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Truthmapping: The Ultimate Attempt to Rationalize Debate?
July 25, 2005 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Truthmapping: The Ultimate Attempt to Rationalize Debate? From lofty ontological arguments for the existence of God and for the self-contradictory nature of determinism to relatively more down to earth propositions about the unconstitutionality of abortion and the justice of the war in Iraq: can many significant debates be reduced to simple sets of premises and conclusions? Should they be?
posted by shivohum (49 comments total)

 
Nice post shivohum, thank you !
posted by elpapacito at 11:15 PM on July 25, 2005


It's true that many great riddles resemble chess patterns, the best moves having been worked out, variations simply being moves of lesser benefit (aside from their novelty), and that many people who scoff at these "maps" haven't actually worked out the arguments clearly enough to realize either: a) they really are following the map, or b) their counterarguments didn't make the best cut; it's a lesser variation already argued and lost.

But that self-contradictory nature of determinism is BS. "Determinism is true" needn't be the premise but merely that determinism could be true, but is beyond our ability to know either way.

Can these be reduced? Even questions of ethics can be reduced (and probably should be) but only so as to test self-consistency. For example, the law is a somewhat arbitrary system, but we still believe in the rule of law, so that whether your particular sentence is fair isn't measured on a cosmic scale, but rather whether it is comparable to what others under similar circumstances have received. And yes, most arguments can be reduced to symbols, answers derived, and converted back, for that purpose. Symbolic logic courses at any uni do just this.
posted by dreamsign at 11:19 PM on July 25, 2005


I've been working on a similar project for many years, so I was excited when I saw this link, thinking that it might usefully validate my own premise. However, what I saw instead was debate so sophomoric that it scarcely required development past the spematazoa.

This needs a LOT of work. Lofty ontological arguments indeed.
posted by Chasuk at 11:22 PM on July 25, 2005


anybody else think of the Glass Bead Game?
posted by dhruva at 11:36 PM on July 25, 2005


can many significant debates be reduced to simple sets of premises and conclusions? Should they be?

To a Poor Old Woman
William Carlos Williams

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

Comforted
a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her
posted by ori at 11:38 PM on July 25, 2005


Lofty ontological argument?

Is that like "military intelligence" or "jumbo shrimp" or something?
posted by joe lisboa at 11:54 PM on July 25, 2005


This has the potential to literally accelerate high quality dialogue at a level past that afforded by conventional literary mechanisms.

Whether or not it has potential to yield a valid body of knowledge is an interesting question, but a couple points can be made in addressing it:

The "knowledge" products that it yields do not have to be exclusively oriented: there could be explicit critiques that say "either x or y is true", and depending on which, the conclusion may be X or Y.

In other words, there may be natural limitations to our ability to glean knowledge or make judgements, through "logic/reason/this sort of dialogue" alone - but the truthmapper allows us to bring these limitations into agreement and focus, and do so on an unprecedented scale of organization & efficiency.

Another point is that while it may not shine in certain domains of knowledge, it may shine in others: There may be questions that are appropriately addressed with scientific rigour - if so, this seems to be one of, if not the best tools which has evolved on this planet to address them.
posted by spacediver at 1:02 AM on July 26, 2005


this seems to be one of, if not the best tools which has evolved on this planet to address them.

I hope you didn't reach this conclusion based on the evidence. Actually, I'm hoping that you are exercising a bit of hyperbole.

Assuming that you did, and that you're not, please elucidate.
posted by Chasuk at 1:22 AM on July 26, 2005


It looks to me like a 2nd year philosophical logic homework. Yes, formalising arguments like this can help clear up what's going on. But unless you do it well, it's just trivialising a complicated domain. I mean, from this abortion debate

"1) PREMISE/FACT:

The end of human conception/fertilization marks the point at which the sperm and the egg have combined into a new, living, single organism with a unique, human genetic structure; this new being belongs to the species homo sapiens

2) FROM 1 IT FOLLOWS THAT:

Conception/fertilization is the beginning of a new human's life for any point after this would rationally require that humans exclusively reproduce asexually.
"

No, it doesn't follow. No it doesn't rationally require humans exclusively reproduce asexually.

This site is pretending to be objective and logical but is including just as much loaded, emotive language as your average undergraduate essay style composition.

Good idea, fails to address the question, poor execution. C.
posted by handee at 1:24 AM on July 26, 2005


Chasuk:

I hope you didn't reach this conclusion based on the evidence. Actually, I'm hoping that you are exercising a bit of hyperbole.

Assuming that you did, and that you're not, please elucidate.


Absolutely no hyperbole. The key is in its potential.

At its inception, Wikipedia had the potential to become what it is now. It didn't necessarily have to come to life in a useful way, but it did.
posted by spacediver at 1:42 AM on July 26, 2005


This site is pretending to be objective and logical but is including just as much loaded, emotive language as your average undergraduate essay style composition.

Imagine wikipedia started out with low quality entries. (I haven't learned about the history of its development, nor did I follow it from its inception)

Would criticisms such as yours be meaningful?

A site is not an intentional entity. It cannot pretend to do something. It can, however, strive toward its goals, and succeed or fail, or fall somewhere in between.

And it certainly doesn't succeed or fail in an instant - these things may take time.
posted by spacediver at 1:47 AM on July 26, 2005


Looking at the abortion debate one, what you have is a poorly constructed base argument, with counterarguments set out at great length and in such a way as to make them fairly difficult to read. The initial attempt to distill the argument into logical form is almost immediately undermined by the wordiness of the counterarguments. There is no way to pare previous arguments, as there is in Wikipedia - the site will just accumulate more and more rhetoric.

I see this site degenerating rather than improving with more content.
posted by handee at 1:52 AM on July 26, 2005


It looks to me like a 2nd year philosophical logic homework. Yes, formalising arguments like this can help clear up what's going on. But unless you do it well, it's just trivialising a complicated domain.


"doing it well" is the function of a large body of dialogue. The thread of logic you criticized (with respect to abortion) is one element of a larger body of dialogue. Click on View Critiques to see the responses
to that thread of logic.

The beauty of the open source approach is that there is systematic way of anaylzing and improving the arguments.
posted by spacediver at 1:56 AM on July 26, 2005


"Logic"? WAAH WAAH BABY NEEDS HIS LOGIC BOTTLE! Pfft!

Basically, everyone agrees that your so-called "logic" died when Spock was rescued from that Genesis planet, proving that if you have pointy ears then we should all kidnap whales to keep you alive. How does THAT fit into your "logic"? NEWSFLASH, KLINGONS: IT DOESN'T.

Nowadays, the cool kids decide their ethical, political and metaphysical conundra via the medium of SALSA DANCE-OFFS. I'm taking lessons, and I have some wicked dance moves that not only prove the existence of God but also keep my buttocks and thighs firm and toned.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:04 AM on July 26, 2005 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia - the site will just accumulate more and more rhetoric.

If the function of wikipedia was to resolve, or explore, contentious issues, then it would indeed fail miserably.

However, I see the beauty of wikipedia in its ability to remain up-to-date, and relevant, in acting as a repository of information from a wide range of sources around the globe.

Just truthmapper has the potential of being a highly evolved tool for addressing questions that lend well to rigorous scientific dialogue, wikipedia has, and has fulfilled, the potential of being a highly evolved tool for the accumulation and storage of "semantic" knowledge.
posted by spacediver at 2:06 AM on July 26, 2005


handee: This site is pretending to be objective and logical but is including just as much loaded, emotive language as your average undergraduate essay style composition.

If "this site" equals all of the pages accessible at the linked address and related to the subject of the site

then could it be that you're confounding property of a single part of the site (the abortion debate that doesn't follow) with property of the whole (site and all the debates) ?

In other words

Let A = the abortion debate in the site
Let U = all the debates in the site = the site

A is (just a) subset of U , we could infer from observing the property of the subset A that U has the properties of its subset A , but we must also verify that it's true for all the elements of A otherwise your assertion "This site is" isn't valid.
posted by elpapacito at 2:07 AM on July 26, 2005


dhruva writes "anybody else think of the Glass Bead Game?"
Magister Ludi of Castalia. That's one book that could have done with some Kafka editing.
posted by peacay at 2:29 AM on July 26, 2005


This entire site is a Red Herring. The quality of the site will be determined by the quality of its participants, which, from the looks of it, is piss poor. Who the hell wants to sift through piles of inflammatory crap just so you can diagree with it? Maddening.
posted by WebToy at 3:11 AM on July 26, 2005


I disagree.
posted by fadeout at 3:30 AM on July 26, 2005


Who the hell wants to sift through piles of inflammatory crap

You don't wanna be the researcher(s) who developed Preparation H ...
posted by elpapacito at 3:47 AM on July 26, 2005


Goddamit, this was my idea. Except without all the internet retards.
posted by chrismear at 4:06 AM on July 26, 2005


I'm disappointed, but then with a title like "Truth Mapping" I was expecting something on par with Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid or even Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem.

It's probably natural to be disappointed with hopes like these.

So then I spent 20 minutes fruitlessly looking for the complete/incomplete true/false provable/unprovable diagram-map that's included in GEB. And I loaned my hardcover edition of GEB to someone years ago and I've haven't seen it since, so I can't even snap a photo of it to share what I think real truth mapping looks like.

Maybe I'm too quick to judge, but with a title like "truth mapping" one would hope there would be more than only one computer science article. There's also no subcategory for math in the science section.

And then there's some boffin trying to equate "free will" to physical laws (and attempting to infer something non-physical and somehow religiously spiritual) and also attempting to debate the constitutionality of abortion - which is simply wrongheaded to begin with*.

I predict a messy collapse at best.

*Why wrongheaded?

For starters, you don't need to seek rationalization from an entirely different domain to debate the ethics or morality of something like abortion. The presenter of this particular argument is seeking rationalization and support for obvious fundamentally-interpreted political reasons, even if his sophmoric grasp of reproductive biology is partially/mostly correct.

You might as well try to debate the constitutionality of man-eating tigers. Or falling rocks.)

posted by loquacious at 4:14 AM on July 26, 2005



1) PREMISE/FACT:

God exists in the mind. That is, God is something that can be thought of. (He is or else we would not even discussing him.)

2) FROM 1 IT FOLLOWS THAT:

God means "that which nothing greater can be thought."

3) PREMISE/FACT:

It is greater for a thing to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone.

4) FROM 2 AND 3 IT FOLLOWS THAT:

If God only exists in the mind but not in reality, then something greater than God could exist (i.e., something that has all the qualities of our thought of God, as well as real existence). This cannot be true since this would violate our definition of God.

5) FROM 4 IT FOLLOWS THAT:

God exists in the mind and reality.
AAAARRRRRRRRGGGGH! *scoops out own brain with a rusty spoon*
posted by loquacious at 4:21 AM on July 26, 2005


Loquatious -- my thoughts precisely. That looks like my first year philosophy tutor's argument for the existence of the perfect Prawn Madras.
posted by handee at 4:25 AM on July 26, 2005


loquacious: it's just the time-hallowed Ontological Argument.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:43 AM on July 26, 2005


TheophileEscargot: Yeah, I realize that. But does "soc"? And if so, why is he bothering to post rehash it there?

*Conceives rock so heavy God herself can't lift it, develops severe hernia during the birthing process, scrapes remaining brain tissue out with a melon baller*
posted by loquacious at 5:24 AM on July 26, 2005


Mmm, it seems that the determinism map isn't the only BS one of the bunch. I should have guessed.
posted by dreamsign at 6:06 AM on July 26, 2005


Lost potential. A swing and a miss.

Thanks, Internet, for taunting me with yet another mockery of my passion for critical thought! I love you, Internet!
posted by voltairemodern at 6:36 AM on July 26, 2005


Looks like these truthmappers get to say "Pick A or B"-- but they already favor A and B (as a framework for their debate) and don't care about C through Z.
posted by Scooter at 6:55 AM on July 26, 2005


Premise One: There are many contentious issues in the public sphere.

Premise Two: Those who have opinions on contentious issues seek structures which validate or "prove" their opinions, especially through systems regarded as objective.

Premise Three: There are a lot of retards on the internet who will argue with passion if not with intelligence.

From the three premises above, it follows that a site that has no boundaries to entry will attract loud retards who will press their round peg point of view into the square hole of analytical philosophy and rhetoric.

Conclusion: Without a Philosopher King moderator, "Truth Mapping" will fall into unreadable spasms of opinion dressed as logic.
posted by klangklangston at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2005


(And we're going to leave out those folks like Foucault and Derrida who would laugh at the fallacies of logocentrism...)
posted by klangklangston at 7:31 AM on July 26, 2005


WTF!?:
1) PREMISE/FACT: Marriage is between a man and a woman.
2) FROM 1 IT FOLLOWS THAT: A man and a man cannot be married.
3) FROM 2 IT FOLLOWS THAT: Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.

What's with all the fundie christian stuff on this site? I've always wanted to make a site like this with phrases with computer-parsable logic, wherein you could select the prepositions you agree with and it would actually tell you the consequences of holding to those beliefs and write proofs for them. Plus, arguements could be linked and the connections graphed to get some sense of how "important" certain prepositions are, based on how frequently things depend on them. If you had contention with a definition or an interpretation of a phrase, there would be a discussion and maybe voting-type system. I haven't thought about it for a while, and I'm not quite sure how it would all work out or how difficult it would be - something tells me it would be a lot harder than I expect.
posted by nTeleKy at 7:40 AM on July 26, 2005


WHOA!! Same guy as above post: "Rape victims who abort should be executed."
posted by nTeleKy at 7:47 AM on July 26, 2005


An interesting idea, fatally flawed in its current form.

So one person sets up a tree of premises and conclusions; others can agree with the whole tree or critique individual nodes of it. So far, that's about as sophisticated as just letting people do line-by-line commentary on written texts, i.e. not very -- if the initial tree is mostly based on irrelevant or nonsensical premises, there's no way to correct it, as far as I can tell. (And most of what's in there so far seems to be based on irrelevant or nonsensical premises.)

Now, if it were possible for multiple people to add / remove premises and conclusions, and (this is the hard part) some mechanism to handle redundant or conflicting nodes, you might have something. Not truth, but structured mob wisdom at least. Which would be interesting in its own way.

I hope this doesn't collapse under its own weight before it reaches version 2, because it really could be good.
posted by ook at 7:51 AM on July 26, 2005


1. I have a head.

2. My Penis has a head.

FROM 1 AND 2 IT FOLLOWS THAT:
I am a penis
posted by TheFeatheredMullet at 8:08 AM on July 26, 2005


Sorry, but this site is just stupid. It's always good to see people getting excited over logic, if anything it flexes their critical thinking muscles, but people also need some humility. Many of those arguments are just wrong, trivially so. Instead of seeing this sort of silly drop-down simplifications it'd be better to see some nuanced, rigirous arguments.
posted by nixerman at 8:35 AM on July 26, 2005


It does not work, because they control the premises.

They give the impression that the diagrams represent all sides of the argument. The whole thing is an enthymeme. The first premise is "We will map arguments to make them clearer"; the conclusion is "Here is the map of outcomes"; the missing premise is "We have included all the possible arguments, so anything not included is not worthy of consideration."

"I am not here to judge you; I will leave that to a vengeful god." - Mrs. Ned Flanders.
posted by carter at 8:44 AM on July 26, 2005


this site looks like a right wing playground to me. just look at the justification given for the iraq war.
posted by modernerd at 9:15 AM on July 26, 2005


Basically, everyone agrees that your so-called "logic" died when Spock was rescued from that Genesis planet, proving that if you have pointy ears then we should all kidnap whales to keep you alive. How does THAT fit into your "logic"? NEWSFLASH, KLINGONS: IT DOESN'T.

Nowadays, the cool kids decide their ethical, political and metaphysical conundra via the medium of SALSA DANCE-OFFS. I'm taking lessons, and I have some wicked dance moves that not only prove the existence of God but also keep my buttocks and thighs firm and toned.


I miss SeanBaby and OldManMurray too.
posted by straight at 9:21 AM on July 26, 2005


Did you guys see the critique functions? I just noticed them. Each step in the argument has a column to the right with links to critiques (if any). They take big bites out of the lamer arguments.
posted by modernerd at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2005


Yeah - a lot of you seem to have missed the entire purpose of the site.


CLICK ON VIEW CRITIQUES
posted by spacediver at 10:23 AM on July 26, 2005


I saw the critiques. I still think it's poor.
posted by handee at 11:02 AM on July 26, 2005


tautology != "lofty ontological argument"
posted by clevershark at 11:22 AM on July 26, 2005


Premise One: All cats are mortal.
Premise Two: Socrates is Dead
Conclusion: Socrates was a cat.

(Thank you for watching Syllogism theater).
posted by klangklangston at 1:48 PM on July 26, 2005


It doesn't seem to be accepting new users either.

All I got was upon clicking the emailed confirmation link is "Sorry but you could not be authorized!"

Maybe it's swamped?

Maybe it just likes me and is desperately trying to stop me from being an internet retard?
Yeah, good luck with that last mission :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:00 PM on July 26, 2005


Tried a different email addy and it worked. Weird.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:05 PM on July 26, 2005


Spent a few minutes there. I don't think I'll be going back. You guys are right - the implementation makes it useless.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:29 PM on July 26, 2005


The beauty of the open source approach is that there is systematic way of anaylzing and improving the arguments.

No, there isn't. People cannot alter the argument, just comment on it. You have to trust that the person arguing "marriage can't be adam and steve" will change his tune and re-write the arguement to say he's wrong if he reads a valid critique. Somehow, I just don't see that happening :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:35 PM on July 26, 2005


Ok - it may not "output" valid conclusions, but it will allow people to trace the individual elements of an argument. You don't have to trust anyone - you can read the critiques and counter-critiques, etc, and judge for yourself.

It's just that this allows anyone to participate, and it is highly organized, since it deals with individual elements of an argument that are functionally independent.
posted by spacediver at 6:05 PM on July 26, 2005


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