Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reason and Rationality in Public Debate: The Case of Ron Paul

Reason and Rationality in Public Debate: The Case of Ron Paul

by Jim Fetzer


During the organizing meeting of The Human Behavior and Evolution Society at the University of Michigan in 1988, I raised my hand after a presentation by Lida Cosmides, then the doyen of the movement, which had made a certain impression on me, and said, “I have only two concerns regarding your presentation”. She said, “Yes?”; and I continued, “One is your conclusion”. She took a few paces with her hand on her chin and again said, “Yes?”; and, I added on, “The other is your premises.” The audience burst out in laughter, since a scholar’s position, like that of anyone else, only has two parts: their premises and their conclusion!

Most of us know that much about arguments, which are conclusions, hypotheses or conjectures supported by premises, which provide grounds, reasons or evidence, where the stronger argument, in rational discourse, tends to prevail. But that assumes an appropriate correspondence between objective standards of rational belief and subjective degrees of conviction. The measure of the difference between them serves as an index of the degree of divergence of a person’s opinion from normative standards and therefore functions as an index of the extent of the irrationality of their degree of belief from what beliefs are rational.

While most Americans know that much about arguments, they do not also understand that there are two broad classes of arguments: deductive and inductive. Deductive arguments are non-ampliative, in the sense that they do not contain any information in their conclusions that was not already in their premises. It is for this reason that their conclusions cannot be false if their premises are true. If “Jack and Jill went up the hill” is true, then “Jack went up the hill” cannot be false. Likewise, when “All ducks are white” and “This is a duck” are both true, then “This is white” must be true, too.

That is not the case for inductive arguments, whose conclusions go beyond their premises. If “Jack went up the hill” and “Jill is usually with Jack” are both true, then probably “Jill went up the hill”. But that conclusion could still be false even when those premises are true. Inferences from the past to the future, from samples to populations, and from the observable to the unobservable are familiar cases. Even if every duck we have observed so far is white, there may be those we have not yet observed that are not. Our knowledge of laws of nature and of historical events is inductive, which is why we can never be sure our conclusions are true, but only whether they well-supported or not.

Truth versus Belief

Sentences (or assertions) are true whenever they correspond to reality (or to how things are or to everything that is the case). But absent some kind of privileged access, we have to depend upon our own personal experience and the evidence available to us in determining what we ought to believe by exercising reason or rationality. The coherence of our beliefs based upon the evidence available to us thus functions as a criterion for us to judge the difference between what we take to be true and what we take to be false, where we may be mistaken. This diagram compares levels of strength of personal conviction and objective degrees of evidential support:


Notice that personal degrees of subjective conviction are measured on the basis of psychological considerations from beliefs we cannot imagine are false (“indubitable”) to those we cannot imagine are true (“inconceivable”). With respect to objective measures of evidential support, they range from those that are logically contradictory (that “2 + 2 = 5” or that “This is both a circle and a square”) to those that are logically necessary (“2 + 2 = 4” and “A square has four sides and four equal angles”). But our beliefs about the world around us, including current events, are inductive and uncertain.

Thomas Jefferson was once asked if he would prefer a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, to which he replied that he would prefer the latter. But Jefferson was not contemplating a time in which newspapers would be controlled by governments or by corporations, which is the situation that we confront today. It has become increasingly difficult to sort out information we are given that is true from information we are given that is false. And that is especially true when editors and reporters can slant the news using a variety of techniques familiar to students of logic and critical thinking but not to the average American, including the straw man (by exaggerating a position to make it easier to attack), special pleading (by citing only the evidence that supports your point of view), and the appeal to authority (by citing sources that are authoritative on one subject as experts on another), which can be illustrated relative to news coverage of the candidacy of Ron Paul, the "Wall Street" protest and of the assassination of JFK, where the differences that are displayed here offer powerful proof that the American press is not "free".

The Coverage of Ron Paul


Perhaps the most egregious illustration of special pleading of my lifetime—apart from the bias the press has displayed in relation to 9/11 and JFK (on which I am planning to publish a complementary column)—has been the shameless suppression of information about the candidacy of Ron Paul for the GOP presidential nomination. He has won straw poll after straw poll, in California, in Ohio, at the Conservative Political Action Conference held in Louisiana and at the Value Voters Summit held in Virginia; he has raised millions of dollars in funding, second only to Mitt Romney and Rick Perry; and he has won run-away polling victories in relation to the GOP debates. On 11 October 2011, he won the Value Voters Summit poll 37% to 23% for Herman Cain, where Tony Perkins of the Family Research Counsel, which sponsored the event, repudiated his own poll and declared Cain as the one who had attained the real victory. On 24 October 2011, Ron Paul won the Ohio straw poll, 54% to 26% for Herman Cain and just 9% for Romney.

After a GOP presidential debate held on 22 September 2011, FOX NEWS published poll results showing that Ron Paul had won with 30% trailed by Romney with 27%, Perry with 15%, and Cain with 9%. Even Russia Today reported “Fox Freaks after Ron Paul Wins Debate” by taking down the poll results after Ron Paul took the lead. RT even quoted Ralph Nader, whom most of us have long admired, who said that, in his opinion, Paul was the most appealing of the GOP candidates and offered the following reasons:

“He wants to get out of these wars overseas, he wants to bring the soldiers back, he wants to cut the bloated military budget, he wants to change some of the anti-civil liberty provisions in the Patriot Act, he hates corporate welfare and all these bailouts of Wall Street crooks,” said Nader. “He ought to get more attention, instead of ten times more attention being given to Michele Bachmann.”

Ron Paul’s opposition to corporate welfare and crony capitalism has now been reinforced by Bank of America’s transfer of $75 trillion in risky derivatives liabilities from one side of the ledger to the other (and thereby shifting it to the back of American taxpayers) and another $79 trillion by JP Morgan are only the latest and most breath-taking demonstrations. That bankers and corporations--including those dominated by the promotion of Zionist interests--fear him should come as no surprise, as many Americans are beginning to perceive.

The Debate Poll

Perhaps the most astounding result of all followed the Republican debate held at the Reagan Library, where msnbc published the following results:


Since this poll occurred following the Republican debate on 7 September, I infer that, by 22 September, when Fox pulled its results, the corporations that control the media had determined that it was better to publish no poll results at all than to publish poll results that massively favored Ron Paul.

Some might contend that Ron Paul was even featured on “Meet the Press” on 23 October 2011 as part of a series that featured the GOP candidates. His exclusion would have been too blatant a form of bias for any American to miss, so they included him. As I watched the program on that Sunday, I was not the least surprised by the direct and pointed fashion in which Ron Paul answered the questions that were posed by David Gregory, even one that was loaded about student loans. I was equally unsurprised when his proposal to phase them out (but without explaining his Constitutional rationale) was the only answer that was featured in an article in the Wisconsin State Journal (24 October 2011, A13) which led to a letter (28 October 2011, A13) of complaint about that move, but which was also accompanied by another objecting to the near-compete media blackout.

Notice how this technique combines special pleading with the straw man, where his proposals to end these wars of aggression, bring our troops home, close our bases abroad, cut defense spending, abolish the FED, restore civil liberties, and end crony capitalism are just too much for the major corporations who control the media to tolerate. They do not even publish the Constitutional reasons he would end student loans, which may not be a plank we all want to support but deserves a fair explanation. So if there are any lingering doubts about whether we in the United States have a free press, they are decisively refuted by this example, where the media are combining the suppression of information about Ron Paul with special pleading by only publicizing positions of his that they believe will diminish his support, which betrays the principles upon which this country was founded. Thomas Jefferson would not have been pleased.

Jim Fetzer, a former Marine Corps officer, is McKnight Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

21 comments:

  1. Good piece. This cartoon says it all:
    http://libertyclick.com/wp-content/uploads/Sack-Political-Cartoon-Ron-Paul-Media-Blackout-Periscope.jpg

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  2. Ron Paul is not the answer for America's ills.

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  3. Everyone needs to learn that 9/11 was the American regime nuking its own largest city, and it created the China Syndrome which then poisoned thousands of responders and millions of NY residents.

    Google "China Syndrome Aftermath"

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  4. The 911 conspiracy crowd is a pathetic bunch made up of 2 types of people. The first group the followers, and they are nothing more than morons. First they are gullible enough to believe the garbage fed to them from Fetzer and the like. And because they are so stupid in every other aspect of their lives, it makes them feel smart because they think they know something that the rest of us don't.
    The second group are the leaders. Generally these people are actually smart for the most part. Their problem is, they are losers. They can not conform with society like everybody else, so they get attention the only way they can, by being antagonistic. This is an annoying trait typically found in liberals. They don't actually believe in the 911 conspiracy like the followers, they are just looking for the reaction.

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  5. Cui Bono re. 911? Yes, it was Zionist Israel, as "Bibi' acknowledged, NOT the "American regime", unless that is synonymous with Zionist Israel (a possibility).

    Is Ron Paul committed to re-investigate 911 in a COMPLETE, INDEPENDENT and PUBLIC panel of experts - and bring the true PerpeTRAITORS to justice (and Hanging)?

    NO presidential candidate of ANY party can be trusted to represent and protect the interests of the American People, unless he/she makes such a commitment (in blood).

    End of Ron Paul! NEXT?

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  6. It never ceases to amaze me that there are those like "Anonymous" who continue to swallow the "official account" even though virtually everything we have been told about 9/11 is provably false. If must infer that he (who is unwilling to use his name) is either cognitively impaired or unfamiliar with the evidence--unless he is simply a shill for the perps.

    Anonymous appears to be projecting, since so much of what he says applies to him, not to us. Those who have not studied the evidence may benefit from the collaborative findings of Scholars and those who have gone before in demonstrating the “official account” of 9/11 cannot be sustained. For some of our most important scientific findings, see

    “20 reasons the ‘official account’ is wrong”
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/09/10/20-reasons-the-official-account-of-911-is-wrong/

    On the convoluted politics of 9/11, see

    “Peeling the 9/11 Onion: Layers of plots within plots”
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/08/14/peeling-the-911-onion-layers-of-plots-within-plots/

    And to illustrate the on-going 9/11 cover-up,

    “The BBC’s instrument of 9/11 misinformation”
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/09/03/the-bbcs-instrument-of-911-misinformation/

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  7. If he runs as a third-party candidate, his son, Rand, has been suggested as a VP alternative. But another and even better might be Jesse Ventura, who appears to be interested. See in particular "Ventura Decries “Fascist” America After Judge Tosses TSA Case", http://www.prisonplanet.com/ventura-decries-fascist-america-after-judge-tosses-tsa-case.html The case itself is stunning.

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  8. It is a foregone conclusion that the next president (if any) will be another candidate, hand-picked by the Zionist "Invisible Hand" ("Israel Lobby", AIPAC, etc.). Why? Because THEY cannot afford to have anyone else in the WH who may decide to open the 911 "Pandora's Box" and let the 911 Truth pop out and set in motion a mass exodus of Zionist Slimeballs to Tel Aviv. There, THEY will be greeted by Ezekiel 22:20 and that will be the end of that - and THEM! And what is likely to happen in America? Would you believe the REAL HOLOCAUST? That's why "Jews Against Zionism" is such an important grass-roots movement for Jewry! We must remember Alan Hart's book and WARNING: "Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews".

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  9. http://freedom4um.com/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=140028

    Title: Ron Paul Wins Illinois GOP Presidential Straw Poll
    Source: [None]
    URL Source: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/201 ... s-gop-presidential-straw-poll/
    Published: Nov 6, 2011
    Author: Associated Pukes
    Post Date: 2011-11-06 10:35:42 by gengis gandhi
    Keywords: None
    Views: 19
    Comments: 2

    Ron Paul Wins Illinois GOP Presidential Straw Poll

    Published November 05, 2011

    Associated Press

    PALATINE, Ill. – The Illinois Republican Party says Ron Paul has won a statewide straw poll that sought to determine voters' unofficial preference for the GOP presidential nomination.

    The Texas congressman won Saturday's poll with 52 percent of the vote. Paul won in both online and total votes.

    Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney carried Illinois' in-person voting with 35 percent.

    The Illinois straw poll -- at more than 3,600 votes -- surpassed such large states as Ohio, Florida and California that held straw polls earlier this year.

    Online voting started Oct. 29 and paper balloting went on throughout the day Saturday at about two dozen Illinois sites.

    Any Illinois voter could cast a ballot in the GOP straw poll with a $5 contribution to the state party. The Illinois primary is March 20.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/11/05/ron-paul-wins-illinois-gop-presidential-straw-poll/#ixzz1cwIu27Sq

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  10. The only issue I have with Ron Paul is that he opposes unconstitutional presidential/executive branch powers but in order to make most of the changes he says he wants he would have to make use of those unconstitutional powers to do it.

    It's unlikely the Congress will back him, and constitutionally isn't that a requirement?

    Is he going to use those unlawful powers to change the system and then when he's done changing things destroy the legislation that gives him those powers to change it all?

    Although perhaps hypocritical to do so it really would be the only option as far as I know, unless a miracle occurred and Congress backed him in all those changes, but has he actually addressed the 'how' of his plans?

    Perhaps a referendum would be possible?

    If he has an interest in seriously doing all these things he needs a plan to do it that is transparent and publicly available.

    In our representative system it's extremely difficult to be a truly honest politician as if you aren't corrupt then you won't get the support of all the other corrupt politicians to be able achieve any of your goals and/or campaign promises.

    If you don't become corrupt and get some friends to back you then you don't achieve anything and you don't get re-elected.

    Hence why I just can't get past the cynical belief that every 'career politician' must be corrupt, and Ron Paul is a career politician.

    As much as I want to believe Ron Paul is a truly honest politician I can't shake the feeling that he's just a more honest corrupt politician.

    I feel that if he wins he will give the corrupt system a new "honest" face(mask) but the corrupted body will remain unchanged.

    Again I really hope I am wrong, but a corrupt system makes people like me very cynical of anyone and anything that has been a part of the system as long as Ron Paul has.

    If he clarified exactly how he plans to achieve all his changes when Congressional backing is highly unlikely then I would feel a bit more comfortable.

    He clearly does want to make a lot of changes but there is a difference between changes that are desired and what is actually possible to achieve.

    Perhaps I am just too cynical these days.

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  11. Anonymous here. I tried to use my name originally, but the only way I could post without signing up for something was by doing so as Anonymous. So if you must know, my name is Eric Leger, and you have my email address in case you have any other questions.

    You refer to the "collaborative findings of Scholars" as if every Scholar in the world subscribes to your theories. The fact is, the vast majority of "Scholars" agree with my version of events than yours. It's pretty evident to me that most of those who align themselves with you have something to gain. They have a book to write, or a documentary to promote. And if their opinions were like everyone else's, it is not much of a story. They can not rely on their talents alone, so they need to be controversial. People like you and Michael Moore have made millions marketing to the mindless masses who are desperate for a cause to latch onto. The world is filled with so called Scholars who would write a book saying the sky is green, and there is probably a million morons who who buy it.
    As far as the "evidence", I've read it all. I am not going to waste anyone's time going 1 by 1 debunking them, popular mechanics did I pretty nice job in the below article.

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/news/1227842

    The biggest flaw with this conspiracy theory is in its complexity. It would take thousands of people to pull off demolishing the buildings, hijacking the plans, etc. It is impossible to think that you could get that many people to agree to kill thousands of Americans, and then be able to keep all those people quiet about it for 10 years. Don't you think that in this day and age, at least one person would come forward and say I have a story to tell, "this is what we did, and here is how we did it"? Or maybe George Bush rigged the explosives while Dick Cheney hijacked 4 planes, and Condo Rice fired the missile into the Pentagon.

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  12. Eric Leger, Have you ever bothered to look at the evidence? I can't believe you are here shooting off your mouth when you have no idea what you are talking about. I have give you an excellent target,

    “20 reasons the ‘official account’ is wrong”
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/09/10/20-reasons-the-official-account-of-911-is-wrong/

    Meanwhile, consider that we have no evidence any of those alleged hijackers were aboard any of the planes, the alleged phone calls were faked, and the NTSB has never bothered to conduct inquiries into any of those crashes.

    The Twin Towers, by the way, OBVIOUSLY did not collapse. Gravity works in one direction, down, but they are blowing part in every direction from the top down, which requires explosives. You are grossly incompetent about 9/11.

    No only have I made no money off of 9/11, but I went in the red about $10,000 for the Madison Conference in 2007. I am not paid for my work or my radio show or any of the rest. You have your head when the sun does not shine.

    If you want to convince anyone you are SERIOUS, not simply running your mouth, then take some of my reports about 9/11, explain what I am saying, and then what I have wrong and why. Your remarks here are a far cry from significant.

    Denials and diatribes are no substitute for logic and evidence. Here's another piece written in language so simple even you should be able to understand: http://themeliorist.ca/2011/10/to-the-editor-10/

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  13. As I mentioned before, I have read the "evidence" you provided, and my rebuttal is the Popular Mechanics article that debunk many of the claims you have made in this thread. I am not going to waste anyone's time going 1 by 1 disproving your half-cocked theories. Although I will say, my favorite myth is the faked phone calls. I think I read in one of the articles that there was some type of voice modulation device used to fool the people who were called. My question is, how were they able to get samples of the people's voices they supposedly simulated?

    And you failed to answer my most basic question. How is it possible to pull off a conspiracy of this magnitude, without having one person come forward and spill the beans? You must admit that something so grand would require the coordination of 100's if not 1000's of people. Are they all just really good at keeping secrets?

    And for the record, did you not receive any money for your work on "The 911 Conspiracy: The Scamming of America"?

    -Your friend Eric

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  14. Jim, I continue to marvel at your infinite patience with those who obstinately cling to their long-standing 911 "official" fallacies. I mean, you have presented logical and physics EVIDENCE which makes the "Official" explanation sheer lunacy. What we must conclude from all those 911 Truth deniers is that they are all Zionists or Zionist Shills because, by this time, with all the available EVIDENCE, NOBODY could possibly be that stupid to still believe the impossible. I think it's time to give THEM all short shrift and send THEM back to Abe Foxman's Zionist Shill training school to equip THEM with Abe's time-tested WMD (Weapon of Mass Deception): "Racist Anti-Semite" hand grenades. At least THEY won't feel like complete idiots - just complete hate mongers!

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  15. I thought Jim was a left wing sort of guy? Just because Ron Paul is for ending the wars doesn't excuse his atrocious libertarian mindset in other areas. As a philosopher you should read these critiques of libertarianism and then tell how they are wrong: http://world.std.com/~mhuben/liberal.html

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  16. Professor Fetzer, I am interested in your views of the computational theory of mind and evolutionary psychology in general. Direct me to a place to find them please.

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  17. Can I comment as an Englishman? Is there an option, for US citizens to say they are only going to listen to media outlets which do report on Ron Paul? 'Russia Today' is a good start, but there must be local private radio stations & independent papers which can be promoted in this way. Citizens should make a noise & write angry letters about how they are adjusting their loyalties in this manner.

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  18. Eric, David Ray Griffin dismembered the POPULAR MECHANICS rubbish in DEBUNKING 9/11 DEBUNKING. I think you are looking for an excuse to ignore the evidence. Start with "20 reasons the 'official account' of 9/11 is wrong" on Veterans Today. I replied to your question when it was asked of me by Col. Ollie North on "Hannity & Colmes", which you can find on YouTube. More and more, it appears to me that you have no idea what you are talking about.

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  19. As for Ron Paul, he is the only candidate on either side of the aisle who will end these wars, bring our troops home, end foreign aid, cut defense spending, curtail the FED, and restore our country to some semblance of Constitutional government. I believe in the social safety network and would not agree to curtail Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, or workman's compensation, which are indispensable to a humane society. I have written about this in RENDER UNTO DARWIN (2007). I invite those who feel differently to fashion a reasoned response to the position I outline there.

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  20. On the computational theory of mind, I have advanced many critiques, including in AI: ITS SCOPE AND LIMITS (1990) and COMPUTERS AND COGNITION (2001). Those are advanced works, however. The best place to start would be with PHILOSOPHY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCE (2nd edition, 1996) and then THE EVOLUTION OF INTELLIGENCE (2005), which includes an appendix dissecting what is known as "evolutionary psychology" but does not adequately address how human minds have evolved from primate mines and animal minds, which is the approach that I adopt. Good luck!

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  21. Thanks for the suggestions on the Comp theory of mind and evolutionary psyc resources. I am studying this in David Cole's class. We read Pinker's account, looked at Fodor's critique of Pinker and have moved on to some others. Fun class, Professor Cole has a lot of knowledge to offer as you seem to as well. I hope to take a look at some of those you offered.

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