What fallacy/ies do you think apply to this sentence by Chopra?
#1


Quote:"We think that many times patients feel healed even though they may die from a disease, if they learn to go beyond their personal fear of death, and you can never do that unless you have a patient...have a spiritual experience."

"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#2
Four come to mind right away...Please correct if any have been misapplied.

1) Equivocation :

Quote:"...patients feel healed even though they may die from a disease..."

'Healed' is a polysemic word and here there's a surreptitious semantic shift of the use of the word from 'cured' to 'experiencing a disposition of indifference to disease'.

2) Fallacy of necessity :

Quote:"...they learn to go beyond their personal fear of death, and you can never do that unless you have a patient...have a spiritual experience"

Absence of fear of death can prevail due to any number of causes like confidence in training (of say a rock-climber who may well be uninterested in spirituality) or plain ignorance (fear is absent because the risk is unknown). Therefore to say that it is 'spiritual experience' alone that can make fear of death absent, is a fallacy.

3) Special pleading :

Quote:"...many times patients feel healed even though they may die from a disease..."

There is belabored distinction made here between a 'dead patient who was interested in spirituality' within the larger category of 'dead patients'. As to why such an exception is made (especially when there's no difference in the eventual outcome of both groups i.e. death) no reason is forthcoming, under the pretext that the reason lies in a 'spiritual' realm.

4) Argument from authority :

Quote:"..."We think that many times patients feel healed..."

Who's 'we'? This seems to imply arrogation of authority with an exemption to provide explanations and therefore this is an appeal to authority.




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#3
I couldnt spot even a single one, although I could sense something wrong with "overcoming fear of death through spiritual experience alone". Man.. kudos to people who can see through these fallacies esp those who do it in real time (debaters such as Hitch). I give up. :-)
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
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#4
Astrokid, let me assure you that you're not alone. I find these really hard as well. Arvind is just brilliant at this.

I usually start off with having a funny 'feeling' about an argument, like something's not right- the feeling you described as "sense something wrong".As you know, most fallacies are special cases of a handful of general case fallacies. I don't know most of the fallacies, so when there's something that I know feels wrong, I try to figure out what the general case logical error is just using logical reasoning- searching for faulty inferences. When some general case is identified it can sometimes lead to the specific fallacy. But often the general case is good enough.



"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#5
- First off, I think I am being given too much credit here! Participation in forums like these goes a long way in cultivating a nose for fallacies and soon enough they can be sniffed a mile away. However, it goes without saying that enthusiasm to identify fallacies can all-too-often lead to careless misapplication and it is important to keep ourselves honest. Also, while fallacies may be useful shorthand abstractions for those who are familiar with them, their application doesn't always close the case especially when we are dealing with interlocutors unfamiliar with these terms, and in those cases we need to complement our approach with other rhetorical tools.

- As we see ever so often, a single sentence from a woo-spouter (or any dogmatist) can teem with fallacies. It may help to have some rules-of-thumb to decide which ones among many possible fallacies to emphasize in an argument and evolve 'precedence rules' of some sort. Some errors are more serious than others, some fallacies are more readily recognized than others and maybe easier on the audience and some some fallacies are more unfamiliar offering the advantage that the apologists may not have stock responses against them.

- Coming to the sentence we are dissecting here, there are ways of leveling more fundamental criticism even before we scour the fallacy lexicons. Consider the following:
"Spiritual practices cure diseases." is a fact proposition.
"Spiritual acceptance should be valued more than physical health." is a value proposition.
By deliberately obfuscating the two (by the rhetorical mechanism of equivocation), Deepak Chopra tries to pass off a value proposition as a fact proposition, thus committing a category error.

PS: When I visited this thread, I wasn't aware that this was the weekly homework of Cosmic Boondocks. Had I known, I would have held my horses a bit. Maybe it would be a good idea to mention that and place a link to the podcast in later posts like these.
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#6
First, sorry about not mentioning that the thread was in relation to the Cosmic Boondocks podcast. When I posted the thread the podcast wasn't up yet. Also, I apologize for not interacting in the thread. This week I will engage more here.

Arvind's answers were on point and I have addressed his answers in the show. In addition, I think I see one more fallacy. I may be mistaken about this, but here goes.

There are actually three arguments that Chopra makes in that one mind-raping sentence. They are:

1. Lack of fear of death causes subjective "healing"
2. Spiritual experience causes lack of fear of death
3. Conclusion- Spiritual experience causes subjective "healing".

I've taken into consideration Arvind's Equivocation fallacy (which I hadn't caught, btw) and for the sake of this discussion let us accept the second subjective definition of healing (not as curing, but as getting over the idea of being sick). I propose that the sentence is a tautology- that is, its circular reasoning.

A - Spiritual experience
B- Lack of fear of death
C- Subjective "healing"

Chopra is asserting that A --> C
He takes A --> B and B --> C as premises. But these premises (especially if taken one by one, assuming the other to be true) are synonymous with the conclusion by logical extrapolation.

A tautology is when part of all of something that needs to be established is assumed as a true premise in the argument. In this case, Chopra attempts to argue that spiritual experience can "heal" in the subjective sense.

Chopra must first establish the necessary condition that lack of the fear of death can "heal", and the necessary condition that spiritual experiences can cause a lack of fear of death, before using these conditions as premises to establish that spiritual experiences can heal.

I've briefly presented my analysis in this week's show, alongside Arvind's answers.

Edit: Arvind mentioned Fallacy of Necessity. In the case here, this fallacy is the general case, and the special case is called the Fallacy of the single cause.
Also, here's a surprising study that points to the A--> B premise possibly being wrong:
http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/302/3/257.1.short
(Apparently religious and spiritual people find it harder to let go of life, and don't make proper end-of-life plans, probably because they're too busy fooling themselves till the last minute when all the conditioning goes out the window and raw panic and instinctive fear of death sets in)
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#7
(31-May-2011, 11:50 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: 1) Equivocation :

Quote:"...patients feel healed even though they may die from a disease..."

'Healed' is a polysemic word and here there's a surreptitious semantic shift of the use of the word from 'cured' to 'experiencing a disposition of indifference to disease'.

Here is an instance where a priest, a spokesperson at Lourdes, commits the exact same equivocation. Clip.

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