Tag Archives: logic

Stefan Molyneux on property rights.

Normaly I avoid doing critiques of video’s these day, but I ended up doing this one anyway, and am sharing it here. The orignal video can be found here https://youtu.be/nFcaanYaFKU , but I am not a supporter of Stefan Molyneux and I don’t really think he offer anything of real value, your better of reading “Understanding Power” by Noam Chomsky, or “Neo-liberalism a Breif History” by David Harely.

My first listen of Molyneux’s video on property rights had me really wondering what he was saying. It was vague enough that I could impose various interpretations. Having since rewatched it I find that first inerpritation was a bit too harsh, but he does rely heavily on assertion of his position as fact, rather than sound logical reasoning.

He begins by saying not only that property rights are the basis of all morality and ethics, a dubious claim at best, and then that property rights are all about self ownership and owning the effects of one’s own actions, a far more defensible position. While self determination (Being able to make choices free of compulsion) and personal autonomy (the freedom to live one’s own life and make moral and personal choices, affecting the self, interdependently should you wish it.) are quite powerful foundation to build morality, self ownership as property rights as Molyneux describes isn’t in my view so robust a foundation as he claims, and is certainly not foundational to all of ethics.

He then goes into a garbage can analogy, which amounts to the idea that actions are more important than ownership in determining who is responsible for product. The example being if you knock over someone else garbage can the mess you made is yours even if the can and the garbage belongs to another. He does mention there can be blameless situations, but Stephan does not explain how his model would deal with such instances. As an aside would it also then be the case that if you sneak into a person’s workshop and build a new contraction that while he would own the parts you would own the machine, just as you would the mess?

Moving on according to Molyneux that full personal ownership in the first Criterion of property rights, and therefore morality, as such co-owner ship is not morally relevant in Molyneux system of morality presented here. Again another glaring problem as there are clearly plenty of instances where co-ownership is just as relevant as sole ownership, really any time something is co owned it only seems to make the morality more complex, rather then some how making it irrelevant. My guess would be that he seems to be shooting himself in the foot to try to avoid a loose association with “socialism.”

He then goes on to an aside where he discusses that because we are hard-wired into our own nervous system, or more correctly in my mind, we are our own nervous system and our body is controlled by nervous system, and because no one else can take control of our nervous system, we have full and unquestionable ownership of ourselves, to use terms he uses later in the video, you have a natural enclosure on the “property rights” of your own body. In essence not one can question your ownership because they couldn’t have any kind of claim like you do. The one problem this is when you ask, what happens as Neuroscience improves into the future and we not only can remote control insects like we can now but can remote control or even remotely program other human beings? Does that mean we can now lose our autonomy because other people can access our nervous system and control our bodies? I’d say that given Molyneux’s description of property rights, that if you ever take ownership of a body early before they really have a chance to be considered an independent person enough, or someone gives it to you voluntarily, then yes you can lose self ownership and essentially lose your standing as a moral agent. This to me seems to be a problematic outcome of the theory proposed by Molyneux. Even if this sort of loss of personal ownership is not relevant right at this moment in time since science has yet to progress to that stage, I have not yet ruled out other way in which you might lose your personal ownership, and since there appears at least one I would not be surprised if there was more.

He then makes the point that coercion is different from choice, and makes the point that culpability falls upon the one doing the coercion, or the instigator in cases where someone is forced into an action such as self defence. nothing wrong here.

Stefan’s next major claim is the idea that property rights is not what you grab but when you create, that almost certainly is simply not true, simply because of historical facts. Basically all wealth has been at least indirectly created upon the results of violence and if you don’t respect that historical context, at least in passing, I’m going to find you position on ethics dubious. Another problem with this and the counter argument that comes along with it is the notion that the first people to an uncontested piece of land are just grabbing that land, and while yes it is true that to maintain and say that you do own that land you have to build and essentially take over that land, you can in theory hold far far more land and even build things on it then you can actually personally use especially if your main focus is to keep others from using that land. This is why the distinction of of private property and person personal property is important because it seems it can be unethical for someone to simply grab a huge hunk of land they can’t use if there are other people need it, but Molyneux’s position doesn’t actually allow for that kind of distinction. 

Next Stefan says that what creates that property right in the first place in the example of land is when you actually “enclose” your ownership over that land once you can get other people to accept that you own that land. the problem here being there is simply a tyranny of the powerful written directly into the theory, However, confusingly he then implies that this is just like self owner ship, but if so then if someone in the future where to ever enclose the rights of someone else body with a general agreement, or do so while the person was unable to respond, such as an infant, this implies that you could at least in theory, deny someone self ownership, and remove them from the morality question altogether.

I think the main flaw in the Stephen Molyneux argument is the fact that he is trying to do too much with a single concept. He’s attempting to wrap up the ideas of personal and bodily autonomy, additionally he’s trying to wrap in all of property rights, providing no distinction between personal and private property. By doing this he creates a bunch of what I think are unsavoury consequences including not only that you could theoretically lose your bodily autonomy if someone were to “enclose” their own rights around your bodily autonomy, but indeed it doesn’t prevent people from enclosing their rights around practically any property is as long as they have a general agreement from the relevant persons. While this doesn’t necessarily have to be bad it doesn’t preclude imperialism for example. an imperialist could easily use the logic to justify taking land from people they being irrelevant savages, particularly since he denies co-ownership as relevant moral form of ownership, so he immediately gives away this big chunk that basically justifies the seizure of land from many Native American tribes who lacked complete personal ownership over the land.

In conclusion I find that Stefan Molyneux philosophical position is rather shaky, and not only has he competely failed to show that property rights as he’s described them are foundational to all ethics, but I think I’ve pointed out where his conception of property rights as this bundled concept gives up a lot in order to condense personal autonomy, private property, and personal property into a single concept. Removing any protections or distictions between moral agents and inanimate objects.



I’m At a Loss

I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.

Logical Fallacies: Some links to help use overcome our greatest obstacle. Ourselves.

While Hessian continues to write posts on a variety of different arguments she comes across it’s imporant to once again remind everyone about those terrors of logic we all must contend with. Logical Fallicies.

Humans are not naturally include to be rational. We mostly make use of heuristics in our thinking rather then pure logical rationals. A heuristic, in the sense I’m using it here, is a cognitive short cut use to solve problems. These can take forms of, rules of thumb, educated guesses, a “common” sense statement or rule. Heuristics have there place due to them often be relatively accurate compared to guessing at random, but exceedingly fast when compared to a formal system of logic. This optimization towards speed is where the problem lies. When using heuristics we are bound to make mistakes, and while we might generally be able to use heuristic effectively, when we get into difficult cases they often send us spiraling into logical dead ends or mistakenly lead on a wild goose chases. This dependance and affinity towards heuristics is largely why we make logical fallacies, and why understanding them, and logic in general, is so important.

I shall focus on a couple key fallacies which I have been seeing regularly in the comments, as well posting links to useful sources to learn more about fallacies.

The Argument from ignorance: This has been the fallacy I’ve been noticing on this blog lately so I think it is the one fallacy that need to be addressed. The basics of this fallacious argument goes as follow. I don’t know what x is, or how x works, because of that it must be y, or is being done by z. This is exemplified when someone claims an unidentified object in the sky must have been a alien craft, when in fact they have no idea what the UFO was.

The most common form I’ve seen of the argument from ignorance in general is the argument for a deity due to the complexity of life. That argument can usually be condensed as follows.

I look at this flower or at the movements of this majestic animal, and I just know (my) God must exist. Now this can break down in to the following formal argument*.

P1: Living organisms are extremely complex.

P2: The Extreme complexity of life can not be explained by natural means.

P3: The only thing which can bring about things unnaturally is my deity.

C: Living organism were brought about by my deity.

*To be clear this does not represent all arguments of this type, there are others, and some are stronger, but as I will mention later on. This is the formalized version of arguments I have regularly encountered.

Funny enough this has several of the fallacies I wish to discuss. Like you might imagine is this an argument from ignorance because the second premise generally come from ideas such as. “I couldn’t imagine such complexity with out it coming from god,” or “It make no sense for complexity to come from “nothing”.” Because they do not know the answer they assume that their deity (and not some other deity) must have done it. Even though they have no idea why life is as complex as it is they appeal to their ignorance and just assume it must have been their god. Which bring us to the second fallacy.

Begging the question: Begging the question is when you assume the conclusion in to the premises instead of deriving, or in the case of induction, supporting the conclusion with premises.

In the example above the argument just assume that this person’s god exists and it could only be their god that did it. This may seem like I’m making a strawman of my opponent, but I have illegitimately ran into this argument dozens of times, over and over again. They have sew the success for there argument into the premises in a way which is whole unsupported. So while if you grant the premises the argument works, but why would you grant this premises to anyone? Would you let a person of a different faith claim it was their god(s) who made all life and that their god(s) exists? If not, and your trying to use this argument, then your making the fallacy of special pleading.

Though in simplest terms begging the question is a kind of circular reasoning where in you guarantee the conclusion with out adequately justifying those premises which give that guarantee.

Black and white fallacy: Also know as a false dilemma. This goes hand in hand with what I’ve already be writing.  This is where you argue that there are only two options when in fact there are many. The above argument does not technically make a black and while fallacy, but it is an easy fallacy to explain. “Your with us or against us!” A common use of the black and white fallacy. People often try to limit the options to them verse us, good verse bad. Except it’s rare where you a trapped with a true dichotomy. In the common case of “Your with us or against us!” it is often the case that a person is neither. I could be with you or against you, but I could be against both parties, or have a mix of positions from both, or only like some of the argument from one! Suddenly I tuned a situation from 2 limited options to 5 much open positions.

This reminds me of a joke I some times tell amongst other feminist “All Dichotomies are false Dichotomies! Even this one!”

The final fallacy is one that is rampant through out the internet and that’s the  good old Ad hominium. I won’t spend too much time on this one, but but a common mistake people make is think that an Ad hominium is just an insult. An Ad hominium is when you call into question a trait, action, or belief of a person which has nothing to do with the argument at hand. Then the one making the Ad hominium use that perceived flaw as a counter argument to their claim. Even though that character flaw has not bearing on the argument in question!

What isn’t an Ad hominium is when you call into question a trait which does relate to the argument at hand. Perhaps your arguing against a known lair. When the known lair makes an unsupported claim you can call into question their honesty without committing an Ad hominium. However, if they then substantiate their claim to an acceptable level. Then you can no longer use their dishonesty as an argument, without making the Ad hominium fallacy, until they again make a claim that they could again be reasonably be lying about.

Before we get into the links it is important to reiterate that there a several names for the some fallacies. For example The Black and white Fallacy is the same basic idea as the false dilemma fallacy, and the Argument from ignorance is also called an appeal to ignorance.

The first link I’d like to share is “The Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments” It’s cute and that probably why I’m linking to it first. I don’t like all of the examples, but it does the job of running through a good number of logical fallacies in a memorable manner.


Next is a link to the poster “thou shalt not commit logical fallacies!” It’s a fun one with an interactive poster on the website. It’s also where I got two of the images for this post.


And finally for those of you whom are include to watch you tube videos here is a playlist by PBS idea channel about logical fallacies.

I suggest looking into more on logical fallacy if you get through all of those, but the above links are an excellent starting place.

Edit: Here is another link provided by clubschadenfreude

It gives a few more special cases not discussed in the other links as well as more examples.


Reply to sirratiocination, a romp through philosophy.


This is a reply to the post made by sirratiocination on his blog who in turn made a response post upon my request to move thing into post format.



Now for the purposes of keeping things manageable I will not be responding to every point, but focusing on problematic and interesting sections, as well as asking clarifications as needed. All comments and quires will be directed at sirratiocination after this introduction, though the comments are open as always.

I’ll be using his numbering system to reference to his responses (not my own, so if I say in paragraph [10] I’m referring to those paragraphs which focus on [10]) as well as leaving bracketed letter and number [A#] at the beginning of my section to make responses, and following along easier. I invite sirratiocination to join along in this behavior.

Let’s begin.

[A1] So in your first reference to [1] and you later reference in [7] your discussing nihilism for the sake of clarity I’ll define how I use nihilism. In General and without clarification I think of Metaphysical Nihilism, or the belief that no objects need to actually exist. The strong form of that would be no objects exist and the weak form would be that objects do not necessarily have to exist, and it is the case that objects may not exist. I fall in the weak camp. I think objects exist, but I also don’t fully reject the possibility that objects might not exist at all. Though I do think the belief that they don’t exist is a dead and should be rejected unless conclusive evidence can be ascertained that in fact objects, or things like objects are an illusion (I’d classify field theory as fitting in objects class or the object like class). Though I’d also call my belief more a mild metaphysical skepticism, then nihilism, though that is likely do to with the extreme conclusions nihilist have drawn. what you call nihilism I think of as the strong form of nihilism.

I am also use to seeing nihilism used in the terms of epistemological nihilism which is comparable to extreme philosophical skepticism where in all knowledge claims are denied.

In your arguments you seem to be discussing both moral nihilism, and the general idea of nihilism that is the rejection of non-rationalized or unproven assertions. This may change how you view the nature of our discussion to some degree.

[A2] for your paragraphs addressing [2], [3] and [5] I suppose another locus of our differences of opinion is that I remain largely unconcerned with ultimate causes for morality. That I’m not convinced, in the case of morality that there needs to be any ultimate or root cause, at least not a particularly meaningful or useful one, nor am I convinced this problem leads to an infinite chain.

Though that requires explanation so I’ll try to do that right away. Though to do that I will also need to better explain why I don’t think it’s is necessarily the case that a teleological explanation is needed to explain another teleological explanation even in the case of morality.

First and most importantly, teleological explanations only seem particularly useful in explaining and defining the activities of sentient actors, and for this argument sentient just means that creature has that ability to directly influence future of non-immediate events in some sort of intentional manner. This will include a lot of critter we wouldn’t normally consider sentient, but I don’t think we’ll be worse off for that since we don’t need to use that definition outside this argument.

First lets examine the teleological explication for a sword, we are clearly inclined to think about the process of making a sword in a teleological manner. The process of refining ore to ingots, and turning those ingots into a blade before, tempering said blade and attaching it to a hilt. There are many key components which need to come together to form that sword which wouldn’t make much sense outside of a teleological frame work. Whole systems need to be in place to make that sword, from the iron mine, to the smeltery, to the blacksmith and their forge and hammer. For any particular sword the teleological explanation fits the best. Though then what if we talk about sword in general and the form of the sword the teleological explanation begins to lose its luster.

As the form of the particular sword make teleological explanation compelling it makes the teleological explanation for the form itself less compelling and harder to reconcile.

This is the nature of memetic information, that is learned information as opposed to genetic information. We don’t tend to include all the step along the way, but only that which is most relevant. That and there is far more intentionality, far more reiteration of memetic information in a short period of time then genetic information could ever hope to achieve. This isn’t to say memetic information passes on in a purely evolutionary manner, memetic information is passed on by teaching from one sentient critter to another. Unlike genetics there is the ability to completely change key structure and reshuffle orders of thing at will. So it’s much easy to have the history of complex learned information to be hidden, and some time for a variety of reasons people intentionally try to hide such history, but back to swords.

The full history of how sword may have come about is not fully know to me, but the form of the sword, as a relatively strait, large, long, and generally ridged blade likely arose from a handful of different sources but the biggest precursor to the sword is undoubtedly metal knives and daggers, which in turn where inspired from flint daggers, which in turn would have came from simple stone tools.

Where a particular sword had a very clear teleological explanation, the form of the sword, and *the progression* towards the sword has a far more satisfying methodological explanation. One that can probably be drawn all the way back to the most basic tool use, before tool creation. Though I’m no anthropologist so don’t ask me to make that full series of connections competently.

What we have here, and what is important is a whole series of tools made in a teleological manner, who’s change follows and rises from a methodological process, all the way back to a point where there is no longer a teleological explanation (simple tool use), but only methodological ones.

This is the long view argument for why I’d say that morally argument while they might all follow a telos to telos pattern now, that pattern may not go back infinitely. I’d go further to say there is at least so evidence for this because there are clear evolutionary reasons for tool use, and morality to evolve (and seems to have evolved multiple times, looking at the many social animals which exist, and for tool use found in many bird and mammal species, but many other types of animals as well http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool_use_by_animals)

While modern morality might be more complex than a sword it doesn’t start out that way, it takes small children years to learn and understand the basics of morality, it would have took our assertors much longer, but we have millions of years to work with so there’s plenty of time for the basic moral system that would allow for larger human communities to form. This is speculation sure, but I find it a compelling line of thought. Further our morality, and logical system are massively more nuanced and complex then those even just a few thousand years ago when the first codes of law where inscribed. It follows that same general pattern I described with the swords from knifes though since writing is rather recent in human history, and we won’t have stone fragments of morality dating back hundreds of thousands even millions of years.

Though I’ll leave it there for now, I most definitely under sold the point I was trying to make before.

[A3] Also to use the previous line of thinking to address some of your final comments in the paragraph prefaced “In[5]” (the 6th paragraph). When you say you resist the idea that concepts such as logical and morality can develop I am on the other side of the coin saying morality has in several occasions developed, and there’s good reasons for it to develop. More over even logic develops, perhaps there is some logic under laying everything, but this going into an argument like that between math realists and anti-realists. Only with logic.

While I’m not well versed in the math realism argument, when you apply the same logic here it come down to these two sides. The moral realist who would say that there is some sort of moral underpinning to the universe, and the moral anti-realist which would say that morality is a concept created (to some extent) by us humans (and quite possibly other organisms) for a variety of reasons, mostly to achieve certain goals or solve problems.

Though you might have a different sort conception of the problem which I would be interesting in hearing.

[A4] Now I will mention briefly that my moral position is primarily leaning toward consequentialism, not pure consequentialism, and my final verdict is not in yet, but I do think consequences are of the most importance, though not the only facts which should be considered (intentions matter, and actions must themselves be judges by the ripples they send out not just the primary/direct consequences). Though this is a whole can of worms to itself and we can address it later on if we like.

[A5] Now on (or back to?) to the question does our system of morality needs to be objective? Which you bring up in the 7th paragraph of your reply (you reference [14] in the second sentence).

How your using the definitions of necessarily so, and contingently so, for objective and subjective respectively. While I don’t think this is a satisfactory definition for how I think of objective and subjective, I will address your argument directly as I think there are counter arguments which can be made using these definitions.

First I’m not comfortable saying logic and even math are necessarily so. Why? Because there are many types and forms of both which while they map out well in reality, together they are not always compatible. I would say that logic and math (I group them together because math is a sub set of logical systems) are contingent on reality. Why this might make them “necessarily so” I’d argue it doesn’t since there is no single “Logic” Which subsets, but rather a number of logics which are use in relation with one another to solve problem, but are not always compatible with one another, that is they do not condense down into a primary “logic.”

Why this leads me to thinking that logic is is contingent is because how I look at logics as formal concepts, created over the last several thousand years which has slowly progressed in complexity and explanatory power over that time. That is I see logic as a series of models progressing toward eliminating biases in human thought so that we might best understand what is around us and what we want/ought to do.

So unfortunately logic isn’t just contingent on reality and the sort of causal relationships which exist with in our macroscopic environment, but it is also contingent on our limited perceptions and our in built biases. It seems to me at least that logic is a conceptual toolbelt we’ve created to help overcome our natural limitations. The source as I see it comes from our need to understand and determine the truth or correctness of our and other people’s statements and beliefs. Not from some fundamental source of logic, even though logic in part is informed by other fundamental forces.

So in this way I’m logical anti-realist, I think logic only exists as a tool we create, not as some greater existence as a fundamental part of reality, or as I direct representation of any fundamental part of reality.

[A6] also quick note on what is “relative” I do not see relative as not real, but to be relative is to be either independent from some objective, and/or independent source, i.e. having no external basis or justification. As well relative can refer to cases where reality is actually depended on the subjective. Also where (strict) nihilism in a strict sense would say that something does not have value, (strict) relativism would say that no system of values would necessarily be better than another.

Though the proper definition of relative like nihilism is hugely depended on the context you using it in. Is it morals we are talking about, truth, or something else? Each has its own implications and is worthy of its own discussion, and there are sub groups within each kind of relativism, and different degrees which to which we can take the relativistic arguments should we want to go there.

Though this is a side tangent, and not terribly important to the whole of what we are talking about.

[A7] But do my anti-realist views necessarily abandon any hope of moral authority or moral “knowledge?” Well I don’t think so.

Though I do lose access any ultimate/objective authority, but as I don’t have any belief or convincing evidence that such a source exists. Though such a weakness continues to be something that does not bother me in the slightest.

You said in your post. “Morality cannot exist in any way contingently because it is prescriptive. Morality has some sort of authority if you can actually be condemned for doing something wrong.  If morality were contingent, then how could someone be condemned for something if the universe could have existed with a different morality in which that condemned person were lauded for his same action. Morality would hold the same weight as mere preference.  Preferences are based upon human caprices, which are in turn based upon prudential means for certain contingent goals.”

Okay well I think this quote wraps up nicely many of your thoughts, so after a lot of trying to figure out exactly what you mean, I think I have a good idea of what your actually saying.

First for clarity when you say Contingent do you mean “by chance?” The rest of your reply seems to support this, and I have to ask because while this is a definition for contingent I’ve rarely heard it used in this way.

If something is based on chance, does this mean is can have no authority in regard to morality? Well on the face of it that seem correct. If something is purely based on chance then no it doesn’t seem that we can judge it moral or call upon authority to punish said action. It seems to me it should not be moral or immoral to roll a 4 on a die, and rolling a 5 instead of a 3 does not seem to be a punishable action, but does this carry through to all our universe?

Well is our universe all up to chance? I couldn’t say if there are other possible universes which would have different physical forces then ours, but let’s say that there can be, and that those changes could lead to different moralities. Does that then somehow invalidate morality based in our universe? Even those based here on our little planet? Does this lead to moral relativism? Well I think it’s safe to say that you definitely think so, but I’m not so ready to jump on board.

Now on the scale on the multiverse it seems that in this case we are stuck with moral relativism. That is, no moral system or standpoint is uniquely privileged over another. Though I’d argue that we don’t need to address the multiverse, we can’t currently prove the existence of the multiverse, or that the universe could be substantially different, let alone access other such possibilities. So I think it is fair that we limit the discussion down to moralities which are conceivable in our universe.

Though that doesn’t limit things much, but even if we then limit things down to those moralities which are conceivable to us humans, and then down to those which are relevant we are still left with a plethora of moral systems of deal with. It seems as you’ve framed it I can’t deal with this problem of moral relativism.

This leads be with two possible paths to choose, accept your proposition that we need an objective source, or reject this frame work. I am force to choose the latter because here I think we have been lead down into the realm of a false dichotomy. We’ve basically been left with the options either you need some objective source of morality or your stuck with moral relativism, but you made it clear that our human preference those consequences which affect us, how we choose them cannot act as the foundation of morality. This is what I must reject.

[A8] “In [8] you may not think a telos is necessary for an ethical model, but once you follow through on this, you lose all justification for categorizing certain actions as moral actions and not just actions deemed best at achieving survival or flourishing.  You think an objective teleology is not possible therefore, you don’t worry about it.  But, you lose all grounds for calling your system a moral system and not just prudence aimed at fitness.  Yes, we’re born with innate desires, but what forces us to execute these desires apart from that we want to?  If you don’t want to follow these desires, what allows someone else to condemn you for doing so?”

This was the problem I had in understanding your argument, as well as where I’ll need you to step in to propose justification. Why is it that you think the sort of non-teleological explanations I proposed cannot be the foundation for morality (though it is good to know you probably guessed where I was going but I still think it was a good idea to flesh it out in [A2])

Now I’m not saying this kind of explanation is a moral system in and of its self, but it does give an explanation for how moral system can be arrive at from an evolutionary system. Now you seem to be claiming that any moral system arrived at from this sort of evolution can actually be a moral system, but this is what has been confusing me. Why not? Sure such a system is dependent on us humans, but any moral system applicable to us would need to be contingent on our needs, and desires, on our surrounding and or interaction with other things. Such a system is likely to be flawed, but I don’t see how this context determined nature would make is useless or revoke is moral status.

I truly don’t see how human flourishing, or flourishing of the planet, or flourishing of life and knowledge, cannot be the basis of morality.

[A9] Though you have tried to offer a solution with the Christian God acting as an objective source. In the last 8 paragraphs as you dived into theological issues, this is where the greater weaknesses of your positions can be found, as this seems to be what is underpinning the conclusions you where drawing and arguing for in the first half of the post.

In your responses to [9] and [10] you begin the arduous process of defending your claims and this is the place where I have some of the more serious objections.

First you make the following statements that “Without persons involved, I don’t know what it would even mean to say something has moral content.  All moral actions come from moral agents. ”

Well first I largely agree with this, but perhaps it would be best to discuss thing in terms of all moral determinations come from moral agents. Because moral content, say you’ve said requires persons, i.e. moral agents. An action in and of itself it seems to me is not moral in and of itself, but because something determine that action to be moral.

Next you move on to claim that. “…objective morality necessitates God’s character.” This is undeniably a leap, but pointing that out let us see if you substantiate that claim. I say this is a leap because so far in this paragraph you have indicated that because moral action necessitate a moral agent, and that because abstract concepts such as the plutonic forms do not have necessary weight to, and statement you largely glossed over, but I will grant for the time being. Then from that you say that we are left with only god’s character as a suitable option for this objective source. Though this does not for a moment follow and as of this point it appears as though you’ve done little more than shoe horn your conception of God at the end of your otherwise thoughtful argument.

Though as I said we shall see if you better draw out your path to your conclusion and fill in those necessary premises.

[A10] In your response to [10] I found you use a very problematic definition and wish to point it out to you.

You said: “…the Bible would be revelatory source of information.  This means that the information most likely could not have been arrived at through rational discourse.”

Why yes. The bible could not have been arrived at through rational discourse. Indeed it would appear to me is a set of mythical tales thought up over a couple thousand years by a desert dwelling tribe we know as the Israelites. Who where in turn inspired by many other cultures and their mythos’s two major sources being the Babylonians, and the Persian (I think) Zoroastrians. The lovely thing about us humans is we are not rational by nature, or at least not completely so. We are fully capable of irrational discourse. Hence why most of us need significant training and education to carry on discussions like the one we are having.

So when you said: “… someone could not ratiocinate the concept of the trinity without revelatory knowledge.”

I heard. One could not rationally arrive at the concept of the trinity without irrational discourse.

Now I think what you meant was to say that you could not come to the idea of the Trinity without revelation from a deity, but from how you’ve laid it out that simply is not the case. As of now you’ve left a gaping hole in your argument by choosing the definition that you did, so you might wish to take a different tact.

[A11] In your response to [13] You go on to tell me how you understand fear of god to be different, but then go on to describe what amount to fear of a tyrant, or the fear a person might have to a violent offender whom otherwise holds power over them. you move of to describe him then in a sense of fear out of awe and respect, this makes more sense, but this being who you later describe whom primary trait is love is to be feared? Even in awe this seems to be a contradiction in terms, but worse it is clear from what you’ve said and in the bible that the God your referring to threatens, comments and commands mass genocide, condones slavery. If this is love then you’re in quite the abusive relationship. This sure he is punishing the Israelites for wrong doings, but he does so through blood and horrendous curses more often than not.

[A12] Well now is as good a time as any to God’s Character as this remains of high important to your argument and is something I don’t think you can define adequately, or with certainty.

First I will respond to [6] where you asked me to give you some examples. Here is one. http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Biblical_contradictions#God.27s_Character

As well God is constantly described as loving, good, a font of morality, yet the bible particularly the old testament describes him, as jealous, violent, capricious and often making mistakes. And it cannot be over stated the bible condones slavery, at no point throughout it’s entirety does it explicitly condemn slavery, but at many point does it explain how best to do it and even claims that God itself command the taking of slaves.

This is where I think the vast majority of your problems lie. You keep claiming to have this ultimate source for authority, in the form of the Christian god, this is has a threefold problem right at its core before anything else. If you wish to justify your moral claims on the Abrahamic God then. First you must prove there is at least one deity of some sort. Second you must prove that deity is the Yahweh described in the bible. Third you need to show that Yahweh to be an objective source of morals.

You can continue to describe God however you like, and define his character as you like, but then you still must show me why that is the case. So far I have only really read how you need your god to follow these so far poorly define characteristics, so that your arguments for morality work. Which if it is the case they just might, but your working from a place where you’ve mostly assumed the three questions above to be true. I have not, and do not share your convictions.

[A13] Now allow me to address the two links you included to your other posts as they are relevant.


Well that’s a nifty little paradox you have going there, reminds me of Zeno’s Paradox of Tortoise and Achilles, but like Zeno’s paradox, I don’t think this is really going to be much of an argument either. While this sort of thing is not my expertise, I do have one, I think strong, rebuttal.

Certainly it is true that one cannot navigate an infinite series with finite amount of time, but we have already divided each step up infinitely, and as such each step must be infinitely short. Excellent so now that we’ve traversed infinity we don’t need to worry about mixing god into the equation muddying things up.


And then I skimmed the excerpt of your book


Annnnd that’s a whole can of worms. I skimmed some of it and well, I noted ~5 problems in under 500 words, so if you’d like me to address it I’ll need to do it some other time. I would need to read the whole thing first and I don’t have the time right now.

Moving on.

[A15] Skipping ahead to the second last paragraph this is where thing really start to fall apart for me, as you basically went into a sermon. As though you expect the bible to convince me, Allow be to point you can to [A10] where in you shot yourself in the foot logically speaking. But if you’re going to use the bible as evidence and then claim things like: “According to God’s account of history, people all did believe in him at one time.”

You’re going to have to convince me the bible is God’s account of history, something you will find that the consensus of historians will not agree with, and then you’re going to have to convince me it’s accurate, which is flatly impossible without over turning huge amounts of history, archeological research and scientific research.

[A16] “Just because there is debate about something doesn’t mean there isn’t an absolutely true answer.  Any belief people hold, they hold for a reason.  The argument for this reason might have faulty deduction or false premises, but there is always some argument.”

Just because there might be an absolutely true answer out there do not mean we will ever have access to it, and certainly people generally have reasons for the thing they believe, but I don’t think they always do at least not consciously.

It was a pleasure reading the first half or your article, and you have some genuinely interesting ideas, but once you began trying to justify god you got sloppy, and you fail to really address your own biases and they some of them are obvious. You believe in the Christian God, and thing the bible is the history according to God, and these colour you argument, but they make them weaker, because you haven’t (and I don’t think you can).

You cannot talk about the Christian God is the only valid option in the list of deities which are claimed to exist, throughout this article you don’t ever even pay lip service to the problem that there are other god which are claimed to exist and many could be just a likely to fill the role of Yahweh, the one that comes to mind that you ought to look into more is the Hindi god/concept Brahman.

It was fun responding and I hope you can better explain some of these problems I found. Though if there is one thing I’d like you to address it is [A10].


Continue reading

Science Depends On Philosophy, and practice at examining logical arguments.

This post will be severing two purposes. First as a review for an excellent video Gary Edwards put out on Sunday, and an examination of a deductive argument that I promised on my post about deductive and inductive logic.

Here’s the Video titled “Science Depends On Philosophy” for those interested the video does have a full transcript which can be read by going to the Youtube page clicking the ⚫⚫⚫ More button under the video title.

For ease I will include the definitions and the deductive argument here.


A = “The Hypothetical Philosophy Denialist”

P = “A is doing empirical science”

Q = “A has taken a conceptual and evaluative side” (You have agreed to certain definitions of what your looking at and looking for, that you won’t be redefining things as you go along and that you won’t be moving the goal posts if you don’t like any answers you might get. As well you value some thing, general try of evaluation, or forms of evidence, over other kinds.)

R = “A has engaged in appropriate discourse”

S = “A is Hypocritical and conceited”

T = “A is doing Philosophy”


1. “P” [assumption]

2. “NOT S” [assumption]

3. IF “P” THEN “Q” [premise]

4. IF (“Q” AND “NOT R”) THEN “S” [premise]

5.  IF (“Q” AND “R”) THEN “T” [premise]

6. EITHER “R” OR “NOT R” (This is a case of an exclusive or) [premise]

7. EITHER “S” OR “T” (This is also a case of an exclusive or) [deduction 4+5+6]

8. “T” [deduction 2+7]

9. IF (“P” AND “NOT S”) THEN “T” [deduction 1+2+3+8]

Well scared yet? Hopefully not! Though if your needing the refresher I’ll link back to my discussion of logical connectives here, and the the basic form of an argument here.

First I’m going to take this argument step by step and restate each step of the argument, and discuss it’s importance. If you had no problem following Gary then you may wish to skim though this part, but given this is formal logic and may reading this will have little to no exposure to this type of rather intimidating notation. It is best to try to make the argument as clear as possible.

First come the assumptions. For this argument we are assuming 1. Your doing empirical science (P), and 2. you are not a conceited hypocrite (NOT S). Both of these are build in to give the argument charitability to the philosophical denialists (A). I haven’t yet talked much about charitability and I’ll be writing a full post on it soon as it is very important. I won’t go into it much here other then to say that by being charitable Gray has made his fair, and respectful which is always a good route to go.


So we know “A” is doing empirical science and is not conceited or hypocritical. Now to the premises.

3. First premise is IF “P” THEN “Q”. Which translated back into English is saying:

IF someone is doing empirical science (P) THEN it is the case that that person has taken a conceptual and evaluative side.

Which is to say that someone has accepted some set of acceptable scientific and empirical methodologies in which they will base their conclusions upon. How do we know those methodologies are acceptable? For that we need to go on to the next premise.

4. IF (“Q” AND “NOT R”) THEN “S”

IF someone has taken a conceptual and evaluative side (Q), but has not engaged in appropriate discourse (NOT R). THEN it is the case that person is a conceited hypocrite (S).

What is means to engaged in the appropriate discourse varies some depending on the particular science in questions, but generally speaking this means that you agree to follow those definitions, and methodologies agree on by the scientific consensus, and to be clear about place where you diverge. As well in mean that you will engage in the peer review process allowing other to look over your work, and that you will do the same, taking into considerations and criticism you get, and make corrections as needed. I could go on, but I think that is a compete enough overview for our purposes here.

5. IF (“Q” AND “R”) THEN “T”

IF someone has taken a conceptual and evaluative side (Q), and engaged in appropriate discourse (R) THEN that person is engaged in philosophy (T).

This is the first place most might object to the argument, but I think this premise fits well for both science and philosophy.


EITHER someone is engaged in appropriate discourse (R) OR they’re not (NOT R).

Another place you might object and say there is nuance, but I’ll save arguments against for later.

Now that we have all 4 Premises. Lets move onto the three deductions.


7. EITHER “S” OR “T”

EITHER your a conceited hypocrite (S) OR your doing philosophy (T).

This deduction follows from premises 4, 5 and 6 as follows. First we know from premise 4 and 5 that if someone engaged in appropriate discourse (R) that they doing philosophy, and if they’re not engaged in appropriate discourse they are a conceited hypocrite. With Premise 6 we know you must either be doing appropriate discourse or not, there is not middle group on that issue. Because of that we know that “A” must with be “T” or “S”.

8. “T”

The Hypothetical philosophy denialist (A) is doing philosophy (T).

Due the deduction 7 we know “A” must be “S” OR “T”, and since assumption 2 is that “A” is Not A conceited hypocrite (NOT S) then we know the “A” must be doing philosophy.

9. IF (“P” AND “NOT S”) THEN “T”

This final deduction draws from all the premises and deductions some directly and indirectly. We know that “A” is doing Science from the first assumption. We also know that “A” is not a conceited hypocrite (NOT S) from assumption 2.

As also know that from Assumption 1 and Premise 3 that “A” is doing Empirical Science (P) so “A” must also have taken a conceptual and evaluative sides (Q). Based on deduction  8 and all that came before it we know that If “Q” then we must either have “T” or “S”, but not both. We also know we must have “R” or “NOT R” (6), and that they follow from “Q” (4, 5), and that “Q” follows from “P” (3). Because of all of that confusing mess we know that to do empirical science (Q) we must either do philosophy (T) or be conceited hypocrites (S). We already now we are doing both Science and that we are not conceited hypocrites so we must be doing philosophy! Hopefully that made sense!

Gary Edwards explains line 9 a bit differently and I suggest everyone who’s gotten this far go back and watches again. Both are correct, though his is more concise. My explanation is drawing out the logic more in hope it may help a few people reading this understand.

Though if some this doesn’t make sense, and anyone doesn’t understand why these deductions follow from the premisses and assumptions please ask questions. I’ll do my best to answer, though do try to be specific what line your having issues with. This is formal logic so if it doesn’t make sense the first time though don’t worry it did make sense to me at first either.

Okay know I’m sure people are going to have some issue with the argument and would like to address some of it’s failings, if it has any. I’ll explain the basics of how you would go about doing so, and give an example.

First this argument is sound, the premises guarantee the conclusion. So saying the argument doesn’t work is a no go.The argument does work, if you have an issue you’ll need to indicate why the premise or assumptions are incorrect and how they are incorrect. Another way to think of it is that you can not refute the conclusions of a sound argument. Those are a given and above reproach. Instead you must show that the argument is build on unsound foundations by picking apart the premises.

I pointed out two places, Premise 5 and 6, where one might object. Of these two premise 5 seems the most likely candidate for criticism. That premise was:


5. IF (“Q” AND “R”) THEN “T”

IF someone has taken a conceptual and evaluative side (Q), and engaged in appropriate discourse (R) THEN that person is engaged in philosophy (T).


This premise is largely undefended, while I do agree with it, it still remains a weak spot. This is an important point to remember, you can criticize your own ideas in this manner, and well as those ideas you like. In doing so all you risk is improving your argument by recognizing its weak points and strengthening them, or finding our your wrong.  And finding out your wrong for yourself eases that awkwardness of someone else doing it for you.


First and post obviously you could argue the “T” does not necessarily follow from “Q” & “R”, so far from the discussions those thing seem to be important only too doing “empirical science” (P). Though in order to make this an convincing counter point you must explain why “T” Does not follow from “Q” & “R” what about philosophy make those two things unnecessary? And when you think of that reason why do you think might be the response from Gary? I’m actually drawing a blank, on a good reason, but that might be because I biased anyone have some ideas?


I also suggest any interested parties try to tackle the argument from Premise 6 which in retrospect may have made a better example ;).

Next time I’ll be talking about charitability in arguments and more specifically counter arguments.



Logical reasoning and argument, few introductory points.

It’s always good to look back at the basics, and I know some folks need the lesson. For this post I’m going to talk about the general shape of a proper argument.

First I’ll start the basic structure of an logical argument. This is no single type of logic, but most logics anyone will be exposed to will follow the following format. I’m not getting into formal logic, but will be using some formal logic ideas to hopefully  help make some of this clearer.

Some number of premises.

A conclusion or conclusions.

Formally show in the following manner.



Pn. (where n is the total number of premises)


C (often there is only a single conclusions and this is more manageable then trying to defend many conclusions)




Cm (where m is the number of conclusions)


Premises are the base for your conclusions and are what the conclusion stands on. They are the foundation, so if your drawing a big conclusion you best build a sturdy foundation

Premises can take a few different forms. Contextual statements, assumptions, and evidence.

Contextual statements set the scene. It’s it fair to say the certain conclusions can only be drawn under.

Generally such premises sound like. “In the case that…” Or “It is the case that when A happens and B happens” or a wide variety of If Then or other conditional statements. If you argument is in some way context depended they it’s in your best interest to point out clearly what the context is.

Assumptions are best called necessary evils. You ought avoid them where ever you can. Though it basically impossible to avoid them altogether, but I’ll get into that in my next post where I discuss inductive and deductive reasoning. Also never assume your conclusions. That is a horrible argument are will only convince the extremely gullible. Assumptions should only be used when unavoidable, and then only when you can defend those assumptions. If you can’t then you best take a step back and look into it deeper.

Evidence is somewhere in between assumption and context. Such premises are basically arguments in themselves, and each need case where evidence is brought in it is up to the arguer to make sure that it’s both relevant and reliable, and once again are able to defend both points. There is such a thing and strong and weak evidence. Where thing like anecdotal, hearsay, eye witlessness testimony are weak evidence, and thing like Peer reviewed research, expert testimony, and the personal writing of a person when arguing about what they thought on a given subject. Though Evidence deserves a whole post to itself so I’ll leave that for a more in depth discussion for later.



Well these can be tricky, you have to make sure that you arguments are valid and sound.

An Argument is valid if the true premises always lead to a true conclusion. This is a fancy way of saying does your argument even make sense?

P1: It is the case that I have only seen purple eggplants.

C: Cats are the best animal.

I hope it’s clear to everyone here that this sort of argument makes no sense. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise, and they are independent from each other.

But the following example is also invalid because while the premise might well be true, not all eggplants are purple (some are white), so the conclusion is incorrect independent on the truth value of the premise.

P1: It is the case that I have only seen purple eggplants.

C: All Eggplants are purple.

An argument is sound if it is valid, and all of it’s premises are true. Now it is not always going to be clear if an argument is sound, and that’s why (hopefully) we argue. To determine the soundness of our and others arguments.

Now for example here is a valid and sound argument.

P1:Based on observations made by astrophysicists it’s is likely that some Planets are tidally locked with their suns. (evidence)


P2: Such Planets have one side perpetually facing the sun and another in darkness rotating at a rate which prevents a day night cycle. (context)

P3: To experience sun rise and sun set on a planet. That planet needs a day night cycle. (context)

C: It is likely that some planets do not experience sun rises and sun sets.

That’s it for now. More later. I haven’t decided if I’ll talk about inductive and deductive reasoning, or evidence. I am taking suggestions though.



An update on my most basic assumptions.

Well some of you might recognize that what I’m about to say is a little bit different then what I’ve said in previous posts. No worries while it’s more than just a refinement it is still largely the same, just better. Also now with videos :D. I assume the rights to change my mind and further refine things later. Since this will be by no means necessarily complete or flawless. Feel free to suggest additions and corrections.

So my first premise as basically as I currently think they should go.

P1. Knowledge and the pursuit knowledge is better than to wallow in ignorance.

From here we can address the question of reality existing, the whole brain in a vat/matrix scenario.

Since we cannot prove definitely that we exist and that the world we see around us is in fact the reality we actually exist within, but if we stop there, allow for this grand ignorance to overwhelm us then well knowledge is unattainable.

the conclusion we can draw from this first premise is the following.

C1. Since the pursuit of knowledge is better then ignorance we can when be a faced with the option of ultimate ignorance, or the possibility of being wrong about everything we should choose the chance of being wrong.

From that conclusion it is safe to say that reality exists, since if we are wrong we haven’t actually lost anything (since otherwise everything is a lie or illusion).

Which leads (eventually) to the second conclusion that

C2. Reality exists, and we have some means of interaction and learning about said reality (if we didn’t gave some means of learning about reality then we are once again trapped in compete ignorance).

Now for some more basic premises.

P2. There are only natural causes for things that happen in the reality around us.

P3. There is consistency in the causes that operate in the natural world. (this could still mean that physical law change some from part of the universe to another, but so long as this happens in a consistent manner it’s still fine) This means that when we do experiments and make observations to determine the natural causes of reality these finding (should they be correct) will remain consistent elsewhere and at different times assuming all other constants remain the same.

Here is a proper account of what Natural means by Gary Edward which is very clean and helpful.


What’s lovely about this sort of basic assumptions about the world is that you can possibly determine if they accurately represent reality. Is there consistency within reality, as well it does not exclude the possibility that non-natural things exist with in reality, it just assume they don’t. Though should you prove such supernatural things would exist which you can do you will prove the assumptions that all causes are natural to be wrong. Fail state a useful addition to any axiom or set of assumptions as it allows you to know if you’re wrong. It also allows for probabilistic statement about the probability that your theory is correct.

I’ll be liking once more to Gary as he explains how Naturalism is more probable then a God claim.


Obviously he has an anti-Christian fundamentalist bend, but then again so do I.

This is a really handy explanation as to how naturalism has a likelihood greater than .5 ublike unfalsifiable claims like many forms of gods, the invisible pink unicorn who watches you while you sleep, and the Celestial Teapot. All of which have probability values of 50/50 or .5.


%d bloggers like this: