• Leontiskos
    2k
    Introduction

    A mother walks into the kitchen and is surprised to find her children hard at work. The cupboards are ajar, the mixing bowls and measuring cups are scattered across the countertop, and flour, butter, sugar, and eggs have all found their way out into the open. “What are you doing!?” she asks. The children, giggling, reply coyly, “Kneading dough!” “No! What are you doing?” After a brief pause they announce merrily, “We are baking cookies!”

    What if the mother, finding herself on a philosophy forum, asked the same question? “What are you doing!?” “Arguing!” “No! What are you doing?” *

    I hope the answer would have something to do with truth, knowledge, understanding, or wisdom. We knead dough to bake cookies and we argue to get at these sorts of things. But a philosophy forum involves dialogue, and hence what is involved is a shared pursuit of things like truth, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. In this thread I am concerned with a key component of this shared pursuit: transparency, and in particular transparency as an essential part of good argument.


    Transparency in Argument

    There are two basic ways that an argument can get at truth: by being right and by being wrong. Yet in order for this to work the argument must be seen to be right or wrong. If it is seen to be right then it will lead the one who sees it into the truth of its conclusion. If it is seen to be wrong then it will lead the one who sees it away from specious reasoning and away from an unsound conclusion. In each case the crucial factor is that it be seen, that it be transparent.

    This telos of truth can be impeded in various ways. One such temptation is eristic, the practice of mere disputation and winning an argument simply for the sake of winning. A more subtle temptation is rhetorical excess, where one focuses so strongly on persuasion that they end up neglecting truth in the process. A third and very common temptation is captured by Aaron Burr’s line in Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” Whether it is silence, sheepishness, or dissimulation, this is rooted in the fear of being criticized or being wrong. All of these temptations are aided by arguments which are opaque and difficult to discern. Transparency is a useful remedy.


    Transparency in need of Courage

    Transparent arguments require a certain amount of courage. Everyone knows that a clear and transparent argument is better at getting the job done. If an argument is transparent, illuminating, and sound, then it will also be cogent and will carry the interlocutor along to the destination. On the other hand, if an argument is unsound then transparency will only make it easier to see that it is wrong, and no one likes to be wrong. So transparency is a double-edged sword, much like transparent clothing that makes attractive people more attractive and unattractive people more unattractive.

    If the proper telos of truth is maintained, then the courage for transparent arguments will be ready to hand. This is because the risk of being wrong will be easily undertaken for a higher cause. As noted above, a pathway to truth is opened up when bad arguments are seen to be bad. Disguising or veiling arguments is a bit like going to the doctor and lying about one’s health in order to avoid an unpleasant diagnosis. It defeats the whole point. Arguments don’t exist to make us feel good about ourselves; they exist to help us pursue truth, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. It is worth paying the price of vulnerability for the sake of truth.


    Example: Assertions vs. Arguments

    One very basic and concrete way towards transparency is replacing assertions with arguments, especially when an assertion has been questioned or has become contentious. Even simple syllogisms can make a difference.

    Consider the assertion, “David Hume was a nut.” This provides nothing for the interlocutor to grab on to, and the only available options are affirmation or denial. There is no path to truth, knowledge, understanding, or wisdom. But a simple syllogism alters the landscape, “David Hume undermined the scientific enterprise; Anyone who undermines the scientific enterprise is a nut; Therefore David Hume was a nut.” The transition from the assertion to the argument makes the reasoning and rationale visible. Other paths have been opened up beyond mere affirmation or denial. The interlocutor could become convinced, they could question premises or inferences, the person giving the argument might realize that they are mistaken, etc.

    It is perhaps worth noting that the formalization of an argument can sometimes help transparency, but it can sometimes hinder transparency. The goal of transparency must be held in mind during the formalization process, but also, the capacity of one’s interlocutor must be taken into account when deciding whether and how to formalize an argument.


    To revise Burr’s line, “Talk more. Let them know what you’re against and what you’re for.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    * This question is an inquiry into what Aristotle calls a final cause.
    “Truth” will henceforth be used as a shortened version of “Truth, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.”
    There are perhaps cases where one wishes to restrict access to an argument to those with a certain level of aptitude. A tricky balance is at play in such a maneuver, but it should be stressed that the argument should still be transparent to those with the desired aptitude.

    Reveal
    Addendum

    I drafted a different version of this thread a few weeks ago, and I wanted to include the two central paragraphs in a sort of postscript. They may help elucidate one thing or another:

    It seems to me that the proximate telos of argument qua dialogue is a kind of transparency, namely that transparency by which the reasons and grounds for our position or conclusion become clear to our interlocutor. When we set out an argument we are attempting to show our interlocutor, first, why a conclusion is true, and second, either why we hold to it or why they should hold to it (or both). If a claim or an assertion is a black box, then an argument is the revealing and making-known of the contents of that box. Some arguments unravel our own reasons for a conclusion or postulate, while others are tailored to the specific characteristics of our interlocutor, but in each case transparency is the first thing aimed at. The more proper (remote) telos is of course the telos of rational dialogue: coming to better know truth.

    There are two important effects of this transparency. The primary effect is to provide an occasion for another mind to assent to what is true, via the argument we have set out. An argument provides another person with a concrete path to the truth of our claim, if indeed it be true. The second effect is equally important for dialogue, and it is the making vulnerable of our position. The path that we open up for the sake of truth turns out to be a two-way highway, suitable not only for assent but also for denial, critique, and even assault. The transparency of an argument, then, brings with it both an invitation and a risk. Both paths serve truth, the telos of rational dialogue; the first by providing an opportunity to assent to what is true, and the second by providing an opportunity to deny what is false.
  • NotAristotle
    276
    Transparency is important in argumentation because it leads to truth and is an example of the virtue of courage.
  • NotAristotle
    276
    Additionally, transparent argumentation makes for a more productive argument because one's views will be more clearly presented and because the actual beliefs of the individuals will be honestly assessed.
  • Moliere
    4.3k
    Good stuff.

    I especially like the connection between vulnerability and transparency: forthrightness can be a boast, but if you're really at your limit of certainty then it's a good idea to let go of the desire for certainty -- especialy the certainty that you'll win the argument ;).

    Transparency, though, is a way to subject yourself to the criticism of philosophy.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Good stuff.

    I especially like the connection between vulnerability and transparency: forthrightness can be a boast, but if you're really at your limit of certainty then it's a good idea to let go of the desire for certainty
    Moliere

    Thanks! Yes, I very much agree with this as well. Last year I wrote a thread on this topic on a different forum, "The Philosophical Virtue of Certitude Shifting." I hadn't thought about the way it is related to transparency until you brought it up.

    I think some of these points seem obvious, and they probably are obvious, but at least for me it is helpful to have reminders from time to time.

    Transparency, though, is a way to subject yourself to the criticism of philosophy.Moliere

    Yep, and I also think of it as a means to the common good of truth, knowledge, wisdom, etc. When there is transparency there is a better chance that everyone involved will enjoy these benefits.

    ---

    Transparency is important in argumentation because it leads to truth and is an example of the virtue of courage.NotAristotle

    Additionally, transparent argumentation makes for a more productive argument because one's views will be more clearly presented and because the actual beliefs of the individuals will be honestly assessed.NotAristotle

    Yes, that's just how I would put it @NotAristotle. :up:
  • Hailey
    69
    Thank you for what you brought us there, very thought-provoking. It reminds me of a speech Chimamanda Ngozi Aldichie gave, the Freedom of Speech, in the Reith Lecture, where she stressed the importance of allowing ourselves to say something wrong and warned people of the danger of self-censorship. Apart from arguing that people, especially youngsters should engage more in conversations, she also pointed out the damage that cancel culture would do to the society, which would all impair transparency of arguments and hinder the freedom of speech. To seek truth, we should avoid getting emotional and argue for the sake of persuading the other side, instead, we should be open-minded and unbiased and use logic to fully dissect the issue at hand, where neither concealing our own ignorance nor keeping silent to avoid conflicts would do anything good.
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    Transparency in arguments is important in seeking the rational explanations and justifications. It involves honesty about the basis for acceptance of ideas and goes far beyond winning arguments.

    Perhaps, the need to win an argument stems from uncertainty about one's own position and the need for validation from others. This involves the transparency with oneself as opposed to self deception. It is possible to hold a view and not be aware why one adopts it. Some ideas may accepted from others unquestioningly and there may also be psychological factors involved.

    A certain amount of transparency with oneself may be beneficial and it may not that once this achieved there may be less need to argue one's position. However, ongoing interaction, such as on a philosophy forum, may be useful for fluidity in thinking and ongoing modification of ideas in the light of new perspectives and development of knowledge.
  • NotAristotle
    276
    It is possible to hold a view and not be aware why one adopts it. Some ideas may accepted from others unquestioningly and there may also be psychological factors involved.Jack Cummins

    That being the case, I don't necessarily think someone should be criticized for not being able to articulate their view well. Like you said, understanding is a part of philosophy, and so the virtue of patience with oneself and others is also important.
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    It may be that philosophy itself is the art of being able to articulate one's views. Patience with oneself is important but I find a certain amount of self criticism useful in seeing the gaps in my own logic and leaning towards certain ideas. A certain amount of rigour in being able to analyse one's own thinking may enable transparency of oneself and being able to realise and go beyond one's own philosophical blindspots.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    It is true that some views are held uncritically or unreflectively, but oftentimes the most interesting philosophy occurs precisely at the point when these views come under question:

    One very basic and concrete way towards transparency is replacing assertions with arguments, especially when an assertion has been questioned or has become contentious.Leontiskos

    So I think @Jack Cummins makes a good point when he talks about "going beyond one's philosophical blindspots."

    We all have certain views that we suppose do not need justification (and often they may not need justification). But the crucial thing is the ability to pivot and justify these views when they come into question.
  • NotAristotle
    276
    Humility is another virtue of the philosopher. It's important to acknowledge, at least to oneself, when one's own views are contradictory or inconsistent. Relatedly, the philosopher must persevere in their quest for truth.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    It reminds me of a speech Chimamanda Ngozi Aldichie gave, the Freedom of Speech, in the Reith Lecture, where she stressed the importance of allowing ourselves to say something wrong and warned people of the danger of self-censorship.Hailey

    This sounds interesting. I found a link to it <here>. I will have to check it out when I get a chance.

    Apart from arguing that people, especially youngsters should engage more in conversations, she also pointed out the damage that cancel culture would do to the society, which would all impair transparency of arguments and hinder the freedom of speech.Hailey

    Exactly. :up:

    ...neither concealing our own ignorance nor keeping silent to avoid conflicts would do anything good.Hailey

    Right. Perhaps social media has raised vanity to such a pitch that it has become exceptionally difficult to overcome. We are often more concerned with how others will react and view us than with whether our contribution will further the conversation.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    A certain amount of transparency with oneself may be beneficial and it may not that once this achieved there may be less need to argue one's position. However, ongoing interaction, such as on a philosophy forum, may be useful for fluidity in thinking and ongoing modification of ideas in the light of new perspectives and development of knowledge.Jack Cummins

    Yes, there is something interesting about philosophy as fulfilling a need versus philosophy as abundance or overflow, and the various shades of both. Argument and philosophical dialogue can be a crutch; it can be a response to a legitimate need for investigation and intercourse; it can be a genuine and unselfish sharing; and sometimes it can even be the consequence of an overflow of our grasped participation in the intelligibility of creation.
  • J
    236
    (This is my first post – thanks for welcoming me to the forum!)

    Reading this thread, I was reminded of an insight from Richard J. Bernstein in his essay, “The Rage Against Reason” (collected in The New Constellation, 1992). Bernstein notes some similarities between modernist philosopher Jurgen Habermas and the American pragmatists. He writes, “Both [Habermas and the pragmatists] share an understanding of rationality as instrinsically dialogical and communicative. And both pursue the ethical and political consequences of this form of rationality and rationalization. It was Peirce who first developed the logical backbone of this thought in his idea of the fundamental character of a self-corrective critical community of inquirers [my itals] without any absolute beginning points or finalities. . .”

    Bernstein has a lot more that’s interesting to say about the connection of rational inquiry with democratic values. But for our purposes, I think what he’s describing is quite close to this concept of transparency and philosophical humility. What is often challenging, of course, is to take seriously the idea that such inquiry might truly be “without any absolute beginning points or finalities.” But that’s another subject.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Welcome to the forum, !

    Good points. I am not familiar with Bernstein, but I can definitely see what you are saying with regard to Habermas and Peirce, and I admire their dialogical approach.

    a self-corrective critical community of inquirersJ

    I think this is an important point: that the inquiry is in some way attached to the community itself and not only to the individual, and this fact leads the members of the community to relate to one another in a different way, as partners in a common purpose.

    Bernstein has a lot more that’s interesting to say about the connection of rational inquiry with democratic values.J

    I hadn't actually considered that idea, but it does make sense. In a democracy one probably has more modest expectations for their ideas and arguments, and surely dialogue is opened up when the participants are considered equals. What are some of Bernstein's thoughts on the topic?
  • J
    236
    What are some of Bernstein's thoughts on the topic?Leontiskos

    One of Bernstein’s concerns that interests me on this topic: What happens to liberal-democratic values (including the value of political discussion among equals) when certain post-modern challenges to rationality are either misconstrued or taken too far? Bernstein was sympathetic to post-modern philosophers, but he saw this danger coming from both the left and the right, and perhaps most distressingly from philosophers (such as Rorty, Foucault, and Derrida) whose politics were resolutely humane and progressive, but who didn’t seem to realize what the disparagement of rationality can do in the wrong political hands. Bernstein wrote mostly in the last decades of the 20th century, but he lived to see many of his warnings come true, in our current U.S. culture where “truthiness” is good enough for so many people, and there is less and less faith in a “common practice” or tradition that includes appeals to fact and reason.

    His several essays on Richard Rorty give a good flavor of RJB’s concerns. Two of them are collected in The New Constellation. RJB discusses Rorty’s pragmatist appeal to “we” citizens of a democracy to stop trying to justify liberal-democratic values and simply get on with “making them look good” so others will want to adopt them. But without rational justification – without a fallibilistic, self-correcting, consensus-building approach to political argument -- “Rorty seems to be insensitive to the dark side of appealing to ‛we’ when it is used as an exclusionary tactic – as the ‛rationalization’ for fostering intolerance.” He goes on, “[On this sort of view], tradition, including the tradition of liberal democracy, does not seem to have any determinate content other than the ways in which we (I) interpret it. And our interpretations, our self-creations, seem to be little more than an expression of our idiosyncratic will to power, our will to self-assertion.” In other words, RJB sees the Nietzschean danger that, if rational argument among equals is abandoned, all that’s left is persuasion – making a position “look attractive,” in Rorty’s words – or else a literal use of coercive power.

    Hope this gives you a sense of Bernstein’s interests in this area. He was a modernist philosopher in the Kantian, Frankfurt-School, Habermas tradition, and strove throughout his writings to defend and justify a rationalism that is not a metaphysical foundationalism, and that also does not produce Weberian “rationalization” and oppression. He and Rorty were lifelong friends, I believe; both called themselves pragmatists; but Bernstein was very reluctant to accept Rorty’s claim to the title.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Hope this gives you a sense of Bernstein’s interests in this area.J

    It does, thank you! That’s actually very interesting and it seems like I would have a lot of sympathies with Bernstein’s project. In fact at this point I doubt anyone could look around at the state of our culture and deny that his foretellings had come to pass.

    I am fond of Joseph Ratzinger, who seems to come from a similar school, and who was in dialogue with Habermas on many of these issues. Actually Ratzinger seems to align very nearly with the position you’ve outlined. The difficulty for Ratzinger (and presumably also for Berstein) is that it is not clear whether one can complete the project without a “metaphysical foundationalism.” I don’t know that he ever moved beyond vacillation on this point.

    What then is Berstein’s alternative to metaphysical foundationalism? Does he attempt to go the way of a coherentism that could resist the “will to self-assertion”? Does he attempt to avoid metaphysics altogether?
  • J
    236
    What then is Bernstein’s alternative to metaphysical foundationalism? Does he attempt to go the way of a coherentism that could resist the “will to self-assertion”? Does he attempt to avoid metaphysics altogether?Leontiskos


    Yes, important questions. Bernstein’s magnum opus, Beyond Objectivism and Relativism, addresses them in full, though it was an “inquiry in progress” and didn’t necessarily provide firm answers. I don’t know if I can do it justice, but here are a few points.

    RJB’s response to “anti-foundationalism” is subtle. He is constantly drawing a distinction between a critique of foundational metaphysical starting points for inquiry – which he thinks is a legitimate and significant concern – and a critique that amounts to “a polemical attack on the very idea of philosophy” -- which he disputes vigorously, along with Habermas (probably his closest philosophical ally).

    Another way to make this distinction might be to say that, for RJB, the adoption of rational inquiry, or “communicative action” a la Habermas, or a quest for genuine phronesis, is not “foundationalist” in some naive or dogmatic way. You ask whether RJB gives up metaphysics entirely. I think the right answer is, If you include rationality and all its cognates (including a transparent process that can result in genuine phronesis), then no, RJB very much sticks up for this. But I suspect he’d be more likely to draw a distinction between this kind of practice and “metaphysics” understood as an a priori search for certainty about ontology and epistemology, which he does abandon. One of his trademark terms is “Cartesian anxiety,” by which he means the desire of philosophers for a clear and distinct starting place for inquiry.

    How then does philosophy get off the ground? Here RJB’s approach is generally that of Peirce, I would say. He endorses (with some reservations) Peirce’s idea that a community of inquirers will in time converge on philosophical truths – or at least that this has to be our goal. Peirce believed this process had to start without foundations, on the open sea, as it were. If any foundational metaphysics are on offer, we could only find them after the journey, not as a place from which to set sail. Or this is how I read Peirce, anyway. RJB talks approvingly of Habermas’ idea of “a project of reconstruction and critique that points to the telos that should guide our praxis.” In short, we have no choice but to begin, philosophically, where we are, using the tools that best recommend themselves to this style of inquiry – which is an ethical as well as a rational style, since it insists on an equal community of inquirers who share, if only hazily, a kind of endpoint or telos for philosophy and for humankind.

    The big problem I see as largely unresolved in Bernstein, and that he continued to wrestle with all his life, concerns the proper understanding of “objective” and “subjective.” RJB was sure that hermeneutics could forge a synthesis between these two concepts, which he regarded as a false either/or. He was suspicious of any approach in which “the subjective becomes virtually synonymous with the private, idiosyncratic, and arbitrary” and “the very idea of phronesis seems like a confused concept.” This misguided approach also has the effect of seducing us into believing that “knowledge must be objective – or else it is only pseudo-knowledge.”

    I haven’t read everything Bernstein wrote, but if he ever found a completely satisfying resolution here, I don’t know of it. Nor am I entirely satisfied myself with treating rationality as involving no pre-commitments to a metaphysical position – but I may not be reading RJB accurately here.

    Well, perhaps more than you wanted, but these meta-philosophical questions are deeply engaging for me.
  • baker
    5.6k
    A third and very common temptation is captured by Aaron Burr’s line in Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” Whether it is silence, sheepishness, or dissimulation, this is rooted in the fear of being criticized or being wrong. All of these temptations are aided by arguments which are opaque and difficult to discern. Transparency is a useful remedy.Leontiskos

    Surely that line wasn't meant in the context of a private (!) philosophy forum, was it?

    In any interaction, it is vital to discern what type of interaction it (potentially) is. Is it a philosophical discussion? Is it a conversation behind closed doors in the boss' office? Is it an inquiry by the police? Is it something the priest is saying in a church? A teacher at school? And so on.

    For every type of interaction, different rules about transparency apply. Not in the least because one feared being wrong, but because what one says or fails to say can have tangible adverse consequences, depending on the context of the interaction.
  • Judaka
    1.7k

    I think you've largely just used the word "transparency" to refer to having an argument. Having reasons for one's assertions. Which is itself an argument.

    One very basic and concrete way towards transparency is replacing assertions with argumentLeontiskos

    An assertion with no argument = there was no argument, surely.

    Otherwise, transparency isn't a prerequisite to a good argument, completely irrelevant really. I could say "I think X" and have a brilliant argument for justifying that even if I refuse to share it.

    It would be just semantics, but it's the entire premise of your OP. That transparency, which seems to be nothing more than sharing/giving your argument, is a prerequisite for a good argument, and by your own logic, it isn't.

    There are two basic ways that an argument can get at truth✝: by being right and by being wrong.Leontiskos

    This is such a drastic oversimplification that it's misrepresentative and incorrect.

    The entire OP treats truth like it's a thing divorced from an argument/conclusion, like we "seek" truth, rather than create it, and this is a mistake. Truth conditions relate to one's objectives, one's interpretations, and one's claims, which are influenced by their arguments and the context.

    If I argue that "This is the best way of doing X", then what determines the truth of that claim are things like: What are we trying to accomplish? How do we measure which way is best? Which factors, such as outcomes, consequences or resources are important? If you measure which way is best different from I, then you may end up with a different conclusion than I. One route, the one I argue is best, might be best when using my priorities and methods, but not when using yours. The "truth" relies on such things, and such things are established in one's argument.

    The truth of what's moral, what's true, and what's right and most areas of philosophy are dependant on one's values, priorities, interpretations, methods and so on.

    This means that in order to change someone else's mind, or to have an interesting discussion, talking about what's "true" is pointless. To change what someone else thinks is true requires one to be compelling, intellectually and emotionally, to help someone see the merits of a different approach or flaws in theirs.

    One could argue that David Hume is a nut in reference to a flaw in his thinking, but the criteria to be met for someone being "a nut" are vague. Perhaps the flaw of his thinking could be true, whether that makes David Hume a nut or not, surely that's not a "truth" worth worrying about. I could go on, truth is context-dependent, even to the very argument being made. David Hume could be a nut in reference to his positions on X, but a genius in reference to his positions on Y. An argument is part of the assertion, instead of merely justifying it.

    To sum up, truth without an argument is useless and irrelevant. If one doesn't know why something is true, and they don't feel those reasons are compelling, then they won't care. A truth's value is dependent upon the quality of the argument, and what the argument succeeds in doing.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Surely that line wasn't meant in the context of a private (!) philosophy forum, was it?baker

    I would say that in Burr’s context and mine the proximate motivation is fear of criticism. Criticism is of course feared because of its connection with adverse consequences. That is itself a perfectly workable definition of fear: anticipation of future evil.

    In any interaction, it is vital to discern what type of interaction it (potentially) is.baker

    The topic of this thread is argument, particularly in the context of a philosophy forum.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I think you've largely just used the word "transparency" to refer to having an argument.Judaka

    No, I don't think that's right at all.

    An assertion with no argument = there was no argument, surely.Judaka

    That claim was that to move from asserting to arguing involves an increase in transparency.

    It would be just semantics, but it's the entire premise of your OP. That transparency, which seems to be nothing more than sharing/giving your argument, is a prerequisite for a good argument, and by your own logic, it isn't.Judaka

    I don't think you will find anything in the OP to support these ideas of yours.

    If I argue that "This is the best way of doing X",Judaka

    You're conflating practical knowledge with truth. Not all propositions are about how to get something done.

    To change what someone else thinks is true requires one to be compelling, intellectually and emotionally, to help someone see the merits of a different approach or flaws in theirs.Judaka

    Yes, and that requires transparency.

    This is such a drastic oversimplification that it's misrepresentative and incorrect.Judaka

    Then name the third way instead of being opaque and contentious.

    To sum up, truth without an argument is useless and irrelevant. If one doesn't know why something is true, and they don't feel those reasons are compelling, then they won't care. A truth's value is dependent upon the quality of the argument, and what the argument succeeds in doing.Judaka

    I could grant this naive epistemology for the sake of argument. So what? What does it have to do with the OP? You are trying to oppose my claim that argument helps us arrive at truth, but your arguments are invalid. Your claim that <only argument is able to arrive at truth> is not at odds with my claim that argument helps us arrive at truth. You're engaging in eristic, and you're not even addressing the OP. Bad day?

    Edit: If you want a real-time example of what I am talking about, look at my post <here>. What I am proposing in that post is a means to transparency, a transparency that I propose is severely lacking in the previous two pages. If you read those two pages and agree that my suggestion would aid the dialogue by introducing more transparency, then you should have a key to the meaning of the OP, which you seem to have misunderstood.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Well, perhaps more than you wanted, but these meta-philosophical questions are deeply engaging for me.J

    This is great stuff, @J, thank you. Bernstein is definitely on my reading list by now, as everything you are bringing up resonates with me. I am not going to try to give a response here, in part because I am short on time and in part because we are getting off-topic for this thread. To be clear, I am not worried about derailing my thread, but I see no use hiding this topic in a thread where people will not be able to find it. I think there is a new thread to be had (or five). :wink: I have bookmarked your post, and will return to it in time.

    That said, any new thread(s) would need to be carefully constructed and contained. I am fairly new here, but I haven't seen anyone delve into the complex realities that someone like Habermas was interested in. I haven't seen many threads on these sorts of deep cultural issues.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    There are two basic ways that an argument can get at truth✝: by being right and by being wrong. Yet in order for this to work the argument must be seen to be right or wrong. If it is seen to be right then it will lead the one who sees it into the truth of its conclusion. If it is seen to be wrong then it will lead the one who sees it away from specious reasoning and away from an unsound conclusion. In each case the crucial factor is that it be seen, that it be transparent.Leontiskos

    I just came across this thread, so apologies if I repeat what has already been said. I don't see philosophical arguments as being true or false, but rather valid or invalid; that is consistent with their premises or inconsistent with their premises.

    I think only in phenomenology, which is descriptive rather than argumentative, can truth be somewhat more determinable, and then only by common assent.

    You might object that people can come to see the conclusion of an argument as true, but that would entail their assenting to the premises, and the conclusion being true to, that is consistent with, those. And the problem is that when it comes to metaphysics there is much more scope for polemical understandings than there is with phenomenological reflections on what seems to be the case with human experience.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I just came across this thread, so apologies if I repeat what has already been said. I don't see philosophical arguments as being true or false, but rather valid or invalid; that is consistent with their premises or inconsistent with their premises.Janus

    I agree, although I don't really mind if people predicate truth of arguments. I don't think I've spoken about arguments as true or false anywhere in the OP.

    I don't see philosophical arguments as being true or false, but rather valid or invalidJanus

    Can they be sound or unsound? I hold to the common view that they can.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Can they be sound or unsound? I hold to the common view that they can.Leontiskos

    I understand "sound or unsound" to be equivalent to "true or untrue". Premises can be sound or unsound, true or untrue, but when it comes to metaphysical arguments the truth is not determinable. For example, two metaphysical postulates are "being is fundamentally physical" and "being is fundamentally mental"; these two polemical posits are the basic presuppositions of materialism and idealism respectively. Can we determine which is true? No.

    Empirical propositions, and arguments based on them, can be sound or unsound, when their truth is determinable by observation. That's my take, anyway.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    I understand "sound or unsound" to be equivalent to "true or untrue".Janus

    Classically, a sound argument is an argument that possess both validity and true premises. An unsound argument lacks one or both.

    For example, two metaphysical postulates are "being is fundamentally physical" and "being is fundamentally mental"; these two polemical posits are the basic presuppositions of materialism and idealism respectively. Can we determine which is true? No.

    Empirical propositions, and arguments based on them, can be sound or unsound, when their truth is determinable by observation. That's my take, anyway.
    Janus

    Fair enough. I understand what you are saying. It's a common take. I am not going to engage it here, but I have said one or two things about it in "What is the nature of intuition?"

    Given your perspective, I would suggest reading the OP in terms of what you call "empirical propositions" (or "empirical arguments").
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Classically, a sound argument is an argument that possess both validity and true premises. An unsound argument lacks one or both.Leontiskos

    Fair enough, I am stretching the conventional meaning of "sound" somewhat to apply to premises as well as arguments. I think it is fair to say that when an argument is claimed to be sound, we mean it is taken to be true, because every part of a sound argument, if it is valid, must be true, that is true premises and true conclusions consistent with those premises. But idiosyncratic terminology aside, I think my point stands; metaphysical arguments cannot be determined to be true or false (or if you prefer, sound or unsound), whereas empirical arguments can be.

    You may not want to engage this take, but I think it is apposite in that you speak of people coming to understand that philosophical arguments are true or false.

    There are two basic ways that an argument can get at truth✝: by being right and by being wrong. Yet in order for this to work the argument must be seen to be right or wrong. If it is seen to be right then it will lead the one who sees it into the truth of its conclusion. If it is seen to be wrong then it will lead the one who sees it away from specious reasoning and away from an unsound conclusion. In each case the crucial factor is that it be seen that it be transparent.Leontiskos

    Now, if all you meant was that people can come to believe that philosophical arguments are true or false, then there would be no problem, but you seemed to be claiming that the truth of philosophical arguments is determinable and that is what I have been taking issue with.

    That is why I acknowledged that in the case of phenomenological arguments, which are quasi-empirical, it might be more appropriate to speak of arguments (well, descriptions really) being true or false.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Fair enough, I am stretching the conventional meaning of "sound" somewhat to apply to premises as well as arguments. I think it is fair to say that when an argument is claimed to be sound, we mean it is taken to be true, because every part of a sound argument, if it is valid, must be true, that is true premises and true conclusions consistent with those premises.Janus

    The first reason I would resist such a re-naming is because I think it is better for truth and soundness to be separate and distinct, rather than overlapping and superfluous. The second reason is that validity is not reducible to truth, because it has to do with forms and rules (which are necessarily true).

    But idiosyncratic terminology aside, I think my point stands; metaphysical arguments cannot be determined to be true or false (or if you prefer, sound or unsound), whereas empirical arguments can be.Janus

    Well, you've asserted that and I've said I am not going to engage it in this thread, and that's still where things stand. :razz: (I hope it wouldn't come as a surprise that I disagree.)

    You may not want to engage this take, but I think it is apposite in that you speak of people coming to understand that philosophical arguments are true or false.Janus

    I think it only commits you to the conclusion that metaphysical propositions are not truth-apt. I'm not convinced it is related to this thread.

    Now, if all you meant was that people can come to believe that philosophical arguments are true or false, then there would be no problem, but you seemed to be claiming that the truth of philosophical arguments is determinable and that is what I have been taking issue with.Janus

    This thread is about inquiry. It is about transparency as an aid to argument; as an aid to dialogue. So perhaps that is "all I meant," or all I require. I am certainly not claiming that every subject anyone argues about is necessarily determinable.

    If you and I are arguing about something, then we must believe that the thing we are arguing about is truth-apt. If you don't believe metaphysics is truth-apt then presumably you don't get into a lot of arguments about metaphysics. Similarly, because we don't believe taste is truth-apt, we don't argue about taste ("de gustibus non disputandum est"). My advice in the OP applies to arguments, and people argue about theses that they believe are susceptible of truth and falsity.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    If you don't believe metaphysics is truth-apt then presumably you don't get into a lot of arguments about metaphysics. Similarly, because we don't believe taste is truth-apt, we don't argue about taste ("de gustibus non disputandum est"). My advice in the OP applies to arguments, and people argue about theses that they believe are susceptible of truth and falsity.Leontiskos

    Well, I do get into arguments about whether metaphysical arguments are truth-apt, and I think it is true that they are not, for the simple reason that their premises cannot be determined to be true or false. I think acceptance or rejection of metaphysical premises cannot but be a matter of taste, and as you say we don't argue about taste. People believing metaphysical premises are susceptible of truth and falsity and their actually being so are two different things, at least if you mean by "susceptible of truth and falsity" that their truth or falsity is determinable.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Well, I do get into arguments about whether metaphysical arguments are truth-apt, and I think it is true that they are not, for the simple reason that their premises cannot be determined to be true or false.Janus

    Right.

    I think acceptance or rejection of metaphysical premises cannot but be a matter of taste, and as you say we don't argue about taste.Janus

    And thus, as I said, you do not enter into metaphysical disputes. The closest you get is disputing metaphysics itself.

    People believing metaphysical premises are susceptible of truth and falsity and their actually being so are two different things...Janus

    Right, but the former is all that is required for an argument. As long as two people believe that a subject is susceptible of truth and falsity, they can argue about it. And my OP pertains to the arguments that people have. It pertains to empirical arguments and metaphysical arguments and arguments about astrology and homeopathy and alien abductions. The advice given in the OP is meant to aid arguments of all kinds.
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