Friday, June 20, 2008

Wishful thinking

In the previous post I refered to Richard C's argument that it seems to be illegitimate in general to accuse people of rationalizing. In the previous post I highlighted the fact that many expert psychologists believe we rampantly engage in post hoc rationalization so it is reasonable to think it is just true (although not in every case). However here I want to address the more substantive issue of if it is legitimate in an ordinary argument to accuse the other side of post hoc rationalization.*

Whar Richard C has right is that people do often use the fact that post hoc rationalization might be going on (or might be common) to argue that the idea is false - that is invalid. that I might be biased towards believing 1+1=2 isnt proof agianst it. HOWEVER it is reason for me to recheck my postion for bias. If my position is based largely on intuition I might have to say that I should reduce by certainty in my position. That also marginally helps the other persons position because he may have reduced his certainty based on the fact that I disagreed with him.

So in spite of the fact that it does not directly undermine the position - it is still a potentially important part of the debate.

as to the substantive issue, a logical argument regarding wishful thinking is a reason to "check for bias" rather than "to throw out one argument". But it remains worth highlighting.

* Note how I use post hoc rationalization and Richard uses 'wishful thinking - this isn't just switching from layman's terminology - you can post hoc rationalize things you don't wish to be true, all that matters is that you became committed to it for a non rational reason.


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