Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Standard for Question-Begging

In a context of trying to refute the case for dialetheism, it's common and (I'd argue) entirely reasonable to accuse proponents of various solutions to the semantic paradoxes of begging the question when they assume consistency and work from there. Something I'm less sure of is when the opposite is the case...if, in making the case for dialetheism, the dialetheist assumes at least the conceptual possibility of true contradictions, when, if ever, does this beg the question against the orthodox camp, which, after all, firmly disbelieves in this conceptual possibility? And if it doesn't, why not? Or if so, how can one make sure one isn't doing this when making the case for dialetheism?

Please discuss.


Colin said...

Tricky question. It seems like the general shape of any debate, including this, is to take some theoretical options and try to figure out which is the best. This sounds to me like it requires conceiving of each of the competitor theories as possibly true in some sense of 'possibility'. If this much is right, then we can draw the following lesson about the nature of the debate. If a part of the X theory is that the Y theory is not a conceptual possibility, then the sense in which we are holding the Y theory as a dialectical option must be some sense of 'possibility' broader than the 'conceptual' variety. Aaron Cotnoir ( has a nice paper on this for-the-sake-of-argument broad sense of 'possibility' but I can't find it online right now.

Ben said...

I think I agree with you, or at least that's my instinct, but I think there is an issue here about how, when 'whether X is possible in principle' is the bone of contention, how starting from the assumption that it is can be less question-begging than starting from the assumption that it isn't. I think I agree that it is, I just don't know why.