Sunday, October 16, 2005

Question - What's Wrong With This Argument?

A couple of anonymous vistors have left us with some interesting observations of late. One left the following, here:

"does this work? and if not why not? and if so why so?
NOBODY IS PERFECT
I AM NOBODY
THEREFORE, I AM PERFECT

ONLY GOD IS PERFECT
THEREFORE I AM GOD
THUS I HAVE PROVED I EXIST

PROOF DENIES FAITH
WITHOUT FAITH, GOD IS NOTHING
THEREFORE, I DO NOT EXIST"

In the interests of answering anonymous' question, it is brought to the attention of the general reader. Anonymous, it is supposed, would be grateful for any thoughts or comments.

19 comments:

MH said...

Well, the first two syllogisms ('Nobody is perfect, I am nobody, therfore I am perfect' and 'I am perfect, Only God is perfect, therfore I am God') are both sound, and hence they work logically. The problem is that your premises are quite probably invalid, and hence the argument fails the more important test.

Samuel Douglas said...

Martin, are you confusing validity and soundness?
Actually I think the first syllogism is the problem. "I AM NOBODY" is false, it is like saying that something is nothing. There is no such 'thing' (ie something) that can be 'nothing', the respective definitions of thing and nothing don't allow it. Similarly, if the author can be included in 'everybody'(, which presumably they can, otherwise how could they write this,) then they cannot be nobody. Put another way, there is nothing that is an 'I' that is also 'nobody', all 'I' things refer to somebody. Unless of course the non-existent can refer to themselves. If they have selves of course, then they are somebody, and 'Anonymous' loses again. At best they are 'a nobody' which is different to 'nobody'. Any effectivnes i this section comes from this equivocation.

The middle part is ok, other than a slight amount of question begging.

As for the last: If the various descriptions of God are anything to go by, the assertion that "WITHOUT FAITH, GOD IS NOTHING" may not be entirely accurate. If God is supremely and infinitely perfect, then what could possibly detract from this, even in a small way? Without faith God might be cranky or disapointed (though how an omniscient being can be disapointed is unclear), but they are certainly not lessened in anyway. An infinite number minus a finite number will still be an infinite number. Think about it.

"PROOF DENIES FAITH" Tell that to the proponents of the Intelligent Design argument. I think that premise has it backwards: Faith creates Proof (or at least tries to).

Overall I'd say it is a load of old cobblers, a series of faintly clever word-tricks and misuses of meaing, appropriate for unpopular high school students and members of the Young Liberals.

MH said...

"Logicians are concerned with whether a conclusion does or does not follwo from the given premisses. If it does, then the argument is question is said to be sound; otherwise unsound ... The question of the soundness or unsoundness of arguments must be carefully distinguished from the question of the truth or falsity of the propositions, whether premises or conclusion, in the argument." Lemmon, E.J. 'Beginning Logic' (London: Nelson, 1971), pp. 1,2.

So, I'm not confusing validity and soundness. The argument is sound, though not valid.

MH said...

Yes, Sam, it is your copy of Lemmon I'm refering to (I'll return it next week).

Samuel Douglas said...

All my investigating into theis soundness/validity issue has established is that philosophers frequently mix the two up. Our old friend from my 1st year, Hospers says of validity: "Arguments are valid or invalid, because of their form, regardless of their content. It doesn't matter what premises you use; what matter is wether the premises logically yield the conclusion." Hospers, J: An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis (London: Routledge, 1997, p52.)He goes on to say that an argument is sound if it is both valid, and that the premises are true. (as above, p53.)

This is in keeping with the Critical Thinking (logic)course I did with Dr J.W.

On a slightly different tack, a certain slab on Propositional Logic talks about sentences being 'valid'(p1/5) . This does seems to be referring to the form of the sentence as a deductive argument in itself.

Who cares! I'm more interested in this lame argument. I was hoping you were going to contest what I'd written about that!

MH said...

I don't think that there is much to contest - you've on the mark, as far as I can tell, in your critique - but, I think that there may be an interesting question in regards to 'Without faith God is nothing'.

Let's start by assuming that God exists, for the sake of the argument. The premise seems to assume that God exists at TimeI and possess some quality of being-believed-in, which makes God something. It also assumes that at TimeII God ceases to possess this quality of being-believed-in, which the premise implies means that at TimeIII God is nothing. It seems to be suggesting that God's ontological existence is predicated entirely on this quality of being-believed-in.

There is something interesting here that I just can't quite identify; any thoughts?

Samuel Douglas said...

It sounds similar to a certain reading of the ontological argument where some kinds of ontological commitment require that someone can conceive of God for the argumant to work. The problem is that this strong ontological commitment may involve a finite brain trying to contain an infinite concept.

This issue aside your point does raise an intersting question. If God existed before there was anyone ?(other than himself) around to believe in Him, then why would it matter if no one believed now?

There are two solutions.

One is that He has faith in himself. This is an odd abuse of the term, as if anything God has proof of Himself, and would only require faith if he was an extreme sceptic (which seems unlikely as faithn is only required in the absence of proof).

The other, and more likely option, given the tone of the overall argument, is that this premise turns again on a kind of equivocation between different terms. I think ity is something along the lines of deliberately confusing: "Without Faith God is nothing to us". If we don't beleive, than nothing about God matters really. An interpretation alone the lines of "....is nothing to those who belive in Him" is different again, implying that the act of having faith in the absence of tangible evidence is the most important thing to be gained from a realtionship with God. I personally think that it is the latter of these that this equivocation relies on, certainly the Babel-fish argument that this was blatantly lifted from seems to function this way.

michael said...

Assuming "I am nobody" is true (an option so far unconsidered), this leaves us with a grammatical confusion. "Nobody" in this sentance is a quasi-concept (Anselm's term) and signifies an distinct lack or negative. In the sentance "nobody is perfect" the "Nobody" is made a truly-concept (Kipling's term) signifying a positive. Thus the two uses of "nobody" are not identical, and thus cannot be used to identify the "I" and the "perfect", which have been identified with the two distinct uses of "nobody".

Thus it is like saying a grasshopper is also a cricket; criket is a game; therefore a grasshopper is a game.

The two forms of "nobody" cause problems in the second stanza as well. It is the positive use of "nobody" that leads to the question-begging, because in the positive use of "nobody" you assert that "nobody" exists.

The last stanza has been adequately debunked.

Validity is where the conclusion follows ogically from the premises. Soundness is where the premises are true. I will point out that the section from Lemmon quoted uses the terms 'sound' and 'truth', rather than 'valid' and 'sound'. I haven't read Lemmon, so I don't know what he says elsewhere; if he does use valid elsewhere then the quoet is poorly picked.

MH said...

Mr Pender - It's all very well to assume that 'I am nobody' is true, but given that it's false your point is redundant. (Here, Michael, is your challenge - prove that 'I am nobody' is true and what you've posted might be worth paying attention to - and the burden of proof is on you because the consensus is that it is false).

Further, I've not read Kipling (primarily because I've always taken him to be a naive and paternalistic colonial) and (other than from you) have not heard him given any philosophical standing. Perhaps you might justify why his ‘truly-concepts’ have any philosophical merit in this discussion, and point to any more accepted concepts that they resemble, before bandying them about.

Finally, “Often the terms ‘valid’ and ‘invalid’ are used in place of ‘sound’ and ‘unsound’” (Lemmon, pp. 1,2.). Samuel and I have had a separate discussion on this issue, and come to the conclusion that the distinction – in formal logic – is not as clear cut as you propose.

Mr Douglas – Apologies for that digression. Basically, if I’m following the line of discourse, we’ve reached a point where the quality of being-believed-in, which is deemed necessary by the argument, is irreconcilable with the concept of God that is being employed either because (a) God has to have faith in himself, though he must know himself to exist (given that God is omniscient, and thus should be able to prove the Cogito) or (b) God requires the faith of others to be something, though there was a historical point where these others did not exist, and thus God must have been nothing for a period of his existence. The third option, (c) that God is nothing to us without being-believed-in qua faith, seems to make an illicit transition from nothing qua nothing to nothing qua unacknowledged something which renders it highly problematic.

It appears that the premise – thanks to Anonymous for it – is more problematic on consideration, than Anonymous probably realised.

Samuel Douglas said...

"I am nobody", "quasi-concept"...reaally, you can do better than tht, can't you Mr Pender?

I still think that it means "I am a nobody", since no matter what way you look at it "I" can't be "nobody". Go read the Odyssey again.

On second thoughts, are you agreeing with us, and trying to make it seem like you're not?

michael said...

Martin, if nothing outside of the strictly philosophical tradition is to be admitted one is left wondering how on earth it began.
I am giving you an example of why a truly concept is relevant, but you seem to be blind to it.

You have not read Kipling because you assume he's "a naive and paternalistic colonial"? I ask you, who is the nieve one here?

In terms of assuming that the statement is true, I point out to you that a standard form of proof in mathematics is to assume that something is true, and then follow the logic. If the logic provides a contradiction then the assumption is shown to be false.
I also point out that you did not prove the statement to be false, but stated, with false authority, that it was.
But that is not why I decided to take that tack. This I did in order to illustrate not just that it was, but also why the argument was flawed: something that both you and Sam failed to do.

Pull you head in.




Sam, quite right, a correction - something I must do as a result of my not paying any attention to what I was writing - the first nobody is a truly-concept and the second is a quasi-concept and not, as I had, the other way around.

The point remains that the two "nobody"s mean entirely different things. So yes Sam, I was agreeing with your conclusion, but not your methods. Not to say that I was disargreeing with your methods, only providing an alternative with a linguistic rather than logical basis. I did this because such a basis allows for the recognition that the two "nobody"s mean different things, something that cannot be done with staight logic.

Samuel Douglas said...

I think i get your point, but I don't agree that the strict division between linguistic and locigal analyis is as clear cut as you imply. I might use logic, but what I do with it is based in a more wittgenstinian outlook.

MH said...

Mr Pender - Firstly, I've 'not read' Kipling in the sense that I've 'not read' Proust, and I've 'not read' Beckett (to pluck a couple of examples). This is 'not read' in the sense of not having read the complete ouvre, nor given it the consideration that it deserves, and I'd hope that you would agree that nothing is read until it is read and contemplated. I have suffered through 'The Jungle Book' in primary school, which I remember being as tedious as anything from that period I've read since, and did find rather naive - not the word I would have used at the time - and the message is what I would now consider paternalistic. His orientalism, I hope you would agree, is blatent (If you don't, then Mr Blyth will be more than willing to explain Said to you).

Secondly, you have provided a situation where your 'truely-concept' is relevant. Even I will conceed that it is relevant (primarily because you have made it so), but you have not actually justified the concept. I would like you to explain - as clearly as possible - why this term is going to be useful. This, in part, will require you to clarify what it actually refers to, and how it relates to other concepts in logic and epistemology (especially why it is better than the established concepts).

Thirdly, I at no point said that "nothing outside of the strictly philosophical tradition is to be admitted". I am more than willing to employ anything from outside the narrow academic discourses (I may allow you to read my thesis, its a string of non-traditional references), but am also aware that simply plucking concepts out of whatever it is I am reading at the time to give the appearance of looking intelligent is not good practice. The use of non-traditional concepts - on all occassions - needs to be justified, otherwise we'd all end up talking complete bullshit (Frankfurt's term, appologies for the crassness).

So, my challenge still stands. Explain and justify your use of 'truely-concepts'. If you can do that, and your 'truely-concepts' are as I have attempted to understand them, then you may have a valid point.

michael said...

Sam, sure its not that clear cut all the time, but I was jsut explaining what I was doing in this situation and why. The example of gaining a contradiction in maths that I gave earlier is one particular example of where the division is not so clear cut and particularly one sets out to show that the two seemingly equivalent terms are not actually so. My point was that this had not yet been done.

Martin: this is tiring. I reckon that the term 'truly-concept' is useful here as the compliment to an already accepted term of 'quasi-concept'. The term 'concept' used to be a sufficient term to imply the negaitve of this, but in modern notions where truth and non-truth are no longer so diametrically opposed the term 'concept' seems quite capable of covering quasi-concepts as well as concepts that are not quasi-concepts, so in order to distinguish without having to use a double negative I have used the term truly concept. I thought this was self-explanitory. Maybe if you read what I've written in context rather than jsut pulling out the words you don't find familiar you might understand the meaning of them.

I'm not going to bother defending Kipling; I think he is quite capable of doing that himself.

Samuel Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Samuel Douglas said...

I think this has gotten off track somewhere.
I'll try again:

If NOBODY is linguistically to something like 'not one body', then "NOBODY IS PERFECT" is true, because "Not one body is Perfect" is true(, or at least plausible).
"I AM NOBODY" however is problematic as "I am not one body" is a claim that the author may have trouble defending.

This is in contrast to "A Nobody" kind of uses, where the meaning is more along the lines of " A body that lacks the qualities of notoriety, status or respect etc" How else could one accuse another of being 'a nobody' or 'nobody’ without implying a contradiction? When you yell to someone’s face that they are nobody, it is obvious that you are speaking not in literal terms. The problem arises from "saying you're nobody". A quick look a the context however should tell us which meaning is at play and if it is being used in a way consistent with the overall context.

This isn't logic chopping, it is ordinary language use and common sense, and requires no jargon or particularly contested terms.

Do you actually get what I am saying Michael?

michael said...

Sam, you're a wizard with words.

Samuel Douglas said...

As opposed to you who is simply an illusionist.

If you think I'm wrong, then just say it, no snide remarks. ("Play the ball not the man", remember).

michael said...

wasn't meant to be a snide remark. As you have observed I've had difficulty putting my thoughts in 'plain' words, and you seem to have succeeded. the only problem I thought of was the idea of metaphore involves not saying what is meant, which I was trying to avoid with the 'quasi-concept' idea, but i don't think its worth banging heads on walls over it - I just don't think it matters.