Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cory Tucholski responds to the standard Gnu moves

Here. 

I like this guy's responses.

98 comments:

John Moore said...

The burden of proof does not come simply from making a positive assertion, but it comes from the desire to persuade.

If atheists don't mind Christians continuing to hold their beliefs, then the atheist has no burden of proof for his statement that there is no God.

On the other hand, if atheists want Christians to stop believing in God, then they indeed have a burden of proof.

Ilíon said...

"I like this guy's responses."

Why? He doen't seem to understand that 'agnosticism' is just passive-aggressive 'atheism', nor that a consistent agnosticism about God is also a denial that *any* knowledge is possible.

im-skeptical said...

" the moment rejection enters the picture, a judgement has been made and a logical argument for why must be presented."

Elephantist: There's a pink elephant in the room;

A-elephantist: I reject that. There's no elephant in the room.

Elephantist: The burden of proof is on you, because you're making a positive assertion.

A-elephantist: Bullshit.

Papalinton said...

"Elephantist: There's a pink elephant in the room;
A-elephantist: I reject that. There's no elephant in the room.
Elephantist: The burden of proof is on you, because you're making a positive assertion.
A-elephantist: Bullshit."


Now ain't that the truth. Now, substitute pink elephant with Ganesha, the Hindu elephant-headed god with a human body with one broken tusk, or the Christian jesus-god, or the giant water serpent of the Australian Aboriginal dreamtime, or the Hindu's multi-armed Shiva. In fact if you go to the GODCHECKER site you can get an idea of the scale of choices one can select from. Under Middle-Eastern gods there is the following list,

1st : SATAN
2nd : JESUS
3rd : YAHWEH
4th : JEHOVAH
5th : BEELZEBUB
6th : ALLAH
7th : AHURA-MAZDA
8th : BAAL
9th : AHRIMAN
10th : GOD

They're all there, all jostling for prominent position under the sun.
Burden of proof? Christians don't practice any burden of proof in rejecting outright every other god on this site but for one for which they special plead. Jews completely reject the spurious notion of any Jesus and their Abrahamic god as one and the same from the very outset. Six hundred years later, with the benefit of hindsight, Muslims also completely reject Jesus as the one and the same as the Abrahamic god, Allah. And that's just in the family of Abrahamic entities. Christians have never exercised any burden of proof in rejecting any of the thousands of gods on the Godchecker site. Ever. Period.

Burden of proof on atheists for the non-existence of gods? Sheesh! Give us a break. This sort of unwarranted deference to one particular god over another is political correctness born of lunacy.

Keith Rozumalski said...

im-skeptical said: "Elephantist: There's a pink elephant in the room;

A-elephantist: I reject that. There's no elephant in the room.

Elephantist: The burden of proof is on you, because you're making a positive assertion.

A-elephantist: Bullshit."

This is a weak analogy. First of all, the Elephantist and A-elephantist could simply look around the room and conclude that there is or isn't a pink elephant in the room, something that is impossible with God. Even if you made the pink elephant microscopic this would still be weak analogy because the A-Elephantist could validly claim that there is no good reason to think that a microscopic pink elephant is in the room because it dose nothing,explains nothing and would need an explanation for its existence. However, the atheist can not easily dismiss God, who is argued to have self-existence and to be the cause of the universe, consciousness, objective morality and fine tuning because there is good reason to think that God exists. Since there is good reason to think that God exists the atheist must explain why they are confident that he doesn't exist.

I wish that the village atheists out there would not waste our time with these inane comparisons between God and leprechauns, pink invisible unicorns, or Santa Claus. How many times do we need to explain that these comparisons don't hold?

Ilíon said...

Keith Rozumalski: "I wish that the village atheists out there would not waste our time with these inane comparisons between God and leprechauns, pink invisible unicorns, or Santa Claus. How many times do we need to explain that these comparisons don't hold?"

Yet, such do serve the purpose of demonstrating that the God-haters never were serious nor logically rigorous in their tiresome objections to God.

Consider, for instance, the famous Invisible Pink Unicorn: she is a logical impossibility, being a contradiction in terms; for 'pink' is the name for a certain band of visible light.

The point here is that the God-haters *can't* -- never could and never will -- mount a serious and logically rigorous case against God: logic belongs to God, and in rejecting God, they have rejected logic.

im-skeptical said...

"I wish that the village atheists out there would not waste our time with these inane comparisons between God and leprechauns, pink invisible unicorns, or Santa Claus."

I'm sure you do.

"How many times do we need to explain that these comparisons don't hold? "

You don't think the comparisons hold because you have a deep emotional and psychological investment in believing in your particular version of a supernatural being. Your supernatural being is special because it's the one YOU believe in.

Take Papalinton's challenge. You provide a reasonable refutation of the existence of all supernatural beings that you don't believe in, and then you'll be on more solid ground for asking me to refute yours.

Victor Reppert said...

A couple of years back I presented some arguments against Mormonism that can't be used against Christianity. So no, when I give the reasons I have for rejecting other religions, I don't give you the reason why you reject Christianity. Sorry, that's a bad argument.

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-if-evidence-were-different.html

Or as SteveK put it

I just believe in one more God than you do.... When you understand why I don't dismiss my God, you will understand why I do dismiss all the others. ;)

im-skeptical said...

"I just believe in one more God than you do.... When you understand why I don't dismiss my God, you will understand why I do dismiss all the others. ;)"

So it sounds like you assume the burden of proof. ;)

Keith Rozumalski said...

im-skeptical said: "You don't think the comparisons hold because you have a deep emotional and psychological investment in believing in your particular version of a supernatural being. Your supernatural being is special because it's the one YOU believe in."

This is the genetic fallacy, my emotional investment in a particular "supernatural being" has nothing do with whether a comparison holds. After all, someone could just as fallaciously claim that you believe that the comparisons hold because you have a vested interest in believing that God doesn't exist. The reason why the comparisons don't hold is because you are obviously trying to compare an apple to a galaxy--the two things aren't even remotely similar. That you can't see this shows me that your thinking is sloppy.

As to the many gods, one could use historical evidence to show that #2 on Papa's list is the true member of the Trinity, and then either combine, eliminate or demote other gods or created beings on the list using logic and evidence.

Papalinton said...

"A couple of years back I presented some arguments against Mormonism that can't be used against Christianity. So no, when I give the reasons I have for rejecting other religions, I don't give you the reason why you reject Christianity. Sorry, that's a bad argument."

Then why is it that following 600 years of christianity burgeoning right throughout the Middle East, with the Jesus-god front and centre of a growing 'truth'[?] Muslims picked up the same Jewish god, and while refashioning his words, absolutely rejected the Jesus package as nothing more than a Christian cultural construct. God spoke to Muhammad and told him that he did not have a son, and that Jesus was simply a human prophet, and on the basis of that divine 'truth' revelation Muslims have simply eschewed outright any familial father/son interconnection between God and Jesus. Equally Jews never at any time bought into the Christian mytheme that Jesus was the son of their Yahweh, not at any time over the 2 millennia from the day the Christ-myth was first manufactured and promulgated.

Now I say the evidence, two of the three religions claiming the exact same god, unreservedly and unequivocally repudiating any congenital parental trait of Yahweh with a Jesus, speaks volumes to the implausibility of such a claim that Jesus-god was the one and the same, factually or evidentially. This is not my musing or wishlisting. This is the cold hard facts that Muslims and Jews have known, understood and appreciated always. There ...is...no...substance...to...the...Christian...claim. Period.

When one combines this long time-held and historical factual decoupling of the spurious God/Jesus nexus by both Judaism and Islam, together with the historical fact of the panoply of imagined gods from the Godchecker list, it becomes bleedingly obvious there is no basis for the defense of any one, let alone all of the gods, known to have been created by human creativity and inventiveness. They are all products of humanity's fertile imagination, no different to and just as indisputable as the ubiquitous pink elephant is indubitably so.

As I said earlier, to expect, or more so to demand that non-christians desist from challenging what only can be described as the risible notion of the actuality of your particular stripe and colour of god, is simply political correctness gone mad.

Sheesh! Give us a break. Give. Us A. Beak!

Ape in a Cape said...

345 words, 7 ellipses, 0 arguments, and the 1 point that was allegedly addressed went completely off topic. You've either had an aposiopesis apotheosis or are just on another apostate apothegm bender (yes, that's apothegmatic).

Sheesh indeed! I'm the one who is supposed to be beating his chest Linton, but you're thumping so hard that it can only be your meds that are preventing a cardiac arrest.

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist pointing at the other ape rattling his cage. ;)

Ape.

frances said...

Victor,

Agnositicism is about what we can know. Atheism is about what we believe. A theist has a belief in a god. An atheist has no belief in a god and so is a-theist. It is not necessary for an atheist to believe that there is no god. Some do, some don't. To be an atheist it is only necessary not to believe that there is a god.

Agnnosticism strictly speaking is the view that the existence of god is unknowable. This was the meaning intended by Thoams Huxley, who coined the word. It is possible to be both an atheist and an agnostic.

Samwell Barnes said...

Mathematical objects like numbers and sets exist? Universals like "redness" exist?

Ha! What a load. I reject such woo for the same reason I reject invisible pink unicorns and Santa Claus!

What? You say that I need to make a philosophical case for the validity of this comparison, that I can't simply assume it? You also say I need to justify my belief in the nonexistence of such abstract entities? To hell with that. Science rules, philosophy is bunk!

frances said...

Samwell,

If you deny the existence of numbers, sets and universals, then then there is a burden on you.

If you do not accept their existence then there is a burden on those who claim that they do exist to justify the claim.

Syllabus said...

Elephantist: There's a pink elephant in the room;

A-elephantist: I reject that. There's no elephant in the room.

Elephantist: The burden of proof is on you, because you're making a positive assertion.

A-elephantist: Bullshit.


This kind of Moorean argument only works if the non-existence of God is something so blindingly obvious that to deny it would be to obviously depart from reality. So far, I have not seen you provide good reasons to think this is the case. If you think that it is immediately obvious that there is no such entity as God, then please, explain why it ought to be so obvious, because it isn't to me, or any of the other theists here, or indeed to the population at large.

im-skeptical said...

I think Samwell is trying to be sarcastic. He thinks it's ridiculous to deny the existence of universals, or to base your beliefs on objective evidence, or to claim that science may have some answers where philosophy doesn't.

Syllabus said...

An atheist has no belief in a god and so is a-theist. It is not necessary for an atheist to believe that there is no god.

JJ Smart disagrees.

Also, this brings us into danger of a semantic circle. I could simply be obdurate and say 'I don't believe in God, I simply lack a belief in His non-existence'. And round and round we go. If you wish to simply reduce the word 'atheism' to a statement about your personal psychology, well, you're welcome to do so, but it has bad consequences.

im-skeptical said...

Syllabus,

The point of that little exchange was to illustrate where the burden of proof lies. Nothing more.

If you look around the room, you do not see any pink elephants, unicorns, gods, nor any other kind of supernatural entities. That is the prima facie evidence. Now, if someone claims that there is indeed such an entity, and I deny it, both of us have made an assertion. But his claim is in disagreement with the prima facie evidence, not mine. He has the burden of proof.

I know you'll probably want to quibble over what constitutes prima facie evidence, so let me let me draw this comparison once again. As it appears, there are no pink elephants in the room, there are no unicorns in the room, and there are no gods in the room. If you think any of those things are present, show me, because I don't see it.

Crude said...

The burden of proof is on the a-elephantist if they say there is no elephant in the room.

The funny thing is the imaginary conversation has the a-elephantist reacting with 'bullshit!' - as if anyone, under normal circumstances, would shirk this duty.

"Okay, let's look in the room. Hey, no elephant."

Likewise, if the elephantist claims there IS an elephant in the room - they have a burden as well.

See, gents - most people are not terrified of burdens of proof when they make claims, certainly not with regards to easy claims, and usually not with difficult ones. It is the atheist who is petrified of it, and who wants to be able to both make claims, yet have zero burden of proof.

You cannot. Don't want a burden of proof? Don't make claims. Don't like it? Tough.

Crude said...

"If you look around the room, you do not see any pink elephants, unicorns, gods, nor any other kind of supernatural entities. That is the prima facie evidence."

Quit playing dumb - this is a little like saying that the number 4 doesn't exist because you don't see it in the room either. If your reply is 'but the number 4 isn't the sort of thing you'd expect to see in a room!', then congratulations - you now understand why your 'prima facie evidence', ain't.

And regardless, the moment you make a claim, you need to support it. Feel free to cite 'I don't see god in the room!' as evidence for your claim. Gosh, I wonder if the theists will have any response to that?

Syllabus said...

If you look around the room, you do not see any pink elephants, unicorns, gods, nor any other kind of supernatural entities. That is the prima facie evidence.

For the first two, it is, sure. But the problem is whether or not the prima facie evidence that I do not see gods - or God - constitutes prima facie evidence against their - or His - existence. A parallel argument could be devised using muons, the Andromeda galaxy, or the Hagia Sophia. And you would rightly reject that. So the point is, we need to decide beforehand what does or does not count as prima facie evidence against any particular thing.

Now, if someone claims that there is indeed such an entity, and I deny it, both of us have made an assertion. But his claim is in disagreement with the prima facie evidence, not mine. He has the burden of proof.

See above.

I know you'll probably want to quibble over what constitutes prima facie evidence,

Not precisely - the question is not about prima facie evidence in general, but about what constitutes prima facie evidence against any particular thing or class of things. Once such things have been decided, we can determine whether you are grouping the examples you have used together in a proper taxonomy. I fully endorse what Crude said on the subject (though, considering our relative histories with you, perhaps with somewhat less animus than he used). God or gods - there is, your quaint misuse of the English language to the contrary, a difference - are not necessarily the kind of things you could expect the same kind of evidence for (or even the same type of thing in the first place) as a pink elephant or a unicorn.

Samwell Barnes said...

frances,

My comment was directed at the bilge about invisible pink animals.

As is the case with the existence of numbers, sets, universals, possible worlds, essences, and so on, the existence of God has been and is a philosophical question, a question of similar and sufficient complexity such that it doesn't warrant dismissive treatment by fantastically idiotic comparisons to leprechauns, pixies, teapots, Zeus, etc.

At its core, it's not even a religious question (so there goes that inane "One god further" objection). You can be as anti-religious as you want and yet, in the vein of Jefferson, Voltaire, and Paine, still incorporate some sort of God into your ontological inventory, just as you would with numbers, sets, possible worlds, and universals.

"If you deny the existence of numbers, sets and universals, then then there is a burden on you."

Agreed, although I tend to avoid all this unsightly talk about "burdens." Bottom line: If you make a claim, one way or another, about the nature of reality, you need to justify it.

And so let me add something else to your list:

"If you claim that God is comparable to leprechauns, Santa Claus, 'invisible' pink animals, and so forth, then there IS a burden on you to justify the claim."


"If you do not accept their existence then there is a burden on those who claim that they do exist to justify the claim."

"Not accepting" is too vague a criterion, since it's compatible both with withholding judgment about ontological status and with judging something to be nonexistent. If you mean the former, then we're in agreement. If the latter, then both sides have a "burden."



Papalinton said...

The quibble over the existence of gods is not a scientific question, not because it is the wrong methodology to determine such, but because there is no scientific evidence for it, though like all propositions extant the door remains open [science being largely a formative process rather than a summative process]. Neither is the quibble a philosophical question because philosophy is ostensibly about process, the use of logic to effect synergy between the relationship of initial premise with each of the elemental constituents introduced in support. However, as with all philosophical exercises, ironically, there are as many philosophical arguments for as there are against the existence of gods. The cogency and logic of any philosophical argument sheds little light on the evidence for or against the existence of gods. Philosophy is a DMZ [for the militarily uninitiated, a De-Militerized Zone], a no-go dead zone in which no movement advances the cause for either side. But neither is the existence of gods a theological question because all theology relies on the assumption of their existence for its own existence. No gods, no theology. Period.

However, as recent advances in anthropology, sociology, the neurosciences, etc gather the various strands of their respective areas of research, a consistent and substantively robust explanatory narrative is emerging. It is becoming increasingly and irrefutably clear that religion and humanity's expressions of gods served as a socio-psychological linch-pin, a metaphor for stability and order filling the existential void and need for a start-point, in the absence of knowledge, for explaining why there is something rather than nothing. And as this fundamental psychological imperative of humanity has found expression in such a vast array of conceptions of gods, deities, together with concomitant supernatural environments in which these [putative] live non-human entities reside, each expression reflecting a superlative hand-in-glove fit with the characteristics of the communities from which they were conceived, it is without doubt ultimately a question within the purview of culture Religious expression is a cultural expression. No more no less.

Today, we know that religious belief systems are wholly derivative of the cultural systems from which they were spawned. So the quibble over the existence or non-existence of gods is but a feature of the culture wars. The belief or disbelief in gods is an expression of the contemporary culture wars over whether the community is best served by the continued reliance on doxa [common belief or popular opinion] and pistis [faith, trust] as the appropriate operant paradigm for growing our knowledge and understanding of the human condition and improving humanity's well-being going forward, or is the community best served by seeking knowledge and understanding through episteme [knowledge, as in "justified true belief", in contrast to doxa, common belief or opinion, and pistis, submissive and obsequious reliance on faith and trust in the orthodoxy of tradition]. Science is the fundamental methodological enquiry underpinning episteme.
We are in the midst of the culture wars. No longer are communities satisfied with the old, weary and trite theological and theo-philosophical explanations of a past mindset. Religion must put itself on an epistemically sustainable footing or continue its slide into disuse as a function of cultural significance..

frances said...

Syllabus,

I don't agree with J. J. Smart (but thank you for the link).

If you don't believe in God but simply lack a belief in his non-existence, I have no quarrel with that. It doesn't lead to a semantic circle (or at least it doesn't lead me into one).

frances said...

Samwell,

I don't think the claim is that God is comparable to leprechauns etc. The claim is that the burden of proof is the same. The response uses a simple case to illustrate how the burden of proof works but I don't think that that makes it invalid. We all try to use simpler illustrations to make a point about a more complex situation (don't we?)

The type of evidence you would (try to) use to prove the existence of leprechauns and so on is very different from the type of evidence you would (try to) use to prove God's existence but that has no bearing on whose job it is to produce the evidence.

Jim S. said...

I wrote a few posts on this on Quodlibeta:

I find your lack of belief disturbing
Proof positive
Defining ignorance

frances said...

Jim,

Your posts give rise to several issues.

1. I think most of us will recognise what you say about hearing a proposition and reacting by placing on a spectrum of belief. But that, I would suggest, has more to do with psychology than philosophy. When engaging in a philosophical discussion we are rightly more concerned with what statements we are able to support by reasoned argument than we are with the "feelings" we have about them.
2. You appear to attach great importance to the question of whether someone is an atheist or an agnostic (on your definitions). Why is it important? If every single internet atheist alive were to post tomorrow saying "I no longer define myself as an atheist. I now consider myself to be agnostic. My actual beliefs remain exactly the same" how would that change your approach to apologetics (if at all)?
3. You have often asked others to explain the difference between "belief", "no belief", "lacking in belief". But you err in treating these as if they are all discrete technical terms which can be precisely defined. Whether someone disbelieves P, lacks belief in P or believes P to be untrue is a nuanced question where there is likely to be a considerable area of overlap
4. I agree that where you have never considered a proposition then you will "lack belief" about it. I don't agree that the phrase must be confined to those circumstances. If you hear that victims of child abuse often fail to report their abusers because of a lack of belief in the ability of the police to protect them, doesn't that convey a meaningful idea? And I don't think it could mean that they haven't applied their minds to it.
5. You say that we have reason to disbelieve (e.g.) Russell's teapot because it is obviously ad hoc. But why should we disbelieve something which is ad hoc? isn't it simply because it is inevitably an assertion which is unsupported by any evidence? the complete lack of evidence is just more obvious in that case than in the case of older myths, but the principle at work is the same.
6. "Fairies exist" and "Ghosts exist" are not ad hoc in the above sense. Do you believe in fairies or ghosts? Who has the burden of proof? If you were required to disprove the existence of either, how would you go about it?

Syllabus said...

[Y]ou err in treating these as if they are all discrete technical terms which can be precisely defined. Whether someone disbelieves P, lacks belief in P or believes P to be untrue is a nuanced question where there is likely to be a considerable area of overlap.

This seems artificial. There are overlaps in the sense that someone may hold these positions simultaneously without logical inconsistency. But they are, as far as they make reference to psychological states, well-definable, it seems to me. For instance, 'lacking a belief in P' means that person P' has a psychological state such that it is not true of P' that he or she has a belief that P is true. "P' disbelieves in P" is either, depending upon how you define it, coterminous with "P' lacks belief in P" or with "P' believes P to be untrue". And "P' believe P to be untrue" is entirely well definable: there is some person P' such that P' possesses some belief Q which is logically equivalent to ~P. This obviously entails that P' lacks belief in the truth of P, but this is merely trivially true. So I'm not sure that the overlap you speak of is in any way meaningful.

6. "Fairies exist" and "Ghosts exist" are not ad hoc in the above sense. Do you believe in fairies or ghosts? Who has the burden of proof? If you were required to disprove the existence of either, how would you go about it?

This comes back to what you think ghosts and fairies to be. Are they physical entities, composed of proteins and tibiae and carbon atoms, or are they magical or, alternatively, supernatural entities (it doesn't seem to me that supernatural and magical are necessarily co-extensive). If you think that a fae is simply a winged humanoid entity, you could potentially do some physical calculations and come to the conclusion that they couldn't generate enough lift force to propel them through the air. With ghosts, I admit, it is somewhat less clear how one would go about doing that, but that would largely depend, again, upon how we are defining these entities. What counts as confirming or disconfirming evidence for an entity or hypothesis can be assessed if and only if there has been a precise definition of the
entity or hypothesis in question - especially if we otherwise don't know whether we're talking about things which can, in principle, be empirically discovered or verified.

Crude said...

2. You appear to attach great importance to the question of whether someone is an atheist or an agnostic (on your definitions). Why is it important? If every single internet atheist alive were to post tomorrow saying "I no longer define myself as an atheist. I now consider myself to be agnostic. My actual beliefs remain exactly the same" how would that change your approach to apologetics (if at all)?

So long as they were consistent in their agnosticism, it would constitute a large-scale retreat from a wide variety of claims.

3. You have often asked others to explain the difference between "belief", "no belief", "lacking in belief". But you err in treating these as if they are all discrete technical terms which can be precisely defined.

For our purposes, they can be. And it's that 'precise definition' which Cult of Gnu members rely on when they state it, because the whole point for them is to try to find a way to avoid a proof burden. Saying 'Well these are hard to define' would just mean 'Whether they have a proof burden is up in the air pending further defining'.

6. "Fairies exist" and "Ghosts exist" are not ad hoc in the above sense. Do you believe in fairies or ghosts? Who has the burden of proof? If you were required to disprove the existence of either, how would you go about it?

The person who is making a claim has a burden of proof. Always.

So if I say 'ghosts don't exist', yep, I have a burden of proof. I'll have to define what I mean by 'ghosts', and give my arguments and evidence, not to mention my scope.

If I cannot amply support my claim that 'ghosts don't exist', then I should sacrifice the claim. You seem to be saying that this is some terrible state of affairs. Why?

frances said...

Syllabus,

I'm afraid that I couldn't make head nor tail of what you were saying about belief/disbelief. Perhaps it would have been a little less impenetrable if you had not used P' to stand for the person and P for the belief (with the resulting strain to the eyes of at least this reader as I tried to follow your definitions through).

One of your "definitions" includes the phrase "depending on how you define it" which is an odd way to define anything, let alone something which is "well-definable".

I raised the issue because I thought that it could not be helpful to demand a definition of words which are not terms of art but are common currency within the language. Having read what you have to say, I am more than ever persuaded that this approach is the opposite of helpful. But if you think that it is the way forward, perhaps you could draft your response in terms that are a little easier to follow and also explain why it is helpful to have these definitions in relation to the substantive question of the burden of proof.

This comes back to what you think ghosts and fairies to be.

Really? You don't know what ghosts and fairies are? I think you do. Once again, you are looking for technical definitions of ordinary words for the purpose of having a philosophical discussion. This is a mistake. If Tinkerbell manifested herself right now in front of you, that's a fairy, whether she's made of light, carbon or some other substance unknown to the natural world. How does defining "fairies" by reference to a bunch of criteria that nobody ever thinks of when they talk about them help to find out how you would refute their existence? And good luck with that "not enough lift to fly" gambit, when obviously the answer is that fairies use their magic to fly.*

But you have not addressed the prior point which is: do you need to prove that fairies don't exist before you can dismiss any claim that they do as fanciful?

* I ought not to have to explain this, but given my experiences on this site, I suppose I better had. I do not (repeat NOT) believe in fairies. I am just illustrating my point by referring to how someone who does believe in them would reply.

Crude said...

This is a mistake. If Tinkerbell manifested herself right now in front of you, that's a fairy, whether she's made of light, carbon or some other substance unknown to the natural world.

Then fairies do exist, trivially. They're in books, TV shows, cartoons, movies and at Disney World. Animatronics.

How does defining "fairies" by reference to a bunch of criteria that nobody ever thinks of when they talk about them help to find out how you would refute their existence?

You're asking someone how defining their terms helps explain arguments for or against their existence?

But you have not addressed the prior point which is: do you need to prove that fairies don't exist before you can dismiss any claim that they do as fanciful?

'Dismissing any claim that they do as fanciful' would be an assertion, so you have a burden of proof when you make the assertion. How hard is that? Are you saying you can't meet the burden?

Are you saying you can, but it's annoying and you'd like to get out of it? If so, how sympathetic should anyone be to this complaint?

And good luck with that "not enough lift to fly" gambit, when obviously the answer is that fairies use their magic to fly.*

I'd ask what magic is. Last I checked, it sounded an awful lot like certain strains of naturalism.

I do not (repeat NOT) believe in fairies. I am just illustrating my point by referring to how someone who does believe in them would reply.

So someone who believes fairies exist would get upset when you ask them what the heck they mean and to define what they're even talking about?

If someone told me fairies existed, I'd ask* them what they meant and go along from there.

If someone told me fairies did not exist, I'd ask* them what they meant and go along from there.

Both individuals would be making claims. Both would have a burden. If they couldn't reasonably define what they were talking about, if they refused to give any arguments, they wouldn't get off the ground to begin with - and, only considering those interactions alone, it would be proper for me to have no view about it. Not "Well those things don't exist" or "Well those things do exist" but "There's nothing to consider there right now".

(* Assuming I gave a shit and cared to interact with them.)

This isn't all that hard, Frances, nor is what's being suggested here all that crazy. "If you make a claim, you have a burden." Yes, even if you claim something you think is obvious. Yes, even if you think you are arguing against something crazy and ludicrous. Your intellectual burden does not magically go away.

Syllabus said...

But if you think that it is the way forward, perhaps you could draft your response in terms that are a little easier to follow and also explain why it is helpful to have these definitions in relation to the substantive question of the burden of proof.

Fine. "Lacking belief in P" means that some person doesn't have a belief in the truth of P, assuming P is a proposition. "Believes P to be untrue" means that some person has a belief that P is false. I was under the impression that exhaustive definitions were to be desired, but whatever. Is that sufficiently simple for you?

Really? You don't know what ghosts and fairies are? I think you do.

I have a definition which I use, yes. The thing is, it's entirely possible to define faeries in such a way that they're simply naturally occurring parts of the natural world. So we would need to get that out of the way to start with.

How does defining "fairies" by reference to a bunch of criteria that nobody ever thinks of when they talk about them help to find out how you would refute their existence?

Because what a fae is will determine what will prove that it doesn't exist. I would think this is obvious.

And good luck with that "not enough lift to fly" gambit, when obviously the answer is that fairies use their magic to fly.

If we're defining faeries as magical entities, yes, sure. That's precisely why I raised the question of how we're defining these terms.

If you're going to engage in philosophical discussions, the first thing you need to do is define your terms. That's what I was aiming at. If you're definition is 'you know it when you see it', well, that's admirably commonsensical of you, but we couldn't then construct any sort of thought or actual experiment to see whether we could prove or disprove that.

But you have not addressed the prior point which is: do you need to prove that fairies don't exist before you can dismiss any claim that they do as fanciful?

You certainly need to know what the fuck a faerie is before you can dismiss it as a fanciful claim. You can have some sort of vague image of what a faerie is, but that's not rigorous enough to be able to construct an experiment or a logical argument.

And whether or not you can dismiss it as fanciful depends upon your background information. If you're talking about the idea being simply being self-contradictory, that constitutes a proof of its non-existence and the point is therefore moot. If you want to say that their existence is just utterly improbable, then that depends upon your background information.

Yes, yes, I know, you're going to go all incredulous on me. But simply being incredulous about ill-defined concepts doesn't cut it as any sort of argument.

So to answer your question directly: no, not necessarily. But you do have to define the damned term before you can dismiss its existence or not.

But this is a rabbit trail. If you're claiming that the existence of God is as ridiculous as the existence of faeries, well, you're welcome to assert that. But in order for the claim to be taken seriously, you need to demonstrate a good deal of analogy between the two which goes beyond the trivial. Otherwise, you're just making a caricature.

frances said...

So long as they were consistent in their agnosticism, it would constitute a large-scale retreat from a wide variety of claims.
The point was that their actual beliefs would stay the same. Nomenclature seems important to you, why is that?

Saying 'Well these are hard to define' would just mean 'Whether they have a proof burden is up in the air pending further defining'.
I never said that they were hard to define. I said that treating them as highly technical terms, each with its own exact and discrete meaning was a mistake. As with most words, there is an element of imprecision and overlap, which is actually useful in normal communication. Philosophy is not something wholly apart from normal communication. There is nothing to be gained by ghettoising philosophical conversations through defining the concepts out of any recognisable relation to how they are generally used.

If I cannot amply support my claim that 'ghosts don't exist', then I should sacrifice the claim. You seem to be saying that this is some terrible state of affairs. Why?
Not terrible, Crude. Just mistaken. See here for why:
http://counterapologistblog.wordpress.com

Ilíon said...

"Nomenclature seems important to you, why is that?"

Fuzzy thinking about fuzzily defined entities and concepts seems important to you. Why is that?

Papalinton said...

"Comment: Saying 'Well these are hard to define' would just mean 'Whether they have a proof burden is up in the air pending further defining'.
Frances's response: I never said that they were hard to define. I said that treating them as highly technical terms, each with its own exact and discrete meaning was a mistake. As with most words, there is an element of imprecision and overlap, which is actually useful in normal communication. Philosophy is not something wholly apart from normal communication. There is nothing to be gained by ghettoising philosophical conversations through defining the concepts out of any recognisable relation to how they are generally used."


Terrific observation. Particularly the theists' definition of and how they use the term,'naturalism'. It is so contrived as to be ghettoed into nonsense-speak.

Theists' use of the term is sooo ...... well, unnatural. THIS Stanford entry perhaps best represents 'naturalism' as is generally understood. In its broadest sense naturalists see no place for anything unnatural in their POV. Ontologically, naturalism is generally concerned "with the contents of reality, asserting that reality has no place for ‘supernatural’ or other ‘spooky’ kinds of entity."

Setting aside philosophy for a moment, one is either a naturalist or an unnaturalist. ;o)

Syllabus said...

I said that treating them as highly technical terms, each with its own exact and discrete meaning was a mistake.

It's a mistake to treat terms being used in a philosophical discussion as having precise definitions and meanings? Man, Russell must piss you off.

As with most words, there is an element of imprecision and overlap, which is actually useful in normal communication.
Philosophy is not something wholly apart from normal communication.


No, but neither is it totally identifiable with normal communication. A good definition of a faerie is not "If Tinkerbell popped into existence in front of your eyes, that's a faerie". Nor is one which simply relies upon common opinions which are not explicitly stated.

There is nothing to be gained by ghettoising philosophical conversations through defining the concepts out of any recognisable relation to how they are generally used.

This is confused. "Bearing no recognizable recognition to the usually used term" is not the same thing as "being more detailed than the usually recognizable term". To use an analogy, if I began to talk about how electron orbits as such don't actually exist how people think they do - the path a discrete particle takes - but rather exist as a probability distribution, such talk is warranted if I'm speaking in a technical context. In usual conversation, it might have the result of confusing some people, but levelling the accusation of 'confusing things unnecessarily' is bemusing, if not risible.

But you're getting overly caught up on the wrong part of the analogy. The important part is not that of the faeries, but rather of the analogy's applicability to the existence of God. If you want to say that God doesn't exist, and you expect to be taken seriously, then you need to provide a good definition thereof, and not belabor your interlocutor when he or she insists on one.

Crude said...

The point was that their actual beliefs would stay the same. Nomenclature seems important to you, why is that?

Because it's part of rhetoric, and rhetoric matters. I think you'd even find that calling one thing by another will alter some people's actual beliefs in time.

I never said that they were hard to define.

"But you err in treating these as if they are all discrete technical terms which can be precisely defined."

I think saying 'hard to define' is quite a reasonable summary of your reply to me.

As with most words, there is an element of imprecision and overlap, which is actually useful in normal communication. Philosophy is not something wholly apart from normal communication. There is nothing to be gained by ghettoising philosophical conversations through defining the concepts out of any recognisable relation to how they are generally used.

If 'how they are generally used' is extraordinarily vague and imprecise, then this is going to have some obvious ramifications once we start to evaluate the claims intellectually. I think your attempts to resist what amounts to 'defining what is meant by a (fairy, ghost, etc)' as somehow a pointless distraction from the important task of evaluating their intellectual coherency or the reasonableness of believing in them, etc, is ridiculous. It's as if you want to keep terms as vague as possible so you can argue against strawmen.

There is no intellectual shortcut here, and there is no evading the burden of proof once a claim is made. You'd be better off arguing that burdens of proof only matter when trying to convince someone else of a claim, and aren't necessary to believe in something's existence/non-existence yourself. Walk that road if you wish.

Not terrible, Crude. Just mistaken. See here for why:

All I see is a tortured series of arguments and assertions that have been knocked down one by one, some of which you've been poorly presenting in this very thread. About the only thing you haven't brought up yet is the quick, sloppy, barely defended Occam's Razor appeal, which is only going to serve to harm him. First order of business is going to be realizing that his talk about the razor is, in fact, just another claim that itself comes with a burden.

Stop looking for intellectual shortcuts to evade the burden of proof. Again - don't you find it at all worrying that modern atheism is in a state of perpetual fear of and retreat from burdens of proof? That so much virtual ink is spilled trying to find some way to both make claims yet never have to make a claim?

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

"Again - don't you find it at all worrying that modern atheism is in a state of perpetual fear of and retreat from burdens of proof? "

Hardly. Atheism works from first principles, the negative need not be proved; it must be assumed. It is not the case that atheists deny the existence of gods, at least on the theme of unnatural entities, or the more prosaically baleful, supernatural entities that go bump in the night. Atheism denies the claims of theists that "Gods exist". It is just too much of a stretch that even the purportedly good god condemns all to eternal agony, apparently resorting to fire and brimstone, the idiomatic expression of His wrath when He's pissed, if they don't capitulate to his demands.

Surely, one can appreciate why it is that atheists simply won't buy the hollow sound of rhetoric. That sound is little other than the din of an empty vessel, 'tinny'.

frances said...

Syllabus,
I don't disagree with the definitions you suggest for "lacking belief" and "believes untrue". I note that there would be overlap (which I don't see as a bad thing). But I don't see how the discussion about the BoP is assisted at all. Why did Jim want to make it a pre-condition of any discussion that his opponent should define terms which are in common use? Perhaps you think that the answer lies in your comments on defining "fairies" so I will move on to that.

You do not need to define your terms before you can begin any philosophical discussion unless the terms are inherently ambiguous or there is real room for misunderstanding.
When you say "what a fae is will determine what will prove that it doesn't exist" and "it's entirely possible to define faeries in such a way that they're simply naturally occurring parts of the natural world" you appear to be confusing essential properties with accidental properties. Before we can decide what accidental properties fairies have, we have to have agreement on what they are essentially. We don't have to cobble together a precise definition of the word "fairy" to know that we have this agreemeent. Definitions usually can only attempt to reflect usage. Provided we both use the word without anything coming up to indicate that we are at cross-purposes, than the default position is that we both understand the word.

If it were necessary to define fairies in terms of whether they are "magical entities" or "carbon based life-forms", it would be just as necessary to define "magical" and "entities" and "carbon" and "based" and "life-forms". After all, this is a philosophical discussion, right? We can't possibly just assume that we understand any of those words. And what about the terms we use to define those words? Hadn't we better define them too? And so you are caught up in an infinite regress of definitions.

In his critique of Locke's theory about abstractions, Berkley said:
Is it not a hard thing to imagine that a couple of children cannot prate together of their sugar-plums and rattles and the rest of their little trinkets, till they have first tacked together numberless inconsistencies, and so framed in their minds abstract general ideas, and annexed them to every common name they make use of?
And I find it a hard thing to imagine that two people cannot have a sensible discussion about fairies (now there's a phrase I never thought I'd write) until they have agreed every possible permutation of their supposed existence, attributes, physical constitution and innumerable other trivia.

If you're claiming that the existence of God is as ridiculous as the existence of faeries, well, you're welcome to assert that But in order for the claim to be taken seriously, you need to demonstrate a good deal of analogy between the two which goes beyond the trivial.

This is a strawman. What I have said is that the claim that God exists is of the same type as the claim that fairies exist, so it attracts the same BoP. Just like the claim "X drove his car without due care and attention" is the same type of claim as "X raped a child". It doesn't mean that driving without due care and attention is like child-rape. It just means that the same burden and standard of proof are applicable to both.

Anyway, I note that you consider the existence of fairies to be ridiculous. So do I. Did you need to disprove their existence to yourself before you were able to consider it ridiculous? Or was it obvious to you that it was ridiculous, just from the lack of any credible evidence to support it?

frances said...

Crude,

"But you err in treating these as if they are all discrete technical terms which can be precisely defined."
I think saying 'hard to define' is quite a reasonable summary of your reply to me.


It wasn't to you, was it? Unless Jim is your alter ego. But whatever, saying that words are not precise technical terms is not the same as saying they are hard to define.

It is not me who is avoiding "the important task of evaluating [ghosts'/fairies'] intellectual coherency or the reasonableness of believing in them". It is those who are insisting that we can't have that conversation until we have an agreed definition.

A good rule in philosophical debate, Crude, is "show, don't tell". You think my arguments are sloppy and have been knocked down. So what? Who cares what you think? Demonstrate that they are sloppy and knock 'em down again. I think your approach to philosophy is characterised by your chosen name on this site. So what? Who cares what I think? I have to demonstrate that that is so. Whether or not I succeed is for others to judge and whether or not I care about their judgment will depend on the opinion I have formed about their intelligence and philosophical skills.

frances said...

Ilion,

Fuzzy thinking about fuzzily defined entities and concepts seems important to you. Why is that?

You haven't demonstrated that my thinking is fuzzy. Language is generally somewhat fuzzy. Recognising that fact is evidence of clear, not fuzzy thinking.

frances said...

incidentally Crude, you misunderstand Occam's razor. It is not a factual claim, so carries no BoP. It is an approach.

Crude said...

Frances,

It wasn't to you, was it? Unless Jim is your alter ego.

You're in a public comment section. You're really going to cry 'foul' because I commented on something you said but not to me specifically? C'mon.

But whatever, saying that words are not precise technical terms is not the same as saying they are hard to define.

I think the context speaks otherwise. Run to whatever interpretation you wish - it doesn't affect my points.

It is not me who is avoiding "the important task of evaluating [ghosts'/fairies'] intellectual coherency or the reasonableness of believing in them". It is those who are insisting that we can't have that conversation until we have an agreed definition.

Frances, you are the one who is fighting tooth and nail against the idea that we have to define what we're talking about in order to reasonably discuss claims about them. You're also the one who is exemplifying what I've said about modern atheism: they are in perpetual retreat from even attempting to meet any burdens of proof, and spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to find ways to both make claims yet have no burden. It doesn't work.

Make a claim, get a burden.

A good rule in philosophical debate, Crude, is "show, don't tell".

I've both shown and told. I've pointed out the flaws in your reasoning, I've pointed out the mistakes you've made, I've pointed out the unfortunate patterns in your thinking. I don't need to quote myself to this effect when I say it - anyone can see it by reading the thread. You may not admit it - but as you'd say, what do I care what you admit?

Incidentally Crude, you misunderstand Occam's razor. It is not a factual claim, so carries no BoP. It is an approach.

Whether or not God's existence violates the razor is a claim, Frances. You realize that the razor is not only about having the simplest idea, right? Whether or not God or gods are being categorized right in the evaluation is also a claim (I regard 'supernatural' / 'natural' talk as largely empty, so that doesn't get off the ground for me, nor do I think it should for most people.) Whether or not one view versus another is the simpler one is also not always clear (see multiverse arguments.)

So no, it looks like you misunderstand Occam's Razor, and likely your linked site's owner has the same failing.

By the way: another 'good rule of philosophical debate'? Try to avoid saying, "You're wrong, because here's a website link." It usually indicates someone is out of their league.

Crude said...

Anyway, I note that you consider the existence of fairies to be ridiculous. So do I. Did you need to disprove their existence to yourself before you were able to consider it ridiculous? Or was it obvious to you that it was ridiculous, just from the lack of any credible evidence to support it?

And here, you're confusing personal incredulity with intellectual warrant. Plenty of people find evolutionary claims to be ridiculous. But that bare reaction - 'I find the whole thing to be absurd' - is not intellectual warrant for the claim that evolutionary theory is ridiculous. The moment the claim that their intuition or subjective feeling on the matter is, in fact, the case - they have a burden. And part of meeting that burden is going to involve defining what evolution is - at which point they may (or may not) find out that evolution isn't what they originally took it to be.

At the same time, you're talking about 'the lack of any credible evidence to support it'. That's another claim that some people who deny evolution make - and at that point it becomes clear that A) they may not even have an idea of what would or wouldn't constitute 'credible evidence', or B) even if they have an idea, they may not be aware of said evidence. This comes up with fairies as well.

Your move now seems to be to complain that if we need to define what it is we're talking about, then we have to define each and every minute detail we're discussing about for the conversation to continue. No one has said that's necessary, and there's an obvious reason why: because both parties can recognize the details they have left out, and thus their blind spots and the limitations of their arguments and claims as a result. The problem here isn't the risk of not being perfectly thorough in discussion - it's the risk of not being perfectly thorough, yet acting and believing as if we were.

You already yelled 'strawman!' in this discussion. One of the reasons people talk about 'strawmen' is because it's a case of an argument or claim being refuted or otherwise represented that's ultimately an inaccurate representation. It nicely illustrates the intellectual problems (at least when the strawmen is unintentional) of arguing against an idea that is poorly defined from the outset.

frances said...

Crude,

you are the one who is fighting tooth and nail against the idea that we have to define what we're talking about in order to reasonably discuss claims about them.

You have a funny notion of "tooth and nail". And a funny notion of "fighting" come to that. I have challenged the idea, which was put forward by Syllabus, that starting every philosophical conversation with a definition is at all helpful. Whether that challenge has been satisfactorily met I will leave to others to determine. But it is interesting to note that those who seem to think definition is so important have not actually put one forward themselves. Syllabus put forward some ideas of how we might define fairies (but they were all absurdly reliant on accidental properties and anyway, s/he never actually said which, if any of them, s/he adopted as his/her own). You would have thought that if people were so wedded to the claim that definition was the sine qua non of philosophical discussion, they might have been prepared to nail their colours to the mast and actually give their own definition.

anyone can see it by reading the thread.

It depends on their abilities, doesn't it? But I agree that there is enough on the thread to enable the perceptive reader to see which of us has provided a reasoned argument for their position.

Try to avoid saying, "You're wrong, because here's a website link."
I entirely agree that during any debate you should not rely on a third party to prove your own points or refute your opponent's. It is a lazy and unproductive way of arguing. But Crude, I am Counteraplogist, the blog site owner! I really didn't think that anyone could fail to realise it! I wanted to post about it on my own blog as well as deal with it here, and the easiest way was to do so by a link to my blog. Did it not occur to you that if the atheist writer of that blog specifically mentioned this thread on DI that they were likely to be posting on it? And that of the limited number of atheists posting on the thread, since I linked to it, I was the most likely candidate?

Whether or not God's existence violates the razor is a claim
It certainly is. Well, I would want to tighten that up a bit by re-drafting it as "whether a claim that God exists violates the razor [etc]" but I understand (now) what you are trying to say. I didn't understand what you were talking about before, because it didn't occur to me that you would not have realised that I was the author of the blog, so I thought the male pronoun could only refer to Occam himself. I think once the razor is understood, it is self-evident that the claim "God exists" absent some credible evidence in support of it falls foul of it. You might as well say that I need to prove why P & ~P would breach the law of non contradiction. If someone can't see that for themselves, then I doubt that anything anyone could say would help them understand.

If we need to define what it is we're talking about, then we have to define each and every minute detail we're discussing about for the conversation to continue

Suggest you take this up with Syllabus. It was his/her claim that philosophical conversations could not begin without a definition of terms and I simply pointed out where the logic of that led. If we can't start with an assumption that we both understand the word "fairy" because we understand English, then there is no earthly reason for us to assume that we both understand the word "entity" or "magical" or any other term used by way of definition either.

I did point out the straw man of confusing the burden of proof with the thing which was was the subject of BoP claim, but that has nothing to do with defining stuff. Do you really think that every straw man fallacy (or any other fallacy) can be avoided by defining terms? If you don't, it's just a red herring.

Syllabus said...

I don't disagree with the definitions you suggest for "lacking belief" and "believes untrue". I note that there would be overlap (which I don't see as a bad thing). But I don't see how the discussion about the BoP is assisted at all. Why did Jim want to make it a pre-condition of any discussion that his opponent should define terms which are in common use?

Because otherwise we get the entire fucking rigmarole where atheists use faith to mean 'belief without evidence' which no Christian before Kierkegaard and even few today (and certainly none of the theists here) would agree to, and the theists use it to mean 'strong trust or confidence'. Which is the better definition from a strictly etymological point of view. Or equivocation on what 'proof' or 'evidence' means. And so on.

This is a strawman. What I have said is that the claim that God exists is of the same type as the claim that fairies exist, so it attracts the same BoP. Just like the claim "X drove his car without due care and attention" is the same type of claim as "X raped a child". It doesn't mean that driving without due care and attention is like child-rape. It just means that the same burden and standard of proof are applicable to both.

Notice the conditional. Claims made about a conditional, which I acknowledge implicitly may not be true, are not exactly "strawmanning". It is at worst a misunderstanding.

Re: types of claim: if that's what you mean, then why juxtapose it against something like faeries? All that does is potentially poison the well. But whatever. Trivially, it is the same kind of claim as claiming that faeries exist. It's also the same type of claim ass claiming that muons, singularities, or platonic forms exist. So what?

When you say "what a fae is will determine what will prove that it doesn't exist" and "it's entirely possible to define faeries in such a way that they're simply naturally occurring parts of the natural world" you appear to be confusing essential properties with accidental properties. Before we can decide what accidental properties fairies have, we have to have agreement on what they are essentially. We don't have to cobble together a precise definition of the word "fairy" to know that we have this agreemeent. Definitions usually can only attempt to reflect usage. Provided we both use the word without anything coming up to indicate that we are at cross-purposes, than the default position is that we both understand the word

This is my entire bloody point: we have to agree on what a faerie is, whether it be essentially or accidentally. We can't know we have this agreement until we have given a discussion about what the essential nature of a faerie would be. "I know it when I see it" is not sufficient.

If it were necessary to define fairies in terms of whether they are "magical entities" or "carbon based life-forms", it would be just as necessary to define "magical" and "entities" and "carbon" and "based" and "life-forms". After all, this is a philosophical discussion, right? We can't possibly just assume that we understand any of those words. And what about the terms we use to define those words? Hadn't we better define them too? And so you are caught up in an infinite regress of definitions.

What a cutesy attempt at a reductio. Doesn't work. The existence of these things are not in question. The existence of faeries is. When we are in a philosophical discussion, the important, contentious terms ought to be defined. These terms will make reference to other terms, yes, but those terms are not in question, and are not being discussed in the first place. If we were having a discussion about carbon, then yes, we'd need to define it. Ditto entities, life forms, and so on. But we aren't.

Syllabus said...


And I find it a hard thing to imagine that two people cannot have a sensible discussion about fairies (now there's a phrase I never thought I'd write) until they have agreed every possible permutation of their supposed existence, attributes, physical constitution and innumerable other trivia.

You're missing the point. If you want to say that such and such a thing does not exist then you have to provide a definition of the damned thing in the first place. This isn't the Supreme Court. You can't get away with defining something by 'I know it when I see it'. You want to say that faeries don't exist, or that God doesn't exist? Fine. Define the terms.


Anyway, I note that you consider the existence of fairies to be ridiculous. So do I. Did you need to disprove their existence to yourself before you were able to consider it ridiculous? Or was it obvious to you that it was ridiculous, just from the lack of any credible evidence to support it?

No, this is incorrect. I did not say I consider the idea that faeries exist to be ridiculous. My words were: But this is a rabbit trail. If you're claiming that the existence of God is as ridiculous as the existence of faeries, well, you're welcome to assert that. It's a statement about your psychology, not mine. Try and keep up.

And I sure as shooting had to know what a faerie is before I can decide whether or not it exists. As for credible evidence, I frankly haven't looked into it at all. I'd suspect, certainly, that supposed empirical demonstrations of their existence are going to be bad, but is there a history 2300 years long of people offering numerous philosophical arguments and different types of philosophical arguments for the existence of faeries? Because I'd sure as hell like to know about that, if it's so. If I am presented with that history, then I'll give it a look. From my (admittedly amateur) knowledge of philosophy, I'm inclined to think that there is no such history. But there is when it comes to the question of the Deity, so there's a strong disanalogy.

Crude said...

Frances,

Syllabus put forward some ideas of how we might define fairies (but they were all absurdly reliant on accidental properties and anyway, s/he never actually said which, if any of them, s/he adopted as his/her own). You would have thought that if people were so wedded to the claim that definition was the sine qua non of philosophical discussion, they might have been prepared to nail their colours to the mast and actually give their own definition.

The funny thing is, you make it sound as if fairies' supposed lack of real definition in common discourse is somehow a point in your favor, and all the more reason to not really bother with giving a definition of them. From where I sit, the fact that fairies in said discourse aren't very well defined at all just illustrates the importance of trying to define what we talk about when we want to intellectually investigate the subject. Otherwise, we'll be investigating a caricature.

It depends on their abilities, doesn't it? But I agree that there is enough on the thread to enable the perceptive reader to see which of us has provided a reasoned argument for their position.

I agree, and as ever, I hope you don't mind getting the short end of the stick as usual. ;)

I think once the razor is understood, it is self-evident that the claim "God exists" absent some credible evidence in support of it falls foul of it. You might as well say that I need to prove why P & ~P would breach the law of non contradiction.

Not at all, Frances, and here's why.

First, the Law of Non-Contradiction simply is the claim that P and !P cannot be true. It's fundamental, a law of thought. Occam's razor is, at best, a heuristic. Right out of the gates, they differ in important ways.

Second, exactly what would and wouldn't count as credible evidence is going to need to be advanced - and this will be a claim. If the atheist says that God violates Occam's razor, they're going to need to define what evidence we should expect if God existed, support the claim that we should have that evidence on hand, support the claim that we lack that evidence, and - crucially - support the claim that the alternatives (such as 'God does not exist') aren't also problematic and lacking evidence.

And then there's the third problem: Occam's razor can fail to get off the ground. If what would constitute sufficient evidence is undefined, if 'what needs to be explained' is undefined, then you can't turn to the razor, because you don't know what you should expect in your evaluation. At which point you're left with the razor slicing nothing, and a state of needing more information to continue your evaluation.

All of these things torpedo your attempted use of the razor, and this is just the beginning of your problems. Your handling of the razor, just as I thought, mostly ends up cutting your own hands.

And as for my not being aware that that was your blog - A) I'm shocked you'd think I would know, as if I follow your writings, and B) it's irrelevant to any of my criticisms besides. Yes, I think the blog owner - now known as 'Frances' to me - displayed some absolutely rotten reasoning, a fatal misunderstanding of Occam's Razor, and more. I'm sure you took Philosophy 101 (or maybe 404!) at one point and may have passed, but really - you are not nearly as good at this as you would like to think you are.

Suggest you take this up with Syllabus. It was his/her claim that philosophical conversations could not begin without a definition of terms and I simply pointed out where the logic of that led.

And Syllabus has already responded to you aptly.

Do you really think that every straw man fallacy (or any other fallacy) can be avoided by defining terms? If you don't, it's just a red herring.

I think the task of correcting a strawman is going to involve defining things to onlookers, yes. You disagree?

frances said...

It is at worst a misunderstanding

As long as it's cleared up. We didn't need any definitions to get there, did we?

This is my entire bloody point: we have to agree on what a faerie is,

Why do you assume we don't agree on what a fairy is? What is your definition and what part do you think that it would play for you in coming to your own personal conclusion on whether or not they exist?

It's also the same type of claim ass claiming that muons, singularities, or platonic forms exist. So what?

So a scientist claims: "Muons exist" (and incidentally, I have no idea what muons are, but I don't suppose that matters). She is asked for her evidence and she replies "I don't have any. But then again, you don't have any evidence that they don't." What would be the proper scientific view to hold about muons?

The existence of these things are not in question. The existence of faeries is. When we are in a philosophical discussion, the important, contentious terms ought to be defined.

You are begging the question. The term "fairy' is not contentious except in your mind! And I suspect even in your mind, it only acquires the characteristic of being contentious in the context of this discussion. Outside this context, when you read in a children's book that a fairy appeared or a fairy granted a wish, did you ever say to yourself "Oh my! This is contentious! Ooooh, what does it mean? I must go and lie down in a darkened room while I try to work it out!"

These terms will make reference to other terms, yes, but those terms are not in question, and are not being discussed in the first place. If we were having a discussion about carbon, then yes, we'd need to define it. Ditto entities, life forms, and so on. But we aren't.

Except they are being discussed. You have brought them into the discussion by making them the lynchpin of the discussion. How can you decide whether a fairy exists, basing that whole discussion on it being a magical entity, if you con't know what the fuck "magical" or "entity" are?

Papalinton said...

Frances
One reads Crude's last comment and comes away none the wiser. Favoured trigger words and phrases, 'torpedoed', 'strawman', 'intellectually investigate', 'fatal misunderstanding', 'lacking evidence', linked together and lurching from one to the next in a swill of nonsense.

I might add this is the same person who actually claims as fact that dead people revivify after three days of putrefaction and levitate after forty.

Now apply Crude's take on Occam's razor: "First, the Law of Non-Contradiction simply is the claim that P and !P cannot be true. It's fundamental, a law of thought."

P= 3-day old dead putrescent cadaver
1P= live 3-day old dead putrescent cadaver.

or;
P= force of gravity for all living things
1P= force of gravity on full physically intact body levitating into the blue beyond.

I say: Crude don't speak officially. Crude speak orifice-cially.

You just gotta love him though, and give him points for trying.
Crude misreads his Certificate of Attendance with a Certificate of Attainment.

Treat him gently Frances otherwise he will threaten 'no speakies' with you, an established pattern of behaviour when he is cornered.

Syllabus said...

You are begging the question.

Nope. The fact that I'm asking for a definition of the word 'faerie' for the purposes of falsifying it makes the word contentious.


The term "fairy' is not contentious except in your mind!

It is 'contentious' in the sense that its definition is being subjected to examination.

And I suspect even in your mind, it only acquires the characteristic of being contentious in the context of this discussion. Outside this context, when you read in a children's book that a fairy appeared or a fairy granted a wish, did you ever say to yourself "Oh my! This is contentious! Ooooh, what does it mean? I must go and lie down in a darkened room while I try to work it out!"

I realize you only absorb information slowly, but I'll tell you what I've told you: attack the position, not the person. Do it one more time, I'm done.

So a scientist claims: "Muons exist" (and incidentally, I have no idea what muons are, but I don't suppose that matters). She is asked for her evidence and she replies "I don't have any. But then again, you don't have any evidence that they don't." What would be the proper scientific view to hold about muons?

So.....wait, wait, is this a scientific discussion now, rather than a philosophical one? When did that happen? The existence of God is a philosophical, rather than a a scientific, question.

Except they are being discussed. You have brought them into the discussion by making them the lynchpin of the discussion. How can you decide whether a fairy exists, basing that whole discussion on it being a magical entity, if you con't know what the fuck "magical" or "entity" are?

Listen carefully this time. The lynchpin of the discussion is how the terms under examination are being defined. If you're just going to be obdurate and play the whole 'well, then you have to define all these other things too!' game, you're welcome to do so, but I'm just going to stop taking you seriously. We're not talking about the existence of magic and/or entities in general. We're talking about faeries.

So a scientist claims: "Muons exist" (and incidentally, I have no idea what muons are, but I don't suppose that matters). She is asked for her evidence and she replies "I don't have any. But then again, you don't have any evidence that they don't." What would be the proper scientific view to hold about muons?

I wouldn't know until I knew what muons were in the first place. (Incidentally, they're leptons. Which is a type of subatomic half-spin particle. But hell, not like you care.) That's the whole point. I make a claim about the existence of some entity. In order to know what evidence for that entity would consist of, I need to know some significant things about the entity. The proper scientific view to hold would be 'provide a falsifiable hypothesis (which includes a definition) and then we'll talk'.

But, to reiterate: the existence of God is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question. The existence of faeries is an empirical question. It is not (to my knowledge) a philosophical question. The two are incommensurate. Your analogy is bull.

im-skeptical said...

"I realize you only absorb information slowly, but I'll tell you what I've told you: attack the position, not the person," he says, without a hint of irony.

Crude said...

Frances,

So a scientist claims: "Muons exist" (and incidentally, I have no idea what muons are, but I don't suppose that matters). She is asked for her evidence and she replies "I don't have any. But then again, you don't have any evidence that they don't." What would be the proper scientific view to hold about muons?

Insofar as science is concerned? If there exists no evidence for or against X, agnosticism or 'this is not a question science handles currently/can handle in principle', depending on the particularities.

You are begging the question. The term "fairy' is not contentious except in your mind! And I suspect even in your mind, it only acquires the characteristic of being contentious in the context of this discussion. Outside this context, when you read in a children's book that a fairy appeared or a fairy granted a wish, did you ever say to yourself "Oh my! This is contentious! Ooooh, what does it mean? I must go and lie down in a darkened room while I try to work it out!"

Frances... you're talking about a character in a children's book. What is a fairy in that context? 'It's some character in a children's book, described as X.' There aren't really any problems here. If you ask me 'are there fairies in the book', I - upon reading the book - can say 'yes'. You could even say that I believe fairies exist while saying as much, but it wouldn't be in the sense that you're talking about.

Because - and this is key - definitions and context are important. The actual RL existence of fairies isn't exactly a concern in a fictional book. In that case, a fairy's existence is already largely defined by the book itself in context. 'For most purposes', which are entertainment, not thorough intellectual examination. Which is why - remember this bit? - the existence of a logical contradiction in Back to the Future didn't mean anything. It was a fun movie.

How can you decide whether a fairy exists, basing that whole discussion on it being a magical entity, if you con't know what the fuck "magical" or "entity" are?

To add on to Syllabus' point - if during the course of the conversation the existence of magic is taken as contentious, then defining what magic is is going to be key. You're trying to pretend that by saying 'to determine the existence of X we have to define X' we are unable to have any thoughts in common or agreements about what does or doesn't exist from the outset. It's not the case.

It may well turn out that 'magic' doesn't have much of a useful definition, and that your definition of 'fairy' is therefore flawed. That's a feature, not a bug, of discussion, defining and analysis. Many times (see: Linton) people don't know what the hell they're talking about to begin with, even though they have very strong opinions on the matter.

Papalinton said...

"But, to reiterate: the existence of God is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question".

Even the bolding doesn't make it any truer. In fact, it is a nonsense demarcation. Christians claim that their godman exists, that he is real, and that he possesses the capacity to physically relate to the everyday world in all manner of ways and is known to do so in an unmistakably interventionist fashion. Christians make claims that it is fact that he hears peoples' prayers, and indeed is active in responding to them and capable of answering them. These, they claim, are plain facts. And yet from the bolded statement above, the existence of this highly interventionist and active spectral numen, with the claimed facility to physically enact within the world, is only a philosophical question. 99/100 Christians will tell you that Jesus-god is capable of effecting actual, real-time physical events, and yet Syllabus is attempting to sell the idea that the question of His existence in only a philosophical one.

Does anyone else get a slight queazy sense that all just doesn't seem to fit that well and that logic may well have eluded the Christian perspective?

The question of the existence of a godman capable of physically intervening in everyday life limited exclusively to the comforting boundaries of philosophy? Hardly. Special pleading at best.
The only kind of godman whose existence may have some sensible claim to a philosophy-only standing with any element of legitimacy may be the Deist god. Certainly not the Jesus-god.

frances said...

Crude,

Several things need to be corrected here. You have now come to the stage where almost nothing you say bears any relationship to my actual arguments.
1. When someone says X is comparable to Y, they are not saying that they can't be different in many ways. What they are saying is that the two have similarities for the purpose of the point at issue. There are many differences between Occam's razor and the law of non contradiction but my point was that in both cases they are too obvious to need further argument and that in each example it was clear that they came into play.
2. You repeatedly make statements like "if God violates Occam's razor". As you claim to value exactitude, I would have expected you to avoid this kind of sloppy inaccuracy and I have already pointed out to you that it is wrong.
3. Everything about your attempted refutation of the application of Occam's razor to the claim "God exists" fails because you have not got the issue clear in your mind (see above - your inaccuracy is a reflection of your lack of understanding of what the real issue is). The issue is about the type claim it is and not about the type of evidence you need to sustain it or disprove it.
4. It would be, not shocking, but certainly unreasonable of me to expect you to have read all my writings. But nothing I said was capable of bearing this interpretation. Go back and read what I actually said, Crude. The evidence is all there, you just have to read it.
5. you are not nearly as good at this as you would like to think you are says the person who failed to see the evidence that I was the author of Counterapologistblog then when it was pointed out where the evidence was, still couldn't understand what s/he was supposed to be looking at.

frances said...

6. Whether definition will help to correct a straw man depends on what the straw man is & how it has arisen. I don't say that definitions will never be helpful, but I do disagree with any suggestion that they are a panacea.
7. If there was no evidence in support of a scientific proposition, it would be disregarded. It would not be treated as an open question unless there was some evidence, falling short of proof, which supported it. But if you are content to go on record as saying that any proposition, provided that it is not not actually logically impossible, is regarded by you as an open question, with equal status granted in your mind to those that have some evidence falling short of proof and those which have none, then I am happy to leave it at that.
8. you're talking about a character in a children's book. What is a fairy in that context? 'It's some character in a children's book, described as X.' There aren't really any problems here. If you ask me 'are there fairies in the book', I - upon reading the book - can say 'yes'. You could even say that I believe fairies exist while saying as much, but it wouldn't be in the sense that you're talking about. I have no idea what point you think you are making here. I don't say that fairies exist in any sense. My point was about our understanding of what fairies are, whether in a book or a conversation or any other context. Your idea that the definition differs between one book and another is not how language works.
9. You're trying to pretend that by saying 'to determine the existence of X we have to define X' we are unable to have any thoughts in common or agreements about what does or doesn't exist from the outset. This is so wrong-headed as virtually to defy correction. The agreements are not about what does or doesn't exist. The agreements are about what words mean, and if we didn't start from a presumption that we had that shared understanding, language could not exist. All I am saying about the claim "to determine the existence of X [etc]" is that it is wrong, tries to introduce a requirement which adds nothing to the discussion and the reasons given for the supposed need (that we may all misunderstand each other if we don't) would apply with equal force to any terms used in the definitions.

When you have corrected all your errors, then we can resume the discussion.

Crude said...

Frances,

1. When someone says X is comparable to Y, they are not saying that they can't be different in many ways. What they are saying is that the two have similarities for the purpose of the point at issue.

And my response was that they did not just differ, period, but that they differed in relevant ways that made your particular comparison between them inaccurate.

2. You repeatedly make statements like "if God violates Occam's razor". As you claim to value exactitude,

When did I 'claim to value exactitude', especially for its own sake? That's something you infer, perhaps, from my correcting your mistakes in arguments. But those mistakes are relevant mistakes.

Saying 'if the claim that God exists violates Occam's razor' doesn't change much of anything I've said.

3. Everything about your attempted refutation of the application of Occam's razor to the claim "God exists" fails because you have not got the issue clear in your mind

You say this, but you're going to have to show it. It's not as if I've said 'you're wrong' and left it at that. I pointed out multiple places where your claims of how the razor would be applied in the argument are, in fact, flawed. The atheist would still need to make claims, and still need to support their burden to defend their claims on this front - and the possible results of an appeal to the razor were more varied than you recognized. Not only can the razor fail to go in the direction you want it to, but the razor can actually fail to be applicable at all.

4. It would be, not shocking, but certainly unreasonable of me to expect you to have read all my writings. But nothing I said was capable of bearing this interpretation.

Yep, I misread you here. You weren't suggesting otherwise, so I was wrong on this.

5. you are not nearly as good at this as you would like to think you are says the person who failed to see the evidence that I was the author of Counterapologistblog

'You are not nearly as good at this as you would like to think you are' has to do with philosophical argument. You're not even named 'Frances' at your blog as near as I can tell, and honestly, 'I wanna be an atheist apologist!' blogs are a dime a dozen. You do not particularly stand out. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news on that front.

6. Whether definition will help to correct a straw man depends on what the straw man is & how it has arisen. I don't say that definitions will never be helpful, but I do disagree with any suggestion that they are a panacea.

And I point out that any defense against or criticism of a strawman is going to involve clearly defining the points in question. I also point out that a failure to clearly define what one is saying opens one up to (intentional or not) strawman representations.

You are in the bizarre position of arguing against defining central terms in an intellectual conversation. It is boggling.

Crude said...

7. If there was no evidence in support of a scientific proposition, it would be disregarded. It would not be treated as an open question unless there was some evidence, falling short of proof, which supported it.

I gave two responses on this front: "Insofar as science is concerned? If there exists no evidence for or against X, agnosticism or 'this is not a question science handles currently/can handle in principle', depending on the particularities."

In the first case, yes, it's an open question: if there is no evidence for or against a given proposition, there is no way to decide on its truth or falsity as far as science is concerned. In the second case, as far as science is concerned, the question is not considered at all and exists with no state within that discipline.

But if you are content to go on record as saying that any proposition, provided that it is not not actually logically impossible, is regarded by you as an open question, with equal status granted in your mind to those that have some evidence falling short of proof and those which have none, then I am happy to leave it at that.

Nowhere did I say that there would be 'equal status granted' between a question for which there exists no evidence for or against, and evidence falling short of proof. I'd certainly deny they were identical in all relevant ways - doubly so since I never said that one needs 'proof' to move from agnosticism to non-agnosticism.

But I can ask in turn: are you saying then that making a claim but failing to provide any evidence for the claim means that the claim should be regarded as false? Or that, if there exists no evidence for or against a claim (or someone is not aware of evidence for or against a claim), the claim is 'false' by default?

8. [...] I have no idea what point you think you are making here. I don't say that fairies exist in any sense. My point was about our understanding of what fairies are, whether in a book or a conversation or any other context. Your idea that the definition differs between one book and another is not how language works.

You made a comment about how you doubted that someone regarded the definition of fairies as contentious, on the grounds that if they read an explicit work of fiction they wouldn't be wracked with confusion in their trying to imagine what a fairy was. My point was that a rapt definition of a fairy isn't an issue when reading a work of fiction: it is whatever the book presents it as, and that's all that matters. Just as, in the Back to the Future case, the presence of an out and out logical contradiction wasn't much of an issue with the movie - it was a fun movie, no deep thought required. Probably discouraged, in fact.

As for your last quip: a fairy in Peter Pan differs from a fairy in the DnD Monster Manual, which in turn differs from fairies as Anthony Flew discusses them. In fact, sometimes a fairy means nothing more than 'that thing which doesn't exist'. It's not a reference to some definite hypothetical being with an 'essential nature'. It's just some rhetorical fluff.

The funny thing is, the person having trouble with understanding 'how language works' is yourself.

Crude said...

9. You're trying to pretend that by saying 'to determine the existence of X we have to define X' we are unable to have any thoughts in common or agreements about what does or doesn't exist from the outset. This is so wrong-headed as virtually to defy correction. The agreements are not about what does or doesn't exist. [...] All I am saying about the claim "to determine the existence of X [etc]" is that it is wrong, tries to introduce a requirement which adds nothing to the discussion and the reasons given for the supposed need (that we may all misunderstand each other if we don't) would apply with equal force to any terms used in the definitions.

See, here's where you're tripping up. Let me try to walk you through it.

1) 'Defining X' absolutely can and often does "add something to the discussion". It clarifies what we're talking about. It helps us to avoid strawmen. It may introduce other ideas we are relying on, even subconsciously. If someone tells me 'Criminals are going to bring down this country', and I ask them what they mean by criminals, and they tell me 'Pot-smokers and illegal immigrants', well then - that certainly got fleshed out. Now I can evaluate their claim a bit better. If I just ran with what I consider a criminal to be (Robbers, thieves, etc), that would have led to a whole lot of problems.

2) "Aha!" you say. "But now you have to define robbers, thieves, etc!" Well, if I wanted to be as free of error as possible, I may well want to do that. In fact, someone may call me on this - 'Is a starving man who steals a loaf of bread really a robber?' etc. At that point, I can clarify and get into that argument if I wish. Or, I can skip the argument and go do something else. Someone can also say, 'Alright, I think we both have the same idea of a robber in mind.' Maybe we will. There's a chance we won't - see 1 - but this is a risk we can all be willing to take. Accents on 'risk' and 'we can be willing'. Someone may not be willing; they may suspect that we don't have the same idea in mind, or that the common idea is flawed and therefore needs to be examined. They may be right.

3) None of this means that we have zero ideas in common whatsoever, or that we can't decide - with the risks involved - that we both agree on what various terms mean and just continue the conversation. But notice what's going on there: it's not so much that we're just continuing the conversation without defining our terms. We are assuming that these terms are already defined and/or understood between each other in advance. Many probably are - we grasp the same universals. (If you're a nominalist, well, have fun with that.) But yep, there is certainly the chance that we've made a mistake, or that there is an unspoken disagreement between us.

The short of it is A) defining terms definitely can, and often does, add to a conversation - in fact, it often adds a lot to a conversation, B) this doesn't mean that we must define each and every term in a conversation - we can just accept the risks of being misunderstood or miscommunicating if we so choose, or if we think it's relevant (and many times it is) further define another term, and C) these risks don't go away just because we ignore them. On the whole, defining one's terms is a *good* thing, *especially* when we're defining a term for the purposes of determining whether or not it exists, whether or not there exists evidence for it, etc.

When you have corrected all your errors, then we can resume the discussion.

With the exception of 4, I've corrected all your errors. And man, there were a lot of them.

frances said...

Syllabus,

I see that you are still asking for a definition of the word "fairy" rather than putting forward your own. As it is you who thinks that the definition is so important, why don't you come up with one? The fact that it is for the purpose of falsifying it (I presume you meant to say "for the purpose of falsifying the claim 'fairies exist'") does not make it contentious, but even if it did, that it no reason for you to try and evade putting one forward.

The definition is not being subjected to examination. The evidence for the existence of the thing itself is being subjected to examination. Your insistence on conflating the two is where you are going wrong.

I realize you only absorb information slowly Skep has already pointed out the irony here. But in fact, the irony is double because your comment about my alleged slowness in absorbing information really is a case of playing the player, in that it had no relevance to any topic under debate. Its sole purpose was to try and cause offence. Whereas my comment about how silly it was to claim that "fairy"was a contentious word, was just that - a comment about the consequences of your claim and not a personal attack on you at all. The same goes for my previous post when I pointed out the absurdity of your definition of "love". Grow an extra layer skin, for Pete's sake, or give up these online debates!

So.....wait, wait, is this a scientific discussion now, rather than a philosophical one? When did that happen?
You introduced the Muons, not me. Scientific or philosophical, the BoP and Occam's razor operate in the same way.

I would need to know what muons were before I could discuss their existence. "Muon" is a technical term and not a word in common usage, so it is entirely different from the word "fairy". If I had never heard of fairies before their existence came up for debate, then I would need to have some explanation about them before I could meaningfully debate the topic. But that is not at all the same as 2 people who are each equally familiar with the term saying "Oo-er, we can't even begin to decide if they exist or not until we've defined them".

What was your original averment on definitions in philosophy? Let me remind you: "If you're going to engage in philosophical discussions, the first thing you need to do is define your terms.". You have now back-tracked and tried to claim that it it is not a requirement for all philosophical discussions. Now you have limited your claim: it is a special case and only a requirement where the subject of debate is the existence of something. You have at least seen the folly of your original proposition even if you have not actually admitted to it. That is progress of a sort I suppose.

Crude said...

Frances,

I see that you are still asking for a definition of the word "fairy" rather than putting forward your own. As it is you who thinks that the definition is so important, why don't you come up with one?

You are the one who is stating that fairies do not exist, and also claiming that defining the term would add nothing to the conversation. So why are you reluctant to define the term when asked? Go ahead and define it, and we'll see if your defining it adds nothing to the conversation, particularly about your views on its existence.

But that is not at all the same as 2 people who are each equally familiar with the term saying "Oo-er, we can't even begin to decide if they exist or not until we've defined them".

A) Equal familiarity with a term does not in and of itself remove the reasonableness of asking the term to be defined. If John says that all Xs don't exist, I can know what John means by X and still ask him to define it - in part, precisely because I believe that by defining X, John is going to expose a flaw in what he's saying. It may even be a flaw that John himself is aware of.

That's just one example - more are available.

B) How do you determine that both sides have 'equal familiarity with the term'? Well, there's defining it, but you sure don't want to do THAT. There's also an assumption that both sides have the same understanding of the term - but that introduces pitfalls that have already been noted.

You have now back-tracked and tried to claim that it it is not a requirement for all philosophical discussions. Now you have limited your claim: it is a special case and only a requirement where the subject of debate is the existence of something.

I don't see Syllabus as making this move, nor do I see him as backtracking. Quote his original statement in full:

If you're going to engage in philosophical discussions, the first thing you need to do is define your terms. That's what I was aiming at. If you're definition is 'you know it when you see it', well, that's admirably commonsensical of you, but we couldn't then construct any sort of thought or actual experiment to see whether we could prove or disprove that.

Yes, in a philosophical discussion, you do need to define your terms. Now, you can assume that the terms are already well-defined in two people's minds - but having those terms defined in advance is key. Having an "I'll know it when I see it" 'definition' is going to be tremendously problematic.

Syllabus said...

"I realize you only absorb information slowly, but I'll tell you what I've told you: attack the position, not the person," he says, without a hint of irony.

Point taken. I was frustrated that an order I had placed had not gone through, and was in a bit of a tiff, but that's no excuse.

The definition is not being subjected to examination. The evidence for the existence of the thing itself is being subjected to examination. Your insistence on conflating the two is where you are going wrong.

So "[t]he evidence for the existence of the thing itself is being subjected to examination." Pray tell, what is 'the thing itself'? There's an enthymeme there which should be brought out.

Which is the entire point.

I see that you are still asking for a definition of the word "fairy" rather than putting forward your own. As it is you who thinks that the definition is so important, why don't you come up with one? The fact that it is for the purpose of falsifying it (I presume you meant to say "for the purpose of falsifying the claim 'fairies exist'") does not make it contentious, but even if it did, that it no reason for you to try and evade putting one forward.

Am I the one making the claim that the existence of faeries is ridiculous? You were the one who said that the claim that God exists was commensurate to the claim that faeries exist. When I asked for a definition of what you mean by "faerie" you responded by a) not answering, b) claiming that I already knew what a faerie was, and c) asking me for a definition. Leaving aside whether the first two are legitimate, the third certainly isn't. The claim I made was regarding definitions and the consequences of those definitions, not regarding faeries as such. Your claim did, though, by claiming that there is an equal amount of evidence for the existence faeries as there is for the existence of God. You're the one making the claim involving faeries as a particular, so if anyone has the job of defining the term, you do.

But let's pass over that for the moment. Ever read the Dresden Files? A Midsummer Night's Dream? Any of Neil Gaiman's works? Peter Pan? "Faeries" make appearances in each of these, but they're often quite different from each others. Perhaps you see what I'm getting at.

I would need to know what muons were before I could discuss their existence. "Muon" is a technical term and not a word in common usage, so it is entirely different from the word "fairy". If I had never heard of fairies before their existence came up for debate, then I would need to have some explanation about them before I could meaningfully debate the topic. But that is not at all the same as 2 people who are each equally familiar with the term saying "Oo-er, we can't even begin to decide if they exist or not until we've defined them".

Perhaps your intuitions on what other people think a certain term means are more accurate than mine, which is entirely possible, since I'm simply constitutionally bad at that. Mine aren't. Therefore, I ask for definitions.

Syllabus said...



What was your original averment on definitions in philosophy? Let me remind you: "If you're going to engage in philosophical discussions, the first thing you need to do is define your terms.". You have now back-tracked and tried to claim that it it is not a requirement for all philosophical discussions. Now you have limited your claim: it is a special case and only a requirement where the subject of debate is the existence of something. You have at least seen the folly of your original proposition even if you have not actually admitted to it. That is progress of a sort I suppose.

Where did I claim that "it is a special case and only a requirement where the subject of debate is the existence of something."? Please, point out some place where I have clearly and unambiguously stated this, and I'll eat my words. We're talking about a question of existence here, sure, but it's not solely applicable to questions of existence. If you think I wrote that, again, quote chapter and verse where I specifically said that.

The further explanation was not for the purpose of limiting cases, but of limiting terms in cases. I'll explicitly spell what I thought was implied (which kind of goes to show my point, but leave that for now): when one wants to have a philosophical discussion regarding a thing, a concept, a subject, or whatever, then one needs an agreed-upon definition of the thing, concept, or subject in question. This dates back to at least the Platonic dialogues, though I come by it by means of the analytics. If the constituent terms that are used in the definition of the thing, concept, or subject in question are themselves in question, then they also need definition, sure. Are they? They aren't to me.

Anyway, I have finals week coming up. That's all for me for the present.

Crude said...

And just to expand on the point about fairies, here's something to consider: Just because a person comes to the right conclusion, doesn't mean that their arriving at that conclusion was anything close to reasonable, well thought out, that their reasoning was well-supported, or that they had any reasoning going on at all.

As well, just because someone is capable of parroting common claims, even claims that are as a matter of fact true, does not mean that they actually understand those claims.

Anecdotally, it's my experience that a lot of people who insist that (say) 'evolutionary theory is (true/false)' have severe trouble even describing fundamental aspects of the theory - regardless of their view. People repeat 'everyone knows that X is the case', but if you ask them to explain why X is the case, or what 'X' even means, they start fumbling because they learned to parrot, not to think.

A great example - he is eternally useful - is Linton himself. Linton in the past happily railed against an idea, suggesting it was trivially known to be false nowadays. He was asked to describe (aka, define) the idea he was criticizing in his own terms. Not only did he get exposed as plagiarizing, but the evidence indicated he did not even know what in the heck he was talking about. He got about as far as 'Aquinas claim - bad!' and ran with it.

The fairy example is useful here, because really - it's not as if most people have sat around and given much thought to whether fairies exist, how to investigate this, what they are 'essentially', and if they do not exist then by what reasoning do we conclude they don't exist. That's not to say there isn't reasoning or logic out there that can bring them to that conclusion, necessarily. It's that they don't go through it, they do not bother with it. They are more likely to just hear the refrain 'fairies don't exist', and repeat it themselves. (And if you don't believe me, ask some typical people whether the sun revolves around the earth. Of the ones who get that question right, ask them to explain their reasoning. My experience is, people mumble 'Galileo', then defer to experts, they know not whom.)

And that, by the way: that repeating, that mishmash of vague ideas at best, that 'I know it when I see it' non-accuracy, allows for a whole lot of mistakes if not examined. Most of the time, who cares? I don't get particularly worried that someone may have who-knows-what poorly thought out beliefs, day to day. But when we're actually having what's supposed to be an intelligent conversation where we have disagreements about reasoning? Yeah, then even for some day to day common claims, I'll ask for someone to define what they mean. And when they dig in their heels and mount a major defense of their refusing to do so for literally days, it's not hard to suspect something about the prospect worries them.

frances said...

You are the one who is stating that fairies do not exist, and also claiming that defining the term would add nothing to the conversation. So why are you reluctant to define the term when asked? Go ahead and define it, and we'll see if your defining it adds nothing to the conversation, particularly about your views on its existence.
This could really stand as a metaphor for the whole conversation. First the twisted representation that I am "the one" claiming that fairies don't exist. Then by some tortured reasoning the suggestion that as I don't agree that a definition as necessary to any discussion about their existence, obviously I should be the one to provide it!

Fear of and retreat from the burden of proof has been much in evidence on this thread, but it has been the theists who have been in fear and in retreat, not the atheists.

Enough already. Re-read the thread if you need to and make up your own minds.

Syllabus, my sincere best wishes for your finals.

im-skeptical said...

The parameters of the debate have been defined.

If you are a theist, simply shift the burden of proof for your claims of supernatural beings to those who don't believe. But you can make their task even more difficult by first forcing them to define the particular supernatural being that they must disprove. That way, all you have to do is claim some minor inconsistency between the one that was defined and the one you believe in, and then you can say all their efforts were for naught - they have not touched your supernatural being (and they never will).

It's a seemingly foolproof scheme for evading any responsibility for providing reasonable support for your own claims. In these discussions, I often hear certain individuals demanding evidence, but rarely providing it. This is in keeping with that long-standing tradition.

Crude said...

Frances,

First the twisted representation that I am "the one" claiming that fairies don't exist.

You deny this? It's right in the thread.

Then by some tortured reasoning the suggestion that as I don't agree that a definition as necessary to any discussion about their existence, obviously I should be the one to provide it!

You've said that defining fairies will add nothing to the conversation about whether they do or do not exist. My challenge was simple: then define the thing whose existence you deny, and let's see what happens to the conversation about them.

I've already explained what value defining things gives to these conversations. I've explained the possibilities, the pitfalls - and I've even pointed out an actual situation that took place where a whole lot of important details were exposed, simply by someone being asked to define (in their own words) what they were denying.

But you refuse to do that. You've made a claim - and not just about fairies, which is merely instructive - and have failed to support the burden. I offered a pretty straightforward way to examine your claim, and you decline. Fair enough.

Fear of and retreat from the burden of proof has been much in evidence on this thread, but it has been the theists who have been in fear and in retreat, not the atheists.

Not once in the thread. In fact, I've outright said - as I always say - that whoever makes a claim, has a burden. That trivially includes theists. The problem is, it also trivially includes atheists - 'God does not exist' is a claim. You do not get to say 'it's true by default'. Every attempt you've made to get to it by default, I've pointed out the flaws with - and every flaw was yet more evidence that you have a burden if you want to support the claim 'God does not exist'.

The fact that theists are more than willing to A) state their claim, B) admit that their claim requires a burden and C) support their claim with arguments and evidence, while atheists spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make claims while exempting themselves from burdens, speaks volumes. It also illustrates a key difference between them and agnostics.

As always, it's been a pleasure.

And yeah, Syllabus, hope you do well on those finals.

Crude said...

Skep,

If you are a theist, simply shift the burden of proof for your claims of supernatural beings to those who don't believe.

Whoever makes a claim, has a burden. That is the lesson of this thread, and nowadays, most threads. In this case, it manifestly wasn't even the theists who had the burden, because A) not a single theist has been claiming the existence of fairies, and B) at least one atheist claimed fairies did not exist. Most of the energy spent on that front was arguing that it's just obvious fairies don't exist, and that defining them and explaining the matter in detail was pointless.

And we can see why. For one reason, one time one of the atheists who frequent this thread was asked to define what they were denying, they were exposed as not having a clue what they were talking about.

But you can make their task even more difficult by first forcing them to define the particular supernatural being that they must disprove.

Oh, you have to define the thing you're claiming does not exist and are arguing against? Boohoo. The travails Cult of Gnu brand atheists must go through.

Can you believe some people actually expect you not to use equivocating definitions as well, and argue in good faith? Will these demands never cease?

That way, all you have to do is claim some minor inconsistency between the one that was defined and the one you believe in, and then you can say all their efforts were for naught - they have not touched your supernatural being (and they never will).

'Minor inconsistency'? We don't know if it's minor until we look, Skep - often, it ain't. Plenty of atheists are able to define these terms and give arguments. It's the Cult of Gnu who are generally pathologically afraid, and who flee at the first sign of a burden of proof.

It's a seemingly foolproof scheme for evading any responsibility for providing reasonable support for your own claims. In these discussions, I often hear certain individuals demanding evidence, but rarely providing it.

A) Obviously false. This site alone features numerous arguments and claims of evidence for what theists believe in - and, for that matter, what they do not believe in.

B) 'Rarely' providing any would put theists ahead of the atheist pack in this particular thread.

C) No theist in this thread has argued that we have no burden of proof. We do. But we are not the only ones who have a burden: Make a claim, get a burden. Now we see that CoG Atheists not only are to intellectual burdens what vampires are to sunlight, but even clearly defining their terms freaks them out.

Gosh, it's almost as if they prefer to talk using hazy, equivocating mush-terms, and know that they cannot support the burdens they take on. That doesn't mean theism is right - bu it means the position they want to be true, they cannot go to bat for.

Thankfully, much like with those past incidents of ignorance and plagiarism, we know have a nice, long thread illustrating all this to a T.

im-skeptical said...

"Gosh, it's almost as if they prefer to talk using hazy, equivocating mush-terms, and know that they cannot support the burdens they take on."

Like the AFR.

Crude said...

Like the AFR.

Buddy, I have seen your "interactions" over the AFR multiple times. Trust me when I say - that is the last example you want to cite in this conversation. ;)

And you know what? The AFR IS an argument. It is an attempt to shoulder the burden of proof - it is not shirked. No one here has said 'theism has no burden!' or 'The AFR is just common sense, there's no need to support it!' Arguments are given - as are definitions.

Meanwhile, we have an example of atheists so afraid of burdens of proof and defining their terms they have trouble even giving an argument against 'fairies'. Good job, that.

Papalinton said...

"Whoever makes a claim, has a burden. That is the lesson of this thread, and nowadays, most threads. In this case, it manifestly wasn't even the theists who had the burden, because A) not a single theist has been claiming the existence of fairies, and B) at least one atheist claimed fairies did not exist."

Oh Dear. That old and trite trope: 'Whoever makes a claim, has a burden', still attempting to shift the focus of scrutiny from the grandaddy of all fairy god-fathers. And of fairytales; a 3-day old putrescent carcass revivifies to eat a few meals of fried chicken and whereupon the fortieth day, defying gravity, in full bloom of physicality including testicles, levitates into the stratosphere to a hitherto undefined destination.

And this interlocutor demands proof of the non-existent of fairies?

It's axiomatic; One does not have to prove a negative, one should assume the negative.

"Some argue that it takes perfect knowledge to prove a universal negative. Actually, it takes perfect knowledge to prove a universal positive. How would you know if a god knows everything or is everywhere unless you yourself know everything or have been everywhere?" Professor Jack David Eller.

All and every claim of superstitious supernaturalism and god stuff? Unbelievable.

Karl Grant said...

Crude,

Gosh, it's almost as if they prefer to talk using hazy, equivocating mush-terms, and know that they cannot support the burdens they take on.

It isn't just about metaphysical or supernatural claims either. Skeppy has trouble acknowledging Sam Harris as a racist warmonger who supports the use of torture despite the large amount of evidence that this is so.

Karl Grant said...

It's axiomatic; One does not have to prove a negative, one should assume the negative.

Really? So one should assume the Holocaust is a myth and the Moon Landing was faked? After all, that would be assuming the negative.

"Some argue that it takes perfect knowledge to prove a universal negative. Actually, it takes perfect knowledge to prove a universal positive. How would you know if a god knows everything or is everywhere unless you yourself know everything or have been everywhere?" Professor Jack David Eller.

That is like saying you don't know what a homeless person is until you live out on the streets yourself or you don't know what Las Vegas is like until you take a vacation in Nevada.

im-skeptical said...

- using hazy, equivocating mush-terms: like non-rational. How is this term defined? Doesn't it simply mean physical? If so, then why not use that word instead?

- they cannot support the burdens they take on; like the bald assertion that no thought can be rational if it comes from *physical* sources. PROVE IT.

Time to put up or shut up.

Crude said...

- using hazy, equivocating mush-terms: like non-rational. How is this term defined? Doesn't it simply mean physical? If so, then why not use that word instead?

The term is defined, each time you ask for it. No, it does not simply mean physical - it's a particular view of the physical. 'Panpsychism' or even Thomist views of the mind could be shoe-horned into 'physical' if someone really wanted to. The key is the non-rational, which is part of the mechanistic view.

they cannot support the burdens they take on; like the bald assertion that no thought can be rational if it comes from *physical* sources. PROVE IT.

Bald assertion? It's argued for at length.

And, buddy, there's already a thread about that. I know you're trying to run after-the-fact defense here after days of a fellow CoG atheist fighting tooth and nail against the idea that *it is helpful to define terms in a philosophical conversation* (a view which, hilariously, you are contradicting right here by pointing at the necessity of defining 'non-rational'), but if you wanted to make this thread derail more obvious, you would need neon signs.

Go back to that thread, however, and I will happily engage you. In fact, I already did so, in advance of your challenge - clearly, getting intellectually paddled by everyone from ozero to William to grod to more was not sufficient. You need me to take you to the woodshed too.

Crude said...

Karl,

Really? So one should assume the Holocaust is a myth and the Moon Landing was faked? After all, that would be assuming the negative.

I'll be ignoring the idiot this time, as far as direct conversation goes - he is a moral monster, given his Bog endorsement. But one thing that's great here: we have heard, constantly, that one should not believe a claim without evidence, or without insufficient evidence. There's that principle: "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

Now, suddenly, we have an imbecile arguing that 'it is axiomatic!!!' that we must believe claims to be false - even without evidence that they are false.

Oops - so much for it being wrong to believe anything without evidence. Now the idiot is saying we absolutely *must* believe things without evidence - in particular, we have to believe any claim is false without evidence. So much for 'not believing things without evidence'.

Better yet - alright. "Atheism is true!" This is a claim which needs evidence to be believed, or else we must assume that it is false. Back to atheists having a burden - the other thing the CoG atheists have been trying to avoid throughout this entire thread.

In the absence of evidence for or against a claim, the proper response is agnosticism - neither taking the claim to be true, nor taking it to be false. And any moron who yelps 'But it's an axiom!' needs to be informed - axioms can be rejected. Especially if they're effin' stupid.

grodrigues said...

"It's axiomatic; One does not have to prove a negative, one should assume the negative."

Really? So let P be a proposition, any proposition. By the above we should assume by default not-P. Without any evidence whatsoever. Duly noted. So, denote not-P by Q. Since P is logically equivalent to not-(not-P) = not-Q it follows by the above that we should assume it since it is a negative. So we should assume both P and not-P.

Karl Grant said...

Crude,

Now, suddenly, we have an imbecile arguing that 'it is axiomatic!!!' that we must believe claims to be false - even without evidence that they are false.

Oops - so much for it being wrong to believe anything without evidence. Now the idiot is saying we absolutely *must* believe things without evidence - in particular, we have to believe any claim is false without evidence. So much for 'not believing things without evidence'.


Yeah, you're right. Paps just threw Skeppy and Frances under a bus, again, to try and make himself look smart. Hell, Skeppy's little quote up there, It's a seemingly foolproof scheme for evading any responsibility for providing reasonable support for your own claims fits It's axiomatic; One does not have to prove a negative, one should assume the negative to a T. But I seriously doubt he appreciates the irony.

Of course, I could have real fun right now by saying atheism is false and since it is a negative claim it is axiomatic that I need not provide any evidence to prove it. Ole' Paps says so. But these paragons of reason need to provide evidence to prove otherwise.

im-skeptical said...

"*it is helpful to define terms in a philosophical conversation*"

Those are your words. So where's the definition?

"Bald assertion? It's argued for at length."

I haven't ever seen the proof. Where's the proof?

Ore you guilty of the things you accuse atheists of?

Crude said...

Those are your words. So where's the definition?

Of non-rational matter? In the case of the AFR, mechanistic motion devoid of formal or final causes, roughly approximated as matter bumping into / being affected by matter without intelligent/rational guidance or direction, and devoid of intrinsic meaning.

We already had a conversation about this Skep. And as I said, I have already replied to you in the relevant thread. Go there, boy, and I will ask you the question that stifled you last time. Do you remember it?

I haven't ever seen the proof. Where's the proof?

Proof as in what? 'That which gets you, personally, to admit it's correct'? Not interested - I don't think you can even understand most things discussed on this topic.

'A demonstration that the claim is absolutely, certainly correct and cannot possibly be wrong or flawed?' Too high of a bar, for any human argument. At that point you want unimpeachable data, not argument or interpretation - ie, something like cogito ergo sum.

Ore you guilty of the things you accuse atheists of?

Skep, buddy, pal - I am not merely accusing Cult of Gnu atheists of shirking their burdens of proof, and arguing at length against the need to define terms. *They did that*, in this very thread. You saw it. From one CoG going on and on about how defining terms isn't necessary for a philosophical conversation (oops, you disagree with that one already) to the resident idiot insisting that axiomatically etc, etc.

I don't really need to accuse anyone of those things. They walked up and admitted as much. The only thing that was missing was me repeating 'Stop hitting yourself!' over and over.

Now, you want to engage me on the AFR questions? Challenge met. Go to the thread. Stop trying to distract from the abysmal display of Linton and Frances both. Your accusations on that front have failed. Perhaps you are finally learning that CoG brand atheism is poison to reason.

im-skeptical said...

"Of non-rational matter? In the case of the AFR, mechanistic motion devoid of formal or final causes, roughly approximated as matter bumping into / being affected by matter without intelligent/rational guidance or direction, and devoid of intrinsic meaning."

So your definition amounts to 'purely physical matter' - without any influence from immaterial forces or spirits or gods. Excellent. But you decried the use of "hazy, equivocating mush-terms". So let's just call it 'purely physical matter'. Then, we all know what it means, and there's no equivocating about whether it is 'rational'.

Next step: Prove that rational thought can't come from 'purely physical matter'. Don't tell me it's been done - it hasn't. Prove that a human brain, made of purely physical biological material, can't think. I'll be waiting (forever). If you're like every other theist, you won't because "they cannot support the burdens they take on". They can't prove what isn't true.

Crude said...

Skep,

So your definition amounts to 'purely physical matter' - without any influence from immaterial forces or spirits or gods. Excellent. But you decried the use of "hazy, equivocating mush-terms". So let's just call it 'purely physical matter'. Then, we all know what it means, and there's no equivocating about whether it is 'rational'.

Oh Lord. This is hilarious.

You dare me to define a term in an argument, making it sound as if I won't define it. I not only define it, I explain why your preferred definition - 'physical' - is less accurate; because there are various views of what the 'physical' is, but it's principally the mechanistic view that the AFR targets. But, gosh, you sure love the word 'physical' so... let's ignore what I clearly defined and go with the word you like?

No, skep. Non-rational is the key here. "Physical" is open.

Next step: Prove that rational thought can't come from 'purely physical matter'. Don't tell me it's been done - it hasn't.

Well, now we get to a very interesting point in a conversation about burdens of proof. For one thing, I disagree with you of course - I think it has been done. It has not been proven beyond all in-principle doubt, but I did away with that standard immediately. Likewise, successfully arguing the conclusion is reasonable does not involve getting you to concede - again, I know better.

But if you want me to prove it, you play my game: argue in the right thread. This is not an AFR thread, and I'm sick of the derails on Victor's blog. (At least this long-ass conversation was relatively on topic.) I am not hiding the AFR thread - I have linked to it. And my latest reply to you is also there.

By the way? Loved your reply. That's some sharp shootin' there, Tex.

im-skeptical said...

This is the thread where we're discussing defining your terms, not using "hazy, equivocating mush-terms", and assuming the burden of proof for your claims. So far you have proven to be a hypocrite. I'm betting you will continue to be one.

If you think I misinterpreted what you "clearly defined", then your definition wasn't so clear.

If you are unwilling to make a case using clear, unequivocal language, then you are evading the burden of proof.


Crude said...

This is the thread where we're discussing defining your terms, not using "hazy, equivocating mush-terms", and assuming the burden of proof for your claims. So far you have proven to be a hypocrite.

Lies. First, I defined the term you asked me to define beautifully - you had no problem with it. You just wanted me to define it as 'physical', and I explained why that was not precise enough.

Second, I'm done with you derailing threads you're embarrassed of. I offered to continue the conversation on the AFR in - shock of shocks - the AFR thread. You can either take it there, or put a sock in it.

If you think I misinterpreted what you "clearly defined", then your definition wasn't so clear.

Option 2: You are not very smart, and get confused easily.

That's not even the case here, for a change. You haven't shown any problem with my definition: in fact you said: "So your definition amounts to 'purely physical matter' - without any influence from immaterial forces or spirits or gods. Excellent. But you decried the use of "hazy, equivocating mush-terms". So let's just call it 'purely physical matter'."

So clearly you understood what I meant - you just want to call it 'physical'. But my reply was apt: 'physical' alone doesn't work, because 'physical' can mean "matter/physical, as Thomists understand it" or "matter/physical, as panpsychists understand it" or otherwise. The key is that the AFR targets a particular view of the physical - which I defined.

Quit BSing. How many times do I have to tell you you're not good at it? How many times do I have to expose you fumbling to realize that you're not getting where you want to go?

If you are unwilling to make a case using clear, unequivocal language, then you are evading the burden of proof.

Oh really? Thank you - you just condemned Frances AND Linton in one go. Frances, for arguing against clearly defined terms. Linton, for demanding that a case must be made.

But you haven't laid a glove on me, because I have defined things clearly, and you yourself had no problem with my definition. You had a problem with my particular choice of terms.

Take my advice Skep: ditch the cult. Become agnostic. In the meantime, hit the AFR thread and stay there for that conversation.

im-skeptical said...

And once again, crude proves my point. All bark and no bite. Sheer hypocricy. 'Nuff said.

im-skeptical said...

"Thank you - you just condemned Frances AND Linton in one go. Frances, for arguing against clearly defined terms. Linton, for demanding that a case must be made."

Not a chance. All I'm doing is holding you to account for your own words. Try to spin it any way you like, but everyone can see for themselves what you're up to.

Karl Grant said...

Not a chance. All I'm doing is holding you to account for your own words. Try to spin it any way you like, but everyone can see for themselves what you're up to.

So you're not, I repeat not, arguing for clearly defined terms; do not believe clearly defined terms matter that much; do not really think that a case must be made and yet you demand all this from Crude? And you call him a hypocrite? Irony is lost on you.

And Crude has provided you clearly defined terms. The fact that you don't want him to use terms like non-rational and irrational in an argument concerning the concerning reason and rationality is asinine in the extreme.

Crude said...

Karl,

This is pretty great stuff. I mean, getting yapped at by Skep is nothing new. But for him to, in the process of trying to snipe me intellectually, headshot not one but two Gnus and leave my claims not just untouched, but underlined? That's entertainment.

Behold, Gnu intellectualism, on display for all to see.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

How lucky that I decided to review this tread. Otherwise i would have missed these little gems altogether:

Grant: "Really? So one should assume the Holocaust is a myth and the Moon Landing was faked? After all, that would be assuming the negative. "
Crude: "Oops - so much for it being wrong to believe anything without evidence. Now the idiot is saying we absolutely *must* believe things without evidence - in particular, we have to believe any claim is false without evidence. So much for 'not believing things without evidence'."
Grant: "Yeah, you're right. Paps just threw Skeppy and Frances under a bus, again, to try and make himself look smart."

Well boys, the holocaust did occur. The moon landing did occur. Without any shadow of doubt. Anyone who believes otherwise is engaging in the same failed faith-based epistemology that religion relies.
The jury is in and these events did happen. The evidence and proofs is mountainous. No need to continue to assume the negative. These events have reached if not exceeded the threshold of evidence and proof. They are now incorporated into and constitute the base level of our knowledge and understanding.

Not so the foundational proposition of the Christina mytheme. The most central and sacred claim, that a rotting 3-day old putrescent corpse revivified, ate the equivalent of a month's lot of fried chicken AFTER he was executed [rather an amusing twist on the death-row theme], and thereupon, on the fortieth day levitated fully and bodily physical into the stratosphere to an undefined destination [One wonders what happens to the defecatory products of such a living organism swanning the stratosphere?] has not been substantiated. The claim has never met the minimum threshold of evidence and proofs even while the bar lay on the ground over which it could have easily but was unable to slither. In this case it is paramount and properly basic that one assume the negative. And the case for assuming the negative isn't a claim that comes from me. It is the claim from other familial Abrahamic traditions that threw the unfounded and baseless Christian claim into the roadside dust particularly because of the paucity of evidence and proofs. One tradition [Judaism] was never convinced of the 'evidence' right from the very outset, from the very moment Christianity was conceived while the other [Islam], with the extended benefit of 600 years of hindsight supporting its assessment, remained perfectly unconvinced and implacably disavowed what ever was trotted out as 'evidence'. And I haven't even come to what science has to say and has demonstrated about the impoverished claims of nonsense god-belief.

With these facts in plain sight, a lucid, rational, inquiring intelligent mind can only but assume the negative on the claims Christians make. The reason? We need evidence boys, of the kind that established the reality of the holocaust and the matter-of-fact for the moon landing; irrefutable, incontrovertible, good-old apple pie evidence. Period.

This is most certainly not a case of my throwing anyone under a bus. Rather, you two just happen to be lying smack in the middle of a busy intersection and we're asking you to retire to the sidewalk for your own peace of mind. Sense and sensibility is all we are asking.

im-skeptical said...

Don't you just love the ridiculous conclusions these guys jump to? So I ask crude to put his money where his big mouth is, and he assumes I am arguing against the others here. (Sorry, wrong.) I tell him I am only pointing out his hypocrisy and Karl concludes that I am arguing the opposite. (Sorry, wrong.) And then the two of them revel in their "intellectual victory". (Sorry, wrong.

That's entertainment.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

"So I ask crude to put his money where his big mouth is, and he assumes I am arguing against the others here. (Sorry, wrong.) I tell him I am only pointing out his hypocrisy and Karl concludes that I am arguing the opposite. (Sorry, wrong.) And then the two of them revel in their "intellectual victory". (Sorry, wrong."

It is symptomatic of the debilitating limits of the form of scholarship on which both have been religiously reared: Apologetical Eisegesis [... the act imposing meaning onto a text and is often described in terms of reading "into" the text rather than "out of" it.] It is more commonly referred to pejoratively as the "I See Jesus" syndrome, an affliction largely characterized by presenting itself as somewhat paranoid and schizotypal self-justifying defensive and retaliatory behaviour towards a perceived threat to a belief system that they both know is fundamentally flawed, unquestionably and irreconcilably problematic, and frankly, unsustainable in an enlightened and informed outlook going into the future.

Karl Grant said...

Paps,

Well boys, the holocaust did occur. The moon landing did occur. Without any shadow of doubt. Anyone who believes otherwise is engaging in the same failed faith-based epistemology that religion relies.

Maybe now but how much evidence will be left three hundred years from now? A thousand? Two thousand? We could have a not so little nuclear war and Hitler and the Holocaust could easily recede into myth and legend, Eventually, no matter what, the only evidence left will be records of eye witness testimony, which you argue all the damn time is unreliable.

The most central and sacred claim, that a rotting 3-day old putrescent corpse revivified, ate the equivalent of a month's lot of fried chicken AFTER he was executed [rather an amusing twist on the death-row theme], and thereupon, on the fortieth day levitated fully and bodily physical into the stratosphere to an undefined destination [One wonders what happens to the defecatory products of such a living organism swanning the stratosphere?] has not been substantiated.

Oh it has been more substantiated for existence than life of Socrates (who we only know about due to the writings of disciple Plato). The rest of this is poor personal incredulity combined with a sub-standard attempts at ridicule that we have all heard before and grew old on internet forums five damn years ago.

We need evidence boys, of the kind that established the reality of the holocaust and the matter-of-fact for the moon landing; irrefutable, incontrovertible, good-old apple pie evidence. Period.

What kind of evidence, Paps? Unless you were in a concentration camp in the 1940s the only evidence you are gonna get is eyewitness testimony which you rail against all the damn time as being unreliable anecdotal evidence. You can't use the camps themselves as evidence; most of them are reconstructions built after the war as the Germans dynamited camps like Auschwitz before retreating from the advancing Russians. Videos, photographic evidence? You rail all the time about how easy that stuff is to fake (remember that little conversation about photographic evidence concerning UFOs and ghosts a while back or do you need me to link to it because you can't remember what you copied and pasted on any one day?). In fact, every type of evidence that would be used to establish the authenticity of the Holocaust you have railed against at one point or the other as being unreliable. And you can't exactly recreate the Holocaust in a test-tube.

Karl Grant said...

Don't you just love the ridiculous conclusions these guys jump to? So I ask crude to put his money where his big mouth is, and he assumes I am arguing against the others here. (Sorry, wrong.) I tell him I am only pointing out his hypocrisy and Karl concludes that I am arguing the opposite. (Sorry, wrong.) And then the two of them revel in their "intellectual victory". (Sorry, wrong.

Not even close. I pointed out that you are calling Crude a hypocrite while holding him to standards you don't believe in; which is an act hypocrisy. My exact words:

So you're not, I repeat not, arguing for clearly defined terms; do not believe clearly defined terms matter that much; do not really think that a case must be made and yet you demand all this from Crude? And you call him a hypocrite? Irony is lost on you.

On a side-note:

That's entertainment.

Quit trying to ape other people. You're not good at it and the only thing it does is reinforce the view that you don't actually think for yourself.