Brian Smith

Fundamentals of Logic

142 posts in this topic

Then it was a good thing that was never the suggestion and is in fact the opposite of explicitly made statements.

You've actually claimed both that new reasoning should be sought for an unsupported conclusion and that a conclusion reached by invalid argument is arbitrary. These statements contradict each other. To say that a conclusion is arbitrary, that it should be dismissed, means that it lacks cognitive content and doesn't deserve a moment's thought. If someone presents a claim to you, and you determine it is arbitrary - that is to say, not based in experience - you do not bother to try to provide new reasoning for it, just as you would not argue with a parrot or pack an umbrella if it told you it was going to rain.

As I have already stated, I do not accept things on faith (nor do I encourage others to accept things on faith). I do this precisely BECAUSE I am honest and rational.

As has been stated multiple times, the requirements of reason are that a person either needs to connect the conclusion to reality - or - dismiss it. Doing something else takes the person out of the realm of reason. The argument from ignorance which you provide (don't dismiss the conclusion because X might be good - you haven't proven its not) for doing something other than those two things does not somehow make it rational.

Do not accept ANYTHING on faith - not even Ayn Rand.

I don't see where anyone has said we should accept anything on faith.

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From "Conservatism: An Obituary", by Ayn Rand

Yet capitalism is what the "conservatives" dare not advocate or defend. They are paralyzed by the profound conflict between capitalism and the moral code which dominates our culture: the morality of altruism...Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society.

In my judgment, Rick, you have misunderstood this quote. "Philosophic opposites...cannot coexist" means you cannot practice both, one must win over the other. That does not mean that people cannot be inconsistent and hold contradictory ideas, as most people do. It doesn't mean you can't perform an action which is pro-man one minute, and anti-man the next, which is commonplace (buying groceries vs. going to Church). To say that people cannot accept ideas that contradict each other puts you in the position of claiming that everyone is 100% integrated and consistent. Or dead.

Isn't this the entire basis of what causes many psychological problems and internal emotional conflicts for people? The act of holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously in one's mind, which leads to confusion and emotional turmoil?

To say that it is impossible to hold contradictory ideas simultaneously, wouldn't that be the equivalent of saying that all men on earth are either in perfect psychological health, or in a downward spiral to depression and insanity?

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Isn't this the entire basis of what causes many psychological problems and internal emotional conflicts for people? The act of holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously in one's mind, which leads to confusion and emotional turmoil?

To say that it is impossible to hold contradictory ideas simultaneously, wouldn't that be the equivalent of saying that all men on earth are either in perfect psychological health, or in a downward spiral to depression and insanity?

Yup, that's what I'm thinking. If it is impossible to hold contradictory ideas, that means if you start with reality you are guarranteed to be competent and productive. It means basically you would be infallable, because every conclusion you draw would be consistent with your premises. If on the other hand you were able to reject reality, every decision would be consistent with that and you'd just kill yourself (either intentionally or by walking in front of a bus you didn't believe existed).

Also I was thinking, Ayn Rand also said philosophic opposites couldn't exist in the same society. Does that mean she was saying everyone in the US is an altruist, and its government is a dictatorship? How would that support her love and passion for America and her people?

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Take for example a misguided but implicitly rational conservative who accepts altruism explicitly but selfishness implicitly.

Capitalism and altruism cannot co-exist in the same individual because they are philosophic opposites. Its either/or. Finally, conservatives are not advocates for Capitalism. So the confused individual you describe, if he exists, is nothing other than an altruist.

This argument is fallacious: non-sequitor. Ethical and political systems are not properties of individuals. Individuals may advocate systems that are incompatible.

This is getting off topic. I have no further comments on this issue, but I will provide a quote from Ayn Rand that may point you in the right direction and may help clear up some of the confusion that is now running rampant in this thread.

From "Conservatism: An Obituary", by Ayn Rand

Yet capitalism is what the "conservatives" dare not advocate or defend. They are paralyzed by the profound conflict between capitalism and the moral code which dominates our culture: the morality of altruism...Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society.

Arguing by quotation citing must be some kind of fallacy (appeal to authority?).

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----------

Also I was thinking, Ayn Rand also said philosophic opposites couldn't exist in the same society. Does that mean she was saying everyone in the US is an altruist, and its government is a dictatorship? How would that support her love and passion for America and her people?

Of course that is not what Ayn Rand meant by her statemeent. And the quotation offered as a rebuttal was not within the context within which my comment was made.

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Also I was thinking, Ayn Rand also said philosophic opposites couldn't exist in the same society. Does that mean she was saying everyone in the US is an altruist, and its government is a dictatorship? How would that support her love and passion for America and her people?

It's not that it can't exist - either in the same person or the same society - it's that such a mixture is volatile and unstable. You can briefly balance a pencil on its tip but it will quickly fall down and stay there. Atlas Shrugged covers that in great detail. It is after all a cautionary tale: this is the fate of America if it does not identify and fix its deadly philosophic contradictions. And the primary drama of the book is not good vs. evil, it is the knowledgeable good working (against time) to show that the good men of mixed premises needed to check and correct them.

You have to be careful about what you mean by "love and passion for America and her people." Certainly as she got older, the culture declined, and she hardly loved what America was becoming. In a way, I'm glad that she was not around to see this country's hopelessly pathetic response to 9/11 - I believe it would have become very painful to her.

In "A Last Survey, Part II" in the Jan/Feb 1976 issue of The Ayn Rand Letter, she wrote this as well, which bears repeating in this context, particularly in relation to any individuals who think that all that is required to fix America is a return to the same contradictory past that led to today's mess:

2. Today's political trend. There can be no doubt that this country is turning to the right. Observe the nationwide rejection of the various state bond issues, i.e., of government spending, in the last elections. This was another confirmation of my trust in the common sense of the American people, who have rejected statism every time they had a clear-cut opportunity to do so.

But the people are helpless without intellectual leadership. It is too late for cheap, shopworn slogans. The world is being destroyed by the wrong philosophy—and only the right philosophy, which provides a fully consistent stand, can save it.

To rush into politics on an intellectual shoestring, to posture as a champion of freedom, to get into power by cashing in on the people's hope and despair, then to offer them, for inspiration and guidance, nothing better than the old religion-family-tradition stuff—the stuff that has lost the world to communism—is so dark a betrayal that those guilty of it deserve what they get. They do not merely lose, they disillusion the people, they discredit the ideas of a free society and thus assist the victory of statism. So much for today's conservatives, "Libertarians," and sundry third- fourth- or tenth-party organizers.

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You have to be careful about what you mean by "love and passion for America and her people." Certainly as she got older, the culture declined, and she hardly loved what America was becoming. In a way, I'm glad that she was not around to see this country's hopelessly pathetic response to 9/11 - I believe it would have become very painful to her.

Perhaps, but I think the growing influence of Objectivism would have also made her very proud.

I didn't mean to imply an unqualified love for America, but she greatly admired not only the ideas this country was founded on, but the sense of life of Americans. Have you watched recordings of her appearances on Donahue? She was a profoundly positive person, despite her rational and passionate anger at the condition of the world, focussing on enjoying values where she could find them.

Anyway this is definitely off topic, even though it's a great subject.

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You've actually claimed both that new reasoning should be sought for an unsupported conclusion and that a conclusion reached by invalid argument is arbitrary. These statements contradict each other.
I am sorry but they do not. The fact that a conclusion was previously arbitrary does not prevent a person from discovering new evidence and then reasserting the conclusion.

To claim otherwise is to claim nothing can be identified as arbitrary because there supposedly might be some unknown, unidentified reason for accepting a conclusion. That is, again, ignorantium.

I don't see where anyone has said we should accept anything on faith.
That is the problem - one my arguments do not seem to have been able to resolve. At this point, the issue becomes one of diminishing returns.

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She was a profoundly positive person, despite her rational and passionate anger at the condition of the world, focussing on enjoying values where she could find them.

Sure, I know. But she lived in New York City, and to have seen the towers fall, then to have seen the country flopping around like a fish out of water in response, would have been a lot to bear even for her, I think. Anyway, agreed that that is not on the thread topic.

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A claim is not to be assumed true (to whatever degree) DESPITE the fact of a logical fallacy or false premise for that claim, simply because of the 'authority' of the person making the claim. Doing so is exactly what identifies such an appeal as fallacious rather than legitimate.
But one cannot just claim there is a logical fallacy or false premise without evidence and then demand that someone disprove it.
WHERE has that been the context of ANY discussion here?

Most of the statements here have been made in the context of 'finding a logical fallacy or false premise' in an argument. And if you want to trace back the context of this particular thread of the discussion, it was an individual who makes a claim but can't identify for anyone his reasons for his support.

Do you really mean he can't, or simply that he has not yet done so to your satisfaction?

When I see someone making a lame, or non-existent , argument for a questionable conclusion, I ask him for more facts or a better argument. Maybe he can support his idea after all, and I want to encourage him to do so. If he tries and fails, he will have learned, from reality and not on just my say-so, how and why he was in error.

And in that case, one certainly doesn't 'assume' their conclusion is true absent any evidence except that they are members of the forum. That TOO is verecundiam.

In the case of active members of THE FORUM, I know quite a bit about specific individuals based on what I have seen them post. I have information about their areas of expertise (Vespasiano really knows music), psycho-epistemological strengths (Janet Busch has her feet on the ground) and weaknesses (some of the most decent people I know have rationalistic tendencies), etc. I use that knowledge when evaluating whether what someone says is likely to be true before I have a chance to check everything out first hand.

On that basis, most of the time I grant most FORUM members the benefit of the doubt and a charitable reading of their posts. There is nothing illogical or fallacious in doing that.

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Capitalism and altruism cannot co-exist in the same individual because they are philosophic opposites. Its either/or. Finally, conservatives are not advocates for Capitalism. So the confused individual you describe, if he exists, is nothing other than an altruist.

How does this apply to Thomas Jefferson or Rush Limbaugh?

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I am sorry but they do not. The fact that a conclusion was previously arbitrary does not prevent a person from discovering new evidence and then reasserting the conclusion.

To claim otherwise is to claim nothing can be identified as arbitrary because there supposedly might be some unknown, unidentified reason for accepting a conclusion. That is, again, ignorantium.

An arbitrary claim is one that is based on no evidence. There would be no reason to think about coming back to an arbitrary claim with new evidence, because it was nonsense to begin with. There is a difference between an arbitrary claim and a false claim, one I tried to explain with the quote from Dr. Peikoff.

Let me try another example to help illustrate the difference.

For a long time scientists believed the Sun moved around the Earth. This is because we appear stationary from our perspective. The conclusion was false, because the method was wrong. Other information was needed that would eventually prove that in fact the Earth orbits the Sun. However the conclusion was not arbitrary, simply false. The scientists did look at the world and tried to reason from their observations. They just made errors. In fact at any given time in history, scientists will make conclusions that are incorrect, but that is not a rational indictment against their discipline.

Contrast this with the conclusions of fortune tellers and tarot card readers, who claim to be able to divine information from another realm. Such people are not basing their conclusions on observation, and their predictions - even those which may randomly come true - are arbitrary and can be dismissed without even arguing about them. The fact that fortune tellers make arbitrary claims discredits the profession in the eyes of any rational consumer.

When you say that conclusions provided with an invalid argument are arbitrary, you are placing them in the second category. If that were true then making a mistake, which is what forming an invalid argument means, would be the equivalent of being a side-show hack.

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Capitalism and altruism cannot co-exist in the same individual because they are philosophic opposites. Its either/or. Finally, conservatives are not advocates for Capitalism. So the confused individual you describe, if he exists, is nothing other than an altruist.

How does this apply to Thomas Jefferson or Rush Limbaugh?

I wouldn't categorize Thomas Jefferson or Rush Limbaugh as

' a misguided but implicitly rational conservative who accepts altruism explicitly but selfishness implicitly.'

I maintain that such an individual does not exist. It is up to those individuals who think such an individual actually exists to show me. When and if such an individual is produced, I will be more than happy to show that someone who accepts altruism explicitly is an altruist.

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A claim is not to be assumed true (to whatever degree) DESPITE the fact of a logical fallacy or false premise for that claim, simply because of the 'authority' of the person making the claim. Doing so is exactly what identifies such an appeal as fallacious rather than legitimate.
But one cannot just claim there is a logical fallacy or false premise without evidence and then demand that someone disprove it.
WHERE has that been the context of ANY discussion here?

Most of the statements here have been made in the context of 'finding a logical fallacy or false premise' in an argument. And if you want to trace back the context of this particular thread of the discussion, it was an individual who makes a claim but can't identify for anyone his reasons for his support.

Do you really mean he can't, or simply that he has not yet done so to your satisfaction?

When I see someone making a lame, or non-existent , argument for a questionable conclusion, I ask him for more facts or a better argument. Maybe he can support his idea after all, and I want to encourage him to do so. If he tries and fails, he will have learned, from reality and not on just my say-so, how and why he was in error.

And in that case, one certainly doesn't 'assume' their conclusion is true absent any evidence except that they are members of the forum. That TOO is verecundiam.

In the case of active members of THE FORUM, I know quite a bit about specific individuals based on what I have seen them post. I have information about their areas of expertise (Vespasiano really knows music), psycho-epistemological strengths (Janet Busch has her feet on the ground) and weaknesses (some of the most decent people I know have rationalistic tendencies), etc. I use that knowledge when evaluating whether what someone says is likely to be true before I have a chance to check everything out first hand.

On that basis, most of the time I grant most FORUM members the benefit of the doubt and a charitable reading of their posts. There is nothing illogical or fallacious in doing that.

This is true, and you do it quite well. :D

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It is not your responsibility to think for another person. You are identifying that he needs to check his premises (that is what both a false premise and invalid logic shows one must do). Or, in this specific example, you are showing he needs to identify his premises and their connection to his conclusion - or he must dismiss them.

Observe that Ayn Rand often urged people to "Check your premises," -- i.e., the facts on which the conclusion rests. She never, to my knowledge, ever said "Check your argument" -- i.e., the method or the logic employed.

The reason is that, when people arrive at a contradiction between their ideas or between their ideas and reality, it is almost always the case that they have accepted, as one of their factual premises, something that does not correspond with reality. They may have accepted the false premise due to mental laziness, illogical reasoning, or just an honest mistake.

To make an issue of how they made their error diverts the discussion away from reality to a concern with their consciousness. Instead, let's take it back to reality and check the facts and not the argument.

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When I see someone making a lame, or non-existent , argument for a questionable conclusion, I ask him for more facts or a better argument.
Excellent. I do too. I simply point out the REASON I ask for a better argument or the like, rather than asking for one simply on my say so.
I use that knowledge when evaluating whether what someone says is likely to be true before I have a chance to check everything out first hand.
Excellent. Of course, when the person indicates they cannot explain WHY they make the claim - as was the case of the example - then that is still verecundiam.

If you reference different examples - as you are here - then of course it may NOT be verecundiam. But that would be addressing different context, not this one.

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It is not your responsibility to think for another person. You are identifying that he needs to check his premises (that is what both a false premise and invalid logic shows one must do). Or, in this specific example, you are showing he needs to identify his premises and their connection to his conclusion - or he must dismiss them.
Observe that Ayn Rand often urged people to "Check your premises," -- i.e., the facts on which the conclusion rests. She never, to my knowledge, ever said "Check your argument" -- i.e., the method or the logic employed.
As I explicitly stated, identifying a false premise or invalid logic identify the fact that a man needs to check his premises. In other words, they are the REASONS one provides to support the claim that someone else needs to check his specific premises.

With that, and for the reasons stated in the 'On/Off Topic' thread, I will express my appreciation for the thread and take my leave of it.

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