[extropy-chat] Appeal to Authority

gts gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 17 00:17:48 UTC 2006

On Thu, 16 Mar 2006 17:39:05 -0500, Ian Goddard <iamgoddard at yahoo.com>  

>  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"?

No, I was only pointing out that you've emphasized empirical tests as  
perhaps the only measure of an argument's validity, when in fact some  
possibly valid arguments cannot be tested empirically. As you continued in  
your first post, "Then the burden of rejoinder falls upon B to prove that  
the statements of authority are in fact empirically sound in the case at  
hand... In short, the appeal to authority was nothing more than a  
roundabout detour from arguing the empirical facts in the case at hand."

> ... experts are usually correct!

Usually. But as I used to say as a kid, "The word 'almost' only counts in  
horseshoes and H-bombs." :)

True and valid arguments are (presumably) exactly true no matter who makes  
them, every time.

>> 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.

Well, if it doesn't help then it must be a fallacy.

According to Webster:

Main Entry: fal·la·cy
Pronunciation: 'fa-l&-sE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
Etymology: Latin fallacia, from fallac-, fallax deceitful, from fallere to  
1 a obsolete : GUILE, TRICKERY b : deceptive appearance : DECEPTION
2 a : a false or mistaken idea <popular fallacies> b : erroneous character  
3 : an often plausible argument using false or invalid inference

I'm looking at the second and third connotations.


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