Monday, August 16, 2010

Refuting the Refutation: Part 1 - On What is a Good Argument

Part of the Arizona Atheist's challenge was to address his arguments against God. Well, in searching through his blog, I actually didn't see many. I did see attempted refutations, specifically of William Lane Craig. As I have noted to AA, refutations of an opponent's arguments are not positive arguments for your own position. An opponent's arguments could all fail, and your opponent's position could still be correct. To show that they are wrong, one needs to provide arguments for one's own position. As of now, I don't see any positive argument's for his position. I will, however, deal with his attempted refutation of Craig's arguments. I have personally studied Craig's arguments quite extensively and think I have a pretty good handle on them.

AA first addresses Craig's (and most other philosopher's) criteria for a good argument. He quotes Craig as saying,
[L]et’s get clear what makes for a 'good' argument. An argument is a series of statements (called premises) leading to a conclusion. A sound argument must meet two conditions: (1) it is logically valid (i.e., its conclusion follows from the premises by the rules of logic), and (2) its premises are true. If an argument is sound, then the truth of the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. But to be a good argument, it’s not enough that an argument be sound. We also need to have some reason to think that the premises are true. A logically valid argument that has, wholly unbeknownst to us, true premises isn’t a good argument for the conclusion. The premises have to have some degree of justification or warrant for us in order for a sound argument to be a good one. But how much warrant? The premises surely don’t need to be known to be true with certainty (we know almost nothing to be true with certainty!). Perhaps we should say that for an argument to be a good one the premises need to be probably true in light of the evidence.
AA's response to this is, "this is precisely part of Craig's problem. As I argued in my post Against the Gods, just because an argument is valid philosophically, and follows from it's premises, does not make it true. As even Craig says, the premise must have some solid evidence for it, and it naturally follows that if it doesn't, it should be discarded." How is there a problem for Craig when he acknowledges what AA says is a problem precisely in the quote that is being used to criticize the position?

From my familiarity with Craig's work, he is not so naive to think that a simply valid logical argument means that the position is true. He states the criteria in this very quote. An argument is sound if, "(1) it is logically valid (i.e., its conclusion follows from the premises by the rules of logic), and (2) its premises are true. If an argument is sound, then the truth of the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises." Craig also has a recent post dealing with what makes a good argument here.

Please note: William Lane Craig is a professional philosopher. What constitutes a good argument is entry level philosophy. I think it's a little funny that we have a blogger critiquing a professional philosopher's definition of a good argument. AA may disagree with Craig's arguments, but Craig thinks they are sound; the premises are more plausible than their negations and the conclusions do follow logically. To refute them, AA must either show that they are logically invalid (ie break the rules of logic making them fallacious) or that at least one of the premises are false.

We'll see that he attempts this, and will critique his attempts and see how successful they are.


Skeptical Rationalist said...

Don't forget to shift the burden of proof, you can't have a good apologetic without that.

Jc_Freak: said...

Hey Brennon, could you provide a link to AA's post that you are referring to?

bossmanham said...


I'll expose where the burden of proof actually lies when it comes to the actual arguments.


I think I did in the post. Or do you mean to the challenge? That's in the first post I have concerning it, but I'll post it here.

Cap said...

I'm having trouble finding the continued debate. Went back and forth between your blog and AA. Maybe i'm missing something. Anyway check out my blog:

bossmanham said...


Most of our dialog has gone on in one of my comment boxes. In this post, and the subsequent ones in this series, I am responding to his post linked to in this post.

Arizona Atheist said...

Hi Brennon, I hope this comment finds you well and I'm looking forward to continued discussion and seeing what arguments you have for me. I've responded at my blog here.

Take care.