Geoff Goddu, “Why I Still Do Not Know What A ‘Real’ Argument Is”
Consider the old saw for syllogisms:
Socrates is a man, and All men are mortal; therefore, Socrates is mortal.
It’s regularly claimed that this is not a real argument, and so is pointless to use as teaching tools.Â So what’s a real argument?
C.Hamby’s criteria for real arguments amounts to: matter of judgment, is substantial, is relevant, is controversial, matters, is non-trivial, is prospectively used, is practical.Â So the realness of arguments depend on subject-interests.
Goddu’s counter-examples.Â With the Socrates syllogism above, imagine someone giving this as a reply to Socrates’ case for the immortality of the soul.Â That’s a real argument.
Other cases:Â (A1):Â some arguments are composed solely of existential generalizations, so some arguments are composed solely of existential generalizations;Â Â (A2) Petunias prance proudly past the pool, so some ‘unreal’ arguments have absurd premises.Â Â (A3) Lemons are red, so the moon is made of blue cheese.Â These are all cases where we could, like with the Socrates case, tell a story of how someone could be interested in the arguments.Â So they can be ‘real’ arguments.
The class of non-real arguments, then, is, at least by its nature, empty.Â Our lack of interest puts things in there – but that’s not about the arguments, but about us.
Moreover, there’s a self-refutation argument.Â Here’s how it goes: If you claim that X is not a real argument, that’s a matter of interest to us, so now we have it being a real argument.
Hamby’s reply (which is awesome that the target for criticism was at the session!):Â why does the fact that ‘real’ is a matter of indexing to subject interest make the notion of ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ not a useful part of your ontology of arguments?Â Surely that’s an important element of pedagogy– we want to teach arguments that make a difference in their lives and our lives.
Q: Doesn’t the self-refuation argument confuse use and mention for argument X?Â For the argument to go through, we must use X, but in the form presented, it’s mention-only.