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Darwinist rhetorical tactic: the “you don’t know how to reply” talking point

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The list of fallacious darwinist rhetorical resorts continues to grow day by day.

The one I now headline turns on a failure to realise that each of us is personally accountable before the truth and the right, and so should seek to make sure that he is correct, regardless of anyone else being able to rebut or dismiss.

And recall, this tactic is being used in the teeth of the LOI, LNC, LEM cluster, i.e. self-evident first principles of right reason that only the stubbornly irrational will dismiss:


>> . . . as for the you don’t know how to reply rhetorical gambit [remember you are objecting to self evident truths], here is the real problem, per Robert L. Kocher:

suppose that I say that the red pen I happen to have in my hand at this moment is a red pen. Further suppose that someone else says it is not a red pen, but is instead a flower pot, or a suitcase or a TV set. As a practical matter, I am unable to refute the assertion that what I am holding in my hand is not a flower pot. That does not mean that I’m incorrect when I say that it is a red pen. Nor does it mean that I am intellectually weaker than the other person who is arguing that it is not a red pen. Nor does it mean that his assertion that it is not a red pen is correct.

It means that I have no stronger argument than the red pen being in my hand. There is no stronger argument possible than the simple fact of the red pen being in my hand. No stronger refutation of the other person’s arguments is possible. At some point there must be agreement on what constitutes basic reality . . . .

It has become common for people who routinely engage in chronic psychotic levels of denial to consider themselves as being mental powerhouses, and to be considered by others as being mental powerhouses, because no one can break through their irrationality. This is often supported by a self-referencing congratulatory inner voice which says, “(guffaw) He REALLY didn’t have an answer for that one!” And they are correct. He didn’t have an answer.

Other than of course to shake his head sadly at clinging to absurdity.>>


Let me repeat from a few moments ago:

The Law of Identity, Law of Non-Contradiction and Law of the Excluded Middle are not on trial, we are.

For starters, consider:

Laws_of_logicThe simple act of recognising distinct identity of an entity A, say a bright red ball on a table:


. . . provides a world partition W = {A|~A}

Instantly from this,

I: (A => A) = 1, i.e. A = A, LOI

II: x in W such that x is (A AND ~A) = 0, i.e. NOT (A and ~A), LNC

III: x in W is such that x is in A X-OR ~A, i.e. x is A or else ~A, not in both or neither; the dichotomy imposed by distinct identity  is not a fuzzy border, LEM

Those, or their equivalents, cannot but be plain to the reasonably informed and experienced person. And, by their nature such are certain and not open to change, where also the attempted denial ends in immediate patent absurdity.

To try to gloat in the teeth of such, that you don’t know how to rebut (as though that absolves one of responsibility before truth and right), sadly, speaks for itself. Speaks in a way that is ripe for headlining.

And, on other topics, if we deal with one who struggles with self evident first truths of reason we cannot expect such a one to soundly handle ontological and moral reasoning that bridges the IS-OUGHT gap, the chaining of warrant and cause and other things of more difficult thought. (And, such a one is very likely to not even recognise the difference between the rhetorical and the dialectic. After all, s/he has already plainly chosen to cling to absurdity rather than acknowledge the self evident first principles of reason.)

One must creep before one can walk much less run. END

DS, the inconsistency is not in his sandbox, it is at the outset and in what he has to do real world to manage symbols, relations etc. That imposes an instability right at outset. As in try to do the math without using distinct identity, thus its triple consequences. We can use LOI, LNC and LEM to set up and run a sandbox in which we imagine how LEM needs not apply or does not apply, begins to look less than stable. As pointed out already. KF kairosfocus
KF, Yes, Brouwer does reject LEM in certain contexts concerning proofs over infinite sets, but many intuitionists accept that strategy when working with finite sets. If you know of a logical inconsistency in his system, then that would be worth discussing; I don't know how to respond to somewhat vague concerns about "fundamental instabilities" and so forth. No mathematical system reflects real world observations exactly, and yet many of these exotic systems turn out to be useful, and ironically do have real world applications. My phrasing when I was speaking of truth vs. provability was bad, and does not do justice to Brouwer. Obviously he was aware of and understood Gödel's work. Regarding your last sentence, I disagree totally that this matter is tangential to the OP. Rather, it shows that rational, sane (etc.) people can disagree about the universal applicability of the LEM. daveS
DS, to whatever extent LEM was rejected (which BTW you speak of above), this was a rejection of distinct identity thus of what is immediately present in such. Even that is a bit shadowy as the substitutes for explicit LEM may boil down to material overlap expressed differently. That is bound to create fundamental instabilities in the system as a whole, and it starts in the ontological and logical: not recognising that just to express thoughts and use symbols in so doing directly entails and necessitates distinct identity and its consequences. The sandbox world being created is fundamentally prone to ex falso quodlibet. And truth is conformity of description to reality not provability. Failure of proof is not implicit demonstration of falsity. A point that Godel has underscored in his work on incompleteness. KF BTW, notice how tangential this is on a thread about epistemic responsibilities and duties to truth. kairosfocus
KF, I for one don't see any denial here of the consequences of your world partition exercise, and therefore I don't think there's a contradiction. In your world-partition exercise, we're considering separating the physical universe, which is finite, into ball and non-ball. Partitioning an abstract, infinite set into two subsets is a completely different thing. I'm not an intuitionist, but I can see Brouwer's point in rejecting LEM, given that he equates "true" with "provable". I see this issue as quite similar to that of the Banach Tarski paradox which came up recently. Everyone knows that you cannot cut a pizza into 5 "slices" and reassemble them to get a pizza twice as large, but we don't throw out ZFC because of this. (Edit: Well, some people do throw out the C for this or similar reasons!) daveS
kf @ 16/18. awesome. It is not for no reason that these have survived from the ancients. Mung
DS, I am saying that so soon as the developers of the intuitionism school of thought used distinct symbols, they were relying on the world partition W = {A|~A} and so to whatever extent they implicitly or explicitly denied the three direct consequences of such a world partition their work had in it implicit contradictions. Such a frame of thought, through the principle of explosion, is in the end an unreliable model. SETs as fundamental as those implicit in recognising or having distinct identity -- LOI, LNC, LEM -- do not go away because you set up a mathematical sandbox that tries to lock such out. KF PS: In Newton's 3 laws, Law 1 is a special case of Law 2. It is still important for understanding and in analysis. That world partition has the three immediately present consequences does not make the three less significant, it just draws out the underlying unity and context. kairosfocus
DS, I think they are constructing a model which is prone to the problems that models that are in effect anti-real face. Ex falso quodlibet, false frameworks are inherently unstable and unreliable on truth. Notice, just to work with the model they have to treat distinct things as distinct, which already embeds the implications LOI, LNC, LEM. So, they are working with incoherent frameworks
I'm not sure what you mean by "embeds" here, but it sounds like what you are saying is that LEM is provable in intuitionistic logic, as long as we are clear that we treat distinct things as distinct. Can you cite/give such a proof? That also leads me to ask, why do we need to consider these three separate rules of right reason if they all follow from the above principle, which seems more elementary? Why not collapse the three into the one? daveS
DS, I think they are constructing a model which is prone to the problems that models that are in effect anti-real face. Ex falso quodlibet, false frameworks are inherently unstable and unreliable on truth. Notice, just to work with the model they have to treat distinct things as distinct, which already embeds the implications LOI, LNC, LEM. So, they are working with incoherent frameworks (insofar as they would tend to deny LEM as opposed to leaving it unstated or using a weak incomplete form of it), similar to those who try to build so-called paraconsistent logics. We need to realise what they are doing, where the gaps in it are, and the implied limitations. I repeat, just to work with those squiggles on the chalkboard (even the one in the head) they already imply that one of the latent assumptions or effectively unstated premises, denial of LEM, fails in reality. And it is reality that I am concerned about. To deny distinct identity is to go straight to absurdity. KF kairosfocus
Thanks for the reply, KF. Is the (general) Law of the Excluded Middle, by which I mean "for all propositions P, either P or not P is true" one of the "rules of right reason"? I'm asking because here you are referring to a special case of the law. I assume you agree that integers, sets, and other mathematical objects exist in the real world, and that the LEM applies in that context. Do you think that Brouwer and his fellow intuitionists are irrational for rejecting the LEM (or even insane, etc.; take your pick of some of the more inflammatory words used here to describe skeptics of the rules of right reason)? daveS
REW & BA: I am of course talking about the general course of our civilisation, especially as we are talking here about educated people and first principles. I think that it is indeed the case that when we reject basic, simple but truly foundational first self evident truths, seemingly little errors in the beginning at a watershed push us ever more farther apart until we are oceans apart. And, therein lieth one of the big problems with our civilisation. As for the corrective education, I think that correction will run into a buzz-saw of destructive agit-prop designed to make it seem that tyrants are subverting education, as we can see from things that have already been said, awful things. Whom the gods of this age would destroy first they rob of reason. KF kairosfocus
but I think the reason is precisely because complex issues have been simplified too much
Just the opposite is true, and you need look no further than the debates on this website to know that. A=A is a very simple concept (a concept with staggeringly profound implications to be sure, but simple nevertheless). I can state the concept by typing three characters. Over the last few weeks our opponents have written literally thousands of words attacking it by attempting to show that we cannot know it is infallibly true. The problem with our society is not that the elite fails to understand complex truth. The problem is that the elite has rejected simple truth. And when you reject basic profound truth, anything goes. As I keep pointing out, it is NOT a coincidence that the people who have doubts about the law of identify (no matter how they try to fudge on the word "doubt" and have their cake and eat it too) are the same people who refuse to acknowledge that it is evil to kill little boys and girls, chop them into pieces and sell the pieces. Barry Arrington
KF I'm sympathetic to the idea that the era we live in is screwed up. But when you say "we" are struggling over the little red ball etc, I'm not sure who you mean by 'we'. If you're talking about philosophers in philosophy departments arguing over this I say fine, let them have their fun. If they come up with anything useful they can let the rest of us know. If you're talking about the general level of public discourse, I agree that its taken a dive but I think the reason is precisely because complex issues have been simplified too much. I think it would be great if our public schools emphasized logic, critical thinking and philosophy - voters would be slightly better able to judge who to vote for - but I'm not sure that's whats being suggested in these threads REW
REW, the issue is that deeper and deeper issues kept coming up. We are now at the level where we need to be clear about the literal first steps in coherent logical thought. And it is emerging just how impoverished our era is. No wonder we cannot get just about anything straight, we are struggling to understand the import of the distinct identity of a bright red ball sitting on a table. If we are struggling there, it should be no surprise that forever after we will struggle. KF kairosfocus
REW, there is nothing strange about a collection of Pt and Ir atoms kept in a basement in Paris being the standard kilogram. Yes it is composite but that does not prevent it having its own distinct identity. KF Box, you, I others, that little cylinder of Pt-Ir alloy in Paris, the red ball on the table have distinct recognisable identity, just we also may recognise that they come from the root of reality who created a world. Identity is not autonomy of existence. What it means is that you can mark a difference between what is A and what is not A. KF kairosfocus
KF But every object with a distinct identity is itself composed of objects with distinct identity and when we consider the whole we ignore the identity of the parts. When we think about real things, the boundaries that give things a distinct identity appear and disappear, depending on what aspects of the things we are considering. It seems to me this suggests that 'identity' is a useful abstraction but not part of the ground of reality. Didn't this whole discussion start as a debate over abortion? I think that's far too complex a topic to be boiled down to abstract logic statements REW
KF: (...) once real things have a distinct identity, the triple laws instantly hold, as they are in effect drawing out the implications of a distinction in reality.
To be clear, A=A ,no doubt about that. However it is thinkable that we live in a universe consisting of items without a distinct identity; e.g. nothing has a distinct identity from God. I wonder if there is a materialistic version of the concept of non-distinct identity for all items in the universe. Can materialists coherently claim that A=A is not practically applicable — as REW does in post #1?
Mung: I can’t be certain that I exist is nonsense of the highest order.
I fully agree. It cannot be done. I cannot doubt my existence. When I attempt to question my existence, I must exist in order to attempt to question my existence. And that is indicative for a deep and joyful truth: we truly exist. Yeah! Box
DS, Please look again at the world partition effected by existence -- note, EXISTENCE -- of an entity A in the world (taken as actually factually existing . . . e.g. a bright red ball on a table, yes an actual thing A) that has a distinct identity: W = {A|~A} Once this occurs in any case in any possible world, the three laws are instantly present. Now, the schnitt is not a band but a cleaving. Once an x exists in W, it MUST be in A or else ~A, not both and not neither. This obviously does not speak of things without a distinct identity or sub worlds. You can of course set up algebras in which you set up rules for symbols to your heart's content and manipulate same, but in fact to do that in the real world W, you rely on . . . the distinct identity of the symbols used to set up the algebra and its rules. So, you have a situation where, real world (note that emphasis), you rely on the laws of thought to set up an algebraic sandbox in which some of the rules are suppressed. This is a model world and it may have a limited range of acceptable results but in fact it seems you are here playing with the principle of explosion -- ex falso quod libet -- if you actually interpret not using LEM to mean denying it even while just to play the algebra you implicitly use it. KF kairosfocus
KF, What are your views on intuitionist logic, in which the law of the excluded middle does not hold? What is the rationale for taking your three rules from classical logic as the rules of right reason, as opposed to rules from intuitionist logic? daveS
REW, "such as fire burns up because its trying to unite with the sun" Ok, so how can we separate the data -- the fire burns up -- from the theory -- because it is trying to unite with the sun? We build a fire, and we see that it burns up. LH would question as nauseum that it may be that the fire does not always burn up. He would, of course, be technically correct. Set the fire in a weightless environment and the fire no longer burns up. Make a fire in a vacuum (a bit difficult but doable) and the fire no longer burns up. Is LH therefore right in his ad nauseam argument? I contend not. The data that a fire burns up is consistent data. It may be true that with a carefully contrived environment, the fire no longer burns up, but the fire built in the usual environment will ALWAYS burn up. Its not like fire, given standard environment, has to decide whether it will burn up today. Now for the next step -- the theorizing. Why does the fire burn up? It is at this point of theorizing that the greatest humility is called for. The statement " because its trying to unite with the sun" is an overly self-assured statement. A much better statement would be, "maybe it is because it is trying to unite with the sun." We are too good at declaring that we know the "why". The scientific community is very good at declaring "zebras have stripes as a natural camouflage, it gives them a selective advantage." or "peacocks have pretty tails because it attracts the ladies, it gives them a selective advantage". Or more audaciously, "we don't have a clue how metamorphosis evolved, we don't even have a working hypothesis, but we are certain that unguided forces of nature did it." I contend, therefore, that arguing the data (even when the data is incomplete) is folly. Declaring certainty about the cause of the data, well, we should need proof, not philosophising. bFast
Mung, right. kairosfocus
And in fact, if it has no distinct identity then it does not exist. To reject the law of identity is to reject reality, it is to reject one's own identity, it is self-referentially absurd. It is irrational. I can't be certain that I exist is nonsense of the highest order. Mung
REW, actually, once real things have a distinct identity, the triple laws instantly hold, as they are in effect drawing out the implications of a distinction in reality. KF kairosfocus
I think I disagree with both LH and many of his opponents on this - though I don't feel like slogging through all the comments to be sure. Of course these self-evident truths are valid and 'true'. The important point is they are pure abstractions, that are disconnected from the real world. They are useful heuristics for understanding the real world but the problem arises when one mindlessly shoehorns real world objects into neat, tidy abstractions. The ancient Greeks came up with absurdities as a result of this..(.such as fire burns up because its trying to unite with the sun IIRC) REW

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