5. Evaluate the argument. Is it convincing? Does it commit a fallacy? Are the premises true? This does not need to be long either, but should concisely offer an evaluation of the argument in terms of its logical strengths and weaknesses.

Task: Write a short (2-3 pages) paper analyzing an argument from Tetralogue, using the tools we have mastered in this course. Select one of the passages below, or one of your choosing, and write a paper in which you explain the context of the argument within the work, distill, diagram, and analyze the argument, and evaluate the argument for validity, soundness, logical strength, and the like.

Here are the elements of the paper:

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1. An introductory paragraph introducing the topic discussed in your passage (e.g. moral relativism, fallibilism, dogmatism, human knowledge, relativism, the reliability of moral judgments) a concise statement of the argument’s conclusion, and a statement of your evaluation of the argument (basically, the respect in which you think it is a good or bad argument).

2. A paragraph which motivates the topic and defines the key terms and views for the argument under discussion. (For example, you may explain what relativism is and some reasons to accept or reject it.) This does not need to be long, but you do want your reader to understand the argument and its significance.

3. Distill and diagram the argument, in the manner that we studied in AOR. (You may want to consult the handouts on diagramming arguments in chapter 4, fallacies in chapter 5, as well as the handouts on chs. 12 and 13) (Remember, distill means: identify the premises and conclusions, identify hidden premises, screen out for noise, make linguistic adjustments, etc. then write out the argument for the diagram.)

4. Analyze the argument. Be sure to identify what kind of argument it is (deductive or inductive, analogical, categorical syllogism, propositional, etc.) and how the premises are related and support the conclusion. (This can be done in a few sentences. Classify the argument and explain how it is supposed to work.)

5. Evaluate the argument. Is it convincing? Does it commit a fallacy? Are the premises true? This does not need to be long either, but should concisely offer an evaluation of the argument in terms of its logical strengths and weaknesses.

The Fine Print. Your paper should be 12 pt. font, one inch margins, double spaced. It should be approximately three pages (~800words). The exact length will depend on how you incorporate the diagram into your paper. You are free to do this whatever way you find easiest. (e.g. you can draw it and scan it and append it to your paper or you can include it in the word or pdf document). There is no narrow word maximum or minimum, you just want to be sure to include all of the required elements.

Grading: You will be graded on your inclusion of the required elements of the paper (1-5 above), the clarity of the writing, and the accuracy of your diagram and analysis.

Arguments to distill, diagram, analyze, and evaluate:

1. “Every single thing we think, we are physically and psychologically capable of thinking when it is false. Although I think this is my train, I am physically and psychologically capable of thinking it’s my train when in fact it isn’t.” (p. 82)

2. “Anyway, my analogy between decision-making and science still holds. We aren’t completely incompetent at deciding what is to be done, which depends on our moral beliefs, so it’s very improbable that they’re hopelessly false.” (p. 148)

3. “If a human claims to know something, I can demand proof. If they can’t produce one, I reject the knowledge claim. Humans can be expected to meet the demand for proof, since they understand the challenge. Dogs don’t, so they can’t be expected to meet it.” (91)

4. “Since the number is either odd or even, it is either true that the number is odd or true that it is even. Therefore, something is true but not certain. Either ‘The number of coins now on the train is odd’ is an example of truth without certainty, or ‘The number of coins now on the train is even’ is. We know that one of those two sentences is an example, although we are not in a position to know which of them it is. Zac was incorrect in claiming that truth implies certainty.” (52)



TETRALOGUE APPLYING LOGIC, RESOLVING DISAGREEMENT Methods of Reasoning Binghamton University Casey Doyle The Plan ■ After introducing the topics of the dialogue and the main characters, we’ll run through it, dwelling into particular issues as they arise. ■ Here we will focus on the philosophical issues discussed in the dialogue, especially those concerning principles of evidence, the relation between evidence, knowledge, and argument, and the place of logic in reasoning. ■ We won’t focus on diagramming the details of passages in the dialogue, that will be a focus of your writing assignment. Deadlock ■ Sarah: “It’s pointless arguing with you, nothing will shake your faith in witchcraft.” ■ Bob: “Will anything shake your faith in modern science?” ■ Zac: “If I may say so, each of you is taking the superior attitude ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ toward the other” ■ Sarah: “But I am right and he is wrong” ■ Bob: “No. I’m right and she’s wrong.” ■ The main theme of the dialogue is resolving disagreements that seem to come to a deadlock. In a case like this, two people disagree over the truth of some claim (here: whether a witch caused a wall to fall on Bob.) ■ They offer reasons for believing as they do and rejecting the claim of the other. ■ These reasons fail to convince, and it is unclear how disagreement could be solved. Deadlock ■ Why suppose disagreement needs to be resolved? ■ Compare: disagreement about causes and disagreement about taste. ■ Bill: Vanilla ice cream is the best. ■ Sanford: Chocolate ice cream is the best. ■ Bill and Sanford’s disagreement is only apparent. They are merely expressing their tastes, and so don’t disagree. Bill’s claim does not contradict Sanford’s. ■ Bob: A witch caused my wall to collapse on my leg. ■ Sarah: A witch did not cause your wall to collapse on your leg. ■ Bob and Sarah’s disagreement is not merely apparent. Sarah thinks a witch couldn’t cause the wall to collapse because she believes there aren’t witches. ■ But if there aren’t witches, there isn’t one to collapse Bob’s wall. So Bob must be wrong. ■ If a witch brought the wall down, then at least one exists. So Sarah must be wrong. Deadlock ■ Distinguish: ■ Disagreement about facts or events (what caused Bob’s wall to fall?) ■ Disagreement about principles of evidence (intuition, testimony, modern science) ■ Bob and Sarah disagree about both the facts and what counts as good evidence. Sarah is a committed naturalist (who accepts “scientism”) Bob accepts traditional views about magic and unseen spiritual forces. ■ Sarah believes that unexplained events could be explained by microphysics. ■ Bob believes that unexplained events are the work of malevolent or benevolent spirits. ■ This is why their disagreement seems intractable: neither is prepared to accept the other’s reasons as evidence. Deadlock ■ One reason we care about disagreement is that it is evidence of error. ■ If you and I disagree, and we cannot both be right, then someone has made a mistake. ■ But is it you or me? ■ If we are equally likely to be right (because we have the same evidence, and the same ability to reason about it) then perhaps I should be less confident that I am right. ■ If I have reason to believe that you are less reliable or in the know then me, then I might be justified in thinking you are wrong, even if I can’t persuade you of my view. ■ Bob’s acceptance of traditional views of witchcraft seems like it might be a reason to think Sarah might be in error. ■ But isn’t their disagreement about science vs witchcraft just another such disagreement? ■ How can Sarah be confident that she is in the right about the principles of evidence? Cast of Characters ■ Bob: Believer in witchcraft, spiritual explanations, explanations that favor the influence of people over unseen forces. Occasionally makes jokes. ■ Sarah: Naturalist, believer in scientism (the view that science is the ultimate measure of truth), fallibilist (believes that we can always be wrong, no matter the situation). Very serious. ■ Zac: Epistemic relativist (the view that claims about what is true or false are always relative to a point of view, something like the way claims of taste are). Cares about tolerance and rejects Absolutism. Zac aspires to resolve Bob and Sarah’s dispute by showing them that they could both be right, in some sense. Very annoying. ■ Roxana: cares about logic, especially deductive logic and an Aristotelian view of truth. Mostly concerned to show everyone’s errors. Rude. PART ONE: DEADLOCK AND RELATIVISM Relativism ■ Zac offers relativism as a way out for both Bob and Sarah. ■ Instead of saying p and not-p, the relativist recommends: “p, from my point of view” and “not-p, from my point of view.” ■ Since people have different points of view, there is no contradiction between these claims. ■ Bob and Sarah are unhappy with this way out. ■ Why? ■ One reason: it matters a great deal to them that they disagree. Each takes themselves to assert the negation of what they other claims. ■ Let’s review some issues Problems for Relativism ■ P. 18-22 ■ Could Sarah say: “there aren’t witches, from my point of view” and add: “and my point of view is superior?” ■ The Relativist’s goal is to avoid this claim to superiority: all points of view are equally valid. We cannot claim that any one is better except from a point of view, but others are equally entitled to take another point of view, on how to assess points of view. ■ But, if all points of view are equal, what reason could one have to prefer one over another? ■ And on what grounds should one refrain from accepting another? ■ If Zac respects the witchcraft point of view, why doesn’t he go see a spiritual healer for his diabetes? ■ Zac: “I’m a typical Western white male, I admit. People with my point of view trust modern scientific medicine more than they trust traditional witchcraft-based remedies. But I acknowledge, your point of view is different, and I respect it equally. ■ Bob: What use is equal respect if it doesn’t imply equal trust? (18) Problems for Relativism ■ P. 18-22 ■ According to Bob, Zac faces a dilemma: if witchcraft and modern medicine are equally valid, then one has no reason to trust one over the other. ■ That means that: either Zac might as well see the healer, or he is insincere in his commitment to relativism (he rejects the antecedent), or he is being irrational, acting as if he has a reason he lacks. ■ A response: couldn’t Zac’s reasons for accepting the modern medicine point of view be non-epistemic? Maybe they don’t concern what is most likely to be true, they are like reasons for favoring chocolate ice cream. ■ But: it is hard to resist the assumption that Zac is choosing that point of view most likely to yield the results he wants-treating his diabetes. And it is hard to see how reasons for believing that one point of view will treat diabetes don’t have to do with the truth. Relativism and Tolerance ■ P. 24 ■ An alleged benefit of relativism is that it encourages people to be tolerant. Absolutism, it is said, leads to intolerance, because it leads one to demonize and seek to convert or punish those with whom one disagrees. ■ Tolerance is an attitude of accepting people with whom we disagree. ■ Relativism is the view that no point of view is correct and none incorrect. All are to be treated equally. ■ But then, from the point of view of relativism, the points of view of tolerance and intolerance are to be treated equally, i.e. to be respected. ■ So there is nothing incoherent about an intolerant relativist. And so no reason to think that relativism needs to have this great benefit. Relativism and Self-Knowledge ■ P.27-28 ■ When pressed on an unguarded assertion, such as “a witch did not break Bob’s leg”, The relativist retreats to: “From my point of view, a witch did not break Bob’s leg.” ■ But it seems that one can be wrong about what one’s point of view is. And yet being wrong about one’s point of view doesn’t implicate the point of view itself. It is coherent that the relativist might be wrong about his point of view, but right about the facts. ■ This shows that talking from a point of view is not the same thing as talking about a point of view. (Compare: talking about what you see through a window and talking about the window.) ■ So the relativist’s retreat changes the subject. Relativism and Self-Knowledge ■ What this underscores: there is one thing about which Sarah and Bob disagree, the cause of his injury. ■ They don’t disagree about points of view. ■ We can’t reframe claims about the world as claims about one’s point of view. ■ It certainly looks like Zac disagrees with Sarah and Bob about truth. The latter think that truth is something that transcends points of view, Zac denies this. ■ Yet, if this is the case, then it would seem that there is something point-of-view transcendent about which Bob and Sarah and Zac disagree. ■ Since Zac denies there is such a thing, his own disagreement undermines his relativism. Relativism and Self-Knowledge ■ Not so fast. ■ Zac can accept that, relative to their points of view on the nature of truth, Bob and Sarah are right to believe that the truth is transcendent of points of view, and so there is something for them to disagree about. ■ Zac needn’t believe that his point of view on the nature of truth is correct and theirs incorrect. He could still recommend his over theirs. ■ But on what grounds? ■ Practical ones. This is why tolerance and the consequences of absolutism matter so much to Zac. His own view prohibits him from offering epistemic reasons for believing relativism. Epistemic Relativism ■ The basic idea: truth is always relative to a point of view. A point of view is a bunch of beliefs. Since people have different points of view, they can coherently accept differing truths. ■ “Every point of view is just a point of view.” – But the relativist accepts their point of view as the truth. They are committed to what they think is the case. The relativist thinks there are reasons for preferring her own point of view. ■ “Every point of view is a point of view.” – But this is trivial. ■ Relativism is a stance or attitude toward life. It is the rejection of absolutism and with it concepts of truth and right and wrong. Epistemic Relativism ■ Another pass: Zac rejects a claim about truth and a claim about assertion. ■ TRUTH: No claim that p is true or false in itself. It can only be true or false relative to a point of view (body of beliefs.) ■ ASSERTION: It is appropriate to asset that p if and only if p is true from one’s point of view. (i.e. when one believes that p, and p is coherent with other things one believes.) ■ Notice: Zac doesn’t have to hold that Truth and Assertion are true simpliciter. He can accept that they are true in just the sense that Truth sets out. ■ Notice: Zac doesn’t “change the subject” when he adds “from my point of view” if we understand him as accepting Truth and Assertion. He is claiming that his assertion has the feature (relative truth, spelled out in Truth) that makes it appropriate to assert (spelled out in Assertion). Perhaps this isn’t informative, but it isn’t a retreat. Epistemic Relativism ■ Another objection: The relativist denies that there is any absolute truth. But on what grounds? ■ Indeed, it is arguable that the relativist relies on such a notion. ■ TRUTH: No claim that p is true or false in itself. It can only be true or false relative to a point of view (body of beliefs.) ■ TRUTH explains relative truth in terms of a relation between beliefs. ■ Question: what is it to believe that p? How can we distinguish believing that p from wishing that p or pretending that p? ■ Arguably, belief is a stance that involves a commitment to the truth. But then, what notion of truth is implied there? Epistemic Relativism 1. Either we have to explain truth in terms of belief or belief in terms of truth. 2. It is very hard to see how we could explain truth in terms of belief. (How can we distinguish belief from other attitudes but by its relation to the truth?) 3. So, we have to explain belief in terms of truth. 4. Explaining belief in terms of truth requires a non-relative notion of truth. 5. So, TRUTH is false, there must be a non-relative notion of truth. PART TWO: RELATIVISM AND FALLIBILISM Fallibilism ■ P. 39 ■ Human beings are fallible. We often have false beliefs, and have learned from experience the various kinds of mistakes we can make. ■ Right now, I can reasonably conclude that some of my beliefs are false. ■ Right now, I cannot tell which, since, obviously, if I could, I would no longer hold them. ■ Yet, for each of the beliefs I currently hold, I believe that it is true. ■ Is this consistent? ■ Sarah: I believe that it is probable, to varying degrees, that the beliefs I hold are true, some more than others. I may not be able to say which of my beliefs is false, but I can make some good guesses about which are most likely to be. Fallibilism ■ Our beliefs can be false, and so we cannot guarantee, from the outset, that they are true. ■ But given the evidence, we can calculate the probability that they are true. This isn’t certainty, but sometimes the probability of truth (or falsity) is very high. ■ However, we are not infallible at calculating the probabilities. Couldn’t we be wrong, in a case, about the probability of its truth? ■ Of course. We can have a rough estimation of our ability to calculate probabilities. This gives us credence in the calculation we have arrived at. ■ Better, then: some of our beliefs are such that, it is probable, that it is probable that they are true. ■ Bob: But isn’t this a retreat like the relativist’s? Does the fallibilist ever stick their neck out and make a claim? Or does every claim retreat to a claim about probabilities? Truth ■ P.47 ■ The relativist avoids talk of truth and falsity, claiming for their assertions only that they represent their “point of view.” ■ The fallibilist avoids talk of truth and falsity, claiming for their assertions only that they are supported by probabilities, which are themselves supported by probabilities of their ability to perform probabilities, and so on. ■ However, “snow is white” is true if and only if snow is white. ■ That is, by asserting “snow is white” one is committed to its being true that snow is white. ■ There is no room for making assertions while refraining from taking those assertions to express the truth of the matter. ■ “Whoever says that witchcraft does not work should conclude that it is true that witchcraft does not work.” Truth ■ Colloquially, it is better to tell it like it is that not. So it is better to speak the truth than not. ■ Zac: but doesn’t truth talk commit us to being certain of what we say? And isn’t this dogmatic? Shouldn’t we often, probably typically, be less than certain? ■ Roxana: The truth concerns states of affairs. It concerns how the world is. Certainty concerns how one stands in relation to the truth. The number of coins on a train is either odd or even. So the truth is either that the number is odd or that the number is even. There is a fact of the matter, and so a truth. But no one can be certain. ■ Truth and certainty come apart. (Just as one’s stance on the world and one’s stance on one’s point of view.) ■ A general charge is that the relativist collapses these. Truth ■ Why does the truth matter? ■ Why is it better to have the truth and the false? ■ For action. If we want to know how to get to town or down a mountain, the truth will help us achieve our goals. If we are misled about the way, we will not achieve our goals, and may come to harm. ■ So the truth is more useful to us. ■ But can’t you achieve your goals by acting on a false belief? ■ Yes, but only by accident. It isn’t an accident that acting on the truth gets you to your goal. Truth ■ P. 70 ■ Since matters of truth and certainty are separate, commitment to the truth does not lead to dogmatism. ■ “Science insists on the difference between truth and falsity, but the scientific spirit also makes us self-critical and tolerant of contrary opinions, because we are all fallible. Whenever one asserts something, one should be willing to add ‘but I may be wrong’… In that sense I call myself a ‘fallibilist’. It’s the very importance of the distinction between truth and falsity that should make us humble, and tolerant of others. It is bigger than all of us.” Fallibilism and Relativism ■ The advantage of fallibilism is practical: by respecting the truth, we keep in mind that we may be wrong, and are modest. This modesty encourages us to seek out more evidence and take as well-informed a position as we can. ■ The more evidence supporting our position, the more likely we are to succeed in our goals. ■ The relativist also encourages modesty, insofar as he encourages tolerance of other views. ■ But intolerance is as acceptable any point of view, to the relativist. ■ So why can’t a relativist take fallibilism as his point of view? Are fallibilism and relativism inconsistent? ■ It would seem the answer must be yes, insofar as the relativist rejects truth and falsity whereas the fallibilist embraces it. ■ Fallibilism is a form of absolutism. ■ There is a fact of the matter, but we can never be certain of it. DOGMATISM ■ The fallibilist advises us to add to any claim, ‘but I might be wrong.’ ■ “I might be wrong in believing that p” entails “it might be true that not-p.” ■ When a fallibilist makes an assertion, they seem committed to the view that it might be otherwise. ■ “She is not a witch, but she might be a witch.” ■ But can’t the fallibilist switch to probabilities and evidence? ■ “It is very probable that she is not a witch, but it might be probable that she is.” ■ This is no better off. The fallibilist seems committed to taking back everything they say. ■ (Like the relativist, we have returned to the previous issue of whether fallibilists do better than relativists. In this context, whether fallibilism is really a form of absolutism.) Assertion ■ When we assert something, or say it outright, we are committed to its being the case. ■ Likewise when we believe something. ■ The fallibilist, like the relativist, seem committed to rejecting this picture of assertion, since they don’t think we are ever entitled to assert something outright, we must always take ourselves merely to be expressing our point of view or evidence consistent with the falsity of what we say. ■ It is very difficult to see how one can rid oneself of the practice of assertion. ■ Nor is it clear what point there is to adding, as a constant refrain, “but I could be wrong”, to everything one says. This is unhelpful and might be trivial, if it just means that in general people can be wrong. Knowledge ■ The problem for the fallibilist is knowledge. ■ “I know that 5+7=12, but I could be wrong.” is absurd. If you could be wrong, then you don’t know. ■ Knowledge is factive. “Jon knows that p” entails p. ■ If all of our evidence is always consistent with the falsity of what we believe, then it seems we can’t know anything. ■ Fallibilism threatens skepticism. Relativism again, and judges ■ Experience ■ Inference to the best explanation ■ Zac: “Each of you can make sense of things in your own way” ■ But: what does this add to …
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