Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Arguments are and how they work, 101 (for Rex)

Rex is confused about the nature of argument. But even though this is too basic for me to waste my time on because it has nothing to do with what I want to accomplish I should not have to give the reading an education they failed to get in school (people who know nothing about the world of books and thought should not be pontification about religion on message boards, they should be reading books about religion). Nevertheless I find atheists making these mistakes so often it might help to explain some things.

Rex thinks that if an argument sets out to prove a beilef held in the belief system of the debater than it's circular reasoning. He equates "I believe in God so I will argument for the existence of God" with "The Bible says it's ture therefore it's true:

You can't say, "I'm going to experiment on the effects of electricity but I can't start out assuming that there is any such thing as electricity."

Which is EXACTLY what I was trying to say to Meta, but when I say it he blows a gasket, and when you say it, he thinks it is a good point. Hmmmmm......

My point was that if you are going to discuss god or atheism, you have to do it from a standpoint of neutrality. You can't do it like the bible flowchart:

1 The bible is the infallible word of god.
2 The word of god is true because it says so in the bible
3 The bible is true because it is the infallible word of god.

See? It just goes around and around like the wheels on the bus, except it never goes anywhere different.

Anyone who knows argument knows this is crap. First we must distinguish between the aim of the argument and the premise of the argument. The irony is atheists are doing what Rex is saying I shouldn't do all the time. The point of making an argument is prove something. An argument is not an experiment thus it is not open ended. An argument doesn't proceed into the unknown with no idea where it's going. Arguments are put forth for specific reasons.

 To argue for something one must know what is being argued for. Take the example of policy debate, In debate I ran a case in high school saying that Voter turnout in the primary elections in USA is a very good thing to have. Turnout is low and it should be high becuase it's good to have high turn out. I'll spare you all the reasons. So we had studies that said if the delegates at the convention are bound in a primary people are more likely to vote because they bleieve their voices count. So we had a plan that said all the delegates must be bound in all primaries for all the major parties.

one of my cases for 74-75 high school debate topic, choosing Presidential candidates
Present plan: bind delegates
I. Increase Voter Turnout is advantageous

A. Higher the voerter turn out the higher benitifts to the poor
1. substecutre
2. substructuer (proof of that point A)

B. Current t/o low because voters don't have a voice
1. deligates chosen by party
2. not bounc so they change their votes

C Affirmative solves
we bind delidtaes and Zidenstine study says that will increase turn out.

No judge ever said "you can't argue that because that's circular, you have to start from a osition of not knowing what you are doing and discover by accident the best policy. That would be foolish.

Now we also did not start from a position that said "the affirmative is right therefore the affirmative is right" We start out saying "turn out is good." Then we say "turn out is low" then we say "our plan will solve it." that is not circular and no  one ever said it was. How could one possibly argue for voter turn out without knowing in advance that one is supporting Voter turnout? how could you write a plan to bind delegates if you didn't know you were trying to increase voter turn out?

Let's look at web definitions of arguement:

Definitions of argument on the Web:
  • a fact or assertion offered as evidence that something is true; "it was a strong argument that his hypothesis was true"
  • controversy: a contentious speech act; a dispute where there is strong disagreement; "they were involved in a violent argument"
  • a discussion in which reasons are advanced for and against some proposition or proposal; "the argument over foreign aid goes on and on"
  • a summary of the subject or plot of a literary work or play or movie; "the editor added the argument to the poem"
  • (computer science) a reference or value that is passed to a function, procedure, subroutine, command, or program
  • a variable in a logical or mathematical expression whose value determines the dependent variable; if f(x)=y, x is the independent variable
  • argumentation: a course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating a truth or falsehood; the methodical process of logical reasoning; "I can't follow your line of reasoning"
  • The Argument was an Australian sloop wrecked in 1809.
  • An argument in literature is a brief summary, often in prose, of a poem or section of a poem or other work. ...
  • In linguistics, a verb argument is a phrase that appears in a syntactic relationship with the verb in a clause. In English, for example, the two most important arguments are the subject and the direct object.
  • In mathematics, statistics, and the mathematical sciences, a parameter (G: auxiliary measure) is a quantity that serves to relate functions and ...
  • In computer programming, a parameter is a special kind of variable, used in a subroutine to refer to one of the pieces of data provided as input to the subroutine. . These pieces of data are called arguments. ...
  • The Argument is the sixth studio album from the post-hardcore band Fugazi, and their last before going on indefinite hiatus in 2002. ...
  • In logic, an argument is a set of one or more meaningful declarative sentences (or "propositions") known as the premises along with another ...
  • A fact or statement used to support a proposition; a reason:; A verbal dispute; a quarrel; A process of reasoning; A series of statements ...
Not one of those says "an experiment that starts from an unknown position." Take the third example:

a discussion in which reasons are advanced for and against some proposition or proposal; "the argument over foreign aid goes on and on"

that one fits my definition to a T. It's setting out to prove a point, it's not an open ended experiment. Reasons advanced for or against a proposal. One such proposal could be "the bible is the word of God." that would be a proposition to argue about. Remember distinguish between the aim and the premises. The aim of the argument is known in advance.

Let's take the simplest God arugment I know:

God is either Necessary or Impossible
God is not impossible, because there is no contradiction in the concept of God
Therefore, God is necessary.
 Regardless of how one feels about this argument, perhaps it's great, perhaps it sux, but either way, it is not making the mistake of circular reasoning. Notice the first line offers an either/or choice. Either god is one or the other. It's not assuming God exists, it's assuming an either/or.That's' the first premise. See the difference? The aim of arguing it is to prove God exits, but the first premise is not that God exists, it's that there's an either/or situation and it's going to show that God must because by demonstrating that the either side is the one to chose. That's not at all the same thing as assuming God exists in the first premise.

I once did an interesting experiment. I took the first line of everyone of my God arguments. I said "which of these do you agree with?" I put them up on CARM without saying "these are premises to my God arguments." The very same people who for months had been telling me that my arguments were illogical and they were all based upon circular reasoning and I assume God exists so the argument is no good, the very same people agreed with every single one of the premises, all 42 of my God arguments.

here are a couple of arguments I used in connection with the argument on the post "he does."

for the over all argument here it is:

(1) decision making paradigm embraces the simplest and most elegant idea
(2) God is the simple solution--God = being itself, the nature of being is to be.

(3) Solves all other problems--morality, meaning

The first premise is "decision making paradigm embraces the simplest and most elegant idea. That doesn't' say "God exists." The second premise doesn't say God exists it says God would be the simple solution. Its' not assume God exists as a premise it's assuming IF God exits then God si the solution to the problem. Since the argument is parsimony it has to assert the solution; how could you argue that something is parsimonious without asserting it's reality?

The Temporal Beginning argument

I used this as part of the overall parsemony arugment:

5) Therefore, time should never have come to be.

6) We know that time did come to be, therefore, it must have been created by something capable of writing and circumventing the rules.

7) Only God would be capable of writting and circumventing the rules of time and eternity, therefore, God must exit.
The first premise to this argument is not "God exits" but "Time has a beginning." That is mandated by the theory of the big bang, not many atheists will disagree. Notice the argument flows form one point to another. Each point is a logical implication of the one before, it, for the most part. 3 has a "thereofre." why? Because it is the logical consequence of points 1 and 2. So you move from point to point each one setting up what comes next. this is the standard way that arguments work.

The first three points prove that no change beyond time is possible and that sets up the idea that the first state (putative) of affairs before time is timelessness, that's obvious if no change or time is possible. See how the prmeises lead to conclusions that become other premises and more conclusions?

The first four points demonstrate that nothing could come to be in a timeless state and then I argue by 5 that time should not have come to be. why? because it's logical consequence of what came before, if there's no time and there can't be any change when there's no time then time can't come to be. See how arguments build on the premises and unfold into conclusions based  upon the premises? you have to follow what is said from point to point. But you will never find any of my augments with a premise "God must exist" up front. That's a conclusion.

do you see how it works now?

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