June 14, 2011

Argumentatatitivism

Last night, I was reviewing baseball statistician Bill James's new book Popular Crime for TakiMag, and I typed in something like, "As a prose stylist, James is an outstanding argumentalist." Wait a minute, I wondered, is that a real word? Sure it is, I discovered. In German. I eventually tried "argumentativist," which sounds pretty ridiculous in how the word just keeps going on and on, but, yes, there were a bunch of articles on the philosophy of argumentativism as advocated by argumentativists.

Today, in fact, there's an article in the NYT on argumentativism.
Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth 
By PATRICIA COHEN 
For centuries thinkers have assumed that the uniquely human capacity for reasoning has existed to let people reach beyond mere perception and reflex in the search for truth. Rationality allowed a solitary thinker to blaze a path to philosophical, moral and scientific enlightenment. 
Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth. 
The idea, labeled the argumentative theory of reasoning, is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists, and it has stirred excited discussion (and appalled dissent) among philosophers, political scientists, educators and psychologists, some of whom say it offers profound insight into the way people think and behave. The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences devoted its April issue to debates over the theory, with participants challenging everything from the definition of reason to the origins of verbal communication. 
“Reasoning doesn’t have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions,” said Hugo Mercier, who is a co-author of the journal article, with Dan Sperber. “It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.” Truth and accuracy were beside the point. 
Indeed, Mr. Sperber, a member of the Jean-Nicod research institute in Paris, first developed a version of the theory in 2000 to explain why evolution did not make the manifold flaws in reasoning go the way of the prehensile tail and the four-legged stride. Looking at a large body of psychological research, Mr. Sperber wanted to figure out why people persisted in picking out evidence that supported their views and ignored the rest — what is known as confirmation bias — leading them to hold on to a belief doggedly in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. 
Other scholars have previously argued that reasoning and irrationality are both products of evolution. But they usually assume that the purpose of reasoning is to help an individual arrive at the truth, and that irrationality is a kink in that process, a sort of mental myopia. Gary F. Marcus, for example, a psychology professor at New York University and the author of “Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind,” says distortions in reasoning are unintended side effects of blind evolution. They are a result of the way that the brain, a Rube Goldberg mental contraption, processes memory. People are more likely to remember items they are familiar with, like their own beliefs, rather than those of others. 
What is revolutionary about argumentative theory is that it presumes that since reason has a different purpose — to win over an opposing group — flawed reasoning is an adaptation in itself, useful for bolstering debating skills. 
Mr. Mercier, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, contends that attempts to rid people of biases have failed because reasoning does exactly what it is supposed to do: help win an argument. 
“People have been trying to reform something that works perfectly well,” he said, “as if they had decided that hands were made for walking and that everybody should be taught that.”

Imagine a prehistoric hunting party arguing over how best to approach the deer they've spotted. The deer isn't going to be influenced by the charisma of their arguments, so they have an incentive to come up with the best decision because they are hungry. On the other hand, the various participants also have their own special interests, short term (e.g., I want a strategy where I make the kill because I'll get a bigger slice or I want a lower risk strategy because I'm not that hungry) and long term (I want to win the argument because I want to build a reputation as a smart decision maker so I'll have political capital). 

But keep in mind that arguing consumes times, energy, and scares away the deer. It's often better to minimize the number of decisionmakers in a tactical situation. So, it makes more sense to argue for fun in the evening, to spar for dominance verbally by demonstrating a quick wit in oral combat or explain a complicated plan when there's time for others to listen. And everybody has an incentive to listen in to figure out whose likely to make good decisions on the spot in the morning with life or death in the balance. You need to know who to trust.

On the other hand, making good decisions about how to catch deer is hard, so ambitious men have incentives to use arguments that philosophers would consider not cricket to persuade other men to follow them. And even if those arguments aren't objectively better at catching deer in isolation, they might be subjectively better at unifying the team, and thus, in the bigger picture, be objectively better at catching deer.

All this is pretty inevitable. What I think is bizarre is that the Ancient Greeks started treating argument not just as a sport, but as one with objective fair play rules for deciding who wins. Consider Zeno's Paradoxes that were brought to Athens by Parmenides and Zeno when Socrates was a young man: the arrow can't reach the target because it first must go 1/2 the distance, then 1/4 the distance, etc. I think in most times and places, Zeno would have eventually got himself punched in the face. But the Greeks thought it was important to figure out why he was wrong. 

86 comments:

Anonymous said...

Uh, didn't Harpending and Cochran say we're still evolving? What do just-so stories about hunter/gatherer societies have to do with reason, a relatively recent feature of the human mind?

Besides that, hey, the naturalist fallacy! Hi, buddy! How've ya been?

Anonymous said...

"The idea, labeled the argumentative theory of reasoning, is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists..."

If anyone should know this, it's the French whose philosophers create mental castles in the air and flamboyantly out-thinkois one another.

Anonymous said...

I mean this is a no-brainer. Just look at lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments.

I don't know that you can get much more nihilistic* than this.

For those of you who aren't aware, this would be a second major assault on Christianity - whereas "deconstructionism" attacked Truth, "argumentativism" attacks the Logos.




*Or more phariseeical, for that matter.

cul-de-sac said...

G K Chesterton made the distinction between arguing and quarreling. Arguing being the formal process of following premises through to sound conclusions and quarreling being the sophisticated verbal noise people make at each other for the purposes of persuasion.
As always these scientists and journalists have confused the issue. Powers of reason and rationality evolved because the world is generally regular and cause and effect rule. But rationalization evolved because it is good to get your own way - as an individual or a group. Nobody is engaging in rationalizing when it comes to construction projects, but everyone is when it comes to politics or religion.
The average person doesn't even do very much thinking, never mind reasoning, as psychologists have known for decades. It is generally the smarter-than-average oddballs who do most of the thinking in society.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that you can get much more nihilistic* than this.

For those of you who aren't aware, this would be a second major assault on Christianity - whereas "deconstructionism" attacked Truth, "argumentativism" attacks the Logos.


The old theocracy and the modern PC theocracy are more similar than you think.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

The contemporary version is something like this:

"In the beginning was Television, and Television reflected Reality, and Television is Reality."

You could substitute “Media” for “Television” and it would encompass “The Word” as well.

Anonymous said...

This is really a disingenuous argument. No one ever said rationality itself is or serves as the path to truth. Rationalism doesn't mean rationality = truth. It means rationality, if used in a certain way according to logic and in consideration of verified facts, can lead to higher truth. Creationists make perfectly rational arguments. Where they err is their choice of premise, the literal word of the Bible. But within that premise, they seek and arrange data to make them conform to their worldview, and then they rationlly formulate an argument.

Reason is a system and functions according within certain premises. If the premises are untrue, then reasoning can be completely logical but yield a false conclusion. If the premise is that the sun revolves around Earth, even the best use of reason will not reveal the truth but only the 'truth' within the premise. Ptlomaic use of reasoning could be ingenious and brilliant but still totally wrong in fact.

On the discussion of racial problems, there is so much confusion because certain premises are not allowed to enter into the debate. Liberals may wonder, 'gee, we are so secular and rational, but then why aren't our ideas and policies working to end the racial problem?' Because they only use their reason within certain PC premises that leave out 'racist' facts.

Anonymous said...

And haven't we been told many times: rationalization is not the same thing as rationalism? We all rationalize to justify ourselves, our biases, our agendas, and our interests.
I mean no shit.

Henry Canaday said...

Consider how much of The Iliad is composed of argument, debate really, between the major characters. And Greek drama became intellectually powerful when dialogue introduced arguments, making the play more interesting but also providing a way to both examine and “glamorize” ideas, to use Olivier’s term.

The Greeks transformed a competitive instinct into entertainment and then into a tool for scrutinizing propositions about the world. Not a bad start for civilization.

What is the experimental method of science, after all, but an application of the instinctive trial-and-error approach to learning practical things, like how to walk, to abstract questions about how the world works, the answers to which are of no practical benefit to the scientist himself?

Anonymous said...

There's also this aspect to arguism: There may be glory in winning but also unbearable humiliation in losing. It's one thing to simply lose and that's that. But what if one loses and suffers great humiliation? This is why guys fear getting into fights. It's not just the losing but the sheer humiliation of being knocked flat on one's ass, being taunted, and slink away like a wimp.

And this may have far-reaching impact on society. Fewer white guys may enter sports out of fear that they won't only lose to blacks but be totally humiliated. Better not to play at all than be shitfaced, especially since blacks don't have good manners and love to rub it in--like how Muhammad Ali just loved to toy with and humiliate his opponents.

This may apply to politics as well. Even if you have truth on your side, you may not have the verbal skills and wit to match a liberal(especially a Jew)who is telling lies. So, if you debate him and he kicks your butt, you've not only lost the debate but been reduced to dust in front of everyone. You've become a laughingstock.

And this may be why we let politicians get away with so much crap. We may feel truth is on our side, but they are more adept at arguing and debating, so we don't even bother to voice our opinions.

Arguism is an effective way to control people. Glory to the winners and total humiliation to the losers. It's like Joe McCarthy was totally destroyed by an argument.

gfs said...

"According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth. "

I disagree. Objectivity and logic are the hallmarks of reason. The article further conflates arguing with persuading. Persuasion appeals to emotion. Unfortunately, I don't have my old speech 101 textbook here to go through the different logical fallacies but, no, Reason has not suddenly become Emotion and Rational hasn't become Irrational.

Patricia Cohen is an unabashed badge-wearing member of the Thought Police.

And, uh, what you're noticing in deer hunting behavior is the need to reduce triumphalism as the debate is immediately combined with action that will get you food. Survival type reasoning will tend to be barebones and focused as well.

Anonymous said...

I think it was Nietzche who pointed out that ancient Greek life was a much different animal until the arrival of Socrates, whose approach was to talk everyone under the table with his questions. IIRC, the argument goes that the examined life subverts authority, religion, art, and the belief that one's life really matters.

Anonymous said...

Science is experimentation over argumentation.

Argumentation selects for verbal skill in persuading, manipulating, defeating other people. It doesn't select for the truth since it's not being tested against reality.

To discover the best hunting strategy, ultimately you have to experiment i.e. test the various strategies against the deer in the forest. Arguing about it selects for verbal ability and combat, it doesn't select for the best hunting strategy.

Anonymous said...

Nietzsche would have agreed. All is will to power. Reason is a tool for power, not "truth."

TGGP said...

I could have sworn I heard about this paper a good while back, and with the name Sperber attached.

Off-topic, but John Holbo thinks Sen. Kelly was right in the first X-Men movie: the masses really should fear homo superior. Jim Harrison at comment 31 says "A fair number of anti-Semites, for example, believe in the intellectual superiority of the Jews and argue that they are fighting for the continued existence of the unevolved part of the human race. I guess they think of themselves as the Neanderthal self-defense movement." Almost sounds like an isteve reader, although he neglected to use the phrase "tyranny of the glib".

Anonymous said...

This seems like a great way to further what Mickey Kaus calls 'cocooning.' Eg, your opponent's worldview is an exercise in argumentativism and not a legitimate viewpoint. talk about a great way to neutralize deviations from orthodoxy. of course this would be reported in the NYT.

Democritus' cackle said...

But the Greeks thought it was important to figure out why he was wrong.

What makes you think they thought he was wrong?

gfs said...

"Argumentation selects for verbal skill in persuading, manipulating, defeating other people. It doesn't select for the truth since it's not being tested against reality. "

I assume you are inferring a comparison between defending a position and reaching group consensus. One is not necessarily better at reaching the truth. Biases creep up in both and you will invariably use both methods when working as a group. Defending a pet theory or your own research is an obvious bias but we've all also yield to the ideas or relative "expertise" of a team member in order to show respect and/or keep that person central to the functioning of the group.

When you come to a site like iSteve, people are being deliberately provocative and are often obtuse as well. Taking a more balanced approach would get your position discredited when dealing with a group whose members refused to moderate their position in any way. Speaking of rationalizing, telling people they are being too divisive just because they've made a good point is no different from using words as a weapon. It's an ad hominem attack, typical of today's academic environment.

Lucy said...

Who gets selected to do the debating is very important when determining how much an attempt the participants are making to get at truth. Mostly, the debate won't be tied up nicely in a bow on a box that can be delivered as ultimate truth. You listen to such exchanges because you and sometimes the participants learn and change from them. Language and thinking cannot be separated.

That being said, I can recall any number of "scientific" endeavors that don't have immediate relevance to our daily lives. Much of the research that gets funded is because some articulate person focused the government or a university on some aspect of space exploration or a path for curing a disease like cancer. The direction of research can be based on a faulty theory that costs huge amounts of money and time only to be thrown out when someone else's research or serendipity negates it.

I'd rather spend a couple of hours listening to some articulate blowhards myself, especially if one of them has a theory on what kinds of problems NASA or MIT would be better served studying as opposed to the mostly useless ones they attend to now.

And if you are referring to SAT scores as an objective measure that should end debate on why Asians should be allowed to take over elite universities and ultimately run the US, if not the world, give up. I'm already on the trail of a more comprehensive interview/exam approach, which has actually already been created, that could balance out the benefits of "teaching to the test".

Whiskey said...

Rationality is all about ... cooking. Think about it. Cooking food well, so that it's edible let alone tasty, requires the proper combination of ingredients, preparation, and heat. Its not just slap it together.

Thus, those with more rationality cook better meals, and extract more nutrition from the world around them.
-----------
No the masses need not fear Homo Superior. As Mao and Machiavelli both noted, power flows from armed men. Which requires money, resources, and belief by one's followers (who have the same). Look at Cesare Borgia. How'd he end again? At any rate the record of the "cognitive elite" is a lot of elite, not much cognition. Geithner, Weiner, Obama, make errors unforced that a local loan shark would not.

Ron Mexico said...

I have given to understand how it was that Socrates could repel: it is therefore all the more necessary to explain his fascination. That he discovered a new kind of agon, that he became its first fencing master for the noble circles of Athens, is one point. He fascinated by appealing to the agonistic impulse of the Greeks — he introduced a variation into the wrestling match between young men and youths. Socrates was also a great erotic

Thursday said...

“Reasoning doesn’t have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions,” said Hugo Mercier, who is a co-author of the journal article, with Dan Sperber. “It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.”

Another vast over-exaggeration. As Steve has noted there are often real world consequences to reasoning badly, so the truth finding aspect of argument, at the very least, isn't trivial.

Anonymous said...

I have suspected this for a few years in my more philosophical moments, but a better analogy might be reason developed to help you understand and therefore defeat your competition, but it is blind to your own mistakes in reasoning. This is because being perfectly rational about yourself does not help you advance your interests, whereas being rational about everyone else does. This is also the reason why it is a lot easier to spot other people's flaws and problems and offer good advice to them, but so hard to self-analyze and correct your own. Mathematics and science built upon this already existing evolutionary foundation, but it doesn't work perfectly, because it is hard for people to be completely objective when their own reputations or status is at stake, this is when the normal evolutionary self serving bias will kick in.

tommy said...

All this is pretty inevitable. What I think is bizarre is that the Ancient Greeks started treating argument not just as a sport, but as one with objective fair play rules for deciding who wins. Consider Zeno's Paradoxes that were brought to Athens by Parmenides and Zeno when Socrates was a young man: the arrow can't reach the target because it first must go 1/2 the distance, then 1/4 the distance, etc. I think in most times and places, Zeno would have eventually got himself punched in the face. But the Greeks thought it was important to figure out why he was wrong.

I think it's strange that a people as argumentative as the Jews never developed the rudiments of logic as did the Greeks and some other ancient people. (The Hindus produced some early examples of modal logic, for example.)

Jewish thinking remained proverbial, semantic and analogical even in the Talmudic era. Is that evidence that the Jews, or at least their rabbis, may have possessed a distinctive verbal to nonverbal IQ gap even in those early days?

Mike Kenny said...

i've thought caveman rationality might have been about maximizing what you're good at and letting others balance you out w/their own strengths. i imagine stuff, you criticize well, she has good social intelligence, he is a great practical thinker. the critic pokes obvious holes in my wild theories, the surviving theories are gossiped about by the socially intelligent person to the practical thinker, who sees an application for the idea. or something like that.

we're not islands, so why would our rationality function as if we were.

travis said...

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments.

Now? Rousseau made that point as early as 1750 in his First Discourse on the Arts and Sciences:

"Socrates had started in Athens. In Rome Cato the Elder continued to rage against those artificial and subtle Greeks who were seducing virtue and weakening the courage of his fellow citizens.* But the sciences, arts, and dialectic prevailed once more. Rome was filled with philosophers and orators, military discipline was neglected, and agriculture despised. People embraced factions and forgot about their fatherland. The sacred names of liberty, disinterestedness, and obedience to the laws gave way to the names Epicurus, Zeno, and Arcesilas.* "Since the learned men began to appear among us," their own philosophers used to say, "good people have slipped away." Up to that time Romans had been content to practise virtue; everything was lost when they began to study it."

Crawfurdmuir said...

We have perfectly good existing words to describe someone skilled in argument without having to coin another. "Casuist" or "sophist" appear to fit the bill.

Anonymous said...

"Reason is a tool for power, not "truth.""

For two individuals debating *in good faith* reason is a tool for the truth. Maybe some places it evolved for sophistry and some places for truth.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEHeOf7wZvc&feature=relmfu


Reason is way overrated.

NOTA said...

The theory that our natural love of argument and rhetoric evolved as a persuasion/coordination mechanism, instead of a reasoning about the world mechanism, seems very plausible to me. The problem of reasoning out some complicated thing from known-correct premises must have been a pretty rare one for people in most of history, whereas figuring out how to convince the tribe's warriors to back my planned coup, or to convince the young men of the village to unite behind me and go raid the neighboring village, must have been pretty common.

Later, some amazingly clever people managed to take this instinct for argument and rhetoric, and shape it into a tool for reasoning about the world.

To this day, we have many fields of study in which the consensus view is mainly driven by who convinces the people in the field by their arguments. And even after selecting smart people and everyone trying to be rational, in fields where there's little or no recourse to experiment or observation that can falsify someone's ideas, those fields end up going through fads that seem to have little to do with understanding reality.

Gene Berman said...

A meaningless distinction, it seems to me.

Might as well ask for what purpose were hands evolved. While it's true they were indispensable in production of arrowheads and other stone tools and, some time later, internal combustion engines and nuclear reactors, the more obvious fact is that those hands were used through a far longer portion of Man's existence, by a far greater number of people, and far more universally--for jerking off. (

Geoff said...

Wait a minute, I wondered, is that a real word? Sure it is, I discovered. In German.

Are those real sentences?

Anonymous said...

Again the commenters talk of supposed Jewish superiority in argument.

Hah. It is obvious that the bedrock strategy of Jewish argumentation is to deny a seat at the table for worthy opponents.

In other words make sure the important argument never happens and present a distracting puppet show instead.

The best recent example of this was Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's 60 Minutes interview where he and his interviewer both simply pronounced deflation as The Enemy: An intelligent non puppet interviewer could've argued that history clearly shows that mild deflation is economically very healthy and reflects technological progress.

But alas there was no seat at the table for a non puppet interviewer.

Gene Berman said...

Crawfurmuir:

Neither "casuist" nor "sophist"--in your meaning of the two--are intended to convey the meaning, "one skilled in argumentation."

Rather, both ("sophist" in primary meaning or denotation and casuist in secondary or connotation) are pejorative terms used in this case by you to achieve exactly the result represented as blameworthy in others.

Whatever works, huh?

Mr. Anon said...

Perhaps one reason that some logical fallacies have persisted is that they are useful, which is to say, that they are not actually fallacies.

Take the argument ad hominem. I've never understood why it is necessarily bad. In it's strong form, sure, I would agree it's a fallacy: "Einstein is jewish, therefore we should not believe his theories". But what about a weaker form; "Bill Martinez is hispanic, so I don't trust his argument about the benefits of immigration". "Ad hominem"? Maybe. Really it is "Ad motivum" (If that's the right latin) - to the motive. If an argument against interest counts for a little more, I don't see why an argument in one's interest (or likely interest) shouldn't count for a little less.

Mr. Anon said...

Argument as sport is one of the symptoms and causes of the decline of our society. It is also what underlay most of the political talk shows of the 90s, when political argumentation became a spectator sport.

Anonymous said...

"Science is experimentation over argumentation."

Actually, it's more like experimentation OF argumentation. It seeks empirical evidence to back one's argument.

Anonymous said...

"Patricia Cohen is an unabashed badge-wearing member of the Thought Police."

I agree. Scientific truth is beginning to hurt the left, which is running out of good arguments. And so, they say 'truth? what truth?' and 'reason? what reason?'

Anonymous said...

"Hah. It is obvious that the bedrock strategy of Jewish argumentation is to deny a seat at the table for worthy opponents."

They can do this now, but they didn't have this privilege in the past, but they kept winning and winning. And would you rather hire a Jewish lawyer or goy lawyer? I'll go with the Jew.

Anonymous said...

"I think it's strange that a people as argumentative as the Jews never developed the rudiments of logic as did the Greeks and some other ancient people."

Though Jews didn't develop something like formal logic 101, they were tremendously logical thinkers WITHIN THE PREMISE OF BIBLICAL TRUTH. Based on that truth, Talmudic scholars used hair-splitting logic and reasoning in order to figure out the mind ofGod. So, if the Torah said such and such, Jewish scholars would argue--very logically--within that given truth about what God was like and what He expected of mankind.

In a way, the development/progress of monotheism within Judaism is logical. It begins with the premise of the powerful God. He's said to be the True God. Logically, that would mean other gods are false. He is said to be a good God, which means He must be moral. So, He tells Abraham not to kill the kid. God may punish mankind ruthlessly but for moral reasons. As time passes, God becomes less human and more abstract. Again, this is the due to the progression of logical thinking. If God is all-great, all-knowing, and all-powerful, then He must be way beyond anything human. Also, Jews thought long and hard about why things didn't go right for them though they believed in the one and only God. There is some profound moral reasoning in the Book of Job. Job asks a very logical question. Why was he punished when he was a good guy. He did everything as God ordered him, yet God made bad things happen to him. Why?
And in a way, Christianity developed from moral reasoning during a time when Judaism wasn't offering a satisfactory answer to many Jews.

Anonymous said...

NOTA
"The problem of reasoning out some complicated thing from known-correct premises must have been a pretty rare one for people in most of history"

If you take out the word "complicated" these kind of discussions happen a million times every day whenever two or more people are engaged in a practical activity that require a correct answer e.g. building a house, diagnosing a mechanical problem etc. Maintenance flow-charts are a kind of pre-packaged reasoning equivalent to a heating engineer calling another for advice on a job.

It's only in situations where the outcome is far distant in time e.g. academic discussions, where the truth isn't all-important.

Look at some youtube videos of bushmen hunters discussing animal tracks. As a group they create a kind of small distributed network applying reason to premises as a tool to get the true answer because the true answer fills their bellies - a wrong answer doesn't. They are arguing in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial goal.

Skill at argumentation for its own sake is only important for liars and cheats.

Anonymous said...

They can do this now, but they didn't have this privilege in the past, but they kept winning and winning. And would you rather hire a Jewish lawyer or goy lawyer? I'll go with the Jew.

The point is that verbal disputation doesn't select for the truth. You need experimentation for the truth.

Of course people who excel at verbal disputation are going to tend to not be too keen on experimentation, since it means allowing other people who are sick and tired of being told what to do and what is good or true to go out and "test" their own ideas.

gfs said...

'" Up to that time Romans had been content to practise virtue; everything was lost when they began to study it."'

Funny, Travis.

Anonymous said...

"Reason is a tool for power, not "truth.""

"For two individuals debating *in good faith* reason is a tool for the truth. Maybe some places it evolved for sophistry and some places for truth."

I think, in a way, you're both missing the point. I would argue that truth is power. In more nakedly brutal times of hammer and axe when mankind bashed one another on the head, it might not have made much sense to sit down and discuss philosophy or science, truth has always been a source of respect and authority, therefore of power.

When Einstein won the Nobel, the deliverer of the award said, 'Napoleon conquered the world but Einstein conquered the universe.' Though Einstein didn't have political power, his ideas profoundly changed the world. He was, in this sense, one of the most powerful men of all time. And he must have known it and been satisfied with it. He looked like a fuddy-duddy guy, but in his own way, he was a ruthless seeker for power. Power manifests itself in many ways. The person who discovers the cure of a dreaded disease wins not only great acclaim--a form of power--but has the opportunity to make lots of money.
And intellectuals and scientists gain power by arriving at higher or deeper truths. It's never merely truth-for-truth's sake but truth-for-power's sake, and why not? Otherwise, it's might-is-right. Right-is-might is power based on truth. Since truth has greater value than lies, greater truth leads to greater power. Nazis without Jewish scientists could not invent the Bomb. Capitalism defeated communism cuz it was economically truer in accordance to human nature and material laws. And greater wealth and power of capitalist societies could pay for better science, which produced more truths, such as in computers, which gave US military decisive advantage of the Soviet military.

Even among primitive tribes, the medicine man is uch revered because he is thought to possess the higher truth and vision. Warriors seek guidance and advice from the medicine man who supposedly sees beyond what most people can.

Anonymous said...

Also, we should distinguish argument for facts and argument for truth. Two people haggling at a fish market are arguing over something petty--facts. In the end, the customer may get a deal or not. It has little to do with higher truth. It's about petty advantages.
But to gain the great advantage, one has to argue for higher truth.
This was the difference between Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler(at least according to COSMOS). Brahe was great at collecting data, but he didn't have the brains to pull it altogether into a grand theory, something Kepler did do. Though Kepler died poor and unhappy, he is remembered and honored. Isn't that a kind of power? Jesus died young too, but isn't He one of the most powerful people of all time? And why? Because of HIs truth. And Marx died a failure but his grand unified theory of economics exerted tremendous power in the 20th century. That too is power. And we still find inspiration from Greek thinkers. Who remembers some Greek politician in some city-state long ago? They are forgotten, but Socrates will be known forever. That too is power. So, people who seek the great truth intuitively feel tha they are reaching for immortal truth, which is the source of true power. Same may have been the case with Van Gogh or Mozart. Though they weren't very successful in their time, they may have felt that their creation of beauty would validate their lives in the future. They weren't seeking power only in ther 'here and now' but for all time.

Actually, the great truth-seeker may disdain arguing and instead choose the path of seeking, seeing, and then showing. Jesus went off on his own for 40 days and meditated. If He argued, it was with His own soul. Then, He went among people and sermonized. He didn't argue with most people--though he did with some--but rather demonstrated His intellectual, moral, and spiritual superiority with some mighty profound words.
It's like if you can sing, you don't have to explain.

Those who cannot do, teach.
Those who cannot show, argue.

David said...

There are three distinct things here.

1. Objectivity -- this is outward orientation, an attempt to get the right answer (nature isn't kind to wrong answers).

2. Truth -- the right answer.

3. Reason -- the organizing of one's objectivity (e.g. making consistent one's observations and inferences therefrom). (Formal logic is a method of reason.)

To propound the notion that reason does not have to do with getting at a right answer is perforce to reject objectivity, to reject getting at a right answer. What begs the question is that notion; it rejects reason because it rejects the idea of right answers in favor of thugging one's way through life (verbally or physically).

The source of many confusions is conflating people and reality. To someone confused in this way, "truth" means convincing others; and "objectivity" is merely some kind of synonym for "truth"; "logic" merely means "proving" x angels can dance on a pin, etc. Conflation of people and reality is actively taught in college, but also appears to be a common prescientific error of common - in the derogatory sense - people. That such people are nowadays accounted academia's cream is a bad portent, and a reductio ad absurdum of democracy.

Fred said...

"Though Jews didn't develop something like formal logic 101, they were tremendously logical thinkers WITHIN THE PREMISE OF BIBLICAL TRUTH."

The same is true of Christians in the West later. As late as Descartes, Christian philosophers started from the premise of biblical truth. Similarly, Christian scientists -- up until the enlightenment -- started and ended with Aristotle's scientific observations, and eschewed experimentation (ironically, had they paid more attention to Aristotle's logic, they might have questioned his non-experimental proto-science).

Anonymous said...

Casuistry is the word. One factor in the success of Seinfeld is that it po-mos this ancient behavior.
Gilbert P.

Charlie said...

The problem with talking like this about "reason" or "rationality" is that it falls, ironically, into the very same trap that renders much argument a mere exercise in rhetoric: verbalism, a naive and lazy belief in the precise correspondence of words to neatly-defined real-world things, so that you don't have to constantly worry about, as it were, re-establishing contact between words and reality.

What exactly is "reason"? Certainly logic is not something that "evolved" for some social purpose, because logic does objectively work. If we had "evolved", somehow, the habit of saying, "if A then B. Since A, therefore NOT B" this anti-logic would just be too damned stupid for anybody to ever use. Except for fun.

So "reason" and "rationality" must include not just logic but the whole, rather mysterious grab-bag of rules and heuristics that we use to determine what is so, and what isn't. Well is it reasonable to say we developed all of that just to win arguments? Not only is the answer no, but the question is bizarre: developing a method for determining truth cannot help you win an argument, it can only help you lose an argument; it allows you, not to persuade, but to be persuaded.

What might, then, have actually evolved as a method of manipulating other people, are certain tactics for controlling another person's extant truth-determining systems. But since that is basically known as "arguing", we would only be saying that arguing evolved to win arguments.

The only real idea in the article you link is the theory that cognitive biases evolved to give us a convincing certitude - that we learned to think wrong, merely in order to persuade others to think wrong with us. That may not be true but at least it means something.

Anonymous said...

Neither "casuist" nor "sophist"--in your meaning of the two--are intended to convey the meaning, "one skilled in argumentation."

"Rhetoric" would probably cover it. Rhetoric is the art of persuasive speaking. It can include valid logical arguments as well as appeals to emotion and other techniques that would make fans of modus tollens blanche. I suppose it's possible that reason arose from primodial, sophistic rhetoric because in certain situations reason can be an effective technique with which to beat Ugg in an argument.

hbd chick said...

@cul-de-sac - "Nobody is engaging in rationalizing when it comes to construction projects...."

no, you couldn't, could you? 'cause then your aqueducts would fall down.

Anonymous said...

Similarly, Christian scientists -- up until the enlightenment -- started and ended with Aristotle's scientific observations, and eschewed experimentation (ironically, had they paid more attention to Aristotle's logic, they might have questioned his non-experimental proto-science).

Since they eschewed experimentation, they weren't really scientists.

sabril said...

I've heard this argument before and I am skeptical. The fact is that most people reason pretty well most of the time.

For example, a man is walking outside, it starts raining very hard, he feels uncomfortable, so he goes indoors. Or he has an important appointment to get to so he tries to hail a cab. Or accepts that he will get wet.

Most people are capable of engaging in this sort of reasoning and do it all day long without thinking about it much and without having their reasoning perverted by bias.

Reasoning which is fouled up because it is results-oriented is probably less common but gets a lot more attention since it will come out on controversial issues.

jody said...

i'm not buying this one. the brain is a general purpose problem solver. it wasn't increased in size and sophistication to win verbal arguments. it was developed in volume and capability, to more effectively overcome day to day life problems. how to stay alive and how to not die.

of course, human brains can engage in verbal arguments, as humans are one of the few animals that communicate with some kind of symbolic language. but winning spoken arguments is not even remotely it's main purpose.

the way steve describes men from 5000 years ago, hunting in a life and death situation in which if they don't kill a 300 pound animal they will literally die from starvation, it just doesn't make sense. that's not what happens when you hunt. that's not how a hunt goes down. it's a physical thing and all the men will generally know which guy is the best hunter, the best at throwing a spear or killing with a knife or shooting a bow, what the best way is to kill various animals (they do it over and over the entire lives, taught by their fathers).

90% of the time they won't argue over what should happen. you give the best weapon to the best hunter and watch him approach the animal in the correct way and kill it. everybody eats. repeat next week. when there is an argument it's stuff like "Hey it's getting dark better head back now" and the other guy says "Not yet just another 30 minutes I think an Elk might come past anytime". wow. really takes a harvard lawyer to play at that level of discussion. the average man is helpless to decide whether he should avoid an oncoming lightning storm or maybe hang around for just a bit longer in case a 7 point buck wanders across the valley.

suggesting there is some argument during routine physical actions is like suggesting an NFL team argues on the field over routine plays. like the punter is gonna start talking about how he should do the left guard's job and then the right defensive end should throw the football downfield to the nose tackle. and then the guy with the best verbal ability convinces everybody to stop running those effective 6 yard sweep blocking rushes where the guard pulls, and instead they run around like crazy chickens because the punter was the smartest guy on the field and convinced everybody to do something he thought was best.

WTF that just plain doesn't happen. few situations are a court room where jewish lawyers try to outwit each other with logic gymnastics.

jody said...

this topic does bear on the topic of gender differences in thought patterns and thought processes, though.

in most societies, the females do not have a physical role, they have a social role. so most of their brains are highly attuned to observing and discovering the relationships between various people, understanding social hierarchies, and figuring out how to best position themselves among them.

this is why many women are SO obsessed with gossip, and why in 2011, many women have a cell phone surgically connected to their hand. their brains badly need to share social information constantly as this is it's primary survival function. a woman does not thrive by being physical, she does this by being social. they are deeply, deeply disinterested in how a cell phone works or how to build one, but endlessly fascinated by the information which travels across it.

this introduces the central paradox of male thought patterns versus female thought patterns - the common female need to always be right in arguments and to always "win" the argument. person for person they have much less "figure out how to do x" brainpower, because that is not their role in society and consequently not the strength of their brain. men have the reverse, generally being reponsible for figuring out all the stuff which enables the humans to not die. but they're less interested in always winning an argument, especially a less important argument.

women famously will ruminate on trivial arguments for years, bringing them up at near random time intervals to try to initiate the argument anew, after they have cogitated on what they should have said and how they should have responded to a man's points.

Polistra said...

"Reasoning was invented to persuade" ... makes sense.

Reminds me of something Mamet has said in his recent series of book-tour interviews. Explaining his basic insights about writing fiction and plays:

"People don't speak to express something, they speak to get something."

Rohan Swee said...

I think in most times and places, Zeno would have eventually got himself punched in the face. But the Greeks thought it was important to figure out why he was wrong.

When I first read Plato as a youth I wondered how Socrates managed to avoid at least a good hiding or two for as long as he did. Decades later I am convinced that only a small subset of Westerners ever gave a crap about the use of reason for the dispassionate pursuit of truth under rules of fair play, outside of those areas subject to an immediate sanction from hard reality.

At any rate, is "argumentativism" telling us anything that wasn't covered in the original critiques/defenses of sophism?

Rohan Swee said...

Better not to play at all than be shitfaced, especially since blacks don't have good manners and love to rub it in...

Blacks? This assumes that the culture of the "fair fight" is the norm and blacks that act like that the anomaly. Nope - the cultural minority and anomaly here is the lot that came up with and promulgated the Marquess of Queensberry stuff. RIP c. 1990 or so, when it was last seen disappearing under the multi-kult steamroller.

One of the hardest things about raising children in this modern age is trying to keep that noble tradition alive while at the same time teaching them not to take shit from everybody else out there who is playing by Asshole Rules.

Deckin said...

Sperber is a brilliant linguist, but as a philosopher (and this theory has many many philosophical facets), he leaves something to be desired. Moreover, many of the comments to this are besides the point.

Let's assume Sperber is right and rationality didn't evolve to get at the truth but, rather, evolved to help in some social argument winning context. Here's the question which any philosopher would ask: Why does it help win those arguments? Surely that's a legitimate question to ask and has some answer. If you do believe that arguments are won and lost for completely non-rational reasons, then, as some commenters suggest, nihilism is your story.

But, if like me, you believe that arguments are won, in the real world, because they are backed by real world experience, then this Sperber's view is sort of silly. We're right back to rationality as a method of detecting truth.

The persistance of bad reasoning is no more the camel's nose under the tent than it is a reflection that no real world process is perfect and immune to strategies that attempt to mimic its virtues at lower cost.

I just don't see the big deal here. Confirmation bias persists because, at a certain low rate in a person's belief structure, it won't absolutely kill you and, if you're lucky, it just might work--on occasion. Just like blondes will always be with us even if widespread miscegenation becomes the rule and dark hair dominates light hair.

Didn't Hardy-Weineberg solve all of this a long time ago?

Gay Girl in Dumbass-cause said...

"What I think is bizarre is that the Ancient Greeks started treating argument not just as a sport, but as one with objective fair play rules for deciding who wins."

I think the clue is right there in your sentence. They began treating arguent as a contest with 'fair play rules for deciding wins' precisely because they were so sports obsessed.

We know that among lawyers, politicians, intellectuals, historians, and CEOs, the best or truest don't always win. Some people have better connections, some use charisma to hide their charlatanism, some use money to buy support, etc.

But sports--or certain kinds of sports--are endeavors where the best does win. The fastest guy does objectively win the 100 m sprint under fair rules. The stronger man lifts more weight above his head. And etc.

Since more than any other people, Greeks were obsessed with sports, they might have transferred the OBJECTIVE MEASUREMENT OF WINNERY in sports onto intellectualism as well. Since one could precisely measure who was the best athlete, maybe Greeks thought they could also measure the best thinker.
There is a plus and minus to approach. Yes, some thinking is more logical and objectively truer than others, but thinking is also the ability to speculate, imagine, and empathize, not only to mentally outcalculate the other.
Greeks also had contests in the arts--and we do to, with all those prizes--, but this is even more dubious. But if it must be done, maybe the arts should be divided into more categories. It makes no sense to compare a wrestler with a runner, so maybe it makes no sense to reward the best writer since there are many genres of writing. What is one guy is a great comic writer, and another guy is a great tragic writer? Greeks, to be sure, divded drama into comedy and tragedy but what about everything in between?

Dutch Boy said...

My problem with trying to reason with people is that many will accept no data or premises unless these have been ratified previously by the MSM, some government agency, etc. - they allow the usual suspects to serve as gatekeepers for their thinking.

Anonymous said...

Argument. Augment.

Anonymous said...

Isn't all of communication a form of argument? When birds sing, it means, "hey, I'm the best male you wanna nest with, choose me, me, me!!"

Or when a bear growls, it's saying, "I'm bigger and stronger than you, so don't fuc* with me."

When a dog whimpers, it could be saying, "I'm so hungry and you should feel sorry for me and gimme some food."

Most 'argument' isn't to win something big to gain something small, even a morsel.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Mr. Berman,

Usage has given the terms casuist and sophist a pejorative connotation, but they didn't originally have it. Originally they just described persons skilled in argumentation, and they could still be used that way.

As a parallel, consider how in a generation or two the meaning of "to discriminate" has changed. We used to consider it praise to describe someone as discriminating in his tastes, and to think it proper to discriminate between good and evil, beauty and ugliness, harmony and cacophony, etc. Now, in popular usage, "discrimination" is almost always used in a negative sense; it is wrong to discriminate.

Words may even acquire meanings opposite to those they originally had. In Latin, "egregius" (meaning outstanding) is a term of praise; its English cognate means something or someone outstanding only in its repulsive or foolish qualities.

Lucy said...

"Nobody is engaging in rationalizing when it comes to construction projects, but everyone is when it comes to politics or religion. " cul-de-sac

Of course rationalizing goes on with construction projects, every decision point include rationalization. Once you are committed to a certain course, then the debate ceases but, at any point during the activity, when there is a choice to be made, there is some amount of rationalization. You obviously have never endured having a house remodeled. Lucky, lucky, you.

-

"The only real idea in the article you link is the theory that cognitive biases evolved to give us a convincing certitude - that we learned to think wrong, merely in order to persuade others to think wrong with us. That may not be true but at least it means something." Charlie

I like to think there are absolute truths yet this world is fraught with ambiguities. Some of what we do by arguing is cull out a bit of that amorphous chaos and give it shape and direction. Maybe we are "spirits in the material world"; nevertheless, there are rules for taking action along with clues about immediate vs long term effects. We have limited knowledge and are short on time.

For that matter, our biology also causes us to see wrong and hear wrong, no doubt our other senses can be distorted as well. However, the revelation of how we make a typical miscalculation in one of the modalities we use to perceive the world isn't necessarily an earth shattering moment as some who would offer you their preferred heuristics/shortcuts would lead you to believe.

another Aaron said...

If I remember correctly (it's been years since I read the book), one thesis of Masters of Truth in Ancient Greece was that the switch from poetic, analogic thinking to rational, dialogic thinking was conditioned on hoplite warfare. That might make even a better just-so story than the one here about men hunting deer. Enemy commanders can be smarter than deer, and they may try to outwit you, too.

Gene Berman said...

tommy:

"jews never developed the rudiments of logic as did the Greeks"

Neither the Greeks nor the Jews (nor any others )"developed the rudiments" of logic.

"Logic" is the inborn neural pattern through which the human instinct called "reason" operates.
Every human used it in the past and uses it today. Logic is (and always was) within every human being, including the newborn (and, likely, the fetus). Ancient Jews (and others) used logic in the very same fashion as did the Greeks (we all use it similarly, though not quite as similarly successfully nor with respect to the same subjects) but the Greeks left us remnants of their thought on the subject, while Jews and others did not, though they might well have on other matters.


People can employ their gifts (ability to reason, in this case) for very many different purposes, indeed. Ancient Greek tendency to focus on thought began a legacy
(geometry, etc., etc.) transmitted via the Romans--which formed the basis for what we'd call " science and advanced civilization."

Glory due Greeks for discovery of knowledge is somewhat misbestowed; Greeks inherited a vast accumulated
store--many kinds of knowledge--from hundreds, even thousands of years earlier, from Egypt and, maybe, other civilizations.

Archimedes discovered something important--about relative weights of equal volumes of different sorts of matter, useful in determining purity of metals.

But he did not discover constant relationships we now call specific gravity or density. Such constant relationship, at least for some things, were known for at least 500(maybe 2000+) years to refiners in ancient Egypt and to technically
competent people of Archimedes' day. Archimedes had to understand those relationships between densities of different substances in order to make the discovery he actually made: the volume of a solid is equal to that of water displaced when submerged. Thus, relative density (compared to water) was a tool (we call it "specific gravity") useful for a variety of purposes. But differing relative densities of many substances had been known for centuries (how else would refiners have known when their process was complete?).

Very few people, even among those who "understand" specific gravity, understand what I've related. And I mightn't either, if I hadn't had a refiner explain a technique--called "cupellation," which, he explained, was well-known even in ancient Egypt.

The fact is that most people can always learn new things--even about matters of which they'd already known quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

"Most 'argument' isn't to win something big to gain something small, even a morsel."

I meant...


Most 'argument' isn't to win something big BUT to gain something small, even a morsel.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can better understand arguism by considering a poker game or a boxing match.

To win in poker, you need the better cards. That is an objective fact. But a player with worse cards can actually bluff and psyche out the player with better cards. Bluffing is a form of stylistic-argument. By demeanor, facial motions, eye contact, etc, you are 'arguing' that you have real badass cards or worse cards(to hustle the other player). So, while there is objective truth in poker--better cards win--, there is also an element of 'argument' in the playing, so that the player with worse cards can win sometimes.
If poker was always determined objectively, there would be no superior players. Superior players are better bluffers. They are, of course, better able to assess odds based on the cards they have and the exposed cards of other players on the table. But it's a guessing game where assessing requires arguing with oneself. (Indeed, much of argument is internal. Should I buy this, should I not? Should I eat ice cream or should I exercise? What should I get for my significant other? In making any choice, there is an internal argument. Animals also gauge... "should I choose to fight or take flight?")

Boxing too has both an objective aspect and arguist aspect. Objectively, the faster, stronger, and more skilled boxer wins. But a lesser boxer may be a good bluffer/hustler in the ring, making himself appear much tougher and better than he really is.
In style and manner, he could body motions and sounds to convey he's really badass and not to mess with. This is why even a big bear will back down to a smaller wolverine. Wolverine's growl is a lot fiercer and convinces the bear, 'this little guy's gonna eat me alive if I don't budge.'

Notice how that in street fights, two fighters make all sorts of exaggerated motions to send the message, 'if you dare come near me, I's gonna whup yo ass!' They make all sorts of bruce-lee-kung-fu motions(even if they don't know martial arts) to freak the other guy out. Sometimes, this is enough to defuse the fight cuz both guys are freaked out by the badass bluffing of the other guy.

I heard that chimps often stand up and make themselves look big when facing off against baboons. Though the baboon may be just as big or tough as the chimp, a chimp on its hindlegs just looks more formidable, and so the baboon runs. Body-argument.

Half Sigma said...

"Jesus died young too, but isn't He one of the most powerful people of all time?"

Jesus is a myth. The mass of archaeological and historical evidence leads the rational reasoning human to conclude that such a person never existed.

Anonymous said...

So, reason is a doubled-edged sword. On the one hand, it enhances the art of bluff, posturing, intimidation, charisma, trickery, deceit(usually to advantage one's own side).
But its other purpose is to look behind the smoke-and-mirrors and to gauge the REAL value or strength of the other side--know thine enemy.

Like a previous commentator said, one may use reason to boost one's own advantages(beyond its actual power) hide disadvantages WHILE, AT THE SAME TIME, trying to access the REAL TRUTH of the other side(behind its smoke and mirrors). Same is true of the meaning of INTELLIGENCE. The CIA seeks the REAL TRUTH about the other side but also uses smoke and mirrors to hide our real strength and intent.
One reason why Hussein remained ambiguous about WMD was to scare outside forces that maybe he had them. INTELLIGENCE is used to access the truth and also to spread lies. The whole WMD was INTELLIGENCE at worst and best. Bush administration was correct in assessing that Hussein was weak and could easily be toppled. But they spread panic about WMD, which was exaggerated beyond all measure, to persuade the world to give green light to war. So eager was the administration(and the media) for war that they may have begun to believe in its own lies.
The danger is sometimes the truth and lies become blurred. Fascist Italy spread false reports about its mighty airforce(which was anything but), but it even Italians came to believe in the myth. Stalin expertly read German intentions for awhile but then fooled himself into thinking Hitler would not attack the USSR. Hitler correctly assessed the weaknesses of the Soviet military but ignored all its strengths.

Much of REASON is reason-for-power-sake, but over time, there has developed reason-for-reason's sake. Why? I guess as reason came to be prized more, it gained a life and value of its own.

Same thing with art. For most of history and culture, art expressed/served religious, moral, cultural, or political truths. But over time, there developed the concept/ideal of art-for-art's-sake. As Dwight MacDonad said, 'or what better sake?'

Anonymous said...

"Jesus is a myth."

Then St. Paul, the spinner of the tale, is one of the most men who ever lived.

Anonymous said...

I think it's strange that a people as argumentative as the Jews never developed the rudiments of logic as did the Greeks and some other ancient people.

Liking arguing is not the same thing as being good at it. I've never found Jews to be especially good at argumentation, as opposed to being persistent and energetic at it. I'm sure that the same is true of most people here - if you were persuaded by Jewish arguments you'd be at Daily Kos or Commentary instead of here.

Anonymous said...

"I've never found Jews to be especially good at argumentation, as opposed to being persistent and energetic at it."

Yeah, and I've never found blacks to be especially good at basketball as opposed to being persistent and energetic at it.

Nice try!! Rotfl.

Anonymous said...

Maybe there are two kinds of expressions: Arrrghmentism and Argumentism.

Arrrghmentism is brutal, masterful, or commanding show of force. Like an animal or barbarian going Arrgggh!!!!
It usually favors the tough guy, the brute, or the beast over all others. It's like Yosemite Sam or the Tasmanian Devil.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOTlNOZB4Zo&feature=related

Arrrghmentism favors the strong, and in nature, the Arrghmentists win. But among humans with a higher form of communication, the weaker members began to realize that brains could beat brawn via argument. Notice how the Tasmanian Devil goes Arggghh and is about to eat Bugs, but then Bugs argues him into untying him. It is via argumentism that Bugs usually wins in the Looneytunes universe over guys like Yosemite Sam, Tasmanian Devil, and Elmer Fudd with the rifle. Daffy Duck is argumentative too, but he often loses cuz he has no self-control. Instead of using argumentism as a tool, he becomes its toy.

People who made Looney Tunes were Jews, and like the Marx Brothers routines, there is an element of Jewish argumentism vs bigger-but-dumber-goy-arrrghmentism. Jews were disadvantaged in numbers, power, and etc, but they could out-argue the the arrghish goyim, and so they gained greater power.

Though Ratso is supposed to be Italian, Hoffman makes him into a very Jewishy character.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c412hqucHKw

But in both Bugs cartoons and MIDNIGHT COWBOY, we can see how Jewish argumentism could also be self-defeating. Both Bugs and Rato relish and get a kick out of outwitting and running circles around the arrghish characters, but it also leads to a lot of hatred and rage on the part of the aggrieved. You know that Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd,and the Tasmanian Devil hate, hate, and hate Bugs because Bugs doesn't just outwit them but mocks them in the bargain.
And realizing he's been conned, Joe Buck really wants to kill Ratso.

In American politics, we often have the Bugsy-like argumentists controlling the arrghists. People like Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, Obama, Clinton, and etc talk big and tough, but their barks are really controlled by those who control the argument.

Ironically, argumentism, which might have originated to give the weak some leverage over the strong--the brutish arrgh crowd--eventually became the source of higher power. Today, the arugmentists own the world while arrghists are their running/barking dogs.
And Hollywood is owned by argumentists who control the arrghists--Schwarzenegger, Stallone, etc.

As a wise Assyrian man once told me while disapprovingly referring to his weight-lifting son, 'All my life, I've never seen this(pointing to his biceps) beat this(pointing to his head).'

Wandrin said...

jody
"the way steve describes men from 5000 years ago, hunting in a life and death situation in which if they don't kill a 300 pound animal they will literally die from starvation, it just doesn't make sense. that's not what happens when you hunt. that's not how a hunt goes down"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfeNcsQZmZY

around 6 mins, 20 seconds

group of hunters *reasoning* over the true meaning of animal tracks

exactly the same thing happens millions of times every day whenever there's two or more people engaged in a practical task where the people involved have the *same aim*

you get it when two people are trying to figure a way of loading a car with too much stuff. you get it when a group of people try to put up a tent for the first time. it's so commonplace maybe people don't even notice it happens *all* the time in group manual tasks.

what's happening is pooling two+ brains for the same task.

the exact same thing can be done in a debate if two or more people have the intention of using the process to arrive at the truth

.
"in most societies, the females do not have a physical role, they have a social role"

In most societies the females had the physical roles that were physically close to home where the young children were i.e. foraging, getting water etc.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we need to be careful about what we mean by 'argument'. Hunters discussing about the hunt are not necessarily arguing. They are sharing ideas.

Take football. Guys on the same team huddle together and discuss what to do. They could end up arguing, but since they have shared objective, it's more like cooperating and sharing ideas. Now, the hierarchy within a group may have been shaped by past arguments, but once the hierarchy has been established, the nature of the discourse is less argumentative than discursive.
In fact, the spirit of argumentation is suppressed/dampened by the hierarchy or spirit of collaboration. One isn't offering an opinion necessarily to elevate oneself over others but to offer up good advice for the common good or higher good or to be in good graces with the lord. I suppose a lot of has to do with style. A person with good ideas but who stutters and is timid is less likely to win respect than one speaks well even if he's often wrong.

An argument connotes competition to win or come out on top. It is individualistic in nature. It has winners and losers insteads of the idea of shared victory. Hunters on the same team have a common interest to bring home the bacon, so, as Sailer said, arguing among one another would have been detrimental.
But is Sailer right in saying they'll argue during the night around the campfire for fun? Maybe, maybe not. What do football players do when they're away from the field? Don't they go to bars and clubs and hang out together? Do they argue or do they pat eachother on the back and flatter one another in guy-bonding way to ensure loyalty amongst one another?

And what is the role of expertise in argument? It may both increase and decrease the likelihood. Two people who accept evolutionary theory are less likely to argue with one another than with someone who believes in creationism.
On the other hand, expertise can lead to a pissing contest on who knows more, like when two sports nuts go on and on about who's the better ballplayer.

Wandrin said...

"Maybe we need to be careful about what we mean by 'argument'."

The article linked in the opening post

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/arts/people-argue-just-to-win-scholars-assert.html?_r=2&hp=&pagewanted=all

"Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth"

"Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments."

etc

I think reason and argumentation evolved as a mechanism for small groups to share brain cells. Four people trying to put up a tent for the first time might be the best example of what i mean in terms of common experience although it happens literally all the time in any physical group task.

After it developed then yes it's easy to see how a bright spark might have seen how to use it to their advantage when the outcome in question was far in the future or completely unknowable e.g. witch doctors and priests.

The critical element in 1st stage reasoning is the group have the same aim - to get closest to what truth is in the particular context - and having that same aim enforces implicit rules of debate before those rules were invented.

2nd stage argumentation for the sake of dominance doesn't have those rules and needs to not have those rules.

However the Greeks figured out that if you devise rules of debate that mimic 1st stage reasoning then you can devise a system for approaching abstract truth also.

That would be seem to be most likely sequence to me.

With of course the NYT leading the downward corruption from the high-point.

tommy said...

"Logic" is the inborn neural pattern through which the human instinct called "reason" operates.

Yours is a typical Jewish semantic argument. It's akin to me arguing that Einstein didn't develop relativity because it has always been at work in the universe. Besides the point and a misapprehension of the point: you must look to Aristotle rather than the sages of the Talmud if you want to see a system of syllogistic reasoning elucidated. Jews never moved to formalize reasoning and the deductions of Jewish law are a heap of dubious analogies, ad hoc arguments with no logical connection to one another, lots of word play, and frequent appeals to authority. Reading the New Testament, I can imagine that Jesus must have annoyed the Pharisees to no end by turning their analogical proofs on their heads.

The Greeks and the Jews both had their share of argumentative folks, but only Athens provided a lasting contribution to later thinking.

Glory due Greeks for discovery of knowledge is somewhat misbestowed; Greeks inherited a vast accumulated

Neither the Egyptians nor the Babylonians developed the axiomatic mathematics you find in Euclid's Elements and that's very significant. Without axioms and the method of formal proof you cannot get too far in mathematics. The axiomatic approach was probably the most important advancement ever made in the field. Sure, the Egyptians had geometrical formulas and many of them were correct. Unfortunately, others were wrong. You cannot proceed by trial and error in mathematics. The situation of the Egyptians and the Babylonians was analogous to that of the Japanese whose solutions to sangaku puzzles were often clever but not uniformly correct. Compare Japanese mathematics prior to contact with the West to that of the West itself; it's no contest.

Gene Berman said...

tommy:

What--other than "typical Jewish semantic argument" would you (or could you) expect from me? If it's a handicap in the logic/argument department, shouldn't that entitle me to a little slack--if only in a spirit of generosity?

Maybe there's no chance for me--that I'll get things right. I'd have a better chance if I were half-blood or less but I'm stuck at 100% (as best I know), so more or less completely handicapped.

But I'll tell you what puzzles me (and maybe you can shed some light on the subject).

In many cases, when you come across contenders for top spots, advancing opposing arguments in the particular field, you're naturally desirous of selecting that which seems best. Is it better to select on the basis of some consideration of argument or position--or can one make the job easier by chucking those advanced by Jews? Even that seems bound to lead into difficulty, since (in more cases than you can shake a stick at), the leaders are kikes on both sides. Whad'dye do then?

But I have a more serious question.

You apparently recognize "Jewish" argument characteristics. Leave aside whether predicated on name or appearance of the argument-maker (ID-ing him as a Jew). Are there reliable ways to identify such arguments even when their origin isn't specifically known? Is it reasonable to assume that arguments by a member of a group tend, if generally accepted, to favor that group in some way (or, at least, that person)?

I'm seeking enlightenment here, tommy--and you've got a chance to operate on a near-"blank slate."
I'm genetically "damaged" just by being a Jew, of course; but except for immediate family, I've hardly hung around any Jews for over 60 years. I not only don't belong to any Jewish organizations, I don't belong to any kind of organization
at all.

I'm unusual in other ways, too. F'rinstance, no fiction since 1948 (except I THE JURY in a waiting-room and a few sci-fi anthologies in the mid-60s). Not a newspaper or magazine since March, 1980. No TV network news since 1990 (might watch FOX an hour or two a month) and little else except a movie or comedians and NFL football. Blank enuff? I do check Drudge daily, so I ain't way behind. And, if I need to know the weather, I just look out the window.

I'm not really so interested in theory of many kinds except in Economics. And, like I said, right there we've got two main streams of thought vying for general (and political) acceptance. And, just like I said before, both of 'em headed up by (dead) Jews. One is well known--name of Karl Marx--and his is more influential, partly dominant everywhere, though few call themselves Marxists anymore. His was generally the position you maintain, i.e., argument from a source was determined by the person's origin (usually, for Marx, that meant "class" as in proletariat or bourgoisie but, in private correspondence, extended to race, i.e., Jew, nigger).

My side (called "Austrian School"), is almost diametrically opposite Marx. But, it, too, is dominated, especially at higher echelons of thought, by--you guessed it!--Jews. Especially one--Mises--but there are Bohm-Bawerk, Rothbard, Kirzner, Reisman, and others; they haven't developed the following among other kinds of folks that Marx achieved--but they've been growing recently. Mises himself was my introduction to the entire idea of considering characteristics of the source of an argument--in 35 years, it had never occurred to me nor had it even occurred that anyone else'd ever think of it, either: he calls it "polylogism" and devotes about 15 (I'd call well-written) pages to its treatment; it (polylogism) doesn't stand up too well.

Gene Berman said...

Crawfurdmuir:

I understand the modern meaning of "casuist" to embrace the older meaning of one so skilled but was not aware that "sophist" had ever been used in a manner other than negatively. You have, therefore, my apology for my less than charitable interpretation of your comment.

Gene Berman said...

tommy:

Somehow, I think you've got the idea that I diminish the Greeks and their importance in relation
to Jews, Egyptians, or others.

That would be an entirely mistaken
impression. To repeat myself, the civilization of the Greeks, thru the Romans, formed the basis for our modern civilization.

The point I wanted to make--with only partial success, it seems--is that Greeks, whether discoverers
or transmitters of knowledge, put what they'd discovered on their own or from others into entities recognizable as "sciences" or "schools of thought." They organized it in coherent fashion and put in shape for bequeathal. Modern chemistry is almost as different as can be imagined from what passed as chemistry to the Greeks. Every bit of content might have needed re-doing--but there was no need to re-invent a scientific category called "chemistry." An entire organized basis of civilization was provided.

Egyptians left pyramids, statues, and buildings. The Greeks left us buildings, statues, and Architecture (and other divisions of human culture we recognize when we speak of "arts and sciences").

I'm unlearned and uncultured but my father could speak, read, and write ancient Greek, ancient Latin, and ancient Hebrew (as well as English, German, and Yiddish) and taught himself Russian and Ukranian (at age 70+!) in order to translate scientific (chemical) papers.

Wandrin said...

Gene Berman,

"What--other than "typical Jewish semantic argument" would you (or could you) expect from me?...Are there reliable ways to identify such arguments even when their origin isn't specifically known?"

There's a list - lots of sly ad hominems buried within the main argument for example - but the most important distinction is not Jewish vs White but clannish vs White.

Truth-seeking argumentation is an aspect of universal morality. Most individuals from groups who have a particularist morality will engage in truth-seeking argumentation within their particularist group.

Mafia clans will use universal morality and truth-seeking argumentation *within* the clan but not outside. Jewish rabbis arguing amongst themselves about the best moral code for Jews will use universal morality and truth-seeking argumentation because they want the best outcome.

Advantage-seeking argumentation is therefore going to be mostly noticeable in us vs them situations.

The main distinction will be advantage-seeking argumentation will always have a double-standard in there somewhere because otherwise where would the advantage be? Truth-seeking argumentation will almost always be universally applicable.

So "Jewish" argumentation will be particularist pretending to be universal. Although i don't think it's Jewish. I think (most) White people having the universalist trait is the unusual thing and Jews are the same as most of the rest of the human population in this regard. It seems Jewish to some because the majority of people using it currently are Jews but in my view it's a side-effect of clannish particularist morality.

(Obviously white sociopaths and politicians use it also.)

The other exception is one you allude to which is where the argumentation is within a mathematically based hard science. Here, truth seeking argumentaion is coerced by mathematics so a talent for argumentation could be completely beneficial without any downside.

I have a theory that a lot of White people who have the inherent universalist trait will sometimes subconsciously pick up when someone is only pretending to use truth-seeking argumentation as it will make them angry without them being entirely sure why. When this happens they should step back and instead of losing their temper they should figure out where the double standard is in the argument they are listening to.

It will always be there somewhere.

.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the researcher's conclusions are stupid beyond description. So she uses her reason to wear one shoe that is more comfortable for walking around the house but not necessarily fashionable, and then uses reason to choose another shoe that looks great but hurts her feet, and this "evolved" to help her win arguments? The hell? Arguments with whom? This is so dumb, I'm afraid I'll damage my brain by thinking any more about it.

More evidence, as if any were needed, that belief in evolution causes faulty thinking.

Anonymous said...

"Creationists make perfectly rational arguments. Where they err is their choice of premise, the literal word of the Bible. But within that premise, they seek and arrange data to make them conform to their worldview, and then they rationlly formulate an argument."

Evolutionists make perfectly rational arguments. Where they err is their choice of premise, the never-observed process of evolution. But within that premise, they seek and arrange data to conform to their worldview, and then they rationally formulate an argument.

Anonymous said...

"I have suspected this for a few years in my more philosophical moments, but a better analogy might be reason developed to help you understand and therefore defeat your competition," blah blah evolution story-telling and speculation blah blah blah.

Jokes aside, do you have any evidence for the existence of a species of man that lacked reason or rationality? You know you don't, so why talk about reason "developing" or evolving? I thought evolution was science and science was about repeated observation, not just assuming something and then piling speculation on top of assumptions.

Belief in evolution leads to poor reasoning, which is maladaptive, correct? So evolve and adapt: give up your irrational faith in evolution.