The Rules of Right Reason

Barry Arrington and StephenB at Uncommon Descent have frequently invoked “the rules of right reason” in their arguments.

Today, Barry posts them thus:

The Rules of Thought.

The rules of thought are the first principles of right reason. Those rules are:

  • The Law of Identity: An object is the same as itself.
  • The Law of Non-contradiction: Contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true.
  • The Law of the Excluded Middle: For any proposition, either that proposition is true or its negation is true.

And claims:

Note that the three laws of thought cannot be proven. They are either accepted as self-evident axioms – or not. The fundamental principles of right reason must be accepted as axioms for the simple reason that they cannot be demonstrated. There is no way to “argue for argument” and it is foolish to try to do so. If one’s goal in arguing is to arrive at the truth of a matter, arguing with a person who rejects the law of idenity is counterproductive, because he has rejected the very concept of “truth” as a meaningful category.

 

This seems to me fallacious. (heh.)

They are indeed axiomatic – in other words, they are axioms on which a certain form of logic is based.  Now I’m no logician, but I am capable of seeing that if we assume those axioms are true, we can construct a logical language in which useful conclusions can be drawn, and useful computations performed.

But there are some propositions that simply are not possible in that language, because those axioms themselves are based on more fundamental assumption: that we know what an “object” is; that we know what “time” is – in other words, that we know what “is” is.

As one of your presidents once said.

And we often don’t.  Often the reality (the truth, if you like) that we want to uncover relates to those referents signified in those very assumptions: what is an object?  what is time?

And a classic (or perhaps non-classical) example, it seems to me (and I’m more at home here than with quantum physics) is: what is a person?  Am I an object?  Is it sensible to say that I am myself, if, by the time I have said it, I have become something different – an object with different properties – to the self I was when began to utter the sentence?

And if I am an object, what are the properties of that object?  Does it exist in both time and space, or just space at a given time?  Does it make any sense to say that a person exists at all in an instantaneous moment, or is being a person a process?

In other words, it seems to me that “The Rules of Right Reason” simply do not cover all the truths there are to investigate, and cannot cover them.  To assert this is not to reject, as Barry suggests, “the very concept of truth as a meaningful category”.  It is to assert that there are true statements that can be made that nonetheless cannot be made if we rigorously adhere to the rules of right reason, and “objects” that we cannot consider.

And that these include mind, person, consciousness, designer, intelligence, and, ironically, God.

 

 

164 thoughts on “The Rules of Right Reason

  1. Maus,

    Maus: “I’m blind” would have been an awesome sophist troll for a response. Claiming that your neurons are unresponsive, and that you are therefore brain dead, is not.

    Have you noticed that you get funnier the harder the question is that you can’t answer ? :) :) :)

    I’ve rated you as a three.

  2. Toronto: Have you noticed that you get funnier the harder the question is that you can’t answer ? :) :) :)

    Sophistries deserve farce as a response. Do you have an argument in support of your notion that you require conscious thought for you neurons to operate?

  3. aleta,

    I don’t think I quite understand what you are saying with some of the rest of your post. However, you have pointed out the elephant in the room: an important aspect of Stephen’s beliefs about logic is that he wants to be able to use logic, starting with “self-evidently” true logical premises (in his eyes) to prove things about the nature and existence of God, absolute morals, and so on. The view that logic without empirically validated assertions is just content-free manipulations of invented symbols directly challenges that view.

    Yes. What I was trying to say (not very well, unfortunately) is that much of what Stephen wishes to derive using logic, can NOT rest on empirically validated assertions. How could one even begin to empirically validate a god, a soul, or salvation? Instead, he must start with undecidable axioms, which (not being empirical) are selected with the foregone conclusions in mind.

  4. Maus,

    Maus: “And I note that you don’t have enough courage to let us know which team gets your score.

    I’m on the team that’s winning. :)

  5. Maus,

    Maus: “Sophistries deserve farce as a response.

    99% of the difficulties in these discussions with you is that you seem to mock the people you’re debating.

    The lurkers who are watching however, see cool calculated responses to you that are met with attempts at comedy.

    Simply state your case each time, maybe from different viewpoints, different analogies or supporting evidence.

    Whether you regard me as an honest debater, jerk, or simply ignorant, this argument is really yours to lose.

    The lurkers will assess our performance on the strength of our arguments if we have any.

    Maus: Do you have an argument in support of your notion that you require conscious thought for you neurons to operate?”

    I’ve never said that but I’ll take a shot at it.

    When my neurons fire, the result seems to be conscious thought, but I may be wrong.

  6. Listen everyone. This is something that we are just going to have to get straight, and I think is the very foundation of the problem.

    The LNC, in a sense, means absolutely nothing. It is not the foundation of logic (but I didn’t say it’s not foundational). In other words, it is a part of the foundation, but not alone; there is something on which, or with which, the LNC must stand, and without which, it is meaningless.

    The foundation of logic is, actually, the LOI (law of identity). And it is precisely here that I began to challenge Aleta over on UD.

    We were given an example of some point, Xo, being on a mountain. But, since the demarcation of a mountain was/is arbitrary, we couldn’t meaningfully apply the LNC to it. This is and isn’t true (but not in the same sense :) ). The LNC could, in fact, be applied in two ways, at least, to the statement. For instance, the contradictory statement by the same person that Xo was also not on a mountain, at the same time and in the same sense. Since the statement comes from the same person, it doesn’t matter if our idea of where a mountain begins is the same or not. The person has clearly violated the LNC.

    Another way is, simply, by saying that the statement is ambiguous. The LNC would then apply if one were to say that it was both ambiguous and not ambiguous.

    Of course, those examples are by extension. The statement, by itself, does not run into problems with the LNC, but what statement of a single idea, by itself, ever does? Even if a statement seems by itself to violate the LNC, it is because we know that it violates other well known truths; other statements. So there is the sense in which the LNC doesn’t apply; it is a sentence stating a single idea.

    What I asked Aleta to do was to define her terms. The LNC can only be rightly and easily applied to a clear statement. It is no shortcoming of classical logic that people make ambiguous statements. When the LOI is the foundation as it always should be, the LNC becomes a clear and straightforward arbiter of statements as they stand in relation to other statements. Every example that is supposed to throw classical logic into question has its foundation in simply ambiguous ideas/statements. Once we clearly understand something and can say what it is, then we can know also what it is not; but not before.

    When we don’t know for sure what something is, it is jumping the first foundation of logic to then attempt, hopelessly, to apply the LNC to it. And then to say that it throws the LNC into question is . . . well, illogical to say the least.

  7. Toronto: The lurkers who are watching however, see cool calculated responses to you that are met with attempts at comedy.

    I thank for your concern about my social standing amongst the tribe. But I’m interested in the arguments made rather than who has best pleated pants.

    Toronto: I’ve never said that but I’ll take a shot at it.

    Then witnessing an apple that lights off ‘red’ in your unconscious brain doesn’t need your conscious thought.

    And I still have no idea who gets to own you. We’ll just chalk it up as 2:0 and 1 crypto.

  8. Brent,

    Brent: “When we don’t know for sure what something is, it is jumping the first foundation of logic to then attempt, hopelessly, to apply the LNC to it. And then to say that it throws the LNC into question is . . . well, illogical to say the least.

    Very true, but all “somethings” we are discussing eventually resolve to one of two states, TRUE or FALSE, and that is the scope that the LNC operates at, the logic level.

    Look at this code.

    if( Hot == TRUE AND FanOK == FALSE )
    {
    TurnOffPower();
    }

    We don’t know who loaded those values but we act on them.

    What we can’t do is the following.

    If ( Hot == TRUE AND Hot == FALSE )
    {
    }

  9. Maus,

    Maus: “I thank for your concern about my social standing amongst the tribe. But I’m interested in the arguments made rather than who has best pleated pants.”

    Me too, so start making some.

    Maus: “Then witnessing an apple that lights off ‘red’ in your unconscious brain doesn’t need your conscious thought.”

    By definition, anything that can trigger a thought in my “unconscious” brain doesn’t need any help from my “conscious” thoughts.

    Why you say this I don’t know since you didn’t provide enough of a quote.

    Maus: “And I still have no idea who gets to own you. We’ll just chalk it up as 2:0 and 1 crypto.”

    Is “witnessing” a clue to who already owns you?

  10. Toronto: Why you say this I don’t know since you didn’t provide enough of a quote.

    Then walk the posts backwards until you remember what you were talking about.

    Toronto: Is “witnessing” a clue to who already owns you?

    It’s always courteous to answer a question before making insinuations; people will suspect the crease in your pants otherwise. Nonetheless I am an unrepentant empiricist, so I have no belief nor home with either camp.

  11. Maus,

    Maus: “Nonetheless I am an unrepentant empiricist, so I have no belief nor home with either camp.”

    If you’re an empiricist, you must have analyzed empirical data in regards to this issue.

    What empirical data from the evo side neutralized the ID improbability argument such that you have ended up with no preference for either position?

  12. Maus: I thank for your concern about my social standing amongst the tribe.But I’m interested in the arguments made rather than who has best pleated pants.

    Me too :)

    While pleated pants are also interesting, at TSZ, they are a derail.

  13. Brent:
    Thanks for the welcome, Elizabeth. You were probably the nicest illogical poster on UD.:)

    Bless you Brent :) Not that I’m illogical of course…

  14. Brent:
    Listen everyone. This is something that we are just going to have to get straight, and I think is the very foundation of the problem.

    The LNC, in a sense, means absolutely nothing. It is not the foundation of logic (but I didn’t say it’s not foundational). In other words, it is a part of the foundation, but not alone; there is something on which, or with which, the LNC must stand, and without which, it is meaningless.

    The foundation of logic is, actually, the LOI (law of identity). And it is precisely here that I began to challenge Aleta over on UD.

    We were given an example of some point, Xo, being on a mountain. But, since the demarcation of a mountain was/is arbitrary, we couldn’t meaningfully apply the LNC to it. This is and isn’t true (but not in the same sense :)). The LNC could, in fact, be applied in two ways, at least, to the statement. For instance, the contradictory statement by the same person that Xo was also not on a mountain, at the same time and in the same sense. Since the statement comes from the same person, it doesn’t matter if our idea of where a mountain begins is the same or not. The person has clearly violated the LNC.

    Another way is, simply, by saying that the statement is ambiguous. The LNC would then apply if one were to say that it was both ambiguous and not ambiguous.

    Of course, those examples are by extension. The statement, by itself, does not run into problems with the LNC, but what statement of a single idea, by itself, ever does? Even if a statement seems by itself to violate the LNC, it is because we know that it violates other well known truths; other statements. So there is the sense in which the LNC doesn’t apply; it is a sentence stating a single idea.

    What I asked Aleta to do was to define her terms. The LNC can only be rightly and easily applied to a clear statement. It is no shortcoming of classical logic that people make ambiguous statements. When the LOI is the foundation as it always should be, the LNC becomes a clear and straightforward arbiter of statements as they stand in relation to other statements. Every example that is supposed to throw classical logic into question has its foundation in simply ambiguous ideas/statements. Once we clearly understand something and can say what it is, then we can know also what it is not; but not before.

    When we don’t know for sure what something is, it is jumping the first foundation of logic to then attempt, hopelessly, to apply the LNC to it. And then to say that it throws the LNC into question is . . . well, illogical to say the least.

    Interesting, Brent. TBH, I think the whole UD was a storm in a teacup, and I am still mystified as to why Barry made it into a shibboleth. However, lest I have to guano myself, I will stop there.

    Yes, as Barry himself pointed out, the law of identity is fundamental to the other two (the axiom from which the others flow). However, the law of identity itself only applies to something that can be defined as an object. And that in itself raises an entire can of worms – not all objects are discontinuous with other objects; quantum “objects” of which macroscopic objects are composed are not “objects” in a sense that can be handled by the Law of Identity; some things we regard as “objects” turn out to be more like “processes” etc.

    So to regard the Rules of Right Reason as universally applicable, even where the assumption on which they are based (that we are talking about a clearly definable “object”) is itself at issue, is, I would argue, fallacious.

  15. On further thought, it strikes me that we don’t need to regard the RoRR as axiomatic so much as flowing from the definition of an object as “something that is identical to itself”.

    Not all entities can be so described, but, of those that can be, the 2nd and 3rd Rules will apply.

    But a photon cannot be so described, nor, I would argue, can a person.

    So when we find ourselves applying the RoRR to a problem we need to make sure that the entities we are referring to are “objects” as defined as “things that are identical to themselves”. If not, we will make fallacious inferences.

    amirite?

  16. Elizabeth

    But a photon cannot be so described, nor, I would argue, can a person.

    People are very touchy about being defined. Are you thinking of temporal boundaries here? I mean (if you are a realist) brain states vary from moment to moment, so we cannot be identical to the person we were moments before?

  17. However, the law of identity itself only applies to something that can be defined as an object.

    You are imprinting your materialist ideology onto what the term “object” must mean. Because something may not qualify as a material object in the classical sense doesn’t mean that the LOI is non-applicable; it only means that one must be more careful about identifying the thing in question. The inability of the person applying the LOI to understand the nature of the thing in question is not a limitation on the validity of the LOI.

    Once again, regardless of how poorly we understand or can describe a thing, we cannot recognize that thing as anything unless the LOI is in play. IOW, to be able to say “photon” and have it mean something that nobody mistakes for dog, or love, or saliva means the LOI is being used – otherwise, when you say “photon”, nobody would really know what you’re talking about.

    Your attempt to diminish the universal validity of the LOI relies upon it being valid in every case you bring up – about any thing, or else we couldn’t have a meaningful conversation about it.

    You are mistaking “finite configurations of classical matter ” for “what the LOI can be applied to”. If a photon is a collection of superpositional states that can act as a particle or a wave, then the LOI says that a photon is either a collection of superpositional states that, upon observation, act as either a wave or a particle within the parameters of a stochastic frameset, or it is not.

    Even in the Jupiter case, if we are going to frame our identification of Jupiter in a subatomic superpositional frameset sense, Jupiter is either a collection of subatomic superpositions, or it is not, and either exists as that superpositional frameset, or it does not.

    If a superpositional frameset was not an identifiable thing (LOI), we couldn’t rationally discuss it because we wouldn’t know what we were talking about in the first place. So Jupiter – whatever it is defined as, a solid planet or a superpositional framework, either exists, or it does not exist, but cannot be both at the same time, regardless of how you frame the Jupiter question.

    It is only by conflating two different framed definitions of “what jupiter is” (a classical configuration of matter vs a quantum superpositional frameset) that this argument ensues. Pick a framed definition and answer the question; the answer is still “no, jupiter (X or Y definition) cannot both exist and not exist at the same time and in the same formal relation.

    You cannot talk about things that cannot be empirically or conceptually identified, generating a demarcation between what we are, and are not, talking about. That’s what is so irrational about the position that there are some “things” that the LOI isn’t applicable towards; you cannot imagine, talk about, or find any such “things”, because the moment you do, you’ve identified it.

    You might as well be arguing that 4-sided triangles can exist as to argue that the LOI may not always be applicable.

  18. Yes, but these are agreements about how we talk about things, not impositions on the things themselves, I think.

  19. Elizabeth: Bless you Brent Not that I’m illogical of course…

    I do want to make sure you took that the right way. I mean, I do think that you are illogical at times, but who isn’t. To be clear, I was just joking. I hope you got that from the beginning.

    Now, to show your lack of logic . . . :)

  20. I think focussing on the issue of “thingness”, or what is an object, is central here. The moon is pretty clearly a thing: a photon, not so much. But what about love, truth, justice, morality, etc. – or even “I”, the self. Are these clearcut “things” that we can plug into the Law of Identity and the other laws in any meaningful sense?

    Letting StephenB be our metaphorical representative for a whole bunch of people who believe, roughly, as he does, I think we can say that such people believe

    a. that the universe was created for us, humankind,

    b. that we have a special rational connection to ideas and ideals that both inform the world, and exist outside the world, in the mind of God.

    c. That these ideals are primary: In the beginning was the Word …”, as is often pointed out.

    d. That many categories have clearcut and immutable boundaries, and something can’t change into something else: man is not related to other animals, species can’t evolve into other species, life can’t come from non-life, existence can’t arise from non-existence, and so on.

    To such people, the primacy of the laws of logic seems self-evident, and anyone who doesn’t think so is irrational. To such people, the words we use to describe the things and the things themselves are ontologically linked. These metaphysical assumptions pervade the thought of people like Stephen.

  21. Toronto:
    Brent,

    Very true, but all “somethings” we are discussing eventually resolve to one of two states, TRUE or FALSE, and that is the scope that the LNC operates at, the logic level.

    Look at this code.

    if( Hot == TRUE AND FanOK == FALSE )
    {TurnOffPower();
    }

    We don’t know who loaded those values but we act on them.

    What we can’t do is the following.

    If ( Hot == TRUE AND Hot == FALSE )
    {
    }

    Sorry! I’m a little confused as to what you’re getting at here. The LNC doesn’t care whether a statement is true per se, only that it is clear. It is only when there is clarity that the LNC can be used to show whether something is potentially true or false, or at least contradictory.

    Even the LOI doesn’t care about “truth” in some senses. If I for some strange reason was brought up to call a dog a cat and a cat a dog, I could still get along. Realizing that they are distinct animals, I would be able to, usefully even, apply the LNC, etc. Surely at some point I would run into a devastating reality, that I had really been keeping a dog and thought it was a cat. But I don’t like “dogs”! :)

  22. There is no way to talk about “things” unless things exist for us to talk about, and unless words mean something in context and not something else. Unless we mean to say something, and not something else. Unless concepts describe something, and not something else.

    Slightly off topic, but relevant: There is a common denominator I’ve noticed in several threads from several posters that is very interesting and, IMO, important. When talking about intelligence, concepts of reality, logic, etc., many posters here take the tack that such things are subjective to human perspective (anthropocentric concepts) that may or may not apply to other “intelligent” beings, or to other perspectives of reality. Logic, it is apparently being argued, is really nothing more than a subjective map humans anthropomorphically apply to their experiences, which may or may not be a “true” description of reality (even though for there to be a “true” description of “reality”, reality would have to be an identifiable thing, requiring the LOI to be valid in terms of its relationship to “reality”.)

    So, I’m going to coin a term: hyperskeptical anti-anthropocentrism, or being skeptical of the human perspective to the point of embracing irrationality, or HAA for short.

    HAA would be the natural extension of atheistic materialism and the heir to the Copernican Principle, where Earth, and by extension humans, are “nothing special”. Our grip on reality would be nothing more than an evolutionary trait, like scales or hair, neither “true” or “not true”, just an aid to our survival differential. In that sense, a false belief is better than a true belief if a false belief aid more in our survival differential. Logic, epistemology, ontology, sound premises – nothing more than species-centric adaptations produced by mindless interactions of molecules. We can no more know “truth” than an amoeba or a cactus; what we consider to be “true” is just a result of interacting molecules.

    Rationality, technically, is based on logic. Logic is fundamentally rooted in axioms accepted as necessary; once one dismisses the necessary validity of those axioms, they have necessarily given up rationality. They can re-define what it is to be reasonable or rational (perhaps by appealing to consensus), but when it comes to logic, they have abandoned reason.

    And so we have these claims about how we cannot expect alien intelligence to be like human intelligence when producing a symbology that corresponds to the universe, because they might “see” and consider an entirely different universe than humans do. Their logic might not be the same. They might have 4-sided triangles, and relational distances between objects represented in symbols might be something entirely different than scale of some sort. Two moons orbiting a planet might be symbolically represented as 5 objects around a centered object. Or other intelligences might not identify one thing from another at all. I’m sure that all of life could exist just fine being unable to discern dinner from rocks from the moon, or predator from prey from indigestion.

    You either believe that humans are capable of deliberately discerning true statements about the world, or you do not. If you do not, I suggest your presence in a debate forum cannot be construed as intrinsically anything more than a monkey flinging feces around. If you consider logic nothing more than an evolutionary feature that helps in our differential survival, then you necessarily consider flinging feces, killing off the young of our competitors, and consuming one’s mate after copulation equally sound “arguments” to make.

    Making an argument that logic is not necessary, or is just an anthropocentric feature that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with reality, or that some things don’t have to be logically reconciled or supported, is itself an argument defeated by the content of your argument.

    So, you can fling some feces (words) around. So what? So can everyone else. How about this view: I’m right, because I say so. If we are going to abandon logical principles where it suits us, that is as good an argument as any.

  23. Brent,

    Brent:”Sorry! I’m a little confused as to what you’re getting at here. The LNC doesn’t care whether a statement is true per se, only that it is clear. It is only when there is clarity that the LNC can be used to show whether something is potentially true or false, or at least contradictory.”

    I’m agreeing with you but probably explained myself badly.

    Are “dogs”, cats or dogs? I think my LNC has been violated! :)

  24. aleta:
    I think focussing on the issue of “thingness”, or what is an object, is central here.The moon is pretty clearly a thing: a photon, not so much.But what about love, truth, justice, morality, etc. – or even “I”, the self.Are these clearcut “things” that we can plug into the Law of Identity and the other laws in any meaningful sense?

    Aleta, not being fully able to understand a thing does not imply that we cannot define it as distinct from other things. Is love a “thing”? Well, is love distinct from indifference? Is the “I” that is you not distinct from the others with “I-ness”? If it is not, why do you say, or what do you mean “I”? This is the problem. You accept it and use it all the time (Law of Identity), but question it. But, even that: What, exactly, are you questioning? Doesn’t the LOI, itself, have an identity? There is no way around it. You either live by it, or you die without it (and I mean that literally).

    That said, how we understand, for example, a photon, may radically change over time. So what? It really is beside the point. That is what you’re missing, I think. To the extent that we understand and and define a photon, we must apply the LNC to it.

    “But, but, but . . .”

    Yes, I can already hear the objections. To the degree that we are unsure of some of the properties of a particle we must leave breathing room so that proper understanding isn’t hindered. But, that isn’t even difficult. A working definition of a particle already “makes clear” what isn’t yet clear. Therefore, when the particle is identified, as far as it can reasonably be, it is to that same degree that the LNC applies.

    To such people, the words we use to describe the things and the things themselves are ontologically linked.

    So, such people would say that the Japanese are objectively wrong for calling a cat a neko?

    These metaphysical assumptions pervade the thought of people like Stephen.

    The rules of right reason are not assumptions. And again, even if they were, you are living on the very same ones.

  25. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: “Making an argument that logic is not necessary, or is just an anthropocentric feature that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with reality, or that some things don’t have to be logically reconciled or supported, is itself an argument defeated by the content of your argument.”

    Our whole disagreement on logic is one of “describing” logic, not its use.

    The evo supporters detail the actual implementation of the logical process, while the ID side talks only of its ultimate purpose.

    Both sides have said “the moon cannot exist and not exist at the same time”.

    Right after that sentence, the evo side tries to explain the mechanisms involved for reaching that conclusion, and the ID side simply shuts down.

    It’s as if ID assumes logic was created independently from humans and was waiting for us to come along and use it so no discussion is necessary.

    The evo side believes humans created this thing we call logic just like we created math.

    So, our debate about logic is identical in most ways to the creation/evolution debate.

    Math and logic evolve just like life does, with tiny adjustments along the way resulting in something much more sophisticated than when they were “in the beginning”.

  26. Toronto: If you’re an empiricist, you must have analyzed empirical data in regards to this issue.

    A much better red herring. We’re still waiting on you to get over your shame as to your standards of science or as to which camp you’re in.

    Elizabeth: But a photon cannot be so described, nor, I would argue, can a person.

    It only needs to be fixed or invariant over some continuity. For example, this remains this thread despite that posts are added to it. It’s nature, relation, and situation haven’t changed in regards to it being a thread. If we speak of the posts themselves then circumstances are different. Same as well with a photon. It behaves as a wave sometimes and behaves as a particle others. That does not make it an ‘is a wave’ or ‘is a particle’ necessarily. Nor is it a problem of stating that it is in a wave state for a period of time. Nor stating that it ‘is’ a wave or a particle. It’s when we state that it is a wave *and* a particle that it gets to be a problem since we’re defining it by variant circumstances it may hold.

    Sometimes you sit and sometimes you walk. Therefore you *are* a chair *and* track shoes. Care obviously needs to be had, of course.

  27. I don’t think we need to rule out, from the very beginning, the possibility of “abstract objects” (objects that don’t exist in Space or in Time), such as numbers or propositions. (I myself don’t think there are such — I’m a nominalist — but nominalism isn’t obviously true — there has to be an argument for it, it has to be consistent with other philosophical commitments, etc.) But I also don’t think that a commitment to abstract objects, all by itself, culminates in StephenB’s Thomism. (I think he’s a Thomist, but I’m not 100% sure of that.)

    That said, I agree with aleta that the problem with StephenB is that he thinks that the Aristotelian/Thomistic theory of logic is the only theory available, such that anyone who rejects that theory is thereby rejecting logic, hence rationality, itself. In some sense, yes, the burden of proof lies on those who want to reject that theory and yet retain logic — but seeing as how there are several hundred years of the history of logic to work with here, the wheel does not have to be reinvented.

  28. aleta: To such people, the primacy of the laws of logic seems self-evident, and anyone who doesn’t think so is irrational. To such people, the words we use to describe the things and the things themselves are ontologically linked.

    The thing here is that Aristotle addressed all these points in, roughly, the same manner you are. That these notions, that you’re objecting to rightly, are fallacious reasonings; and thus not logic.

    Brent: So, such people would say that the Japanese are objectively wrong for calling a cat a neko?

    Unless I misunderstand aleta’s point he/she’s objecting to the ‘word’ *being* the ‘cat’ or *manifestly constructing it*. Which might sound facially silly, but it comes up far more often than you’d imagine. I don’t know if aleta is characterizing StephenB correctly or not, but the point seems valid regardless.

    Brent: If I for some strange reason was brought up to call a dog a cat and a cat a dog, …

    Which is also valid, the symbols are just to pass what’s in your head out across the aether so it may get in another’s head. As long as everyone understands the symbol in a similar fashion then the symbol itself meaningless.

  29. Carl Sachs: In some sense, yes, the burden of proof lies on those who want to reject that theory and yet retain logic — but seeing as how there are several hundred years of the history of logic to work with here, the wheel does not have to be reinvented.

    The burden of proof lays with the claimant in every case. It need not be ‘reinvented’ and I daresay there better not be a need for reinvention. But if it is logical then you can give a logical account of it. There’s infinite regress and all that, but if you cannot account for why your reason is reason then you, yourself, have no knowledge of your reasoning.

  30. Maus: The burden of proof lays with the claimant in every case. It need not be ‘reinvented’ and I daresay there better not be a need for reinvention. But if it is logical then you can give a logical account of it. There’s infinite regress and all that, but if you cannot account for why your reason is reason then you, yourself, have no knowledge of your reasoning.

    I’m not entirely sure what’s being asked of me here. Are you asking me to present my philosophy of logic? Are you asking me to respond to Murray’s HAA above? Or something else?

  31. Maus,
    You suggest you don’t have a boot in either camp but I’m assuming you have heard the opposing arguments simply because you access the UD site.

    Typically, people tend to prefer one position over the other if they have had only minor exposure to the subject.

    What empirical data from the evo side neutralized the ID improbability argument, (kairosfocus refers to it constantly), such that you have ended up with no preference for either position?

    Are there other arguments that balance each other and allow you to maintain your neutrality?

  32. Toronto: What empirical data from …

    Apparently you and everyone else here is too ashamed of their standards of science to discuss the matter. But let’s keep you on topic shall we?

    We have, from an arbitrary date in written history: 504,471,091,905,599,920,000 tests of the LNC, no invalidations. And we have precisely zero macroevolutionary events in written history. No observations.

    One of these we’re having a great deal of trouble accepting. The other one is he most sure thing ever. Doesn’t matter which camp you’re in.

    Does anyone actually have the stones to admit that the doubt of the LNC as a scientific principle requires us to acknowledge that the accompanying view of science is: Every successful confirmational experiment refutes its own theory. The more confirmed, the more disconfirmed it is.

    Quick prediction: No one has stones.

  33. Maus: We have, from an arbitrary date in written history: 504,471,091,905,599,920,000 tests of the LNC, no invalidations.

    What about those pesky photons that both exist and don’t exist?

    (|0>+|1>)/\sqrt{2}.

  34. Maus,

    Maus: “Does anyone actually have the stones to admit..”

    For someone playing the stones card, I would expect you show some by answering my question.

    What is it about the following question that scares you?

    What empirical data from the evo side neutralized the ID improbability argument, (kairosfocus refers to it constantly), such that you have ended up with no preference for either position?

  35. olegt: (|0>+|1>)/\sqrt{2}.

    There was a time when you didn’t exist, you possibly do now, you won’t in the future. And yet, for now, there’s posts with the name ‘olegt’ on them. Kindergarten stuff.

    Toronto: For someone playing the stones card, I would expect you show some by answering my question.

    For the lurkers you’re worried about then: Your statement about conversation is that we should finish the asking questions first, and then answer them in the reverse order from when they were presented?

    Again: What are your standards of science?

  36. Maus,

    Toronto: “For someone playing the stones card, I would expect you show some by answering my question.”

    Maus: “For the lurkers you’re worried about then: Your statement about conversation is that we should finish the asking questions first, and then answer them in the reverse order from when they were presented?”

    I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be happy about demonstrating the flaws in both sides logic since you must have already evaluated them.

    You could have answered the question by now with the number of keystrokes you’ve already typed.

    What causes you to be wary of justifying your neutral position?

  37. Toronto: What causes you to be wary of justifying your neutral position?

    Nothing at all, but there’s the matter of the flow of conversation as well as the matter of ensuring that my response is put in words that we have an agreed meaning for. Indeed, your foot-stomping about being allowed to cut in line demonstrates a perfect example of this. To wit:

    Toronto: What empirical data from the evo side neutralized the ID improbability argument, (kairosfocus refers to it constantly), such that you have ended up with no preference for either position?

    Let us assume, counterfactually, that you hold to the LNC. Then we do not know what you consider empricism to be. We know you don’t consider it looking at something, but we read our instruments by looking at them. So I’m out of sorts unless your definition of empiricism is eating a textbook and writing a food review on the quality of ink. It is, between us, a term that has no agreed meaning as yet. Further it presumes that there is empirical evidence on the evo side, or that the evo side has swayed, as well that I ever held an ID position to be swayed from. Lastly it assumes that Darwin and Design are properly dichotomous when that is far being established. If, as we have assumed counterfactually, the LNC is valid then there are a raft of fallacies including assumptions about things not in evidence, false dichotomy, and many questions. That is, it’s not even a proposition or answerable question.

    But fortunately you do not hold to the LNC. So the only answer that you can or would accept is: I simultaneously have, and don’t have, a preference for both and neither as well as each over the other.

    Though I’m completely baffled as to how I could explain my reasons/not-reasons for holding/not-holding any position that I do and don’t hold on the basis of arguments and evidence that exist and do not. So I’m quite unsure as how I could communicate the idea to you. In fact, doing any better than this requires we know one thing first:

    What are your standards of science?

  38. Maus,
    How wrong I am about anything, has nothing to do with how right you are about your neutral position.

    Regardless of any of my failings, your neutral position has been reached by you.

    Regardless of what words or terms you use, its your meaning of them that are of interest, since it is your position you are explaining, not mine.

    I am not asking you for an explanation of a position you don’t claim to have already reached.

    Very few people hold a neutral position in this debate, but you claim to have reached one.

    So, what empirical data from the evo side neutralized the ID improbability argument, (kairosfocus refers to it constantly), such that you have ended up with no preference for either position?

  39. Toronto: Regardless of what words or terms you use, its your meaning of them that are of interest, since it is your position you are explaining, not mine.

    I reached my position as xerphilos is blagotastic.

    So now that you understand my position, what are your standards of science?

  40. Maus,

    Maus: “I reached my position as xerphilos is blagotastic.”

    They were okay, but I wouldn’t go as far as blagotastic since I prefer a band with vocals.

    You’re still just dipping your toe in the water.

    Dive in. If you start to sink I’ll throw you a life-line.

    Explain the position you have already reached.

  41. Toronto: Explain the position you have already reached.

    I just did and in precisely the manner you find necessary. Now that I’ve upheld your belated foot-stomping requirements I should think that good faith is in order on your behalf.

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  43. keiths: Here’s ‘neutral’ Maus defending Barry Arrington’s claim that evolutionary theory predicts everything and its opposite.

    Of course, I made the same claim in this very thread when responding to Elizabeth. We have here two empirical observations of the very thing I claim I claim.

    Though I’m not quite certain why you believe your eyes on this matter when you claim that your eyes do not accurately represent reality in any matter. It would help if you let us know what your standards for science are.

  44. Maus: There was a time when you didn’t exist, you possibly do now, you won’t in the future. And yet, for now, there’s posts with the name ‘olegt’ on them. Kindergarten stuff.

    Maus,

    Your analogy would be valid if I were talking about starting with no photon in the cavity (state |0>), then created one (state |1>) and subsequently destroyed it. But I am talking about something else. The photon is in a quantum superposition of state |1> (it is) and |0> (it isn’t).

  45. Maus,

    Toronto: Explain the position you have already reached.

    Maus: I just did and in precisely the manner you find necessary. Now that I’ve upheld your belated foot-stomping requirements I should think that good faith is in order on your behalf.

    You’re avoiding my question for the same reason a grade 9 boy avoids asking his current crush out, and that’s because of a fear of being shot down.

    Don’t be afraid, just take a deep breath and type.

    So, what empirical data from the evo side neutralized the ID improbability argument, (kairosfocus refers to it constantly), such that you have ended up with no preference for either position?

  46. keiths,

    keiths: Here’s ‘neutral’ Maus defending Barry Arrington’s claim that evolutionary theory predicts everything and its opposite.

    Thanks for the link!

  47. One of my avatars on UD once tried to pin down what year StephenB was living in. It was definitely before Darwin, before the discovery of alternatives to Euclidean geometry. A time in which neat categories could easily be mapped to the entire universe. A time the rest of us grew out of.

    I will note in passing that StephenB was never able to write down his rules of right reason.

    aleta:
    I think focussing on the issue of “thingness”, or what is an object, is central here.The moon is pretty clearly a thing: a photon, not so much.But what about love, truth, justice, morality, etc. – or even “I”, the self.Are these clearcut “things” that we can plug into the Law of Identity and the other laws in any meaningful sense?

    Letting StephenB be our metaphorical representative for a whole bunch of people who believe, roughly, as he does, I think we can say that such people believe

    a.that the universe was created for us, humankind,

    b.that we have a special rational connection to ideas and ideals that both inform the world, and exist outside the world, in the mind of God.

    c.That these ideals are primary: In the beginning was the Word …”, as is often pointed out.

    d.That many categories have clearcut and immutable boundaries, and something can’t change into something else: man is not related to other animals, species can’t evolve into other species, life can’t come from non-life, existence can’t arise from non-existence, and so on.

    To such people, the primacy of the laws of logic seems self-evident, and anyone who doesn’t think so is irrational.To such people, the words we use to describe the things and the things themselves are ontologically linked.These metaphysical assumptions pervade the thought of people like Stephen.

  48. Ernst Mayr called this essentialism. I skipped over that chapter thinking it wasn’t a central part of the evolution debate.

    Now I see it pervasively. I see it in the debate over what a species is, what a planet is, what a particle is, what life is.

  49. petrushka: Now I see it pervasively. I see it in the debate over what a species is, what a planet is, what a particle is, what life is.

    Yes, the anti-essentialism of Darwin’s insight — that species are only populations — is absolutely central to the entire debacle. Because if that’s so, then there aren’t “kinds” of the sort presupposed by the natural law theory of morality. And that’s what makes the debate about evolution and creationism one of the front-lines in the culture wars.

    Carl

  50. Carl Sachs,

    Carl Sachs: “Yes, the anti-essentialism of Darwin’s insight — that species are only populations — is absolutely central to the entire debacle.”

    Good point.

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  52. I know this thread has subsided, but I want to post here, and I don’t know where else to post this comment. At UD, Barry has made an OP that presents the “logical” argument for ID. It’s a prime example of trying to embed all one’s unstated and/or unestablished beliefs into one’s premises in order to appear as if one is deducing something. I posted over there, but I’m not going to reply over there, so I’d like to cross-post here. Any comments from you all are welcome, including pointing out if I’m wrong.

    As a so-far surviving member of the non-ID crowd here, let me point out that Barry’s argument is a prime example of embedding all sorts of assumptions into one’s premises in order to make something look like a “logical” argument. As we discussed in an earlier thread, there is a difference between a valid argument, in which the logic is correct, and a sound argument, for which the premises must be accurate reflections of reality. Leaving aside the issue of whether the premises are accurate reflections of reality, it looks to me like his argument isn’t logically valid.

    First, Barry’s argument is

    Statement 1. Designers often leave behind objectively discernible indicia of design in the things they design.

    Statement 2. Some aspects of living things exhibit these objectively discernible indicia of design.

    Logical conclusion. Therefore, the best explanation for the existence of the aspects of living things that exhibit these objectively discernible indicia of design is that they were in fact designed.

    Now consider this syllogism:

    All X are A
    Y is an A
    Therefore, Y is an X

    This syllogism is false.

    Barry’s argument takes this form, and is a false syllogism. Even though designers leave “objectively discernible indicia”, (and that itself is assuming a conclusion that is not “obviously true”), it is possible (the position of non-IDsts) that natural processes leave behind the same objectively discernible indicia (ODI). In this case, if designers leave behind ODI and natural processes also leave behind ODI, then the conclusion that life is designed because it has ODI is a false conclusion.

    In order to have a valid syllogism, Barry’s Statement 1 would have to say “designers, and only designers, leave behind …”. Otherwise, he has not precluded that other processes might leave behind the exact same “objectively discernible indicia” that designers do. This omission skips right over the very heart of the undecided issue: that there are ODI that truly distinguish designed from non-designed things, and more importantly, that there is an empirically reliable method of distinguishing things that must have been designed from those that arise through natural processes.

    So this “logical argument” is not very compelling: depending on how we read Statement 1, it is either logically invalid (if it just starts with “designers …”) or it begs the question (if it starts with “designers, and only designers …”), and it certainly skips over the very large empirical issues concerning the real-world validity of the concepts of specified complex information and irreducible complexity.

    I’m not here to argue the whole “specified complex information and irreducible complexity” thing. I’m just pointing out that putting it all in the form of a logical syllogism is an empty enterprise, burying all the conclusions and empirically undecided issues into the premises so that it all looks “logical”, as if that adds anything to the discussion of the real issues.

  53. P.S. Upon thinking upon what I wrote, I see that if Barry meant by “objectively discernible indicia” not just ways to objectively (irrespective of whether one is an IDist or not) to measure the quantities of “specified complex information and irreducible complexity, whatever they are, but ways to objectively determine that a designer was involved, then he is not guilty of a false syllogism – he’s just guilty of begging the question, big-time.

  54. aleta,

    I’m going to surmise that the syllogism was expressed backwards, which is what caused the logical fallacy you have identified. The original, but of course not articulated, syllogism was:
    1) All life was intelligently designed.
    2) We observe life.
    3) Therefore, it was intelligently designd.

    NOW, at this point the task is to somehow rearrange the shells in such a way that it SEEMS that the pea is still under one of them.

    Barry’s approach to this task is really quite subtle. We all design things, and we have a good idea what “designs” (that is, things we design) look like. The “objectively observable indicia” of human designs are well enough understood so that archaeologists looking at rocks rarely get false positives or negatives in distinguishing tools from similarly shaped unworked rocks.

    But they are able to do so only due to a very thorough understanding of the techniques and techologies of the artisans. And THAT is the part Barry slips in through the back door. He does not know either one about his Designer, can’t afford to admit it, and can’t construct his arguments so as to make that obvious. As ID people are fond of saying, the Designer’s methods are smuggled in.

    But in any case, your argument that the complex adaptive feedback processes biology uses ARE a design technique, is spot on. We all see the result of that design, and we know a very complex process was required to produce it. Sometimes I wonder if people are rejecting the sheer difficulty of understanding biological processes in favor of the sheer simplicity of magic. But most of the time, after a little reading, I see that we’re not dealing with intellectual cowardice, but with theological preconvictions. Hence the “real” statement 1) above.

  55. Statement 1. Designers often leave behind objectively discernible indicia of design in the things they design.

    By “designers”, he presumably means “humans” (or possibly other primates, dolphins, or, according to Joe, termites). So we can apply Barry’s logic more specifically:

    Statement 1. Human designers often leave behind objectively discernible indicia of human design in the things they design.

    Statement 2. Some aspects of living things exhibit these objectively discernible indicia of human design.

    Logical conclusion. Therefore, the best explanation for the existence of the aspects of living things that exhibit these objectively discernible indicia of human design is that they were in fact designed by humans.

    Barry calls this a “logical deduction”, but the logic seems less than airtight.

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