Richard Carrier: how to make good arguments

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lpetrich
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Richard Carrier: how to make good arguments

Post by lpetrich » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:55 am

How to Successfully Argue Jesus Existed (or Anything Else in the World) - Richard Carrier

1. Tell the truth.
2. Consensus is a weak argument.
3. Take logical validity seriously.
4. Distinguish fact from inference.
5. Confirm your inferences aren’t assumptions.
6. Do not straw-man or ignore opposing arguments.
7. Justify all your assertions about probability.
8. Check your factual assertions.
9. Be your own best critic.
10. Control for cognitive biases.
11. Take seriously the likelihoods of the evidence.
12. Take seriously the prior probabilities.

He mainly addresses arguments for a historical Jesus Christ, a hypothesis that he considers very weakly supported at best.

As to consensus, that does work sometimes, but not always. One has to check on what the consensus is based on. Sometimes it is very strong, sometimes not, and Richard Carrier is claiming that the professional consensus on Jesus Christ's existence is weaker than it seems.

He makes a comparison to how Abraham and Moses and other early Bible characters were once thought to be historical and are now thought to be mythical.

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Roo St. Gallus
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Post by Roo St. Gallus » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:16 pm

[quote=""lpetrich""]How to Successfully Argue Jesus Existed (or Anything Else in the World) - Richard Carrier

He makes a comparison to how Abraham and Moses and other early Bible characters were once thought to be historical and are now thought to be mythical.[/quote]

Mythical to you, maybe.

This just means that Carrier has placed himself on the spectrum of Minimaxillism in such a manner that shows he considers Abraham and Moses to be mythic. Next is David and Solomon....how about them? Or, Daniel? Or, even Paul? Where, in the spectrum, does it cease being myth and begin being historical chronicle? I think it is still all over the map, though I tend to lean strongly with Dr. Carrier's hypotheses....And I tend to the 'Minimalist' extreme.

I still think that Father Thomas L. Brodie has wrapped it up for us all. His The Birthing of the New Testament: The Intertextual Development of the New Testament Writings outlines the development of the gospels from a midrash of the Elijah-Elisha narratives of Kings, and, in the process, puts to bed the nagging loose end (for me) of "Q", which he points out is not some long-lost veiled corpus, but the Septuagint that was, literally, in front of almost every literate writer of the region during the period. Q has been in front of our faces all along.

Others 'scholars' are all over that 'Minimaxillism' spectrum, from 'it's all historical chronicle', to 'it's all mythic construct' cast in a historical fiction genre. My experience is that the hypotheses they cast tend to reflect their confessional interests. It is when they don't that it gets interesting.
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plebian
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Post by plebian » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:17 am

[quote=""lpetrich""]How to Successfully Argue Jesus Existed (or Anything Else in the World) - Richard Carrier

1. Tell the truth.
2. Consensus is a weak argument.
3. Take logical validity seriously.
4. Distinguish fact from inference.
5. Confirm your inferences aren’t assumptions.
6. Do not straw-man or ignore opposing arguments.
7. Justify all your assertions about probability.
8. Check your factual assertions.
9. Be your own best critic.
10. Control for cognitive biases.
11. Take seriously the likelihoods of the evidence.
12. Take seriously the prior probabilities.

He mainly addresses arguments for a historical Jesus Christ, a hypothesis that he considers very weakly supported at best.

As to consensus, that does work sometimes, but not always. One has to check on what the consensus is based on. Sometimes it is very strong, sometimes not, and Richard Carrier is claiming that the professional consensus on Jesus Christ's existence is weaker than it seems.

He makes a comparison to how Abraham and Moses and other early Bible characters were once thought to be historical and are now thought to be mythical.[/quote]
That is a standard no one has ever lived up to short of maybe the dalai lama or at any rate someone with more mental discipline than anyone any of us know or who's arguments we may be familiar with. There's a reason the word "paradigm" became a part of the zeitgeist and acquired colloquial meaning.

Although, as a counterpoint, maybe 2 years ago or so at a conference in Bellingham WA, I saw a presentation to the effect of "how to learn something from anyone" which actually had far better advice on the subject. It was actually a complex topic but the nutshell part of it was listen without judgement. Explicitly recognize that we all have framing differences, different experiences, and ideas that others will think are whack.

Then, the key part is to argue why you believe what you believe rather than argue what is true because the latter is a fool's errand anyway, and to hear arguments as why others believe what they believe rather than as arguing what is true, and frame the dialog in your own head as an exercise in discovering how far common ground extends and be ok with that distance.

It was actually strangely moving and has stuck with me near the surface ever since. I think I sort of integrated it as a practice in my daily life to some extent.

ETA: It dramatically changes the experience of hyperbole.

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Politesse
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Post by Politesse » Tue Oct 24, 2017 12:11 am

If only he knew how to take his own advice! All of these things are good principles, I do agree with them in broad strokes aside from the Bayesian nonsense at the end.
"The truth about stories is that's all we are" ~Thomas King

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subsymbolic
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Post by subsymbolic » Wed Oct 25, 2017 11:33 am

[quote=""Politesse""]If only he knew how to take his own advice! All of these things are good principles, I do agree with them in broad strokes aside from the Bayesian nonsense at the end.[/quote]

Why is the Bayesian nonsense nonsense? I'm utterly convinced by the flood of evidence that bayesian accounts of cognition work on, and at, so many levels.

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Shake
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Post by Shake » Wed Oct 25, 2017 3:43 pm

Maybe I've been listening to more mythicists than historicists, but I thought the mythical nature of Moses was something that was now fairly common. One point that to me sets Carrier apart from many other religious scholars is that his work was not funded by any church or religious group. Therefore, he wasn't under any pressure to have his findings support a particular dogma. He even discusses how the methods used by other secular historians who disputed the historicity of Jesus to be flawed and claims to have corrected those flaws in doing his work. I have several of his books on my to-read list, so hope to gain a better understanding of all of this.

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