The Instigator
JustCallMeTarzan
Pro (for)
Winning
34 Points
The Contender
beem0r
Con (against)
Losing
31 Points

The Problem of Existential Import Presents a Counter-Factual Problem for Logical Solutions

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/2/2008 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,003 times Debate No: 6121
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (8)
Votes (10)

 

JustCallMeTarzan

Pro

This is supposed to be a fun debate about a serious topic... a topic that you should have taken a course in logic to understand properly. We are NOT debating practical problem-solving, but rather the technical logical aspect of it, which is why this is only two rounds. I'm curious if there are any opposing viewpoints out there.

In layman's terms, existential import is the notion that when someone claims "Some P is a Q" they assume that at least one P exists. For example, one claims "Some pens are pens that write green," this presumes that there in fact exist one or more pens.

A counter-factual is a "what if" argument. A good example would be the argument that "If Nazi Germany had won WWII, Jews would still be egregiously persecuted." While the argument is valid, it is not sound because it has a false premise. It would even most likely be a correct argument, given that the premise were true.

Thus, we have a problem: to introduce abstract principles like perfect geometrical figures, unicorns, fairies, god, etc... into any logical argument, one would need to first show that they exist, because to do otherwise would introduce a counter-factual.

So, even though the reasoning may be perfectly correct as far as we understand it in daily life, the problem of existential import for the abstraction that we're referring to causes a counter-factual premise problem in a logical argument.

AFFIRMED.
beem0r

Con

Greetings, Tarzan, and all of you as well.

I would first like to look at the resolution. "The problem of existential import presents a counter-factual problem for logical solutions."
I have 4 problems with the resolution, and therefore negate its truth.

1. Existential import is not a problem.
2. Counter-factuals are not problems.
3. The term "Logical Solutions" does not mean anything.
4. Existential import does not create counter-factuals. They are separate things, neither causing the other to exist.

I'll go into more depth about these.

=====
1. Existential import is not a problem

My opponent explains quite well what existential import is. It is the phenomena whereby claims such as "Some P is Q" implies that at least one P exists. Existential import happens because "Some P is Q" cannot be true if no P exist. It's not a problem, it's simply a logical implication of the statement.

Also, note that existential import only happens when the statement "Some P is Q" is actually asserted to be true. For example, existential import does NOT occur in these cases:
"It's not true that Some P is Q."
"If some P is Q, then some Q is P."
Or any other statement where "Some P is Q" is not asserted as true.

=====
2. Counter-Factuals are not problems.
They are simply hypotheticals. There is nothing wrong with them. To show that they are problematic, my opponent claimed that having a false premise makes them unsound.
That would be true, if they had premises. Let's look at my opponent's example, and I'll show you why there is not a false premise in it.

Recall what a premise is - an assertion, a claim, from which other claims are made. Something is not an premise unless it is being asserted as true.

"If Nazi Germany had won WWII, Jews would still be egregiously persecuted."
My opponent is trying to say that "Nazi Germany had won WWII" is a premise, but it is not. This counter-factual is not claiming that "Nazi Germany had won WWII."
False premise can only possibly apply if there is actually a premise to be false. By trying to misapply the concept of a false premise here, my opponent is only making a fool of himself. Consider:

Person 1: "If Nazi Germany had won WWII, Jews would still be egregiously persecuted."
Person 2: "But Nazi Germany didn't win WWII, so you're wrong!"
Person 1: "I never said they did. That's why I was speaking hypothetically, rather than claiming anything about what actually happened. Any more problems?"
Person 2: "No, I guess that makes sense. That they didn't win the war doesn't mean you're wrong unless you were claiming they did. Silly me."

=====
3. The term "Logical Solutions" does not mean anything.
Simple as that. My opponent has made up a term and failed to define it. What is my opponent trying to claim? Something nonsensical. "Solutions" to what? Logic doesn't solve anything. Logic is only used in a] Correctly making conclusions from premises, b] Analyzing an argument's premises and conclusions to determine its validity, and perhaps c] Creating premises that would correctly lead to a given conclusion.

Since my opponent has not defined it, I will go ahead and express what I feel it must mean.
Logical Solutions is the name of a company that makes escrow software. Here is a link to their home page.
http://www.logicalsolutionsinc.com...

Since my opponent has not brought them up, I have very little to say on this matter. My opponent has given us no reason why any of this would even possibly have anything to do with Logical Solutions. They make escrow software; they probably don't even care about existential import or counter-factuals.

=====
4. Existential import does not create counter-factuals. They are separate things, neither causing the other to exist.
Here's part of the resolution: "The Problem of Existential Import Presents a Counter-Factual Problem." This seems to indicate that existential import creates some sort of counter-factual. This is false.
Existential import creates an implied premise, which is asserted as true with the original claim.
Counter-factuals are combination of hypothetical premises with hypothetical conclusions, neither of which are asserted as necessarily true in reality.
I will show several examples of existential import, and show that they do not create counter-factuals. Before that, though, i will explain the impossibility of such a thing. A counter-factual is a single actual claim comprised of both a hypothetical premise and a hypothetical conclusion. The thing in its entirety is asserted as true, but the hypothetical parts are not. Existential import only creates premises of the form "At least one P exists" - which is never the form of a counter-factual.

1. Some circles are larger than other circles.
1a. At least one circle exists.

1a is arguably false, which would lead to 1 being false as well. This would be a false premise, but it would NOT be a counter-factual.

2. Some unicorns prefer to graze in tall grass.
2a. At least one unicorn exists.

2a is probably false, which would lead to 2 being false as well. Again, false premise, but not a counter-factual in any way.

3. Some fairies live in Africa.
3a. At least one fairy exists.

Most people would once again say that 3a is false, and 3a being false leads to 3 being false. Same thing every time, and no counter-factuals.

But now, let me respond to some of my opponent's claims that are still unanswered. His text will be marked with an "O:", my responses with an "R:"

=====
RESPONSES

===
O: "Thus, we have a problem: to introduce abstract principles like perfect geometrical figures, unicorns, fairies, god, etc... into any logical argument, one would need to first show that they exist"
R: Actually, no. To do so does, however, create an implied premise that claims they exist [assuming the use of language like 'some']. One does not have to show that each of his/her premises is true. Such would be an impossible task - to prove one premise as true, one would need to use other premises... which would then need to be proved as true, ad infinitum. Logic does not insist that all premises be true, which is why a false premise is not a logical fallacy.
Not that this point is relevant, I just thought I should correct my opponent's false claim.

And actually, I've already rebutted every other claim I disagree with in points 1-4, so I suppose I'll give the floor back to my opponent.
Good luck, Tarzan.
Debate Round No. 1
JustCallMeTarzan

Pro

I believe that beem0r has taken this topic far to seriously... But in the spirit of good debate, I will answer his four objections.

1. On Existential Import.

Existential import is indeed a problem when you make a the claim "Some P is Q" if there are no P. He admits that it is a logical implication of the statement, and thus, the problem of existential import is thus: The logical implication of "some P is Q" is that the statement cannot be true if no P exist.

2. On Counter-Factuals.

A counter-factual, when given in a logical argument may save the validity of the argument, but not the soundness, as a counter-factual is by its very nature a false premise. A counter-factual is a problem because it purports a conclusion to be true based on a premise that is false. The form is not merely "If X, then Y" but rather, "If X, then it WOULD be the case Y." While not far apart, the two are indeed distinct. Consider:

1. If Nazi Germany had won WWII, the Allies would have lost.
2. If Nazi Germany had won WWII, Hitler would not have committed suicide.

The two are distinct in that the first conclusion is a function of the premise. It's basically the following argument:

(N v A) - this is an exclusive or...
(N)
----------
:. ~A

The second has a conclusion that cannot be drawn from the premise in the same way that the first can, and thus, only the second of the two statements is actually a counter-factual statement. These statements do indeed present a problem for arriving at a sound logical conclusion.

3. On Logical Solutions.

I mean logical solutions to be a sound conclusion from premises. In other words, that what follows a THEREFORE is drawn from true premises. A "logical solution" would be consistent, valid, and sound.

4. On Existential Import & Counter-Factuals.

If one's premise in an argument is of the form "Some P is Q" and it also happens to be the case that no P exist, then this would create a counter-factual premise if the argument is to continue. Consider:

Some unicorns are gray unicorns.
All gray unicorns have mud on them.
(Suppose too, that only gray unicorns have mud on them... keep it simple).
Therefore, some unicorns have mud on them.

Since no unicorns exist, the first premise is false, the logical implication being (by contradiction) that no unicorns are gray unicorns. If this is the case, then the statement that all gray unicorns have mud on them makes no sense because there ARE no gray unicorns. On top of that, the conclusion is false, because there are no gray unicorns that can have mud on them.

Thus, to consider the argument, it introduces a counter-factual:

If there were unicorns, some would be gray unicorns.
All gray unicorns have mud on them.
Therefore, if there are unicorns, some unicorns have mud on them.

The first premise in this argument is clearly a counter-factual.

****************************************
I did indeed address the point my opponent makes in his closing statements concerning the validity and soundness of arguments. It is true that logic does not insist on true premises, but it does insist on them to be sound arguments. Like I said - While the argument is valid, it is not sound because it has a false premise...

****************************************

5. On the company Logical Solutions.

Any company that produces computer code would be concerned with existential import in their code. If a computer tries to analyze "Some P is Q" but cannot find an instance of P, the program will return an error message, even if the P is intended to be hypothetical. So in order to run hypothetical situations, the computer must create an instance of P in order to evaluate the logical claim. Thus, by creating the instance of P, the programmers are avoiding the situation that "If it were the case that P existed, it would be the case that some P is Q" which is indeed a counter-factual. Thus, Logical Solutions IS indeed concerned with existential import and counter-factuals.

***********************************

Like I said... a fun debate on a serious topic. I'm actually chuckling to myself at my own last paragraph....
beem0r

Con

My opponent accuses me of having taken his topic 'far too seriously.'
I'm not sure what he means by this, considering I have only done what is standard to do in a debate - find holes in your opponent's case and expose them. If I was supposed to ignore these holes in favor of just joking around instead, then I offer my sincerest apologies. Although I must admit, even my sincerest apologies are not all that sincere.

Back to the matter at hand!

=====
1. Existential import is not a problem
===
O: "Existential import is indeed a problem when you make a the claim "Some P is Q" if there are no P."
R: I agree that such a scenario contains a problem, but existential import is not the problem. The problem is that there are no P, where "Some P is Q" requires there to be.

While my opponent has failed to back up his claim that existential import is a problem [an implicit claim of the resolutioin he is arguing for], I realize that this is not a very pressing matter. I won't waste all of our time with trivialities.

=====
2. Counterfactuals are not problems.
This issue is not quite as trivial, since my opponent is making patently false claims that are relevant to the resolution.
===
O: "[...] a counter-factual is by its very nature a false premise."
R: False. I already addressed this in round 1. A counter-factual is a single statement, it is not a premise and a conclusion. For example, here are some statements.

#1. If I hadn't eaten those pancakes, I would be skinny today.
#2. I hadn't eaten those pancakes.
#3. I am skinny today.

#1, as most of you hopefully know by now, is a counter-factual. My opponent is claiming that it has a false premise. The 'premise' in question is statement #2. Of course, the truth of statement #1 does not rely on the truth of statements #2 and #3, since it is a hypothetical. We can tell by the use of hypothetical language - if. Consider this:
"If I found a million dollars on the ground, I would buy a house."
That statement can be true without me having found a million dollars on the ground. This is because I am speaking hypothetically, as noted by my 'if.' For this reason, a 'false premise' is not a problem here.
Since a counter-factual is inherently hypothetical, a 'false premise' does not affect its truth - and therefore does not affect the validity or soundness of an argument that uses a counter-factual. Once agian, this is because the supposed 'premise' in a counter-factual isn't asserted as true anyway, so pointing out that it is false is not problematic as it would be for an actual premise.

=====
3. Logical Solutions is not a real term
I accept my opponent's new definition of it. 'Logical solution' is now defined as a sound conclusion from premises.

=====
4. Existential import does not create counter-factuals
Here, my opponent provides two arguments. The first is a flawed argument, which claims that "some unicorns are gray unicorns" when gray unicorns do not even exist [or so we are to assume]. Then, in a separate argument, he changes the wording to be hypothetical, meaning his argument no longer asserts that unicorns must actually exist. The first argument had existential import, the second argument used counter-factuals.

Note that existential import does not create counter-factuals. It creates an additional premise, and if that premise is false, the arguer is left with little choice but to create a counter-factual. Note first that it is the arguer presenting the counter-factual, not the existential import. Existential import may have lead to the arguer eventually making a counter-factual, but we don't say our alarm clocks brush our teeth, do we?
Second, note that existential import is CERTAINLY not a problem here - it is the SOLUTION to the false premise that was present in the first argument.

=====
5. Logical Solutions, the company
My opponent makes a lot of false claims here. First, he claims that programmers care about existential import. That's false. Existential import, as we've discussed in the past, is something that happens when "Some P is Q" is asserted as true. In the programming world, a statement like "Some P is Q" is a boolean - it can either be true or false. Unlike in logic, booleans in programming are not asserted as true, they are simply tested to see whether they are true or false.

Here is a relevant example. We'll say there are two set objects, P and Q, and there is a function Some(set, set) that determines whether some member of P is a member of Q as well.
We'll define P as an empty set.
We'll say Q contains the following elements: "John", "Bob", "Susan"

Some(P, Q) would return false, since no member of P is also a Q. That's it. No errors, it would simply be false. Just like the statement "Some P is Q" would be false in logic - though the logic example actually uses existential import. The computer, on the other hand, just runs through the function to determine whether it's true or not. There's no part in the code where a whole new statement would be made just to check the case where no P exists.

Further, it is gross conjecture to assume that Logical Solutions, inc., creator of Escrow software, would have any code that has anything like "Some P is Q" in it at all. It's highly unlikely, and surely not common enough for my opponent to be right in simply assuming that they have such code in their products.

And in any case, I accepted my opponent's new definition of 'Logical Solutions," so this entire programming point is off-topic.
Debate Round No. 2
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 8 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
The Nazi example is a counter-factual, not a problem of existential import.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Why anyone would bother introducing formal logic into a claim that "Some p is q" I'm not quite sure. Point out the p which is q and the rest is trivial and obvious. All P are Q, or Q is a necessary condition of P, there's something it's useful for. Basically it helps you point out contradictions in people's statements and find blatant fallacies, that's about all it's good for.

Though frankly I fail to see where the Nazi bit makes the claim "Some P are Q" so much as "If P occurs Q occurs," so the definition of existential import you gave kind of disqualifies it for an example.
Posted by brian_eggleston 8 years ago
brian_eggleston
I understand all the words individually but not the meaning when they are put together as they have been. I think this debate is too high-brow for me!
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 8 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
Nobody wants this debate :(
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
Ah yes - I was just refreshing my memory. The phrase "existential import" brought to my mind free logic.
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 8 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
free logic is the way out of the problem of existential import... it doesn't SOLVE the problem, just ignores it.
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
Sorry if my memory serves me wrong, but free logic has some relevance yeah?
Posted by mastajake 8 years ago
mastajake
haha

"Thus, we have a problem: to introduce abstract principles like perfect geometrical figures, unicorns, fairies, god, etc... into any logical argument, one would need to first show that they exist, because to do otherwise would introduce a counter-factual."

you sneaky man :D
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