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# Fallacy of Logical Omniscience

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The error I'm picturing is related to the problem of logical omniscience in the subfield of epistemic logic. It's not a problem as much as an implication that leads to some really unreasonable ends. Here's a quick explanation of how I'm formulating the problem that is ultimately an error of thought as opposed to an unsound argument.

A -> B

Straightforward. If a ball is pushed, it will roll. This is a fact.

K(A) -> K(B)

If I know that a ball is pushed, I know that it will roll. (K = knowledge that) In other words:

K(A) -> K(A -> B  )

So if I know that a ball is pushed, I know that pushed balls roll.

On some level, this makes sense. How can I claim that I know about pushed balls if I don't also know that they roll? If I know that a ball is pushed, then I should know it will roll.

But this leads to problems fast if knowledge always requires knowing implications. A rolling ball follows principles of motion, for example. If I know a ball is pushed, I'd be expected to know Newtonian physics. That would mean no one would know about balls until learning Newtonian physics. The problem grows bigger when I say all knowledge is connected. I'd need to know all of the implications of Newtonian physics to say I know Newtonian physics. This form of thinking would require that I need to know everything in order to know anything.

This problem seems to arise a lot when talking about implications of ideas (this happens in many contexts). What I mean is when taking someone's idea, then talking about the implications, especially implications not yet considered by them. Sometimes, people take this as a strawman argument. But if we don't accept logical omniscience, it's not a strawman argument, it just means they don't yet know the implication is true. To say how egalitarianism ruins individuality doesn't always mean an egalitarian seeks to make all people the same. (Consider how people sometimes insist Rand exaggerates and hyperbolizes about altruism, when mainly that's a case of ideas taken to their logical end.)

Other times, the person claiming an implication thinks the other person should know the implication, meaning that not knowing is due to evasion. If we reject logical omniscience, then no, failure to notice is not always evasion. It may take time for people to sort through or reorganize knowledge to be able to honestly accept an implication. This is similar to being called "too stubborn" for taking the time to consider the idea.

I'm curious about other ideas. When is a person morally blameworthy for not accepting an implication as true?

Edited by Eiuol

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Louie this is a really good point. Objectivists have a big problem assigning moral blame to someone who hasn't even thought through the implications. There's way more room for errors of knowledge than people are given credit for.

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Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. A contradiction cannot exist. An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole. No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one's thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one's mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.

The implication here is that knowledge is connected. Integrating knowledge without contradiction into ones total sum of knowledge does not require knowing everything to know anything, only that what one does know is contradiction-free to the best of his mind's ability. The claim that "One must know everything in order to know anything" is a contradiction.

Knowing that a contradiction cannot exist is one thing. Recognizing a contradiction when it is in front of you is quite another. The moral implication at the end of that paragraph indicates that it is the choice to maintain a contradiction which is blameworthy.

To accept an implication as true has to be based on evidence. Can a person have evidence in front of them, and not realize that it is indeed evidence and the implication(s) that follows is true? Consider the evidence for 'existence exists'.

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I'm thinking a person may possess all relevant evidence, but fail to recognize all of the implications. When should we expect a person to recognize an implication? I'd want to avoid a fallacy of logical omniscience. It is important, because many honest people take time to reach a conclusion, if for no other reason than there is a lot to mull over.

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5 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

I'm thinking a person may possess all relevant evidence, but fail to recognize all of the implications. When should we expect a person to recognize an implication? I'd want to avoid a fallacy of logical omniscience. It is important, because many honest people take time to reach a conclusion, if for no other reason than there is a lot to mull over.

I think the key is to try and structure Society in such a way that people bear responsibility for their own actions/inactions.

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17 hours ago, Eiuol said:

This problem seems to arise a lot when talking about implications of ideas (this happens in many contexts). What I mean is when taking someone's idea, then talking about the implications, especially implications not yet considered by them.

I think this is a wonderful topic. I agree with your identification of a "problem" here -- or the potential for one, at least.

Quote

Sometimes, people take this as a strawman argument.

In the context of a debate/discussion/argument/conversation, I think a few observations are key:

What a person presumes to be the implications of another person's argument (or frankly, his own) cannot be assumed, or rest upon simple assertion. Like any other contentious matter, such implications must be established through reasoned argument.

If Debater A makes Argument X, and Debater B believes that X implies Y, then it is not enough for Debater B to say so and then argue against Y; you're right that Debater A may not either understand, or agree, with B's assessment, and thus conclude that Debater B is discussing a strawman instead (or even a wholly unrelated topic). What is more, Debater A may be correct.

There is the case where X implies Y, and Debater A simply doesn't understand this connection yet. There is also the case where X does not imply Y, yet Debater B falsely imagines that it does. In the context of a debate, both cases will benefit by Debater B taking pains to attempt to establish the implication he believes that he sees between X and Y, and neither will benefit by his avoidance of the same.

Quote

Other times, the person claiming an implication thinks the other person should know the implication, meaning that not knowing is due to evasion. If we reject logical omniscience, then no, failure to notice is not always evasion.

Absolutely right.

A very brief anecdote: In my youth, and well before reading Rand, I was investigating the Bible in order to come to some conclusion about it. When I read Genesis, I was floored by the narrative of the Garden of Eden, and my own observation that in that story, God lies to Adam and Eve... and the serpent tells the truth! I took my observation to a Christian friend of mine (I was naive to do so, but a person must learn in some fashion), and I shared my argument with him. Of course he disagreed with me; I could not possibly be correct; God cannot lie, and the serpent cannot tell the truth.

So, not having my copy of the Bible with me, I asked him to produce his own, so that we could both look at Genesis together and assess my claim.

He refused to do it. He did not want to see my "evidence." He did not want to understand my argument. He was content in the fact of his disagreement, and nothing more needed to be investigated.

And even though it's something of a broad example, I have always carried that with me as being one of the worst things a person can do: a refusal to look; a refusal to see; a refusal to even attempt to understand. When I read Rand, rightly or wrongly, I associated that example (and a few others) with "evasion." I tend to think of evasion as a reluctance to look at evidence, or to assess connections, or to ask oneself questions (as one would ordinarily), for fear of the potential results. It is not typically so broad as a literal refusal to look at some central passage in the context of a debate, but that happens, too. Rather, I grow suspicious when I raise examples -- and those examples are not discussed or responded to. When I ask questions -- and those questions are not answered or responded to. When I advance some fresh line of argumentation -- and that argument is not engaged or responded to. When my discussion partner instead responds with tangents, or unrelated quotes, or simple restatements of his position, or anything other than a bold willingness to dive into the meat of the topic -- that's when I begin to suspect that they are avoiding the meat of the topic.

It is not someone's failure to understand the implications I argue for which raises the question of "evasion" in my mind, but how they react and respond to the arguments I make for those implications.

Quote

It may take time for people to sort through or reorganize knowledge to be able to honestly accept an implication.

Absolutely right. Even granting that a discussion goes smoothly, it is a mistake to believe that a person will necessarily "change their mind" in the context of a debate, or even a series of them.

There have been times in my life where someone seems to have been easily persuaded of some argument I've made -- and honestly, that doesn't usually sit well with me, either. I have come to believe that an honest man does not come to any central opinion he holds (whether right or wrong) lightly; it takes time, and there is a process, for what you describe -- the reorganization of knowledge. It takes time to think through implications, to raise, ask, and answer questions that might be raised, and some of this might even need to be tested further through experience. And to do this all "against the stream" of the present culture, misleading data, one's own personal background, and etc., can be quite a feat.

Edited by DonAthos

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I'd say my most important point is that I am identifying an error of thought when judging the intellectual honesty of others. We can talk about all the ways discussions and arguments break down. The fallacy of logical omniscience is a type of error to characterize discussions becoming unproductive, especially for contentious topics. If both parties are conscious that this fallacy pops up, then it is easier to avoid labeling arguments as strawmen, or easier to make sure you grasp the evidence the other person holds.

2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

It is not someone's failure to understand the implications I argue for which raises the question of "evasion" in my mind, but how they react and respond to the arguments I make for those implications.

Sure, but how do you know if a person evades in other ways? One way is to look at the evidence people hold. Refusing to open a book is a really direct way to evade, as it is deliberately dodging evidence. But suppose your friend knew the passage or looked. To reach a conclusion, integration is required; a refusal to integrate would also be evasion. The trouble is not jumping to the fallacy implicitly. I don't know an effective way to figure out if a person is evading an integration. In a social setting, sometimes you need to say a person is lying because they refuse to agree about an implication. No, not everyone lies, but think of how House figures out when someone is lying: he'll recognize people have enough evidence and call them out on it.

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4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I'd say my most important point is that I am identifying an error of thought when judging the intellectual honesty of others.

I think it's well observed that failure to agree with some proposed implication does not necessarily entail evasion.

4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

The fallacy of logical omniscience is a type of error to characterize discussions becoming unproductive, especially for contentious topics. If both parties are conscious that this fallacy pops up, then it is easier to avoid labeling arguments as strawmen, or easier to make sure you grasp the evidence the other person holds.

Agreed.

4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Sure, but how do you know if a person evades in other ways? One way is to look at the evidence people hold. Refusing to open a book is a really direct way to evade, as it is deliberately dodging evidence. But suppose your friend knew the passage or looked.

Well, that's where "making an argument" comes into play. It isn't always necessarily enough to present two and two and expect someone else to see four. If my friend had agreed to read the passage, but still disagreed with my conclusion, then I would have had to take him through my thinking -- perhaps a step at a time. (For my argument re: Genesis, specifically, I might have to discuss what a "lie" is, and how we recognize it generally speaking, and etc.)

And as I've said, you can assess how a person responds to such a thing as you proceed. If there's a general willingness to follow down the path of argumentation -- to engage in a give and take, deal with examples, ask and answer questions, etc. -- then the conversation can be both useful and pleasant. (If there's unwillingness to do those things, it might suggest an evasion, and rancor probably lies ahead.) If there's a breakdown in agreement, at any step along the way, then that's likely where you then have to focus, temporarily, until you can come back to the larger picture.

If you reach the point where there's agreement on every subtopic, every underlying matter, but only an expressed disagreement on the conclusion remains (I have found this sometimes phrased as something like, "I can see what you're saying... but I just don't agree; I can't really explain why," or similar), then I find that there's little more to be done with respect to argument. You've built the bridge and now it remains for the other person to decide to cross the river, or not. And that can take time.

4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

To reach a conclusion, integration is required; a refusal to integrate would also be evasion. The trouble is not jumping to the fallacy implicitly. I don't know an effective way to figure out if a person is evading an integration.

That's why I made mention of specific actions I've observed, like refusing to answer direct questions, and concentrating on tangential matters, and etc. These can be meaningful, and suggest evasion or some form of intellectual dishonesty, yet it's all context-dependent, and there's no one-size-fits-all method for assessing someone's intellectual honesty or evasiveness.

Regardless, I try to extend the benefit of the doubt (probably further than I should, at times), and typically redouble my efforts at explanation, or more, before I conclude that another refuses to cooperate. Yet sometimes people do refuse to cooperate.

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On 2/29/2016 at 2:23 PM, Eiuol said:

The error I'm picturing is related to the problem of logical omniscience in the subfield of epistemic logic. It's not a problem as much as an implication that leads to some really unreasonable ends.

I'm not sure I understand why you introduce a type of formal logic into the post, or what you mean by logical omniscience is a subfield of epistemic logic.

Formal logic (deductive reasoning) does not lead to new conclusions.  The conclusion is implicit in the premises, and merely follows from an application of the rules and/or instructions (think computer code).  Nothing new is actually learned.  Arithmetic is an example of this.  I've never before added together the two numbers 1,268.7685 + 976,658.2385, but their sum is not something "new".

Edited by New Buddha

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It's a problem in the subfield of epistemic logic, a branch of modal logic. The point is that it relates to what a person's knowledge implies about the rest of their knowledge.

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On a related note, I'm currently taking a class in artificial intelligence, and one of the major problems in building a working AI is getting the computer to figure out all of the implications of the knowledge in its knowledge base. (There's no fundamental distinction between an AI and any other algorithm, by the way, it's just a subjective distinction based on how well the algorithm emulates human intelligence.)

An AI's knowledge base consists of (1) facts about the world and (2) rules about how the world works. For example, an AI might know the following:

1. Bob is hot.
2. Bob is rich.
3. Bob's favorite ice cream flavor is mint
4. If a person is hot and rich, they will buy ice cream.
5. If a person buys ice cream, they will buy their favorite flavor of ice cream

Here, our facts about the world are 1, 2, and 3, and our rules about how the world works are 4 and 5. There are two main ways an AI might try to draw the conclusion that Bob will buy mint ice cream from these premises: forward chaining and backward chaining.

In forward chaining, the AI starts with the given facts and tries to apply various combinations of rules to the facts until it finds a rule where the predicates in the antecedent match the predicates in the facts. Here, the AI would start with 1-3, then try to match the predicates in 4 and 5 to those facts until it starts making progress. The process in this case would be to match 1 and 2 to 4, then deduce a new fact ("Bob will buy ice cream") which it can then match to rule 5 together with fact 3. This would allow it to discover a new conclusion, namely that Bob will buy mint ice cream.

In backward chaining, the AI starts with a query representing the conclusion to be derived and works backward through the knowledge base until it finds a derivation of that conclusion from the given facts and rules. That is, it would start with "Bob will buy mint ice cream" and try to match the predicates in that term to the predicates in the consequent of one of the rules. So it would first notice that the antecedent of rule 5 together with fact 3 would allow it to prove the conclusion it wants, then start looking for a way to prove the antecedent of rule 5, then succeed in doing so by going back through the antecedent of rule 4 to facts 1 and 2.

This is pretty different from how humans reason, since we can't represent our knowledge as a simple list of clearly defined rules and facts like this, nor do we have the ability to search for implications as quickly and efficiently as a computer.

Edited by William O

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While it may seem obvious to say it's wrong to say that a person believes all the implications of their ideas, a fallacy is something that still pops up and will go unnoticed unless you make the fallacy clear. You're right, Don, about looking at actual claims. But the fallacy pops up at that level especially. What does a person's evidence actually imply?

On 3/2/2016 at 7:00 PM, DonAthos said:

That's why I made mention of specific actions I've observed, like refusing to answer direct questions, and concentrating on tangential matters, and etc. These can be meaningful, and suggest evasion or some form of intellectual dishonesty, yet it's all context-dependent, and there's no one-size-fits-all method for assessing someone's intellectual honesty or evasiveness.

A lot of the time, these are not examples of a refusal to see. It's a matter of your standards of evidence for a topic, which are hopefully proper standards. But that an idea is a tangent is similar to saying their evidence is not evidence. In discussion, the point is not "is it evidence or not?" but "what does this evidence mean?" The first is bound to run into the fallacy, as in you assume their ideas must follow your standard, that certain beliefs -need- to follow without regard for evidence people hold. The second is best, as you allow for their evidence to be evaluated, not wiped away as utterly irrelevant. Focusing on a tangent is totally fine, it's usually a way to see what sort of evidence people hold. "Tangent" is another way to say "not obviously related". If we want to avoid the fallacy, it's important to exchange evidence.

I really like how you brought up AI, William. With a few simple rules and pre-determined facts, we know what an AI -has- to think, or else it is broken. It will take time for some conclusions, but it will always get there. Similarly, you can say people will always "get there" or else they're failing to think. But you can't easily say it for people at all, because you need to know their evidence. An AI like that is straightforward, but we can't even apply logical omniscience there. The AI doesn't hold new concrete facts about the world, yet its evidence changes, as in when it learns 4 and 5, it knows more facts. The point is, evidence people hold is key, not just a discussion of how A does or doesn't imply B.

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39 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

A lot of the time, these are not examples of a refusal to see.

I did not say that they are examples of a refusal to see. I said that these "can be meaningful, and suggest evasion or some form of intellectual dishonesty, yet it's all context-dependent, and there's no one-size-fits-all method for assessing someone's intellectual honesty or evasiveness."

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all, imagine a discussion on "intellectual property" where someone raises any number of examples, only to see those examples never discussed in response. Over time, it can make a person wonder!

But maybe there's no "refusal to see" afoot in such a case. It's possible that there's some good reason for routinely ignoring the examples a person raises in the context of a conversation on some subject. On the other hand, it also makes me suspicious that there may yet be some "refusal to see" going on. We'll never get to witness another person's "evasion" directly (not even in the case of my friend refusing to open the Bible), given that it is an internal, mental event; the evidence is always circumstantial. But these are the sorts of things that you take together, in context, to draw towards a determination.

39 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

It's a matter of your standards of evidence for a topic, which are hopefully proper standards. But that an idea is a tangent is similar to saying their evidence is not evidence.

It's all evidence for something, surely, but a thinking person has to be able to judge whether some particular "evidence" directly pertains to the subject at hand on some basis. Look, if we were in a murder trial, and the defense started talking about... I don't know, the construction of Medieval tapestries, at some point the prosecution would be justified in appealing to the judge that the subject matter seems irrelevant to the case.

Could the construction of Medieval tapestries matter in some murder trial? Absolutely. But if pressed on the point, the defense would have to be willing (and able) to make their argument -- to demonstrate the relationship between these tapestries and the central contentions of the murder trial -- or else drop the matter as inessential, unrelated, or tangential (if even that).

Otherwise such tangents are apt to derail productive conversations, and trials, and etc., and usually at the behest of the evader (because part and parcel to evasion is the reluctance or refusal to discuss something directly; tangents are safer).

39 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

In discussion, the point is not "is it evidence or not?" but "what does this evidence mean?" The first is bound to run into the fallacy, as in you assume their ideas must follow your standard...

Well... they must follow some standard (and yes, I admit it, of all possible standards I prefer my own). But the point is not that a person makes an "assumption," but rather challenges whether some item is tangential, if that is the suspicion. Then it's incumbent upon the person making the argument to, once again, make the argument.

It is the willingness -- or not -- to explain, answer, query, and generally engage in the back-and-forth of reasoned discussion, which is meaningful. Not raising an (apparent) tangent, per se, but the willingness to relate it, defend it, argue it, and drop it, if necessary.

If we were talking about abortion, and you brought up cheese sandwiches, and I said, "Eiuol, cheese sandwiches have nothing to do with anything; let's get back to abortion," then I would (ideally) expect you to return with something like, "That's where you're wrong, DA! Cheese sandwiches are central to abortion. Here's how:"

And then you show me how.

But if you don't do that... if you don't show me how cheese sandwiches relate to abortion, but merely insist that they do, and then continue on discussing cheese sandwiches as though no objection had been raised... then it is likely that the conclusion I will finally draw is that you are discussing cheese sandwiches instead of abortion.

Again, does this establish "evasion" on your part? Not necessarily. Perhaps you are just hungry. But it is apt to make me suspicious.

Many people are unclear in their thinking. Probably, everyone is unclear in his thinking -- with respect to certain topics. I hold that no crime. But when a person chooses to engage in argumentation, I expect that to entail something like a commitment to clarity in communication... which may first necessitate clearing up one's thinking on the subject matter. Regardless of the origin, you may be confused about cheese sandwiches and abortion, thinking that they are related when they are not (if indeed they are not). When I challenge you on the subject, that's an invitation to you to further clarify your thinking on the matter (and subsequently to express this thinking). And should you refuse to meet the challenge, in this case by reasserting your claims and developing them, rather than first establishing their relevance, then yes, I am likely to conclude that you have some (internal, psychological) reason for keeping your thinking fuzzy and confused on the subject.

This is, in my opinion, a hallmark of evasion.

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I think of the hours spent discussing with mystics of the mysterious power that be, understanding that existentially there is no entity behind it. "Prove such an entity doesn't exist" some claim. "State the evidence for it", simultaneously demonstrating a lack of what proof consists of, and what evidence is. (There can be no evidence for that which in actuality does not exist.)

If I am looking for the case that Ayn Rand is correct on her position of Intellectual Property Rights, where do I go to find it?

Ultimately, I went to the e-bookstore and purchased Mossoff's talk on the subject. I even provided a link to where the talk is hosted for free on ARI. I indicated the direction he was looking to make his case. Does it make sense to ask those who think Intellectual Property Rights don't exist for evidence that they don't exist? I don't think that I did. I'll grant that I cannot take, step by step, the method of reducing IP Rights to its basis in perception. Does this mean that no such basis or complex chain of reasoning can be discovered?

Man is a conceptual being. Everything he holds to be true, he holds in conceptual form. To me, this would be the general direction to head in pursuit of such an understanding, it is partially why Mossoff turns Rand's explicit point, implicitly, about the attack on IP Rights undercutting all property rights, why, I find an allure in his statement that all property, is essentially intellectual property.

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Let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing!

Lines like that are examples of irrelevancies. It applies to nothing except entirely separate topics. A better example is word salad. "How old are you?" and you answer "Bees are radio naps", it's literally gibberish. I'm suggesting that usually, a tangent is not a Rubio-style evasion. That is, most people only bring something up if they only see it as related.

Apparent irrelevancies are typically always relevant to some degree; no evidence is to be rejected until a case is made that it doesn't follow. To be sure, -arguments- to reach a conclusion need to be shown to follow in a court of law, or in a book proving a thesis, but my idea is unless we assume logical omniscience, evidence is more like "see exhibit A" without any guarantee it proves a point.

Even if I can't argue entirely to prove my evidence matters, my opponent would still need to consider the new facts. Regardless of -whose- case it helps, new facts must be explained by both sides. To say a person must only use evidence they can right now prove reaches a conclusion makes it so no open-ended (yet-to-be-proven) ideas are allowed. Then we fall into a trap of requiring people to know all implications to their ideas or else they won't be taken seriously, or that honest arguers must know all implications. To be clearer about my idea: rejecting evidence is prone to the fallacy if you don't think about the evidence in the other person's context. Their skill at arguing is secondary.

For informal discussions, tangents of all kinds will often make conversations more productive, even if a relationship can't be argued for by the person who brought it up (or the reason to bring it up was intuition).

Let's make it a little more concrete. Imagine you were arguing with someone who is a hard-line progressive is telling you to look at the wage gap as evidence for wage slavery. Say they present you with a reasoned out explanation that there is no real sense to being free to pursue your own life. If the topic is how capitalism does or doesn't allow people to pursue their happiness, you could say the idea is a pointless tangent. Who cares about wage slavery, the fact is people are able to choose jobs or not! It fails to meet standards of relevancy. But this would be logical omniscience (even if not explicitly): "I will a priori reject some evidence because I don't see how it matters. I know wage slavery doesn't relate to the topic, therefore I only need to think about wage slavery if they prove it is relevant." But a far better thing to do is engage it directly, pre-emptively undermining their own viewpoint and the evidence constituting it.

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On 3/1/2016 at 9:54 AM, DonAthos said:

Even granting that a discussion goes smoothly, it is a mistake to believe that a person will necessarily "change their mind" in the context of a debate, or even a series of them.

There have been times in my life where someone seems to have been easily persuaded of some argument I've made -- and honestly, that doesn't usually sit well with me, either. ...

Well...  Suppose we were having a debate, during which I realized that my own perspective of the issue was less-than-correct.

While the correct way to look at it may not be readily apparent, at that point, (nor, perhaps, for some time afterwards) I'd still be capable of making an immediate change, wouldn't I?  In the very least, I could admit that "I don't know"; a real and meaningful change, in itself.

Furthermore, in my own life there have been numerous times when, faced with the falsehood of my own beliefs, a more accurate perspective was immediately apparent (particularly during intellectual discourse).

So, while I would agree that people can't cross from, say, Kant to Rand in one fell swoop (and that it wouldn't be fair to ask them to), there's an issue of degrees that I'd like to point out. People can cross the entire philosophical spectrum, eventually, and they can change their minds in one sitting - if only from "I know X" to "I'm not sure about X".

I mention this because it's a sentiment you've expressed before and -while it's true that some Objectivists (myself, in particular) have condemned too easily and too often- it implies a certain standard of human conduct, which I'd like to reexamine.

It's like that passage from Galt's Speech, about Original sin; the assertion that people are born with free will and certain tendencies for evil: either their will is free or it isn't. Well, either people can be persuaded by reason or they can't. And if they can't then what in the Hell could come of communicating with them?

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On 3/6/2016 at 6:17 PM, Eiuol said:

I'm suggesting that usually, a tangent is not a Rubio-style evasion. That is, most people only bring something up if they only see it as related.

You may believe that to be true -- or perhaps it is true in certain situations -- but more often what I believe I encounter are tangents being raised in lieu of discussing some central contention. As in, I make an argument anti-IP (for instance), and another person "responds to me" by discussing cheese sandwiches, rather than taking on any part of the argument I've offered.

And it should make you happy to note that quite often I consent to discuss cheese sandwiches... and then ask that we return to the argument I've made. But usually in reply I get yet another tangent (with both my argument, and now also cheese sandwiches, curiously absent from the continuing conversation).

Whether one considers this potentially symptomatic of "evasion" or not, I find it a horrible way to have a conversation. Even if some tangent potentially pertains (and even if this potential is "intuited" and implied rather than grasped or expressed), it is still better to try to answer questions asked directly, and engage arguments raised head on; then a tangent (if it is one) can be brought up, enriched by the helpful understanding that both sides of the discussion will have their arguments grappled with and responded to. I think that a far superior way to go. (And if there is evasion afoot, on other side, I think this approach might go some way to remedy it.)

On 3/7/2016 at 0:10 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:
On 3/1/2016 at 7:54 AM, DonAthos said:

Even granting that a discussion goes smoothly, it is a mistake to believe that a person will necessarily "change their mind" in the context of a debate, or even a series of them.

There have been times in my life where someone seems to have been easily persuaded of some argument I've made -- and honestly, that doesn't usually sit well with me, either. ...

Well...  Suppose we were having a debate, during which I realized that my own perspective of the issue was less-than-correct.

While the correct way to look at it may not be readily apparent, at that point, (nor, perhaps, for some time afterwards) I'd still be capable of making an immediate change, wouldn't I?  In the very least, I could admit that "I don't know"; a real and meaningful change, in itself.

The comments you're responded to are general and draw upon my experience. They aren't meant to apply to every individual in every situation, and I certainly wasn't trying to suggest some principle like, "Anyone who seems to change his mind over the course of a debate is..." whatever might conclude that sentence.

I think that you're right: there can certainly be an immediate change -- a real and meaningful change -- over the course of some discussion. Depending on the discussion, I would certainly regard "I don't know" or "I need to give it some more thought" or... well, there could be any number of possibilities that would suggest the internal mechanism of change or potential change. If you're listening, I believe you can hear the reflected processes of honest and rational thought in a conversation.

What I am skeptical of is a... "road to Damascus" type moment; a sudden conversion; a polar switch. Maybe my skepticism is unfounded, and maybe this does happen honestly. But in my experience, limited though it may be, I find that when honest men are grappling with difficult questions, and reasoning their way from holding one viewpoint to another, that they take time to process, to integrate, to ask questions, to settle doubts, to revisit old thoughts, and etc. The more central the ideas or beliefs at stake, the more work to be done, the more time and effort it requires.

Now all that said, there certainly can be a tipping/turning point or an "epiphany." I've experienced it, internally, and I'm sure you have as well. But even this usually comes after some great effort (and there is usually great effort still ahead); it captures the "moment of change," but not all of what goes into that change.

Quote

Furthermore, in my own life there have been numerous times when, faced with the falsehood of my own beliefs, a more accurate perspective was immediately apparent (particularly during intellectual discourse).

I don't want to make this more personal than it needs to be, but I believe that you have a respect for reason which helps to set you apart in this regard from the vast majority.

Quote

So, while I would agree that people can't cross from, say, Kant to Rand in one fell swoop (and that it wouldn't be fair to ask them to), there's an issue of degrees that I'd like to point out. People can cross the entire philosophical spectrum, eventually, and they can change their minds in one sitting - if only from "I know X" to "I'm not sure about X".

Agreed on all counts.

Edited by DonAthos

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4 hours ago, DonAthos said:

And it should make you happy to note that quite often I consent to discuss cheese sandwiches... and then ask that we return to the argument I've made. But usually in reply I get yet another tangent (with both my argument, and now also cheese sandwiches, curiously absent from the continuing conversation).

Before I reply more, how does one decide if a statement is a tangent? It seems to me that you knowing or declaring something to be a tangent commits the fallacy, unless (most) tangents are welcomed openly.

Edited by Eiuol

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Before I reply more, how does one decide if a statement is a tangent? It seems to me that you knowing or declaring something to be a tangent commits the fallacy, unless (most) tangents are welcomed openly.

Prior to World War I, many countries apparently expected the war to be over quickly. But some of the technological changes (e.g. the combination of trench/machine gun; barbed wire) made a quick resolution impossible. Really -- they didn't know what they were getting themselves into.

Does that help?

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On 2/29/2016 at 2:23 PM, Eiuol said:

The error I'm picturing is related to the problem of logical omniscience in the subfield of epistemic logic. It's not a problem as much as an implication that leads to some really unreasonable ends. Here's a quick explanation of how I'm formulating the problem that is ultimately an error of thought as opposed to an unsound argument.

A -> B

Straightforward. If a ball is pushed, it will roll. This is a fact.

On 2/29/2016 at 2:23 PM, Eiuol said:

But this leads to problems fast if knowledge always requires knowing implications. A rolling ball follows principles of motion, for example. If I know a ball is pushed, I'd be expected to know Newtonian physics.

If my position is that Eiuol is making a fundamental, methodological error in believing that Newtonian Mechanics is based on the precepts of "epistemic logic" (which he appears to be doing) do I then proceed to use "epistemic logic" to demonstrate to him his methodological error?

No.

I would try and explain to him that Newtonian Mechanics is the mathematization of empirically gathered data via kinematics/vector mechanics, etc.  That it is inductive and not deductive.  I would also try and communicate to him the limits of formal logic (deductive reasoning) in proceeding from generalizations to particulars in science.

And of course, I would then be accused by some on this forum of "going off on a tangent" because I'm refusing to use Eiuol's fundamentally wrong methodology to disprove his fundamentally wrong methodology....  And I can only imagine the response of some if I were to actually discuss the historical roots of Rudolf Carnap's approach to science and how and why he (incorrectly) tried to tie it to formal logic? Talk about going off on a tangent!

Edited by New Buddha

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Don, I take your point, but I'm asking you to explain examples that would happen (like my wage slavery example), not Rubio-style evasions/tangents.

Buddha, no idea what you're talking about. I never was talking about finding out what is true. I'm saying the error of thought during discussions appears based on if/how knowledge of A implies knowledge of B. Epistemic logic is logic in the context of knowers.

Edited by Eiuol

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32 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Don, I take your point...

Are you certain that you do?

Perhaps WWI was a poor choice of example to lead off with. Maybe it would be better if I started with the Crimean War and the Franco-Prussian War -- 19th Century wars which helped to create false expectations of "what war is like" which were carried into the 20th Century... to disastrous consequence!

I hope that helps to clarify my position.

32 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

...but I'm asking you to explain examples that would happen, not Rubio-style evasions/tangents.

I thought I was!

Are you accusing me of something?

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

You're lucky that I am who I am and can only do this sort of thing for so long (and half-heartedly, at that). In order to produce my last response to you, I first had to delete my already-typed direct answer, and then I hemmed and hawed and second-guessed myself, because, generally speaking, I cannot stomach indirectness or "devil's advocacy" or other supposed stratagems of not saying what I sincerely think as clearly as I can manage.

But because we've started on this path, I am resolved to push this point home, if I can. If you're accusing me of "Rubio-style evasions/tangents," or any other less-than-satisfactory style of response, then how do you possibly manage to do so with without committing your supposed fallacy? How do you propose to identify that my response is not "on point," if that is your contention?

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24 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

Perhaps WWI was a poor choice of example to lead off with. Maybe it would be better if I started with the Crimean War and the Franco-Prussian War -- 19th Century wars which helped to create false expectations of "what war is like" which were carried into the 20th Century... to disastrous consequence

Well yeah, that's a Rubio-style evasion/tangent (your bringing it up isn't), as in it's a type of tangent I explained that's basically word salad and follows no apparent connection. So I'm curious about when people are at least engaging, or to talk about examples of accusations like the fallacy.

EDIT: On second thought, I'm not sure if you're giving an example about reasoning, or if it's meant to mirror my Rubio example.

Edited by Eiuol

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Well yeah, that's a Rubio-style evasion/tangent (your bringing it up isn't), as in it's a type of tangent I explained that's basically word salad and follows no apparent connection.

Whatever else may be true about my observations on warfare, they are certainly not "word salad." (If you cannot understand the meaning of what I write at all, then our problems in communication run far deeper than we will be able to address on this forum. Or any other.)

When you say that my observations follow "no apparent connection," I take you to mean no connection apparent to you. So what happens if I insist that there is a connection?

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

So I'm curious about when people are at least engaging, or to talk about examples of accusations like the fallacy.

Why do you believe that I am not engaging? I'm posting in response to you, aren't I?

What are you accusing me of, and why? If you're saying that I'm engaging in some type of "tangent," then I must ask -- how do you know? (You don't happen to be "logically omniscient," do you?)

Why haven't you yet engaged me on World War I? Or the Crimean War? Or the Franco-Prussian War? But... maybe you have a point. Maybe we haven't reached back far enough to truly grasp the matters we're discussing. Really, we must start with Napoleon. I trust you are familiar with his campaign at Austerlitz? (If not, you can read up on it here.)

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16 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I don't want to make this more personal than it needs to be ...

I'm not worried about it.

16 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I believe that you have a respect for reason which helps to set you apart in this regard from the vast majority.

That's the implication, though.

Some people are essentially open to reason and some people are not. If we were to break it down statistically, I have no illusions about where most people would fall. I mean - we elected Obama twiceFrom this, one might draw the conclusion (without contradiction) that people are basically 'dumb, panicky, dangerous animals' who don't want to think and who view anyone else's happiness as inimical to their own. Numerically speaking, the odds are that any randomly selected member of the population will be just that.

I am disputing, not these statistical facts, but their generalization across mankind. And I'm disputing it on pragmatic grounds, rather than epistemological.

Knowledge is for action. If I were to think of each new individual I met as one more member of a mostly-brainless population, instead of as a fellow self-made being of limitless potential, I wouldn't be able to stomach it; I'd have to go and live alone in the mountains.

I think it's better to assume everyone's innocence (and sincerity and respect for reason) and treat them accordingly (holding them to the same exacting standards that you and I hold ourselves to), in the abscence of any evidence to the contrary.

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