Brian Smith

Fundamentals of Logic

142 posts in this topic

I would summarize my view as follows. Consider it "Paul's Razor": If a proposition is considered in relationship to the Law of Non-Contradiction, then it may be either true or false. If a proposition is not considered in relationship to the Law of Non-Contradiction, then it is arbitrary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Let's suppose that no one knows if either man was ever in Greece. I come along and say, "I read an article yesterday that Bush and Cruise were in Greece last year. While there, Bush bet Cruise that he could beat him in a 10-mile walking race. The article said that Cruise won the race by 2 miles." I have no known evidence that the writer of the article is lying. I know that Bush likes to walk (or run) and Cruise is in good shape, so he must do some exercise. So a walking race is possible for them to be involved in. No arbitrary statement.
As D. P points out, even if a conclusion later turns out to be truthful does not change the fact that at the time it was made, it was arbitrary.

That is not what he stated. You are context dropping.

If the person who makes this statement knows that Bush and Cruise are not in Greece right now, that the triathlon never occurred then it is arbitrary
If the contradiction of that statement is not painfully obvious, then there is nothing I can do to help clear things up. The distinction between false and arbitrary is simply not being grasped.

At this point there is no logical basis on which we can have a rational discussion.

That is painfully obvious to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
------------

If there is no one else who disagrees, then I will proceed to my answer to Ms. Speicher's three questions and why the answers she gave are in error.

I think, at this point, this constitutes grounds for dismissal of your argument since you have stepped outside the bounds of logic and reason. Her answers are unassailable in reason and logic. Your inability to make obvious connections between my arguments about observable data make continued discussion of this issue outside the bounds of proof. I will no longer discuss this issue with you, say what you might. I consider the issue closed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What I am saying in addition is: if neither of you can present arguments to support that conclusion (or refute it), then neither of you have a basis for continuing to consider the conclusion. In that case, the conclusion must therefore be dismissed. Otherwise you are accepting the conclusion arbitrarily.

Does that sound rational to you?

Just because one cannot always identify an explicit basis for a conclusion doesn't justify considering it's acceptance arbitrary. One's subconscious appraisals are an automatic process that is not always scrutable. A hundred life experiences that you are not aware of may lead you to a correct conclusion, yet find you unable to formulate a set of steps from foundation to end.

For example, a person brought up in a religious home might find himself at odds with altruistic philosophy. He knows something isn't right with it, and he doesn't live by it. Yet, he is ill equipped to make a rational argument for an alternative.

Now, would you come along, and finding his logic in disarray, condemn his conclusion as arbitrary because of that failing? Pay scant attention to his direct experiences, his inductions? Or, would you, instead of lambasting his lack of logic, try and find out what led him in this direction?

From what I see, it's not your use of logic that finds you at odds with others, but the manner you use it. You look for truth in the logic, when all along, the truth they arrived at never followed that path in the first place. Now, you may rightly expect folks to do better than that, but not everyone can always lay out the logical steps for every position he has, but nonetheless still be correct.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What I am saying in addition is: if neither of you can present arguments to support that conclusion (or refute it), then neither of you have a basis for continuing to consider the conclusion. In that case, the conclusion must therefore be dismissed. Otherwise you are accepting the conclusion arbitrarily.

Does that sound rational to you?

Just because one cannot always identify an explicit basis for a conclusion doesn't justify considering it's acceptance arbitrary.
I see. Your position is that an assertion for which one cannot provide support is not arbitrary.
A hundred life experiences that you are not aware of may lead you to a correct conclusion
'I am not "aware" of why, but it is right' is an explicitly arbitrary assertion. It is the opposite of rational.

At this point there is no logical basis on which we can have a rational discussion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apparently, the better question to ask here is: Who agrees with the following and who disagrees with the following:

If an argument is invalid, the argument is properly dismissed.

When the argument is dismissed, one has two options in regards to the conclusion:

1 - reconnect the conclusion to reality by providing a different argument

2 - absent a different argument, dismiss the conclusion because it remains unsupported - ie it is arbitrary

So far Paul, Carlos, and Arnold come down on the side of 'disagree'.

What position does everyone else take? If there is anyone who agrees, it is to them that I can identify why the answers provided to Ms. Speicher's three questions are wrong. The rest simply commit the same fallacy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In logic, what you identifed as the "argument" is actually identified as the conclusion. And what you identifed as the "justification" is a premise. When one states an argument is invalid, one is saying that the reasoning used to get from the premises to the conclusion is not acceptable. The premises do not necessitate the conclusion. In other words, the argument doesn't "hold" as you put it. As such, the argument must be rejected.

I agree with this. I think what everyone should remember is context matters. A concept's meaning is defined by the process of abstraction that created it, and the same is true of any idea that is the product of complex reasoning. That's why a parrot telling you that rain is in the forecast is arbitrary, but coming from a weatherman this prediction has cognitive content that can be analyzed and verified as true or false. Similarly, if the process of reasoning to the conclusion that "Capitalism is good" is 1. "God told me so" and 2. "Everything God says is true" then the conclusion is arbitrary because the evidence is not grounded in experience. The process by which a conclusion is stated determines its cognitive content.

That said, I agree with Arnold that often times the explicit reasoning is not the real basis of someone's ideas. Most people develop their philosophy implicitly, and how connected to experience the ideas may be depends in part on the individual's psycho-epistemology. Being implicit, they may not understand how their beliefs were derived. I think "common sense" is an expression we use for just this kind of set of beliefs. The justification they give may not in fact be how the concept was formed in their minds. That's why it's a good idea to do some probing past their given explanation, to see if maybe there aren't other subconscious connections being made.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Most people develop their philosophy implicitly, and how connected to experience the ideas may be depends in part on the individual's psycho-epistemology.

Actually, after considering this for a moment, I think I can safely remove "in part".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That's why it's a good idea to do some probing past their given explanation, to see if maybe there aren't other subconscious connections being made.
You provide an example where one of the two parties supposedly does know a valid answer and can support it. Such a person is not accepting the conclusion arbitrarily and as such has no reason to dismiss it. However, if you will note, that was not the question I had asked Arnold. I said:
if neither of you can present arguments to support that conclusion (or refute it), then neither of you have a basis for continuing to consider the conclusion. In that case, the conclusion must therefore be dismissed. Otherwise you are accepting the conclusion arbitrarily.

Does that sound rational to you?

Given those circumstances, neither party is in a position to claim the conclusion is "correct". Nor are "a hundred life experiences" that they "are not aware of" justification for either of them to accept the conclusion they cannot support.

Do you agree?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If an argument is invalid, the argument is properly dismissed.
I would say that that line of reasoning in the argument doesn't work, however, the argument itself may be good.
I will explain this a bit, but I will also point out that my question is really for those who are somewhat more familiar with some of these basics of logic.

In logic, what you identifed as the "argument" is actually identified as the conclusion. And what you identifed as the "justification" is a premise. When one states an argument is invalid, one is saying that the reasoning used to get from the premises to the conclusion is not acceptable. The premises do not necessitate the conclusion. In other words, the argument doesn't "hold" as you put it. As such, the argument must be rejected.

Now, saying an argument must be rejected doesn't mean the conclusion can never be accepted as true. It simply means it cannot be accepted as true for the particular reason that had been given. If the person who presented the argument believes he has other arguments for the conclusion, he may certainly present those in place of the argument which has been dismissed. And, of course, if you believe you have arguments for the conclusion, you too may present those arguments. If I understand your post correctly, I think we agree on this part.

What I am saying in addition is: if neither of you can present arguments to support that conclusion (or refute it), then neither of you have a basis for continuing to consider the conclusion. In that case, the conclusion must therefore be dismissed. Otherwise you are accepting the conclusion arbitrarily.

Does that sound rational to you?

That is exactly right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Given those circumstances, neither party is in a position to claim the conclusion is "correct". Nor are "a hundred life experiences" that they "are not aware of" justification for either of them to accept the conclusion they cannot support.

Do you agree?

If for some reason they are not able to identify an abstraction formed on "auto-pilot" by their own automized processes, but that abstraction was correctly formed, then their inability to explain it does not invalidate the conclusion. Children form countless abstractions, but if you asked them to explain how, they wouldn't be able to. That does not make all of their ideas arbitrary.

Put this in perspective. Ayn Rand for the first time in history defined the psycho-epistemological process by which we form and integrate concepts. Before that time, philosophers were stumped by what they called "the problem of universals" - they didn't know where they came from! Some thought they were intuited, whether from God (Descartes) or from reality (the naive realists). Others thought they were just made up and had nothing to do with reality (Hume). If you asked them to explain how they formed the simplest concepts, they would probably get it wrong. Does that mean, though, that before the time of Ayn Rand every concept ever formed, including any discoveries leading from them, should be discarded?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What I am saying in addition is: if neither of you can present arguments to support that conclusion (or refute it), then neither of you have a basis for continuing to consider the conclusion. In that case, the conclusion must therefore be dismissed. Otherwise you are accepting the conclusion arbitrarily.

Does that sound rational to you?

Just because one cannot always identify an explicit basis for a conclusion doesn't justify considering it's acceptance arbitrary. One's subconscious appraisals are an automatic process that is not always scrutable. A hundred life experiences that you are not aware of may lead you to a correct conclusion, yet find you unable to formulate a set of steps from foundation to end.

For example, a person brought up in a religious home might find himself at odds with altruistic philosophy. He knows something isn't right with it, and he doesn't live by it. Yet, he is ill equipped to make a rational argument for an alternative.

Now, would you come along, and finding his logic in disarray, condemn his conclusion as arbitrary because of that failing? Pay scant attention to his direct experiences, his inductions? Or, would you, instead of lambasting his lack of logic, try and find out what led him in this direction?

From what I see, it's not your use of logic that finds you at odds with others, but the manner you use it. You look for truth in the logic, when all along, the truth they arrived at never followed that path in the first place. Now, you may rightly expect folks to do better than that, but not everyone can always lay out the logical steps for every position he has, but nonetheless still be correct.

Speaking for myself, I was brought up in a religious home, and later, studying Ruby's Introduction To Logic and correcting a lot of my errors in thinking was a big step on the road to independence, much more so than reading Atlas Shrugged.

Identifying someone's logical errors should be quite enough, I think, to get him to check his thinking. In certain cases, if the individual is stubborn enough, he may cling to his errors, or consider them only over a longer period of time than required for an immediate post response. The man identifying the error is under no obligation to try an find out what led to the error. After all, he is not a mind reader. Nevertheless, the person who made the error would, I think, be glad (even if not immediately) that someone pointed it out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Given those circumstances, neither party is in a position to claim the conclusion is "correct". Nor are "a hundred life experiences" that they "are not aware of" justification for either of them to accept the conclusion they cannot support.

Do you agree?

If for some reason they are not able to identify an abstraction formed on "auto-pilot" by their own automized processes, but that abstraction was correctly formed, then their inability to explain it does not invalidate the conclusion. Children form countless abstractions, but if you asked them to explain how, they wouldn't be able to. That does not make all of their ideas arbitrary.

Put this in perspective. Ayn Rand for the first time in history defined the psycho-epistemological process by which we form and integrate concepts. Before that time, philosophers were stumped by what they called "the problem of universals" - they didn't know where they came from! Some thought they were intuited, whether from God (Descartes) or from reality (the naive realists). Others thought they were just made up and had nothing to do with reality (Hume). If you asked them to explain how they formed the simplest concepts, they would probably get it wrong. Does that mean, though, that before the time of Ayn Rand every concept ever formed, including any discoveries leading from them, should be discarded?

But Brian is not saying that the conclusions should be discarded absolutely. He is saying that particular faulty arguments do not lead to certain conclusions, which must, in the context of that specific argument, be dismissed as a conclusion logically stemming from particular premises. He is not saying that one should no longer think about the conclusion, or should no longer try to discover a way to prove it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Given those circumstances, neither party is in a position to claim the conclusion is "correct". Nor are "a hundred life experiences" that they "are not aware of" justification for either of them to accept the conclusion they cannot support.

Do you agree?

If for some reason they are not able to identify an abstraction formed on "auto-pilot" by their own automized processes, but that abstraction was correctly formed...
You presume that which is trying to be proven - ie that their conclusion is correct. In the context of your knowledge, you may be able to make that claim. But in the context of their knowledge, neither one of them can claim the conclusion was "correctly formed". Put simply, you are assuming for them that which they do not know.

Remember what you said - you have to keep context. And their context is that they are unable to support their conclusion. As such, for both of them the conclusion is arbitrary. If you happen to come along later and are able to show them that the conclusion is true, that would not change the fact that they originally held that conclusion arbitrarily.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But Brian is not saying that the conclusions should be discarded absolutely. He is saying that particular faulty arguments do not lead to certain conclusions, which must, in the context of that specific argument, be dismissed as a conclusion logically stemming from particular premises. He is not saying that one should no longer think about the conclusion, or should no longer try to discover a way to prove it.

I don't think the idea of dismissing the arbitrary is really what created the debate here, and I have no problem agreeing that the arbitrary should be dismissed. The problem is what qualifies as arbitrary. From what I understand, Brian is saying that if a person cannot support a belief in debate by explaining how it was formed, that qualifies such a belief as arbitrary. My objection, and I believe it was Arnold’s as well, was that most people form conclusions implicitly and simply do not know how they were formed. That does not, however, make them the same as arbitrary conclusions that should be discarded. I also believe this was the source of the misunderstanding between Brian and Betsy, regarding "mind reading". We simply cannot know what process created abstractions in another person's mind. We can only know what they tell us about their thought process. The problem is, sometimes even they don't know why they believe some things.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...most people form conclusions implicitly and simply do not know how they were formed. That does not, however, make them the same as arbitrary conclusions that should be discarded.
'I "don't know how" I came to this conclusion, but I think it is true nonetheless' is an arbitrary assertion.
...I also believe this was the source of the misunderstanding between Brian and Betsy, regarding "mind reading". We simply cannot know what process created abstractions in another person's mind. We can only know what they tell us about their thought process. The problem is, sometimes even they don't know why they believe some things.
Identifying a logical fallacy is not "trying to know what process created abstractions in another person's mind." It is not "mind reading." It is the identification of a logical error in the argument a person has presented. If doing that requires "mind reading", then that means all logic classes (including the one taught by Dr. P) are teaching mysticism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You presume that which is trying to be proven - ie that their conclusion is correct. In the context of your knowledge, you may be able to make that claim. But in the context of their knowledge, neither one of them can claim the conclusion was "correctly formed". Put simply, you are assuming for them that which they do not know.

Remember what you said - you have to keep context. And their context is that they are unable to support their conclusion. As such, for both of them the conclusion is arbitrary. If you happen to come along later and are able to show them that the conclusion is true, that would not change the fact that they originally held that conclusion arbitrarily.

Actually I am trying to prove that an implicit belief is not the same as an arbitrary belief. On the level of concept formation, "correctly formed" means correctly identifying distinguishing characteristics. More complex abstractions and “conclusions” are developed by forming rules of logic. These rules may be accepted and automatized without an explicit understanding by the subject. In fact, more often than not I think that's the case.

I also should point out that even if the conclusion is not “correct”, that doesn’t mean that it’s arbitrary. From “The Philosophy of Objectivism” lecture (Dr. Peikoff):

"Arbitrary" means a claim put forth in the absence of evidence of any sort, perceptual or conceptual; its basis is neither direct observation nor any kind of theoretical argument. [An arbitrary idea is] a sheer assertion with no attempt to validate it or connect it to reality.

To say a claim is false is actually something completely different. If an idea is “false” that means you are starting with reality, but somewhere you strayed from the proper method and came to a wrong conclusion. However it isn’t the same as arbitrary. So even if someone has an implicit belief and the reasoning is wrong, that isn’t the same as the arbitrary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
'I "don't know how" I came to this conclusion, but I think it is true nonetheless' is an arbitrary assertion.

Yes it is, but that assertion is not the topic, the conclusion is. You have two different claims in that sentence: one is the "conclusion", and the other is the "assertion" that the conclusion is correct even though you don't know how you reached it. The conclusion may actually be correct, independent of whether you accept it or not and why.

Identifying a logical fallacy is not "trying to know what process created abstractions in another person's mind." It is not "mind reading." It is the identification of a logical error in the argument a person has presented. If doing that requires "mind reading", then that means all logic classes (including the one taught by Dr. P) are teaching mysticism.

I did not say that identifying a logical fallacy is mind reading. I said you can only evaluate what someone tells you, and sometimes that's not the whole story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You have two different claims in that sentence: one is the "conclusion", and the other is the "assertion"
You miss the point. In that instance, whatever the conclusion might be is immaterial. If the person states he 'doesn't know how' he came to his conclusion, that is an explicit admission that his conclusion is arbitrary. He is explicitly stating "I can't support my conclusion". It is exactly his lack of support which makes his conclusion arbitrary.
The conclusion may actually be correct, independent of whether you accept it or not and why
Grasping the issue of context when it comes to the arbitrary can be a difficult thing.

Whether HIS conclusion is correct according to someone ELSE'S grasp of reality (ie "independent" of HIS grasp of reality) is immaterial to whether the conclusion HE puts forth is arbitrary or not. What identifies HIS conclusion as arbitrary or not is whether HE is able to support that conclusion or not. If HE cannot, HIS assertion is therefore arbitrary.

Put simply there is no knowledge which is independent of context.

So even if someone has an implicit belief and the reasoning is wrong, that isn’t the same as the arbitrary.
If someone makes a claim and his argument (his stated reasoning) is invalid - and he cannot provide another argument for his claim - then the claim is arbitrary. In other words, as I already stated: "I "don't know how" I came to this conclusion, but I think it is true nonetheless" is an arbitrary claim. The person is explicitly identifying the fact that he asserts a conclusion as true without knowing why he claims it is true.

That is a textbook example of the arbitrary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If a group of people were to chant "A is A because we feel it's so", that does not in any way invalidate the axiom of identity - it just demonstrates that *they* do not understand it (or understand its validation.) It is their lack of reasoning that "must be dismissed", not the law of identity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Whether HIS conclusion is correct according to someone ELSE'S grasp of reality (ie "independent" of HIS grasp of reality) is immaterial to whether the conclusion HE puts forth is arbitrary or not. What identifies HIS conclusion as arbitrary or not is whether HE is able to support that conclusion or not. If HE cannot, HIS assertion is therefore arbitrary.

Actually, what identifies his conclusion as arbitrary or not is whether it was based in observation (whether directly or indirectly). The context of the conclusion is how it was reached, not his ability to communicate it to you. As I said earlier, children couldn't give you reasons for half of their abstractions, and that doesn't make them arbitrary.

What this means as it relates to debate is that often you can appeal to the implicit philosophy when someone disagrees with you explicitly. What they identify as their conclusion often isn't what they really believe...Sometimes it isn't even important the reason someone gives for believing in something, because the reason isn't even consistent with that conclusion (like the so-called conservative altruists who believe in a free market). The reason they give doesn't necessarily mean their belief is arbitrary (or even true, if their explanation is right), because it's possible to believe one thing explicitly and another implicitly. Beliefs go deeper than what comes out of peoples' mouths.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If someone makes a claim and his argument (his stated reasoning) is invalid - and he cannot provide another argument for his claim - then the claim is arbitrary. In other words, as I already stated: "I "don't know how" I came to this conclusion, but I think it is true nonetheless" is an arbitrary claim. The person is explicitly identifying the fact that he asserts a conclusion as true without knowing why he claims it is true.

That is a textbook example of the arbitrary

Incidentally, I do not understand how this pertains to your original argument, which was that if someone cannot support their conclusion, it is arbitrary. That is the specific argument that I was addressing, and not the case of someone who cannot support their conclusion yet claims to be certain about it. Adding this element of "I think it is true nonetheless" conflates the arbitrary and certainty. Clearly the person would be wrong to be certain about their conclusion, if they don't know how they reached it, and to assert the conclusion despite a lack of evidence is a textbook example of the arbitrary. However this is different than being unable to explain how a conclusion was reached.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
children couldn't give you reasons for half of their abstractions, and that doesn't make them arbitrary.

What this means as it relates to debate is that often you can appeal to the implicit philosophy when someone disagrees with you explicitly. What they identify as their conclusion often isn't what they really believe...Sometimes it isn't even important the reason someone gives for believing in something, because the reason isn't even consistent with that conclusion (like the so-called conservative altruists who believe in a free market). The reason they give doesn't necessarily mean their belief is arbitrary (or even true, if their explanation is right), because it's possible to believe one thing explicitly and another implicitly. Beliefs go deeper than what comes out of peoples' mouths.

bborg, this comment is profound, so I wanted here to emphasize it by repetition.

In my opinion it's again committing the error of emphasizing method over content, by attaching excessive importance to people's reasons, and explicit explanations for what they beliefe. People are often conflicted; most people aren't philosophical or introspectively inclined, or prone to analyze their thoughts and words and construct philosophical systems out of their beliefs. In any day and age, people often just have a conglomeration of beliefs and ideas from different sources. What they use as their explanation for their belief may often not be the real reason why they accept it.

One example is Bin Laden's explicit statements about the reasons why he and his ilk wage war against America, and he explains it with things like Israel and support of dictators and the like. Here regardless of what he believes privately, the officially stated speeches convey a certain opinion, which is by no means any\ accurate representation of what he really accepts.

Another dramatic example is that the early Christians decimated pagans and paganism -- and explained it as Christian love (for the heathen soul, etc etc); post-Renaissance Christians embrace people of all sorts of beliefs -- and explain it as Christian love. How can the same idea mean two contradictory things? Simple, it doesn't mean either thing (or it may mean one of them but not the other); a better explanation is that the idea merely sounds good, and they stamp it on whatever implicit beliefs they actually hold.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Actually, what identifies his conclusion as arbitrary or not is whether it was based in observation (whether directly or indirectly).
I "don't know how" I came to this conclusion, but I think it is true" is "based in observation". I "don't know how" I came to this conclusion, but I think it is true" is not "a sheer assertion with no attempt to validate or connect it to reality."
... if someone cannot support their conclusion, it is arbitrary. That is the specific argument that I was addressing, and not the case of someone who cannot support their conclusion yet claims to be certain about it.
Unless the individual is just making noise or scribbles and not actually asserting a conclusion, this claim makes no sense. It especially makes no sense in the context where you keep talking about people's 'beliefs' which they cannot support. A belief is an idea one accepts as true. A belief one doesn't know why they accept is arbitrary.

(As to the issue of 'certainty', since you didn't specify the degree to which the 'belief' was accepted, neither did I. In other words, I was simply following your example of non-qualification.)

Beliefs go deeper than what comes out of peoples' mouths
I don't do mind reading, so I have to go by what comes out of peoples' 'mouths' (especially in the context of forums or the like). If you are indeed using a different standard than that, then we have no basis for rational discussion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites