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Friday, January 17, 2014

A lesson in rhetoric

In reading the responses to the Anti-Apologetics, SimplyTimothy observed: "Not stated, but now obvious, is that when you decide to bring the rhetoric it is like bringing a swift kick to the balls to the arm-wrestling contest. I like how you light the fuse of their ideas, amplify them, then hand it back to them like a ticking time-bomb - then you offer them a lit cigarette. It is very civilized of you."

When writing on such disputative matters, I always attempt to do so with a tea service and one pinky extended. Anyhow, as a few people, mostly Tango, appear to be confused on the difference between a rhetorical response and a dialectical response, (which is legitimately confusing since technically, a rhetorical response IS a dialectical response), I think a brief refresher is worthwhile.

Remember that rhetoric is not limited to the laws of logic. Aristotle wrote: "Rhetorical study, in its strict sense, is concerned with the modes of persuasion. Persuasion is clearly a sort of demonstration, since we are most fully persuaded when we consider a thing to have been demonstrated. The orator’s demonstration is an enthymeme, and this is, in general, the most effective of the modes of persuasion. The enthymeme is a sort of syllogism, and the consideration of syllogisms of all kinds, without distinction, is the business of dialectic, either of dialectic as a whole or of one of its branches. It follows plainly, therefore, that he who is best able to see how and from what elements a syllogism is produced will also be best skilled in the enthymeme, when he has further learnt what its subject-matter is and in what respects it differs from the syllogism of strict logic."

In other words, when using rhetoric, one has to know when to utilize strict logical syllogisms and when to depart from them. And this totally depends on the audience. For, as I have frequently quoted him before, Aristotle observes: "Before some audiences not even the possession of the exactest knowledge will make it easy for what we say to produce conviction. For argument based on knowledge implies instruction, and there are people whom one cannot instruct."

In rhetoric, it is perfectly legitimate to engage in all manner of logical fallacies. This is exactly what Peter Boghossian's Street Epistemologists are taught to do, which is why they advance various arguments that are not only mutually contradictory, but blatantly flawed from a strict logical perspective. They engage in bait-and-switches, false definitions, and appeals to everything from authority to their own incredulity.

Now, because they claim to be faithful devotees of Science and Reason, this is why using scientific consensus and strict logic against them can be useful. But it is not our only weapon; they are woefully unprepared to see any sophisticated rhetoric arrayed against them. As one can see from the specific defenses they are being taught to attack, they are only being prepared for the lowest and crudest levels of rhetoric.

The rhetoric I am teaching you, on the other hand, is a much more sophisticated and deeper approach. Suppose, for example, the Street Epistemologist were to take Tango's approach, retreat to the dialectic, and point out the difference between Boggie's construction (1) and my own (2):

1) No faith is needed to POSTULATE that the universe may have always existed.
2) No faith is needed to POSTULATE that the universe always existed.

"Postulate (Subject One) versus Postulate (Subject One or Subject Two). What you postulate is enclosed within the brackets, the subject of the postulation. There is a world of difference when the subject allows for alternatives compared to a straight out declaration with no choice."

While it is true that the subjects postulated are modestly different, the differences are irrelevant and it is a huge mistake for the Street Epistemologist to try this line of retreat because it exposes an even bigger flaw in Boghossian's attack. The fact is that no faith is needed to POSTULATE ANYTHING because a postulate is, by definition, "a defining". A postulate, or a positing, is not a conclusion; it is the IF in the IF-THEN statement. The spearpoint of Anti-Apologetic #1 is nothing more than a statement of the obvious given rhetorical effect through specification.

So, it should be obvious that if one goes with a purely dialectical approach here, one gets no additional benefit from the perfectly analogous enthymeme. The postulates may be different, but the important thing to note is that there is no difference between the legitimacy of one postulate and another. Recall that the opponent is not going to be impressed with your dialectical precision; he has already shown that he is willing to say anything so long as it might be persuasive. But by responding in the rhetorical manner, with a slightly modified postulate, one gets the same benefit as well as the additional rhetorical benefit of the stronger statement and opening up the possibility of not one, but two effective new lines of attack if the Street Epistemologist is so foolish as to stubbornly attempt to salvage this particular attack by distinguishing between Postulate 1 and Postulate 2.

I've already pointed out the one line of attack that a retreat to a dialectical defense would expose the Street Epistemologist. See if you can correctly identify the second, and even more effective one, it also exposes.

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49 Comments:

Anonymous Idle Spectator Jackson January 17, 2014 5:09 AM  

tea sevirce dawg? what tha fuk is wit all the fag here?

can't be reading this no more with the homeboys round

Blogger Tommy Hass January 17, 2014 5:12 AM  

He essentially admitted that no faith is needed to believe God created the universe if you attach a "may" to that sentence.

Anonymous Asher Idle Phineas Spectator IV January 17, 2014 6:50 AM  

It is always good to see the old Vox branch out into more noble endeavors from the usual droll affairs he banters about on.

Tea in the drawing room first, then birding?

He really must try this new Vivaldi opera I have been attending to. I think I prefer that opera house the most, because I own it.

Blogger Markku January 17, 2014 7:27 AM  

If he goes on record with saying that only positing "may X" doesn't require faith but positing "X" does, then one simply points out that all new science starts with a postulate of the latter type, and at that point there is no scientific consensus on "X". So, he has now claimed that all science begins with faith.

Blogger Markku January 17, 2014 7:37 AM  

Which of course makes him an intellectual conservative who has declared war on progress, and so forth. Lots of low hanging fruit to pick after that.

Anonymous zen0 January 17, 2014 7:57 AM  

This is an awful lot to absorb.

At what stage does physical violence become appropriate?

Anonymous Toby Temple January 17, 2014 8:02 AM  

So, he has now claimed that all science begins with faith.

You can also go back to the all-time atheist favorite statement: THERE IS NO GOD.

Since positing X requires faith, then positing that there is no god requires faith.

Blogger Glen Filthie January 17, 2014 8:08 AM  

I have no use for rhetoric or ideologues. They don't have the intelligence to tell me what to say or think. Too often rhetoric and snark are mistaken for wit and intellect. A lot of these militant atheists, homosexuals and environmentalists can't tell the difference.

I personally don't give a tinker's damn about what some idiot BELIEVES. I don't care how well spoken he is, I don't care how offended he gets when I question him. I am a better sort of man that has to KNOW things. Knowing something and believing something are two very different things.

And, since I am not privy to Gods intentions and the scientists have not adequately explained my universe to my satisfaction - I will reserve judgement until such time as either party decides to resolve the issue.

I will not be mocked, bullied or derided for that either.

Anonymous jack January 17, 2014 8:21 AM  

I know I should be reading my Aristotle, but with VD to interpret and make simple [as simple as such a subject can be] I must hang my head in shame where the rhetoric is concerned. I'll have to get to Aristotle at some point. It will be really interesting to do that after having had the Vox course.
Vox Populi is at it's best when in teaching mode, thinks me. Thank You.

Blogger JP January 17, 2014 8:34 AM  

jack wrote:

" know I should be reading my Aristotle, but with VD to interpret and make simple [as simple as such a subject can be] I must hang my head in shame where the rhetoric is concerned. I'll have to get to Aristotle at some point. It will be really interesting to do that after having had the Vox course.
Vox Populi is at it's best when in teaching mode, thinks me. Thank You."


Don't stress about reading Plato, Aristotle, etc. They're actually some of the easiest philosophers to read and understand. Primarily because you are reading the actual philosopher's thoughts, as opposed to a clinical deconstruction of what they "really mean". Just be careful of translations of Aristotle. There are lots of books floating around that are word-for-word translations. Those are almost impossible to grok because the sentence structure is alien (unless you know ancient greek).

Anonymous DrTorch January 17, 2014 8:50 AM  

there is no difference between the legitimacy of one postulate and another

In science there is. That's the point. Postulates are supported, legitimized, by observation.

This is done better in some circumstances (thermodynamics) compared with others (cosmology), but that is the effort. It's not even restricted to formal science. It's why logicians say that some arguments are "sound, but not valid."

I'd fully expect that Boghossian's better students (who frankly never needed Boghossian) would call this out. Of course if they were good, they wouldn't get into these logical traps to begin with, and probably aren't even miitant atheists.

Blogger Markku January 17, 2014 8:55 AM  

In science there is. That's the point. Postulates are supported, legitimized, by observation.

No, they become another thing by observation. Namely theories or theorems.

Anonymous Toby Temple January 17, 2014 8:58 AM  

Postulate
1. demand; claim
2.a: a thing suggested or assumed as true as the basis for reasoning, discussion, or belief.
b: to assume as a postulate or axiom (as in logic or mathematics)

Blogger JartStar January 17, 2014 9:16 AM  

Jack see Mortimer's book for an intro: Amazon.com: How to Speak How to Listen eBook: Mortimer J. Adler: Kindle Store

Motimer J. Adler loved Aristotle.

Anonymous DrTorch January 17, 2014 9:42 AM  

No, they become another thing by observation. Namely theories or theorems.

No, they do not become theorems...those are the then part of if-then statements. Theorems are proven, not assumed.

Theories? That term gets used to mean different things, so it's possible that they are called that at times.

But the term you're looking for is Laws. The Laws of Thermodynamics, Coulomb's Law...those are the assumptions one uses for theorems.

Anonymous jk January 17, 2014 9:56 AM  

If there is a "god" then how do you explain this?

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jezebel-offers-10000-unretouched-lena-671698

Anonymous Stilicho January 17, 2014 10:10 AM  

No, they become another thing by observation. Namely theories or theorems.

No, they do not become theorems...those are the then part of if-then statements. Theorems are proven, not assumed.

Assume a rational scientist...

Blogger Markku January 17, 2014 10:17 AM  

True. I mixed it up with (mathematical) conjecture. Which CAN later become a theorem, if someone manages to prove it.

Anonymous Toby Temple January 17, 2014 10:24 AM  

OT: Fuck the police!

Anonymous jack January 17, 2014 11:29 AM  

Thanks Jart! I will order in that one poste haste.

Anonymous jack January 17, 2014 11:32 AM  

@JartStar:
Just ordered the book. Kindle is a plus, though if we ever have to endure a EMP attack and all the electronics are fryed I may have to commit sepuku.

Anonymous VD January 17, 2014 11:55 AM  

Dr. Torch, you completely missed the point. Of course we can determine the legitimacy of a postulate after the fact. That is the objective of the scientific method, to test the hypothesis. But no postulate is intrinsically less legitimate than another.

To suggest otherwise wouldn't even rise to the level of an ad hominem fallacy.

Anonymous Dan in Tx (Christian, not Churchian) January 17, 2014 12:41 PM  

zen0: "This is an awful lot to absorb.

At what stage does physical violence become appropriate?"

Pretty much my reaction as well. If one of these atheist evangelists were to approach me and start spouting his nonsense, I wonder how shocked he would be having a Christian telling him to shut the fuck up and get away from me. I also note from this dweeb's so called handbook that he appears (not surprisingly) to play it safe and pester Christians instead of evangelizing in the Muslim community.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 17, 2014 1:05 PM  

In science there is. That's the point. Postulates are supported, legitimized, by observation.

Ah, but in science, the postulate always comes first and the support later. To be doing real science, you not only must start with a postulate but also must propose experiments that will produce new observations which could support or disprove the postulate. Your scientific theory can't be supported by prior observations, it has to be able to predict new ones. If all your theory does is "explain" past events but is incapable of predicting future ones, then you're a reporter, not a scientist.

Which may explain why the Michael Mann's of the world get along so well with their fellow scribblers.

But anyway, this gets to a very deep subject, perhaps this is the 2nd attack Vox mentioned. Not only does positing "may X" doesn't require faith but positing "X" does require science to start with faith as Markku said, it requires it to end with it too. The whole point of science, what separates it from journalism, is it's ability to predict the future. Various laws of gravity, motion, etc, allow us to reliably predict where a commsat will end up so we can have satellite TV. They allow us to predict the output of a generator so we can have electricity. etc. etc. So here's another set of postulates:

1) No faith is needed to POSTULATE that the laws of physics may or may not spontaneously change on their own
2) No faith is needed to POSTULATE that the laws of physics may not spontaneously change on their own

Not only does it require FAITH to propose a scientific theory, more significantly it requires FAITH of some sort to believe it will remain valid.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 17, 2014 1:06 PM  

At what stage does physical violence become appropriate?

When you are certain you can silence all the witnesses.

Anonymous hausfrau January 17, 2014 1:12 PM  

This may be somewhat off topic, I'm not sure, but I stumbled onto Socratic Logic by Peter Kreeft. It seems to be a very well written, easy to understand book so far. He has many, many, other books concerning Christian apologetics, defense of moral absolutes, explanations of the Bible, etc. Are these worth studying? I ask from the point of view of a rank amateur on theology.

Blogger IM2L844 January 17, 2014 1:24 PM  

Are these worth studying? I ask from the point of view of a rank amateur on theology.

One of my favorites of Kreeft's is A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist

Anonymous physphilmusic January 17, 2014 1:35 PM  

But no postulate is intrinsically less legitimate than another.

This depends on what is rigorously meant by "intrinsic" and "legitimate", and even what constitutes a postulate in the first place. Surely we can distinguish between
1) Logically impossible postulates (I postulate that I am a man and not a man),
2) Logically possible but infeasible postulates (I postulate that I will turn into a green dragon tomorrow),
3) Logically possible, feasible but unlikely postulates (I postulate that my lottery ticket will win this week),
4) Logically possible, feasible, and likely or certain.
It is certainly possible to differentiate the legitimacy of postulates based on logical possibility a priori (i.e., distinguishing 1) vs 2)). Thus one can certainly say some postulates are (logically) less legitimate than others. With only a tiny bit of common sense and barely any science, one can distinguish based on feasibility as well, as there are many postulates which are logically coherent but ridiculous, as demonstrated above. It is only when deciding its actual likelihood that the debates and arguments begin.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 17, 2014 1:59 PM  

No physphilmusic, we can't really distinguish between those from a logical or scientific standpoint. You're falling into the trap of "settled science" because you base your evaluation of feasibility on existing understanding and assume (have faith?) that that existing dogma is correct and not to be challenged.

H2O is both a liquid and not a liquid. Logically impossible to some hominid living in equatorial Africa who'd never seen snow or ice and never noticed water vapor or realized it was related to liquid water. Then you come along with a block of ice and tea kettle...

It doesn't even have to be 65 IQ folks blown away by it. Light is both a wave and not a wave. Logically impossible, but how do you explain the double-slit experiment?

Feasible or infeasible is even easier to deal with. History is full of examples of the consensus about what is feasible being utter incorect, and if we don't really know what is infeasible or even impossible then we certainly can't make any categorical claims about what's likely or probable.

When making a postulate, there is no such constraint. All postulates are equally valid as postulates. Some may be harder to support than others, but none are illegitimate. In fact, dis-proving a postulate is often a source of great understanding.

Anonymous VD January 17, 2014 2:08 PM  

Surely we can distinguish between 1) 2) 3) 4)

No, we can't. Any postulate is legitimate in itself by virtue of being a postulate. As for intrinsic: "An intrinsic property is a property that an object or a thing has of itself, independently of other things, including its context."

Blogger Tommy Hass January 17, 2014 2:35 PM  

"Light is both a wave and not a wave. Logically impossible, but how do you explain the double-slit experiment?"

No.

The fact that it is the case means it cannot be "logically impossible".

Anonymous Athor Pel January 17, 2014 3:01 PM  

"Jack AmokJanuary 17, 2014 1:06 PM
At what stage does physical violence become appropriate?

When you are certain you can silence all the witnesses. "



No no, it is when you are certain the witnesses will tell the truth and any that hear will believe in their guts that if they try anything with you they will meet the same fate for the same reason.

You see this way you don't have to keep repeating the same lesson over and over and over.

Most people may be idiots but they can most definitely follow single step logic when it involves predictable physical pain for themselves.

I can picture the scene the first time Bog hears the words, "Son, you've already been caught lying once. You do it again and I will beat you down. No more lyin'. Now make your case. You've done issued the challenge. Now back it up."

Anonymous x January 17, 2014 3:08 PM  

Vox:

Any books to recommend on rhetoric?

Just started reading Aristotle's Rhetoric on my kindle...

Any others?

Anonymous Jack Amok January 17, 2014 3:40 PM  

The fact that it is the case means it cannot be "logically impossible".

The point went over your head Tommy. Think about it some more and see if you understand what I was saying. Reread the second-to-last paragraph in my comment if you still don't get it..

Anonymous Jack Amok January 17, 2014 3:48 PM  

Ahtor Pel, what did you think I menat by "silence all the witnesses"?

Blogger JDC January 17, 2014 4:15 PM  

I wonder how shocked he would be having a Christian telling him to shut the fuck up and get away from me.

In his infinite wisdom he would proceed to inform you that, although he hasn't a clue about Christian faith and Christian morality, that you are in fact, not acting like a Christian. His misguided attempt to make the word Christian useless - in Lewis' words.

Blogger TangoMan January 17, 2014 5:25 PM  

1) No faith is needed to POSTULATE that the universe may have always existed.
2) No faith is needed to POSTULATE that the universe always existed.

"Postulate (Subject One) versus Postulate (Subject One or Subject Two). What you postulate is enclosed within the brackets, the subject of the postulation. There is a world of difference when the subject allows for alternatives compared to a straight out declaration with no choice."

While it is true that the subjects postulated are modestly different, the differences are irrelevant and it is a huge mistake for the Street Epistemologist to try this line of retreat because it exposes an even bigger flaw in Boghossian's attack. The fact is that no faith is needed to POSTULATE ANYTHING because a postulate is, by definition, "a defining". A postulate, or a positing, is not a conclusion; it is the IF in the IF-THEN statement. The spearpoint of Anti-Apologetic #1 is nothing more than a statement of the obvious given rhetorical effect through specification.


OK, so now you've conceded that the two postulates are not identical. Good start.

Where you fail is in simply declaring the differences to be irrelevant by virtue of being postulates. That's nonsensical reasoning.

Let's try a different example built on the same form (one object, two objects)

Postulate #1. - Man transforms into a green dragon.
Postulate #2. - Man transforms into a green dragon OR a bicycle riding shark.

Recall :"Postulate (Subject One) versus Postulate (Subject One or Subject Two).

Are these two postulates identical simply by virtue of being postulates?

Where do you find a bicycle riding shark in postulate #1? It doesn't exist. But it exists in postulate #2.

So back to your initial admission - the postulates are different from each other and the second postulate, because it allows for more than one outcome, can lead the conversion towards conclusions which the first postulate prohibits.

Blogger Tommy Hass January 17, 2014 5:29 PM  

"The point went over your head Tommy. Think about it some more and see if you understand what I was saying. Reread the second-to-last paragraph in my comment if you still don't get it.."

.....I see.

Anonymous physphilmusic January 17, 2014 9:41 PM  

No physphilmusic, we can't really distinguish between those from a logical or scientific standpoint. You're falling into the trap of "settled science" because you base your evaluation of feasibility on existing understanding and assume (have faith?) that that existing dogma is correct and not to be challenged.

You're conflating logically possibility vs feasibility here. I agree that a priori, it is not possible to differentiate the feasible vs. infeasible, although one only needs a very small amount of empirical experience to be able to do so. Whereas for the logically impossible, one can certainly rule out a priori. Science has little to do with it, since science assumes the impossibility of logically impossible postulates. Your proposed counter examples all fail:

H2O is both a liquid and not a liquid.

That's incorrect, H2O is merely a molecule, and a glass of H2O is merely a collection of such molecules. Liquid or solid depends on the particular arrangement of those molecules. A particular instance of H2O can be either liquid or solid, but not both: snow is solid, water is liquid.

Light is both a wave and not a wave. Logically impossible, but how do you explain the double-slit experiment?

That's also incorrect. What is correct is that light has both wave-like and particle-like properties, and the same is true of all other pieces of matter. We used to think that the statement
1) It is impossible for a physical object to have both wave-like and particle-like properties at the same time
is true, but scientific observation proved us wrong. Yet there is nothing logically impossible with the negation of 1), i.e.,
2) It is possible for a physical object to have both wave-like and particle-like properties at the same time.
Whereas, if a scientist, or any person claims to have discovered a square circle, without even reading the report I can immediately conclude that that must be false, or perhaps the scientist defined "square circle" in some sort of metaphorical way, e.g. an object which looks like a circle viewed one way but a square viewed another way. Yet such an object is not a true square circle. Thus this shows that the logically impossible is, well, impossible. Logical impossibility is entirely different from physical, historical, or evidential possibility.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 17, 2014 10:45 PM  

physphilmusic, you are making the same mistake Tommy made. You are assuming you know what is and is not logically possible. That's what I meant by the "settled science" trap. You fail utterly to understand my examples. They are presented from the standpoint of what people thought was "impossible" before all the various information you cite was understood. To an equatorial african who'd never seen ice, your claim that water (what he would understand you and I to mean by "H2O") was a molecule and solid or liquid depended on something or other that probably didn't quite translate into his language, well, he would be likelty to call that an impossible postulate. You don't realize you may be that equatorial african when someone else makes a postulate.

You even admit - in the light example - that "We used to think that the statement
1) It is impossible for a physical object to have both wave-like and particle-like properties at the same time
is true, but scientific observation proved us wrong"
and still don't realize that invalidates your claim that we can really know something to be impossible. We may assume it is, but we may also be incorrect in our assumptions.

You retreat to square circles, seeking refuge in pure logic and leaving the field of real world interaction to me then. I accept your defeat. You may keep your castle, it's of no interest to me.

Anonymous Idle Spectator January 18, 2014 3:11 AM  

That's incorrect, H2O is merely a molecule, and a glass of H2O is merely a collection of such molecules. Liquid or solid depends on the particular arrangement of those molecules. A particular instance of H2O can be either liquid or solid, but not both: snow is solid, water is liquid.

You are assuming you know what is and is not logically possible. That's what I meant by the "settled science" trap. You fail utterly to understand my examples. They are presented from the standpoint of what people thought was "impossible" before all the various information you cite was understood.

Yes. Not to mention there are nine types of ice. That's right! Depending how you alter the pressure and temperature, the phase diagram shows Ice I through Ice IX. Who knows if there are more forms waiting for us.

Anonymous VD January 18, 2014 8:10 AM  

OK, so now you've conceded that the two postulates are not identical. Good start.

I haven't conceded anything. I never claimed the postulates were identical. I claimed that "the differences are irrelevant." You are clearly confused about the fact that when I said "No faith is needed to POSTULATE that the universe may have always existed" is no different than "No faith is needed to POSTULATE that the universe always existed", I was not saying that the ideas postulated were the same, but rather, pointing out that one postulate was no less legitimate than the other. Hence the special emphasis on the word POSTULATE.

Where you fail is in simply declaring the differences to be irrelevant by virtue of being postulates. That's nonsensical reasoning.

No, that is a simple fact, intrinsic to the two postulates being postulates. I am declaring the differences to be irrelevant because both are equally legitimate in themselves. By definition.

Are these two postulates identical simply by virtue of being postulates?

No. But their intrinsic legitimacy is identical.

Where do you find a bicycle riding shark in postulate #1? It doesn't exist. But it exists in postulate #2.

Irrelevant. Both postulates are equally legitimate. You have done nothing more than once again demonstrate that you don't understand what a postulate is. You don't understand what it means to posit something.

Anonymous physphilmusic January 18, 2014 9:22 AM  

Jack Amok, I think the problem here is that you conflate physical impossibility with logical impossibility. This is shown by your free use of the word "impossibility" to cover both, without clearly differentiating between the two. Yes, with physical impossibility there are many things we don't know. Yet, it is true at all times that a thing cannot be P and Not-P at the same time. In the light as a particle/wave example, we thought that if P=wave, then not-P=particle. What we discovered through science is that that the latter equivalence is wrong. But even if I were a 19th century physicist reading about quantum mechanics, I'd know it's impossible for an electron to both go through the slit and not go through the slit. That I know through logic, not science. Similarly, if a future physicist were to tell me that dark matter both does exist and not exist, my reply would be that either 1) He is wrong, or 2) He is referring to two different notions of the word "exist": in one definition, dark matter can be said to exist, in another, dark matter does not, or 3) He is referring to two different definitions of the word "dark matter". In the case of 2) or 3), the sentence is no longer a clear, rigorous sentence anymore; it becomes merely a catchy soundbite to attract attention.

To an equatorial african who'd never seen ice, your claim that water (what he would understand you and I to mean by "H2O") was a molecule and solid or liquid depended on something or other that probably didn't quite translate into his language, well, he would be likelty to call that an impossible postulate. You don't realize you may be that equatorial african when someone else makes a postulate.

Yet if I were such an African, and I disbelieve your claim that "H2O is both a liquid and not a liquid" based on logical impossibility, I'd be right! This is even if I have no idea what the term H2O has to do with water. That statement is not a clear, rigorous one. It's on the level of saying that "Bill is both a good and bad person": not a rigorously defined statement but just a rhetorical one designed to elicit attention by postulating an apparently paradoxical claim. What you want to say is that "H2O is something which can have two different states, liquid or solid". That's something which is logically coherent.

Anonymous physphilmusic January 18, 2014 9:22 AM  

We may assume it is, but we may also be incorrect in our assumptions.

Exactly, Jack. Which is why I would be unable to rule out, as a 19th century physicist, the particle/wave duality of light, based on purely logical arguments. Instead, I could attempt to rule it out based on physical arguments, which are indeed uncertain and fallible, even when concocted by an expert physicist. This is why throughout this thread I have stuck to logical impossibility, not physical impossibility.


You retreat to square circles, seeking refuge in pure logic and leaving the field of real world interaction to me then. I accept your defeat. You may keep your castle, it's of no interest to me.


Jack, you're claiming victory on a battlefield I never even stepped on. You're not even moving the goalposts - you're creating your own goalposts, kicking the ball into an empty goal and celebrating your "success." From the very beginning I argued that it is possible to rule out illogical statements a priori based on the rules of logic. I admitted from the beginning that in contrast to this, physical impossibility (or, more generally, unfeasibility) is something which requires empirical observation to verify or disprove - you cannot determine it based on the statement alone, and so it is not intrinsic to the statement. If you want to be a rhetorician, then yes, you can rattle off all sorts of things, even blatant logical contradictions, and persuade your audience that you are speaking the truth. But if you want to be a careful, precise, and rigorous thinker, then you have to accept that a logically impossible thing can't be true.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 18, 2014 4:30 PM  

physphilmusic, as I said, you're welcome to your castle of pure logic. But so long as you reject the complications that are introduced to logic when you attempt to map it to the real world, it is of no value beyond parlor games.

Returning to the question at hand, you still cannot reject a postulate about the real world based on it being "impossible" because you don't really know what is impossible in the real world. If you want to reject postulates about finding square circles, go right ahead, but nobody is making them.

Anonymous physphilmusic January 18, 2014 8:05 PM  

physphilmusic, as I said, you're welcome to your castle of pure logic. But so long as you reject the complications that are introduced to logic when you attempt to map it to the real world, it is of no value beyond parlor games.

Look, Jack, when I attempt to "map" my reasoning to the real world myself, there probably isn't much disagreement between you and me. Still, "pure logic" is an important part of many discussions about philosophy and theology, including arguments for the existence of God, the problem of evil, the nature of God and Christian ethics. Technically, most of these are theoretical - hence "parlor games." But they certainly aren't always unimportant when discussing Christianity with a non-believer, which is why I bother to think about these things.

And you'd be surprised to know how many people make statements which are just logically fallacious, such as "There is no absolute truth." You may view speaking against such notions to be parlor games, but in some contexts they are small battles within the larger cultural war between atheism and Christianity.

Returning to the question at hand, you still cannot reject a postulate about the real world based on it being "impossible" because you don't really know what is impossible in the real world.

You're not even responding to me anymore, since I've clearly delineated the difference between two kinds of impossibility.

Anonymous insane white rabbit warren January 18, 2014 11:33 PM  

science just waffles out on the light thingy altogether- "it acts like a wave" "it acts like a particle" "its quantum magic now, dude." so- the priests still don't know shit, they just chant their abracadabra and all the sheep follow along. rhetoric will never move the white lab-coated pharisees out of the temple. get the whip.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 19, 2014 12:45 PM  

You're not even responding to me anymore, since I've clearly delineated the difference between two kinds of impossibility.

Of course I am - I'm quite clearly saying I don't care about one of your two types of impossibility, but that's the only one you keep wanting to talk about.

OpenID simplytimothy January 20, 2014 8:38 AM  

So I take a couple of days off and I get quoted on Vox Popoli; lot's of catching up to do. Looking forward to it.

Glen Filthie
I have no use for rhetoric or ideologues. They don't have the intelligence to tell me what to say or think. Too often rhetoric and snark are mistaken for wit and intellect. A lot of these militant atheists, homosexuals and environmentalists can't tell the difference.


Just because blowing up buildings with a tank is fun, does not mean we should dismiss the pleasures of the .45 pistol

What Vox has shown us is that this rhetoric you dismiss is just the petard to hoist the bastards by. Surely you enjoy watching the insufferable squirm ? Then why not use the right tool for the job?


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