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Bearster

The Dialectic Fallacy

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Many people today that I have encountered online in various Objectivist fora make a common error. It is implicitly based on the Hegelian dialectic. Hegel held there was no absolute standard for truth; reality was a social product. Truth was a process, he asserted, of thesis+antithesis=synthesis.

A post on another topic here at objectivismonline.net stated:

I see it as important to challenge different opinions than your own, because by doing so you get to test the strength of you're argument, its the road to wisdom.

If there were an objective existence that was independant of consciousness or society, and if man's senses were able to perceive it, and if man's mind was competent to integrate his perceptions, then the "road to wisdom" would be based on perceiving reality and integrating one's perceptions. (One could listen to and read the logic of other people, but not as a substitute for one's own perception and conception).

Arguing with others can help one develop debating skills. But it can't really increase one's confidence in one's own arguments. Frankly, if one is anything less than highly confident, one shouldn't be arguing anyways, but asking and listening!

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A post on another topic here at objectivismonline.net stated:

If there were an objective existence that was independant of consciousness or society, and if man's senses were able to perceive it, and if man's mind was competent to integrate his perceptions, then the "road to wisdom" would be based on perceiving reality and integrating one's perceptions. (One could listen to and read the logic of other people, but not as a substitute for one's own perception and conception).

Thanks for that one Bearster! :) First of all I can assure you that I dont prescribe to "Hegelian dialectics" and thus I also dissagreas with the idea that there is "no absolute standard for truth".

What I wanted to say with the above words is that I belive that it is good practise to test ones conclusions, to make sure that they really are compatible with the other ideas one holds. If they shouldnt be compatible this could indicate a slip in ones reasoning or even that some of ones underlying premises are wrong. It could happen that ones reasoning is perfect but the premises one bases it on is wrong, and this might not always be obvious to oneself. To prevent situations like this its good to have dialogs with other people who can explain how they view your reasoning and perhaps help you in furthering it. Since peoples lifes can be very different it can be of value to oneself to trade experiences with others.

Now I can admit that the wording "its the road to wisdom" might be read as "the ONLY road ..". To be more precise I should probably have said: "its ONE of the roads to wisdom" or "its A road to wisdom". And I choose to use the word wisdom instead of knowledge since knowledge is more easily interpreted as understandings of provable facts, then understandings of peoples opinions. Part of my interest in debating with other people is to learn how they view things. This is knowledge that can be of use to me.

So I belive you have been a bit to hasty in forming your conclusions about the text.

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Makemore: assuredly you can learn many things by debating with others. Seldom can one directly learn if one's own premises are valid from it, however.

What if one's first opponent (or 10 or 100...) lack the intellect, articulation, or inclination to show the fallacy in your logic?

By a process of "induction", you become more confident with each defeated opponent, until you are "certain". My point is to ask: are you, reall?

To elaborate on a side point that I made, I don't think one should debate at all unless one is at least highly confident to begin with. The better people will dismiss you out of hand, and may not at all see any value to be gained by arguing.

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By a process of "induction", you become more confident with each defeated opponent, until you are "certain". My point is to ask: are you, reall?

Debating certianly won't/shouldn't help to make one more confident in ones beliefs. But like I said, it will help one to understand them and their differences to other beliefs more completely.

However, I still find debating with irrational people to be a waste of time, since debating with reasonable people has this same benifit as well as others.

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Knowledgeable Irrational debators can still be valuable in that they can introduce new and potentially usefel evidence into a debate. While this evidence is likely not useful in the debate itself, it has the potential to enhance ones understanding of reality. (the evidence must first be examined of course, but it might not have been noticed had it not been for the debate)

For instance, I could be arguing with a man who claims that tigers are a threat to every living creature on my jungle island. If I were disagree and he would say "oh yeah, well there is one right behind that tree over there!") He would be wrong that this poses a threat, but correct about the tiger, and after I picked up my shotgun, Id have a packed freezer and a new rug.

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Old Geezer,

I have to disagree with what you said about the value of irrational debaters. I myself am an undergraduate student majoring in philosophy and minoring in history and classical studies (mainly Greek). I'm also the VP of the philosophical society here in which we discuss certain issues. From first-hand experience, irrational debaters provide absolutely no benefit, and in fact, they really just lead to a lot of frustration.

There is one individual who sometimes comes to the philosophical society meetings for example who is an extreme skeptic. The result is that virtually no civilized or rational argument is possible with him. If you present any sort of positive argument for anything, his immediate response is something along the lines of, how do you know? Whatever evidence you put forth, the same response is how do you know?

There is absolutely NO benefit from discussing anything with such people. The only meaningful discussion/debate with another person can come when there is at least some sort of shared epistemological base (even if it be for the sake of argument).

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"There is one individual who sometimes comes to the philosophical society meetings for example who is an extreme skeptic"RE

RE: I am not saying that ALL irrational debators bring value to a discussion, but only that reason may not be the only value which one might offer in a discussion.

Empirical Evidence, or access to it is something which a knowledgable but irrational debator can bring to the table.

This knowledge does not enhance the debate itself, but it enhances my knowledge of reality.

For instance, on another board I once was curious about how a poster came to believe that Depleted Uranium should be classified as a WMD. The premises he started on were ass backwards, but I persued it anyway. He had bookmarked a whole bunch of reports on DU from sources I trusted. He lined up and linked these reports nice and tidily. Without haunting the web, I can now better understand what DUis, why it is benign, why the military uses it etc.

did he influence my opinion on whether DU should classify as a WMD (of course it shouldnt) no he didnt. But he brought access to research I trust,

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When another makes an assertion, you must check its validity on your own; never rely on his authority.

Are you saying that you engage irrational debators just in order to have more assertions to validate?

Do you think that www.mindless-maybies.com ought to prosper?!

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Practice dissecting irrational arguments so that one has technique and scarequotes "intellectual ammunition" when one is put on the spot and one's own premises are attacked may be useful.

Practice dissecting irrational arguments so that one has technique and scarequotes "intellectual ammunition" when one wants to convince somebody one cares about of the validity of one's premises may be useful.

And it's definitely useful when the situations are in combination.

In simpler terms: When you want to convince somebody and when you want to do it effectively, you need to be practiced and you need to be prepared. If converting others in general or in particular to Objectivism or whatever it is you're espousing isn't too important to you, then you don't.

I suppose the example RadCap provides in his soliloquy testifies.

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When another makes an assertion, you must check its validity on your own; never rely on his authority.YF
I make that a habit when possible. (one of the reasons why on line discussion boards hold appeal is that at least the primary source can be posted/accesssed.)

Are you saying that you engage irrational debators just in order to have more assertions to validate?YF

Sometimes. For instance when the assertions are statements of observations. as rummy says (paraphrased) "there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns" I am usually pretty aware of what I think I want to find out about a particular policy or scientific debate, ... but if somebody introduces new potential evidence into a debate, I like to read up on it, even if how they use the evidence is skewed.

Sometimes the irrational debator consequentally does research irrationally, and when I read up on what they give me or post this becomes apparent quite quickly

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