Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

The Organon

Posted by DNW on 2011/10/13


 

 

This short posting is not really about Aristotle’s  Organon.

Bust of Aristotle

 

 

It is instead, a delayed acknowledgement of some comments made to me by, I think, AOTC.

AOTC (again, I think) had referred with some approval to the work of someone named William Lane Craig. I was not familiar with Craig prior to that reference, and I based my response on the viewing of a couple of linked videos. One in particular, involved Sam Harris, who stupidly did much of Craig’s work for him.

In subsequent weeks though, I have had a little time to view a few more YouTube videos of Craig, and I find that he is quite famous in certain circles. I even came across part of a debate moderated, apparently, by William Buckley.

Thus, I have now been able to form a better idea of what Craig is doing in these various debates and discussions over the grounding of moral propositions, and the ultimate (for lack of a better term) nature of reality.

And my opinion is that Craig is in large part engaging in some very basic – for a philosopher – and one would think very requisite kinds of analysis of the arguments of those with whom he is having these discussions.

It shouldn’t be surprising. What is surprising is, that it is. In these debates, this journeyman-like work, seems typical of only Craig.

In fact, speaking of journeyman-like, Craig very often goes to great pains to point out that what he is in many cases doing is considering not whether the conclusion of his opponent’s argument is specious or sound as a stand-alone proposition, but merely whether the  statement his opponent is making validly follows from the form or the content of the argument which he is presenting as entailing such an assertion.

This is, or should be, completely unexceptional; as it should constitute a minimum standard for debate among men of serious purpose and sincere intentions.

What is baffling is how little effort his opponents expend on any formal analysis the arguments.  What they seem to imagine is that true conclusions somehow follow from empirical observations or data, regardless of the form of the argument. In debate, they snottily wave their supposed commitment to empirical method and their evolving factoids about, and expect everyone to simply salute and fall in line, or be deemed troglodytes.

Craig on the other hand, engages in the actual work of forensics; examining whether the conclusions these men purport as following from the premisses they present, do in fact logically follow.

This often leads not to an absolute conclusion pro or con as regards the resolution of the topic, but to an agnostic situation regarding the status of the proposition mooted.  But with Craig, at least an examination of the argument has been conscientiously performed according to commonly understood and commonly accepted rules of inference, such as modus ponens, modus tollens,  and the hypothetical syllogism, to name just a very few.

I mention these formal rules in particular because unlike murky accusations regarding the commission of an informal fallacy, which are so cheaply leveled in debates, these rules of inference are well established and not subject to interpretation or dispute. It is one thing to try and score a debating point by tossing out an accusation that your opponent has committed some named fallacy of relevance or ambiguity; it is quite another to repeat his complete argument and reveal through a known rule of replacement, how your opponent has committed, say, the deductive fallacy of affirming the consequent. That, is a great deal more intellectual work.

Placing aside the ultimate status of the questions Craig finds himself discussing, from what I have seen, by using the tools and the discipline of logic, he argues with a diligence, and therefore an integrity, that his opponents sometimes seem to lack.

Maybe they feel these techniques of forensic interpretation and clarification are unnecessary and obsolete. Maybe they know they are right, so they figure, “Why go to the effort of logic-chopping?”

Maybe Craig, they figure, while a credentialed professor, is not a physical  scientist;  and so, neither he nor his tool kit, need be taken seriously.

No maybe about this though: Craig is humble enough to take his work seriously, and to use the tools he has in earnest when examining whether or not the claims made by his opponents are sufficiently grounded according to the rules of reason.

If they were not so arrogant, they might learn something from his example.

11 Responses to “The Organon”

  1. I have seen this form of logical reasoning before:

    1) Premise
    2) ??????
    3) Utopia

    It seems far too many people use those steps of logical reasoning. Even People with Teh Powah. And they get offended anytime anyone (especially a peon) calls them on it.

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  2. AOTC said

    dnw, i cant remember what post i referenced him. (i loose track of blog threads here all the time, i wish there were a table of contents…) anyhow, WOW, i enjoyed your post.

    i so enjoy this type of enlightenment. it always puzzles me how although i dont understand the intellectual references, somehow my mind can understand the thread of logic, i see it like a picture almost. it’s hard to explain.

    and yes indeed, these are pretty dang fancy:🙂

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  3. AOTC said

    there are two youtubes. i dont know why only one shows up and the other shows as a link that has to be clicked??.

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  4. Do you pick up the embed code or just the link code? Dunno if that makes a difference or no on a WP-run site.

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  5. AOTC said

    i dont know. oh well, there are two you tube videos. take a look at both.

    ok, im going to bed. i have been up tonight with a lousy cold. i hate not being able to sleep. i am going to try now… goodnight.

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  6. Aha, found the problem. You had a space in front of the first link.

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  7. DNW said

    AOTC said
    2011/10/14 at 00:13 e

    ” dnw, i cant remember what post i referenced him. (i loose track of blog threads here all the time, i wish there were a table of contents…)…

    it always puzzles me how although i dont understand the intellectual references, somehow my mind can understand the thread of logic, i see it like a picture almost.

    it’s hard to explain. ”

    Maybe not. You and competence in geometry (your business) = regular practice in inference. Yes, you can almost “see” the argument.

    You know, more seriously, when you, AOTC, deal with the moral hypocrisy of leftists as an ever present and costly social phenomenon, as we all have done for years now, it leads you to ask if their hypocrisy is purely conscious, or if it could possibly be in part unconscious. And if we grant that it may in some cases be unconscious, that leads us all to ask what conditions could possibly produce such a result.

    And one such condition, is a kind of sheer intellectual incoherence they seem to live with. At that point you begin looking at the inconsistencies in what they are saying and doing from a somewhat new perspective. Instead of assuming that they, in every instance, are purely cynical and knowing scam artists – though many are – it begins to occur to you that sometimes they are simply blind to the fact that their social prescriptions do not follow from their announced views of the nature of reality.

    It is not just their behavior that is inconsistent with their preachments; their preachments are inconsistent with their “analysis” of life.

    By this observation we are drawn willy-nilly away from the natural human impulse toward mere ad hominem exasperation, and toward an examination of the way their recommendations fail to “fit together”.

    So, as we have had a couple of decades of practice in dealing with this phenomenon now, it’s no wonder that you have become a logician without even intending it.

    As time goes on however, they, “the progressives” – after being continually and forcibly confronted with the problems in their “logic” – will move ever closer and more universally toward the tactic of the post modern shrug as a way of dealing with it.

    They will eventually, like Rorty their latest high priest, be forced to admit that they merely want what they want because they want it, and that it is ultimately a simple act of their will, individual or collective, and not reason, that they expect you to yield to.

    That is why it is so important to them that they gain unalterable political control over the distribution of all social opportunities and material access as soon as possible. They correctly, if inchoately in some cases, sense that eventually intellectual push might come to ideological shove; and that before that happens, they need to nail down their complete control of coercive apparatus and social institutions, if they are not to be physically hoist by their own intellectual doctrines.

    If that situation were to come about, they would at best find themselves floundering in fields they have no idea what to do with, handed tools it is painful for them to learn and use, and confronted with the irrelevance of one who once stood arrogantly if lazily taking tolls, but is now ignored by passersby.

    So, they like sipping lattes in their publicly funded nests. So what?

    You don’t like paying for it, nor for the product they “like” to generate and wish to force you to purchase.

    When it all becomes universally granted as being a matter of mere likes and dislikes within a context of unnatural social selection – even as regards questions of life and death – and as it must on their own theory of morals and life, where does that leave us when disagreements arise and sacrifices are “called” for?

    You have been dealing with that question for a long time. It’s quite enough to make you into something of a logician.

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  8. DNW said

    AOTC,

    After using your response to make a couple of points that had already been made before, it occurred to me that it might be proper to acknowledge that the reason you are adept at seeing the logical structure of arguments, is not because of previous blueprint work, nor because of the overload of hypocrisy we all experience from the progressives among us, but because, you may simply have a talent for it.

    Gee … how about that?

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  9. AOTC said

    “They will eventually, like Rorty their latest high priest, be forced to admit that they merely want what they want because they want it, and that it is ultimately a simple act of their will, individual or collective, and not reason, that they expect you to yield to.”

    i think one of the OWS protesters actually said that as to why he wanted others to pay for his college. ‘it was what he wanted’.

    i see one benefit to them just coming clean about their motivations though….we need no longer listen to diatribes about fractal patterns, sentience, or all that blather designed to prop up what essentially amounts to their willful desires. heh.

    my hope is that their boldness/arrogance inspires the push-back you mentioned. the beneficiary of that struggle tilted towards those with courage. there is a difference between arrogance and courage. arrogance looks stronger but courage is stronger.

    **************************

    “You have been dealing with that question for a long time. It’s quite enough to make you into something of a logician.”

    i could be wrong, yet i think all minds, so far as they are not physically damaged to the extent they cant function, are [capable] of understanding and choosing between logic or willfully disregarding it. the different intellectual capacities dont seem to impede this basic ability, they just define on what plane you can understand it. (in my case it is spatial perhaps, i dont know but i see it children too). the basic truth of logic is constant, absolute. it is a beautiful thing to see, an example of something unifying yet diverse. interestingly, this concept is framed in the biblical texts. logic is called truth, and it is absolute, it is no respecter of persons, rich, poor, scholar, plebe. it binds people together with unity in diversity. i still have trouble making the jump from truth as an impersonal category to truth as person, but i am ‘seeing’ this more and more the older i get. i have always thought to believe it but had not ‘seen’ it. amazing.

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  10. AOTC said

    “DNW said
    2011/10/15 at 14:40

    AOTC,

    After using your response to make a couple of points that had already been made before, it occurred to me that it might be proper to acknowledge that the reason you are adept at seeing the logical structure of arguments, is not because of previous blueprint work, nor because of the overload of hypocrisy we all experience from the progressives among us, but because, you may simply have a talent for it.

    Gee … how about that?”

    LOL hey we cross posted. you posted while i was replying. i think i may have already posted a response to this in my above post without even reading this .. i must be really good… lol

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  11. DNW said

    AOTC writes

    “i see one benefit to them just coming clean about their motivations though….we need no longer listen to diatribes about fractal patterns, sentience, or all that blather designed to prop up what essentially amounts to their willful desires. heh. ”

    That one did devolve into an almost classic comedy routine.

    I kept hearing Crispin Glover’s voice channeling Timothy Leary as he narrated Tweedledum’s lines.

    ‘I think, man, therefore I am …magnificent effen computer man … mostly void dude …’

    On the other hand his little buddy Tweedledee, the beardless bait shop clerk, comes off as a frustrated Truman Capote wannabe stuck in Des Moines. Has to find some outlet for all that bile …

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