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Friday, April 27, 2012

Dissecting the sceptics II

In the first post on Dissecting the sceptics, I noted that we had to be wary of a possible bait-and-switch regarding Delavagus's use of a uniquely philosophical definition of 'knowledge' rather than any of the eight definitions more commonly used today. There is nothing wrong with the definition of knowledge as "justified true belief", nor do we have any reason object to its use here, but especially in light of the author's academic background, we need to always keep that specific definition in mind because it necessarily limits the scope of the argument. The next section of To Know Our Unknowing is as follows:
So far, so good. But any step we take from here is going to lead us into trouble, for the question immediately arises: What does and does not count as a genuine justification? Right away, we find ourselves in the grip of what’s called the problem of the criterion, which can be summed up this way: without an already-established criterion of truth/justification, we have no way to establish the truth/justification of a putative criterion of truth/justification. Immediately, in other words, we’ve fallen into the difficulty of needing to justify that which makes justification possible. It is no easy task—putting it mildly—to see our way around this epistemic impasse.

But even if we bracket out the problem of the criterion, our difficulties are hardly over. For the sake of argument, let’s all agree to construe justification in purely rationalistic terms. Let us, in other words, agree to seek justification solely on the basis of the autonomous exercise of our capacity to reason. (Let us, that is, become philosophers.) Straight off, then, we can dismiss any putative justification that relies on appeals to authority (appeals that cannot be independently underwritten by reason alone, that is). Appeals to authority (such as God, sacred texts, or your friendly neighborhood guru) can play a role in justification, but they cannot be its ground. We can also dismiss things like divine revelation. (Again, divine revelation can play a role in justification, but only if the truth of the revelation has been independently justified.)

In short, let’s all agree to be ‘rational.’ Now, there must exist constraints on what counts as rational; otherwise, the concept would be empty, indistinguishable from irrationality. Ancient skeptics suggested the following as non-tendentious rational constraints:

(1) If a person claims to know something, then that person opens herself up to the standing possibility of being asked how she knows, i.e., to being asked for the justification of her belief.

(2) Successful justifications cannot involve:

Brute assumption
Infinite regress
Vicious circularity

(3) If a claim to knowledge cannot be justified, then the claimant is rationally constrained to withdraw it (at least qua knowledge-claim).
Delavagus continues reasonably here by bringing up the obvious question of what counts as justification in order to justify the true belief. This is important, of course, because sans any justification, even a true belief is insufficient to qualify as knowledge by his definition of it. The epistemic impasse is quickly reached, as the need for justification and the concomitant need for justification of the justification, quickly forces this definition of knowledge into an infinite regress. Delavagus even goes so far as admitting he has "no way to establish the truth/justification of a putative criterion of truth/justification."

But here is where he commits his fourth error. Instead of giving up the philosophical definition of knowledge as intrinsically worthless due to what he has admitted is the impossibility of providing any established justifications for true beliefs, Delavagus simply waves his hand again and attempts to leap over the bottomless pit of the epistemic abyss by asking the reader to agree to pretend the problem of the criterion does not exist. He also asks us to ignore all potential justifications that are not based on the autonomous exercise of our ability to reason. While only the former is an actual error, the decision to simply ignore all of the other forms of potential justification is something that we also have to be careful to keep in mind. After all, it would be every bit as logically valid and epistemically sound here were we to agree instead to construe justification in purely revelatory terms while dismissing any putative justifications that are not based on sacred texts or divine visitations. There is nothing wrong with this self-imposed limitation, but it must be remembered that it is artificial and the author has provided no grounds whatsoever in restricting all potential justification to the rational.

He goes on to correctly point out that it is necessary to distinguish between the rational justification and the irrational justification, then provides three constraints to help distinguish between the two. The first point is unobjectionable, if a little confusingly worded. If a person claims to possess justified true belief, that person opens himself up to the possibility of being asked about the justification of that belief, just as he opens himself up to questions concerning the truth of his belief or even if his belief is genuine. And while I wouldn't go so far as to call the second point an error because it is true that successful rational justifications can't include brute assumption, infinite regress, or vicious circularity, Delavagus is more than a bit careless when he states that successful justifications cannot include them since he's not attempting to define successful justifications, he's attempting to define rational justifications. This carelessness helps lead him into his fifth error, in (3), wherein he states that "If a claim to knowledge cannot be justified, then the claimant is rationally constrained to withdraw it".

But how is that so? There are three problems here. First, the if/then statement is relevant, given the subject matter, but unwarranted. The ancients may well have suggested it as a rational constraint, but their opinion has no bearing on whether it is legitimately applicable or not. As it stands, (3) is nothing more than an appeal to authority of the sort that Delavagus has already ruled out of bounds. Second, it is a circular statement, as how can a constraint intended to mark the limits between the rational and the irrational be itself dependent upon a rational constrainment? Third, since Delavagus has permitted himself to simply "bracket out the problem of the criterion", he has no ability to assert that anyone with a claim to knowledge that cannot be justified cannot do exactly the same in refusing to withdraw that claim. The statement isn't necessarily untrue, but it is both questionable and unjustified.

What we're seeing here is that Delavagus has continued to narrow the scope of his argument while continuing to ignore the valid objections he readily admits. What initially began in very broad terms, referring to humans being "stupid, stupid creatures" and telling us that "we're all idiots" has now severely constricted the definition of knowledge, artificially thrown out every form of putative justification that is not based on reason, is using a dubious metric to distinguish between the rational and irrational, and is attempting to establish that which we were told cannot be established. None of this is sufficient to declare Delavagus's defense of Pyrrhonism invalid yet, but it does tend to indicate that one will have to examine his eventual conclusions very carefully to see if they are, in fact, successfully and rationally justified, or if they even follow logically from his arguments.

Dissecting the skeptics III

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63 Comments:

Anonymous Wright April 27, 2012 10:45 AM  

It occurs to me that Plantinga's work on warranted belief can come in handy when arguing epistemic justification.

Anonymous James Dixon April 27, 2012 1:01 PM  

I think a bunch of people's eyes just glazed over, Vox. :)

Blogger wrf3 April 27, 2012 1:22 PM  

It sure seems to me that this is needlessly complex. Maybe philosophers should be forced to take a course in geometry. Mathematicians know that you have to start with undefined terms, for which we yet have an intuitive feel, and truths that are simply asserted to be true (the axioms). The rules of logic, e.g. the law of identity, the law of (non-)contradiction, and the law of the excluded middle are also assumed (we have to -- we couldn't communicate with them). Then we go from there.

Plane, elliptical, and hyperbolic geometries are all true and justifiably so. Which one happens to match our universe, however, is as yet undetermined and won't be until we know the mass of the universe.

That's the first part. I suspect philosophers get away with so much is because they don't clearly state their axioms. Geometry has five plus the three laws of logic. Do philosophers even know theirs?

The second part is like the engineer and the mathematician at a party eyeing a beautiful woman across the room. The host says that they're welcome to go introduce themselves to her. But in order to do so, they must cross half the distance to her on each step. The engineer takes off like a shot. The mathematician sputters and calls out, "but you'll never get there! Zeno's paradox and all that!" To which the engineer replied, "but I can get close enough for all practical purposes!".

Will the sun rise tomorrow? Who really knows? (that kind of induction isn't foolproof, unlike mathematical induction). But I'll bet money that it will.

As for his criteria, "Successful justifications cannot involve... Brute assumption", that's just nonsense. Everything starts with some assumption. (See Russell, for example. Or Euclid).

Delavagas is screwing around by not clearly stating what he assumes to be true before he starts off trying to know what is true.

Anonymous FrankNorman April 27, 2012 1:29 PM  

It is impossible to derive any belief or knowledge from reason alone, because in order to do any reasoning, one must start somewhere. One must have some premises, some data to reason from.

Anonymous 691 April 27, 2012 2:05 PM  

I'm not very proficient in these epistemological arguments, so I'd like to attempt to reproduce your arguments Vox and see if I'm getting them correct. If I make mistakes, please point them out to me.

There are many different definitions of knowledge: the dictionary gives us ten and Delavagus gives us an eleventh. There could be more that we have not listed; these definitions may not cover all examples of what we would like to consider knowledge; these definitions may have some overlap among one another. Importantly, they may also not coincide or contain one another: what is knowledge according to one definition may not be knowledge according to another definition.

Delavagus wants to consider "justified true belief", which is one of many possible definitions. So we will investigate what counts as justified true belief and what does not. However, our results will only apply to this one standard: if we determine something to not be justified true belief, it does not imply that it is therefore not information or not something that is known (definition 6) unless we can show that the standard of justified true belief encompasses the standard set by definition 6. Doing so would be incorrect and in the context of an argument could be termed "bait and switch"

Furthermore, the set of "justified true beliefs" cannot, by itself, include everything we would like to consider knowledge. As such, it is a worthless definition.

Anonymous 691 April 27, 2012 2:11 PM  

Also, I'm confused about what exactly constitutes the problem of criterion. I have two potential interpretations and I would like to know which, if any, you are referring to:

First, when investigating the class of "justified true beliefs", we must elaborate on the standard. In particular, what does it mean to justify a belief? For example, we can use reason as our criterion. However, this leads to a recursive problem. How do we know that our offered justification actually meets the criterion? How do we know, for example, that our justification is actually reasonable? Well, because knowledge is "justified true belief", we must set another criterion for our justification that our first justification is reasonable. Now we can try to satisfy this second criterion. But again, how do we know that our second level justification meets the second criterion? We need a third criterion to justify this. At this point, it is clear that the process will repeat infinitely many times.

When I first thought through this, it seemed like an extra criterion to expect that we know our justification meets the criterion. Do you have to know that you know? But it is necessary if we want to actually determine what is knowledge ("justified true belief") and what is not, if we want to determine whether we or someone else actually knows something. In particular, to even delineate what falls into the set, we need knowledge. And it seems that we cannot have a justified true belief that another belief is justified and true. This supports your contention that there is far more that we want to consider knowledge than "justified true belief"

A second interpretation of the problem of criterion is this: Once we have determined what our standard of justification for beliefs are, we should ask ourselves why we chose this standard and not some other standard. Why did we choose reason and not divine revelation as our standard? In particular, we should justify our decision to chose this standard. Perhaps science justifies using reason as our first standard. But this requires setting up a second criterion by which to justify our first choice. Why is science an appropriate standard by which to judge our first criterion? So we need to set up a third criterion to justify our choice of second criterion. Again, this will continue indefinitely.

Perhaps, these seem like the same problem. And in some sense they are, because we feel it is necessary to justify a criterion for justification. But in the context of the definition of knowledge, it seems important to me to distinguish the two. My second interpretation is intrinsic to justification itself and could show up in other issues. The first is specific to the problem and context of knowledge.

Anonymous VD April 27, 2012 2:18 PM  

There are many different definitions of knowledge: the dictionary gives us ten and Delavagus gives us an eleventh.

Nine and ten, respectively, but otherwise, yes.

Importantly, they may also not coincide or contain one another: what is knowledge according to one definition may not be knowledge according to another definition.

You have identified the crux of the matter.

Delavagus wants to consider "justified true belief", which is one of many possible definitions. So we will investigate what counts as justified true belief and what does not. However, our results will only apply to this one standard: if we determine something to not be justified true belief, it does not imply that it is therefore not information or not something that is known (definition 6) unless we can show that the standard of justified true belief encompasses the standard set by definition 6. Doing so would be incorrect and in the context of an argument could be termed "bait and switch"

Correct and correct. But note that Delavagus has not yet made any such claim nor committed any such bait and switch.

Furthermore, the set of "justified true beliefs" cannot, by itself, include everything we would like to consider knowledge. As such, it is a worthless definition.

Neither of these things has been demonstrated as yet, although the problem of the criterion does suggest the latter.

We need a third criterion to justify this. At this point, it is clear that the process will repeat infinitely many times.

This is the problem of the criterion. Not the second interpretation.

Why did we choose reason and not divine revelation as our standard? In particular, we should justify our decision to chose this standard.

Well done. You correctly anticipate one of my lines of reason. But this is not what Delavagus means by the problem of the criterion.

Anonymous VD April 27, 2012 2:23 PM  

I think a bunch of people's eyes just glazed over, Vox.

I always find it amusing how some of the posts and columns that interest me most attract the least interest from readers. And I occasionally find it astonishing when some throwaway post that took two minutes to write suddenly pulls in hundreds of comments.

It sure seems to me that this is needlessly complex.

It's easy to simply call it bullshit when you smell it. But it's just as easy for someone else to deny it. I think of this as doing the DNA labwork to conclusively prove the obvious beyond a reasonable doubt. And, of course, it's always interesting to learn something new and see if your assumptions hold up.

Anonymous 691 April 27, 2012 2:42 PM  

Thanks for the reply

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick April 27, 2012 2:56 PM  

I always find it amusing how some of the posts and columns that interest me most attract the least interest from readers. And I occasionally find it astonishing when some throwaway post that took two minutes to write suddenly pulls in hundreds of comments.

And this my friends is why the market is so hard to predict.

Anonymous James Dixon April 27, 2012 3:20 PM  

> I always find it amusing how some of the posts and columns that interest me most attract the least interest from readers.

I've noticed. :)

I do usually read these types of posts, but I usually don't comment unless someone makes an especially egregious statement.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet April 27, 2012 3:28 PM  

Second, it is a circular statement, as how can a constraint intended to mark the limits between the rational and the irrational be itself dependent upon a rational constrainment?

Best part. Hopefully, we get a response from him here.

But here is where he commits his fourth error. Instead of giving up the philosophical definition of knowledge as intrinsically worthless due to what he has admitted is the impossibility of providing any established justifications for true beliefs

Whether or not you want to open it up here yet, if you wouldn't mind telling us which definition you favor. I ask out of general interest, so if you'd rather not in favor of focusing on his argument, who am I to argue?

Anonymous Suomynona April 27, 2012 3:30 PM  

VD April 27, 2012 2:23 PM
I always find it amusing how some of the posts and columns that interest me most attract the least interest from readers.

A short foray through the nebulous world of nothingness is initially interesting, but now that it's well into an extended discussion revolving around to what basically comes down to the meaning of the word "is", the whole thing gets tiresome very quickly. If the ilk were of the mind to give the prattle of these sophists any credence they'd probably already be part of circle jerk at Bakker's.

Anonymous Silas Reinagel April 27, 2012 3:53 PM  

While the topic< itself isn't as deep as other potential debates would be, it's still enjoyable to watch a logical evisceration of a flawed argument for fundamental epistemic skepticism.

Delavagus strikes me as inexperienced in his philosophic journey. He has a basic grasp of philosophical concepts and language, but has not yet reached the inevitable rational conclusions (such as the inescapably necessity of the epistemic leap). In order for anything to be known rationally, one must accept certain premises to be true a priori. From the stance of the Christian metanarrative, this would be considered an act of faith.

Blogger Vox April 27, 2012 4:23 PM  

A short foray through the nebulous world of nothingness is initially interesting, but now that it's well into an extended discussion revolving around to what basically comes down to the meaning of the word "is", the whole thing gets tiresome very quickly.

Patience, grasshopper. I believe there will ultimately be a payoff.

Anonymous Suomynona April 27, 2012 5:02 PM  

The thing about taking on these types is that you can never win with them. If logic and reason were enough to demonstrate to the leftist/liberal that he's wrong, they would be reasoned out of existence.

Bakker is every bit the judgmental cunt that he constantly accuses Vox of being. But he is by far the more vile for the hypocrisy - a passive-aggressive leftist scum hiding behind a facade of intellectual purity.

Reading the shriekings at the freak show that is Bakker's blog one realizes that all of the commenters there are the same duplicitous, hypocritical, pieces of leftist crap as their host. They can all go fuck themselves. The only worth in having come across that pit of vipers is in knowing to avoid it.

Anonymous DigScribe April 27, 2012 5:23 PM  

Interesting critique, Vox. I find it funny that I've learned more from reading Vox and the Ilk over the past 3 years than I have from over 16 years of formal education.

Anonymous III April 27, 2012 5:36 PM  

I read them Vox. I appreciate your search for understanding and the truth.

Anonymous Suomynona April 27, 2012 6:13 PM  

Vox April 27, 2012 4:23 PM
Patience, grasshopper. I believe there will ultimately be a payoff.


That sounds ominous - bringing to mind the specter of that most unfortunate of equines to have trodden upon this blog, and the concomitant collateral damage. If this is the case, they are richly deserving of what will proceed from here.

Blogger wrf3 April 27, 2012 6:18 PM  

Silas Reinagel: In order for anything to be known rationally, one must accept certain premises to be true a priori. From the stance of the Christian metanarrative, this would be considered an act of faith.

The famous atheist mathematician Bertrand Russell in his Problems of Philosophy wrote:

"All knowledge, we find, must be built up upon our instinctive beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left."

"Philosophy should show us our hierarchy of instinctive beliefs, beginning with those we hold most strongly, and presenting each as much isolated and as free from irrelevant additions as possible. It should take care to show that, in the form in which they are finally set forth, our instinctive beliefs do not clash, but form a harmonious system. There can never be any reason for rejecting one instinctive belief except that it clashes with others; thus, if they are found to harmonize, the whole system becomes worthy of acceptance."

"In one sense it must be admitted that we can never prove the existence of things other than ourselves and our experiences. No logical absurdity results from the hypothesis that the world consists of myself and my thoughts and feelings and sensations, and that everything else is mere fancy."

Anonymous zen0 April 27, 2012 10:24 PM  

"In one sense it must be admitted that we can never prove the existence of things other than ourselves and our experiences. No logical absurdity results from the hypothesis that the world consists of myself and my thoughts and feelings and sensations, and that everything else is mere fancy."

"I think, therefore I am."

All bullshit, 24/7. When you die, the world lives on. You can only prove it by the fact that creatures like yourself cease to exist all the time.

And you are next in line.

Bon Voyage!

Blogger wrf3 April 27, 2012 11:02 PM  

Zen0 wrote: When you die, the world lives on

Justify your belief. Thanks. Your answer will be scrutinized for logical rigor.

Anonymous bob k. mando April 27, 2012 11:07 PM  

Vox, in the previous post:
And since he's an academic of sorts, we know to look for the word games, in particular the definitional bait-and-switch of which they are so very fond.


given that Vox has already pointed out the necessity of being on the lookout for definitional bait-and-switches, i find it very interesting that he HAS NOT YET hammered Delavagus for the bait-and-switch which may well be the foundation of Bakker's / Delavagus' "We all ( and by 'we all', they mean you ) be stupid" argument.

i will leave this here as a clue and encourage everyone else to examine this argument from first principles and i especially urge you too precision in language. there is NO knowledge of philosophy or epistemology necessary to see what i'm talking about, merely a rigorous application of a moderately endowed vocabulary. i'll check back in with my answer by the end of the weekend.

at stake is 10 gazillion internet brownie points ( like fiat money, fundamentally worthless ).

OpenID delavagus April 28, 2012 1:08 AM  

I don't know what I was expecting, but Vox's first two attempts at 'dissecting' the posts I wrote on the TPB are -- to say the least -- unimpressive critical specimens. Really. As I said in a comment to the first 'Dissecting [sic] the Skeptics [sic]' post, this is some weak, weak stuff.

I've given Vox a relatively fair shake, I think. If I wasn't so busy, I might stick around to see what happens. Perhaps he would surprise me. But everything I've seen of him so far -- both here and on Scott Bakker's blog -- leads me to the same set of conclusions: he is at best an average intelligence; he is a shockingly bad reader of texts; his thought-processes seem genuinely addled, at least when he tries to philosophize; and, perhaps worst of all, his unbounded (and, from what I can see, unwarranted) arrogance makes constructive dialogue with him all but impossible.

Roll all these things together and what do you get? A steaming dialectical shit-salad, that's what. The middling to below-average level of these 'dissections' would be fine -- more than fine! -- if Vox weren't incapable of incorporating, or even (genuinely) responding to, criticisms and objections. I would be more than happy to engage with a real critic, but Vox? There's no point.

Now, you'll just have to take my word for it (which, of course, you won't!) that I could provide dozens -- literally, dozens -- of examples to support these claims, but what would be the point? Vox himself would be unfazed (on account of the very things the examples would illustrate!), as would those unfortunates caught under his spell, while those who are smart enough to see through his crap don't need the lesson.

So I'll say here what I said in a comment to the first 'Dissecting [sic] the Skeptics [sic]" post:

"And with that, I bid you all ado. I hope you someday manage to find your way out of Vox's toxic shadow -- and I'm speaking to you as well, Vox. Get out of your own way, why dontcha?!"

Anonymous kaos021 April 28, 2012 2:00 AM  

Well, he sure showed Vox with his ad hominem attacks and claims from authority that Vox has no idea what he's talking about. I don't know about you guys, but I'm convinced. Well, mostly convinced Delavagus is an intellectual coward who can't defend his own musings. If the best he can do is say, "You just don't understand me because I'm far too brilliant. Take my word for it...no really..." I doubt we'd gain much by having him react to the rest of Vox's interesting dissection of his post.

Anonymous VD April 28, 2012 2:15 AM  

I don't know what I was expecting, but Vox's first two attempts at 'dissecting' the posts I wrote on the TPB are -- to say the least -- unimpressive critical specimens. Really. As I said in a comment to the first 'Dissecting [sic] the Skeptics [sic]' post, this is some weak, weak stuff.

Sure, little college boy. You don't even realize that you're in well over your head here.

But everything I've seen of him so far -- both here and on Scott Bakker's blog -- leads me to the same set of conclusions: he is at best an average intelligence; he is a shockingly bad reader of texts; his thought-processes seem genuinely addled, at least when he tries to philosophize; and, perhaps worst of all, his unbounded (and, from what I can see, unwarranted) arrogance makes constructive dialogue with him all but impossible.

The funny thing is that, like your friend Scott, you don't even realize when you're getting your ass kicked. As for the "genuinely addled" thought processes, I simply cite Vox's First Law: "Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from insanity."

You, of all people, should already know precisely where this is headed.

Now, you'll just have to take my word for it (which, of course, you won't!) that I could provide dozens -- literally, dozens -- of examples to support these claims, but what would be the point?

You don't even understand the problems with your argument when they're pointed out to you. What dozens of examples could you cite to support claims when you have already admitted ignoring of the problem of the criterion or specifically ignored most other forms of justification. But be patient, grasshopper. All will become clear in time.

Anonymous Suomynona April 28, 2012 2:19 AM  

Apart from failing to provide the meaning of words, that useless dictionary also fails to give their correct spellings. One wonders at the very special and secret book containing the real meaning and correct spelling of the words of the English language to which only the enlightened ones are privy. Or do their super powers permit them to simply sense the correct meanings and spellings? Both "dissecting" and "skeptic" must feel icky and wrong to little delavagus for him go on about them as he did.

OpenID delavagus April 28, 2012 2:20 AM  

I just read this and thought it was to good not to share with you lot.

"According to the texts I shall discuss – Apology, Ion, and Philebus – blameworthy ignorance involves self-aggrandizing modes of thought... Blameworthy ignorance, Plato suggests, is not primarily to be located in deficient judgments that cognizers make about the matters they are ignorant about. Instead, certain background assumptions about ourselves – claims to the effect that one is richer, handsomer, better, and wiser than one really is – throw us off track. They diminish our abilities to make careful judgments, and they cast a shadow over our achievements in domains where we actually have some expertise. Blameworthy ignorance thus comes with a lack of self-knowledge of a peculiar kind. To think that you are wiser than you are is similar to enjoying the idea that you are more beautiful or richer – or a better driver, or more genuinely kind – than you are. These images of ourselves mislead us into overly confident claims to knowledge and expertise. I shall refer to this kind f phenomenon as Transferred Ignorance: blameworthy ignorance involves a transition from an inflated self-image to an inflated view of one’s ability to assess matters other than oneself. Even worse, when we, thus encouraged, put forward what we claim to know, we often formulate ideas that figure in our thoughts because we picked them up from others. While we indulge in our overly optimistic self-image, we forget that we do not even comprehend what we say."

- Katja Vogt

Oh, and kaos021 -- yes, I've certainly cornered the market on ad hominem attacks and intellectual cowardice! Putting these words into my mouth -- "You just don't understand me because I'm far too brilliant" -- on THIS blog, the blog of the Super Intelligence himself... that's rich! Christ, but you guys are a riot. Honestly. What a bunch of jokers.

I've defended my view elsewhere on this site. You can have a look and judge for yourself, if you want. Not that it's likely to make any difference.

Anonymous VD April 28, 2012 2:34 AM  

Ooh, an irrelevant quote! That's always, ah, convincing....

I've defended my view elsewhere on this site. You can have a look and judge for yourself, if you want. Not that it's likely to make any difference.

You have... albeit ineptly and without success. Do you not understand that even a number of people on Bakker's site have moved towards my position due to the fact that you and Scott, among others, argue so poorly in comparison?

Putting these words into my mouth -- "You just don't understand me because I'm far too brilliant" -- on THIS blog, the blog of the Super Intelligence himself... that's rich! Christ, but you guys are a riot. Honestly. What a bunch of jokers.

It's not rich at all. Everyone here knows I can explain myself well enough for people to understand me and the explanations hold up. And I always defend my arguments as long as it takes, unless their flaws are revealed, in which case I abandon them. You, on the other hand, keep threatening to run away after the holes in your arguments are exposed, claiming they don't exist. You're not even an intellectual fraud like Scott, you're just a student who is regurgitating his partially understood lessons and doesn't understand the flaws in his arguments even when they're pointed out and everyone else can see them.

Anonymous Suomynona April 28, 2012 2:35 AM  

They can only hear one drum beat and it says that anyone with an opinion must have attained it by any other means other than logic, reasoning, and facts, therefore he is a horrible, delusional person, not to mention dangerous. And worrisome - we mustn't forget worrisome. Oh dear. People with opinions always think they're better, but they're really just knaves.

Fucking broken record. The Marxist mentality is barely hidden beneath their preaching. Nobody is better than anyone. We are all equal. And everyone must think the same or they're self-aggrandizing lunatics.

Blogger Spacebunny April 28, 2012 2:40 AM  

Told you so.

Anonymous kaos021 April 28, 2012 2:52 AM  

There's nothing wrong with ad hominem attacks if you can actually back up your claims beforehand. How many times is Delavagus going to threaten to run away? I'm putting the over under at 2 1/2.

Anonymous III April 28, 2012 3:01 AM  

Now, you'll just have to take my word for it... - delavagus

Justified true belief maybe?

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick April 28, 2012 3:31 AM  

Putting these words into my mouth

Broken Bamboo just as I called it.

I've defended my view elsewhere on this site. You can have a look and judge for yourself, if you want. Not that it's likely to make any difference.

Fighting retreat, again as I predicted.

This is fun.

Anonymous Suomynona April 28, 2012 3:35 AM  

This is OT, but representative of the atheist mentality we're dealing with here. I made the mistake of having the television on and heard about this on the local news. The enlightened atheist fascists in Arlington, TX are making a giant stink about a movie theater that won't run its atheist ad. They want to force a private business to force its patrons, a captive audience, to watch their atheist BS propaganda. The atheist asshole said he was going to sue them if the theater did not run the ad.

If you read the article you realize what despicable snakes they are. They whine that they are only trying to show how family-friendly they are - and by "curious coincidence" the ads were supposed to start to run on Good Friday. Their goal is to wipe out Christianity.

Anonymous Suomynona April 28, 2012 4:37 AM  

Another OT, but it's always a pleasure to see the reality-challenged freaks like Bakker get smacked upside their stupid heads: George Zimmerman’s Website Closes After He Raises $204,000

Blogger Spacebunny April 28, 2012 4:45 AM  

Oh, I don't know, I always enjoy a good "I could explain it to you, but I can't be bothered" as they run away. But don't worry delavagus, from you it's actually convincing!

Blogger Spacebunny April 28, 2012 4:47 AM  

There's nothing wrong with ad hominem attacks if you can actually back up your claims beforehand.

If you are backing up your claims, it's not an ad hom. Sheesh.

Anonymous Suomynona April 28, 2012 5:46 AM  

Now, this is the kind of stupid I can totally support. It doesn't infringe on anyone's rights, and the idiot is quickly removed from the population. Go SunShinists!

And they say we're intolerant...

Anonymous Cornucopia April 28, 2012 7:46 AM  

"After all, it would be every bit as logically valid and epistemically sound here were we to agree instead to construe justification in purely revelatory terms while dismissing any putative justifications that are not based on sacred texts or divine visitations. There is nothing wrong with this self-imposed limitation, but it must be remembered that it is artificial and the author has provided no grounds whatsoever in restricting all potential justification to the rational."

As far as I can see, all justifications but rational have nearly trivial rebuttals. For revelation, there is the simple counter that what if your source of revelation is false? There can be no reply that doesn't cross the five tropes (actually revelation is directly covered by the tropes, hypothesis, or reliance on dogma). Revelation can play a part in knowledge, but only if it is independently justified, but by what means? A little bird can tell you something, but you need to have another reason to actually believe it. As far as I can tell, reason is the only justification that has a chance of eluding the five tropes.

Anonymous Cornucopia April 28, 2012 8:10 AM  

"Delavagus is more than a bit careless when he states that successful justifications cannot include them since he's not attempting to define successful justifications, he's attempting to define rational justifications."

But at this point he's already constrained the argument to rational justification, so successful justification is subsumed by rational justification. There is no need to stipulate it.

Anonymous pdimov April 28, 2012 8:24 AM  

delavagus: ... he is at best an average intelligence ...

Not very likely, no matter what definition of average you are using.

Now, it's true that the two posts so far have been largely uninteresting, but I assume this is a build-up.

You could have avoided everything so far with only minor rewrites. You didn't because you were assuming implicitly that the audience would be friendly. (Skeptical, but friendly. Another paradox.) That's fine, I guess, but it's probably not Vox is accustomed to, his positions being contrarian. So he's spotting every inaccuracy in the same way his readers would, were he to have written it.

Blogger Vox April 28, 2012 8:28 AM  

But at this point he's already constrained the argument to rational justification, so successful justification is subsumed by rational justification. There is no need to stipulate it.

No. You need to re-read what he wrote more carefully. He's listing the three constraints as a means of distinguishing rational justifications from irrational ones. So, he can't bring up "successful justifications" as a means of distinguishing between rational and irrational justifications, especially when there the possibility for unsuccessful rational justifications exists.

It's not an error per se, but it is undeniably sloppy and indicative of the very intellectual carelessness I'd previously pointed out.

Anonymous pdimov April 28, 2012 8:30 AM  

There's nothing wrong with ad hominem attacks if you can actually back up your claims beforehand.

If you are backing up your claims, it's not an ad hom. Sheesh.


It still is.

X is stupid, and I can justify that; therefore X is wrong.

is still ad hominem and invalid.

If you're a philosopher, though, X is rationally obliged to withdraw his claim if he can't justify it. X is stupid, stupid people can't justify anything, therefore X is wrong. Philosophy is fun.

Anonymous Cornucopia April 28, 2012 8:31 AM  

"Second, it is a circular statement, as how can a constraint intended to mark the limits between the rational and the irrational be itself dependent upon a rational constrainment?"

Again, I think the confusion here is that Delavagus has already constrained the argument to rationality, and with that, all these objections are moot.

"Third, since Delavagus has permitted himself to simply "bracket out the problem of the criterion", he has no ability to assert that anyone with a claim to knowledge that cannot be justified cannot do exactly the same in refusing to withdraw that claim. The statement isn't necessarily untrue, but it is both questionable and unjustified."

No, he's examining the special case of rational justification, not showing up to the party without justification. Whether it's a sound justification was covered by his "for the sake of argument" assumption. The assumption is that it is a correct form of justification. You're operating under the impression that he hasn't made that assumption about criterion, but clearly he has.

"What we're seeing here is that Delavagus has continued to narrow the scope of his argument..."

Yes! Focusing on rational justification means throwing out irrational justification, which isn't that bad, unless you're partial to irrational justification.

"while continuing to ignore the valid objections he readily admits."

No, don't see it. How?

Blogger Vox April 28, 2012 8:39 AM  

As far as I can see, all justifications but rational have nearly trivial rebuttals. For revelation, there is the simple counter that what if your source of revelation is false?

Then you're completely wrong and you clearly don't see very far. But regardless, your point is irrelevant. Delavagus simply didn't provide any justification for artificially eliminating all other forms of potential justification and he might as legitimately chosen divine revelation, personal experience, or science instead of reason as the only acceptable form of justification in his argument here. Now, here is a question for you: do you seriously think reason is capable of justifying what you had for lunch yesterday or do you think that it is impossible to possess justified true belief concerning what you had for lunch yesterday?

Don't you see that the same trivial rebuttal you've suggested applies to reason as well? For reason, there is the simple counter that what if your source of reason is false? Or, worse, what if reason itself is false?

Anonymous Cornucopia April 28, 2012 8:41 AM  

"So, he can't bring up "successful justifications" as a means of distinguishing between rational and irrational justifications, especially when there the possibility for unsuccessful rational justifications exists."

The way I read it, since it appeared after a lot of prior notice that the focus was shifting to rationality, was "to be a successful rational justification," but your mileage may vary. Either way, I think it's a minor point.

Blogger Vox April 28, 2012 8:46 AM  

Again, I think the confusion here is that Delavagus has already constrained the argument to rationality, and with that, all these objections are moot.

Again, you're failing to recognize that the three points are expressly being expressed to distinguish between irrationality and rationality. You simply haven't understood what he's writing. Let's look at it from your perspective here: why do you think he listed those three things in the first place?

You're operating under the impression that he hasn't made that assumption about criterion, but clearly he has.

Of course he has. My point, which you're failing to grasp, is that anyone else can declare a special case "for the sake of argument" whenever they want too and Delavagus has no excuse for denying it because he's already done the same thing.

Yes! Focusing on rational justification means throwing out irrational justification, which isn't that bad, unless you're partial to irrational justification.

He's thrown out far more than irrational justification. And he's done so explicitly.

No, don't see it. How?

He freely admits that he's ignoring Gettier. He freely admits that he's ignoring the problem of the criterion. How can you possibly not see those two things?

Blogger Vox April 28, 2012 8:47 AM  

Either way, I think it's a minor point.

Agreed. Note that I didn't even mark it as an error. It's merely another indication of his lack of precision.

Anonymous Cornucopia April 28, 2012 8:49 AM  

"Delavagus simply didn't provide any justification for artificially eliminating all other forms of potential justification and he might as legitimately chosen divine revelation, personal experience, or science instead of reason as the only acceptable form of justification in his argument here."

But he didn't need to! That's the beauty of philosophical assumption. Surely, you've been in arguments where someone says "for the sake of argument..."?

"Don't you see that the same trivial rebuttal you've suggested applies to reason as well? For reason, there is the simple counter that what if your source of reason is false? Or, worse, what if reason itself is false?"

Ah yes, that's where the plot thickens. I wouldn't say the justification of reason is as easily dealt with as authority or revelation, however that is definitely where a new door opens in the debate.

Blogger Vox April 28, 2012 8:55 AM  

That's fine, I guess, but it's probably not Vox is accustomed to, his positions being contrarian. So he's spotting every inaccuracy in the same way his readers would, were he to have written it.

That's pretty accurate. This is why I laughed at Delavagus's repeated complaints about my "uncharitable" reading. All critical readings are uncharitable. They're supposed to be. In the real world, your critics and political opponents will actually misread things on purpose if you give them any chance to do so and will take advantage of even the most minor error to attempt to discredit you. Given that I am one of the most sophisticated polemicists writing op/ed today, which is to say that I am able to regularly trap those uncharitable readers into embarrassing themselves by leaping to declare nonexistent errors, it should be obvious that Delavagus, due to his inexperience with non-academic polemics, had absolutely no idea what he was getting into when he asked me to critique his arguments.

If he and Scott would actually criticize each others arguments, he'd learn not to be so careless. If he was smarter, perhaps he'd realize that he's being taught a very valuable lesson here. And the teaching moment hasn't even arrived yet....

Anonymous Cornucopia April 28, 2012 8:55 AM  


Don't you see that the same trivial rebuttal you've suggested applies to reason as well? For reason, there is the simple counter that what if your source of reason is false? Or, worse, what if reason itself is false?


I can't take a break without saying, for someone who didn't seem to think much of skepticism, you're making remarkable progress.

Blogger Vox April 28, 2012 8:58 AM  

But he didn't need to! That's the beauty of philosophical assumption. Surely, you've been in arguments where someone says "for the sake of argument..."?

I'll ask you to table that thought, all right? Why will become clear in my next two posts. Of course I have, which is why I know that beauty comes with limits. You're right, it's fine to make philosophical assumptions, so long as you don't subsequently attempt to draw any material conclusions from them.

Blogger Vox April 28, 2012 8:59 AM  

I can't take a break without saying, for someone who didn't seem to think much of skepticism, you're making remarkable progress.

Progress? Or were Scott and everyone else who declared me to be a thoughtless and certain dogmatic simply wrong?

Blogger wrf3 April 28, 2012 9:00 AM  

Cornucopia wrote: But he didn't need to! That's the beauty of philosophical assumption. Surely, you've been in arguments where someone says "for the sake of argument..."?

But of course he needs to. Just because someone says "for the sake of the argument" doesn't mean that the point needs to be granted without justification! Especially when a lot of the arguments end up "assuming X... lots of handwaving ... therefore X!"

Blogger wrf3 April 28, 2012 9:07 AM  

Cornucopia wrote: I can't take a break without saying, for someone who didn't seem to think much of skepticism, you're making remarkable progress.

What's the difference between having a critical eye and being a skeptic? Is is that the former attempts to discern truth; the latter attempts to avoid it?

Blogger Markku April 28, 2012 9:27 AM  

Delavagus' tirade made things a lot more entertaining. Now I eagerly expect the next part.

Blogger Spacebunny April 28, 2012 10:28 AM  

X is stupid, and I can justify that; therefore X is wrong.

Yes, of course in that case it would be an ad hom, but then if that were the case (and rereading the comment it isn't completely clear that that is the case) it would not justify the ad hom as per the commentors assertion that ad homs are okay if you back them up. It would still be a logical fallacy and therefore not okay.

Anonymous Cornucopia April 28, 2012 6:53 PM  

Just a note. After finishing my comments I realized that I didn't mention the single most obvious justification, the one that is right under all our noses, empirical justification! Or, what is apparent in the world. Both empirical and rational justification of knowledge aren't immune to criticism, but they're both better than revelation alone.

Anonymous kh123 April 28, 2012 9:01 PM  

"I've defended my view elsewhere on this site. You can have a look and judge for yourself, if you want. Not that it's likely to make any..."

Larval lacrimentation.

Amazing the things you see on this blog.

Anonymous kaos021 April 28, 2012 10:38 PM  

Actually, Spacebunny, I was just agreeing with something Vox has been clear on before in his conversations and expressed it poorly. Ad hominem attacks don't do anything to advance an argument, which is why they're usually the last refuge of someone losing the battle. I was referring to being able to back up your position with solid facts, reason and logic. Insults are just icing on the cake; empty, yet oh so delicious.

Blogger Spacebunny April 29, 2012 1:35 AM  

I was referring to being able to back up your position with solid facts, reason and logic. Insults are just icing on the cake; empty, yet oh so delicious.

Gotcha.

Blogger Vox April 29, 2012 7:43 AM  

they're usually the last refuge of someone losing the battle.

Usually... but not always. After all, the competent cruelty artist will always provide that last little flourish that his masterpiece requires.

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