subjectively wrong

Logical Subjectivism

I heard a strange conversation that Dave had posted to our YouTube channel, discussing a method called “logical debate”. This method is by Kris Mann, and whilst I applaud the effort at creating a system to have constructive debates it is unfortunately rife with issues.

Most people don’t really understand what is meant by logical, past thinking about Spock. Serious, emotionless, speaking only in facts. There is a bit more to logic than that.

Kris admits to using logic and rationality interchangeably, which from a colloquial perspective is acceptable. They are sort of synonymous, although logic is part of rationality rather than them being exactly the same thing. If we want to hold a rational position, we would have reasoned using the rules of logic and probability theory, hold consistent and coherent beliefs, not engaging in fallacies, and have no strong credible evidence against our position.

rational atheism

As the conversation starts, Kris has a lot of trouble actually explaining what he means by rationality. Whilst I don’t have much of a problem with people using the terms interchangeably it seems odd that one can’t actually describe what they mean by the term.

He says things like, “Your view is rational if you say it is, and you’re willing to be quoted saying it is..” etc which is basically saying rationality is purely subjective.

Now at one point, he did address what rationality is usually seen as, at least in part, the consistency, coherency, logic, no fallacies etc – this was great. But then he circled back round to internalising it, quite often saying “according to whom” when Dave or Philip would ask if a position was rational.

There is a lack of willingness to hold this up as an actual standard. If all weighting is done internally, then there isn’t any real discussion to be had… like preferring band A over band B where your friend prefers band B. It’s just opinion, there is no real external truth value.

So the idea that there is no real truth-value to rationality is odd. If he has created a “rule set” called “logical debate” – then that should have a framework, even if not typical logic, it should be a framework to adhere to, rather than it being as subjective as he is making it out to be. It doesn’t have to be a philosophical framework or anything… just a framework.

I don’t understand the point of creating a framework of “logical debate” without folks adhering to the framework past “I believe my beliefs/position are logical/coherent etc”. I think, to have a productive debate like this, we have to stick to a framework that is not simply a personal opinion.

From the conversation, it seems logic and rationality are not exactly the terms he should be using here. Not just for the purpose of the conversaion like he started referring to is as “slogic”, with anyone. Kris has said a number of times that everyone seems to reject his ideas. Maybe it is time to change the ideas he has, tweak them, make them more understandable to everyone. Make an actual framework that people can use that isn’t wholly subjective.

He also brought up another odd things. He said, “hypocrisy is always immoral.” which is wrong on a number of levels.

To start, it’s the behaviours rather than the hypocrisy itself which makes something immoral. I understand that being hypocritical to what you believe is moral would mean you are doing something immoral (in your view hehe) but simply being hypocritical itself isn’t immoral.

Let’s take a look at a barebones example of Utilitarianism. Maximising pleasure. This means that if you killed one innocent person to bring pleasure to 1000 people, it would be the moral thing to do under this system.

Someone that claims to be this sort of utilitarian also believes it is wrong to kill one innocent even though it would bring pleasure to 1000 people and there will be no ongoing consequences after this.

The utilitarian is being hypocritical to their brand utilitarian ethical theory, but I think we would agree that they are not acting immorally there, even though under utilitarianism they technically would be acting immorally. I think it shows more that there is an issue with a purely utilitarian view rather than hypocrisy = immoral.

Now, let’s think of an example that has nothing to do with morality at all. I believe everyone should eat a healthy balanced diet, and get regular exercise. The last couple of weeks I haven’t exercised much, and my diet has been quite poor, inclusive of junk food. I have been hypocritical to my belief about what people should eat… Have I been immoral though?

He responded to this comment like this:

If you believe “it is morally good for a person to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get regular exercise”, you must do so to at least some degree. You haven’t specified what counts as a healthy diet or what counts as regular exercise yet, so it would be hard for me to prove to aren’t living up to your own standards just because you had a few bad weeks. Notice that this view has everything to do with morality. It’s possible you meant “it is strategically good for a person to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get regular exercise, given the goal of living a long life free of ailments”, so in that case I wouldn’t call it hypocrisy if you don’t take your own advice. I would just know not to go to you for strategic advice. 🙂

I outright said at the start it is nothing to do with morality, just that I believe we should. I believe we should do that but I have not done that. That is the very definition of hypocrisy.

[E]ngaging in the same behaviour or activity for which one criticizes another or the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behaviour does not conform.

Not all beliefs are tied to morality. So, we could point out that him having to change my statement to fit in with his paradigm shows a flaw. He then also changes to talking about a strategic good, and how he wouldn’t regard it as hypocrisy. This would still be something I believed to be the case and by not acting in accordance with my belief I am being a hypocrite.

He also responded to the Utilitarian comment:

You gave an example of a person who believes “it is morally good for a person to do whatever is necessary to bring pleasure to some group of 1000 people” and “it is morally bad for a person to kill an innocent person.” These views are contradictory. This particular contradiction can be resolved by adding in an exception to the first view. “It is morally good for a person to do whatever is necessary to bring pleasure to some group of 1000 people unless it involves killing an innocent person”.

He doesn’t exactly get what I said, but let’s go with it. The person believes one should act in accordance to this form of utilitarian morality, yet also would not kill one person to bring pleasure to 1000. Kris is right that this is a contradictory belief, but this means that you will be hypocritical in regards to one of your beliefs.

He also stated:

To see why you should want to say hypocrisy is bad in and of itself, imagine a world in which what people say is good or bad has no correlation to what they actually do. You wouldn’t be able to take anyone at their word. In your view, wouldn’t that be a worse world?

Which again doesn’t show why hypocrisy is the thing that is immoral rather than the actions that come off from it.

What I can deduce from the above is that:

  • Kris seems to not have a solid understanding of hypocrisy
  • Kris probably meant hypocrisy only in relation to morality, he was using vague and ambiguous language which is how we first got talking with his broad definition of atheism. In fact, he thinks hypocrisy only relates to morality.
    Not to mention his vague and ambiguous language lead to a misunderstanding of what his actual position on some items actually was, as he claimed to have the same position as someone else but, in fact, was only referring to one element of that position.
  • He has failed to demonstrate how hypocrisy in itself is immoral. The result of hypocrisy can be immoral but is not always.

He came back with further comments to the above

“You’re missing the point that hypocrisy in itself is not immoral…” I get that that’s YOUR view. I’m trying to tell you MY view. Do tell me where you think there are problems with my framework, but resist the urge to tell me my views do not match the “normative” views in academic philosophy.

Hypocrisy is inextricably linked to morality, in my view. You can’t call an action hypocritical without implying that it goes against someone’s previously expressed moral view, in my view. I have never heard of a definition of hypocrisy that has nothing to do with morality, so if you’re really using such a definition, I’d like to see it.

It is you who is calling my view subjective and without external truth values. It is your view that no one in my view can actually be logical. Meanwhile, in the video, I said what you like to call “logical” fits neatly into my system, but I believe two further conditions are needed before a fruitful debate can be had. With the two conditions, I call the result “slogical”. The whole point is that both parties need to be confident enough in their own positions that they are willing to support them with arguments during a debate.

I think you wrote your response within minutes of reading mine and you didn’t give it enough time to marinate. Given the clarifications I just provided, I want you to go back, read it again, take some time to think about what I’m trying to say, and then tell me what you think.

Yes Kris, you again show the issue with your system. There is no standard, no measuring stick if you will… it is purely subjective, “your view” “my view”.

Unfortunately, because your entire system seems to be this purely subjective one, in “your view” you will always be right, and no one can ever tell you differently.

I never said hypocrisy has nothing to do with morality, I said it doesn’t have to relate to morality, but it can.

Even when it does, it is not the hypocrisy itself that is immoral, but the result. A quick google can give you definitions of hypocrisy, e.g. “Hypocrisy is the practice of engaging in the same behaviour or activity for which one criticizes another or the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behaviour does not conform.” – notice the moral standards OR beliefs.

“It is you who is calling my view subjective and without external truth values.”

If the only truth value is an internal one, it is subjective…

” It is your view that no one in my view can actually be logical.”

Again, you get my view wrong. I don’t even know what you mean by this really. It is my view (and to be fair, not just mine) that logic and rationality are not subjective things.

“but I believe two further conditions are needed before a fruitful debate can be had”

A fruitful debate cannot be held without some standard to work off. If it is purely subjective then it is as fruitful as people arguing over if they like the taste of broccoli. I can’t see this conversation progressing further at this time. I think you need to go back and re-work your system ground up removing this logical-subjectivism.

Can we consider if we said the answers to math problems were all subjective? No, there is a system of math in place. It might change if you’re working in binary instead of base 10 (standard math) but there are standards for both.

Equally, there are standards for things that are rational, its not just in your view. Someone can disagree with the standard, but that doesn’t make the standard wrong. In this logical-subjectivism debate format it still always comes down to a persons view.

I will accept that most people will go into a debate thinking their position is a rational one, although on the video you seemed to claim that people sometimes start debates saying they are being irrational, which we’ve only heard you claim, but let’s say for the sake of the conversation, most people who approach a debate do so because they their position is a rational one, and that other positions are not.

If a YEC thinks their position is rational, and so does a naturalist, if the only arbiter of rationality is your “according to whom” and they “think they are rational, are willing to be quoted saying they are rational” etc there is no measuring stick other than a personal one. There is no way to show who’s position is actually rational, because they can subjectively argue the others position is irrational, that the evidence presented is the devil playing a trick and so on.

There is a rule Kris then presents that I feel is trying to stop this.

Rule 3: Limit debate to human actions and facts that are scientifically provable using today’s science and technology

Ok, so ignoring the fact that he can’t use science and technology to prove his own rules, we can see an issue with the above too. It removes all religious debate from the table. It removes a hell of a lot of philosophy from the table too. His comments on hypocrisy always being moral or a conversation about morality can’t be held because even though we might be able to have a study about the effects of abuse, there isn’t a way to scientifically prove a value judgement. You’d have to start with an axiom about harm/suffering or some other purpose to morality. I am not against the use of axioms at all, but axioms such as this are not scientifically provable, so again you’re stuck not actually being able to have a conversation.

If you’re as confused as we were about his “limit debate to human actions and facts that are scientifically provable”, it refers to actions that we can provide physical evidence for. Therefore, we should never discuss intent as we cannot prove intent. This also puts another dampener on a conversation about morality. In fact, it even puts a dampener on legal proceedings and rulings which would usually take intent into account.

Kris spends a lot of time contradicting himself and not accepting the contradictions when presented, trying to excuse everything instead of addressing it. His language is unclear, his method makes little sense, he says most people won’t even give him the time of day to even discuss his method, but when people do give him the time of day and discuss issues with said method, he doesn’t accept the issues always pushing things back to “your view”. It’s no wonder most people won’t give him the time of day to even discuss it. To quote a couple of friends whom have both privately messaged virtually identical phrases:

If Kris Mann had a debate-style that meant he was efficient at helping people change their mind, wouldn’t he be able to change people’s mind?

Unfortunately, there is a lot of emotional manipulation that seems to be coming through in his words as well. Some of these are seen in public on YouTube or our Discord channel, others are DMs I have been sent via members. It has made me feel that it is time to step away from further interactions and let people make up their mind for themselves.

The Conversation can be found here:

Watch this video on YouTube.

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