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The Philosophical Swiss Army Knife

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The Philosophical Swiss Army Knife
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psikhrangkurPosts: 119Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:30 pm Gender: Pinecone

Post The Philosophical Swiss Army Knife

Through some conversations of my own, and through watching various debates, I've come to believe that science deniers of all stripes oftentimes fall back on a specific method of argumentation that I will refer to as the Philosophical Swiss Army Knife, or PSAK. The specific form that the PSAK takes may vary based on the specific science denier in question as well as the specific topic being discussed, but typically possesses the following characteristics:

1. The PSAK is an ad hoc rationalization invoked to explain away inconsistencies, grievous errors, misrepresentations, and blatant lies.

2. The PSAK is considered self-evident by the person invoking it. Someone that invokes the PSAK will typically consider it unnecessary to substantiate the PSAK, and will oftentimes use the PSAK to directly or indirectly justify the PSAK itself.

3. The PSAK cannot be inferred from the conversation itself.

4. The PSAK will act as "the heart of the matter", forming the bedrock of every argument from the moment that it is invoked.

5. The PSAK, in some way shape or form, explains all skepticism regarding the PSAK.

A perfect example of the Philosophical Swiss Army Knife is the means by which many Creationists invoke God. A good example of this in action can be found in a debate between Matt Dillahunty and Sye Ten Bruggencate. In this debate, Sye Ten Bruggencate argues that Matt Dillahunty cannot substantiate any claim, because in order to do so he must rely on his senses and his capacity for reason, neither of which he can independently justify. Naturally, this kind of reasoning could effectively be turned back on Sye. However, to undermine such attempts, Sye argues that he is capable of substantiating his claims because his claims have been verified by God.

Naturally, this changes nothing: Sye cannot by his own reasoning demonstrate that God has verified his claims, and even if he could, he would be unable to explain why God could be considered an exception to this line of reasoning. This, however, means nothing before God in Sye's eyes: God is perfect, is capable of anything (unless being capable of anything becomes inconvenient, as it does during the Q&A section of the aforementioned debate), and explains everything including the things that God fails to explain.

Such is the PSAK: a tool to be used for any and every situation, one that is capable of fixing nothing.
Sat Aug 11, 2018 6:54 am
*SD*User avatarPosts: 328Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:00 amLocation: Wales, UK Gender: Male

Post Re: The Philosophical Swiss Army Knife

Sye, a presuppositionalist, is capable of making nothing but stupid arguments. I've talked to a few presuppers, and when they start claiming I can't know anything without a God being in existence the conversation gets ridiculous. I have told four different presuppers that I know I am not the God they believe in. Rather than just concede that I do know this (the sensible option) every fucking one of them has elected to argue that it's possible I am the God they believe in.

They have no basis for this claim (that we can't know anything without God) - I've asked a few where this idea even comes from. As far as I recall there's nothing in the Bible to this effect (might be wrong, been a long time since I've read it) and as per good ol' Hitch - That which is asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.
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Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:10 am
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Dragan GlasContributorUser avatarPosts: 3178Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:55 amLocation: Ireland Gender: Male

Post Re: The Philosophical Swiss Army Knife

Greetings,

It's unfortunate that you choose to use the term "Philosophical Swiss Army Knife" to apply to what would more properly be called Presuppositionalism, as it would be a good term for what a toolkit for reasonable debate would look like.

Their approach is very much presuppositionalist, in that they presuppose that the basis for their argument(s) is self-evident and cannot be questioned.

Kindest regards,

James
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"The Word of God is the Creation we behold and it is in this Word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man."
The Age Of Reason
Sat Aug 11, 2018 1:18 pm
psikhrangkurPosts: 119Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:30 pm Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: The Philosophical Swiss Army Knife

Dragan Glas wrote:Greetings,

It's unfortunate that you choose to use the term "Philosophical Swiss Army Knife" to apply to what would more properly be called Presuppositionalism, as it would be a good term for what a toolkit for reasonable debate would look like.

Their approach is very much presuppositionalist, in that they presuppose that the basis for their argument(s) is self-evident and cannot be questioned.

Kindest regards,

James


I used the term "Philosophical Swiss Army Knife" because it strikes me as a sort of catch-all used to address anything and everything.

While I initially used Sye as an example, I feel that the PSAK is also employed quite regularly by, for example, flat earthers. There's always this appeal to the conspiracy, and rather than the conspiracy being a defined group of people with a specific goal or a movement with some sort of express purpose, it acts as some nebulous "they" which only exists to substantiate the claims of the flat earther whilst undermining their would be opponents by writing them off as part of the conspiracy.

I didn't think that Presuppositionalism was apt to describe such.
Sat Aug 11, 2018 8:25 pm
CollecemallPosts: 386Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:53 am

Post Re: The Philosophical Swiss Army Knife

This perhaps falls outside of that but I ran into someone yesterday who denies the age of (insert everything we know here). His entire basis for this is "you can't prove it so it's akin to a religious belief. I have no confidence in the assumptions of the physical uniformity of the universe." He had no reason for this lack of confidence but it allows him to deny reality so he goes with it. And yes he is a presup. I can't even begin to fathom the number of things that would have had to change at the exact same time in different ways with no evidence of it happening for this lack of confidence to be remotely plausible. But Jesus solves that I guess. Or something.
"Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of their time."
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~~Voltaire
Sun Aug 12, 2018 12:16 am
SparhafocPosts: 2445Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: The Philosophical Swiss Army Knife

Collecemall wrote: "... I have no confidence in the assumptions of the physical uniformity of the universe." He had no reason for this lack of confidence but it allows him to deny reality so he goes with it. And yes he is a presup.



Its more like he is too lazy, ignorant or incompetent to actually detail what evidence contradicts his religious narrative and address that, so he'll dismiss it all out of hand on the assumption that some of it will be in contradiction.

Yet his entire faith is contained in a handed down tradition none of which he was actively involved with, all of which he's passively and uncritically accepted - that faith is not even about the contents of the book itself, but instead the story about the book - because he sure as shit wasn't there when it was being collated, written, translated, etc.
"a reprehensible human being"
Beliefs are, by definition, things we don't know to be true.
Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:45 am
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