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Philosopher or B.S. Artist?

wonkavision

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Please consider the following proposition (inspired by Plato's "Gorgias". Feel free to reference that work in your comments, if you so desire):

If you are skilled in the "art"(or "knack") of persuasion, oratory, debate, etc. but have little to no firm personal convictions (or actual experience or knowledge) about any of the positions you take, then you are little more than a B.S. artist or, at best, a sophist, and NOT a philosopher. And, furthermore, your are not a "virtuous" person. (Or, at least, there is no "virtue" in such uses of rhetoric.)

What is your opinion on/response to that statement?
 

GodOfOrder

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Well, it depends on how you argue. If you are capable of simply disproving the other's argument in a debate, simply by pointing out logical flaws, this is perfectly acceptable. You are not making any claim, just refuting one that is wrong. You need no prior knowledge to do this.

It is when you try to establish claims on no solid ground that you run into ethical trouble.
 

wonkavision

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Well, it depends on how you argue. If you are capable of simply disproving the other's argument in a debate, simply by pointing out logical flaws, this is perfectly acceptable. You are not making any claim, just refuting one that is wrong. You need no prior knowledge to do this.

It is when you try to establish claims on no solid ground that you run into ethical trouble.

Fair enough.

Let me pose the question this way:

If someone can point out logical flaws in arguments 'til the cows come home, but he never makes any claims because he doesn't really "believe" anything, is there any "virtue" or "merit" in being able to point out logical flaws?

And on the positive side, if he can sell just about any idea, or make a convincing argument for just about any position, but he has no "conviction" about anything he's saying, is there any "virtue" or "merit" in his ability to convince or persuade?
 

BigApplePi

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If you are skilled in the "art"(or "knack") of persuasion, oratory, debate, etc. but have little to no firm personal convictions (or actual experience or knowledge) about any of the positions you take, then you are little more than a B.S. artist or, at best, a sophist, and NOT a philosopher. And, furthermore, you are not a "virtuous" person.
I can define a philosopher as a person who wants to know what's going on. In the process of doing that he's bound to pick up on something he believes IS going on. There is no reason why he can't be a specialist philosopher by spewing bs or testing the waters by tossing out positions. The recipients of this persuasion, oratory, debate, etc. are probably not philosophers as philosophers are supposedly studied in logic. Philosophers might be fooled for a while, but if they apply their skills and still want to know what's going on, they can overcome this persuasion, oratory, debate, etc. That WON'T be the case if they make false assumptions. After all even a philosopher is human.

A philosopher delivering persuasion, oratory, debate, etc. would probably not want to be known as a bs'er in the long run, so eventually he will come clean.

Virtuous? If one is creating a deceptive world, that doesn't sound virtuous. If one is trying to demonstrate a false world and what it can lead to, that could be virtuous, but only if it gets exposed in the end.
 

wonkavision

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Thanks for the responses so far. And thanks for bearing with me.

I'm sure there are thousands of better ways I could phrase my questions, but I'm doing my best, given the highly subjective nature of the subject. :smoker:
 

Antediluvian

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You are not making any claim, just refuting one that is wrong. You need no prior knowledge to do this.

This reminds me of Wittgenstein's claim that philosophers should be silent except for when correcting other people's logical flaws.
 

wonkavision

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.....

The recipients of this persuasion, oratory, debate, etc. are probably not philosophers as philosophers are supposedly studied in logic. Philosophers might be fooled for a while, but if they apply their skills and still want to know what's going on, they can overcome this persuasion, oratory, debate, etc. That WON'T be the case if they make false assumptions. After all even a philosopher is human.

....

I noticed in your comment, and in GodOfOrder's, the emphasis on logic in philosophy.

I think this is what I'm struggling to get at:

Is logic "enough" to "do" philosophy? Or is something else needed, such as actual firsthand knowlege of things, life experience, "wisdom", etc.

I would propose that philosophy is more than just making and critiquing logical arguments. Some kind of actual real-world application, experience, "wisdom" etc. must be involved at some point, and some kind of personal conviction as a result, lest it be mere posturing/navel-gazing/B.S.ing., and not "real" philosophy at all.

What do you think about that?
 

wonkavision

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You are not making any claim, just refuting one that is wrong. You need no prior knowledge to do this.

This reminds me of Wittgenstein's claim that philosophers should be silent except for when correcting other people's logical flaws.

OK, but is philosophy just about refuting the claims of others, or does it also involve making claims of one's own?

I would think it involves both.
 

Antediluvian

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OK, but is philosophy just about refuting the claims of others, or does it also involve making claims of one's own?

I would think it involves both.

Yeah, I should have added Wittgenstein thought that philosophy was also a profession of clarification, so perhaps a bit of both.
 

wonkavision

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Ok, maybe a definition of the word "philosophy" is in order here.

Suppose we define philosophy this way:
(from http://www.whatisphilosophy.net/)

Philosophy is an academic discipline that exercises reason and logic in an attempt to understand reality and answer fundamental questions about knowledge, life, morality and human nature

If we accept that definition, then how does one exercise reason and logic in an attempt to understand reality and answer fundamental questions about knowledge, life, morality and human nature?

Do we do it all in our heads, according to abstract rules of logic alone? Or do we incorporate observation, collected data, experiments, etc.?

Obviously, in "scientific" pursuits, we use all of these things, right?

So, is it different in "philosophical" pursuits?

Is philosophy merely abstract or does it involve experience, knowledge, data-collection, experimentation, life-application, etc?

Can someone really be said to be a philosopher if (s)he isn't actively testing her/his philosophy against her/his life and vice versa?

I guess what I'm proposing is that one is, at best, only HALF of a philosopher if all one's philosophizing is only abstract and divorced from some kind of experiential application and experimentation.

AND one is only HALF a philosopher if all one does is critique arguments and never proposes any (that he is actually convinced of!)
 

BigApplePi

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Is logic "enough" to "do" philosophy? Or is something else needed, such as actual firsthand knowlege of things, life experience, "wisdom", etc.

I would propose that philosophy is more than just making and critiquing logical arguments. Some kind of actual real-world application, experience, "wisdom" etc. must be involved at some point, and some kind of personal conviction as a result, lest it be mere posturing/navel-gazing/B.S.ing., and not "real" philosophy at all.

What do you think about that?
Nope. Logic is far from enough. How would you like to decide morality, what is right and wrong, should I kill here and there, without first hand knowledge of lots of things up for grabs as right or wrong? Some will try to make generalizations and claim "this is the answer", but someone else will come up with exceptions. Then you have to reconcile those exceptions. You have to say more than, "these are exceptions." They have to be integrated into the whole picture else you have no clear morality.
 

wonkavision

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Nope. Logic is far from enough. How would you like to decide morality, what is right and wrong, should I kill here and there, without first hand knowledge of lots of things up for grabs as right or wrong? Some will try to make generalizations and claim "this is the answer", but someone else will come up with exceptions. Then you have to reconcile those exceptions. You have to say more than, "these are exceptions." They have to be integrated into the whole picture else you have no clear morality.

Agreed.

Would you also agree that ethical and/or moral conviction is necessary to make one's personal philosophy more than mere rhetoric/B.S.?
 

BigApplePi

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Ok, maybe a definition of the word "philosophy" is in order here.

Suppose we define philosophy this way:
(from http://www.whatisphilosophy.net/)
Good enough. Philosophers want to know what's going on and have methods to go at it.

If we accept that definition, then how does one exercise reason and logic in an attempt to understand reality and answer fundamental questions about knowledge, life, morality and human nature?
Study reason and logic for a start.

Do we do it all in our heads, according to abstract rules of logic alone? Or do we incorporate observation, collected data, experiments, etc.?
Incorporate because logic has to work with premises.

Obviously, in "scientific" pursuits, we use all of these things, right?

So, is it different in "philosophical" pursuits?

Is philosophy merely abstract or does it involve experience, knowledge, data-collection, experimentation, life-application, etc?
Yes.

Can someone really be said to be a philosopher if (s)he isn't actively testing her/his philosophy against her/his life and vice versa?

I guess what I'm proposing is that one is, at best, only HALF of a philosopher if all one's philosophizing is only abstract and divorced from some kind of experiential application and experimentation.
Yes. That wouldn't stop one from reading about other's experiential application and experimentation. However not being there involves a risk of error. That's why I'm having trouble thinking about quantum mechanics.

AND one is only HALF a philosopher if all one does is critique arguments and never proposes any (that he is actually convinced of!)
I think that must be right. Being a critique is not enough. A philosopher* should have something to stand on even if only tentative. A philosopher should be able to not only dispense criticism but be able to take it as well.
____________________________

*Feel free to call me a blood thirsty philosopher but I wouldn't like to be called that as I don't do it full time and not professionally.
 

Antediluvian

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Nope. Logic is far from enough. How would you like to decide morality, what is right and wrong, should I kill here and there, without first hand knowledge of lots of things up for grabs as right or wrong? Some will try to make generalizations and claim "this is the answer", but someone else will come up with exceptions. Then you have to reconcile those exceptions. You have to say more than, "these are exceptions." They have to be integrated into the whole picture else you have no clear morality.

Good point, philosophers have been known to do their best work during their 40s or 50s, when their reservoir of knowledge is fullest. So, I would say logic is a useful tool, but far from being the only implement needed to delve to the truth of various subjects.
 

EyeSeeCold

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Is logic "enough" to "do" philosophy? Or is something else needed, such as actual firsthand knowlege of things, life experience, "wisdom", etc.

What do you think about that?

OK, but is philosophy just about refuting the claims of others, or does it also involve making claims of one's own?

I would think it involves both.

Simply refuting claims doesn't make one a philosopher, but a debater. If one is great at refuting claims, they are still merely a master debater.


I think it's pretty clear that philosophy, both in theory and practice, involves more than just methodical logic. It is an art that employs imagination, poetry, emotional exploration and ethical consideration, and definitely requires experience of the world.

The products of philosophy should deeply question long held assumptions, and investigate untried methods and perspectives of reality.


Edit: I think a philosophy's practice has less to do with philosophy than exploring the philosophy itself. But only because a philosophy in practice becomes a method of action, and loses the exercise of thought. Still though any philosophy deserves to be tested.
 

Duxwing

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I noticed in your comment, and in GodofOrder's, the emphasis on logic in philosophy.

I think this is what I'm struggling to get at:

Is logic "enough" to "do" philosophy? Or is something else needed, such as actual firsthand knowlege of things, life experience, "wisdom", etc.

I would propose that philosophy is more than just making and critiquing logical arguments. Some kind of actual real-world application, experience, "wisdom" etc. must be involved at some point, and some kind of personal conviction as a result, lest it be mere posturing/navel-gazing/B.S.ing., and not "real" philosophy at all.

What do you think about that?

The necessity of evidence-- experience, as you put it-- depends on the type of philosophy. The construction of logical structures, like Modus Ponens or the empty set doesn't require anything but an able mind: the subject matter is a Form. Conversely, empirical questions, by definition, require evidence. Ergo, one must specify the type of philosophy in question before asking whether evidence is necessary.

-Duxwing
 

wonkavision

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Good enough. Philosophers want to know what's going on and have methods to go at it.

Ok then, so as far as methods go...I would propose that, in order to investigate philosophy (especially when it comes to ethics and/or morality), you would have to use reason--but not logic alone.

In some cases, you would have to go beyond logic or even go against logic in favor of another kind of reason---something more subjective and value-based (i.e. "right" or "wrong" and "good" or "bad," as opposed to "true" or "false", logical or illogical--or in the language of typology, "Feeling" vs. "Thinking"). And you would have to refer to concrete facts (data) as well as intuitive insight (i.e. use both "Sensing" and "Intuition")

To properly "do" philosophy in a well-rounded way, one would have to incorporate both the theoretical and experiential, the abstract and the concrete, the universal and the personal, logical as well as ethical considerations, etc.etc.

Otherwise, it is mere rhetoric and B.S.--and not philosophy at all.

In short, it may be worthwhile to consider whether one is a philosopher or merely a B.S. artist.
And I'm proposing that a person who is skilled at rhetoric/debate/logical analysis, etc. but has no real personal (i.e. ethical or moral) convictions is nothing more than a navel-gazing sophist and B.S. artist--and, furthermore, that such a lifestyle/mode of existence is not "virtuous."

Incidentally, being a "real" philosopher (i.e. actually seeking to understand as opposed to just playing with ideas, or actually asserting a point of view rather than simply critiquing others) involves risk, which, I think, is the reason many are content to be B.S. artists.
 

Matt3737

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If someone can point out logical flaws in arguments 'til the cows come home, but he never makes any claims because he doesn't really "believe" anything, is there any "virtue" or "merit" in being able to point out logical flaws?

Yes, Socrates, upon being declared the wisest of the Greeks by the Oracle at Delphi, is said to have stated that he knew only that he knew nothing at all.

Descartes also related to doubting everything to it's foundation, "Cogito ergo sum."

There is a foundation of course, it is paradoxical though or meta-foundational if you prefer. The foundation of science begins with conjecture, hypothesis, assumptions, and axioms.

It is more of a social/emotional problem as to how we come to agree with one another or to what extent we choose to challenge each other on any and all points based on preferences.
 

wonkavision

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As an aside, I'm still trying to figure out whether my MBTI type is INFP, INFJ, or INTP.

Based on my style of argumentation, which type would you guess that I am?

But please don't answer that here. I would prefer that you answer it on my wall, so that the thread doesn't get derailed. Thanks! :D
 

snafupants

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Yes, Socrates, upon being declared the wisest of the Greeks by the Oracle at Delphi, is said to have stated that he knew only that he knew nothing at all.

Descartes also related to doubting everything to it's foundation, "Cogito ergo sum."

There is a foundation of course, it is paradoxical though or meta-foundational if you prefer. The foundation of science begins with conjecture, hypothesis, assumptions, and axioms.

It is more of a social/emotional problem as to how we come to agree with one another or to what extent we choose to challenge each other on any and all points based on preferences.

@Matt3737

In my mind, Descartes is still somewhat of a dunce because he doesn't really doubt the "I" making the assessment. I guess cartesian doubt can be dropped or significantly mitigated when you acquire a desired answer. :D The evil genius stuff in Descartes' Meditations does, however, evoke a headier sense of ontologically incertitude.
 

wonkavision

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Yes, Socrates, upon being declared the wisest of the Greeks by the Oracle at Delphi, is said to have stated that he knew only that he knew nothing at all.

Descartes also related to doubting everything to it's foundation, "Cogito ergo sum."

Yeah, yeah, I know. That's a good point. And I'm forced to admit that it potentially destroys my whole premise in this thread (or at least makes it hard to sell). :D

But I can't help but wonder if they were more sure of themselves than they let on. Otherwise, what motivated them to dedicate so much of their lives to philosophy?

Were they uber-committed B.S. artists then, or is my whole premise B.S.?

Tentatively, I must conclude that they were B.S. artists.

i dunno.....

I hate you for bringing that up, Matt.:beatyou:
 

wonkavision

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As far as Socrates....Maybe he was actually admitting that he was a B.S. artist and was trying to get other philosophers to come clean by example. So my premise is not only valid, but it's supported by Socrates himself! Yay for me! :D

And as far as Descartes....Well, my position is that a philosopher should have strong personal convictions, not necessarily absolute certainty about things. That would be unreasonable to expect from anyone.
 

Matt3737

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@snafupants

Yes and no. Doubting doubt is self-referential. Like the liar sentence it becomes paradoxical, "This sentence is false."

So yes, you can call him out on stopping there, but then you delve into absurdity and meaninglessness which makes your refutation meaningless on it's own merits.

Like stating: All sentences are nonsense.

I can make that assertion, but I could also write gibberish: "ne ogvso laengo dsijds."

It paradoxically creates a foundation simply because it is self-evident. It asserts itself.
 

BigApplePi

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@wonkavision
Incidentally, being a "real" philosopher (i.e. actually seeking to understand as opposed to just playing with ideas, or actually asserting a point of view rather than simply critiquing others) involves risk, which, I think, is the reason many are content to be B.S. artists.
There is much in between being a philosopher and being a B.S. artist. A person can make philosophical inquiries without being a full fledged philosopher. One can try out false hypotheticals to test responses in the real world.
 

snafupants

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@Matt3737

Descartes clearly did not doubt enough! The "I" which Descartes proverbially refers is not definitive.
 

Matt3737

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@wonkavision

Yes, you are at least half-correct. A B.S. artist, a con-artist, or a philosopher are all enganged in the arts. The differences are merely subjective valuations of their aesthetics, i.e. the only difference between a B.S. artist and a philosopher is the connotation implicit in those words.

If I find value in their thoughts then I would choose to call them a philosopher, if not I'd call their philosophy b.s. and might call them a con-artist, liar, or a b.s. artist.

The same is true with art, in that people will tend to label what they perceive as bad art as not being art at all as a means of more strongly discrediting and dismissing the work whether rightly or wrongly. I still choose to label it bad art, but I will choose to dismiss it strenuously if I believe it to be with little merit or value.
 

Matt3737

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@Matt3737

Descartes clearly did not doubt enough! The "I" which Descartes proverbially refers is not definitive.

True, but it has historically been subject to the same problem of self-reference.

You can doubt your very existence, but then you'd still be asserting something about yourself.

Have you heard of the Ship of Theseus paradox before?

Or the paradox of one stepping into the same river? Does one step into the same river if the flow of water continually makes it different at all points in time?

One common argument found in the philosophical literature is that in the case of Heraclitus' river one is tripped up by two different definitions of "the same". In one sense things can be "qualitatively identical", by sharing some properties. In another sense they might be "numerically identical" by being "one". As an example, consider two different marbles that look identical. They would be qualitatively, but not numerically, identical. A marble can be numerically identical only to itself.

We can meta-identify something by acknowleding it as a dynamic changing whole because we can not identify it in a well-defined unchanging sense. Things can contradict themselves depending on context.
 
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