While lies have attracted philosophical attention since antiquity, phenomena in the near area have generated considerably less interest. Lately, however, Max Black and Harry Frankfurt have visited a close relative: humbug or bullshit, as it's either more politely or more rudely called. In this article their views on humbug and bullshit are exposed, explained, critiqued, and, ultimately, rejected. An alternative view is then proposed and defended.
This paper is a critical analysis of three theories of fallacy, those of Ralph Johnson, of Jaakko Hintikka, and of Robert Fogelin and Timothy Duggan. Although the theories are very different from one another, all oppose the traditional, non-dialectical view of a fallacy as a mistaken inference. The theories are exposed and explained in detail, and then subjected to critical examination. For a variety of reasons, all are found seriously wanting. The mistakes of each suggest that it is better to (...) stay with the traditional view, at least if suitably refined and qualified. (shrink)
Some philosophers identify the meaning of a work of art with what the artist intended the work to mean. Other philosophers think that although an artist’s intentions don’t fully determine a work’s meaning, they are a partial determinate of it. Last, there are philosophers who think that an artist’s intentions have no bearing on a work’s meaning. This paper is an examination of several arguments for the last of these three positions. In particular, it is a critical examination of three (...) arguments advanced by Monroe Beardsley in his earlier writings in aesthetics. (shrink)
The most frequent charges brought against moral relativism are probably that it is inconsistent, that it has morally repugnant implications, and that it leads to amoralism, or the breakdown of morality altogether. A less frequent but still common objection is more conceptual in nature: relativism cannot make any sense of a certain species of comparative moral judgment, namely those that morally compare two moral codes. The general form of this kind of judgment is: ‘Moral code A is morally superior to (...) moral code B.’ Stace lodges this objection, and others have as well. Is it cogent? Using Stace as a springboard for discussion, I critically examine three related arguments against relativism that claim that comparative judgments of the sort in question are impossible on relativism. (shrink)
One form of argument from analogy is identified and Stephen Barker's remarks about a second kind of argument from analogy, non-inductive (and non-deductive) argument from analogy, are used as a springboard to identify a second form. That form is then refined, explained, exemplified, and related to the first form. It is argued that there is a spectrum of different forms of argument from analogy, with the two forms identified being end points on the spectrum. Except in terms of form, however, (...) there is no reason to speak of two different kinds of argument from analogy. (shrink)
This paper is a critical examination of the so-called slippery slope argument for the conservative position on abortion. The argument was discussed in the philosophic literature some time back, but has since fallen into disfavor. The argument is first exposed and a general objection to it is advanced, then rebutted. Rosalind Hursthouse's more detailed and stronger objection is next aired, but also found less than convincing. In the course of discussing her objection, the correct form of the argument is identified, (...) and it's noted that rejection of the argument requires finding fault with its inductive premise. That, in turn, requires either (a) identifying and defending a cutoff point other than conception, or (b) not identifying a cutoff point but directly attacking the argument's conclusion. As far as (a) is concerned, all except one alternative cutoff point have severe problems that have been well discussed in the literature. The one that doesn't, the appearance of the ‘primitive streak’, is examined in detailed, but ultimately rejected. As for (b), five different grounds for rejecting the conclusion are identified and discussed, but none is found plausible. Variations on the slippery slope argument, concerning different conclusions that it may have, are then distinguished, related to each other, and critically discussed, and the paper ends with some cautionary remarks about the defense of the argument tendered. (shrink)
This paper is a critical analysis of Tristram Engelhardt''s attempts to avoid unrestricted nihilism and relativism. The focus of attention is his recent book, The Foundations of Bioethics (Oxford University Press, 1996). No substantive or content-full bioethics (e.g., that of Roman Catholicism or the Samurai) has an intersubjectively verifiable and universally binding foundation, Engelhardt thinks, for unaided secular reason cannot show that any particular substantive morality (or moral code) is correct. He thus seems to be committed to either nihilism or (...) relativism. The first is the view that there is not even one true or valid moral code, and the second is the view that there is a plurality of true or valid moral codes. However, Engelhardt rejects both nihilism and relativism, at least in unrestricted form. Strictly speaking, he himself is a universalist, someone who believes that there is a single true moral code. Two argumentative strategies are employed by him to fend off unconstrained nihilism and relativism. The first argues that although all attempts to establish a content-full morality on the basis of secular reason fail, secular reason can still establish a content-less, purely procedural morality. Although not content-full and incapable of providing positive direction in life, much less a meaning of life, such a morality does limit the range of relativism and nihilism. The second argues that there is a single true, content-full morality. Grace and revelation, however, are needed to make it available to us; secular reason alone is not up to the task. This second line of argument is not pursued in The Foundations at any length, but it does crop up at times, and if it is sound, nihilism and relativism can be much more thoroughly routed than the first line of argument has it.Engelhardt''s position and argumentative strategies are exposed at length and accorded a detailed critical examination. In the end, it is concluded that neither strategy will do, and that Engelhardt is probably committed to some form of relativism. (shrink)
An identity statement flanked on both sides with proper names is necessarily true, Saul Kripke thinks, if it's true at all. Thus, contrary to the received view – or at least what was, prior to Kripke, the received view – a statement like(A) Hesperus is Phosphorus.
Context is mainly a critical history of one of the central strands – arguably, the central strand – of the analytic tradition in philosophy, namely, the philosophy of language. Key ﬁgures that put in an appearance include Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Ayer, Hempel, Tarski, Quine, Davidson, Putnam, and Dewey, the last being a somewhat odd ﬁgure, given the general tenor of Callaway’s cavalcade of stars. Meaning and analysis are the focus of attention, and true to his title, Callaway doesn’t hesitate (...) to criticize various positions as he makes his way – the book is organized more or less chronologically – from Frege to Davidson and Putnam. More than that, though, he doesn’t content himself with merely negative criticism. Original positions on various issues are argued for and integrated into an approach that’s largely inspired by Quine, but also pays a large tribute to Davidson and Dewey. (shrink)
This, the latest volume in The Douglas Walton Encyclopedia of Argumentation—well, it's starting to look like that, anyway—is primarily concerned with four purported fallacies that involve an appeal to emotion: ad populum, ad misericordiam, ad baculum, and ad hominem. In very rough outline, the layout of the book is this. After some preliminary remarks about the four fallacies in the first chapter, and some remarks about the theoretical framework he will be working with in the second, Walton devotes a chapter (...) apiece to each of the four in the order indicated above. A seventh chapter focuses on “borderline cases,” in which more than one of the so-called fallacies is involved, and an eighth summarizes and refines the findings of earlier chapters. As is obvious, The Place of Emotion is well organized; and, as would be a safe inference for anyone acquainted with any of Walton's work, it is written in a readily accessible and unpretentious style: a plain style, in the best sense of the term. Walton has something to say, and it's virtually impossible to miss it—and that independently of the fact that this book, like a number of his others, is somewhat repetitive. The Place of Emotion is one of those rare books that a specialist in a field would find of interest, but that could also be taught in an undergraduate course. (shrink)
Two brainless curs, Alan Brinton and Douglas Walton, have recently had the impudence to suggest that several of my views on argumentum ad baculum are mistaken. While hardship and toil await them in this life and eternal damnation in the next, punishment begins with this paper. In it, I clarify my position, defend my views, and critique their arguments. Last, I argue ad baculum against both of them, threatening both with the loss of reputation, employment, and respect unless they repudiate (...) every objection raised against me and publicly abase themselves. (shrink)
This paper is a critical assessment of argumentum ad baculum, or appeal to force. Its principal contention is that, contrary to common opinion, there is no general fallacy of ad baculum. Most real-life ad baculums are, in fact, fairly strong. A basic logical form for reconstructed ad baculums is proposed, and a number of heterodoxical conclusions are also advanced and argued for. They include that ad baculum is not necessarily a prudential argument, that ad baculum need not involve force, violence, (...) or threats, and that one can argue ad baculum to oneself. The starting point of the paper, however, is a critical evaluation of three ad baculums from the exercise sets of Irving Copi's well-known Introduction to Logic. (shrink)
Discussions regarding abortion are often misguided and confused. This paper critically examines the extreme liberal view, which argues that neither the fetus, at any stage of development, nor the young infant has a right to life. It focuses on the general argumentative strategy employed by a number of philosophers in arriving at an extreme liberal view. An evaluative critique of an extreme liberal view is offered as a step toward clarifying and expanding upon the abortion debate. Keywords: abortion, personhood, speciesism, (...) right to life, human being CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Over the past fifteen years or so the distinction between de diclo and de re modality has been revived and pressed into service in a number of areas of philosophy. In "Plantinga on the De Dicto/De Re Distinction" it is argued that one prominent argument/persuasion advanced for making the distinction in the first place is unsound. The argument for making the distinction attempts to elicit rational acceptance of it by clearly illustrating it with a proposition that is false when modal-fied (...) de dicto, true when modalfied de re. However, i f the example (and ones like it) is critically scrutinized, and the distinction between referential and attributive uses of definite descriptions carefully adhered to, doubt can be cast on whether our intuitions regarding the case are really, at base, intuitions about a different and distinct form of modality, de re modality. (shrink)