Illusive Mind

The Unquestionable should be questioned

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Invincible Ideas?


In Invincible Ideas Richard argues that some propositions are ‘invincible’ because any attempt to defeat them is self defeating or “the act of opposition is itself an instance of what is being opposed.”

I find this line of reasoning very intriguing and at least ostensibly persuasive. Of course with Philosophy one is always very wary of an argument that concludes that its conclusion is indefeasible. Even in the case of apriori ‘truths’.

Take the example of argument. Can one successfully argue that argument is worthless? Don’t they commit the very sin they are railing against? Well, yes they do. Let’s replace argument with conflict, one can argue that conflict is worthless and what we really should be doing is cooperating with one another. But in the process of arguing this, you are going to be coming into conflict with people who do not share this view. Suppose you happen to convince everyone of this view, the conflict would consequently disappear and if things worked out, your argument might be validated.

Replace conflict back with argument again and suppose that we are now living in a world without arguments and it is much better for it. Doesn’t the fact that it required the proponents of the theory to argue for it, contradict the very thesis they are arguing for? Well, not really because the statement “all argument is worthless” is probably a misinterpretation of their thesis. And something along the lines of “the world would be better without argument” may be a more favourable interpretation.

The act of arguing for this thesis is itself a Wittgensteinian Ladder, to be climbed and then disposed of after you have reached its conclusion. I don’t think that we have to use the elements the thesis opposes to reach its conclusion automatically disqualifies the argument.

This shouldn’t be confused with obvious hypocrisy, such as “violence is absolutely wrong so I will kill anyone who is violent.” I think that is the key, is this idea of absolutes. If someone believes that conflict is absolutely wrong, then naturally if they are to act in accordance with that principle they must not conflict with other people, even to convince them of that principle.

The most famous example of this kind of self-referential fallacy is, “there is no truth.” One cannot affirm this statement is a truth without contradicting themselves. This causes many people to conclude that it is hence true that truths exist, this is to commit an either/or fallacy.

As a truth subjectivist, I am committed to the idea of “there is no truth” without affirming it as a truth. For if I am committed to this idea I must accept that it is possible that anything is true, even the possibility of there being truths.

Thus, perhaps there is no truth emerges.

People often respond that if nothing is true then why should I bother with your argument for that conclusion. But this is myopia, for they cannot see Wittgenstein’s Ladder leading them to a different point of view.

Consequently, I reject the notion that there philosophical ideas that are invincible to defeasibility whilst affirming the possibility of their existence.

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Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

Presumably, tautologies can't be argued against.

As for making an argument which claims itself to be useless, what you have is a paradox not an invincible idea.

Let me propose X to be an invincible argument. Let's say that Y is a counter-argument to X, but that in making that counter argument, Y also proves X. You are left simply with Y -> X and Y -> ~X.

You are then left with the choice of renouncing Y, renouncing one of the rules Y -> X or Y -> ~X, or joining the dialetheists over coffee and not coffee.


5/26/2005 02:11:00 AM  
Blogger Illusive Mind said...

Yes tautologies can't be disproved because they prove nothing.

You could always argue against having the existence of tautologies though, however successful you may be!

I don't think a counterargument that proves both x and ~x is a paradox but a contradiction. And I don't think such lousy counterarguments prove anything about the argument they are attempting to defeat (i.e. that they are invincible) they are just lousy.

5/28/2005 12:57:00 AM  

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