Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Agenda Fallacy

Ilion: VR: "The Triabloggers can start by showing anywhere in my recent posts where I have advocated Obamacare. I'm not sure if anyone can tell me what Obamacare is."

But you advocated for Obama (and it was clear all along that he does not have America's best interests at heart). And, more importantly, continuously advocate for leftism. And worse, you conflate that leftism with Christianity.

"Hillarycare," "Obamacare," it's all the same ... the *point* it to expand the government and make serfs and subjects of the erstwhile free citizens.


I supported Obama's election. I don't conflate leftism with Christianity, although some concerns the Left has are concerns that Christians should have. We should be concerned about the poor, the debate is over whether we shoot ourselves in the foot by enlisting the government to be involved, and how involved the government should be. Apparently you don't think the public school system should be dismantled. Or do you? That's a socialistic instituion, in that it distributes education in accordance with need to all, regardless of the ability to pay, and taxes the populace in order to get it done. In fact, that's a single payer program, something not even Obama is advocating when it comes to health care.

My objection to the T-bloggers was that they presumed that I had made an argument for Obamacare when I had made none, and then implied that it was a bad argument that earned me the title of charlatan (their weaseling attempts to deny this are simply absurd-if you put up two pieces, one by me and one by Vallicella attacking health reform, and say one of them is a charlatan, I guarantee you it won't be Vallicella). I may believe that something like health care reform ought to take place, but you can't read my mind and attack me for inadequately arguing for something I didn't argue for. Just as, nowadays, if I make an observation about Calvinism, but I am not arguing against Calvinism, I now have to say this is not an argument against Calvinism or there will be a post on you-know-where refuting my supposed (and failed) attack on Calvinism.

I've seen this elsewhere, and I call it the agenda fallacy. If you think I have a Christian agenda, and I produce an argument for objective moral values, atheists will present arguments against a Bible-based moral code as an argument against what I have said. This in spite of the fact that C. S. Lewis wrote an entire book defending moral objectivity, The Abolition of Man, that made not one single, solitary, theological appeal. I saw this recently when I talked about relativism and rape a few posts back.

The Agenda Fallacy goes like this.

S has defended something along the lines of P in the past, or we have good reason to suppose that S believes that P.

S makes a statement relevant to P.

Therefore, S's remarks should be treated as an argument for P.

No. Maybe S has something else in mind. Or maybe S is attempting to rebut some misguided efforts to defend not-P. That is different from actually arguing that P is true.

49 comments:

unkle e said...

Or maybe S has ambivalent views about P, and thinks there are arguments in its favour and arguments against. Shock!, horror!, S may still have an open mind.

Not saying that's the case here, but it can be the case.

Anonymous said...

I am a moral conservative, but even so I agree with your post. It rings true with where I think many of the old 'religious right' of the 1980's and 1990's went wrong :).

My main issues with many social conservatives are that, while on the whole they correctly criticize recent trends away from mores and customs shaped by Christian and Biblical customs and mores, instead promoting an agenda based on the whole with those mores approved in the Bible, they:

1. Often confuse ancient Jewish customs with the more universal morals taught in the Bible which should be applicable to Christians in all times.

2. Occasionally confuse the mere previous century's customs and mores with with the far older Biblical ones, and then apply error #1 above to that error, resulting in even more distortion of their claim of Bible support for politics and views which are really much more tradition than ethics.

Ilíon said...

I've just noticed this. Naturally, I'm way busy in "the real world" (I'm enclosing the patio, mainly to get a roof over it), and so don't have time right now to give serious consideration to this post.

Since I don't have the time now to seriously respond, I've decided to not read it yet. However, I did notice that you've filed it under "ad hominem arguments." Really? Why are you (knowingly) making a ad hominem argument? (Not that ad hominem is always and automatically fallacious).

Ilíon said...

Man! (Speaking of the construction I'm doing) I sliced my hand pretty good with a chisel -- I *knew* that what I was doing had a high chance of leading to just this result. And yet I did it.

Hmmm ... kind of like "liberals" and their policy preferences, except my foolish behavior affected only myself and not everyone to the seventh generation.

Anonymous said...

Why did you scare quote 'liberals' there?

Steve said...

An odd thing is happening over at Triablogue. There seems to be post after post after frenetic post aimed at defending and excusing incivility and behavior inconsistent with what I always assumed were Christian values.

This suggests two things.

First, it suggests that they just don't understand that the objections are not to their vigorous defense of Calvinism, but instead, the objections are to the insults, name calling, personal attacks and attempts to smear with offensive labels i.e. "eugenicist"). Apparently, they believe that it's impossible to attack opposing ideas without attacking those who hold these ideas as well.

Second, this over-the-top, overreaction suggests that the T-bloggers really, really, really don't like it when, in their eyes, people insult them, call them names, lauch personal attacks and attempt to smear with offensive labels. It's possible that this will lead them to pause and say to themselves...

"So that's what it feels like to be insulted, etc.. This is not a nice feeling. Is this what we've been doing onto others? Maybe we should do things differently in the future."

Well, maybe they will pause. And maybe not.

Steve said...

Correction: (i.e. "eugenicist") should be (e.g. "eugenicist").

Ilíon said...

I always put the word 'liberal' in scare-quotes because when the word has been hijacked. When the word is properly used, it does not refer to what we in modern-day America call "liberalism."

Properly used, 'liberalism' is an antithesis of socialism.

Peter Pike said...

Steve said:
---
First, it suggests that they just don't understand that the objections are not to their vigorous defense of Calvinism, but instead, the objections are to the insults, name calling, personal attacks and attempts to smear with offensive labels i.e. "eugenicist"). Apparently, they believe that it's impossible to attack opposing ideas without attacking those who hold these ideas as well.
---

Pot meet kettle.

The whole point of my satire, and one of the main points of Steve Hay's posts, is that all our opponents have done is engage in ad hominem while decrying ad hominem. That's why there's so many posts on this particular blog calling out Triablogue personally, with no argument against Calvinistic beliefs.

For the record, I hold no animosity toward Reppert at all--I think he's an intelligent man who happens to be wrong in critical areas and I have no fear in pointing out what those areas are. However, if one were to read all the articles on the main page of Dangerous Idea, one would get the impression that Victor Reppert believes Calvinism is wrong because it makes people mean--a totally ad hominem reason to reject Calvinism, no?

I should point out that we at Triablogue have behaved exactly as we've said we would (Reppert seemed surprised to discover what was written in our rules of engagement). At the very least, you have to acknowledge that we've done nothing inconsistent with our stated principals, even if you disagree with those principals.

So the only reason that this is even an issue is because we are pointing out the hypocrisy of those who claim to be "above" ad hominem who, for some reason, turn a blind eye against ad hominem directed toward Calvinists in general and Triablogue in particular.

Personally, I don't care if you attack me with ad hominem; but I'll still point out you're a hypocrite for doing so. It's your standard you're violating, after all. And if you don't uphold your standard, why should I care to uphold it?

Steve said...

As I said..."And maybe not".

steve said...

An odd thing is happening over at Classical Arminianism. There seems to be post after post after frenetic post as well as comment after comment after frentic comment aimed at defending and excusing incivility and behavior inconsistent with what I always assumed were Christian values.

First, it suggests that Billy Birch and his ilk just don't understand that the objections are not to their vigorous defense of Arminianism, but instead, the objections are to the insults, name calling, personal attacks and attempts to smear with offensive labels (e.g. "liar"). Apparently, they believe that it's impossible to attack opposing ideas without attacking those who hold these ideas as well.

Second, this over-the-top, overreaction suggests that the Arminians really, really, really don't like it when, in their eyes, people insult them, call them names, launch personal attacks and attempt to smear with offensive labels. It's possible that this will lead them to pause and say to themselves...

"So that's what it feels like to be insulted, etc.. This is not a nice feeling. Is this what we've been doing onto others? Maybe we should do things differently in the future."

Well, maybe they will pause. And maybe not.

Anonymous said...

Why is "tu quoque" the Calvinist response to everything?

Paris said...

Anonymous right above,

I thought it was called asking your opponent to be honest and consistent. My bad. Latin was never my thing.

Steve said...

"Opponent"? Interesting choice of words.

In fairness, the T-bloggers don't single out Arminians for special abuse. They treat everyone who disagrees with them equally poorly.

Anonymous said...

No Paris, it's called 'pleading guilty'.

Paris said...

Opponent: one that takes an opposite position (as in a debate, contest, or conflict)

Paris said...

"No Paris, it's called 'pleading guilty'."

No anonymous, you mean it's spinned 'pleading guilty.' It is simply a way for you to get in a jab at your "opponents".

Anonymous said...

If someone says to you 'you are a pompous ass' and you reply 'you are too', you are pleading guilty. There's no spin to it.

steve said...

"[Birch] Not all Calvinists agree with Feinberg, however. George Bryson highlights Feinberg's opponent, Calvinist Edwin Palmer..."

http://classicalarminianism.blogspot.com/2008/09/militant-sovereignty-of-god-dark-side.html

"[Birch] There were already a few strict Calvinistic opponents of Arminius by the time Gomarus..."

http://classicalarminianism.blogspot.com/2008/12/franciscus-gomarus-opposes-arminius.html

"Opponent"? Interesting choice of words

Steve said...

Thank you for explaining how you are using the world "opponent".

Paris said...

No anonymous, you are missing something. The analogy you're looking for is more like this --- If someone says to you, "You are a pompous ass, and only you are, and this is necessarily evidence of your failed belief in X, and indeed could only come from belief in X", and then you point out that he is a pompous ass too, so not only I am not the only one, it also looks like your belief in Y doesn't do you any better, or, is it than when Y-ists do the same thing, they're not pompous asses? So perhaps we should drop this petty game, or is this all you have left, running out of arguments a while back?"

As my pa paw would say, "Catchin' ma drift?" In other words, are you catching on?

Paris said...

Steve,

Why would you automatically assume the word was being used in a war-like, or "mean", sense? It is not considered "nice" to interpret 'opponents' in the worst light.

Steve said...

"Why would you automatically assume the word was being used in a war-like, or "mean", sense?"

Oh, I don't know. Maybe it was the context of this comment string and the comments found under "catfights"? But again, I thank you for the clarification.

Paris said...

Huh, yeah, so maybe when Calvinists do things "uncharitably" (as you just did) theres a bigger context they're taking into account. Some could fly off the handle and consider your assumptions and accusations as "mean." People who live in glass houses . . .

Paris said...

Or, anonymous, it could be modus tollens: If I am a pompous ass then you are, but surely you are not, therefore I am not.

See, if I am then you are, but you do not think you are, ergo you should not think I am.

Getting the picture I'm painting? Feeling my lyrics? Down with my rythm?

Anonymous said...

Paris, I have no idea who you are referring to with your description of ad hominem there. If someone said calvinism were wrong because calvinists were insufferably smug, they'd be guilty of ad hominem. On the other hand, when I call you insufferably smug, it's me saying 'cut that out man'. Your silly talk of 'catchin' my drift' only demonstrates your insufferable smugness. Cut it out man.

Steve said...

"Huh, yeah, so maybe when Calvinists do things "uncharitably" (as you just did) theres a bigger context they're taking into account."

Quite right. Any one comment can be misinterpreted or interpreted uncharitably. Any one comment might lead someone to misinterpret another person's assumptions and accusations as being "mean". Fortunately, in this case, you provided clarification, and again, I thank you for your clarification.

However, when a particular group of individuals (T-bloggers, not all Calvinists) repeatedly engages in a specific pattern of behavior over a long period time, and when that behavior includes interactions with many separate and independent individuals with a range of viewpoints, I think that it can be said that one's conclusions about that specific group's behavior are supported by several orders of magnitude more data than one comment. And I believe that the conclusions are independent of the architecture of one's own domicile.

Steve said...

Let me make this perfectly clear (as Nixon used to say). I apologize for misinterpreting the word "opponent".

Victor Reppert said...

I do not think Calvinism is false because I thinks it makes people mean. I am not even saying that Calvinists are on the whole mean. What I am talking about are specific ways in which my statements are taken out of context and meanings attributed to them that are certainly not entailed by what I said. If I attempt to set up the general question of health care reform, and I do so in a way that implicitly criticizes certain naive ways of opposing health care reform, I am not thereby committing myself to a defense of health care reform, even if, in the past, I am a member of the party that has typically defended health care reform. Pointing out bad arguments against health care reform is not the same as presenting an argument for it that I think is good.

For example, if I argue that Anselm's ontological argument is a bad argument for theism (and I do think this), that does not make me an atheist or an apologist for atheism. Further, it is not at all relevant to my argument that there may be an underlying eugenics agenda behind the advocates of health care reform. Clearly, you can have health care reform without eugenics. I looked at the first site that Hays mentioned (he mentioned quite a number) about a science advisor appointed by Obama who, during the time when a lot of people were afraid that the population explosion would kill us all, suggested possible remedies if it ever got that bad, such as forced sterilization of people in Third World countries. It looked like the guy advocated it as a last resort measure to save the human race if all else failed, and it might be morally wrong to do even in that circumstance, but there is a difference between that and eugenics, where you are trying to control breeding in order to improve the gene pool. But my objection is that I was trying to ask the question of whether health care reform is a good idea in principle. So even if there were some Obama science advisors who advocated eugenics, this would not be relevant to the in-principle question I was addressing.

Taking something about what we know a person to believe and using that to provide a fresh target for argumentation that the opponent has not addressed and is not addressing in their statement is what I mean by the agenda fallacy. So, for example, if you read Ed Feser's criticisms of the New Atheism, you can't change the subject and make it about Feser's Catholicism. You have to meet the challenges he places against the New Atheism on their own grounds. Nor can you change the subject and talk about what Feser said about George Tiller. I wasn't happy with his Dahmer comparison, but that has nothing to do with his defense of dualism in the philosophy of mind or his critique of Dawkins and company.

Steve said...

Well, I waited several days to see if there would be any evidence that T-Bloggers and T-Clones actually believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Never saw any.

Anonymous said...

I'll just give my personal experience at triablogue. Around the time of the election, I went there and defended three propositions:

1. Abortion is a morally repugnant practice that should be ended.

2. Abortion is not morally equivalent to murder.

3. The worldwide statistics on abortion rates suggest that the broad social safety nets of the so-called "socialist" countries are more effective at reducing the number of abortions than is merely declaring abortion illegal.

For defending these three propositions (all of which, you'll notice, are consistent with the pro-life position) the main triabloggers REPEATEDLY called me a "baby murderer".

That doesn't make Calvinism wrong, it just makes the people at triablog terrible representatives of it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

Do you have links?

Anonymous said...

That's funny. Google says:

Your search - "baby murderer" site:http://triablogue.blogspot.com - did not match any documents.


"Baby killer" returned 4 results from 2 articles.

In Exodus 12:29, God the baby-killer slaughters all Egyptian firstborn children ...

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2008/09/barack-biggest-baby-killer-of-them-all.html. Let's look at some of the highlights—or should I say, lowlights? ...


So the "baby killer" in the second link actually was in Reppert's link title.

I, too, would like to see some links to justify anonymous's claims.

Anonymous said...

So someone lied about their treatment at the hands of triabloguers? I wonder who else has lied.

steve said...

Anonymous said...

"I'll just give my personal experience at triablogue."

No, what he'll do is to give his distorted version of the exchange. He was plugging the Obama candidacy, even though Obama said he would make signing FOCA into law a priority.

Anonymous said...

Search for the articles there around that discussion and you'll see the comments. I was indeed supporting obama's candidacy, proudly so,. Perhaps the word "baby killer" was not used, but that was the gist. I'm on my iPhone now but when I get to a computer well see who is lying.

Anonymous said...

steve, I don't know how to search your site. But you obviously have a link to the conversation because you were just commenting on it. Could you provide a link to the whole conversation?

Victor Reppert said...

Steve: No, what he'll do is to give his distorted version of the exchange. He was plugging the Obama candidacy, even though Obama said he would make signing FOCA into law a priority.

VR: But maybe he was plugging the Obama candidacy, IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT Obama said he would make signing FOCA into law a priority. I just signed an anti-FOCA petition just yesterday myself. FOCA's a bad idea, and Obama ought to reconsider.

When I asked you on two occasions you, rejected the idea of the one-issue abortion vote. Now I know you prefer the Republican positions on those other issues anyway, so the issue doesn't arise this way for you, but for those of us who find FOCA and the hard pro-choice position morally repugnant, but also think that on balance the Republican party has gone astray and that Obama was preferable to McCain for 2008, that we somehow want as many babies killed as possible, or think that we should abort babies for eugenic purposes, this is preposterous nonsense. It's the triumph of ideology over common sense.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Pointing out fallacious reasoning isn't ad hominem.

Anonymous said...

I was, in fact, supporting Obama's candidacy despite FOCA.

I'm fairly sure he section under which the rude comments were made was under the article entitled "Obama and Infanticide". The comments have conveniently been deleted from that posting now, but I remember clearly the discussion.

I made a plea for civility in conversations, and either Steve or Peter, I forget which, said something along the lines of this: "Your plea would be more reasonable if it didn't come from someone who supports killing babies." Or words to that exact effect.

But it seems like most of my comments from that period have been scrubbed from the site, or very well hidden. It seems to me that all the bloggers over there go to great lengths to either hide or excuse their poor behavior, when they could just stop being such incredible jerks. The surefire way to take the issue of your behavior off the table is to fricking behave.

Anonymous said...

Just did a quick, cursory search.

On October 27, 2008 Steve Hays made a post that he titled "Victor Reppert: every baby killer's best friend".

Make of it what you will.

Vince

Vince said...

Good points.
I agree with your post..
___________________
Vince
Payday loans Today

steve said...

Victor Reppert said...

“But maybe he was plugging the Obama candidacy, IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT Obama said he would make signing FOCA into law a priority. I just signed an anti-FOCA petition just yesterday myself. FOCA's a bad idea, and Obama ought to reconsider. __When I asked you on two occasions you, rejected the idea of the one-issue abortion vote. Now I know you prefer the Republican positions on those other issues anyway, so the issue doesn't arise this way for you, but for those of us who find FOCA and the hard pro-choice position morally repugnant, but also think that on balance the Republican party has gone astray…”

Victor, try to follow the actual argument. Why did I single out abortion in my response to the anonymous commenter? Because he chose to single out abortion. I’m responding to the way he chose to focus the question.

Whether or not you think Obama has compensatory virtues on other issues is beside the point. I’m responding to the commenter on his own terms. And you, as a philosophy prof. ought to appreciate the propriety of doing so.

Even someone wants to argue that even on abortion, voting for Obama was better than voting for McCain, or voting for a third-party candidate, or not voting at all, then that’s what we will discuss.

“That we somehow want as many babies killed as possible, or think that we should abort babies for eugenic purposes, this is preposterous nonsense. It's the triumph of ideology over common sense.”

If you have a choice between two electable candidates, one who is fairly prolife, and one who is militantly proabortion, and you vote for the militantly proabortion candidate, then you’re casting a vote to expand abortion. That is very common sense, Victor. You’re the one who’s sacrificing common sense at this point to excuse your outspoken advocacy of the Obama candidacy.

“I just signed an anti-FOCA petition just yesterday myself. FOCA's a bad idea, and Obama ought to reconsider.”

That’s an empty gesture. Indeed, a hypocritical gesture. If you vote for a militantly proabortion candidate, in conjunction with Congressional Democrats, then you’re empowering them to expand abortion. To sign a petition of protest after the fact is a meaningless feel-good gesture to assuage your conscience.

Anonymous said...

“I made a plea for civility in conversation.”

Yes, civility in conversation takes precedence over civil conduct towards the life of the unborn. Thanks for illustrating your moral priorities. Nice words trump evil actions.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

What part of "I believe abortion is a morally abominable practice that should be illegal" do you not understand?

As I REPEATEDLY said in our discussion, I am pro-life. I simply believe that a large safety net is the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions.

Our conversation was not one between a pro-choice advocate and a pro-life advocate. It was between two pro-life advocates.

Your response here is a non-sequitor. How does my asking for civility in a conversation between two pro-lifers equate to me putting civility over the lives of the unborn? In point of fact, your incivility HURTS your cause, as it drives away people (like myself) who have similar goals and who could be allies.

steve said...

Anonymous said...

“I'm fairly sure he section under which the rude comments were made was under the article entitled ‘Obama and Infanticide’. The comments have conveniently been deleted from that posting now, but I remember clearly the discussion.__I made a plea for civility in conversations, and either Steve or Peter, I forget which, said something along the lines of this: ‘Your plea would be more reasonable if it didn't come from someone who supports killing babies.’ Or words to that exact effect.__But it seems like most of my comments from that period have been scrubbed from the site, or very well hidden. It seems to me that all the bloggers over there go to great lengths to either hide or excuse their poor behavior, when they could just stop being such incredible jerks. The surefire way to take the issue of your behavior off the table is to fricking behave.”

Well, that’s revealing on several levels:

i) You plea for “civility in conversation,” yet you call your opponents “incredible jerks” and resort to euphemistic obscenities (“fricking”).

ii) You also accuse us of scrubbing your comments from the “Obama and Infanticide” post to “hide or excuse” our “poor behavior.”

That, however, seems quite unlikely.

a) To begin with, the post in question was simply linking to two offsite discussions. That sort of post doesn’t ordinarily generate much if any feedback.

b) For your accusation to go through, not only would I have to scrub your comments, but also scrub my own comments in response to your comments. Do you have any evidence that I’m in the habit of scrubbing my own comments?

The post, as it stands, is devoid of comments by anyone at all:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/10/obama-and-infanticide.html

So, in the name of civility, you launch into a defamatory accusation about how we scrubbed your comments on said post, complete with a psychological analysis of our underhanded motives for doing so, in the absence of any tangible evidence to corroborate your allegation.

All I can say at this point is that you have a very idiosyncratic definition of what constitutes civility in conversation.

BTW, this is a good example of how pejorative legends about Triablogue get started.

steve said...

Anonymous said...

"In point of fact, your incivility HURTS your cause, as it drives away people (like myself) who have similar goals and who could be allies."

Voting for proabortion candidates (when better alternatives are available) also hurts the cause.

And you were already committed to Obama, so I didn't drive you anywhere you weren't already heading.

Besides, are you admitting that you don't vote based on your own principles, but rather, the way you vote is dictated by an emotional reaction to perceived slights?

Anonymous said...

Okay, Steven. I apologize for calling you a jerk, and for my use of a euphemistic obscenity. Which is more than you've ever done to me or Victor for referring to us both in some way as "baby killers".

The cause I refer to is a reduction in the number of abortions, not the election of a Republican candidate. Or at least, it SHOULD be, but only you know in your heart if that's really true for you. I think that all people of good will who want to reduce the number of abortions could work together, but you somehow are under the opinion that you can't be pro life unless you're allowed to call everyone who has the slightest tactical disagreement with you a baby-killer. That kind of rhetoric is itself abortive, as it kills potential political coalition, and the unborn lives that potential cooperation would have saved, in the womb.

So, in point of fact, it is not me putting incivillity in front of the unborn, it is YOU putting your desire for INCIVILITY towards your political opponents ahead of the unborn. Just about everyone in this conversation believes abortion is wrong and that we need to act in every way we can to reduce the number of abortions. There's so much common ground here, but instead of building on that, you prefer to drive potential allies away. And for what? So you can reserve the right to call us baby killers? Is it worth that much?

Anonymous said...

To clarify, you didn't drive me away from McCain. This is where you and I differ. I don't believe that being pro-life MEANS working to elect Republican candidates. I don't think that strategy has worked in the last 30 years, and so I believe in using non-electoral means to reduce the number of abortions. It's on those kinds of projects that people like you, me, and Victor could cooperate, if it wasn't so important for you to reserve the right to call any pro-life liberal a baby killer.

For the record, there's precious little chance I would have ever voted for McCain. I'm a firm liberal, and the abortion issue is the only political issue on which I could be said to have conservative leanings.

Ilíon said...

McCain in *not* a conservative.