what do you care for argument?

Posted in Uncategorized by sarkology on November 14, 2013

Why do we care about arguments? Supposedly it’s because they work. They reliably produce truth or good decisions. Mathematical proof, for example, reliably produces correct mathematical knowledge. And even if a 12-year old might not understand the proof, he can tell you that barring his own mistakes he has not come across a counterexample to the proven statement.

But outside of mathematics, and when the participants do not have a real stake in the literal quality of the output of the argument process, this is not why we actually care about arguments. Nobody cares to plug the abstraction leaks for example, which is what you need to do to make anything work in the real world. Rationalists only care about clever reasons, and the plugging of leaks is a tedious chore and does not evince much intelligence. Your common internet user arguing politics only cares about wireheading norms. A libertarian only cares about arguments of a libertarian style for example, and so he gets a kick out of thinking holy thoughts.

Ultimately, all these heretical criteria for good arguments can be subsumed under “making sense”. It is easy to see our favourite patterns in the clouds.

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