Conversation With Sye Ten Bruggencate

This is a verbatim personal correspondence I had with Sye Ten Bruggencate via email dated 28 April 2012, regarding my blog post found here. Honestly, after this I’m so frustrated by the inanity of it all that I’m not going to debate logic with someone unless they’ve at least read an introduction to logic text. I don’t have the time or the patience for stuff like this. 

Me:

Sye,

I’ve recently written a critique of the presuppositionalist analysis of logic on my blog that you may be interested in. You’re welcome to respond here: https://dubitodeus.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/logic-math-and-presuppositionalism/

Enjoy! 🙂

Sye: Sorry, but I had to stop at “logic is conventional.” 

Me: Umm…what? Are you telling me that you’re not even going to finish reading my response to the core of your apologetic strategy?

Sye: Nah, when you said that logic was conventional, I lost all interest.  You see, I could just make a convention that everything you wrote is illogical, and be done with it.

Cheers.

Me: See, if you had read my article, you would understand why what you said is completely irrelevant to the topic. But since you don’t seem to have an interest in actually discussing what I wrote, let’s play this game your way:

How do you account for elliptic geometry?

Sye: With Friday motballs under the twice.  (I just made a new convention of logic  🙂

Me: Ok Sye, I have to ask…are you interested in a conversation, or just in being obtuse and contrary?

Sye: I am simply answering a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:5).  If logic is conventional, you can have no problem with my response,but you do, exposing the fallacy of your view.

Me: If logic is conventional, you can have no problem with my response”. See, once again, you completely misunderstand conventionalism with regard to logic. What you just said is like responding to a question said in French with, “That doesn’t mean anything. If language is conventional, you can have no problem with my response.”

Just because logics are a convention, doesn’t mean that you can arbitrarily say silly things and then declare that everyone must accept them as not silly. You can create a new convention, but you still have to define rules for that convention. Just like languages – you can create a new language, but you still have to define a grammar. Just like board games – you can create a new board game, but you still have to write down the rules for your game.

But once again, if you read my article, you would already know this. I’d recommend that you read a logic textbook, but if you can’t even read a few hundred words on the subject without deciding to be obtuse, I guess there’s not much hope for that. It’s obvious that you don’t understand logic, but I’m starting to suspect that you don’t want to understand it.

Sye: //”Just like languages – you can create a new language, but you still have to define a grammar.”//

Not according to my new convention.

Me: This is pointless. My blog post renders everything you’ve said irrelevant, and brings up huge problems for your account of logic, yet you refuse to read it. So, do you mind if I post this conversation publicly, so everyone can decide for themselves who “won”?

Sye: Please do.

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31 responses to “Conversation With Sye Ten Bruggencate”

  1. Carlos says :

    I understand your frustration with sye. Your frustration comes as a result of your worldview and in the fact he exposes your position as untenable.

  2. SixForty says :

    Wow – this would be hilarious, if it weren’t so sad at the same time. You define the rules, Sye chooses to play within the boundaries that you set out, and you get mad at him? Then you want to change the rules again so that a different set applies to him than applies to you? It never ceases to amaze me the way people try to justify their own thinking and beliefs.

    • Robert says :

      Sorry, but I had to stop at “logic is conventional.” -Sye

      He admittedly didn’t even read the entirety of what I wrote. The only thing more intellectually dishonest than that is plagarism. And I’m not trying to justify anything. I just want him to actually learn what math and logic is about, so we can actually discuss it. I got mad at him because he was being obtuse on purpose.

      • SixForty says :

        I don’t think Sye was being intellectually dishonest in any way. He clearly stated outright that he had not read any further. It’s not like he claimed to read the article but didn’t – that would be dishonest. He was very up front. (for the record, I did read the entire article)

        I’m pretty sure Sye has a good grasp on math and logic. Maybe not as good as you, maybe more so, but certainly well more than enough to discuss the subject.

        And you are right – he was being obtuse on purpose. That’s the point. Given your definitions, he can be. The moment you define logic as conventional, why is it not allowed for each person to establish their own convention? From what authority do you deny his convention of logic?

        His “With Friday motballs under the twice” comment is specifically obtuse to show that, once logic becomes conventional, and hence relative, any convention can be obtuse to anyone, any convention can be denied by anyone, and hence any true possibility for logic, reasoning, thought and knowledge can’t ultimately exist.

      • Robert says :

        He was very up front.

        Yes, he was. I wasn’t accusing him of being dishonest in the sense that he was lying – he was clearly telling the truth. I was accusing him of being intellectually dishonest. Because he dismissed my position without reading it.

        I’m pretty sure Sye has a good grasp on math and logic.

        I’ve seen no indicators for that at all.

        The moment you define logic as conventional, why is it not allowed for each person to establish their own convention?

        Conventional doesn’t mean arbitrary. Things like “zibba zabba purple monkey dishwasher” is not a refutation of conventionalism.

        any convention can be obtuse to anyone

        This is why he needs to define a syntax and grammar. I’d be fine with “With Friday motballs under the twice” if he had a system that allowed it to actually mean something. But this doesn’t mean anything at all. Here’s a parody of our conversation that exposes what happened:

        Me: sports are conventional. Football and basketball don’t have a designated hitter rule, and even baseball sometimes does and sometimes does not.

        Sye: Ok, we’re now playing plotzball! I groft a plotz for three plizznicks!

        Me: *facepalm*

      • SixForty says :

        “Conventional doesn’t mean arbitrary.” So what standard does it have to adhere to, who gets to define that standard, and why?

        “This is why he needs to define a syntax and grammar. ” And again I would ask, from what authority do you make that claim?

        I still find it rather ironic that you are using logic to make this argument. What convention of logic are you using here? And why did you pick that one?

      • Robert says :

        “Conventional doesn’t mean arbitrary.” So what standard does it have to adhere to, who gets to define that standard, and why?

        There are no standards, other than what we mean when we say “logic” in English. Run these questions by someone building cars – cars can be all kinds of things, but they all have to have wheels and engines, otherwise they’re just not cars, by definition. Likewise, logics can be all kinds of things, but they all have to have syntax, grammar, etc.; otherwise they’re just not logics.

        “This is why he needs to define a syntax and grammar. ” And again I would ask, from what authority do you make that claim?“

        English.

        I still find it rather ironic that you are using logic to make this argument.

        But I’m not – again, English. Logic is a technical term, and his arbitrary mothball statement just isn’t a logic.

      • Tom B says :

        So, the ‘laws of logic’ must be contingent then, since there is nothing necessary about the evolution of our language, and what you say grounds the validity of a logical system in everyday language use. This entails that even if language had evolved differently, using a set of different rules and norms, certain arguments might well cease to be valid or invalid in the same sense, and contradictions would cease to be contradictions. I’m struggling to see this, and I can’t see how logic have been any different to how it is now.

      • Robert says :

        I don’t see why you’re struggling with it. Imagine if Zeno had been the “father of logic” instead of Aristotle. If that were the case, we may very well have ended up with a many-valued logic as our “classical” logic, and the idea of only two truth values would seem quite foreign to us.

      • Tom B says :

        Sye’s point then applies. Suppose some moron had been the father of logic. Then we would have ended up with mush. I’m failing to see what fixes logic so it has to be ‘sensible’, as you previously suggested. It it’s conventional, then it’s arbitrary and relative, and if so, then why not ‘with friday mothballs under the twice’?

      • Robert says :

        The problem is that the “mothballs” statement doesn’t mean anything, in any formal or natural language. It’s just nonsense. If he wants to create a language that can parse the statement, that’s fine. But he hasn’t.

        Look at it this way: I could say “Parlez-vous anglais?” – but without a language in which to parse it (French), it’s nonsense. Once we understand French, we could also translate this statement into English. The problem with what Sye is saying about logic, though, is that sometimes there’s translation errors (example: http://www.engrish.com//wp-content/uploads/2009/08/lactic-acid-juice-flavor.jpg). This is what happens with the “law of non-contradiction” – it just doesn’t translate into other formal languages.

      • Tom B says :

        Yes, but my point is that there COULD perfectly well be a formal or natural language in which the mothballs statement made perfect sense – it could be formulated. You haven’t given any reason to think that this nonsense language is objectively less preferable to our current language – you just assume that because it is nonsense, it is nonsense. Language evolved arbitrarily – and so on your view the logic that underpins it evolved arbitrarily. Thus, on conventionalism, any logic is possible, any language is possible.

        As soon as you define the limits of ‘formal or natural language’, you are presupposing that conventionalism is false. On conventionalism (as I understand it on your view), there is no objective logic, and thus no way of saying whether one logic (eg ours) is better than another (eg. mush). This is what Sye seemed to be getting at.

      • Robert says :

        Yes, but my point is that there COULD perfectly well be a formal or natural language in which the mothballs statement made perfect sense – it could be formulated.

        Correct. And if such a language was formulated that I could use to parse it, I would have no problem with the statement. But Sye has not even attempted to do so.

        You haven’t given any reason to think that this nonsense language is objectively less preferable to our current language

        It’s less preferable because the language in which we can parse it hasn’t been formulated.

        On conventionalism (as I understand it on your view), there is no objective logic

        Correct. This is evidenced by the fact that multiple logics exist and are used. If you doubt this, go talk to an SQL expert about ternary logic.

        and thus no way of saying whether one logic (eg ours) is better than another (eg. mush)

        Err, not really. Some logics are more useful than others, and some are more useful for some things and less useful for some other things.

      • Tom B says :

        Come on – I really don’t think that whether a language/logic HAS been formulated has any bearing on whether it is good in principle or not. Forget the empirical point – all we need is the possibility of such a language being formulated for my argument to run. The onus is not on anybody to formulate such a logic, but just to show that it is possible, and we have already agreed to this. The actual fact of the matter is irrelevant to the analysis of the nature of logic.

        It seems to me that your sole reason for preferencing the widely used logics over nonsense ones can only be their utility. Well, that’s not persuasive – make the nonsense logic as complex as you like, and you’ll always be able to claim that it is just just as useful in explaining nonsense problems as the standard logic is for explaining standard problems. Like I said, I think you assume a logical structure is objectively better than another, and thus are committed to the denial of conventionalism.

      • SixForty says :

        “Likewise, logics can be all kinds of things, but they all have to have syntax, grammar, etc.; otherwise they’re just not logics.”

        Hmm – still seems arbitrarily forced by you. You seem to be talking about how we discuss logic, and how we use logic, but not necessarily the truth of logical claims. The methods we use to discuss logic are completely conventional – I’ll grant you that no problem. But that doesn’t address the underlying aspect of the truth of the mechanisms of logic.

        “English”

        English is not an authority to define syntax and grammar. You are attempting to use an instance of something WITH syntax and grammar to prove that something MUST HAVE syntax and grammar. Normally I’d say that’s logically fallacious, but I’m not sure what convention of logic you are using here.

        “you are using logic to make this argument. – But I’m not”

        First of all, if you are admitting to not using logic, why should I accept your claims?

        Second, I’m pretty sure you are using logic in the post I describe. You are clearly seen making deductive claims and inferences. Or are you talking about a convention of logic which doesn’t use those things?

      • Robert says :

        You know, my original point still stands: how can you account for elliptic geometry and many-valued logic without appealing to any form of conventionalism? Until this is answered, I don’t know what else can be said.

  3. Kevin says :

    It looks to me that Sye understand logic better than you… Logically, Sye is right and makes more since…

    • Robert says :

      Except that I’ve read dozens of logic texts, and he’s clearly read none.

      So anyway, are any of you guys planning on taking the presup challenge, to prove that you actually know what you’re talking about when you attempt to discuss logic? Or are you only interested in defending Sye’s misconceptions about a well-defined academic field?

      • nivio says :

        Hhahaha this is hilarious…. I’m sorry mate but sye has totally wiped the floor with you lol

      • Tom B says :

        I don’t understand the particulars of the conventionalist vs non-conventionalist debate; but I do know that it’s a live issue about which there is much discussion in the philosophy of mathematics, and on which Quine’s view is only one view. I don’t think this is a debate that can be settled in a single blog post.

        Furthermore, the dialectic you have set up is a false one – Sye is not obliged to take your article seriously, since you were the one who approached him. He is entitled to respond on his own terms, which he did, and the point he makes is a relevant one, and not petty as you suggest.

        You might well be right about logic in your article; but really, saying things like ‘except that I’ve read dozens of logic texts, and he’s clearly read none’ really isn’t going to win you any favours in debate.

      • Robert says :

        but I do know that it’s a live issue about which there is much discussion in the philosophy of mathematics

        Yes, there is live debate on some issues (such as whether there can be dialatheas). But there’s no debate on whether nonclassical logics are useful, or whether they exist. These things fly in the face of what Sye seems to be saying about logic.

        Sye is not obliged to take your article seriously, since you were the one who approached him.

        That’s correct. If he had said “sorry, but I’m not interested in discussing this” – fine. But he decided to give the most irrelevant response ever: “You see, I could just make a convention that everything you wrote is illogical, and be done with it.”

  4. shotgunwildatheart says :

    Robert,

    If you’ve read “dozens of logic texts” then surely you must realize the amount of debate and disagreement in academic circles concerning this discipline?

    Instead of self-consciously promoting your own paradigm however, you seem to simply presuppose what some professor has told you, or what you’ve read in an into-to-logic book, and then suspect all other paradigms and approaches to give way. That’s called “dogmatism”.

    It’s like telling us to look up the word “knowledge” in the dictionary in order to solve the past four-thousand years of debate over epistemology.

    Your “presup challenge” also seems based on the same dogmatic premise.

    Were you honest, you’d lay your “meta-theory” of logic on the table for examination and compare and contrast it with a theory of logic necessitated by Christian theology — and see which one ends up working.

    Sye has done a great job (seems to me) of demonstrating a practical failure of materialist logical paradigms.

    • Robert says :

      If you’ve read “dozens of logic texts” then surely you must realize the amount of debate and disagreement in academic circles concerning this discipline?

      As I said above, there is debate on some things, but not on what Sye is saying.

      Were you honest, you’d lay your “meta-theory” of logic on the table for examination

      I’m not even committed to any one meta-theory. What I’m saying about logic is compatible with practically every theory – even realism to a degree. Take your pick.

      compare and contrast it with a theory of logic necessitated by Christian theology

      And what exactly would that be? Are there any texts that explicitly lay it out?

      Sye has done a great job (seems to me) of demonstrating a practical failure of materialist logical paradigms.

      I’m not a materialist.

  5. Tom B says :

    Just peeked at my email. Your comments are hilarious. I have no lack of respect for anyone here, and was asking genuine questions I thought were raised by the issue at hand. I have no other motivations, and actually I thought Robert gave some pretty good answers. Furthermore, I don’t know who this ‘Sye’ guy is, I was just looking at the view he suggested. So simmer down.

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