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Is this a valid argument? If not, what is the fallacy committed?

Is this a valid argument? If not, what is the fallacy committed? (1) A hypocritical agent is one that says one thing, but does another. (2) The government kills people. (Through wars, the death penalty, etc.) (3) The government tells us not to kill. (By making it a law to not murder. Murder is a form of killing, thus making it a law to not murder is a form of making it a law to not kill.) __________________________________________________ Therefore, (4) The government is hypocritical.

I think your argument is logically valid--that is, IF the premises were true, then the conclusion would be true. And I don't think it commits any formal or informal fallacies (except perhaps equivocation in the sense I'll explain shortly).

The problem is that it is unsound, because it has at least one false premise; hence the conclusion is not "made true" by the premises. Premise 3 is false. The government does not tell us not to kill no matter what. As you point out, it tells us not to break specific laws against specific types of killing. Typically, citizens are not breaking the law (and are morally justified) in killing in self-defense or to protect others from an immediate and deadly threat. And (legal) killing in war and use of the death penalty (where it is legal) are also not forms of killing the government tells us not to commit.

Now, we may have reasons to think that some or even all killing in war is morally problematic and even more reasons to think the death penalty is morally wrong. And we have greatly narrowed the scope of such legalized killings over time (in the U.S. and even more so, in other industrialized nations, most of which, for instance, have made the death penalty illegal). And we may believe that it is hypocritical to say some killing is OK but not others (though almost no one, perhaps Jesus excluded, suggests that you cannot kill, if necessary, in self-defense). But I don't think that the government is "saying one thing but doing another" in these cases, because the government, just like most of us, does not treat all killings as the same thing (hence the equivocation in the use of "killing").

I think your argument is logically valid--that is, IF the premises were true, then the conclusion would be true. And I don't think it commits any formal or informal fallacies (except perhaps equivocation in the sense I'll explain shortly). The problem is that it is unsound , because it has at least one false premise; hence the conclusion is not "made true" by the premises. Premise 3 is false. The government does not tell us not to kill no matter what . As you point out, it tells us not to break specific laws against specific types of killing. Typically, citizens are not breaking the law (and are morally justified) in killing in self-defense or to protect others from an immediate and deadly threat. And (legal) killing in war and use of the death penalty (where it is legal) are also not forms of killing the government tells us not to commit. Now, we may have reasons to think that some or even all killing in war is morally problematic and even more reasons to think the death penalty is...

Is there anything of value philosophically in the contentious politics of the

Is there anything of value philosophically in the contentious politics of the day?

Sure! On the one hand, you see people presenting some strong arguments for competing political philosophies and different moral values, and ideally we get to vote based on a more informed understanding of these competing views, to the extent that different candidates (or referendums or amendments) embody those views. Democracy in action!

On the other hand (and alas, too often, especially on cable news and talk radio), you see examples of really bad arguments and fallacies, so you get to practice your philosophical skills critiquing them.

Ideally, of course, citizens would be educated well enough to find (and to appreciate, hence financially supporting) good sources of argument and information, and those sources would provide more substance and less heat than we see in our current media. And ideally, our politicians would be able to present their philosophies and policies in a way that allowed us to see their consequences and judge their merits, and that allowed them to make good compromises among each other. (It's always good to remind ourselves how contentious the politics were during our nation's founding, though they were also pretty contentious before the civil war...)

Sure! On the one hand, you see people presenting some strong arguments for competing political philosophies and different moral values, and ideally we get to vote based on a more informed understanding of these competing views, to the extent that different candidates (or referendums or amendments) embody those views. Democracy in action! On the other hand (and alas, too often, especially on cable news and talk radio), you see examples of really bad arguments and fallacies, so you get to practice your philosophical skills critiquing them. Ideally, of course, citizens would be educated well enough to find (and to appreciate, hence financially supporting) good sources of argument and information, and those sources would provide more substance and less heat than we see in our current media. And ideally, our politicians would be able to present their philosophies and policies in a way that allowed us to see their consequences and judge their merits, and that allowed them to make good...

I have two questions about fairness and value in relation to achievement.

I have two questions about fairness and value in relation to achievement. Suppose student A works very hard for his exam results and gets the grades he wanted. Suppose also that student B is much lazier, putting in significantly less effort, but achieves the same results due to their greater "natural" ability. Firstly, which student's achievement, if any, is of greater significance or greater value? Secondly, is it fair that student B achieves the same results as student A without putting in the same level of effort (albeit the same level of effort was not required from student B due to his greater "natural" ability)?

Although the question is framed in terms of justice, fairness, and value, I would like to consider it in terms of attitudes towards knowledge and learning.

According to the psychologist William Perry's "Scheme of Intellectual and Ethical Development", students who have what he called an "early multiplistic" attitude towards knowledge believe that all questions have answers and that all problems have solutions, but that there are two kinds of questions or problems: those whose answers or solutions we know, and those whose answers or solutions we don't know yet. Such students see their task as learning how to find the "correct" solutions. And students who have what Perry called a "late multiplistic" attitude believe either that most problems are of the second kind (hence, everyone has a right to their own opinion) or that some problems are unsolvable (hence, it doesn't matter which--if any--solution you choose). (What I've summarized here is a vast oversimplification for present purposes.)

Such "multiplistic" students believe that teachers don't have all the answers any more than the students do. Hence, they also believe thatit is only fair for teachers to grade them on the basis of the amount of work they have put in, rather than on the results they obtain. So, in the questioner's scenario, student A is seen as deserving at least as high a grade as student B.

It then becomes the task of the teacher to help such students realize that merely working hard (especially if such work does not result in solving the problem) is not sufficient. Instead, the student must work efficiently (or effectively) so as to solve the problem: The problem may be solvable in different ways, and the value of the solution may be relative to the context in which it was solved (Perry calls this the perspective of "contextual relativism").

In various courses I've taught in which students have complained that the amount of effort they put in should be worth something in terms of their grade (even if they failed to solve the problem), I have offered them the following option in future assignments: If they have put in a lot of effort without solving the problem, then they could turn in a document spelling out how they went about trying to solve the problem, analyzing why they thought their methods didn't work, and suggesting other techniques they could have tried had they only had more time to work on it. I can then give them credit, not merely for working hard, but for working more efficiently.

The answers to your interesting questions depend on how we understand 'value' and 'fairness'. In some contexts we value outcomes more than efforts. So, if our goal is to target students who are most likely to understand difficult material, we may value the one who can understand it without too much effort (your Student B), especially if we think we can motivate her to work harder in the future. If we have reason to think that your Student A will be unlikely to understand quantum physics or Kant, no matter how much effort he puts in, and if, say, a graduate program is looking for students who can advance physics or philosophy, we will value B's abilities more than A's, and our grades may reflect that assessment of their respective value in these terms. Clearly, we will value student C, who has the capacity to understand these subjects and the hard work-ethic required to succeed more than A or C. But (perhaps mistakenly--see below) we tend to think that people can increase their work-ethic more...

Having just read Dawkins's The God Delusion I was appalled to learn how reviled

Having just read Dawkins's The God Delusion I was appalled to learn how reviled atheists are in America. In Europe a person's stance (including politician's) on religion is largely irrelevant unless they draw attention to it. What is going on in America? What should skeptics and atheist philosophers do there to point out that atheism is a reasoned and logical viewpoint that doesn't presuppose immorality, etc.? It beggars belief that all presidential aspirants have to (in some cases as Dawkins remarks) probably pretend to be Christians in order to have any chance of being elected. I know of the Atheist's Wager, acceptance of which seems braver to me than blindly accepting the religious promises of heaven as dictated by those who brought you up. And what place do 'faith-based initiatives' have in an ostensibly secular government where church and state are separate under the constitution?

The clarification is welcome, but the reason for my remark was simply that I was putting these two remarks together: (i) "I think that an avowed atheist would have absolutely no hope ofelection to President or likely to any major office in any (or almostany) state, regardless of his or her other attributes orviews..."; (ii) "Once one recognizes that atheists can and do believe these [sensible] things, itis difficult to see why choosing not to believe in a God withsupernatural powers...should count against one's ability to bean effective political leader or most anything else." Unless I'm missing something, (ii), read against (i), strongly suggests that an atheist is someone who rejects supernaturalism, etc, which rather strongly suggests that a theist is someone who endorses it. Perhaps (ii) was badly stated, and should have said simply, "...it is difficult to see why choosing not to believe in a divine being should count against...".

I take a more pessimistic view than Professor Leaman. I think that an avowed atheist would have absolutely no hope of election to President or likely to any major office in any (or almost any) state, regardless of his or her other attributes or views, and that an avowed agnostic would have no hope of election to President or most major offices in most states, and that a candidate who did not strongly avow being a Christian (or perhaps Jew) would have almost no hope of being elected President. And I think that these facts are causes for concern for a number of reasons. For instance, it indicates a specific type of intolerance, one that I think is largely based on a failure to understand what atheists do (and can) believe. Though Professor Leaman's is correct when he says atheists are "believers in nothing" if he is referring only to supernatural deities, atheists can and usually do believe (often strongly): that life has meaning and purpose that there are moral truths or at least...

I can't be sure whether the pronouns in Richard's second sentence are supposed to refer to me or to Dawkins. If he (Richard H.) is referring to me, I'm not sure why. I don't see anything in what I said that suggests I believe all religious people share the same beliefs or that I am "ignorant of the varieties of religious belief." To clarify, there are some religious people in this country--I would say, too many--who act as though atheism (or perhaps any other failure to share their own faith-based beliefs) is a sign of moral terpitude (e.g., of the sort that disqualifies you for public office). Of course, it works the other way too. I certainly hold it against a political candidate if he or she avows certain religious doctrines (e.g., intelligent design). On that note, I think another potential concern of the influence of fundamentalist religious organizations and individuals on politics in America is their ability to undermine scientific research and science education.