Advanced Search

If I'm asked "Do you have an opinion about opinions?" I cannot say "No" because then I would be expressing an opinion about opinions. Therefore isn't it impossible not to have an opinion about opinions?

Clever! This kind of query touches on a topic that some philosophers of mind engage having to do with the topic of what they call "higher order thoughts." Basically, it is one thing to have thoughts and then (supposedly) another matter to have thoughts about thoughts. This sort of thing comes into play when reflecting on nonhuman animals --some concede that some mammals have thoughts (perhaps even knowledge) but they do not have thoughts about thoughts (or knowledge of their knowledge). From this standpoint, it might be possible to have opinions but no opinions about opinions. Higher order thoughts also come into play in theories of action and, more specifically, freedom and responsibility. Theories of consciousness also involve reflection on higher order thoughts. Back to your topic of opinions about opinions: In the case you raise, when a person is asked if they have an opinion about their opinions (or an opinion about opinions in general), there may be a practical implication that the person's...

"Everything in moderation" is a common view. But then moderation should be in moderation. If so, isn't moderation not fully moderate, and thus is partly immoderate?

Wonderful question. In Ancient Greco-Roman philosophy there was debate and disagreement about such a matter: some philosophers thought moderation in terms of appetites should be strict and without exception, whereas others thought the occasional immoderate indulgence was reasonable (for some, a person might on occasion over consume wine while still having living a life dedicated to the love of wisdom). One way to address the paradox you raise is to distinguish levels of moderation, thus restricting the "everything" in the injunction "Everything in moderation." So, if one alters the original claim to (for example) 'a person who loves wisdom should exercise moderation in satisfying their appetites and first-order desires (e.g. avoiding gluttony),' one avoids the idea that one should only be moderate in following this dictum. The kind of paradox you raise comes up in other areas. For example, if we consider a dictum that 'persons should be tolerant,' does this dictum require persons to be tolerant...

I'm developing a rebuttal to Biblical literalists and I'd like to know whether the following is a recognized/named type of syllogism or other type of argument (and if so, what it's called): Verse X prophesied that would happen happened in verse Y Therefore, the prophecy was fulfilled (If this is not a recognized/named type of syllogism or other type of argument, could it be made so by adding one or two lines?)

This is still a little confusing to me, but I take it that you may be looking for the term: Vaticinium ex eventu This occurs when a writer (whether Biblical or not) offers a prophecy that some event will occur when (it is assumed) that the writer already knows the event has taken place. In the context of the Bible, perhaps the most salient case that is the subject of controversy is the New Testament recording of Jesus predicting that the Temple will be destroyed, which it was some forty years after his death. It is not obvious, though, whether this is a case of writing ex eventu. It is possible that Jesus could have foreseen the destruction of the Temple, especially when you consider the evidence available during Jesus' lifetime of how Rome responds to rebellion and recent past cases of Jewish resistance to Roman imperial power. This is more a matter of history, than philosophy per se, though philosophers have long had an interest in thinking about the miraculous and whether it can ever be...

Someone deliberately advances a fallacious argument in an attempt to advance a cause she considers just. For example, she may treat contraries as if they are contradictories and thus commit a fallacy of false alternatives. Are there any living philosophers who defend the use of "noble fallacies" or "noble fallacious arguments" (and is there a better term for this kind of thing)? And are there any contemporary philosophers who criticize or condemn the practice, including when it is practiced by people who are on "their side" regarding social and political issues?

Fascinating inquiry! I do not recall articles or books explicitly on when it is good to commit fallacies, but you might find of interest the literature on the ethics of lying. There is a great deal of philosophical work on when, if ever, it is permissible to lie, and this probably would include work on when it is permissible to deliberately engage in fallacious resigning. One primary candidate for justified deception involves paternalism in extreme cases, e.g. in a medical crisis when a parent has only five minutes to live and she asks you whether her children survived an accident, and you know that her five children were killed, is it permissible to lie by claiming, for example, you are not sure? Or, to make the case more in line with your question, would it be permissible for you to not disclose the truth about her children if it could only be done by you equivocating or begging the question or committing the fallacy of the undistributed middle? For terrific work on the ethics of lying with...

A very common retort when critizising somebody for a reprehensible action (like selling drugs) is that "If I don't do it, somebody else will". Does this kind of bad reasoning fall into any of the classical categories of argument fallacies?

I could be wrong, but I am not aware of a formal or informal term that gets at precisely that defense of reprehensible action, but one could see it as what may informally be called a Red Herring or a case of what may be called "Two Wrongs Make a Right." Arguably whether one person's act is unethical does not rest on the grounds that if the person did not do something wrong, another person would do the wrong act. The actions of others is thus irrelevant or distracting, as in a Red Herring. This might be slightly qualified, however, when the wrongful acts of others may make it excessively dangerous for one to obey the law. Imagine that you are on a highway in which all the cars around you are exceeding the speed limit by 30mph, and that if you were to drive the prescribed speed limit, you would endanger your own life and those of others. In terms of drugs, I believe it is illegal for you to sell or give a drug that has been prescribed for you to another person. Imagine you are seated next to a person...

Another application of the ad hominem fallacy questions... Let's say there is an expert who holds a doctorate and masters in their field of specialty. They have worked in their field for 30+ years. They have received grants from government sources, but also the private sector (which as I understand, is not uncommon). They are peer reviewed and published. Now let's say that they present a study, with all its evidences and reasoning. But one of the associations this expert is affiliated with has a particular worldview. It is claimed, that because of that affiliation, there exists a conflict of interest and a strongly expressed bias (perhaps a mission statement or motto). As a result, this expert cannot be trusted, has a significant loss of credibility, and the reasoning and evidences provided in any study therefore, should be thrown out, it does not need to be addressed or evaluated. To me, it seems rather odd. The argument presented ought to be evaluated as if it is made anonymously. The argument,...

I am inclined to agree with you that arguments and evidence need to be evaluated on their own terms and not dismissed out of hand on the grounds that the "expert" is affiliated with an institution that has a worldview that is thought to be biased or somehow discredited. So, a biologist working in a conservative Christian institute who has generated a case for intelligent design, needs to have her or his work taken seriously by journals or peer groups and given a fair evaluation, even if the majority of practicing biologists reject intelligent design. Still, there are boundaries that most disciplines have over what can count as sound arguments and evidence. Presumably a Christian biologist would not gain in credibility if she appealed to Biblical revelation as part of her evidence base for the journal Nature (though she might have credibility if she was writing for fellow Christian biologists or for a debate in philosophical theology that sought to balance revelation and scientific claims), any more...

What is the name of the logical fallacy that describes an argument in which facts are selectively chosen to support a predetermined conclusion? Is it "begging the question"? If not, what is it? (And, no, this isn't an exam question or paper topic; I'm a professional writer trying to remember something he was taught 30 years ago in a writing class.)

When someone does use a highly selective set of examples to support their conclusion (Wittgenstein referred to this as a matter of relying on too narrow a diet of examples) a person might be begging the question --which, technically, is assuming the very thesis you are seeking to support or prove. But probably the informal fallacy you may be looking for is simply called a hasty generalization: e.g. reaching a conclusion inductively on the basis of too few cases, as when I might observe a dozen white swans and draw the conclusion that 'All swains are white,' notwithstanding the fact that some swans are black. As an aside, I think that the term 'begging the question' is now used (at least by most of my students) not in its technical, prior use (here is the St. Martin's Dictionary of Philosophy definition: "The procedure of taking for granted in a statement or argument, precisely what is in dispute"). Many students seem to use it to mean that an event / statement / argument calls for questioning, as in:...

Is an emotional reaction to a fact/situation a logical conclusion that follows from observed premises? Is it logical, for instance, to mourn the death of a loved one, or is mourning a phenomenon independent of logical analysis of a situation?

Great question that gets to the heart of a current debate! If you have a very narrow concept of logic (in which logic only refers to the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and the law of excluded middle) and if your notion of observation is again narrow perhaps only allowing in empirical data then perhaps it is neither logical nor illogical to mourn the death of someone. BUT, you may have a broader concept of observation. For example, in your question you refer to "a loved one." Can one observe the fact that a person is worthy of love or should be loved? I personally think one can. In that case, it would be quite logical (you would be acting with consistency) for you to act in a way that is appropriate when one's beloved one dies. On this expanded front, imagine you truly love Skippy and desire her or his happiness; that is, you believe it would be good for Skippy to be happy and bad if Skippy were to die before fulfilling the desires of his or her heart. Then, surely, it appears you should...

Is the doctrine of the trinity illogical?

I thought I would add just a tad more. Here is one argument against the Trinity and a reply: It has been argued that the Trinity involves Tri-theism or the supposition that there are three Gods (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). There cannot be three Gods for this reason: If there is a God, God is omnipotent. A being is omnipotent if it is maximally powerful; there can be no being more powerful than an omnipotent being. But if the Trinity is true, neither of the persons in the Godhead are omnipotent, because the power of each can be challenged by the power of the other. The Father cannot make a universe, unless the Son or Holy Spirit consent. That is less powerful than if only the Father exists. Here is a reply: If God exists, God is essentially good. That is, God cannot will that which is not good. If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share an essentially good nature, their wills cannot conflict. This seems more plausable when one takes up what I mentioned in my earlier reply: the...
The doctrine of the Trinity has been receiving more attention today than almost ever before by philosophers. One can easily parody the Trinity as holding that one plus one plus plus one equals one! But there is a huge, nuanced body of literature in which philosophers have proposed various models in which there can be one God and yet the divine nature is not homogonous, but constituted by three persons. Really easy access to the latest work can be found on the free Enclopedia of Philosophy (online) for the entry "Trinity." I myself favor the periochoretic model, defended by Stephen Davis. Here are three recent books: Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? by Thomas McCall An Introduction to The Trinity by Declan Marmion and Rik van Nieuwenhove And just published last month, I think, you might consider The Cambridge Companion to The Trinity edited by Peter Phan. The Stanford article is written by Dale Tuggy, a Christian philosopher who is skeptical of the different models, and so that entry will...

Is it logically contradictory for a person to say that they are humble, in a broad sense? After all, humility is generally considered a desirable quality.

Great question. It would be self-refuting for a person to arrogantly claim they are humble (assuming, I think correctly, that arrogance and humility are incompatable), but insofar as one can say (with humiility) that one is humble there is nothing practically or logically contradictory at stake (in my view). Perhaps the reason why we think it would be at least odd for a humble person to mention that she is humble is that we expect a humble person to not be self-conscious of the fact or feel the need to draw attention to herself and humility. The definition of humility is a bit tricky, though I suggest that it is different not just from vanity but from false humiility or excessive self-deprecation. The person who thinks she is the worst person in the world may not be humble at all, but wierdly narcissistic and full of self-hate or simply melodrama. A number of phiilosophers actually identify humility with proper pride. That may not seem intuitively right, but a good case can be made that a humble...

Pages