Quote from: grosso on May 27, 2015, 03:17:28 pmIf the person you're conversing with is generally unfamiliar with the work, is it fair to attribute to him an interpretation of his argument so well-reconstructed by charity that even he can't understand it in its retooled, more potent form?Well wouldn't that be impressive to transform the conversation from a debate to a situation in which all parties agree you've become the teacher? "But do this with gentleness and respect" (I Peter 3:15)So suppose someone gives a confused version of this objection, and doesn't manage to distinguish between objecting to the TRUTH of religious belief versus objecting to the JUSTIFICATION of religious belief. I suppose I'd reply roughly like this:----------------------<confused objection, vague gestures toward the problem, what Martin Bashir and Richard Dawkins said>There are two things you might mean here. You might be trying to show that religious beliefs are FALSE. Or you might be trying to show that, whether or not they're true, it's not RATIONAL to hold these religious beliefs. The first option would commit the genetic fallacy: even if a belief has a shady origin, it still might be true. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, after all, and you might manage to look at just the right time, thereby getting a true belief from an unreliable source! So the second option is more interesting: you might be challenging the rationality of religious belief. But here too there are some problems. For one, the mere fact that a belief of mine would have been different if I had been born and raised elsewhere doesn't show that it's irrational. I believe I was born in California, after all, and that's completely rational. But if I had been born elsewhere, I wouldn't have believed I was born in California. Secondly, this is a problem for everyone, and so for no one in particular. After all, your beliefs on religious topics easily might have been different had you been born and raised elsewhere, especially if you're an atheist. Thirdly, the argument is self-defeating. Suppose you believe it's a good argument. Well, had you been born and raised elsewhere, you easily might not have believed it. So, the argument says, of itself, that you shouldn't believe it's a good argument. That is not a virtue of arguments, that they recommend against themselves in this way."I bet you could say all that in a minute or so. :-)
If the person you're conversing with is generally unfamiliar with the work, is it fair to attribute to him an interpretation of his argument so well-reconstructed by charity that even he can't understand it in its retooled, more potent form?
P1. " if a believer acknowledges that their belief would have been different elsewhere and else when, then it follows that this person doesn't have a good reason for that belief. "
But I would say there are actually 3 possible things that contingency arguments may be taken to mean.1. That contingency-dependent religious beliefs are false. 2. That contingency-dependent religious beliefs can be proven to always be held irrationally.3. That religious beliefs the believer acknowledges are contingency-dependent have no reason to be deemed rational. The way I interpret the problem of contingency relates to the third version. That if a believer acknowledges that their belief would have been different elsewhere and else when, then it follows that this person doesn't have a good reason for that belief.
But, having said all that, I think that in certain contexts (like when you have exactly one minute to respond to this sort of objection) it might be excusable to just mention the genetic fallacy, show that these "elsewhere, elsewhen" considerations don't disprove religious belief, and leave it up to your interlocutor to do a better job formulating his or her objection. That's not your job, after all! If time is short, let the objector make the objections. So, I get it: Craig is giving rapid fire responses to objections, so he reaches for the genetic fallacy. No great fault, if you ask me.
Quote from: tamb on May 27, 2015, 01:03:30 pmBut, having said all that, I think that in certain contexts (like when you have exactly one minute to respond to this sort of objection) it might be excusable to just mention the genetic fallacy, show that these "elsewhere, elsewhen" considerations don't disprove religious belief, and leave it up to your interlocutor to do a better job formulating his or her objection. That's not your job, after all! If time is short, let the objector make the objections. So, I get it: Craig is giving rapid fire responses to objections, so he reaches for the genetic fallacy. No great fault, if you ask me.I think this is a big problem with the debate-focussed atmosphere. Yes, as a debater, Craig is justified in throwing out "genetic fallacy" and putting the audience's perception of where the burden of proof lies on his opponent. However, as a role model and a representative of philosophy, he isn't. Craig isn't just there to "win", he's there as a teacher. By using fallacy terms in this way, he sets a bad example, with evident consequences as seen on his forum.Whether this is Craig's "fault" isn't really the issue. As you say, it is a good move once the debate structure is there to be played. But the fact that the debate structure almost demands such moves is a terrible thing for both philosophical rigour, and the encouragement of cooperation between those on opposing sides.
Or one could simply respond to LAZDAZL's principle with:One can mistrust one's own senses, but not one's own belief.If there were a verb meaning "to believe falsely," it would not have any significant first person, present indicative.
What if you have no belief? What happens then?-K
So according to Crash a good teacher allows and encourages fallacious reasoning. Nice!
A debate is quite a different beast from seminars or professional conferences. I suppose there must be some benefits of the debate structure that explain why they've persisted (somebody finds them beneficial, otherwise they'd disappear!). But just what are those benefits? I'm really not 100% sure. Just thinking out loud now. I guess it's sort of entertaining to watch, while also being a bit informative. Is that it? A sort of "edutainment" value? Last fall, I invited an atheist/agnostic philosopher to come disagree with me about whether God exists. I explicitly told him I wanted it to be a friendly, cooperative, professional discussion--but, of course, still full of persuasive arguments and objections!--like what would happen at a professional conference. And it was! I billed it as a debate and 300 students showed up. I heard some buzz afterwards that some students were disappointed we weren't more aggressive toward each other. We were missing some of that "edutainment" value that they expected in a debate, the cut-and-thrust. So I suppose we missed a chance to draw those students into philosophy; some may have left thinking philosophy is boring. A "real" debate wouldn't have been boring!But of course there are cons to the debate structure as well, as you point out. It's really not a great way to carefully think through these difficult issues; careful thought takes time. So a lot of substance is sacrificed for the bloodsport aspect of the debate structure. Like when debaters are allowed to directly question each other: it seems more like a contest to see who can deliver the wittiest, most cutting put-downs in the shortest amount of time. There's a lot of posturing, interrupting, false confidence, etc. And many of the subtleties of the debate are plowed right over, e.g. this difference between questioning the truth of religious belief and the justification of religious belief.So I suppose I'm ambivalent about the debate structure. I guess it's nice for drawing people into philosophy. But I think it would be better, once they're drawn in, to join a more professional conversation, where ideas can be carefully discussed without being uncivil. And I suspect that's typically what happens. People stop watching "edutaining" debates as they get deeper into philosophy."Edutainment value" is probably why people like Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson exist: they're not very accomplished scientists (especially Nye!), and they mangle a lot of the subtleties, but they manage to make it interesting and draw people into the field. So, before we criticize them too harshly, we should keep in mind what they're trying to accomplish. And I guess that's how I feel about all this easy "genetic fallacy" talk in the debate context. When I teach logic, we don't cover any informal fallacies for just this reason. I think they're a crutch to replace really careful thinking, they're sort of a get-smart-quick scheme. And too often they lead people with good intentions to be very uncharitable in their interpretations of other people. And they might create or inflame smugness. :-/
QuoteWhat if you have no belief? What happens then?-KDo you believe you have no belief?