Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Just So Obvious

Some unnamed professional philosophers of the blogosphere have been known to make arguments like this:

"It is just so obvious that Calvinism is false; because it is obvious that that God could not be good on any understanding of the word."

When you offer possible reasons why their confidence is misplaced, that is met with a claim like this:

"Uh, well, I just don't have those intuitions" (where this ends debate).

Ed Feser recently blogged on the penchant of philosophers to make the "it's just so obvious" move. This is the offensive counterpart to the number one defensive argument made by, frequently, the same philosophers, i.e., the "I just don't have those intuitions" (said as you interlace your fingers, rest them on your chest, lean back in your chair, pooch out your lips, shake your head, slowly, and say, "I just don't have those intuitions") counter-argument.

To get a visual image, I'll paste in a couple pictures of what people typically look like when making these moves so you know how to spot it:

"Look, it's just so obvious"

"Nah, I just don't have those intuitions"


  1. First time commenter-do I get a prize? :P

    In my amateurish forays in apologetics and polemics, I've found that many people seem well studied in the logical fallacies- well studied on how to use them most effectively in distracting from the substance of an argument.

    When you argue with someone with a little bit of 'book learnin', then they can throw in some 10 dollar words while while positing their non sequitur. The verbose approach is best here as it sounds quite impressive to most by-standers.

    The best thing about watching you guys 'in action' is one can observe how to avoid the red herrings and stick to the substance.

  2. Stories about what seems obvious and what's not remind me of a Greek myth I once heard: One day, a man is walking through the woods during the winter when he encounters a satyr. The satyr observes the man breathing on his hands and asks why he does this. The man says that it is to warm up his hands amidst the cold. The satyr then invites the man to his dwellings to give him a bit of food and warmth. After serving the man some soup, he observes him blowing on it. When he asks why he does this, the man responds that he blows on his soup in order to cool it down. The satyr becomes incensed, demanding to know how the same breath can be used for both heating and cooling.

    So in the case of the satyr, what seems "obvious" can quite certainly be mistaken. There are, in fact, many things in life that are not what they seem.

  3. Or, as C.S. Lewis once said:

    "Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys' philosophies--these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either."