[extropy-chat] Appeal to Authority

Ian Goddard iamgoddard at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 16 22:39:05 UTC 2006

--- gts <gts_2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Your analysis looks reasonable to me except that it
> seems to ignore non-scientific arguments. Some 
> arguments have no basis in empirical observation, 
> for example certain arguments in moral philosophy 
> and mathematics. Appeals to authority here are still
> fallacious, even when the authority is or might be
> correct.

 Are you saying that nonempirical arguments are a
special case wherein appellants do not invoke the
hypothesis: "Statements of authorities pertaining to
their fields are usually more accurate than the
statements of nonauthorities; therefore, they are most
likely more accurate in this case too"? Such a
hypothesis is what I'm saying appeal to authority is.

 Seems to me for a disagreement in mathematics, such a
hypothesis would underlie why I'd appeal to someone
with a PhD in mathematics ... experts are usually
correct! Indeed, I think that's why I'd appeal to
someone with a PhD in moral philosophy as supporting a
claim I made about morality. But morality raises the
question of what criteria determine "more accurate."
Whatever, I think it's fair to say a higher likelihood
of accuracy is what appellants are looking for in an
appeal to moral authority, someone who accurately
knows what is moral. How or whether someone can or
does know that is a side issue. 

> Seems to me appeals to authority are fallacious 
> because, as Hal writes, "without knowing why the 
> authorities believe as they do, we cannot pit the  
> competing arguments sharply against one another." 

 Which isn't contrary to what I suggest, although I'm
not saying (and I don't think Hal is either) that the
appeal is a 'fallacy,' it just doesn't help. As I
argue, it simply invokes a secondary claim/hypothesis
that does not absolve one from, but in fact further
requires, proving the primary claim to thereby prove
the secondary claim (that experts are in fact correct
in the case at hand). ~Ian


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