Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Notes on argumentation

I just checked Facebook for the first time in a while (I’ve been busy), and found this from a Facebook friend:

I just think it’s interesting how you don’t seem to be willing to apply your own metrics, measurements and evaluations of such to things that don’t fit your ideology. One person makes up a story about getting her hijab stolen= we will probably hear many many more instances of this... I ask about a woman who fabricates a sexual assault story, and if you’d apply that same hypothesis to those instances (that you will see or have seen many many more instances of that) and its... lets wait for facts. Or, even better- let’s divert the attention to another topic altogether... I just can’t argue with you. Hell, with you, even FACTS are only those that YOU find. So, thanks. I’m done. I’ll leave you to allowing your friends and family to back you up and validate your every view point.

I have several replies to this, of course, but note that this is a reply to a comment of mine in which I said that we should wait for facts before assuming that Trump supporters are on a murderous rampage across the country. Here’s a reasonable summary of the case that that Facebook friend adduced; it’s from a newspaper vehemently committed to the anti-Trump cause: The Washington Post.

In reply, I cited a well-covered story of a hoax by a Muslim woman, who claimed that Trump supporters had been mean to her (Lafayette, LA) as evidence that we should wait for facts before leaping to conclusions. Of course, I could also mention the Rolling Stone magazine’s recent libel verdict. Or the African-American Columbia professor who hung a noose on her own office door as a bid to get tenure because she was so oppressed. Examples can be multiplied endlessly — so much so that, in the absence of actual, physical evidence, one should always assume that a left-winger alleging a “hate crime” is lying. After all, the folks who really do commit hate crimes are too stupid to cover their tracks well enough to evade detection.

This is the fundamental problem — well, one of two, anyway. When it comes to matters of fact, both parties in an argument must be willing to accept that they can be proven wrong — this is called “falsifiability”. If there is no conceivable circumstance that would cause you to admit that you were wrong, then your argument is no longer based on either logic or evidence and should be abandoned. And, furthermore, everyone must agree that mere assertions constitute neither facts nor evidence (except, perhaps, of the asserter’s biases).

The other fundamental problem has to do with those assumptions which cannot be proven. We on the right tend to believe in freedom, even if that freedom leads to bad results. With few exceptions, liberals/Democrats/Progressives believe that no one should ever experience any pain no matter what choices he makes and that it is the responsibility of government to ensure that everyone’s lives are free of pain. Alas for them, this goal in unachievable — and so far as it can be achieved, it leads to stunted, stupid, and incapable human beings, as can be demonstrated by all those flocking to the “safe spaces” on American campuses today.

But these are what logicians refer to as “priors” or “axiomata” — those things which you assume are so obviously true that no proof is required — and, which, once you delve into them, you discover are not susceptible of proof at all, like the existence of God or the reality of moral truth. If you and your interlocutor cannot agree on your priors, then agreement will never come to pass — even if you both agree that each other’s logic is valid. Although, in my experience, left-wingers are not able to recognize a valid argument if they disagree with the priors. But, then, they also consider logic to be patriarchal, hegemonic, imperialist, heterosexist, <insert other bad words here>, etc.

This, by the way, is what made the Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton contest interesting. Hillary was actually more likely to have priors that actually reflected (what I consider to be) reality — but Bernie’s logic was more valid.

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