I have previously written about debate strategy here.
Introduction to Logic & Debate
Before we can expound logical fallacies, we must first understand the precise meaning of the words logic and truth. Though it can be easy to want to scoff those off as ‘self-evident’, it is clear that we are not all interpreting these words in the same manner, because we are reaching different conclusions. Until we reach a convergent conclusion, it is clear we do not all mean the same things when we say logic and truth.
Truth is that which exists independently of subjective consciousness. Logic is the means by which we obtain truth. If we mistake subjective consciousness for objective truth, we will fail. If we employ faulty logic in the pursuit of making a point, we fail. As humans, our primary existential drive is towards survival, not objective truth. That is why the matter of what does and does not consist of supreme truth must always be subject to debate. Even if we somehow knew all objective truths, we would still need to debate a means of facilitating the understanding of said truths. As a culture evolves, people are able to assimilate more truth (because sages have found increasingly more effective means of conveying said truths) and so it is natural for teachings to evolve to match the capacity of the audience.
For instance, it is easy to see why the 3 dimensional quantum mechanical periodic table is revolutionary and important in the modern day, because we are mostly familiar with the idea of the Periodic Table. If I’d presented such an object at a time when the Periodic Table was unknown, it would not be so important, because no one would be able to understand its meaning. Thus it is clear that there is a living quality to truth. This does not mean that we abandon previous truths, merely that we refine them as more evidence comes to light. This is only possible when you are starting with a true position. If you are approaching truth, more revelations will sharpen your perception and knowledge. If you are starting from a false position, you will need to invoke increasingly more conspiracy-thinking (unnecessarily elaborate explanations that fail to make all predictions) and eventually your entire premise will collapse. On a long enough timeline, Entropy erases all which is not true, for only truth is strong enough to weather the destructive power of time.
All truths take the form of a scientific theory. The theory must make accurate predictions and no false predictions. Based on this interpretation, we can define supreme physical truth as a unified field model of physics. It will make accurate predictions, no false predictions and moreover, will have the capacity to predict any observed phenomenon.
Some believe such a feat is impossible, but I believe it is possible given the amount of scientific research available in the modern day.
What is the Structure of Truth?
Before we can find something, we have to believe it exists. If we do not believe truth exists, we have absolutely no chance of ever finding it. For instance, if I wanted to find the supreme kernel of truth, I would first have to believe it existed, then I’d have to determine under what conditions it would manifest, then I’d have to meta-analyse the domain for potential flaws in understanding then I’d have to present the truth in a compelling manner (this has been described as “parsimonious” by the blog that (begrudgingly) conceded that panpsychism was “probably true” even though it has been widely ridiculed… probably because my theory is true and is technically a version of “panpsychism“).
Luckily I have already designed unified field model that makes all predictions (including nuclear reactivity, an accomplishment no other theory has made). Ironically, many have already made the (dubious) claim that such a field model is quite literally impossible. From Wikipedia (n.b.: ToE means Unified Field Model):
Gödel’s incompleteness theorem
A number of scholars claim that Gödel’s incompleteness theorem suggests that any attempt to construct a TOE is bound to fail. Gödel’s theorem, informally stated, asserts that any formal theory expressive enough for elementary arithmetical facts to be expressed and strong enough for them to be proved is either inconsistent (both a statement and its denial can be derived from its axioms) or incomplete, in the sense that there is a true statement that can’t be derived in the formal theory.
It is quite strange that a widely quoted and rarely understood proof is allegedly able to conclusively tell me that a unified field model is impossible? Of course, it doesn’t prove that, but it does offer support for the hypothesis that Gödel’s proof was proffered specifically for the purpose of thwarting the development of such a model. Luckily I ignored Gödel. A lot. But this reaffirms what I mentioned earlier, belief in existence [of truth] is a necessary [though insufficient] condition for realisation. If I believed a unified field model impossible, I wouldn’t spend any time working one out, would I?
What Went Wrong?
Most disagreements in the modern day stem from an unwillingness to change one’s position. Debater 1 has an essentially unchanging worldview (and associated hierarchy of values) and debater 2 has a completely different but also unchanging opinion. Both exchange words but neither changes their mind. This is partly because neither accepts the other as an authority and also because people are debating in bad faith.
This flaw is one of the reasons why the conditions imposed on traditional debate are extremely strict. The subtext of all exchanges is that debaters and their audience are seeking a deeper understanding of the nature of reality/truth. When debates are on those terms, we can easily make progress if a debater is present whose understanding of reality/causality is superior to others’. Since the audience is truly interested in a deeper understanding, they will eschew previously held beliefs in the event that a superior means of understanding is presented, regardless of the cognitive dissonance such revelations may hold.
We do not observe this in modern day debates. What we see are ideological demagogues who are set in their ways trying to get a ‘one up’ on their opponent by any means necessary. Very few people change their mind, and divisions between opinions only grow worse with time.
I find it sad that people rely so heavily on citing logical fallacies to win debates. Pointing out logical fallacies without offering a more true position in exchange for the fallacious position is traditionally considered to be a bad form of debate. One might wonder why we are spending so much effort cutting down others’ arguments but not spending much time building up our own. Given this tendency, it becomes easier to understand why modern debates are so terrible.
If people truly want to improve their debate technique, they will explore and learn the concept of pramana. In short, these are the accepted means of obtaining knowledge/information and so are intimately linked to debate strategy. As you can see, different schools relied on different pramanas. Therefore if you wanted to win a debate against someone who professed that ONLY perception was an acceptable means of acquiring knowledge, you’d need to reformulate all of your arguments into that which can be demonstrated through perception. Debate isn’t just about your own tradition, it is also about understanding the traditions of others, so that you can present your truth to them in a manner they will accept. This too, is sorrily lacking in contemporary debate. (People scarcely understand their own position, let alone anyone else’s).
It therefore follows that all correct forms of debate will be rooted in pramana of some sort. I will now present the accepted forms of acquiring knowledge / winning debates, as I see them.
Testimony of the Master
Given how far civilisation has fallen, we must place the testimony of the master as supremely important in the realisation of truth. The standard for being considered a master is very high, and failing to give accurate testimony is grounds for no longer being accepted as a master. Thus we promote an insular elite dictating truth to the remainder of the populace (who is largely unable to discern truth) as well as unquestioned observance of said truths. We welcome anyone willing to abide by our customs into our insular elite and demand only that they accept:
- All effects have a cause, or causes.
- There exists a supreme cause, that is: an entity which produces effects, but which has no cause. This supreme cause is the matter comprising the Universe itself.
While it may seem strange to submit your will to someone else’s understanding of the truth, this is the way society has always functioned. The only thing that changes is who is delivering the message of truth.
Having had so many bad interactions with logicians and being thrown out of so many logical debate groups, I cannot in good conscience endorse the totality of modern formal logic. However, I must concede that some truth exists therein, because physical computers work. Since physical computers are predicated on boolean logic being true, and they work, formal logic can’t be all wrong. However, given the unnecessary and downright tedious complexity of some formal logic proofs, it is clear we need a more concise manner to get to the bottom of things.
We accept that all logical equations that can be expressed in the form of a Venn diagram are acceptable when dealing with true statements. Thus if we limit ourselves to the domain of true statements, we tacitly accept the validity of:
If a proof can be deduced (using logical laws) by proper interpretation of previously established truths, then it is acceptable and called a direct proof. Most proofs cannot be made directly, as they will take the form of an unfalsifiable (unable to be proven false) statement. Many have rejected the possibility of an unfalsifiable position having merit, because they have come to believe that unfalsifiable means untestable by Karl Popper. Thus direct proofs have substantial ideological hurdles to overcome.
The law of contraposition states that if A => B, then not(B) => not(A). This is best understood with a diagram. (A ⊂ B is logically equivalent to A => B)
This diagram depicts A as a proper subset of B. That is: there are no elements in A which are not also in B, or A is fully contained in B, or A => B. The contrapositive of this expression is equally true, and posits that not(B) => not(A). Thus if A=>B can be conclusively proven, then it follows that not(B) => not(A).
Note that this technique fails if the complement of B cannot be conclusively proven to contain no elements of A, and so represents a fairly limited debate strategy.
While contradiction is insufficient to win an argument, it can be indispensable in defeating your opponent’s false positions. If a premise can be demonstrated to make false predictions (when correctly interpreted), then it can be discarded wholesale. Contradiction is weak to solipsism, as it is fairly easy to mischaracterise an opponent’s position and then prove the mischaracterisation false, also known as strawmanning. Thus: contradiction is an incomplete proof and should only be undertaken when appropriate, for when it is misused, it actually undermines your own position, making you appear insecure and critical as well as unable to properly debate.
It is very important to understand that these derivative proofs are null and void if the truths used to construct them are proven false. If the presumption of an argument is proven false, then all subsequent arguments are also voided. Be careful not to build your position on sand, for it could come tumbling down at any moment.
Recursive Convergent Parsing
Recursive Convergent Parsing is poorly understood and carries an ideological bias, but when properly employed, it is the supreme manner of achieving knowledge. My unified field model uses recursive convergent parsing and so we will demonstrate what it means using that as an example. We now explain recursive parsing, the unified field model (objective recursive convergent parse metric) as well as explore a subjective recursive parse metric and explain on what basis it may be challenged.
Recursive convergent parsing is a multi-step process involving:
- Subdividing a set into maximally orthogonal (different) categories (parse metric) plus one residual (portion of the set which cannot fit into any of the orthogonal categories).
- Computing the residual using the same metric.
If we want the recursive parse to converge, the residual must contain less information than the parsing set. That is: upon computation of the first parse, the magnitude of the amount of information which is residual (i.e.: not encompassed by the first parse) must be less than the magnitude of the amount of information present in the original system. (There are other restrictions for a parse metric to be truly convergent, but since they require an understanding of series convergence, they will not be explored here – such teachings will however be imparted to worthy students).
For example, using my fourfold action model (Gravity, Uncertainty, Electricity, Entropy), given any experimental configuration, I can tell you which actions are manifesting. gravity predicts that the configuration is attracted towards the centre of mass of the planet. Uncertainty and electricity predict why the system does not spontaneously collapse into an infinitely dense state and Entropy predicts the general configuration of the system (remember: the law of Entropy as expounded by Boltzmann draws a direct link between the number of available microstates and Entropy, that is: S = k ln(w)). In this case, there is no residual, but there is a measurement limit intrinsic to the Universe and so no fourfold parse can fully canonise a set (give all information about it), but the fourfold parse is the most accurate means of parsing, because the only residual is that which is imposed by the measurement limit itself.
Since my model makes all predictions and has a small cardinality (4 actions upon 4 waveforms), the only way to improve upon it would be to present another unified field model that was simpler (less than 4 actions upon 4 waveforms). By definition, there is no way to improve upon the model than simplification, because it already makes all predictions (models are said to be improved when either they are simplified or they are reformulated so as to make more predictions. This is impossible with a unified field model because it already makes all predictions and so cannot make any more. Unlike my field model, most recursive convergent parse metrics are subjective and so are always open to reformulation.
Let us examine a more intuitive parse metric. Ayurveda, the medical branch of the great tradition, has long sought to parse the humours of the body using recursive convergent parsing. The bodily humours are classified either by dosha (i.e.: vata, pitta, kapha) or by element (i.e.: aether, wind, fire, water, earth). Each bodily organ is dominated by a particular dosha (or combination thereof) and illnesses are understood to be disturbances in the optimal balance of doshas. Thus, even though one organ is dominated by a particular dosha, it can have imbalances of any dosha. Proper diagnosis of doshic imbalance is crucial in designing a health plan for a patient, because the treatment must target the particular doshic imbalances if it is to be effective (i.e.: decrease the deviation from optimal, hopefully to zero).
Observations (diagnoses, known traditionally as pariksha) are therefore increasingly precise evaluations of proportions of dosha. First, each organ is described in terms of what doshas govern it, then it is analysed for deviations from optimal, which are in turn defined in terms of doshas. For instance, the brain is predominantly a kapha organ. Although disturbances of the mind can have the qualities of any dosha the kaphic quality of the mind is always remembered when its disturbances are measured. Since doshas always have the same meaning regardless of what order they are used on, the system is recursive and consistently yields new information (provided it is properly applied).
Different scholars have argued the validity of these (or other) parse metrics throughout the ages but at no time did anyone argue that these concepts had no useful applications. That was because it was quite clear that even if these systems were not perfectly true (i.e.: we cannot arrive at the 118 elements of the periodic table by using these 5 “elements” and so it follows that the 5 element parse metric is incomplete), they still had more utility than nothing at all. The scholars were open to refining and changing their definitions as more evidence came to light through debate. If a new understanding of dosha were presented and it was simpler than the extant model or it made more predictions than the extant model, that could be considered grounds to update the model as a whole. We see again here the living manner in which truth is continually refined.
Thus parse metrics are of supreme utility in ascertaining the truth of any statement, but have a limited utility because most people are stuck at a different stage of debate. Most people reject the idea that Ayurveda is anything more than primitive pseudoscience and so cannot argue between different Ayurvedic systems, they can only argue superficially about the validity of these types of systems as a whole (thus making their opinions NON authoritative). Strictly speaking, a negation is not considered a good debate strategy. In other words: if you denounce something as false yet fail to posit what is (more) true, then you are not arguing correctly.
There are far too many logical fallacies around to list them all, but I will nonetheless give a short summary of the ones I most often encounter.
“God did it”
I can understand why people want to ascribe magical qualities to God. However, those wanting to persuade others of their positions should be able to do so without ever invoking God. Since god is uniform and ubiquitous, and most people identify solely with the fluctuations of their minds, it follows that many do not actually have any idea about God. Expecting people to believe you are speaking truth when you tell them that “God did it” will not change the mind of ardent atheists any more than it will persuade people who perceive God differently than you do. Arguing that God did something is merely an indication that you are lacking some knowledge and/or proof. All arguments can be made without having to invoke the hidden hand of God.
Appeal to Authority
This logical fallacy is the most challenging because it is not technically a fallacy. After all, all arguments are appeals to some form of authority, it’s just a question of WHOSE authority we are yielding to. I stated earlier that testimony of the master is considered authoritative and therefore, I am making an appeal to authority. You can’t really avoid making appeals to authority, so it is best to work to understand what you consider to be authoritative, compare it with other systems and finally come to your own conclusions about authority. There is simply no way to avoid taking personal responsibility for your opinions.
Petitio Principii (“Begging the Question”)
This logical fallacy is one of the most common. This fallacy occurs when the debater has already accepted their conclusion, and is only interested in gathering evidence in support of said foregone conclusion and ignoring all evidence to the contrary. For instance, many seek to invoke IQ to provide evidence in support of various ideas, even though it does not make all predictions and can indeed be falsified.
If IQ is true and income correlates with IQ, why is there such a divergence between the highest IQ countries and the top earners in the USA? (Left are countries with highest IQ (source: Google) and right are ancestral origins of top earners in the USA)
The answer is that either: IQ is not true or income does not correlate with IQ. We must remember that it is possible to cheat on such tests, by memorising the correct answers for example. At any rate, this test does not encompass the total function that would predict success. It may provide some true results, but it is not predictive of all true results and thus is at best: incomplete.
Another example of this logical fallacy is the dogged vehemence with which people defend the concept of evolution via natural selection. I think people do this because they believe that any hypothesis other than evolution necessarily carries religious baggage. However, if we remove the anti-theistic blinders, we can easily see that there is actually more evidence for a creation-type model than an evolution-type model.
It’s important to remember that creation (something from nothing) and annihilation (nothing from something) are both precluded by the law of conservation of energy. However, we must not exclude the possibility of things occurring which are near-creation (and near-annihilation). In fact, this is how the universe works at the limit. At the beginning of a particular spacetime event, stars are near-created and at the end, a near annihilation event occurs, known as heat death. We have thus proven that although true creation and annihilation violate conservation of mass, there do exist mechanisms that present as creation/annihilation (proper understanding of physical laws allows one to understand what is actually going on and how conservation of mass is never violated). Thus it is important to remember that human intuition does not always yield truth (and indeed can be argued to be an impediment to its acquisition).
*I realise I am making a logical fallacy by disproving IQ & evolution and failing to present a replacement metric/hypothesis, but such a metric/hypothesis, if it is to be true and complete, will be significantly more complex to deduce. Let’s work on it together, and maybe we can solve some long standing problems in science.
Either or Fallacy
The either or fallacy is the addition of qualities to a position which are not inherent to that position, or setting up a false dichotomy (two things which are essentially the same pretending to be different, or presenting a limited set of positions, when in reality, far more positions exist). False dichotomies pervade modern thought and are often used to shoehorn ideas with a veiled threat of social ostracism. For example:
“either you go along with everything I say, or you’re a bigot”
“if you believe X, you also believe Y and that makes you pure concentrated evil”
The either or fallacy stems either from a lack of knowledge or an intentional effort to force a dichotomy where none truly exists as a means of creating dissent. It has no place in debate and is best avoided altogether. The only time where either or fallacy has some merit is when your opponent is making either or fallacy ad infinitum, so you make a few yourself to prove what a butthead your opponent is.
This is a logical fallacy that even I am sometimes guilty of. In general, projection stems from imposing our own qualities onto others. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes perfect sense why we would assume others are more like us than they actually are: we care more about people who are like us, caring increases social cohesion and a cohesive society enjoys more longevity. The projection fallacy is why the “NPC” phenomenon comes as such a shock to people who do not identify as NPC. They were understandably upset to learn that a vast majority of people do not conduct inner speech because their own inner speech is such a huge part of their identity. On the other hand, people without an inner voice often call those with an inner voice “schizophrenics”. As we can see, projection harms everyone, but it is built into our survival strategy and so will always crop up.
When performing debate, it is important to contextualise one’s projection(s). We must always remain open to the possibility that we hold unrealistic expectations of others as well as accept that as long as projection exists within the domain of knowledge acquisition and debate, it will lead to cognitive dissonance. Very few people can realistically surmount all of their egotistical projections nor do they want to, but for that select group who wishes to fully understand and eventually move past the limitations of subjective consciousness: that is who my work is for.