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One of the things I want to have at my disposal is the claim:
Point I: The delivery of an argument is independent of its validity.

One may say that this is common sense, but it is surprising the instances in which one would judge an argument not on its merit (or the lack thereof), but on the person who says it, or even how it is presented.
A little less obvious instantiation is when an agent makes a claim that contradicts his/her very own behaviours and one chooses not to accept his/her argument(s) based on that.
Here's a somewhat clichéd example: From being told that one shouldn't smoke because it's bad for one's health by a doctor who smokes him/herself, one chooses not to trust what that doctor says.

First, I agree that it is not nice and we may not feel right in believing the doctor is such a case, but it also does no justice to the argument being presented (''One shouldn't smoke because it's bad for one's health.''). Indeed, it shouldn't matter who says it, thus it shouldn't matter whether the one who says it smokes or not.

Once I have Point I all nicely formulated and documented, the next step I want to take is to prove it, if possible.
But already I can come up with a counter example:
Argument A: This argument is not presented by Sylin.

When I claim argument A, it is false. But it is true when anyone else presents it (provided he/she is also not Sylin).
And there are infinitely many such arguments we can cook up.
What I want to do is to exclude all such arguments when I put forward Point I. The arguments of these sort are somewhat useless anyway (unless there are some non-trivial arguments of such form that I am unaware of).
My question is: once I exclude such counter examples, is Point I now provable?
My thought is that I would need to translate it using some system of logic. I am not well-versed in a logical systems that are more sophisticated than propositional and quantified logic, however.

Here's my attempt anyhow, but it's not very formal at this stage:
First let A be a set containing all arguments.
Define a relation I on A such that aIb means a is independent of b for all a and b in A.
We may write aIb as I(a, b) as an alternative notation.
We also note that I is a symmetric relation (I(a, b) implies I(b, a)).
Define d(a) to mean the delivery of an argument a.
Define v(a) to mean the validity of an argument a.

Then Point I says:
I(d(a), v(a))aA|I(a, d(a)).

i.e. If we consider all arguments (all a in A) that are independent of their delivery (I(a, d(a))), the validity of those arguments are also independent of their delivery (I(d(a), v(a))).

The question of proving Point I now translates to the question of whether we can infer [the independence of an argument's delivery and its validity] from [the independence of the argument itself and its delivery].

6 blog comments below

I am unable at this time to follow the formula though I think I understand the statement here or most of it. The doctor could be right or wrong. Let’s for now consider he is right. He shows a bad example so therefore we loose confidence not in his ability to make sense but in his ability to set a good example.

What is valid for us here is a conclusion, which in this case, in the above paragraph has been solidified by agreement (in the paragraph, not the writer/reader). But what conclusion could be drawn given the criteria if there wasn’t a conclusion?

It could be said that validity is independent of everything and that any argument and any delivery are mere translations of ideas. This is like saying there can be no true validity only more questions.

An example of this is smoking leads to cancer. This could be true or false depending on the individual so therefore it is more accurate to speak in percentages. However, we still don’t know what the future holds for the individual. Validity in this case will always be a mystery until such time arrives as the person dies from cancer or not from cancer.
Bluedoll on Sun Oct 06, 2013 1:15 pm
I did use some mathematical symbols in the formula.
For reference, these are:
∀ - 'For all'
a∈B - a is an element of the set B (a is in B)
| - 'Such that'
The formula is not formal in a sense that I haven't define precisely what d(a) and v(a) are.

I agree on losing confidence in the doctor's ability to set good example and that this is completely independent of anything else he claims in general.
But I am not quite sure what you are referring to in your 2nd paragraph.
I've also edited my original post to make things a bit more clear.

It also occur to me that I was completely oblivious of the distinction between validity and soundness when I made the post.
I agree with you that some arguments are very hard to determine whether they are true or not, some may not even be determinable. But now I am not quite sure if I was originally thinking about soundness, validity, or both when I made Point I.

I think what you are trying to say in the 2nd paragraph is that suppose I remove the conclusion that I(d(a), v(a)) (the validity of an argument is independent of its delivery) and only consider the criteria that I(a, d(a)) (consider any argument that is independent of its delivery), what conclusion can we make? This is a very interesting question.
But what does that criteria even mean? Are we considering arguments that is not about how it is delivered?
Now I am even criticising my own points, but that's a good thing for improvements.
Sylin on Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:41 pm
This is interesting. I am interested in what you are writing and also how you are getting there. I hope I am not going off in another direction than you intended.

I need to move completely away from the formula portion in order to understand this. I think I read here is this is a struggle for validly and soundness in arguments? I am suggesting to remove from the arguement those two things (validly and soundness) for a time. Now we only have two other things, claim and delivery? Right?

Actually, I was thinking delivery might affect the argument. The claim is simply the position of the argument. I hope this makes sense.

Now what if we already have a prior conviction of the outcome. That is say we know the conclusion and validly of the argument or in other words be outside of argument. It would be like reading transcripts of a debate with the conclusion stamped on the front of the transcript.

So what I meant in the second paragraph was that given the conclusion is valid there is little issue with the arguement.

But what if we don’t have conviction? We are left to explore the validly and soundness. Ok.

This is the final question. It is a philosophical question.
What if it is was possible that all arguments are nothing more than unanswered questions?

Sure we can presume to get validly and soundness but that would make the previous philosophical question just nonsense. Does that make sense? I am struggling here to get my meaning across. It is like saying there can be no validly only strong arguments. Then also the reverse is true. Since we can never get absolute validly then arguments have no conclusion.

This sounds like a real fix we can be put in but actually it is a good thing because it is like saying logic/science/arguments have no ending which is great for learning more and more.

Though in a thesis/debate/arguement we really desire sometimes a close so we can move on to something else.

Thanks for discussing this.
Bluedoll on Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:03 pm
The discussion is getting a bit lengthy and it is sometimes quite hard to figure out which portion is referring to which portion, I'll quote the bit I am talking about and put my thought after it Smile

..remove from the argument those two things (validly and soundness) for a time. Now we only have two other things, claim and delivery
I don't think that they are what's left after removing, but it's arguments in general that I am looking at. If we consider any argument at all, what can we say about the link between its delivery, validity, and soundness.

Actually, I was thinking delivery might affect the argument.
(*)Yes! Surprised If by 'affect the argument' you mean how valid or sound it is.
But I think we might be talking about this in a different context. I don't really understand 'the claim is simply the position of the argument' part.

Let me be a bit pedantic here:
  1. By delivery of an argument, I mean all the details about who says it, when is it made, how clearly is it being presented, in what language is it in, etc.
  2. By argument, I mean a sequence of propositions p1, p2, ..., pN, and C where p1 up to pN are your premises, and C your conclusion (but N may be 0). For example, [p1] Humans are clever, [p2] Cleverness is scary, [C] so Humans are scary.
  3. The original purpose of my post is to support the claim that 'in general', the validity and soundness of an argument are independent of their delivery, one doesn't affect the other.
  4. By ' general' I mean to exclude peculiar, and perhaps specifically concocted arguments that actually do depend on their delivery. I've already given an example in the post, but here's another I just thought of that is also a very natural and interesting one: [C] It's noon. This links back to (*).

given the conclusion is valid there is little issue with the arguement.
Agree, and questioning the soundness is a metaphysical question.
My concern is, however, not with whether a given argument is valid, or sound, but that these shouldn't be intermingled with the delivery of the argument (in general).

My point is that I want to address cases like:
  • Some guy says something, but I don't like that guy, so I say he's wrong. Here, I am saying his argument is unsound based on the fact that it is him making the argument. Perhaps a little overly childish example here, but one can see it disguised in many forms.
  • Suppose there's a teacher who is often wrong about what he's teaching. It is tempting to doubt whatever he says from then on, and I agree that this is perfectly natural stance to take. But it would be an entirely different thing to say that he is wrong again immediately.
Some sort of "Argument Rights" (as in "Human Rights"), if you will.
Sylin on Tue Oct 08, 2013 8:14 am
First thanks, for making your points, yes it is getting lengthy. Just to make a note when writing with someone else (or even alone) about arguments, one can easily get involved in an argument about arguments and that can make points confusing perhaps a little funny in a good way, if you think of it in this way. In any case, just want to say I enjoyed this as well as getting something out of it. It is a good study I think to consider questions relating to the validity and soundness of an argument. I guess I am saying is...

The validity and soundness of an argument is dependent on the delivery as well as the argument itself. I agree though that delivery does not have very much weight compared to the argument itself.

The validity and soundness of an argument is not important. (it is if you are doing research for a job and getting paid for it) It is not important because there is no right or wrong conclusion to any question.


Example 1:

The Valid Argument -> A computer modem is a digital device. -> true or false argument?

1) A modem uses digital technology and handles signals digitally.

2) A modem signal is a wave electronically so therefore analog in nature (modem becomes an analog device when you consider this)

so therefore a teacher teaching modem’s can teach both viewpoints or just one viewpoint, that is one or the other. In the example both answers 1 and 2 are correct. But the teacher’s delivery is important here because he is the teacher and if you go in the opposite direction you fail the course. Smile

Example 2:

The Valid Argument -> the earth is flat. -> true or false argument?

A music artist is talking about a concept that when people leave a town they never come back. He says the earth must be flat and for his example this is true. Science will tell us something completely different.

In this example the argument needs clarification since the statement flat earth does not apply to the same thing. So this argument is both false and true.
Bluedoll on Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:11 pm
--> Example 1
Ah ok, I think we need to make a distinction between what the argument being conveyed seems to be, and what the argument actually is. The former is usually a by-product of bad communication, and I am only interested in the latter. In example 1, we have a conclusion (A computer modem is a digital device), and by determining it's soundness, we invoke alternatively premise 1) and 2).
Then surely we'd expect different answers.
To me, we are looking at 2 different arguments here, let's call the conclusion A computer modem is a digital device C), then we have:
A1: { 1), C) }
A2: { 2), not C) }

Any and all assumptions/premises we make are part of the argument, even though it may not be explicitly stated (at least that's what I take to mean 'argument').
And I agree that it may be perfectly intelligible to be dabating about whether or not C).

It is not uncommon to see a course being based on an assumption (but it's usually a practical/helpful one to make, i.e. a course in Newtonian mechanics), and the teacher in example 1 may as well base his course on 1), say. In which case, C) is true. But this is not a premise-free argument { C) } even though it may look like so, here we have no information to say whether it's true or false. In concluding that C), we have an implicit assumption that 1) as part of the argument.
This example 1 is not about one argument being true in different mode of delivery, it is about one conclusion ( C) ) being true given one assumption ( 1) ), and false given another ( 2) ), 2 entirely different arguments that conflicts with one another.

--> Example 2
It may be odd to say this, but a seemingly identical argument presented under different contexts are also 2 different arguments. This is because when we talk about arguments, we tend to consider not the exact sentences in the English language, but the propositions that those sentences actually mean. i.e. If one guy wrote Steven is a big guy, and another guy wrote the very same thing, they would be in agreement GIVEN that they are referring to the same guy called Steven. But if they are talking about different Stevens, then the fact that they say the same English sentence doesn't matter, they would be uttering 2 different arguments: A is a big guy, and B is a big guy where A and B are 2 different guys both called Steven.
Sylin on Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:04 pm

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