Is this begging the question?
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30-12-2013, 09:05 PM
RE: Is this begging the question?
I've had some time to think about this since originally posting and I think I can conclusively show that it does beg the question, even if every premise and the conclusion are true.

The entire point of the argument is to convince me that the universe requires an explanation for its existence.

It starts with premise one, every thing that exists has an explanation for its existence.
Is this self-evident? No. So I must make an evaluation of this statement.
To determine if this is true, I will need to first define a set A which will be everything that exists.
Once I've done that, I need to verify that everything in set A has an explanation for its existence.
If I include the universe as part of set A, then the conclusion suddenly ends up in the first premise, and it begs the question.
By the time I would in theory end up validating premise one, I would have already satisfied premise two and it's conclusion, making them pointless to include.

It ends up being that if I agree that the universe's existence has an explanation, then I must conclude that the universe's existence has an explanation.

However, if I exclude the universe (for whatever reason) from set A, and even if I determine that yes, everything in set A has an explanation for its existence, then I move to premise two.
If I don't object to premise two, then I must immediately realize that my set A was incomplete, and reevaluate premise one again.

Of course the problem is, other than it not being self-evident, that as someone stated earlier, it's an impossible task to evaluate everything that exists and determine that it has an explanation. Especially if you include the universe. This argument is simply saying that if I verify that the universe has an explanation, then I must conclude that the universe has an explanation.

Okay, I'll let this die now, lol. I think that's the catch though, is that it *sounds* reasonable, and in fact may even be true. But the argument itself, regardless of whether it is true or not, is just an assertion in disguise that we don't know to be true.

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30-12-2013, 10:37 PM
RE: Is this begging the question?
(30-12-2013 05:15 PM)parsonf Wrote:  Because it seems to me that if you are trying to convince me of that conclusion, you wouldn't start with a premise that includes the conclusion as part of that premise necessarily being true.

With deductive arguments the conclusion is contained in one or more of the premises--that is essentially what a deductive argument is.

Quote:
For example.
1. All dogs can juggle.
2. I have a dog.
3. My dog can juggle.

If it is not self-evident that even my own dog can juggle, then why should I accept that all dogs can juggle?

Don't confuse validity with soundness. The above atgument is deductively valid but unsound because the first premise is false.

Quote:But at the same time, the argument also appears to be valid, that is, if the premises are true, then so is the conclusion.

Yes because it is deductively valid, i.e. if the premises are true then so too is the conclusion.

Quote:So if it is begging the question, does that mean you can have a valid argument while also commit a fallacy such as begging the question, even if it turns out your premises are true?

So in effect you are asking, "Can a sound deductive argument beg the question?". Yes it can.

You seem to be confusing deductive validity--which has nothing to do with truth--with the fallacy of begging the question.

Quote:For example. Here is one where the premises are true and the conclusion as well, but would also seem to be begging the question. So if it is begging the question, is it not sound? Is it not valid?

1. All humans are primates.
2. I am a human.
3. I am a primate.

This argument would be begging the question iff (if and only if) (1) and/or (2) were in contention and you merely assumed them true rather than demonstrating their truth.

The above argument is:
--deductively valid, i.e. the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion
--sound, i.e. has true premises
--prima facie does not beg the question

Quote:Or are none of these begging the question at all?

I think you are confusing deductive validity with begging the question.
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30-12-2013, 11:11 PM (This post was last modified: 30-12-2013 11:20 PM by Chippy.)
RE: Is this begging the question?
(30-12-2013 09:05 PM)parsonf Wrote:  ...
Okay, I'll let this die now, lol. I think that's the catch though, is that it *sounds* reasonable, and in fact may even be true. But the argument itself, regardless of whether it is true or not, is just an assertion in disguise that we don't know to be true.

From your OP:

Quote:Premise 1: Every thing that exists has an explanation for its existence.
Premise 2: The universe exists.
Conclusion: The universe has an explanation for its existence.

I think that the above argument is:
(i) deductively valid
(ii) sound
(iii) not question begging

The problem with it is the nature of explanation. Broadly speaking, since Hempel--AFAIK--explanation has been explicitly/formally understood in two distinct ways:
(a) in terms of personal agency; and
(b) in scientific terms (Hempel understood "scientific" as deductive-nomological and this is a matter of contention).

If we understand the term explanation in terms of (b) then the argument is entirely unproblematic. Cosmology is concerned with explaining the origin of the universe. Krauss' book A Universe from Nothing is--if anything--an attempt at an explanation of the origin of the universe. The problem with the argument in the OP is that the sense of explanation invoked in the conclusion is (a), i.e. in terms of personal agency.

Why is the water in the kettle boiling?
(a) Because Chippy filled the kettle and switched it to On;
(b) "[W]hen the water is heated and its temperature reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit, its vapor pressure reaches the pressure of the surrounding air, so the bubbles that form by evaporation in the interior of the liquid are no longer suppressed."[1]

Contrast (a)--explanation in terms of personal agency--and (b)--explanation in terms of a deductive-nomological model--above.

The problem with the theistic argument is that it is seeking to supplant a scientific explanation (however specifically conceived) with an agent-based explanation, i.e. in terms of the volition of a hypothesised divine person. This is problematic because it is not really the kind of explanation that we want and it is premature to assume that this is the only kind of explanation that exists. If the argument has an informal fallacy it is one of equivocation, specifically around the term explanation.

Hope this helps.
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30-12-2013, 11:17 PM
RE: Is this begging the question?
(30-12-2013 10:37 PM)Chippy Wrote:  I think you are confusing deductive validity with begging the question.

Thanks for the breakdown, Chippy, that helps a lot. That's exactly why I sought help, because I was pretty sure that I was confusing those two things. Just needed someone with more knowledge on the subject of formal logic to put me in my place Big Grin

This isn't usually the discussion I like to have, that is, deep philosophical arguments for God, i.e. WLC-style arguments. I usually prefer something more...... human, I guess. Something that hits home with people. But with this, I'm just bored to tears having to think and talk about this with this other person and frustrated with the irrelevancy of it all to our everyday lives. But I'll get my turn soon to put them in the hot seat Tongue

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30-12-2013, 11:28 PM
RE: Is this begging the question?
(30-12-2013 11:11 PM)Chippy Wrote:  If the argument has an informal fallacy it is one of equivocation, specifically around the term explanation.

Hope this helps.

Whoa! I actually understood all of that, lol. That's a great point, that helps a lot!

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10-01-2014, 04:02 PM
RE: Is this begging the question?
Does the argument against have a problem if we add the word 'begins' to it?

1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2) The universe began to exist.
3) The universe has a cause.
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10-01-2014, 04:42 PM
RE: Is this begging the question?
Even if you assume the first statement is valid, and thus the following statements valid, it still does not follow that a deity or other being is the explanation. We still do not have a full understanding of the origins of the universe, and maybe never will, but that does not mean that the answer is a deity - the so-called "god of the gaps" explanation.
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10-01-2014, 05:29 PM
RE: Is this begging the question?
That's all well and good, but we need to realize that we're equivocating when we say something like "the universe began to exist." The universe did indeed begin at the Big Bang, but it does not follow that mass-energy began to exist at the Big Bang. Mass-energy has always existed. We know this because mass-energy cannot be created or destroyed.

Unlike the concept of a Creator, the notion that mass-energy did NOT have a beginning is not begging the question because there is an actual physical law we can point to that tells us this must be so. Positing a Creator who lives outside space-time and has no beginning is ad hoc reasoning and begs the question. The law of conservation of mass-energy is/does neither of those things.

So the new question becomes: what caused mass energy to begin its expansion at the Big Bang, resulting in the beginning of the universe?
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10-01-2014, 05:57 PM
RE: Is this begging the question?
(30-12-2013 05:36 PM)parsonf Wrote:  Thanks, I can take comfort in knowing I'm not crazy then. I clearly need to read up more on spotting fallacies, I spent too much time on this one.

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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13-01-2014, 10:32 AM
RE: Is this begging the question?
(30-12-2013 08:18 PM)BryanS Wrote:  For a fair amount of our history, humanity assumed that the earth was the center of the universe because the sun and sky appeared to us as though it moved around us. In reality, of course, the earth rotates about its axis to create the illusion of the sun and celestial bodies orbiting the Earth. Our perception was an illusion that we could only overcome through more careful study and inspection.

I think the heliocentric model is only a more convenient way of modelling the solar system. There is nothing wrong about the assumption that earth is the centre of the universe, after all, we do observe the universe from earth. The reason the heliocentric model is preferred is that it gives the formulation and calculations are neater and it explains several astronomical phenomena that can't be explained by the Ptolemaic model.

Besides, the "celestial sphere" has a lot of uses in navigation, even in modern days when a GPS device and/or compass is not available.

So my point is that some our perception is *not* an illusion, any new theory must explain our earlier observations and should be *consistent* with the old theories in situations where old theories give reasonably good explanations and predictions.
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