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Friday, May 30, 2014

How not to argue.

Or: Spotting Godawful Arguments: A Short Primer.



As a public service to readers of the blog, I am happy to offer my nearly eighteen years of experience as an attorney to help you, the Reader, spot and understand a Bad Argument.

Bad Arguments are the scourge of civilized discourse, making for a corrosive effect on reasoning as a whole. 

Fortunately (?), we received a recent example in the comment box, just teeming with fallacies, perfectly useful for examination. It was offered in response to this post. Note that my post is about the Kasper proposal to allow divorced-and-remarried-without-annulment Catholics to receive communion, and the Pope's enthusiastic praise for and preclearance of it.

So, how does the counter-argument go? Here's the first part:

Actually the Church has a legitimate doctrinal way to make Cardinal Kasper’s alleged liberal policy on marriage a reality.

According to the current pastoral practice in the annulment process it is the Church’s policy to assume a disputed marriage is valid till proven invalid. There is no dogmatic reason why this must be the case. The Church can assume all formally disputed marriages are invalid till proven valid which is a high bar to climb and would make Annulments even more wide spread & granted with more ease.
Now would that be a pastoral disaster? It could likely be since the abuse of it will undermine the Church’s teaching on marriage on the practical level. Not that under the current policy historically it hasn’t been abused especially in America.

Would it be an example of detectability or Fallibility? Not at all. 

The opener is an instant sleight of hand. Does the arguer address the actual post itself, or the Kasper proposal? No, he does not. Instead, he changes the subject to an entirely unrelated proposal not under discussion--a classic red herring. This enables him to sidestep entirely the problematic Kasper proposal--one whose awfulness has been noted by men of no small theological erudition. Thus, instead of engaging with the actual problematic proposal, he can propose something different and use that to derisively attack his opponent. 

Note also that it is question-begging of a staggering order: his argument assumes--without bothering to prove--that it is the equivalent of the Kasper proposal. It also assumes that such would not touch upon indefectibility. Why? Because he said so. Ipse dixit, quod erat demonstrandum. Might as well throw in e pluribus unum while we're at it.

In any event, his devastating riposte--the question-begging red herring--is a proposal that he admits would be a probable "pastoral disaster."

Well, I stand refuted. Or not.

Now, does he address the notion of sacramental intent--ex opere operato? That longstanding Catholic teaching is that sacraments are presumptively valid, not invalid, if the proper form, matter and intent are involved? Even if more than one competent, conscious person is needed to confect the sacrament--see also, penance, confirmation, holy orders? No, he does not. 

One might be forgiven for thinking his argument was clouded by animus against his interlocutor. Here's the remainder of his argument:

You know Price rather then undermine people’s faith in the Church & Christ’s promises by extension, you might try learning some theology before getting hysterical and believing every radtrad conspiracy rumor mongering twit?

Ya Think?


Oh.... all righty then! Ah, the ever-popular Chest-Poking Tough Guy! Closer. Apparently, his argument isn't so air-tight that he can dispense with the troweled-on well-poisoning: I'm some kind of hysteric (paging Dr. Freud) pied piper who leads people astray, cavorting with with idiot rad-trads in the process--run, children!



Yes, folks--BEWARE.


I just like this one.

As you can see from the third link, some very capable and decidedly non-rad-traddish people are appalled by the Kasper proposal endorsed by the Pope. But Tough Guy! would rather try (and fail) to put me in my place than square off with them. Invoking his own alleged theological authority in the process. 

And that, folks, is darn near the Platonic ideal of a Bad Argument.


17 comments:

  1. The link to the Nizkor Project was a real eye-opener for me. I knew about the fallacious arguments (Hell, I specialise in them) but I never had much interest in the facts of the Holocaust but after reading fast and furious at the site, I am now getting up to speed: of course I am also now depressed..

    But, I am thankful for the link; really substantial information

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  2. IABS: Glad to help--Nikzor is invaluable at multiple levels. I can also recommend pretty much anything by Sir Martin Gilbert on the subject, too. Alas, he's pretty much had to hang up his quill due to advancing age and infirmity.

    I remember the first time I stumbled across the Holocaust--it was as a precocious ten year old reading about Patton's Third Army. Reportedly, Patton puked upon seeing Dachau after it liberated by his boys. When informed that the locals had no idea--none at all!--that such doings were afoot, he immediately had the civilian notables brought in at gunpoint for a tour. Later, I saw pictures of Dachau, and understood perfectly.

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  4. Price,

    Go argue with the boys over at Catholic Answers I remember reading about this in a past issue of THIS ROCK.

    The Church can change the presupposition of validity of a marriage to one of invalidity in the annulment process.

    Go fight with them.

    >Now, does he address the notion of sacramental intent--ex opere operato?

    What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?

    Ex opere operato (by the deed done) is how a sacrament conveys grace. This has nothing to do with the validity of something that was proposed to be a sacrament but may have a defect in intent.

    >Note that my post is about the Kasper proposal to allow divorced-and-remarried-without-annulment Catholics to receive communion, and the Pope's enthusiastic praise for and preclearance of it.

    Yea the rumors that Paul VI was going to allow birth control flew all over the place even thought his theology commission recommended he allow it.

    Humane Vite still came out.

    You fear comes from ignorance of history.

    Also I note you can dish out criticism (calling the Pope a narcissist in a past post). But you can't accept any yourself.

    Don't you see a problem with that?

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  5. From one of your links.

    QUOTE"What is of greatest concern is that while the Church's fundamental teaching on divorce and remarriage cannot be changed, pastoral practice might be used as a means to get around it. This, critics fear, could lead to a weakening in the Church's teaching and authority and possibly eventual change in doctrine on this key issue, or at least a change in the perception of doctrine with equally as harmful consequences."

    I already said that would be a bad idea. Much like if the Pope did away with celibacy. The church has no protection for bad policy.
    But it is not the end of the world if it happens & it has happened before and will again.

    But the idea doctrine can change is loony.

    QUOTE"The Pope "wanted an open discussion about an urgent problem,” the cardinal explained, adding that the Church has to be close to those whose families fail - "to help, support and encourage them and there my proposal (was) to find a way between ‘rigorism’ (strictness) – which cannot be the way of normal Christians – and a pure ‘laxism’ (leniency)."END QUOTE

    So they will have a discussion?

    The Holy Spirit will still protect the Church.

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  6. Wow, Humanae Vitae came out--that was such a triumph!

    Yes, Catholic teaching was preserved. On paper. And that was it.

    On the negative side of the ledger:

    1. In actual practice, almost all Catholics do whatever the hell they want on the issue without the slightest trouble from their consciences.

    2. A culture of dissent has dug its tentacles deep into the Church, with entire episcopal conferences drafting up schismatic commentary on the issue--e.g., see the Winnipeg Statement, and the Dutch bishops' Catechism. And then there are the "Catholic" universities, backing up the dissent.

    3. The doctrine is so rarely mentioned from the pulpits and marriage formation programs that when it is, it's cause for extensive celebration.

    4. Bottom line: nearly fifty years after it was issued, the majority of baptized Catholics in America support birth control, gay marriage and abortion "rights."

    God save us from any more such "triumphs."

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  7. Is that a "rebuttal"?

    Fine, counter-point for about two centuries after Nicea the majority of professing "Christians" where Arian heretics.

    1. Most Christian followed the view championed by the then current Roman Emperor instead of the Pope.

    2. With the exception of Rome virtually every Apostolic See was tainted by Arians.

    I could go on but there is nothing new under the sun and history repeats itself so often it gets boring.

    The Church survived.

    It will again.

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  8. Yeah, Dale, the Catholic Church imperiled the souls of millions by not properly fighting the Arian heresy, may they still find Christ's mercy.

    Now we're not fighting for billions of imperiled souls, just think of what Christ's mercy may do for them!

    "For you saw me naked and doing a little something something, and did not lift a finger to clothe me or correct me because the Church will survive and that's the most important thing, why so serious?"

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  11. This is "argument' too?


    >yeah, Dale, the Catholic Church imperiled the souls of millions by not properly fighting the Arian heresy, may they still find Christ's mercy.

    When have souls never been imperiled I wonder?

    >Now we're not fighting for billions of imperiled souls, just think of what Christ's mercy may do for them!

    Actually we are fighting for our own souls first and I don't see how promoting despair or wallowing in it is any kind of spiritual weapon that will aid in the salvation of other souls?

    >"For you saw me naked and doing a little something something, and did not lift a finger to clothe me or correct me because the Church will survive and that's the most important thing, why so serious?"

    How is promoting despair and doom and gloom "correction"?

    Or making bad paraphrases of the words of Christ?

    it simply isn't

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  13. Father Z gets it.


    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2014/05/pope-francis-on-the-airplane-the-synod-the-family-communion-for-the-divorced-and-remarried/

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  14. How is a "bad paraphrase" of the word of Christ a "correction?"

    Well, my answer to that is: how could it possibly be? Though I do find bad paraphrasing of Christ excellent weapons for despair!

    You don't see any good arguments yet? Me neither! Almost like no one's making them. But keep that red pen handy, you never know.

    But enough of this combo boxing. My charitable intent, I confess, was to make a joke hopefully and faithfully for Dale's benefit.

    Regardless of whether I was successful, I know when to leave a stage. Ahem. Ahem.

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  16. Another red herring from Jim Scott after he fails to defend his argument about HV. "Let's talk about the Arians instead!"

    Quelle surprise.

    I assure you--I do not ask for your comments, much less look forward to them. You are simply a jeering heckler who looks at my blog for your outrage porn fix. Full stop. You comment on nothing else. Ever. Not on news, not on sports, not on history posts, not on tragedies, not happy moments, not on anything save your need to Confront Error.

    You swoop in, address me by my last name, thump your chest about rad trads, etc. and utterly fail to interact with my argument because...well, genetic fallacy. I'm one of those, and I simply must be corrected. With your usual incoherent firehose of dudgeon and fallacy-laden fiskery. Except, of course, that it doesn't work and positions harden into concrete.

    It's tiring. It is.

    Until you have something productive to say and can address me with a *modicum* of genuine concern and respect, you are done here, Mr. Scott. Good day, good luck and God speed.

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