Sunday, 12 February 2012

Blip: Argumentation


When most people hear the word argument they tend to think of them as angry vocal confrontations that pointlessly end in both parties being annoyed with no progress in the original issue. Argumentation is the study of arguments, it has formalised arguments so that we can discuss things and make progress without endlessly going round in circles or shouting the same point out, seemingly at a brick wall.

Any argument should follow a few guidelines for it to make sense and for it to be effective at making its point. The first thing that should always be done is to 'Define the terms' this means to properly consider what it is you're discussing and having a strict definition ready for any terms you'll be using during the argument. This doesn't mean you have a heavy dictionary at your side ready to throw at your opponent if the debate turns sour, but rather that the subjective nature of language renders us slaves to the incongruity of communication. Put simply: if we can define what it is we're talking about, what it is we're trying to achieve then we can find a way to reach that goal and come out the other end with something worthwhile.

I'm not intending for this blog to develop into an essay on formal argumentation, I am merely explaning that I will be attempting to make solid arguments using principles of argumentation, and that i need to start out by giving a detailed description of certain terms such as solipsism and pragmatism, that I will more than likely be using fairly regularly.

Solipsism is the idea that nothing outside of your own mind is truly knowable, this is often contested by an over-the-top forced laugh followed by vigourous tapping of a nearby object to prove it's existance. If you consider a few simple points however, its easy to understand why this makes so much sense.

Naturally, all we have to experience and understand the world are our senses and our brains interpretation of the data gathered via our senses. I can see the apple and my mind is telling me that its quite round, red and shiny. If I were to pick it up my mind would also tell me how heavy it feels, the texture of the skin, perhaps even how juicy it is and how it tastes, all of these are things I can discern through my senses but does that attest to their accuracy? I don't think so. Allow me to demonstrate.

When dehydrated the human body and mind becomes confused and disorientated, this can lead to dizziness, headaches and in many cases, increasingly worse hallucinations. Dementia is another cause of confusion and potential hallucinations, as is sustained drug abuse and epiliepsy. All of these show the senses displaying an inaccurate view of reality (well a disparity between the widely accepted notion of reality and the individuals perception.) If our senses can be flawed in so many ways, how can we fully trust them at any other time? There is a simple way to demonstrate this; Dreams. When you're dreaming it is often impossible to know if you're actually dreaming or awake, in many cases you will simple believe yourself to be awake until you actually wake up, then realising the truth. But if senses can so easily be doubted then what reason do you have to presume you ever know if you're dreaming or not, you could be having a particularly realistic dream right now, or perhaps this is all a dream and reality is in those few moments every now and then when you go to sleep and dream of a magnificent, 1 inch tall, pink dragon wielding a otter shaped shield made from recycled newspapers. If you're dreaming now, you have no way of checking, clearly solipsism is the only way to reconcile this.

In common everyday life, this has no uses, it's realtively pointless to think that nothing is real because there would be no reason to carry on living. But nonetheless just because it's not useful to apply in the real world doesn't disparage it as an idea. Besides, I will demonstrate over the course of this blog how solipsism forms an important basis for further theoretical thought.

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