly what is wrong with the statement?

A fallacious methodology always invalidates an argument...
I am glad we are now in agreement on this point.
...but it doesn't always falsify its conclusion. The only way to falsify a conclusion is to present observable facts that contradict it.
As I stated many, many hours ago now, if your issue here is simply with the term false here, I am more than happy to switch to the term 'invalid' in such context. As I said, the result - ie my argument and conclusion remain the same.

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Here is the beginning of the Wikipedia article on the Ad Hominem fallacy:
An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the man", "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim.
Observe that Brian's "If I claim Ms. Speicher's argument is an ad hom (or whatever logical fallacy), I am claiming her conclusion is false" is a classic example of an ad hominem fallacy itself.
This claim is false. The fact that Ms. Speicher identifies 'attribution' as a "classic example" of an ad hom is proof she does not grasp this fallacy correctly.

I neither said nor implied that attribution is a form of ad hominem. Please reread my post.

My point was actually that your sentence, "If I claim Ms. Speicher's argument is an ad hom (or whatever logical fallacy), I am claiming her conclusion is false," is itself an ad hominem because fits the Wikipedia definition of an ad hominem exactly.

Instead of "addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against [my] claim", Brian declares "I am claiming her conclusion is false" based on an appeal "to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim," namely that "Ms. Speicher's argument is an ad hom (or whatever logical fallacy)."

To prove a conclusion is true or false, you have to appeal to the facts of reality and not to the characteristics, beliefs, or alleged logical fallacies of the person who advocates the conclusion.

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Brian has misquoted Betsy:

Quote#1:

She claims the statement: "Ms. Speicher's argument is an ad hom" is a "classic example of an ad hom".

What Betsy actually wrote was:

Quote #2 (post #114):

Observe that Brian's "If I claim Ms. Speicher's argument is an ad hom (or whatever logical fallacy), I am claiming her conclusion is false," is a classic example of an ad hominem fallacy itself.

Quote #2 argues against determining the truth or falsehood of a conclusion based on an invalid form of argument. Quote#1 changes the subject to one of the premises in the argument, rather than the argument itself.

These are two separate issues. I want to address the argument in Quote #2.

In logic, an argument can establish the truth or falsehood of a conclusion only if both of two conditions are met: if the premises are true, and the form of the argument necessitates the conclusion. If the structure of the argument does not lead to the conclusion, then one cannot say whether the conclusion is true or false, at least based on the presented argument alone. If the form of the argument is invalid, one can have true premises leading to a false conclusion or false (or unrelated) premises leading to a true conclusion. In other words, a valid argument based on true premises yields a true conclusion. An invalid argument based on true premises yields nothing.

Example:

1. Socrates is a man.

2. The sky is blue.

3. Thus, Socrates is mortal.

The premises and conclusion are true, but the argument is not valid. 1 and 2 do not lead to 3.

Brian's statement in Quote #2 argues that because the form of the argument is invalid, the conclusion is therefore false. That does not follow.

Betsy is correct. Claiming she made an invalid argument doesn't address the truth or falsehood of her conclusion. The most one could say is that the argument doesn't support the conclusion. The conclusion may still be true, though poorly argued for, as in my example above.

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As Dr. Peikoff identifies in his course on Logic, the logical fallacy "argumentum ad hominem" is a very well known and widespread fallacy which literally means "appeal to the man." In this fallacy, an individual attempts to disprove an idea, not by attacking the argument someone has put forth, but by attacking the advocate of the idea instead. The individual tries to blacken the advocate of the idea, rather than impune his viewpoint. Doing this is a fallacy because the truth or falsehood of the advocate's argument depends on facts of logic, not on the characteristics of the person who puts it forth.

What do you mean by the "facts of logic?" Do you mean facts of reality or rules of logic? This is very important because it sets the proper standard for determining truth and falsehood.

I hold that truth and falsehood is determined by correspondence with reality as perceived by our senses. A rationalist holds that truth and falsehood is a matter of logical correctness and discounts or ignores the necessity of observing reality.

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If I have no other evidence to support those conclusions, of course. On what basis do you claim I entertain her conclusion absent a valid argument? Faith?
On the basis of other knowledge you may have. You shouldn't dismiss a conclusion that you have reason to believe is true because someone makes an invalid argument for it.
Well that doesn't answer the question I actually asked, does it? You say that IF I have reason to believe a conclusion is true (ie IF I have some evidence for the conclusion) I should not dismiss a conclusion. I can only point out that this switches the context of my question entirely and as such, fails to answer that question.

Please answer the question I actually asked.

OK. You might also validly consider the conclusion of an invalid argument if you can investigate the matter further to find other evidence for or against the conclusion.

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Actually, in the context of Dr. P's statements, "premises" includes the conclusion as well. As such, the two "yes" answers encompass all of the above.

Then that's what I have been arguing all along: We must reality-check the conclusion, independent of the arguments for it, to see if it is true.

I suggest listening to the course. It is very informative.

I know. I was sitting in the front row when he originally gave it.

Dr. Peikoff told me that he liked to look to me for feedback when he lectured because "You have a very expressive face and you smile in all the right places."

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I am beginning to feel as though I'm standing in the middle of a personal argument. Perhaps this is a reason to keep attribution out of a discussion, regardless of the status of its logical validity: to keep personalities out of a discussion and keep the peace.

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