Monday, September 13, 2010

Meta-sophistry

Suppose Fred glances out the window and says: “The ground’s wet outside. It must have rained.” He’s given an argument. What should we think of it? We could say:

Oh dear, what a mediocrity poor Fred is. He is evidently arguing as follows: If it rains, the ground gets wet; the ground is wet; therefore it has rained. If he’d ever taken a logic class he’d know that he’s just committed the fallacy of affirming the consequent!

Yes, we could say that, but (to paraphrase Haldeman paraphrasing Nixon) it would be wrong. It is simply unreasonable and, indeed, unjust to accuse Fred of committing so blatant a fallacy when an alternative construal of his argument is easily available. For while Fred could have been reasoning deductively and committing the fallacy in question, it is more likely that he was reasoning inductively, along something like the following lines:

When the ground is wet outside, rain is the usual reason, though occasionally there are other reasons, such as flooding. The ground is wet outside right now and there is no reason to think these other causes are operative, and good reason to think they are not. So it is very likely that it has rained.

Obviously this is a perfectly respectable piece of probabilistic reasoning, and what logicians call the “principle of charity” requires that we assume that Fred had something like this in mind rather than the fallacious alternative interpretation, unless we have strong evidence to the contrary. If we fail to do so, we are guilty of the sort of illogicality of which we would accuse Fred.

Apropos of many commentators’ tendency glibly to accuse Aquinas of committing various blatant fallacies in the course of presenting his famous Five Ways, Christopher Martin once wrote:

As [Peter] Geach points out, if we wish to show that an argument is invalid, it is not sufficient to show that it can be represented as instantiating an invalid form. It might instantiate an invalid form and at the same time instantiate a valid form: and for an argument to be valid it is sufficient that it should instantiate a valid form. The potentially vast numbers of invalid forms which it may instantiate are completely irrelevant. As Geach goes on to point out: we can represent any valid argument as instantiating at least one invalid form. For there is nothing to stop us linking the premisses of any argument together with "ands" or other connectives, and representing the long sentence thus formed by the letter "p". Representing the conclusion of the argument by "q", we are thus able to represent any argument as a whole as instantiating the form "p, therefore q", which is about as invalid an argument form as one could wish to avoid, or to detect in the work of one’s rivals. (Thomas Aquinas: God and Explanations, pp. 161-2)

“Detecting” fallacies in the work of one’s rivals in this way is depressingly common, even among – indeed, perhaps especially among – people who have made a formal study of the logical fallacies. To be sure, on coming across a humdrum argument like Fred’s, those who have made such a study are unlikely to interpret it uncharitably. But where an argument is aimed at defending some proposition of a philosophical, theological, moral, or political nature with which they disagree, some are all too prone to put the worst possible spin on it.

Hence, when I taught critical thinking one election year, a number of my students expressed delight at how useful they found our look at the fallacies, as they had started seeing them committed frequently in political speeches. You can be sure that they were “seeing” them only in the speeches of candidates with whom they disagreed. And that’s the way the game is played: If your candidate utters a simplistic slogan, he’s committing the fallacy of appeal to emotion, or red herring, or false alternative; if my guy does it, well, haven’t you ever heard of the principle of charity? In fact, genuinely fallacious arguments are probably far less frequently given by politicians, either of the right or of the left, than is commonly thought. It does happen, of course, but in most cases what we really have are just arguments that are highly simplified so as to make them comprehensible to a mass audience in an age of sound bites, and which could be spelled out more fully and rigorously if need be (and indeed usually are spelled out by the economists, political scientists, and think-tank intellectuals from whom politicians and their advisers borrow their ideas).

To take just one example, arguments against “same-sex marriage” are often accused of committing the “slippery slope fallacy”—the fallacy of insisting that X will inevitably lead to Y, when in fact no necessary link between X and Y has been established. The conservative position is treated as if it were saying something like this:

If we allow people of the same sex to marry, then it will only be a few years before polygamy and incest are allowed, and after that the sky’s the limit – “marriages” between people and animals, living people and corpses, and who knows what else!

Such an argument is then dismissed as paranoid and unfounded, since obviously a person who favors “same-sex marriage” might happen to oppose these other things. But in fact, that is not the conservative argument at all. Opponents of “same-sex marriage,” or at least the more sophisticated opponents, are not giving a slippery slope argument, but rather a reductio ad absurdum argument. They are saying something like this:

Defenders of “same-sex marriage” claim that what really matters in a marriage is just that the partners are lovingly committed to one another. They also claim that marriage is conventional and not grounded in the natural order of things, so that it is up to us to decide what marriage is about in light of changing standards. But given the first premise, there is no way they can consistently rule out the legitimacy of polygamous marriages or incestuous marriages; and given their second premise, there is also no way they can insist in principle on their “loving commitment” criterion for marriage in a way that would rule out “marriages” between people and animals, living people and corpses, or indeed anything whatsoever that someone might want to call “marriage.” For someone could always argue that even the “loving commitment” criterion is as arbitrary and open to challenge as the heterosexual criterion is. Yet defenders of “same-sex marriage” also claim that they are opposed to these other purported forms of “marriage.” Therefore, their position is incoherent.

Defenders of “same-sex marriage” might try to respond to this sort of argument in various ways, but they cannot reasonably accuse it of being blatantly fallacious, since reductio ad absurdum is, of course, a perfectly respectable form of argument. (Of course, a conservative who puts forward this argument might also claim that “same-sex marriage” will in practice lead to these other purported forms of “marriage” as well. But even in that case he would not be committing a slippery slope fallacy, for the reductio argument gives a reason for thinking that “same-sex marriage” will tend to lead to the other things.)

Professional philosophers are by no means immune to this tendency to give the arguments of their opponents the worst possible reading. As I have often complained, certain atheist philosophers ritualistically present the cosmological argument for the existence of God as if it went like this: Everything has a cause; so the universe has a cause, namely God. After raising the obvious objections (“If everything has a cause, then what caused God?” etc.), they then treat even the most sophisticated defenses of the cosmological argument as if they were desperate attempts to patch up this transparently feeble line of reasoning. But as I noted in several earlier posts (here, here, and here), none of the major philosophers who have defended the cosmological argument – not Plato, not Aristotle, not al-Ghazali, not Maimonides, not Thomas Aquinas, not John Duns Scotus, not G.W. Leibniz, not Samuel Clarke, not Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, not Mortimer Adler, not William Lane Craig, not Richard Swinburne, and not anyone else as far as I know – ever put forward this silly argument. It is the philosophical equivalent of an urban legend – an argument that “everyone knows” has been defended for centuries, which in fact has never been defended. And yet such ludicrous caricatures are frequently put forward as “evidence” of how lame the traditional arguments for God’s existence are, and used as an excuse for not bothering even to read work done in the philosophy of religion. (“If the main arguments are that bad, what’s the point?”)

In this way, the study of logic becomes precisely the opposite of what it is supposed to be – a rhetorical gimmick, a cudgel with which to beat opponents and advance agendas rather than an aid to the disinterested pursuit of truth. In the name of attacking sophistry and fallacy, a higher-order sophistry – a “meta-sophistry,” if you will – is perpetrated.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

You get paid to think like this? Lucky you! Don't you think you over thought this, rain business? It's just weather. I'm pulling your leg. Well done.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

I will respond to the following argument:

Defenders of “same-sex marriage” claim that what really matters in a marriage is just that the partners are lovingly committed to one another. They also claim that marriage is conventional and not grounded in the natural order of things, so that it is up to us to decide what marriage is about in light of changing standards. But given the first premise, there is no way they can consistently rule out the legitimacy of polygamous marriages or incestuous marriages; and given their second premise, there is also no way they can insist in principle on their “loving commitment” criterion for marriage in a way that would rule out “marriages” between people and animals, living people and corpses, or indeed anything whatsoever that someone might want to call “marriage.” For someone could always argue that even the “loving commitment” criterion is as arbitrary and open to challenge as the heterosexual criterion is. Yet defenders of “same-sex marriage” also claim that they are opposed to these other purported forms of “marriage.” Therefore, their position is incoherent.

1) We could unpack commitment conceptually, and what we find is a love that requires time, patience, fidelity and a lifetime to build. In fact, I do not think that commitment can be readily achieved by infidelity since infidelity destroys the bonds required for a love that, again, requires time, patience, fidelity and a lifetime to build.

2) Given 1), we should say that this operative idea of commitment requires further that one's partner have a sense of subjectivity in the sense of being a person.

3) If 1 and 2 are true, then we can rule out other counterfactual forms that sexual relations may take (polygamy and bestiality).

4) Therefore, commitment alone can rule out other forms aside monogamy.

Your argument can be criticized for really not construing commitment in a charitable way.

Marriage is only conventional with respect to the ceremonial grounds (whether it takes place in a church, mosque, synagogue or secular institution), but the psychological propensity for human pair bonding may be illustrative of something more that can guide our ethical constructions on the subject.

Maolsheachlann said...

My favourite example of this is at 6:49 of the following Youtube video; Dr William Lane Craig is heckled by a student who accuses him of various fallacies (and then starts shouting "shame on you")...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM0KcIt_pXw

Brandon said...

I once tried to pin down the origin of the "Everything has a cause" legend; I'm still not sure, but my best guess is that it arose through attention to words rather than what they mean -- in the nineteenth century, one finds people who will say, "Every event has a cause", and this was misread -- the word 'event' was in the process of expanding from a fairly narrow meaning to a very broad meaning, and nobody bothered to be careful about the details.

Whenever I teach logic in my Intro courses, I try to impress upon them that, while being able to evaluate an argument as valid is very useful, being able to evaluate it as invalid is virtually useless -- in real life there are too many ways in which premises can be implicit or related to their conclusion in non-obvious way. And I have long since concluded that teaching undergraduates about fallacies is a practice we should end: not only do they not use them critically, the usual accounts given for them are themselves often inaccurate, based on folklore that has never properly been examined.

Untenured said...

I think another part of the problem is the way in which Critical Reasoning is often taught. I taught a critical reasoning course last fall using the standard Copi and Cohen _Introduction to Logic_ textbook, and the authors practically invite their readers to engage in the sort of "meta-sophistry" you are describing. They present all of the various informal fallacies, in addition to quotations from various politicians and books and so forth. It is obvious that the quotes were selected simply for the purposes of being "tagged" as a fallacy even though they all have clear non-fallacious interpretations.

Edward Feser said...

Hello Chasmite,

I think you need to read the argument a little more carefully. I agree that the "commitment" criterion would rule out bestiality, etc. It is the second premise underlying defenses of "same-sex marriage" -- viz. that what counts as "marriage" is a matter of convention -- that opens the door to bestiality, etc., because it threatens to undermine the claim that inter-personal commitment is any more essential to marriage than heterosexuality is. (As to your claim that marriage is conventional only on ceremonial grounds, why should we accept that? And how would that be enough for "same-sex marriage" advocates to make his case? It's not like they object merely to the settings in which weddings occur...)

Edward Feser said...

I meant "their case."

Edward Feser said...

Hi Brandon,

I once tried to pin down the origin of the "Everything has a cause" legend

I think there's a potential article or book there. And your speculation is interesting.

I have long since concluded that teaching undergraduates about fallacies is a practice we should end: not only do they not use them critically, the usual accounts given for them are themselves often inaccurate, based on folklore that has never properly been examined.

You're "thinking the unthinkable," but I've wondered the same thing myself. Logic in general is like the Pierian spring: Drink deep or not at all. Otherwise the result is just a kind of Higher Smart-assery. (There is a reason Plato didn't want people studying dialectic until they were 30.)

Edward Feser said...

Untenured,

Indeed. And of course, given the usual set of examples textbooks provide, one would think that the fallacies are only ever committed on one end of the political spectrum.

Jime said...

In one of William Lane Craig's debates, a guy asked him the typical atheistic question "What caused God?", and here is Craig answer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLclpslxAYY

It's amazing how many professional philosophers buy into that "sophomoric college" (Craig's expression) type of objection to the cosmological argument.

When I read some professional philosopher arguing like that, I tend to loss intellectual respect for him. I assume that their misrepresentation is intentional.

Some examples of this atheistic fallacy taken from the infidels.org website:

-Michael Martin, in his debate with Christian apologist Phil Fernandes, replied to Fernandes' kalam argument in this this way: "It is simply not the case that modern science assumes that everything has a cause"

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/fernandes-martin/martin1.html

I've commented some things about Martin's fallacies and misrepresentations in that debate, in this post:

http://subversivethinking.blogspot.com/2010/07/atheistic-misdirections-and-fallacies.html

Jime said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jime said...

-Another example is Theodore Schick Jr., when he says: "The traditional first-cause argument rests on the assumption that everything has a cause. Since nothing can cause itself, and since the string of causes can't be infinitely long, there must be a first cause, namely, god"

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_schick/bigbang.html

Note that Schick writes "god" (without a capital G), instead of "God". An intersting detail...

Schick "reconstructs" Aquinas' argument like this:

1. Everything is caused by something other than itself
2. Therefore the universe was caused by something other than itself.
3. The string of causes cannot be infinitely long.
4. If the string of causes cannot be infinitely long, there must be a first cause.
5. Therefore, there must be a first cause, namely god.


Readers of Feser's book Aquinas will laugh aloud with Schick's "charitable" construction of Aquinas' argument.

-Another atheist apologist (and former Christian Minister) Dan Barker, in this article: "The old cosmological argument claimed that since everything has a cause, there must be a first cause, an "unmoved first mover." Today no theistic philosophers defend that primitive line because if everything needs a cause, so does God. The only way they can deal with my kindergartener's question is if they can first get God "off the hook."

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/dan_barker/kalamity.html

--Another prominent atheist philosopher who argues against that straw man is Adolf Graumbaum. In his article "The Pseudo-Problem of Creation in Physical Cosmology", he wrote: More specifically, the argument claims to establish the necessity for postulating creation by starting out with the premise that things have "causes" in the senses granted by common sense or ordinary science, or even by the sceptical common sense of a hard-headed engineer. Thus, the starting point is the following premise:

"Everything has a cause" to the extent to which causes are acknowledged in explanations of ordinary experience or of scientifically explained phenomena


http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/adolf_grunbaum/problem.html

Grunbaum seems to be aware of the fallacy, since he limits the "everything has a cause" to causes of contingent beings (i.e. causes of things of our experiences or scientifically explainable phenomenan)

However, he's reinforcing the myth that "everything has a cause" has been an actual premise of the traditional cosmological argument.

I wonder, if God doesn't exist and the case for atheism is so strong, why do use consistently such "sophomoric objections" against the theistic arguments?

Jime said...

Just an additional comment:

In Schick's paper mentioned above, he says about Aquinas' argument: "The most telling criticism of this argument is that it is self-refuting. If everything has a cause other than itself, then god must have a cause other than himself. But if god has a cause other than himself, he cannot be the first cause. So if the first premise is true, the conclusion must be false"

Amazingly, Schick quotes Aquinas' argument, and in no place in that quote Aquinas says that "everything has a cause".

More interesting is the fact that Schick appeals to quantum mechanics to refute the principle of causality: "Even if the universe is not eternal (as the big bang suggests), 1’ is still unacceptable because modern physics has shown that some things are uncaused. According to quantum mechanics, subatomic particles like electrons, photons, and positrons come into and go out of existence randomly"

Leaving aside the fact that Aquinas is not arguing from the temporality of the universe, note how Schick conflates "randomly" with non-caused. Even if quantum particles appear "randomly", it doesn't imply they appear "out of nothing" (i.e without an ontological cause).

In fact, Schick explicitly admits that quantum particles appears from the quantum vacuum: "A particle produced by a vacuum fluctuation has no cause. Since vacuum fluctuations are commonplace, god cannot be the only thing that is uncaused."

Schick cannot see he's refuting his own argument: if the particle appears FROM the quantum vacuum, then it's false that such particle comes "from nothing".

The principle of causality relevant to the cosmological argument is an ontological principle (i.e. a principle about the nature of reality), not a principle that specify if causes operates deterministically or indetermisitically (i.e. randomly).

Even if we accept an indeterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics (and it's controversial), it doesn't follow that, ontologically, quantum particles come from "nothing" (the quantum vacuum is not equivalent to "nothing")

Keep in mind that Schick is author of a book on critical thinking entitled "How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age"... (a true handbook on materialistic pseudo-skepticism apologetics)

Truthly dissapointing...

Carbondale Chasmite said...

There are two different levels of response. The first issue is whether or not I got down a charitable version of your argument.

The second issue is independent of the first, namely, that commitment itself presupposes the existence of interpersonal relationships such that this dimension of commitment alone can rule out other non-monogamous forms of relationships. The "thick" phenomenology of commitment assumes personhood, and the intrapersonal dimension of personal experience. As such, I do not even need to accept the second premise, which I don't. I'm firmly committed to the existence of norms that stand over and above simply me that give normative force to decisions in general about whom I become and what I do. It is not a case about marriage as a convention since the conventionality of marriage is only accepted by a small number of philosophers (Gilbert Harman for instance, or any noncognitivist in general)

I know plenty of philosophers who work with a normative ground and agree that state policies of mandating heterosexual marriage go too far. The only reason I mention this is that it seems cherry-picked to assume that all same-sex marriage advocates even accept the second premise. Maybe the most popular unreflective argument may contain the second premise, but as I have repeated, it is not so readily true in light of the dominant work in ethicists, which are mostly moral realists of some variety.

In other words, your reductio only gets off the ground suspecting that the second premise comes along with it. On its own, the first premise alone presupposes a thin rendering about what is really inherent in the experience of commitment. For commitment is a rather thick and complicated phenomenon (explaining why so many people in the SSM debate appeal to it on the pro-side and why it is thinly construed on people on your side) and just that alone may be enough for marriage given that some forms of commitment from weak to strong have different varying degrees of success in marriage. The most moral and true forms of commitment, I think, would be those exemplifying a set of virtues contained within commitment itself.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

On the matter of logical pedagogy, I hate teaching critical thinking courses in which the fallacies are given before students have had a chance to learn about good arguments, and I am inclined to disband with teaching them altogether.

Apart from this, I have never found that political debates contain true premises so watered down that they are borrowed from think tanks and, if properly understood, they would be acceptable arguments. I do not think this is impossible, just not a decent explanation of what is actually going on. Rather the amount of populism in Glenn Beck for instance actively distorts concepts to be understood rather than acknowledging the complexity of the situation. But after teaching undergrads, one can get a sense of just how broken our American ability to critically think consists in the bare assertion of ideology whether it is MSNBC or Fox News. As I tell my students, the assertion of a point is never an argument for that position. This brings up the more difficult point about teaching philosophy in general. So many times, students come away reading philosophy like Berkeley and Locke and to be a philosopher all one has to do is pick a point and run with it, e.g. whether our belief in matter is certain or not.

Anonymous said...

Chasmite - I have a few respectful questions, because I think both you and professor Feser make a good case, and I want to be clear on the terms of debate here.

1) Lets say I accept your argument about commitment. Why not then just create commitment-contracts (or civil unions or whatever) instead of calling it marriage? As I understand it, the conservative case for marriage is that it is about much more than commitment between a male and a female. It is about the nature of the sexual union and its tendency to produce children. Society thus "favors" it because it has an interest in securing the best conditions for children.

I guess one way of putting it is that marriage (so understood) includes commitment but is not exhausted by it. The practical solution would thus seem to be to keep marriage for heterosexuals (even though we understand that many will be doing it for reasons strictly of commitment) and allow homosexuals to register their different (non-child-producing) arrangement with a commitment-contract.

How would you address that argument?

2) I think your adverting to the biological tendency to pair bond is probably right (from what I know of evolutionary studies in the area). But here's my problem. If we acknowledge that a minority of people will find commitment to people of the same sex to be work for them, why couldn't a minority of people also find commitment to two or three others, or to relatives, or what have you, to work for them? The nature of commitment very probably is like what you say it is, but as there are exceptions to the nature of sexual relations (heterosexual, tending to produce children), so there will be exceptions to the nature of commitment.

In other words, if we recognize one outlier why not recognize the others? One is claimed to be "marriage" even though it is exceptional; the others claim to be "commitment," although they are exceptional.

And if we then reject the exceptional cases of commitment because they are not in tune with commitment's nature, why can't we reject homosexual marriage because it is not in tune with marriage's nature?

Thanks for your thoughts!

--Chris

Eric said...

Richard Carrier is another guy who regularly commits the "fallacy fallacy." Here's an example from Victor Reppert's response to Carrier's critique of the argument from reason:

"The second fallacy Carrier says I commit is the Causation Fallacy. He thinks that I, along with C. S. Lewis, endorse the argument that “the presence of a cause and effect account of belief is often used to show the absence or irrelevance of a ground and consequent relationship,” and that therefore all cause and effect accounts prove the absence or irrelevance of ground and consequent relationships. However, he claims in arguing thus I commit the fallacy of Affirming the Consequent, Hasty Generalization and Red Herring. (Quite a lot of fallacies to commit in one argument!)"

I love the way Dr. Reppert makes Carrier's 'meta-sophistry' clear to everyone with that parenthetical remark at the end.

Anonymous said...

"Logic in general is like the Pierian spring: Drink deep or not at all. Otherwise the result is just a kind of Higher Smart-assery."

Crisply put. I once made the mistake of buying my dense, belligerent mother a pop booklet on informal logical fallacies, because, up until then, our "conversations" had been bad for my mental health, and I thought that doing so would result in a cerebral alleviation of some sort. But the result of this? Total devastation. Every time I converse with her now, I come close to losing my mind.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Re: Cosmological Argument:

Here's a bit of advice for the next time an atheist objects to the Cosmological Argument by way of the "everything has a cause" pseudo-premise. This is not, of course, a substitute for informing the atheist in question that nobody has ever defended that line of thought, but it's a useful supplement.

Theist: So, since the Cosmological Argument rests upon the premise "everything has a cause," it is obviously self-refuting, as it leaves an uncaused God, right?
Atheist: Correct.
T: And this self-refutation is so obvious that anyone not severely impaired by mental disability or theological bias can see it, yes?
A: Correct again.
T: Well, then, are Hume and Kant mentally impaired or theologically biased? (Direct attention to Kant's criticism of the CA in his first Critique and/or Hume's like criticisms in Part IX of the "Dialogues concerning Natural Religion," wherefrom the retort "who caused God?" is tellingly absent.)

This line of argument is particularly useful with those atheists maintaining a cult of Humolatry (whether or not they have actually read him).

My point is not that I agree with either Hume's or Kant's criticisms (I find the former in particular rather feeble): I'm only trying to say that if the CA is open to such obvious criticism, it is odd that it did not receive it from either of its most illustrious assailants.

Anonymous said...

You know, all this could be avoided if people would speak only in valid, deductive syllogisms.

-Neil

Carbondale Chasmite said...

Chris,

The answer to 1 is something akin to two things which are outside the philosophical debate, but can explain many of the various attitudes on the left. There are those that encounter religion in a very liberal way, and I suspect many UUs or Episcops and some urban Catholics are a force behind much of the religious acceptance of homosexuality to the extent that marriage is Okay. There are some clergy that will perform and allow for marriage. That seems to be a problem of institutional breakdown of orthodoxy in different faiths. If we divide up contracts and marriages, it would seem that some faiths would still allow for it.

Secondly, as we make a distinction between contracts and marriages, we have seen parallel distinctions before with race and marriage, and distinctions like us vs them resonate with Jim Crowe like mentalities. I'm not saying the distinction could not be maintained on purely moral theoretic grounds but I am saying that the danger in practice has huge precedents for when there are two different laws that divvy up what two groups are entitled to, iniquity ultimately arises.

So, I do not think it is on moral grounds I disagree, but on prudential grounds alone.

Finally, many different things can seem like it is in everyone's interest especially when you think that interest is true. The appeal to self-interest to secure favorable conditions for children wreaks of the horrible social science that just attempts to justify anti-homosexual attitudes than being properly done. These studies usually rip out of context some social science fact, or misrepresent what a social science method can conclude to justify prejudices already inherent in the worldview.

Concerning thoughts about #2: I made a psychological appeal to pair-bonding, not to evolutionary-based reasoning. Here's why. We've come so far in advancing our cultural conditions from nature that what holds for speculation grounded in evolution doesn't seem to fit whereas psychology re-creates conditions in the lab that are honed from how we currently live. As such, it would seem that commitment's phenomenological structure underlies the possibility of having the experience of any type of human relation. It doesn't matter that it is between different sex partners, and sometimes, it might not mean that one need be married. Common-law partners carry all the benefits of marriage in Canada despite the fact that they have marriages too. Common-law partners are easier to resolve, but many people live in these types of relationships.

Given that I've focused on commitment, and commitment works for pair-bonding of two, you ask why wouldn't commitment work for more than two. My answer to that is simply the amount of time it takes to get to know another person. Having been married for four years, my wife still surprises me. She takes up a lot of my time, but that's a level of commitment I took on. I cannot conceive that this ongoing expeirence with one person could achieve the same depth required in polyamory. In a way, it is like an English grad seminar I had in Gadamer once. We read everything under the sun including what Gadamer's magnum opus had to say. We moved at lightning speed. Had it been a philosophy seminar, we would have read only Truth and Method, moving slowly through the text with meticulous care.

Polyamorous relationships are also more physically based than single commitment relationships. They are usually hedonistic in their reasoning and unapologetic for having relationships that are superficial. If that is what someone wants to do, the state should not interfere, but the level of commitment in these relationships is skewed to the lifetime it takes to know a partner.

So, it is not that there is a marriage nature apart from commitment, but that commitment, again, underlies the possibility of having that experience.

Carbondale Chasmite said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carbondale Chasmite said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carbondale Chasmite said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carbondale Chasmite said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carbondale Chasmite said...

I apologize, my browser kept saying my comment was rejected.

Best,

Chasmite.

Tom said...

Whilst giving a philosophical bent to the doctrines of thought regarding opposition to same sex marriage is laudable, I feel it really is over-egging the pudding.

You state that But in fact, that is not the conservative argument at all. Opponents of “same-sex marriage,” or at least the more sophisticated opponents, are not giving a slippery slope argument. The key word here unforunately is 'sophisticated', something which the majority of same sex opponents cannot be accused of. Therefore the 'slippery slope' argument is, in reality the norm. It is clearly evinced on numerous blogs and in other media.

The distinction which negates either form of argument is that while there is a sliding scale of acceptance of marriage in various forms, from straight and gay to polygamous and incestuous, all of which do take place; marriage consisting of animals or corpses is beyond the pale for all but those with diagnosable mental disorders.

Anonymous said...

Tom wrote: The distinction which negates either form of argument is that while there is a sliding scale of acceptance of marriage in various forms, from straight and gay to polygamous and incestuous, all of which do take place; marriage consisting of animals or corpses is beyond the pale for all but those with diagnosable mental disorders.

How quickly we forget that homosexuality was once a "diagnosable mental disorder."

Ergo, not a good argument to make, as what is disordered to one generation of doctors is not disordered to another generation of doctors.

Arguments for and against homosexual marriage need to be grounded in reality, not the whims of men.

What changed that reality was the widespread use of artificial contraception among heterosexuals. So long as heterosexuals insist upon their "right" to use artificial contraception, they do not have a logical argument that can hold water against homosexual unions.

The "slippery slope" argument actually begins with the use of artificial contraception.

As for Dawkin's argument that the appearance of design does not necessarily mean design, well most of modern science today rests its laurels on that exact same argument.

John Jones said...

There are no Logical arguments of course. Tautologies and deductions have no facts and nothing to argue for.

Neither does science need argument, for science deals in facts.

Let us be square, for argument's sake. Argument is about raising voices, descending fists, and lighting fuses.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

On the issue of same sex marriage I have two reasons why I am in favor of it: First, for pragmatical reasons I'd prefer to live in a society where same sex couples are allowed to marry. Secondly, the liberty to marry greatly benefits homosexuals without really hurting anybody else, and my love for all people including homosexuals entails that I should wish what is good for them. If homosexuality is a sin against God, then it's not my place, or society's place, to punish homosexuals for it.

Manuel Labor said...

There are no Logical arguments of course. Tautologies and deductions have no facts and nothing to argue for.

This is only true if you're expecting a form of proof tantamount to 2+2=4.
But that's not to say that there are no other types/degrees of proof worth aiming for.

Neither does science need argument, for science deals in facts.

No - science rests on metaphysical assumptions. Those assumptions need to be in place before the method has strength. And those assumptions, being philosophical in nature, means that we can argue for or against their validity.

Let us be square, for argument's sake. Argument is about raising voices, descending fists, and lighting fuses.

But you're not arguing - you're declaring. You state that arguments really don't have any force and that science deals in facts. But what are you dealing with when you make these claims? Can't be an argument and it can't be the result of the scientific method that brought you to these conclusions..... so, based off of your own stardards you're saying nothing.

Brett Stevens said...

In our mad rush to educate the proles, we like giving them single points of thought at a time, and especially lists of fallacies.

None of my friends who got out of top 15 philosophy programs spent any time on logical fallacies. All of my friends who went to second-tier state schools did.

Telling, isn't it?

Calling slip/slope a "fallacy" is dubious in itself. It's as if they're trying to eliminate all arguments but the deconstructive.