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Re: [ontolog-forum] Model or Reality

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Chris Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2007 15:23:18 -0500
Message-id: <20070809202318.GA25881@xxxxxxxx>
On Thu, Aug 09, 2007 at 11:41:37AM -0700, Duane Nickull wrote:
> >  ...
> >> but it helps to be able to differentiate fact from story.
> > 
> > Indeed.  It strikes me that on your view, everything is story.
> DN: It may well be my story that I see the benefit of separating fact from
> opinion.  I hope this is also what ontology and logic are somewhat about.    (01)

This seems to have missed my point: I do not see what basis you have in
your way of thinking for distinguishing fact from story, as it appears
*everything* is story.    (02)

> >> "The person has lost their ability to think critically" = someone's
> >> opinion, not fact.
> > 
> > Nonsense.  Anyone who is no longer willing or able to consider that a
> > given contingent belief -- especially a belief about gods and what
> > they expect of us -- might be false and hence ought not to be
> > believed has by definition ceased to think critically.  Pat's lunch
> > companion was obviously such a person.  It is a fact therefore that
> > the person had, at least with regard to his beliefs about his
> > obligation to kill Rushdie, lost or given up his ability to think
> > critically.
> DN: I disagree.      (03)

I frankly do not see how that is possible unless you believe that one
can be a critical thinker and yet be unwilling/unable to consider that
one's beliefs about gods and what they expect of us might well be false.
In which case you are not using the words "critical thinking" the way
the rest of us do.    (04)

> How do we know that such a person did not consider some set of facts
> and arrive at their conclusion by thinking critically.      (05)

Again, the *conclusion* is not the issue here.  I'm willing to agree
(though it's a stretch) that one could rationally arrive at the
conclusion that one is obligated to kill Rushdie.  The irrationality
lies in the strength with which the conclusion is believed.    (06)

> Perhaps he arrived at his opinion due to some belief that gods and
> what they expect of us is very tangible?    (07)

I'm not sure what a tangible belief is, but I think it goes to the core
of rationality that any belief about invisible beings, what they desire,
and what they expect of us must be considered subject to revision and
hence must not be believed with resolute certainty.  That is not, once
again, to say that one cannot rationally have such beliefs; I in fact
quite firmly believe one can.  But the ability to acknowledge the fact
that no such beliefs can be known with certainty (or anything
approaching it) is precisely what distinguishes the rational believer
from the fundamentalist fanatic.    (08)

> Just because his belief system is perhaps the polar opposite from what
> you or I might believe in, it does not mean they have not thought
> critically or in a balanced manner.    (09)

I concur.  But it means exactly that if those beliefs are not subject to
doubt.    (010)

> >> How do you know he has not thought about this critically and come
> >> to that conclusion based on his reality?
> > 
> > One might rationally come to that conclusion (though I admit it is
> > difficult for me to understand how one could do it in an open
> > society).  What is irrational is believing something so grave and
> > consequential with a certainty that resists doubt.
> DN: Again - that is opinion and not fact.      (011)

But it is.  It is what we *mean* by rationality.  If you don't want to
agree on that point, then there is absolutely no sense in continuing
this conversation, as we simply have no shared grounds for debate.    (012)

> I also would state my own story that this person is perhaps twisted
> and lost track of traditional western values of being nice to your
> fellow man etc.  The statement that it is irrational is your opinion
> (and mine too BTW).  It is not a fact.    (013)

It is as firm a fact as can be, as it is a straightforward consequence
of the definition of rationality.  If you tell me "Hank speaks German"
but Hank hasn't a clue what "Wie heißt du?" or most any other German
phrase means, then, it is a fact, by the very meaning of "speaks
German", that he doesn't speak German.  If you want to insist that,
nonetheless, he does, then you are using the words "speaks German" in a
way that does not comport with their ordinary meaning.  Likewise your
use of "rational".    (014)

> >> Pat was very careful to avoid stating the person was full of bunk.
> >> He just stated what the person believed.
> > 
> > Trust me on this one: Even though he's never told me this story, I
> > can tell you with full assurance that Pat believed the person in
> > question to be completely off his nut.
> DN: story/opinion but we can always ask Pat.      (015)

Ok, so don't trust me.  We'll let Pat chime in for himself.    (016)

> I think Pat had indicated that this person was not completely off his
> nut but in fact quite rational about other aspects of life     (017)

Yes, that was clear.    (018)

> while harboring this deep urge to punish Rushdie.    (019)

That is a misrepresentation.  There was nothing in the story to indicate
the fellow had any *urge* whatever to kill Rushdie.  That, in fact,
would be less disturbing, as one could more easily chalk it up to
psychological or neurological pathology.  Rather, he simply *believed*
Rushdie ought to be punished and moreover that he himself had an
obligation to do so.  Now, in fact, it was not entirely clear from the
story how strongly Pat's lunch partner held those beliefs; perhaps he
had in fact reasoned his way to them on the basis of his other religious
beliefs but, appropriately shocked by his conclusions, only held them
tentatively.  However, Pat suggests otherwise by noting that his partner
reported these beliefs dispassionately and without a hint of
ambivalence.  I took Pat's clear implication to be that the fellow's
beliefs were quite deeply irrational.    (020)

> FWIW, this type of person scares me more than someone who is
> completely off his nut since they might possess the intelligence to
> carry out their work.    (021)

Being off one's nut (as I'm using the expression) does not imply lack of
intelligence or the inability to reason rationally in general.    (022)

-chris    (023)

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