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The Motive Fallacy

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Forgive me if this is in the wrong section, but i reasoned that since logic is an epistemic vehicle and fallacy is a part of formal logic, it should go in the Epistemology section. :D

For those that dont know;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_motive

I ask because I was just had a conversation (with an irrational person :( ) about guns being in the "wrong" hands. It started from this video;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8PWIBZtI-c...player_embedded

Wrong, of course, means individuals intending to use firearms inappropriately `(i.e. infringing on another's right to life). It was argued that legally bought guns should be kept out of the hands of people wishing to use them for illicit purposes, but is concerning ourselves with the motives of people buying guns legally an example of the motive fallacy? I know the answer seems extremely obvious, and forgive my ignorance in advance, but appeal to motive seems to be almost exclusive to political debates and i was unsure if it applied to situations such as the aforementioned.

Another reason i ask is because we are calling into question a third hypothetical party (the gun buyer), not the person actually debating.

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Wrong, of course, means individuals intending to use firearms inappropriately `(i.e. infringing on another's right to life). It was argued that legally bought guns should be kept out of the hands of people wishing to use them for illicit purposes, but is concerning ourselves with the motives of people buying guns legally an example of the motive fallacy?

No, of course not. People's intentions are not relevant as far asd the truth of a statement they make is concerned. For instance if I tell you that 2+2=4, it is irrelevant why I told you that, it will be true no matter what.

That doesn't mean that people's motives and intentions are always irrelevant. For instance when someone gets a gun permit, his intentions are relevant.

On the other hand, if someone tells you thay he has the right to self defense, that is a true statement, no matter what his intentions are. His intentions come into play when it has to be decided whether he wants a gun to defend himself or not.

P.S. I'm sure the people in the video didn't have gun permits, but if they did, that was an oversight on the government's part. They seem to belong to a gang, and gangmembers definitely shouldn't get carry permits.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Motive is thought. Thought can not be criminally punished. Why you buy a gun can only be known to anyone if you tell them. Even in such cases the 'witness' of someone saying they want a gun so they can kill people is heresay. There is no way to know the motive of a person when they buy a gun, and therefore it is impossible to legislate that only those who want to kill are banned. The only option is blanket ban, or ban by arbitrary criteria. Both cases violate individual rights.

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I'm a layman in subjects of this nature, but upon reading the link you provided this does not seem to be the same fallacy. He is not calling into question your motives "I wonder why you want guns to be readily available?" seems more like what you linked to.

You didn't specifically state it, but it sounds like this person is arguing for gun control. If so, here is a problem I see.

The assertion that guns might end up in the wrong hands requires omniscience for anything to be allowed. Once you begin abrogating rights on the basis of what people might do there is no end. You can't possibly know everyone's intent or motivations. Knives are dangerous. Pesticides are dangerous. Many sporting goods are dangerous. How can we know they aren't going to wind up in the wrong hands? There is an unspoken premise here that ill intent is widespread within the human race. It treats evil as the norm, not an anomaly.

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Motive is thought. Thought can not be criminally punished. Why you buy a gun can only be known to anyone if you tell them. Even in such cases the 'witness' of someone saying they want a gun so they can kill people is heresay. There is no way to know the motive of a person when they buy a gun, and therefore it is impossible to legislate that only those who want to kill are banned. The only option is blanket ban, or ban by arbitrary criteria. Both cases violate individual rights.

So you won't mind if a co-worker keeps a gun aimed at your head for the duration of your work week? After all, guessing at why he does that would be arbitrary, unless he tells you.

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The assertion that guns might end up in the wrong hands requires omniscience for anything to be allowed. Once you begin abrogating rights on the basis of what people might do there is no end. You can't possibly know everyone's intent or motivations. Knives are dangerous. Pesticides are dangerous. Many sporting goods are dangerous. How can we know they aren't going to wind up in the wrong hands? There is an unspoken premise here that ill intent is widespread within the human race. It treats evil as the norm, not an anomaly.

The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy too.

So knives, pesticides and rubber penises:) aside, we've been down the road of gun-rights (and whether there is such a thing as the right to guns), recently, in this thread:

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...=17451&st=0

Ayn Rand weighed in on the issue in a way that might surprise you. (quote is in the thread, I think DavidOdden posted it, 'round the second page, maybe the first even)

[edit]

I found the Rand quote:

Handguns are instruments for killing people -- they are not carried for hunting animals -- and you have no right to kill people. You do have the right to self-defense, however. I don't know how the issue is to be resolved to protect you without giving you the privilege to kill people at whim.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Although I think Jack is a little off base with the apparent assertion that one can't determine a person's intentions from their own stated intentions, setting up a straw man isn't doing anything to prove it. A suspicious or threatening verbal statement is not the same thing as a direct physical threat.

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That doesn't mean that people's motives and intentions are always irrelevant. For instance when someone gets a gun permit, his intentions are relevant.

Isnt this subjectivity? Or is there a certain classification of actions that warrant the relevance of motive? Why would it matter what an individual is going to do with a gun permit but not with a gun?

Were George Bush's intentions for going to war with Iraq more relevant than the facts? I use this example because it's how i learned about the fallacy. People wasted so much time asking why and coming up with crazy ideas instead of analyzing the facts and the outcome of the situation.

Castle,

The argument wasn't explicitly about gun control. I made the comment that if the police were allowed to do their job and the law were more objective than we could keep guns out of the wrong hands. By wrong hands, i meant people who had committed a felony and were breaking the law by possessing a gun (proving to society that they were the "wrong hands"). The argument digressed and he went on to say that there was no way to determine, when guns are bought legally, a man's intentions with said gun (which is true) and ergo there was no "right hands v. wrong hands" argument. I explained there was and argument because of convicted persons and then explained the appeal to motive (the real reason the motives of a person buying a gun are irrelevant), which applies to the lawful purchase of firearms. I then began to wonder if i had explained the Motive fallacy erroneously.

Im kind of new to debate and critical thinking in general. Im considering shutting my mouth entirely.

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That doesn't mean that people's motives and intentions are always irrelevant. For instance when someone gets a gun permit, his intentions are relevant.

Isnt this subjectivity? Or is there a certain classification of actions that warrant the relevance of motive? Why would it matter what an individual is going to do with a gun permit but not with a gun?

Were George Bush's intentions for going to war with Iraq more relevant than the facts? I use this example because it's how i learned about the fallacy. People wasted so much time asking why and coming up with crazy ideas instead of analyzing the facts and the outcome of the situation.

Castle,

The argument wasn't explicitly about gun control. I made the comment that if the police were allowed to do their job and the law were more objective than we could keep guns out of the wrong hands. By wrong hands, i meant people who had committed a felony and were breaking the law by possessing a gun (proving to society that they were the "wrong hands"). The argument digressed and he went on to say that there was no way to determine, when guns are bought legally, a man's intentions with said gun (which is true) and ergo there was no "right hands v. wrong hands" argument. I explained there was and argument because of convicted persons and then explained the appeal to motive (the real reason the motives of a person buying a gun are irrelevant), which applies to the lawful purchase of firearms. I then began to wonder if i had explained the Motive fallacy erroneously.

Im kind of new to debate and critical thinking in general. Im considering shutting my mouth entirely.

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Nah, don't shut your mouth, not if you find value in the process. Again, I'm a total layman, but it does look to me from reading the link you provided that you have likely mislabeled the argument as the motive fallacy. However, I think your actual assertion is correct.

Your position seemed to be implying that it is appropriate and effective to deny felons firearms based on actual objective criteria. I personally don't agree with the scope of your assertion, but the principle of denying a person the ownership of a gun only after they've objectively demonstrated by their actions that they are dangerous is sound in my opinion. I would personally modify the position to restrict the ban to violent felons, not felons in general, and I would include a period to the ban with objective criteria for demonstrating to the judiciary that the felon can be reasonably expected to utilize firearms appropriately.

Your friend is restating your argument with critical terms omitted and inverted, then attacking that. "It is appropriate to restrict ownership of firearms among criminals, who have previously acted to violate rights." is not "We must know everyone's intent before selling them firearms." The second seems to be the argument your friend is manufacturing and then attacking.

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Nah, don't shut your mouth, not if you find value in the process. Again, I'm a total layman, but it does look to me from reading the link you provided that you have likely mislabeled the argument as the motive fallacy. However, I think your actual assertion is correct.

Your position seemed to be implying that it is appropriate and effective to deny felons firearms based on actual objective criteria. I personally don't agree with the scope of your assertion, but the principle of denying a person the ownership of a gun only after they've objectively demonstrated by their actions that they are dangerous is sound in my opinion. I would personally modify the position to restrict the ban to violent felons, not felons in general, and I would include a period to the ban with objective criteria for demonstrating to the judiciary that the felon can be reasonably expected to utilize firearms appropriately.

Your friend is restating your argument with critical terms omitted and inverted, then attacking that. "It is appropriate to restrict ownership of firearms among criminals, who have previously acted to violate rights." is not "We must know everyone's intent before selling them firearms." The second seems to be the argument your friend is manufacturing and then attacking.

Youve pretty much nailed it. I totally agree that nonviolent felons do not deserve to have their right to bears arms infringed. A while back, my mother was with a man who drank a lot. My mother is an alcoholic. Needless to say, things escalated frequently. The man was never violent and always sought the path of least resistance but one night my mother came at him with an aluminum bat. Of course, when the police were called, they were both arrested and spent the night in jail. My mother filed charges against him and he recieved a felony and 3 years of probabtion. Does he deserve to have his rights infringed? I think not.

I didnt necessary invoke the motive fallacy as we both conceded there was no way to determine a man's motives, but i wanted to point out that it would be fallacious to care about his motives in any case. Maybe? :(

I think i did gain something from opening my mouth other than practice, so it was a good experience. Sometimes i feel as though im better off arguing with my pets though. Living objectively in a subjective world is extremely frustrating at times, but if it were a sacrifice i wouldn't be doing it.

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I would not concede that there is no way to determine a man's motives, within a certain context. Some contexts and actions directly imply certain motives to a reasonable observer. For example, pointing a gun at someone's head implies to a reasonable person that they intend to endanger their life, and possibly kill them. It is reasonable to take someone's statements regarding their own intentions at face value unless there is reason to believe otherwise.

I would agree that it is unethical for a civil authority to require a declaration of intent (or anything else) before allowing someone their own rights. With the exception of that it is reasonable, in my opinion, to consider it a crime for a retailer to sell an item to someone who is specifically stating his intent to commit a crime with the item.

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I would not concede that there is no way to determine a man's motives, within a certain context. Some contexts and actions directly imply certain motives to a reasonable observer. For example, pointing a gun at someone's head implies to a reasonable person that they intend to endanger their life, and possibly kill them. It is reasonable to take someone's statements regarding their own intentions at face value unless there is reason to believe otherwise.

I would agree that it is unethical for a civil authority to require a declaration of intent (or anything else) before allowing someone their own rights. With the exception of that it is reasonable, in my opinion, to consider it a crime for a retailer to sell an item to someone who is specifically stating his intent to commit a crime with the item.

This is the basis of the castle doctrine. Showing intent and merely thinking it though are two different things. As long as a man refrains from showing his intentions through action or speech, we can only speculate what he wants to do with the gun he just bought.

This is also the reason the secret service take threats so seriously. When someone announces a threat, they can not take the risk that harm to the president is not the intent of the person making the threat.

I believe i agree wholeheartedly with the 2nd paragraph. By selling the gun to the man, knowing of his intentions, he is engaging in the denial of the right to life of the man's victim but only if the man's intentions are to be truly executed.

Now, FIND ANOTHER LOOPHOLE IN MY WORDS!!!!! :(

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Although I think Jack is a little off base with the apparent assertion that one can't determine a person's intentions from their own stated intentions, setting up a straw man isn't doing anything to prove it. A suspicious or threatening verbal statement is not the same thing as a direct physical threat.

What strawman? I simply picked a second example of someone logically, rather than arbitrarily, determining another person's intentions, based on his previous actions rather than an admission. You know that raising his gun at you is meant as a threat through logically determining his intentions, not through an arbitrary guess. Same way I can tell that a gang-member who's buying a gun intends to use it to initiate force, not just in self defense.

It wasn't a strawman, it was an example that easily defeats the claim that another man's intentons are a complete mistery unless he tells me what they are. Was that not Jackethan's claim?

Isnt this subjectivity? Or is there a certain classification of actions that warrant the relevance of motive? Why would it matter what an individual is going to do with a gun permit but not with a gun?

You can only legally buy a gun with a permit. I did not differentiate between guns and permits.

I simply differentiated between the right to self defense, and the need for a firearm. While the right to self defense is inalienable, and my motives for saying that and living by it are irrelevant as far as the truth of that statement (in bold) is concerned, granting someone a gun permit, thus allowing them to buy a gun, should not be done if there is a reasonable expectation, based on facts, that he intends to use it in a crime. (as opposed to for self defense) Those facts can be a previous criminal record, membership in a gang, intentions stated explicitly, etc.

And absolutely, motive (intentions, to be exact) can only be determined based on actions, or stated threats. Not based on arbitrary guesses about thought. It's just that logic applied to someone's actions and behavior in general is not an arbitrary guess about his thoughts, it's a proper method of identifying a threat. We know Iran is a threat not because they called us to let us know, but based on past performance and current behavior, for instance. There's nothing subjective or arbitrary about it. I believe I am in agreement with you on this, only Jackethan claimed otherwise.

That said, I'm in favor of citizens having guns, for self defense purposes, and a huge fan of Charlton Heston's speeches at NRA conventions. But I'm also a fan of carry permits in big cities, I don't see how they violate individual rights (in this case, the only relevant part, the right to self defense), as long as they aren't designed to discourage gun ownership by law abiding citizens. (as they are today, in places like NYC)

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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You can only legally buy a gun with a permit. I did not differentiate between guns and permits.

I simply differentiated between the right to self defense, and the need for a firearm. While the right to self defense is inalienable, and my motives for saying that and living by it are irrelevant as far as the truth of that statement (in bold) is concerned, granting someone a gun permit, thus allowing them to buy a gun, should not be done if there is a reasonable expectation, based on facts, that he intends to use it in a crime. (as opposed to for self defense) Those facts can be a previous criminal record, membership in a gang, intentions stated explicitly, etc.

And absolutely, motive (intentions, to be exact) can only be determined based on actions, or stated threats. Not based on arbitrary guesses about thought. It's just that logic applied to someone's actions and behavior in general is not an arbitrary guess about his thoughts, it's a proper method of identifying a threat. We know Iran is a threat not because they called us to let us know, but based on past performance and current behavior, for instance. There's nothing subjective or arbitrary about it. I believe I am in agreement with you on this, only Jackethan claimed otherwise.

What states require permits (forgive me for assuming you are in the USA if you are not)? Buying a gun in KY requires nothing more than a 5 minute background check to make sure you arent a felon or a fugitive. The only things that require permits are class 2 and 3 weapons.

I do believe we are in agreement. Thank you for clarifying. That makes sense now.

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A few states require carry permits (like NY), and a few cities require permits even for a lowly shotgun to keep at home, which is ridiculous(like NYC), and then they require impossible to obtain permits for carrying handguns (like Chicago, and even NYC, with its Republican mayor)

But I'm not all that familiar with the exact details, I mostly know from what friends who tried to get those permits in NY (and Long Island which is NY State, but not NYC, at least not the part where they lived), told me.

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A few states require carry permits (like NY)

A "carry" permit is usually reference to a Concealed Carry Permit, which is available in 48 US states with one going through a state's process. Might be specific training, applications, etc.

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Jake, I don't know what logic you are using, but purchase of an potentially dangerous item and aiming a potentially dangerous item at someone's head are not equivalent actions. Simple purchase was the context given. You dropped the context and then substituted a drastically different action. Within the context of a simple gun purchase, all other things being equal, you can't know the purchasers intent without a direct statement of some sort. Within the completely different context of an office, performing a completely different action with the purchased item is a clear statement of intent in and of itself. Switching to a different context and action, while only retaining a single element (a gun is involved) to refute a statement is the definition of a straw man.

"While the right to self defense is inalienable, and my motives for saying that and living by it are irrelevant as far as the truth of that statement (in bold) is concerned, granting someone a gun permit, thus allowing them to buy a gun, should not be done if there is a reasonable expectation, based on facts, that he intends to use it in a crime. (as opposed to for self defense) Those facts can be a previous criminal record, membership in a gang, intentions stated explicitly, etc."

I agree. Actually, It looks like we agree on most of this except for the validity of that first argument.

"The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy too."

I agree. I probably phrased that poorly. My intended point was to show that CastleBravo's friend was arguing that one needs omniscience for principled action and how flawed that reasoning is.

The Rand quote doesn't really surprise me, this is a tough issue.

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Jake, I don't know what logic you are using, but purchase of an potentially dangerous item and aiming a potentially dangerous item at someone's head are not equivalent actions.

No, they're not, they have only one thing in common. Both are done for a reason. A reason that can be known, using logic. And since Jackethan's claim rests on the idea that one cannot know the reason for one of those actions, it is fair to ask: why can one tell for the second, but not the first? There is no difference in the nature of those two motives, they both reside in another person's consciousness, subject to his free will.

So which is it, are people's motives knowable, or are they not knowable? If they are knowable, then I'm right, and Jackethan is wrong: one can potentially make an objective assumption about a gun license applicant's intentions, based on evidence other than his thoughts or words. And if they are not knowable, then Jackethan is right, but you are wrong too: you cannot assume that the person aiming a gun at your head intends to threaten you or pull the trigger, unless he says so or does it. Anything else would be a guess at unknowable thoughts in his head. Those thoughts could be about pretty flowers, and happy puppies, you cannot observe them. All you have is evidence other than his thoughts or words, which, according to Jackethan, are inadmissible.

Jake, I don't know what logic you are using, but purchase of an potentially dangerous item and aiming a potentially dangerous item at someone's head are not equivalent actions. Simple purchase was the context given. You dropped the context and then substituted a drastically different action. Within the context of a simple gun purchase, all other things being equal, you can't know the purchasers intent without a direct statement of some sort. Within the completely different context of an office, performing a completely different action with the purchased item is a clear statement of intent in and of itself. Switching to a different context and action, while only retaining a single element (a gun is involved) to refute a statement is the definition of a straw man.

Jackethan is operating under the general principle that intentions cannot be known, unless the person tells you explicitly, and that any assumption would be arbitrary.

If that doesn't seem like a fair interpretation of what he meant, to you, the we can wait for him to clarify it. But I re-read his post, and maintain my opinion that it is exactly what he is saying. The logic is pretty easy to follow, he starts out with the general principle that motive is thought and thought is unknowable, therefor motive is unknowable, and applies it to one concrete. I refuted the general principle, not the concrete application. So there was no context for me to drop. (as I believe I explained in my prvious post)

As for the concrete claim that "one cannot know why a person buys a gun", if the general principle that I refuted doesn't support it, then it is left as an unsupported claim. Please, take over for him, and identify a principle that does support that concrete claim.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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I'm not going to take over for him, because I think he's wrong. As I stated, I believe the principle you are arguing is the correct one. It is your argument that doesn't work. It doesn't because Jack's incorrect statement specified a context. If you are going to refute the statement, it must be within the given context otherwise you aren't attacking it at all. His context was the purchase of a firearm. Making an example that illustrates that you certainly can know the intent of a person who is aiming a gun at you does nothing to refute the claim that you can't know his intent when he buys it. For the purpose of argument it doesn't matter that you're right and he's wrong, you have to prove it and you aren't proving it by that example. I'll caps this because you are posting responses that look like you think I'm arguing Jack's point, its intended to draw attention, not as "shouting". YOUR POINT IS CORRECT.

Here was Jack's statement.

"There is no way to know the motive of a person when they buy a gun, and therefore it is impossible to legislate that only those who want to kill are banned."

Here I am refuting it. When a gun purchaser is wearing the uniform of a known criminal or murderous organization, you can reasonably determine intent. An example would be gang colors. Certain events witnessed prior to the attempted purchase indicate questionable intent. An example would be witnessing a car wreck and immediately after a driver walks up to you and asks to buy a gun. You can reasonably infer intent depending on emotional cues given off by the purchasers. I am retaining Jack's given context, a gun purchase, and giving examples to illustrate that often there is a way to know the motive of a person when they buy a gun.

"There is no way to know the motive of a person when they buy a gun, and therefore it is impossible to legislate that only those who want to kill are banned." does not equate to "There is know way to know a person's motives with a gun." You refuted the second statement, not Jack's.

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Here I am refuting it. When a gun purchaser is wearing the uniform of a known criminal or murderous organization, you can reasonably determine intent. An example would be gang colors.

So, an individual only has the intent of an "organization"?

What if the individual is trying to protect themselves in getting out of said organization?

Certain events witnessed prior to the attempted purchase indicate questionable intent. An example would be witnessing a car wreck and immediately after a driver walks up to you and asks to buy a gun. You can reasonably infer intent depending on emotional cues given off by the purchasers.

What intent are you trying to produce for an individual in your example? I could "produce" the intent that the individual was the victim of a carjacking or abduction and is looking for protection? What is yours?

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Im going to state that i am on the side of intentions being entirely unknowable unless they are stated and/or logically inferred based on prior action. I can not see any other way to determine an individuals motives. I can speculate about a man's intentions until my hair falls out, but i am never going to know them until he has either shared with me the intentions in question or learn of them after his plans come to fruition.

If an individual is a member of a criminal organization, since we are speculating, why would they want guns legally purchased? Logically, they would not, and being that most already have records i highly doubt they would be able to do so anyways. Suppose they have no criminal record; what right do you have to deny them individual property rights? Based on the grounds of what they are wearing? To me, that seems to be another arbitrary definition of "intent". If i threw on a gang uniform tomorrow, what of it? Perhaps i like to dress like a jackass. You simply can not know what I'm thinking without my words or my actions. Inferring things from the way people dress is absurd. I have many times met people that dress a way to indicate certain behavior, and then later I turn out to be entirely wrong. The lesson learned was that speculation on an individuals behavior based on their clothing is not a reliable way to know them. I actually own a shirt made by the "Outlaws" (biker gang). I bought it (years ago) because it had "Fuck the other team" written on it, not because i identified with the Outlaws or had criminal intent. It was abrasive and pissed my parents off, and that's what high school was all about!

Am i flawed in my thinking?

(Keep in mind im new :D )

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