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self-defeating theory: any counter-argument?

Zero_F
Posts: 3
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7/25/2016 2:14:18 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
Hi, I would like your help on an issue that's been bothering me:

I have presented to someone a theory that I liked very much, and that person said it's self-defeating. The theory is called "the argumentative theory of reasoning" and in short, it states that:

- reasoning did not evolve to pursue truth, but to help us win arguments.
- this is why, among others, the confirmation bias is so strong: it is actually a feature, not a bug. We tend to find facts that support our own arguments, because our reasoning skills evolved to make us win (and this includes winning arguments).

Their research has many other insights, but I think they are not relevant for my request for help.

This person's answer was that this theory is self-defeating when applied to itself (i. e. the authors are also confirming their own biases, so it's a worthless theory).

While I think they might have a point, I was wondering if there are any counter-arguments to this. I was thinking of the following:

- the authors have a hypothesis, they made some predictions and had some empirical findings. If we say that they are confirming their biases when they find that hypothesis to "hold water", can we not say the same about basically any other study that confirms its predictions?

In short, I am wondering if I can argue by saying that "confirmation bias" has been wrongly conflated with "confirmed evidence".

Somehow, this "self-defeating" claim seems to me unfounded and similar to a relativist stance of the type "everything is relative". But I might be wrong.

Could you help me? Do you think such a theory is self-defeating? Would you have better arguments to counter the claim that it is self-defeating?

Thanks!

(I am new here, so I hope I did not make any mistake and that such topics can be submitted).
keithprosser
Posts: 2,019
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7/25/2016 4:50:55 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
Welcome!

- reasoning did not evolve to pursue truth, but to help us win arguments.
- this is why, among others, the confirmation bias is so strong: it is actually a feature, not a bug. We tend to find facts that support our own arguments, because our reasoning skills evolved to make us win (and this includes winning arguments).


Clariy one thing... is the idea that reasoning evolved to help us win arguments or
that reasoning evolved to help us win (in a general sense), which includes winning arguments?

I certainly think the critic of the argument misunderstands the concept of confirmation bias. It seems he thinks that coming up with a confirmation of a theory is some how a disproof of it - which is patently absurd and a bizarre misreading of notion of what confirmation bias means.

Falsifiability is the touchstone of the modern form of the philosophy of science. But obvously a correct theory cannot be falsified! What it really means is that a theory has to be testable and a negatve result is at least logically possible.
In the case of 'reason evolved to help us win arguments' that would mean discovering an instance of reasoning evolving where winning arguments is not a factor. I'd say that there are plenty of such instances - non-human animals and many human socities use reason but do not organsise formal debates.
Zero_F
Posts: 3
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7/27/2016 3:09:34 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
Thank you for your answer.

As for the clarification: the authors claim that reasoning evolved to help us win arguments.
skipsaweirdo
Posts: 1,866
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7/28/2016 3:49:21 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/25/2016 2:14:18 PM, Zero_F wrote:
Hi, I would like your help on an issue that's been bothering me:

I have presented to someone a theory that I liked very much, and that person said it's self-defeating. The theory is called "the argumentative theory of reasoning" and in short, it states that:

- reasoning did not evolve to pursue truth, but to help us win arguments.
- this is why, among others, the confirmation bias is so strong: it is actually a feature, not a bug. We tend to find facts that support our own arguments, because our reasoning skills evolved to make us win (and this includes winning arguments).

Their research has many other insights, but I think they are not relevant for my request for help.

This person's answer was that this theory is self-defeating when applied to itself (i. e. the authors are also confirming their own biases, so it's a worthless theory).

While I think they might have a point, I was wondering if there are any counter-arguments to this. I was thinking of the following:

- the authors have a hypothesis, they made some predictions and had some empirical findings. If we say that they are confirming their biases when they find that hypothesis to "hold water", can we not say the same about basically any other study that confirms its predictions?

In short, I am wondering if I can argue by saying that "confirmation bias" has been wrongly conflated with "confirmed evidence".

Somehow, this "self-defeating" claim seems to me unfounded and similar to a relativist stance of the type "everything is relative". But I might be wrong.

Could you help me? Do you think such a theory is self-defeating? Would you have better arguments to counter the claim that it is self-defeating?

Thanks!

(I am new here, so I hope I did not make any mistake and that such topics can be submitted).
Here's a clip from an article or viewpoint on this theory...
"And the problem with the confirmation bias is that it leads people to make very bad decisions and to arrive at crazy beliefs. And it's weird, when you think of it, that humans should be endowed with a confirmation bias. If the goal of reasoning were to help us arrive at better beliefs and make better decisions, then there should be no bias."

This explanation in itself is confirmation bias or poisoning the well. Its implying that one persons crazy beliefs or bad decisions have to be accepted as such simply because someone may disagree. It then goes on to say if reasoning is suppose to lead to "better beliefs"or to make better decisions then there should be no bias. But in order for this to be true you have to have a bias as to what is better.
capob
Posts: 73
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7/28/2016 4:27:46 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/25/2016 2:14:18 PM, Zero_F wrote:
Hi, I would like your help on an issue that's been bothering me:

I have presented to someone a theory that I liked very much, and that person said it's self-defeating. The theory is called "the argumentative theory of reasoning" and in short, it states that:

The theory does not declare pursuing truth is impossible, or that reasoning without confirmation bias is impossible, and so the theory is not self defeating. Instead, all this proves is that you are dealing with someone who is insane. The scary part is, however, that you did not recognize this fact on your own.
Zero_F
Posts: 3
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7/29/2016 6:43:40 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/28/2016 4:27:46 AM, capob wrote:
At 7/25/2016 2:14:18 PM, Zero_F wrote:
Hi, I would like your help on an issue that's been bothering me:

I have presented to someone a theory that I liked very much, and that person said it's self-defeating. The theory is called "the argumentative theory of reasoning" and in short, it states that:

The theory does not declare pursuing truth is impossible, or that reasoning without confirmation bias is impossible, and so the theory is not self defeating. Instead, all this proves is that you are dealing with someone who is insane. The scary part is, however, that you did not recognize this fact on your own.

Thank you very much for your replies!

Regarding the fact that I did not recognize what you call insanity: the researchers have published their study on this matter. In their study, which I have now finished reading, there is a section with comments from their peers. One comment is exactly about this.

I am not sure if I can post links, but I will try: http://repository.upenn.edu... - this is the study. At page 81 in the document, on the right, there is a comment titled "The argumentative theory of reasoning applies to scientists and philosophers, too" and which makes a very similar point: that the theory, applied to itself, might turn out to be self-defeating.

The researchers reply, in their study, on page 101, smth along the lines of "yes, it's possible we are wrong, our point is simply that reasoning works better in groups, and this was confirmed by empirical data".

So the argument is not really that insane, given the fact the authors themselves have taken into account this possibility and did not dismiss the comment.

Thanks however for pointing out that, indeed, the theory does not claim that reasoning without confirmation bias is impossible, I think this is a great point!
wuliheron
Posts: 105
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7/29/2016 7:32:57 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
You are relying upon classical metaphysical causal logic, while the human mind and brain are fundamentally quantum mechanical. Roger Penrose's theory received its first two confirmations recently and Quantum Cognition is a well established science. In other words, your belief the theory is self-defeating contradicts the empirical evidence.
keithprosser
Posts: 2,019
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7/29/2016 9:34:49 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
There is a fundamental problem with the wording of "reasoning evolved to help us win arguments." because nothing evolves 'to do' anything. To speak of anything as a goal of evolution is simply incorrect.

A more correct phrasing would be 'Individuals who won arguments had more offspring than argument losers which drove successive generations to have better argument winning skills than their parents'.

There is no way it makes sense to speak of applying that hypothesis to itself. Bereft of inappropriate teleologically loaded terms like 'goal' and 'evolved to help' it is neither self-confirming or self-refuting.

If DDO lasts a few hundred years and we all pledge to make our kids (and our kids kids) to sign up and enter into debates then we will know if the hypothesis is true or not. It's not necessarily true. It could be that debate winners spend too much time and energy in the library and not enough in the bedroom!